Doctor Who © BBC

A/N: You might notice that this chapter is a good deal shorter than the first one was. That's because that chapter had the Doctor's waking thoughts as well as the first part of his dream journey. The last chapter will be that way, as well, including the inevitable after-dream reaction. :) Enjoy!

He had not been prepared for the onslaught of emotion when his skin touched hers. There was a warmth that surrounded her. When she too his hand, it began to move and encompass his body as well. A golden light, the kind he'd seen only once before, crept from her swirling irises and reached for him like the fingers of the damned. For the first time, possibly ever, he wanted to pull his hand from hers, as the sensations crept along his skin and made him shudder.

She held his gaze with eyes that judged and sentenced half a million Daleks to death. Those eyes burned in both fury and passion. She was ferocious in her anger and promised swift justice. Time herself peered unblinkingly into him, into his very own damned soul, setting it ablaze by her mere presence. As white hot flames consumed every inch of him, her voice rang out like the howl of a lone wolf in the desert.

"I'm to remind you of the sacrifice made."

His sight was lost in the raging fire. It licked through his veins like a chemical in the blood. Everywhere was pain, worse than dying, worse than regeneration. He burned alive from the inside, a living pyre that surely sent plumes of cloying smoke into the air. Yet, he could no more move than he could cry out in supplication to the avenging goddess standing sentinel at his side, the only witness to his transformation. His entire world lost shape and reason, as the fires took away his very existence. He was nowhere; he was nothing. No creature could survive this.

"The pain was unbearable."

The whiteness that consumed his vision shifted, no less intense than before, but giving way to something else, something infinitely more powerful and damning. The power of time pressed into him, conquering him and using him.

"The choice was heavy."

In front of him stood a fair-haired woman, and despite the lack of peroxide locks, he recognized her the same way he would his own reflection. Gone was the heavy kohl and rouge; her face was clean and beautiful, radiant even without the ethereal glow of the Bad Wolf. She beamed grandly, as if nothing in the whole universe could ruin her good mood. It was when a slightly older Jackie leaned in to kiss her daughter's cheek that he tore his gaze from her happy face. It was only then he noticed the church full of people or the long white dress she worse. Jackie, with tears in her eyes, placed one of Rose's hands in Mickey Smith's. He leaned down to kiss that hand before he led his bride to the waiting minister.

He tried to take a breath, forgetting the fire momentarily in the face of this new pain. She was getting married, surrounded by her friends and family in the same church he once hugged her in, the one her father died in front of. The fire flared, taking the intimate ceremony from him. The little space not currently burning was filled with apprehension.

A slightly older Rose stood outside a large building, chewing on her lip anxiously. She turned abruptly when a familiar voice called out her name. Mickey, wearing a suit and tie, sped from the glassy office front, a large grin lighting up his face. As if some important question had been answered, she ran full speed toward her husband's waiting arms. He met her half-way, using her momentum to lift her into a wide spin. Their laughter bounced off of the concrete and glass as passer-bys smiled indulgently at the exuberant young couple. When the celebratory laughter ceased, the man took his wife's face in his hands. He got a job, one finding and correction the bus in the computer systems of a leading automotive manufacturer. It would mean more money than either of them had ever dared to dream about. The couple looked at one another intensely and met in an indecent kiss while standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk surrounded by strangers.

His heart sank a little lower seeing their obvious joy in one another. He found himself dreading the next wave of flame.

There was a small blue room, cramped with people garbed in pastel scrubs. The woman on the table, with her feet placed in the stirrups, panted in exhaustion. The uniformed man placed between her knees raised his head and informed the couple that their child was almost there. Mickey, now more a man than ever before, took her hand and wiped away a sweaty lock of hair from her forehead. He leaned low and whispered into her ear, smiling. Whatever it was that had been shared seemed to give her strength when before she had none, as she raised herself up again with great effort, face red and eyes tightly closed. Mickey never once let go of her, supporting the mother of his child when she seemed to falter. A cry rent the air as the tired mother slumped backwards. Her husband leaned ever to wipe her head again and to kiss her proudly. The doctor placed a soft blue bundle into her arms, and her chin quivered in the enormity of the moment. When she looked up, tears had fallen down her pink cheeks, making Rose's hazel eyes glow. When they both returned their gaze to their now nursing son, they shared only one word, to be the little boy's name: Pete.

