Hurry! Hurry! The star is dying!
The Doctor ignored the TARDIS' urgent whispers in his head. He knew time was running out, and he knew what was at stake. The TARDIS let him see her, but he wanted more than anything to feel her. To touch her hair and wipe the tears from her cheeks. To hold her.
"You're dead. Officially. Back home. So many people died that day and you'd gone missing. You're on a list of the dead."
Watching her cry ate away at something so deep inside him, he'd forgot it existed. But then again, Rose had reminded him of a very many things deep inside that he'd forgotten. Sometimes deliberately.
"Here you are. Living a life day after day. The one adventure I can never have."
He couldn't feel her sadness now. The rift was too great, too much distance between them. But, he saw the loss and felt it for her.
"Am I ever going to see you again?"
"You can't." He wouldn't say it was impossible. She'd told him she didn't believe in impossible. And this… this was impossible.
"What're you going to do?"
He looked away for just a moment, but couldn't keep his eyes from her. He needed to make the image of her last for the next few hundred years. "Oh, I've got the TARDIS. Same old life. Last of the Time Lords."
"On your own?"
He could only nod. On his own meant so much more now. Sounded so much more hollow. "It would be impossible to replace you, Rose. Not in the TARDIS. Not in any way."
She brushed her hair from her face, the long bits caught in the wind. Rose took a step closer to him, so close that if he had been there, her body would have brushed his and he ached at the realization that he would never feel her again.
"I love you, Doctor. I can't —" She choked, rubbing her forehead with her fingertips before swallowing, looking up at him. "I can't say good-bye. I can't."
"Then we won't."
She nodded, accepting his most basic of solutions. The wind over the sand dried her tears, and he knew it had to be cold. He wanted so much to take her hands and slide them inside his coat pockets to warm them. He always carried an extra pair of gloves for Rose, because she never remembered to dress properly. Her hands got so cold, even to him.
"I love you," she said again, her words nearly lost on the wind.
The Doctor swallowed hard, tamping down hard against the ache in his chest. "Rose Tyler—"
The connection snapped shut.
"I love you."
The TARDIS engines churned, fighting to regain the connection for him. But, he knew it was useless. In a twin heartbeat, he crumbled. He gripped the edge of the console as his legs gave way and he landed hard on his knees, the grating digging into his knees through his trousers.
He folded beneath the weight of existence, dropping his head with his hands clenched in his lap as he sat back on his ankles. He couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't even suck in enough air to release the burning sob in his chest.
The touch was a whisper, nothing more than a gentle breeze, but it made him choke and raise his head, focusing through the hot tears.
It had been eight hundred and ninety-four years since he'd seen her face, and yet he remembered her so clearly now. Long, blonde ringlets hung around her shoulders — so ironic that she would be blonde — and eyes impossibly blue. As blue as the TARDIS itself. He couldn't speak, couldn't say anything, just choked and gasped for air.
The little girl laid her palms against his cheeks, her cherubic face marred by the frown that turned down her lips and the tears that tracked down her cheeks. The touch wasn't solid, wasn't real, but he felt the essence of its comfort.
"Cusa Ju Bibilia'a," she said softly, her chin trembling. "We have lost our Forever Rose."
He could only nod, clenching his hands into fists.
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"There's five of us now. Mum. Dad. Mickey. And the baby."
"No. It's Mum. She's three months gone. More Tylers on the way."
When Rose stood on the beach in Norway and told the Doctor she wasn't carrying his child, she hadn't lied. She just hadn't realized. Hadn't known.
Living in the TARDIS made something as mundane as a 28-day cycle unimportant. After more than two years with him, she'd stopped trying to calculate such things. And after coming to this alternate and wrong world, she hadn't thought about it until her mother announced her own pregnancy.
Even then, she'd passed it off as nothing because living in the TARDIS had set her system off kilter. Or maybe it was the stress of losing him and finding herself trapped in this world where Rose Tyler didn't exist.
