Authors Note: As I mentioned in my summary, this fic was written for the Time in Flux Ficathon. The goal of this ficathon is to get the Doctor and Rose together as a couple in every episode of the series. If you haven't done so already, makes sure you head over to doctor_rose_fic on LJ to read the rest. They're brilliant! I was assigned School Reunion, which is one of my favourite episodes, but when I sat down to write it, I found it surprisingly difficult. I tried on 3 separate occasions to plot it out with an outline but in the end, I just sat down and started writing. This is what came out, and I'm quite proud of it. I really hope you enjoy it.
Special thanks to my friend Rumpelsnorcack who encouraged me to keep writing even when I thought it was crap.
My regular beta, meremoon is away right now, so doctorsdiva graciously offered to beta this for me in order to allow me to get this out to you all a bit sooner. Thank you, my friend, your help is greatly appreciated.
Everything Has Its Time
"I don't age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you--" The words echoed in my head even as I said them, and I felt myself draw back internally, reeling from the profession I'd nearly made. But profession of what? I wondered, even though, deep down, I knew. I'd known for a while but I'd been ignoring it. I didn't want to admit what I felt because I knew it would hurt too much. Rose was waiting for an answer, so I did what I did best, I deflected.
"You can spend the rest of your life with me," I told her. She looked up at me, her eyes shining with and it was nearly my undoing. I hated to see her hurting, especially when I knew I was the one causing her the pain. Suddenly I wanted to go to her, to close the distance between us and kiss away her tears. My eyes fell to her lips and I realized I wanted to kiss more than just tears. Oh, I'd felt those lips on mine before, but never in a true kiss. The first time, back when I'd been my old self, the kiss had been necessary in order for me to draw out the Time Vortex and save her life, she hadn't been herself then, and I was fairly certain she didn't even remember. The second time, she had been possessed by Cassandra and not in control of her own body.
I realized now that I wanted to know what it was like to kiss her properly, just Rose and no one else. Would she return my kiss? Did she feel the way about me that I felt about her? Every once in a while I had a fleeting glimpse of something I thought might be an indication of deeper feelings for me, but just as I buried my own feelings, I buried my hopes about hers as well. It didn't matter how I felt, the reality was that she was mortal, and I was not. It was time to make that clear to her.
"But I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on; alone. That's the curse of the Time Lords." I turned away from her, avoiding her gaze as I tried to quell the panic rising within me. Just the thought of life without Rose tore me to shreds. I could deny it no longer. I was in love with her, and I didn't have a clue what I should do about it.
A movement on the top of a roof across the street caught my attention and I spotted Mr. Finch and one of the Krillitanes. The Krillitane swooped down on us and I was forced back into action. My thoughts of Rose would have to wait.
Imagine watching that happen to someone who you-- The unfinished sentence rang in my brain while I watched the Doctor try to come up with a way to cover his blunder. To deflect my attention from the confession he'd nearly made. My heart skipped a beat as I thought about it again, had the Doctor really nearly confessed his love to me?
A part of me leapt with joy at the thought; the part that loved him back and had been waiting for this moment for longer than I dared to admit. But another part of me, the more rational part, was worried. Seeing him with Sarah Jane today, the way he'd looked at her; that had hurt. It wasn't just that I was jealous, I wasn't really. What did I have to be jealous of? It's not like I have a claim to him or anything. No, what worried me was the way he seemed to have left Sarah Jane so abruptly. He never talked about her, and until today, I'd never really wondered about the people the Doctor had travelled with before me.
On some level, I had known that he must have had companions before me. How could he not? He was over nine hundred years old, for pete's sake. But I'd never really thought about who they were, or what had happened to them. Now, I was beginning to think that he just brought us along for the ride and then abandoned us when he was done. The thought of just being left like that one day, that's what hurt, that's what made me worry.
If he had made his almost confession on any other day, I probably would have pressed him, would have tried to get him to tell me. But today I was confused and I honestly wasn't sure if I wanted to know the answer. So I let it pass and he filled me in on the reality of the situation.
Now, I had new words ringing through my head: I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on; alone. That's the curse of the Time Lords. Suddenly, I was no longer angry with him. My jealousy and confusion dissipated as the weight of his words flooded over me. I felt as though I'd been punched in the chest and all the air had rushed out of my lungs. My heart ached for him, for his loneliness and I wanted to take him into my arms and comfort him. I almost reached for him, but we were interrupted by the Krillitanes, so I stuffed my hands back in my pockets, and I let the moment pass.
I frowned as I walked into the computer lab to see Rose Tyler and Sarah Jane Smith laughing hysterically. What are they laughing about? I wondered. We didn't have time for laughing; we had to stop Mr. Finch.
"What? Listen, I need to find out what's programmed inside these." I stood helplessly as the two of them laughed even harder. Whatwas going on? Last night they had been all prickles, and jealous looks, and now, here they were laughing like... like... like people who shared some kind of dirty secret.
