Life's a Time Machine
by Camilla Sandman
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.
Author's Note: Post-Journey's End.
It's the second day of the rest of the Doctor's life, and he is watching the sunrise.
He remembers five million, three thousand, four hundred and eight of them. On distant planets for the first time, on Gallifrey for the ten thousandth, on Pluto for an unfortunate planetoid bowling mishap, on Earth so many times it became homely. Even in Norway a few times, though most of them involved moose and/or Vikings with not nearly as impressive antlered headbutts.
He remembers five million, three thousand, four hundred and eight sunrises, and this is still the first he actually sees.
First dawn on a beach in Norway, waiting for Pete's promised transport to arrive. First dawn.
He didn't remember it this slow. As if there is no hurry, as if the day can wait when there's so much to fill it with. Adventures. Exploration. Finding a job. Getting a house. A deducation of the dangers this Earth might face, and which he might accidentally get it into. Rose.
Rose. She still has her hand in his, but her eyes are at the horizon. She's grieving, he knows. For him. For the Doctor who left, who she'll never see again, who she remembers, who she loves. Him. Sort of.
This could get a little confusing, he reflects. Confusing can be good. It's not boring. It will fill the time. Yes. It has done so before. He even spent a whole incarnation perfecting it.
There's so much he remembers still to live.
He can't wait.
It's the third day of the rest of the Doctor's life, and he is getting them lost in Norway.
It's a lot easier to get lost when people actually have a map, at least when you're used to going where the whims take you and the destination is always where you end up. No paths to take but the one made while walking.
It's especially easy when the map is all wrong, and the land seems to entertain its delusions by placing a mountain where he is damn sure there shouldn't be one.
"How hard is 'stick to the main road'?" Jackie asks, but on a scale from one to ten on Jackie annoyance, this only seems to be a three. (Of course, like the Richter's scale, every point increases the force exceptionally. Ten leaves no survivors.)
"Where's your sense of adventure?" he retorts, and she gives him a stern look that doesn't quite follow through. She is happy, he realises. She got her second chance and second child now and it seems to fill her with a light that makes her lovely in a way he's never noticed before.
When he tells her that, she looks at him like he's mad and Rose turns away sharply to hide a laugh that he still observes.
Second chances. He doesn't yet know what those are like.
He's still working on his first.
In the end, he gets them more lost and decides maps are just not his thing.
It's the fourth day in the rest of the Doctor's life, and he's getting his second kiss.
(He remembers many more, but they are his memories and not his experiences.
It's quite confusing to have a week-old body and milennia-old memory, really.)
Rose is more hesitant than during the first, her lips brushing his more than crushing. Her fingers are pressed a little to his chest, as if she still needs to reassure herself there is only one heartbeat in him. But this feels like a kiss for him, properly him, outside a Norwegian farmhouse he's found for them (and an impatient Jackie) to stay the night at.
Okay, maybe she did kiss him to make him shut up with the facts about Norway, but still.
"I hate him a little," she whispers when she pulls back a little, her breath smelling of the Norwegian salmon they all had for lunch.
"I do too," he replies and her laugh is brittle, like something waiting to break.
"I love him too," she says after a long exhale and he inhales sharply. "How much of him are you?"
"I don't know yet," he admits. "I got all his memories. All Donna's too. But I'm all human. One heart, no time machine."
"You're wrong," she says, a touch distantly. "This is a time machine. The oldest kind."
"What do you mean?"
"The kind that takes you forward second by second."
Her eyes shine a little and for a moment he thinks he sees the faintest glint of the light of the TARDIS, the one little piece of it he never could kiss out of her. Bad Wolf.
Memories of something beyond human; like him.
He's always fallen for humans despite of who he is; falling for them beacuse of who he is a new experience.
When he kisses her this time, he counts the seconds in his head, not wanting to miss one since it can't come again.
It's the fifth day in the rest of the Doctor's life, and he's running for his life.
Okay, so it's not so much for his life as it is for avoiding an irate red fox who probably couldn't kill him unless it's more talented in paw-to-hand combat than he suposses. But it is running and air in his face and (a little danger) behind and a lot of unknown ahead.
This is life as he remembers it. True, he would normally be running to a blue box, but the silver jeep Jackie and Rose are waiting in will do in a pinch.
As he swings himself into it, Jackie looks at him and he has to reassure himself he hasn't grown the second head her gaze seems to indicate he has.
"Do you have to run away from every member of Norwegian wildlife we come across?" she asks sharply.
"You never know what could be an alien bent on world domination," he points out, trying to sound as wise and insightful as he can.
"You sound like Rose," Jackie says, kicking the car into gear. "That poor stoat."
"Mum, that stoat was the Emperor of the Erminea Empire and nearly blew up Torchwood," Rose says and when she looks at him, he can see her eyes sparkle at the memory. "You should be glad I could outrun it."
"I am," he says, even if it's not directed at him; Rose's answering smile is definitely targeting him.
Later, they run away from the deer together and even Jackie joins them for the bear.
It's the sixth day day in the rest of the Doctor's life, and he's going home with someone.
Norway left behind after Jackie assumed executive command over map and driving, they come to England fast enough and London a bit after. It feels foreign and is, a London of a different world but alike enough to make do.
At least for him. He's had to make do a lot of homes with the real one lost and none quite like it in the whole universe.
Rose has her own place now, it turns out, and he follows her there after Jackie is left at her and Pete's home (and enthusiastically welcomed home, too). An own place, but it doesn't feel Rose's, devoid of most personal touches and those there are feel Jackie's more than anything.
"I didn't think I would stay," Rose says from the door. "I thought I would travel with the Doctor again. Mum and dad wanted me to have my own place so I got this, but..."
She trails off, biting her lip.
"I could travel with you," he says after a beat.
"Here. This. Life," he says, gesturing at everything and nothing. "Torchwood. Running from stoats. Interior decoration. Getting lost with a map. Going out for fish and chips at four in the morning."
"A normal life?"
"No," he says brightly. "Just a life."
Not just running from one, he thinks. Not running into one. Just a life. Just a time machine second by second and two humans traveling in it.
"All right," Rose says, her voice a little like resignation, but her kiss a little like hope when he steps up to her.
They get a few new things for her place in the end and have an adventure at IKEA's that involves a strange lack of running; he's not sure how he feels about baby steps yet.
It's the seventh day in the rest of the Doctor's life, and he is doing nothing.
It's four in the morning and he isn't sleeping. He has pretended sometimes, eyes closed and breath still, but there's never been darkness behind his eyes. Just stars, dancing to time's tune.
He pretends now, because Rose is sleeping after a long day, head a little awkwardly against his thigh, hair across his knee.
She is dreaming, like a human, and if he watches her long enough, maybe he'll learn how to. Like a human. The human he is now. Is supposed to be now. Will learn to be.
Mostly human. One heart, one life, one body. One go.
It feels oddly mortal. But then, that's the point.
The Doctor, born a week ago, feeling ancient and new both, remembering hundreds of years of life and having just a few decades of them still ahead.
He can wait.
(He still wakes her to get some fish and chips together, even if she swats him with a pillow for it. Four a.m. only comes at four a.m. now.)
He doesn't have all the time in the world anymore, after all.