Title: On the Tip of His Tongue
Author: Marble Rose
Characters/Pairings: Ten I/Rose, Mickey (briefly)
Rating: K, Appropriate for all audiences
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who or any of its characters; no infringement intended.
Summary: The Doctor and Rose meet one last time. Post JE, missing scene from GitF.
The Doctor's sitting in his study, just about to take a sip of his tea, when the TARDIS engines suddenly start whirring.
He frowns. Well, that's rude. He hasn't set any coordinates, hasn't even been anywhere near the controls. The old girl has just decided to take off. With no prompting whatsoever from him.
By the time he makes it into the control room, the TARDIS has already landed. Not one to pass up a mystery, the Doctor quickly makes his way out the doors and finds himself in a corridor.
A very familiar corridor.
This is the spaceship of the clockwork droids, he realizes. The ones who had been after Reinette.
But that doesn't make any sense. He's already saved that day, dashed in on the horse and saved the damsel. Why would the TARDIS bring him back here?
The Doctor's eyes widen. That voice.
He turns on his heel, and she's there, standing at the far end of the corridor. Slowly, her mouth widens into a smile that puts the stars to shame, and she takes off running. It's instinct to open his arms and catch her; it's instinct to clutch her to him and breathe her in. "Rose."
She pulls back just enough for him to be face to face with her smile. "How did you get back?"
Get back? Right. The previous him. From France. "I'm not back," he replies.
A brief look of confusion flickers over her face before she takes a good look at him. He doesn't know what she sees, what differences she catalogues, but somehow she works it out. She takes a step back, out of his arms. "You're not my Doctor," she says.
"Course, I am. Rose's Doctor, that's me."
"No, I mean… you're not the one I'm travelin' with. You're from the future?" she guesses. "Oh God, there won't be reapers, will there?" she asks, looking around as if one might appear at any second.
"No. No reapers," he reassures. "Well… probably not."
"Oh, well, that's a relief."
He beams at the sarcasm. Then he looks around a bit, eyes squinting in curiosity. "Didn't we have another passenger on this trip? Where's Mister Mickey?"
"He's back with the TARDIS. We had a row," she answers, a bit defensively. "So… what are you doing here? I thought you weren't supposed to cross your own timeline."
"Apparently, the TARDIS thought I needed to be here."
Her brow furrows. "Why's that?"
He shrugs, smiling broadly. "Don't know, yet."
He can see her grow hesitant, as if some thought has crossed her mind and she's debating on whether or not she should share it. "Doctor… am I… are we still travelin' together?"
His smile fades.
"Right," she says, nodding to herself. "Right." She doesn't ask what happened, probably because she knows he won't be able to answer.
Attempting to lighten the mood, he grins and says the first thing that comes to mind. "So, how did you like seventeenth century France? Nice place, France. That banana daiquiri was one of the best I ever had. And the dancing! Don't forget the dancing."
Rose stiffens. "Dancing?"
His lips curl into a smirk as he, too, remembers the history behind that particular euphemism. Playfully, he nudges her shoulder with his. "That's right, Rose Tyler. Dancing. This body can dance, too, you know." Maybe if he's lucky he'll get a blush out of her; it's been so long since he's seen her blush. He misses it.
It takes him a moment to realize why she's not smiling back at him. For having such unparalleled genius, he can really be quite the fool.
Carefully, too carefully, eyes not meeting his, she asks, "Did you… did you dance with Madame du Pompadour?"
Now, with her smile gone, he can see the toll this trip has taken on her, can see the pain she's been concealing. Why hadn't he realized? Back when he'd returned through the fireplace, why hadn't he seen? Had he been too caught up in his own pain to notice hers? Or had she just not allowed him to see?
"Oh, Rose." When he reaches out to her, she bats his hand away, eyes already filling with tears.
"Sarah Jane was wrong. This is not worth it." He can feel her slipping away from him, her timeline untangling from his. Desperately, he reaches out again, doesn't let her push him away this time, and hugs her to him.