I frowned. Somehow I had a feeling they were laughing at me. "What? Stop it!" They kept laughing. I definitely liked it better when they didn't get along. It was safer that way. It suddenly occurred to me, that maybe they were laughing about the conversation Rose and I had had the night before. Maybe Rose had seen through my cover up and she and Sarah Jane were having a laugh about it. I ran my hand through my hair, I didn't like that thought at all. It would mean that Rose didn't share my feelings. Not that it mattered since I couldn't act on them anyway, but still, it would have been nice.
Rose and Sarah Jane finally calmed down and they were both looking at me questioningly.
"You all right, Doctor?" Rose asked, starting to walk toward me.
"Oh, yes. Quite all right," I lied. "Let's get back to work, eh?" I took the Sonic from Rose and tried to open one of the computer components that I suspected held the key to Mr. Finch's plan.
Despite my frustratingly unsuccessful efforts, the projector in the room suddenly came on in a frenzy of green, flickering light and I stared at it, trying to work out just what it was that we were dealing with. I recognized a bit of the code and I felt my blood run cold. "No... No, they can't be."
I explained the Skasis Paradigm to Rose and Sarah Jane, working out the situation in my head as I talked aloud. Mr. Finch interrupted us, just as I came to the horrifying realization that they were using the children's souls to unlock the code.
My worries about Rose were long gone now, as Mr. Finch tried to tempt me with the power of the paradigm.
"At my side. Imagine what you could do -- think of the civilizations you could save. Perganon, Assinta... your own people, Doctor. Standing tall. The Time Lords... reborn."
I tried to resist, but his final words got to me. The emptiness in my head where my people once were, alive and thriving, pained me everyday. It was a lonely existence I led and to have my people back again would be wonderful... Yet, I knew that their loss was necessary. I had already made that choice, I was living with it. To go back on it now would completely negate the sacrifice I had made in order to save the Universe. I couldn't change that... could I?
"Doctor, don't listen to him," Sarah Jane cried.
That drew Finch's attention to her and Rose. "And you could be with him throughout eternity. Young... fresh... never wither, never age... never die. Their lives are so fleeting. So many goodbyes." He turned back to me. "How lonely you must be, Doctor. Join us."
Images flashed through my mind; my people, my former companions, Sarah Jane, Jack, and one day Rose. I hated goodbyes because they were the one thing I could never seem to run from successfully. No matter who I was with, the day always came where they left and I had to carry on, alone. To never have to say goodbye again, to keep those I loved close at hand, to never have to watch Rose fade away before my eyes... "I could save everyone..." My own voice surprised me. I hadn't realized I'd spoken aloud.
"Yes," Mr. Finch said encouragingly.
"I could stop the war..." I whispered it, picturing myself embracing my family once more, imagining the silence in my head finally being broken. It was within my grasp. I could bring them back, I could save Rose, and I could finally end the pain and loneliness.
It was Sarah Jane who brought me back to my senses. "No. The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss -- they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world or a relationship... everything has its time. And everything ends."
The truth of her words permeated my thoughts. She was right. It was what I had taught her back when we had travelled together and she had learned her lesson well. The sacrifices I had made, the peace I had fought for, that was important. It was necessary to the survival of creation, no matter how painful it was to me personally.
Her words reminded me of something else as well, everything has its time; I knew that better than anyone, how could I have forgotten? An uncharacteristic wave of panic rushed over me as I realized just how much time I had been wasting by avoiding my feelings for Rose. We had such a short amount of time together in this life, and that time was precious. This was our time, and I resolved to make the most of it – as soon as we were finished with the current crisis.
I glared at Mr. Finch, gritting my teeth as I picked up a chair, chucking it at the computer screen at the wall. The glass shattered. "Out!" I shouted. We were done here.
I watched the Doctor comforting Sarah Jane about the bloody tin dog and the jealousy came flooding back. I consoled myself in Mickey's arms. For a moment, that was okay, but then I began to realize that it wasn't fair to Mickey. I pulled away gently, patting his arm and walked away from the school without casting even a glance in the Doctor's direction.
I wandered aimlessly for a while before finding myself in front of the TARDIS' familiar blue doors. I opened them gratefully and slid inside the ship that had become my home over the past year or so. I blinked back tears as I circled the console, lightly running my fingers over the dials and knobs.
So much had happened in recent months that I was finding it hard to process it all. His regeneration at Christmas had thrown me greatly. There was enough of the old Doctor left that I knew he was still himself. But he was a very different person, and that mix of difference and sameness was part of what had been so disconcerting to me. I thought I was over that, that I had moved on and accepted this new him; but now I wasn't so sure. Meeting Sarah Jane had reminded me that there was still so much about the Doctor that I didn't know. He was over 900 years old. Yes, I'd known that before, of course, but the reality of what that meant - for him, for me, for us – was only just beginning to sink in.
