It began raining, as the pale twilight faded into night. Wolf sat silently, watching the rain and the swaying dance of the candle flames. Her eyes stung, and she tried to hold back the tears, but they still trickled slowly down her cheeks. Her face gleamed golden in the reflection, staring back at her with shining eyes from the dark window.
"Wolf, what are we waiting for and why are you crying?"
"He's supposed to be here." Her voice was about an octave too high. "He should be here by now."
"Oh." Sarali's voice had become very quiet. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Wolf whispered. "It's not your fault. I shouldn't have thought..."
She felt Sarali's hand on her own. "Wolf, he's going to be here."
"He didn't come before," she whispered. "He didn't come then, so why should he come now?"
Even as she spoke, the door opened, letting in a shower of rain that made the candles flicker. He came in, just as she remembered him, from the messy hair to the long nose to the tan coat and brown suit and high-tops. He took his coat off and hung it on the hook by the door, then shook his head like a dog, spraying his companion—Leta—with water. She gave him an indignant look and put her rain jacket on another hook.
Wolf watched as Leta looked around the café, then met her gaze. The girl grabbed the Doctor's sleeve—not his hand, Wolf noticed—and pointed. He turned and saw Wolf, sitting there. Sarali had conveniently made herself absent. Wolf watched as he bit his lip, closed his eyes, and then walked towards her, hesitant, uncertain.
She met his eyes and nodded, and he almost ran to her. He put his hand on the back of the chair Sarali had vacated, but didn't sit.
"Er—hi," said Wolf. "You can—um—sit down, if you like."
He did. "Hi."
She gave him a sad half-smile. "What've you been doing?"
"Oh, you know, same old stuff. Only—it's not the same." He pulled out his tie and tugged on it, nervous. "What 'bout you?"
"Probably about the same as you've been doing," she said. "I mean, I'm Wolf. I'm a protector, like you are." She swallowed, and added, "It's a lot different, being alone. That is, I'm not alone, but—Sarali's just a companion."
He licked his lips. "So, ah...you've been...that is...have you...did you...were you the one leaving the trails through time?"
"You, er...aren't covering up your tracks very well."
"You...you doing that on purpose, then?"
He ran his fingers through his still-wet hair. "Did you...did you want me to follow you?"
"Yeah, I did." She paused. "Wanted to talk to you, really, but whenever I went to say something, I couldn't do it, you know?"
"Do you...do you..." He shook his head slightly. "Do you like it?"
She twitched her shoulders. "'S alright, I s'pose."
He dropped his tie and rested his hands on the table. His eyes darted around, but he didn't look at her. "Er...d'you want something to eat?"
"I'm fine." She sighed. "I come in here a lot. Not to eat. Just to...sit. Think about things, yeah?"
"Yeah." He finally looked at her. For a brief moment, their eyes met, then he looked away. She stared at her hands on the table. Suddenly, she felt his hand on her face. brushing away the tears. "D'you...er..." He took a deep breath, then let it out, watching her. "D'you miss me?"
She hesitated, then nodded.
"Do you think about me, much, then?"
"Every day," she whispered. "Every second. You're still there, in me, somewhere. Helping me. Telling me what to do."
His hand rested on both of hers, and he pulled back. She looked up, shook her head. "I don't mind," she said quickly.
Hesitantly, he put his hand back. After a moment, he said, "I'm sorry—Wolf. I'm so sorry."
"So am I," she said. "I wish I'd tried to find you. I wish I'd been braver, sooner. I wish--" She broke off. No, she told herself. No, don't think about that.
His fingers came up to her jaw, and he tilted her face up to his. "I haven't thought about you," he said. "I've tried not to. Every waking moment. But in my dreams...I still see you. Crying. It hurts, R—Wolf."
She could feel his fingers creeping up, along the sides of her face. She slapped his hands away. "Stop it," she said.
He pulled back, looked away. "Sorry."
"Don't be like that, because it's not like that." She took a deep breath. "I've been trying to forget. All the time. In my dreams, I'm being chased, and I call out for you, and you don't come. You never come. I've never felt so alone in all my life." Her voice broke, and she swallowed. "I just—I can't have your head in mine right now. I can't. It's too much. It hurts too much."