As soon as she's in his arms, she clutches at his shoulders and starts to sob. "You left me," she cries. "I know you had to, but… but you still left."
Suddenly, she's not just this Rose, but that Rose, the Rose he left on the beach, and both Roses are crying out at the injustice of it all. But it's done. Can't be undone. All he can do now is rest his chin atop her head and murmur into her hair, "I'm sorry." Run his hand up and down along her spine and try to soothe away the hurt. "I'm so sorry, Rose."
There are so many things he wants to tell her. Wants to tell her not to be jealous, that there's no reason for it. He's met countless people, made hundreds of friends, but it's her memory he calls upon when he needs strength. He wants to explain about John Smith and his impossible journal; over nine hundred years worth of memories, and the only one he could put name to was her. He even wants to reassure that someday there'll be a Doctor who can live a human life, and the only thing he'll want to do with that life is spend it loving her.
Most of all, though, he wants to say the words, those three little words this him never quite managed to say. And now's his chance; the universe has given him this one last chance even though he's squandered all the rest.
His mouth opens, and the words are there, have always been there, waiting, but just as he's about to release them, to finally give them voice, he realizes he can't. It wouldn't be fair. He gave those words to another; they're his to tell her, now.
So instead, he kisses her. He catches her lips with his and kisses her, for all the times he wanted to kiss her but didn't, for all the times he should've kissed her but held back. He pours all the love he can into this kiss; just because he can't say it doesn't mean he can't somehow let her know. Rose grabs at his lapels and urges him closer, and he holds her face in his hands and tastes the future that might've been.
When he finally breaks away, she's panting and staring up at him like she can't quite believe what just happened. "Doctor?"
"Don't give up on me," he pleads, and he doesn't care if he sounds pathetic. Doesn't care if he sounds desperate and lonely and broken.
Lips still wet from his kiss, she shakes her head. "Never." Her timeline twines firmly back around his.
She opens her mouth as if there's something more she wants to tell him, maybe something she wants to ask, and that's when a distant voice echoes throughout the ship. "Rose? Where are you?"
Mickey. Of course.
"Come on, Rose!" Mickey calls out. "You're not still mad at me, are you? I'm sure the Doctor and Cleo were just friends!"
The Doctor raises an eyebrow at the blush that steals across Rose's face, wants to tease her about it, but he can hear Mickey's footsteps growing louder. Closer. It's only a matter of time before Mickey finds them. "You have to go," he whispers.
Rose's fingers dig into his biceps, new tears gathering in her eyes. "What about you?"
He tries to give her a reassuring smile. "I'll be all right." He must not sound too convincing because her expression grows even more strained. So he tries again, with more bravado than he actually feels. "I'm always all right."
A tear slips down her cheek as she reluctantly backs away. One foot after the other, tiny little steps, her gaze never wavering from his. She reaches out and catches his hand, and she holds on. She holds on even as the distance between them grows larger. Arm stretching out, she holds his hand till the last possible moment.
It feels like one of them should say something, but it's too early for her I love you and it's too late for his. So he gazes into her eyes, and she gazes into his, and for this single aching moment, forever is in their grasp.
Their fingers slip.
Rose chokes on a sob when she can no longer hold on, and his eyes are wet as she dashes back down the corridor. Before she rounds the corner, she turns and gives him one last heartbreaking look, and then she's gone.
Sniffing defiantly, he retreats back into the TARDIS, leaving her with another version of himself. It's becoming a pattern, that.
Soon that other version will come bounding through the fireplace, hugging Rose like she'll always be there to hug, never knowing just how close he came to losing her, not until long after he's already lost her, when this day comes back around and past meets future and he gives her a reason to stay all over again.
As the Doctor sets new coordinates, he thinks of his unmade confession. Though he never tells her the words, never will tell her the words, they still live on the tip of his tongue. And he'll keep them there. He'll keep them there and dream of a world where they're still his to say.