I threw myself down on the captain's chair and sighed. I wasn't sure where I fit in to this life. There were days where I felt like at his side was where I belonged; that he wanted me there. But there were other days, like today, where I felt awkward and out of place. There had been a moment earlier in the computer lab when he'd given me a look that had made me think that maybe, just maybe, he did feel something different for me. But the moment had faded as quickly as it had arisen, and now I doubted I'd seen anything at all, especially after seeing him with Sarah Jane in his arms. I growled in frustration. He wasn't just a Lord of Time; he was the Lord of mixed signals.
The door creaked and I looked up to see the Doctor step into the TARDIS, an anxious and eager expression on his face. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought it was a look of desire. But I knew that wasn't possible.
Something within me snapped. Whether it was impatience or hurt or anger, I don't know. All I know is that I couldn't hold it in any longer.
"Stop it," I told him, my voice shaking.
He blinked at me. "Stop what?"
"Stop looking at me that way."
"Like you want me one minute, but you're going to pull away the next. Your bloody mixed signals are driving me mental."
The Doctor narrowed his eyes, in concern. "Rose? Are you all right? You're not acting like yourself."
"No, I am not ruddy all right."
He stepped toward me, looking a bit like a deer caught in the headlights and for a fleeting moment I felt guilty for yelling at him. "Rose," he whispered, "Talk to me. Tell me what's wrong."
"You're what's wrong," I told him. "There are times when I feel like I belong here, travelling with you, saving the universe. I hold your hand and it feels so right, as though it's meant to be there. And then something will happen, and you pull away from me, like you did last night. You drop all these hints and then you withdraw, keeping your thoughts to yourself; and every time you do that I feel like I don't belong, that you don't want me here."
He was standing in front of me now, close enough that he was able to cup my cheek and force me to look at him. "Rose, of course I want you here. I always want you with me. That's part of the problem."
I frowned, what did he mean by that? "I don't understand."
He sighed and dropped his hand. "You mean too much to me." He started to pace. "I'm over 900 years old, Rose. I'm the closest you can get to being immortal. I've lost every one I've ever cared about. I've watched people I loved die at my own hand. It's been a very long time since I've allowed myself to care about someone, since I've allowed myself to love." He stopped pacing and stood in front of me again, studying my face.
I knew he probably saw the pain in my eyes, the empathy I was feeling for him. It broke my heart to think of him in that much pain. "Doctor," I breathed, reaching out to comfort him.
He shook his head and stepped away before I could make contact. "I learned ages ago how much it hurts to care. Pain and loss and grief - it's what I carry with me, what I've carried with me for hundreds of years. I trained myself to avoid it, and if I'd been smart, I would have avoided you."
I tried to process what he was telling me. It almost sounded like he was trying to tell me he loved me, but I wasn't sure. Why couldn't he ever just say what he meant? It would make things so much simpler. I went for the easier question instead. "Why would you have avoided me?"
"Because you embody life and love. It's impossible for me not to care, not to love when I'm around you. You've made me a better person and I'm afraid of who I'll become if I ever lose you."
"You're not going to lose me, Doctor." I assured him.
"But that's just it, I will. It's what I was trying to tell you last night. You're mortal Rose, one day I'll have to watch you wither away from old age and I won't be able to do a thing to stop it." His voice cracked and I reached up to touch his face. This time, he didn't pull away. His cheek was warm beneath my hand.
I could feel his breath, uneven and ragged against my wrist. My eyes shifted to his mouth and suddenly I wanted to kiss him, to reassure him that it would be okay. I didn't know how he would respond but I pushed my doubts aside. He needed this, I needed this. I'd deal with the consequences later.
I leaned in, my lips barely an inch from his now. "Everything worth having hurts," I whispered.
His eyes bored into mine and it was him, not me, who closed the distance between us. I gasped in surprise as his supple lips pressed against mine in a tender, gentle kiss. He wrapped his arms around my back and I melted against him, sighing softly as he parted my lips with his tongue. His tongue entwined with mine in an elaborate tango and my knees buckled. If he hadn't been holding me up, I surely would have slid to the floor.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the kiss ended and the Doctor pulled away slightly, his arms still encircling my back as he studied my face. I think he was looking for signs of anger or disgust but I smiled reassuringly instead. I was rewarded with his million watt grin. "Rose Tyler, I --" but I didn't let him finish. I threw my arms around his neck and crushed my lips to his, swallowing his words as I snogged him. This kiss was more passionate and heated than the first and I soon felt his reaction against my thigh. A jolt of excitement shot through me and all of my remaining reservations vanished.
The door to the TARDIS swung open with a bang and we jumped apart, like two guilty teenagers. Mickey strode in a second later, greeting us both cheerfully. I leaned over and murmured in the Doctor's ear so that only he could hear me. "Next time, remember to lock the door."