Genre: Romance, Angst
Time Frame: Way after JE
Characters: Rose Tyler, The Duplicate Doctor
Summary: She let him go, one last time.
Notes: Its the end of a long week, I'm a mushy wreck . . . and what does my muse go and do? Um, yeah. You guessed it. On a more serious note, this has a major angst warning. If that does not strike your fancy, please hit the shiny back button, and find something with kittens! . . . For those masochists who stayed, I welcome you, and hope that I pulled this off with a touch of class.
Disclaimer: Nothing's mine, and yet I still feel compelled to add this in every single heading.
"The Final word, in the final sentence you ever uttered to me was love." - Snow Patrol
"This is a most fascinating sensation, I'll have you know."
Rose Tyler raised a silvery eyebrow at the man on the bed. He fidgeted, just slightly, before raising a brow in a mirror of her own. The usual smile it would illicit was strained, barely there, as she looked him over dubiously with shadowed eyes.
"That's how you'd describe it?" she questioned in a soft voice. It was a lived in voice now, missing the high timbre of youth; mellowed as it was by a lifetime, and weathered down by too many memories to count.
Across from her, the man made a face.
Taking a deep breath, her eyes rested on him for longer than a normal glance. While years of association had resulted in her knowing every inch of him by heart, this was a time when she was desperate to make sure that she had all of the minute details memorized.
Her gaze must have seemed somewhat desperate, for his hand clenched weakly about hers, something a bit like an apology in the touch . . . a bit like the beginning of a fond farewell.
The gesture made fear spike in her chest, deep down inside.
He smiled at her sadly, as always, reading her like an open book in one glance. That gaze, which had failed to make her feel naked and open in over fifty years, now circled oddly in her gut, twinging past a place she had been ignoring ever since his condition had worsened.
And worsened . . .
He was dying now.
He, who had delivered stars and saved Time itself, was fading before her eyes.
And she could do nothing to stop it, could do nothing to fix him as he withered under the weight of humanity's curse.
She clenched his hand tighter, feeling the pulse hum sluggishly at his wrist, echoing tiredly against her own.
She had known that this moment was coming. She had known since his coughs became that much more consuming, since the spring in his step became that much more labored, the glow to his eyes that much dimmer . . . A light was flickering before her, a light she was not yet willing to part with. She, who had thought that she had known and experienced every pain in love during a separation years prior, could never have been more wrong.
It hurt. Loving physically hurt right now.
She, who had had grown up with enough of her mother's flavors of the week, and had learned even further due to her own young mess with Jimmy . . . She had never been one for flights of fancy when it came to romance. Mickey had been something steady, reliable - safe in the way that a dear friend made you feel.
And somewhere in her playing make believe with him, she had meet an alien with grave eyes and every potential for chasing life with all of the vivacious energy of an unchecked star. He had been something fresh and alive, and she had thrived alongside him until the thought of forever was not unbearable. In those silly hours in time and space she had understood her mothers secret trysts with Jane Austen, and Mickey's closet tendency to mumble sonnets under his breath when he thought that she couldn't hear.
And now here she is, standing at the edge of forever, and terrified to make that fall.
It had never been a question before. Goodbyes may be said before their times – but he would simply live on anew in another form. Death had no hold over him save what it took from those he knew. She had been faced of the possibility, before, of aging and wilting and fading away before his ageless, timeless eyes.
And all that had changed.
And, foolishly she had still hoped . . .
Selfishly, she had known that she would not have been strong enough to deal with him leaving before her. She had known, and she had hoped and prayed through many a frantic struggle in which he had pushed his mortal body through yet another dangerous situation . . .
They were another uncharted adventure for him. The last great mystery. And still, she sat by his side, and grasped his weathered hand in her own wrinkled grip, and ached like part of her heart was being torn away again.
And he marked the moment with poorly timed humor. It should have been expected. It should not have made tears pool at the corner of her eyes as it did.
She was supposed to be strong, for him, just as surely as another him would have been strong for her, if given the opportunity . . .