The pain he felt now was worse than any other. It eclipsed the incessant burning when that tiny repaired spot on his heart broke once more. Again and again, the scenes were revealed. Christenings, birthdays, holidays, and even Jackie's funeral.

Her death was quiet and comfortable, like a friend come to visit. Surrounding her bed was her family, children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren. None of them looked sorrowful. The eldest children told humorous stories while they held their frail mother's hand. Her passing was met with neither a bang nor a whimper, but a deep sigh that no inhale followed. One by one, the children kissed their family's matron goodbye and departed, not in tears, but with the knowledge that Rose was with Mickey again, finally free of her Earthly bonds.

"To leave the TARDIS on Earth and move on."

That was the life she could have had if she had just forgotten him. She was offered all of that in an instance, and she turned it down?

"Or to go back and save the Doctor and Jack."

The flames licked at his vision once again, leaving behind an empty doorway. When she entered, she leaned against it, silently observing what he knew to be himself suffering regeneration sickness yet again. Jackie came by to lend her daughter a shoulder, which was soon wet under the weight of Rose's grief and abandonment. Seeing the young woman cry over him was humbling. It clutched at his hearts as she clutched her mother nearer in sorrow.

The next visions were bleak. The girl screamed as a violent purple light forced its way into her body. He recognized it as Cassandra's psyche. Then came the werewolf in Scotland. The beast spoke to her as kin, a fellow wolf. She was frightened by his words as he spoke of burning like the sun. She was nowhere to be seen, no waiting in the wings to rush in and save her any longer. He recognized the resigned acceptance of that fact before it turned into determination. She would save herself from that moment on, as she couldn't afford to wait for him. He watched her fears affirmed in meeting Sarah-Jane. Would she become as Sarah, waiting her whole life for him to remember her, like some god in the heavens taking pity on the mere mortal? Sarah tried to explain that some things were worth the heartbreak they caused, specifically him.

The next scene renewed the guilt his predecessor's visage had delivered. He saw Rose watch his feet, knowing that people only stood that close for one reason. She fled before he could recover and return. They stood, Reinette and Rose, in a darkened section of the derelict ship. Just as Sarah-Jane, Reinette tried to tell Rose something she well understood. One can live with the monsters for the sake of an angel, and while she wouldn't describe him as such, and he certainly wouldn't, she pitied Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, because the woman didn't know how accurate her advice was. Later, he rode through a one-way mirror on a horse, and while he saved the day and danced with the King's mistress, Rose fell apart in silence. Mickey ranted and worried, riled when she wouldn't do the same and disparage his name. But Rose knew by now. He hadn't even thought about his companions, so intent on saving one damsel he created another. As before, there was no alien on a horse to save her, just a long wait, a few tears shed, and a bone-deep acceptance of what her life had become. When he'd returned, morose after the death of Reinette, Rose let herself be led away, docile as a newborn lamb. It would do no good to tell him her feelings; it would be safer to keep them to herself. At least, this way, she knew well what to expect.

The following snippets moved more quickly, each more despairing than the last. Pete telling her that she was no daughter to him. She sat on a stoop, telling what looked to be a council worker that without him, she was nothing. She stood in front of him, faceless, while a television set in some shop called out to him, unseeing and lost. A man injected her with sedative because she would never leave him, even when the odds were so dim. She threatened to shoot a man who piloted a rocket, dissolving in tears for him instead of herself. There was a blinding light quickly approaching, and suddenly stillness. She pounded a white wall, mascara laden tears leaving smudged tracks down her face.

The last vision tore him in half. She stood on some nameless beach, hair blowing around her head at the wind's fancy. She looked at him through her tears, determined that he understand before it was too late.

I love you.

He could hear the absolute truth in her words. She loved him, the man who held her hand and made her laugh, just as she loved the terrifying storm of him, and the part that dragged her from one impossible and heartbreaking situation to the next. There was never anything she had been more certain of.

Quite right, too. And I suppose, if it's my last chance to say it… Rose Tyler…

As he vanished, the carefully put together puzzle of her fell apart. She sobbed, standing alone despite the others waiting for her. There had never been anyone as alone as she in that moment.

