Even the best fall down sometimes,
Even the stars refuse to shine
Out of the back you fall in time
I somehow find you and I collide
(Howie Day – Collide)
"Where are you?"
"Inside the TARDIS. There's one tiny little gap in the universe left, just about to close. And it takes a lot of power to send this projection – I'm in orbit around a supernova. I'm burning up a sun, just to say goodbye." He couldn't help but chuckle slightly at the absurdity of it.
"You look like a ghost…" Rose's comment held a faint tone of accusation.
"Oh, hold on." The Doctor directed the sonic screwdriver at the TARDIS console, and instantly his form solidified. Maybe it would bridge the gap between them that currently felt wider than he ever thought possible. Rose began moving towards him slowly and he swallowed. This was it. Quick, conversation topics.
The Doctor opened his mouth as she advanced closer, fully intending to sail away on a long-winded anecdote consisting mostly of the difficulty in purchasing edible ball bearings and what a ridiculous notion this was, when he caught sight of her face. It had only been a few hours for him, but he suddenly appreciated more than ever before how beautiful she was. He almost heard the clunk as a large portion of self control left his body.
Moments later they were standing less than a foot away from each other on the desolate beach. Neither of them spoke at first, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence as such. It was as if they were trying to look their fill, while they still could.
"Can I touch . . . ?" Rose raised her hand towards his face without much hope. The Doctor paused, before giving a half nod. Her eyes widened. Clearly, she hadn't expected that answer, and rather than giving her more confidence, it seemed to make her edgy, and after leaving her hand hovering in mid air for a moment, she lowered it back to her side. The Doctor watched her silently; he could almost see the internal struggle she was battling with. Hell, he was experiencing it strongly enough himself.
The silence stretched on and the Doctor forced himself to break it. Time was short; there was nothing to be gained standing around feeling awkward.
"We only have a few minutes," he informed her quietly, wanting her to know how much he hated everything about this, but finding no words.
Rose rubbed at her forehead frustratedly. "I can't think of what to say!" she admitted, laughing. The Doctor grinned too, suddenly finding himself unable to meet her gaze and examining his feet. He cast around for some innocent conversation that wouldn't lead into dangerous territory.
"You've still got Mister Mickey, then?" he pointed out, and they both glanced round at the car in the distance, where Jackie, Pete and Mickey were standing.
"Well, there's five of us now," Rose began, and the Doctor fancied he noticed slyness creep into her voice. "Mum, Dad, Mickey… and the baby."
The Doctor's heart shot up and hovered somewhere in the region of his windpipe. "You're not…?" was all he could force out. A million thoughts were racing through his mind. It had only been a few months for her, surely she hadn't…? For a moment he felt engulfed as an irrational wave of jealousy washed over him. This was very new. It wasn't like they had ever…
Rose snorted slightly and he looked at her. "No," she affirmed. "It's mum. She's three months gone, more Tylers on the way."
The sneaky devil - she had made him think that intentionally, the Doctor was sure of it. He said nothing, and merely breathed a quiet sigh of relief. However, Jackie wasn't what he wanted to talk about in the slightest, and so he steered the conversation back towards the rather more important person standing in front of him.
"What about you, what are you…?"
"Yeah, I'm back working in the shop." The Doctor noticed some of the light leave her eyes as she spoke about that sort of life. It pained him greatly, but he just said:
"Oh, good for you."
"Shut up," she shot back, good naturedly. He glanced at her. "No, I'm not. There's another Torchwood on this planet, it's open for business." Her voice broke slightly. "Think I know a thing or two about aliens."
A warm rush of joy filled the Doctor and he grinned widely, oh-so-proudly. "Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth!" She just looked at him, eyes rapidly filling up. A lump forced its way into his own throat as he watched her struggling so much with her emotions, but he forced himself to remain rational. He cast around for something else to say.
"You're dead officially, back home." Did I just say that? Oh, brilliant. "So many people died that day and you went missing. You're on a list of the dead." Overlarge foot in overlarge mouth. Good one. "And yet here you are, living a life day after day. The one adventure I can never have."
At this, Rose put her hand over her mouth, apparently giving in to her tears. He hated so much to see her like this, and wanted desperately to comfort her. Most of the self control he was gripping on to with his fingernails fell away.
"Am I ever gonna see you again?" She was almost sobbing, now. The Doctor could do nothing but watch her, feeling as if someone was punching him repeatedly in the stomach.
"You can't." So regretful.
"Wh-what are you gonna do?"
"Oh, I've got the TARDIS. Same old life, Last of the Timelords!" He found himself laughing slightly, despite there being nothing remotely humorous about the situation.