"'S alright," he said, smiling, but she could see another story in his eyes. His hands lay on the table, lifeless, inanimate. She reached out and took them, watching him intently. He pulled back, and, reluctantly, she let go.
Suddenly, he changed; sat up straighter, taller, head cocked to the side. He was looking across the café at Leta, who was doing something with her hands that Wolf couldn't see. The girl looked highly exasperated after about thirty seconds, then started mouthing something. Wolf tried to make it out, but couldn't.
She looked back at the Doctor. He was obviously not getting the message. She saw the exact moment when he figured it out, because he looked at him companion with a mixture of surprise and horror and sadness, and shook his head. He turned back towards Wolf, but didn't look at her. He just propped his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands.
It was several seconds before she realized he was shaking, and knew he was crying, or trying not to. She got up and walked around the table to kneel on the floor next to him. He ignored her, or didn't notice.
She gently took his hands away from his face, and he looked up at her. She brushed her hands over his cheeks and felt tears there. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry." Before she could think about it and tell herself exactly what a bad idea this was, she bent down and kissed him.
She could feel him relax, and she was both ecstatic and in torment at once. Joy and sorrow flooded into her, mingling into a bittersweet taste like rain deep inside her heart. He was moving, and she knew what he was about to do, and she didn't stop him.
Suddenly, she was so much more aware of him. His mind was in hers, their heads merged together. It hurt her and healed her, tore her apart and stitched her back together again. She had thought she had been mended, had healed on her own, her heart had been put back together crooked, and now he was fixing it, putting it right, healing her up properly.
She came forwards, poured her mind into him, fierce but gentle. She found the breaks, the tears, the unhealed injuries he'd left in himself, and she touched them with her power, and he was better.
She broke away, dizzy, her head spinning. She staggered back, and he caught her as she fell. She stared up at him, blinking, a bit confused. "Hello."
He grinned. "Hello yourself." He straightened her and let go. She swayed, and he steadied her until she shrugged his hand away and found she could stand on her own.
"Better?" he asked.
She nodded, shook her head, and then grinned. "Much," she said, and started laughing. "Better than I have been in a long time." There was really nothing to laugh at, but she couldn't stop. She was so happy. Almost without her conscious intent, she reached out and grabbed his hand. "Come on!" She pulled him towards the door, not letting him get his coat. He didn't resist. She ran out, into the rain, and looked up at the sky. The water poured down, a torrent, and she took his other hand and spun him around, around. He was laughing, too, with the rain falling on his face. Every simple pedestrian on the street watched them in amazement. Their laughter rang through the streets, echoing off the walls, reaching up to the stars that shone through the gaps in the clouds.
"Rose Tyler," breathed the Doctor, and she looked at him, her eyes wide and bright.
"Rose Tyler, he repeated, and both of his hearts were racing. "Don't you look absolutely fantastic?"
"What's fantastic is to be called that again," whispered Rose. "Ten years, and no one's called me that."
"Time to fix that, isn't it?" he said, grinning at her. He turned to see Sarali and Leta behind them. "Leta! And...what's-your-name? You must be Rose's companion? This is Rose! Rose, this is Leta. Oh, but of course, you've already met her." He raised his voice, calling to the whole street. "Everyone, listen up! This is Rose, everyone! Rose, meet—everyone!"
She shook her head in amazement. "Ten years, and you haven't changed a bit, have you?"
"Now, why would I want to do that?" he asked. "No fun in that."
"Come on," she said again, and pulled him forwards, grinning. They darted in and out of the rain as the storm cleared away, leaving more and more patches of clear sky. A cool breeze blew in from the east, carrying the scent of the ocean, salty and sweet at once. He could taste it as he laughed. He hadn't laughed so much in a long time. Ten years, in fact.
"I missed you," he breathed. Rose smiled and looked up at the now-clear sky.
"Look at how huge it is," she said quietly. "I look up at that sky and feel the world turning, and know how big the universe is, and I feel...free. Happy."
"Happy," he agreed. "Free. Both of us."
She sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder. As they walked, she murmured one last thing, almost to herself. "Not lonely anymore."
A/N: Ooh! Fluffleluffleluff! How did you like it? Good? Bad? In-between? Reviews are fantastic!