The fire consumed again, heightened by the knowledge that she chose pain over happiness, heartbreak over open and honest love. She chose a life of terror and tears over comfort and warmth, life and death risks over safety and security.

"She chose you."

He fell out of the flames like a newborn, gasping lungful of air as if they were his first. The fire was gone, though he must be little more than a pile of ash after such.

"She loved you more than she loved herself."

When he opened his eyes, he was shocked to find himself still standing upright, still holding that small hand in his. Before them, Rose Tyler burned with the power of the Vortex, the same fires he'd only just fallen from. He could not understand how she was able to break the hold and look down at his cowering form. He had wanted nothing more than to scream from the force of it, and there she was, ending a war, arguing with the Dalek Emperor, saving Jack, and protecting him, her Doctor. How was she not mad with it all in her mind? How could she choose this over living a rich and full life with Mickey and her Mum?

The sun and the moon, the night and day. But why do they hurt?

"There was never a choice for her. To live in a universe without you was unthinkable. She would rather die."

He looked down at their joined hands yet again. Her fingers were small, the bones fragile. Those hands had destroyed his enemies. Why should she have to fight his battles? Why should she want to? He remembered fighting those fights, the fear that the people you cared about would come to harm due to something you did or didn't do. Did she fear similarly for him? For so long, he shied away from close connections. Every once in a while he would become attached, though kismet often saw his friend taken cruelly from his side.

Personal affection is a luxury you can have only after all your enemies are eliminated. Until then, everyone you love is a hostage, sapping your courage and corrupting your judgment.

That had always been his reasoning. When they would look at him with hurt shining in their eyes, he would tighten his resolve. Due to his position, he could not afford to let his emotions guide his actions.

Had the time come when he could no longer afford to ignore his hearts? In front of them, he begs her to let the power go. He hears his voice catch on the emotion, the sheer pain brought on by the mere thought of losing her. When had he lost that?

"Loved ones lend her courage; they sharpen her judgment and give clarity. She is what you are not."

She is now smiling at him. There is noting that he can say to her. Her words are the perfect truth, and he cannot hide form them. Spurred on by the idea of finally embracing those deep emotions, the fear, hurt, and love, he leans over and takes the girl-shaped goddess into his arms. She hugs him the way a mother would her small child; he has never known that kind of touch. She pets his hair fondly, kissing his forehead. When she smiles and nods it feels like absolution for his sins. The very idea that forgiveness is possible for him is laughable; however, if there were any who had the ability to absolve him, it would be the pink and yellow human girl. It would be the one person who saw all of him while the very essence of Time ravaged her mind, and could still look down at him with love and pride.

"Only the past is certain. You, of all people, should know that."

He could change the future. He had to change the future. There must be a way to prevent the bitter ending he'd seen for him and Rose. He looked down at the human goddess, wondering why she smiled at him so warmly. Slowly, she drew away from him, moving farther and farther into the nothingness that blanketed him. She faded, leaving one last ringing statement to aid her flight.

"The future is what you make it."

He continued to watch the inky blackness, it seeming to move around him. From behind him came a voice he had not heard in hundreds of years.

"She always was a bit dramatic in her exits."

When he turned, he faced a man he had not seen since his sixth incarnation, though he recognized the man in much the same way one would recognize his mirror image. The dark hair was slicked straight back, and the Gallifreyan robes were black in color, with silver lining along the wings. There was a slight smirk gracing the man's lips, as if he knew exactly what was in his mind. Which, if the Master could be believed, he did.

The Valeyard.

He'd never believed that this was his twelfth incarnation. It had been unthinkable that he should turn so vindictive and destructive in any regeneration. He had not been able to comprehend what could happen to blacken his very soul. Why should he want to change his past so much that he would be willing to infiltrate and manipulate the Matrix and risk a paradox of unthinkable proportions?

It was in that instant that he remembered the dismal future he'd glimpsed while being burned by Time herself, and his stomach turned sour. The darkest version of himself smirked and bowed in a condescending manner.

"Let's get this over with, shall we?"

Chapter 2: Ta Da! Tell me what you thought!