Besides… he'd said… he'd told her…
"Doctor… " She swallowed hard, her eyes burning because she'd forgotten to blink. Blindly, she found his hand and gripped it in both hers, trying desperately to temper her emotions but finding it nearly impossible when he looked at her with so much worry and concern so evident on his face. She tried again, hoping her voice would stay with her long enough. "Doctor… can you and I… could we… could we have a baby?"
His gaze slid away almost immediately. "No."
"Why not? How do you —"
He raised his head, and the cold firmness of his eyes stopped her. He swallowed, his jaw working slightly before he said, "I know."
Rose nodded, but couldn't hold back the choking sob that exploded in her chest. She just kept nodded, sucking in air, blinking the tears down her cheeks. He touched her face, stroked her cheeks, and pulled her against him, wrapping her hard in his arms.
"I'm sorry," she choked out. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm crying."
"I do," he whispered in her ear. He shushed softly in her ear, his hand stroking over her hair as they rocked each other in the dim hall of their TARDIS.
Seven months she'd been without him. Seven months that this possibility hadn't even dawned on her. Perhaps it was because he told her it never could. Perhaps because the idea of having his child here – where their baby would belong no more than she did – was terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time.
She stared at the white plastic stick in her hand, staring at the undeniable 'plus' sign. Then at the half-dozen other similar tests — all different brands and types — lined up along the lavatory counter. Every one said the same thing.
Rose stood and faced herself in the mirror. She turned sideways and pulled up her pyjama top, pushing the elastic waistband of the bottoms down her hips.
There was only the slightest change. She remembered complaining to her mother the week before that her favorite denims didn't fit quite right, and Mickey'd made a comment about laying off the chips. Rose slid her hand over her stomach, remembering…
"Having me was difficult for her." He ticked his head to the side before diverting his eyes away. "Probably one of the reasons Time Lords were discouraged from procreating, especially outside of Gallifrey. My mother conceived — quite unexpectedly, as you might imagine — but, the genetic coding for a Time Lord is pre-set for a very strictly monitored and guided growth pattern."
"Which means what, exactly?"
He came back across the room and dropped onto the bed with a hop, making the mattress bounce and Rose squeak as she tried to keep from toppling onto the floor. The Doctor leaned back, extending his legs with his ankles crossed, supporting his weight on his bent elbows. "In any species that procreates naturally, it's all done automatically. Zygotes divide into blastomeres. The blastocyst attaches to the endometrium." Rose pulled a face, grimacing. "But, when a Time Lord is Loomed, every stage of development is initiated by the nursery guardians. Nothing happens naturally."
"But, it did... obviously."
"Well, yeah... but not like anything you'd call normal. A human pregnancy is approximately nine months. In comparison, a loomed child remains in the Loom for--" He tipped his head back and forth, his lower lip protruding as he ran calculations in his head. "--the equivalent of three and a half years. Course, we also come out of the Loom with full cognitive, linguistic and motor skills developed."
Rose gasped. "Good God, please tell me your mother wasn't pregnant for over three years."
"Nah. Just two."
He shifted his weight onto one elbow and wagging a finger at her with the other hand. "No elephant jokes."
"You're telling me your mother was pregnant for two years."
He hummed an affirmative, nodding his head. "Mind you, even then, not like a human pregnancy. I was on slow cook." Rose groaned, and he grinned. "My father told me years later that he thought it was because the Time Lord DNA was dominant. Takes longer for a Time Lord to develop because of the Regenerative DNA coding and whatnot. Her human body didn't quite know how to handle it. Not that it was a particularly hard pregnancy, by what I hear. My father said you couldn't even tell for a good ten or twelve months."
"So, basically…" she said to the empty room. "I haven't a clue when you're coming out, little one. But I promise you this…" She met her own gaze in the mirror. "I'm going to do everything in my power — even if it means collapsing two universes — to get us back to your dad."
She laid her palm against her waist, pressing slightly to test for any change she might feel. The only difference was the slightest swell. Rose blinked hot tears, sniffing loudly.