One Step to Fall

Genre: Romance, Angst
Rating: G
Time Frame: Post season 4, "Journey's End" spoilers!!
Characters: Rose, NewTen

: The fact of the matter is that she is still empty, and he's still ready to fall all over again.

Notes: The finale was a mixed bag of nuts for me. One, I love that Rose is with a Doctor – any Doctor, but the knowledge that THE Doctor is still not with her is vexing on so many levels. This vig is me trying to get a grip on that.

Disclaimer: Nothing's mine. I can assure things would be much different.

One Step to Fall
by Mira-Jade

It's late, later than she thought it would be by the time she moved the last box into her modest new flat. Outside the sun had just begun to set, sending in rivers of dying light through the half open window. The white washed kitchen was painted in tones of gold and flame, flickering over the strategically placed piles of boxes. Shadows fell this way and that, drawing her eye to trace silly little patterns.

She straightened from her crouch over the box, and swept a rebellious strand of sweaty blonde hair back behind her ear. There was a stubborn kink in her back from a rather intense scuffle with Bacarin slavers over the Horseshoe Nebula, and she rubbed at it with a wince.

Funny, she had wanted to finish somewhere around noon.

He came in behind her carrying two boxes stacked on top of one another, and put them down with an exaggerated heave. When he straightened he wiped cardboard dust from his hands and looked quite merrily around the unpacked room. It's domestic, he had said earlier – scary even, the ultimate adventure for him. Funny how the first thing he told her after their return from Bad Wolf Bay was that he had never really stayed in a house – not since his childhood on Gallifrey.

It was endearing, but his chipper grin told her that he was quite ready to start unpacking right then and there, and that simply would not do. She was beat.

"Well, that's the last of them," he informed her.

"Thank goodness," she said with a sigh and slumped down on one of the sturdier boxes, relieved to finally be off of her feet. He watched her with a bemused expression in his eyes.

"Tired?" he asked.

"You've no idea." When he looked ready to smile again she quipped, "Not all of us are former Time Lords, y'know."

"A pity. The human race would be much better off." He shook his head in mock pity before walking over to her. Another thing he had marveled about – the human body's constant need for nourishment and rest. It was a downright hassle, he had informed her.

"That it would," she agreed.

There was a moment of silence between them. He was looking around the small house, a look of unabashed curiosity on his face. The dying light from outside cast his face in severe tones of scarlet and gold, and she watched him for a time, trying to remember if the lulls in conversation were normal before. Had they always been there? Funny, how at one time she had thought that she would remember every moment that had passed between them. He turned to look at her again, catching her eye, and she tried to tell herself that it would have been like this with him too. They were two people trying to get to know each other again.

Evidently he was as unnerved by the silence as she. "So," he started. His hands were in his jacket pockets, and he was moving back and forth on the balls of his feet. That was familiar, and so she smiled, just a little. "Can I get you anything?"

"Everything's in boxes," she reminded him.

He scowled good naturedly. "Then we'll open a few."

That was the same as well. "Tea then."

"Right," he said, and his eyes snapped away from hers like a tether breaking as he bustled around the haphazardly stacked boxes. She watched him, looking for something that she wasn't even sure of herself.

"I think that Jackie packed that one, even though she had her hands full with the little ape, so the tea could be in with the box filled with novelty mugs . . ."

She smiled, "Naw. I packed that one."

"Did you now?" he asked, his head peaking up over the mountain of beige cardboard. He looked alarmed for a moment. "The one from Vegas in 3344?"

She hesitated. "Would you believe if I said I dropped it while packing?"

"Not for a minute, Rose Tyler."

She cringed, and crossed to the box, getting out mugs while he searched for the kettle. Sure enough the garishly bright neon green mug that the Doctor – well, he had gotten for Jackie was there. A grin split his face as she held it up. "Brilliant," he beamed.

A second latter he found the box with the kettle and a box of tea bags. He made a face at them, and after a question of just-how-old-were-they he made his way over to the stove and set the water to boil. She watched him from her corner of the kitchen. The way he moved, his gestures and his mannerisms were so familiar – too familiar. And yet there was something different about him. That . . . something was gone from his eyes. Yes, they still sparkled and beamed, and took in life as she assumed they would in any body, but they didn't glow. There wasn't that ancient sort of look in them anymore - that dark edge that said he'd been to the heart of time and back. And in all of her time away from the Doctor, she knew that it was Time that she missed most of all.

She took her own mug next – a Phantom of the Opera one she had gotten the year before. Some things didn't change throughout the time lines, and the famous Gothic romance was one of them - she would dare to venture that Mr. Webber himself even planned it that way.

He smiled at her when she came up next to him, and after pouring her a cup he passed it to her. His fingers brushed against hers, and loitered longer than was needed. The look that cut across his face was so open that it made her heart jump. Yes, he had smiled at her a thousand times before. But there had always been a guarded glow at the back of his eyes – the look of a man who was alone most of his life and was resigned to be alone longer still. She thinks of him then, wandering between the stars without her – without anyone, and her heart took on a very different ache.

"Thank-you," she whispered softly, and his smile only broadened. There was so much love shining there, everything he had once been afraid to show reflected in every move, every glance.

It should make her whole again.

And it would, she knew. But the fact of the matter was that she was still empty. So, so empty. It would take time, time to fill up again. But he was ready, so ready to begin again – for her, with her.

And he would have hated it if she wasted away mourning for him.

"You're welcome," he said after a moment, his eyes regarding her quite seriously. For a moment she fancied that he was looking for something in her gaze too.

So she set her mug down on the counter next to her, and without speaking she folded herself into his arms. He didn't say anything, and he didn't need to. He understood, she thought, even without Time he was still so very empathetic and insightful. He carded his hand through her hair, and held her close, and it felt good - really good to be held while knowing her love was reciprocated. It felt good to be held without thoughts of battles and Time and mortality hanging over them with a scythe's shadow.

- And she knows it will take just one step to fall again.

Yet, when she shifted her head to lean against the left side of his chest, she can't help but notice that there is the beating of only one heart, and not two.

- And for now she takes a step back.