But she only has one heart to break, and the shatter lines running throughout show her that she could not hold on much longer without completely falling apart.
"You didn't look that sad when we were facing the end of the world," his voice was soft, a nonchalant comment that normally would accompany his halfhearted attention to her while he devoted his time to whatever gadget was in his hand.
She took a deep breath, and asked, "Which time?"
He chuckled, the sound giving way to great rasps of breath that shook his willowy frame. She sucked in a breath through her nose, her heart hammering in her chest at the sound. "Don't talk," she implored gently, "you'll turn yourself out of breath."
Her voice was gently chiding, a tone that came after he grew accustomed to human things like the common cold, and headaches that were treatable with aspirin once she finally got him to take it.
She had had so little time to learn him anew again. It had not been enough.
He rolled his eyes at her, the gesture looked odd on his older face. "Yes, because me talking myself out of breath is such an unusual thing."
He was wheezing more and more. The sound turned at her insides. He coughed again, and her grip at his hands became white at the knuckles.
"I'm not dead yet," he muttered once the fit had subsided.
"Don't talk like that," she implored gently, automatically. It was becoming harder and harder to keep the tremor out of her voice.
He shrugged. "'Tis natural . . . part of life, love."
She shivered. "It shouldn't of been. Not for you," she mumbled.
His fluttering grip loosened on hers. She kept her eyes down turned, unable to look at him as he turned her chin up so that he could meet her eyes. "Look at me," he whispered, "we all knew that this day was going to come eventually – comes with the whole human thing." He grimaced. "It's a package, you know, this life – the good with the bad."
"I know," she whispered. Oh Lord, did she know that.
His weak grip fluttered, and he whispered, "I wouldn't have traded a single moment of this life." His voice was airy, subtle and serene, but it was one of the most poignant things he had ever said to her.
She took a deep breath, and thought of her life with him – of mornings spent under the same roof, and day jobs, and an eventual horrifying mortgage, and two amazing children, and grandchildren even. A family. Life lived with stability. And days stretching on long and linear and clear. Travels over one planet – finding a million things new that he never thought he would, being anchored to a world whom he could no longer feel spin under his feet.
These were all things that her other him would have merely wondered at. He had a duty, she knew, as the last one left of an ancient race. These were things she would have given up for him.
They were now things that he had given up for her.
And she loved him so much for it.
Taking a deep breath, she raised his hand to her lips, and gently kissed it, speaking with her eyes once the words became too much to actually voice.
He understood. How many times had he done the same? Emotion shining in his eyes, but the words catching in his throat . . .
She had understood him each and every time.
And now . . .
"I love you," he whispered gently.
She nodded, moving over to curl herself around him. Her body was thin, ailing with age like his, but somehow she still managed to fit around him just right, as if time had done little but gently weather them together.
She laid her head on his chest, reassuring herself by it's steady rise and fall. She could feel his breath at her neck, soft and steady, and she breathed it in, her fingers clenching against his.
If this had to be it . . .
She shut her eyes against the pain that was threatening to bubble, and willed it away for just a moment. One more remembered moment . . .
"I love you," he whispered again. He was still mumbling, his voice dipping in and out of dozens of languages, and she knew that they all meant the same thing. She had heard them muttered enough in tender moments over a lifetime to understand, to hear . . .
The languages took a more alien turn, and she knew that part of him was slipping away from her. She grasped tighter to him, willing him on, anchoring him to her with nothing more than her faltering force of will.
"I love . . ." he whispered, just once more, in her tongue, just for her to hear.
She cherished the words, grasping on to them, not thinking about how long it took the words to bloom, but how wonderful her life had been since then. A million things flashed before her eyes, anchored by those words . . .
And she saw . . .
And she felt . . .
Another breath, shuddering and slow.
Soft against her cheek.
Heartbeat so slow against her chest.
So slow . . .
And soft . . .
One last breath . . .
One last syllable on his tongue . . .
And she let him go just one last time.