"On your own?" The look Rose gave him nearly broke his hearts. And what she was saying did, too. He nodded, fixing her with an intense gaze. On impulse he reached out and ran his fingers down her arm, before coming to grasp her hand between his at the bottom. As she looked at him in slight surprise, he felt an understanding pass between the two of them. Unspoken, of course, as it always was. Not for the first time, he regretted the things he just wasn't able to say. Would she ever know how much –?
"I love you."
He didn't remember words ever being spoken with such certainty. At Rose's words, the Doctor felt himself beginning to break, the lump in his throat becoming almost painful. His eyes also felt rather wet, and he hoped to Rassilon she didn't notice. The decent thing would have been to return the words, but he couldn't do it. He just . . . couldn't.
"Quite right too." Rose nodded, and it was clear in her face that she completely agreed. It had been a long time since someone had said those words to him, and it filled him with a rare confidence and perhaps even recklessness. Whether this was a positive or negative thing, he would have to work out later. "Hold on… how am I supposed to top that, now?" he said, the corners of his mouth pulling upwards slightly in a smile. "You make some dramatic gesture and I'm left looking like a fool."
Rose made a noise that might have been a laugh or a cry, or possibly a combination of both. "I have complete faith in you," she smirked, her tongue appearing at the corner of her mouth. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze between hers.
"Well . . . Good! That's good. It's good to know someone does."
"What's the matter, lost some of your self-righteousness?" Rose asked, light dancing in her eyes.
"Oi! I was never "self-righteous". Confident in my own supreme intelligence maybe, aware of the fact that I am the Lord of Time and have saved the universe on a number of occasions, but never self… righteous…" The sentence trailed off lamely, as the Doctor found himself suddenly extremely distracted by Rose teasing her lip slightly with her teeth. He may refer to himself as the Lord of Time, may be nine hundred years old, but the Doctor was still just a bloke, and seeing things like that - it did strange things to him. Where was that barrier that he had spent the last two years building to stop him doing what he suspected he was very close to doing at this moment? It seemed to have completely disintegrated.
Without him giving his eyes permission, they slid down to focus on her lips. He forced them back to her eyes after a split second, but he was sure she had noticed. They were getting into slightly dangerous areas, but he couldn't seem to help himself. He was too far in.
"You're staring at me," Rose said, echoing his words from only a few days earlier. A few days for him, anyhow. Her face looked slightly flushed, but her eyes were relatively bright. As if she could see inside his head at what he was thinking right now. Rassilon, he hoped not.
"Am I?" he commented absent-mindedly.
Rose sighed heavily. "Um . . . are you gonna do it or do I have to?" She peered at him from under her eyelashes, smirking.
"Do what, now?" he asked, straight faced.
The Doctor couldn't help but laugh. "Better stop telling me to shut up," he said fondly. Rose giggled.
"Well . . . erm . . ." Hold on, time was short. Gathering his thoughts, the Doctor looked at Rose intently for a moment. Her smile faded, and once again the Doctor felt as if she was looking through a window into his head.
"I think you should –" she began breathlessly, tucking her hair behind her ear. She was gazing at him with something close to wonder.
"Yeah. Yes. I –" Take the leap. Cross the barrier. Face your fears. Whatever other saying deemed appropriate. "Apologise to Jackie for me, this is bound to earn me one of those infamous, and extremely painful slaps -"
Rose started to laugh but was cut off as the Doctor suddenly put his hand on the back of her neck and pulled her lips onto his. It felt so bizarre to be doing this, and it was almost an out of body experience for the Doctor. Rose responded almost dazedly, and her current thought of "What on earth are we doing?" was practically screaming out. Her hand moved into his hair, and the Doctor couldn't help but close his eyes at the amazing sensation of her fingers smoothing over his scalp. Just as Rose took his lower lip between her teeth gently and he felt a judder somewhere in his stomach, he knew it had to stop. Regretfully, he pulled away. Rose looked almost as disappointed as he felt.
"Maybe that wasn't the best thing to do in the current situation," he pointed out sheepishly. Rose grinned at him, but he noticed that her eyes were rapidly welling up again. "Oh, don't," he muttered sadly, reaching out to wipe the tears from her cheek with his thumb. Her eyelids fluttered shut at his touch, and because he couldn't think of a single reason not to, he leant forward and kissed her again briefly, gently. "I'm guessing we have about twenty seconds, so I need you to listen." She said nothing, just looked at him. "It's impossible for us to see each other again, we both know that." Rose drew in a shuddering breath, trying to control herself. "But I've said it before and I'll say it again; I like impossible."
Rose looked up, startled.
"Keep fighting for me."
With that, his image faded. All that could be heard was the howling wind across the deserted beach.
"Now that is textbook enigmatic." Rose gave a small smile, and began walking back across the beach. It was her turn to save him, this time.