Author's Note:

Being inspired by "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," each chapter will begin with a few lines from T. S. Eliot's piece. It is one of my favorite poems, and I enjoyed writing fanfic to it. I hope that this is as much fun for you, the reader, to peruse as it was for me to create.

As always,

--cy.


Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

-o-

This place wasn't even half-deserted. It was empty. She was getting a full dose of absolutely unadulterated desertion right now: no other living soul, no motion but the movement of the sun filter and that kind, feminine voice telling her that it was going down, down, down...

As the uninhibited rays began to crisp the tops of the walls, Rose Tyler gave an involuntary gasp and came to a startling revelation: what people most often fail to notice tends to be most important in the end.

It was more startling because she wasn't one for drawing platitudes, least of all in life-threatening situations, rather than for its content. Still, if ever there was an occasion for making sweeping statements about life, this was it. Trapped behind a door with no help coming and sunlight streaming down the wall to broil her, there really wasn't much else to do. Funny thing, this. Working as a shop girl after failing to earn enough A-levels to get a real job and this was now her highest aspiration: not managing to get burnt to a crisp.

Maybe he'd just forgotten her and run off with the tree.

It wasn't all that unlikely she'd been overlooked. Platform One had the end of the world to watch, after all, and that had been the reason they'd come here, hadn't it? To watch the world burn up, which was probably what the Doctor was doing, along with all of the other guests.

Just not with her.

Had she read too much into his offer, into him? Was she nothing more than a passing fancy to this man, just a human that wised up like that man Clive had, but only good enough to keep around for so long? Yeah, she'd saved him once, but he'd saved her first. Twice. He didn't even owe her.

It had all been too good to be true, anyway. A phone that could call across time and space, a phone box, moreover, that could take you anywhere you could dream of going, and a fellow traveler about as mysterious as their destinations-- she should have known that it would end like this. The real world was never as kind as the stories you read or the hopes you had for it. It was full of unforeseen dangers, vicious twists, and always so much happening that you failed to notice the little, essential things.

Like, for example, that a supernova's light could melt the skin from her bones, turn her to soup in seconds, then boil her to gas. Or maybe even just skip the liquid phase and take her from solid to vapor. She'd thought this business with the party and being the last human was all great fun, especially rubbing it in Cassandra's flat face, but always doubting that it could possibly be real. Now it was all so real that it was going to kill her.

She pounded on the lower part of the door as the light streamed overhead, singeing the ceiling and crackling pieces off the middle parts of the wall. This was it: one night out in high society to consort with aliens, no promises, no guarantees. She was just unlucky and trapped in a locked room.

It was just that--she thought that things would be different with him. Wrestling with that plastic arm over her coffee table, that feeling of his hand in hers as the two of them ran through the streets of London at night: it had all spelled out a very different ending than dying alone and crispy five billion years into the future.

Biting her lip, Rose considered. How big was the space station? A computer malfunction couldn't go ignored like this, not five billion years into the future. Failing that, surely someone would come to the viewing gallery--people must be on their way, the earth was exploding after all--

"Help! Let me out!" She screamed, throat hurting from the sudden effort.

Blinding light crisscrossed overhead and bit into the wall. Rose called for help again, her voice cracking as worryingly as the viewing window opposite her. It was amazing that she could hear anything at all above the pounding of her heart and the receding sun filter, but she did, even though it seemed to come from an infinity away: a sigh and the words, "Oh, it would be you."

-o-

It would be her. He thinks, watching as the figure in a pink hoodie gazes out the window of the empty foyer, watching chunks of rock flying past on their way into space. The light from the sun's supernova makes everything in the room seem darker, more dramatic, like a play that's approaching its climax. He isn't sure if he wants more of that, more stories with unhappy endings and more darkness to run from. He's been trying to escape the past for so long but it follows him wherever he goes, and everything he touches comes to darkness in one way or another, from the future of civilizations to the small, flickering life of a human girl.

She doesn't know it yet and maybe she never will, but there should have been at least two more representatives from alien cultures that made their appearances at Platform One tonight. He has long had the rise and fall of species so practiced and learnt he could recite it like reading words written on the inside of his skull. But, this--everything he knows is caught in a slow vanishing: the Time War is extending its dark arm to new civilizations, wiping more and more out and leaving gaps for others to propel themselves forward. History is rewriting itself from all angles--he can feel it, chipping away gently at him even as he stands there, watching her at the sill.

He'd rather not wait for it to catch up to him.

He'd rather grab her arm and run! like before, run off to some mad new adventure and never look back on this swirl of destruction and molten rock. He's had too much of looking back, but now that's he's looking forward, he can't say he finds the view any more enviable. Rose is not just Rose. She's a human, fragile and frangible, closed-minded at the worst of times, fantastic at the best, but a human, and just that.

Perhaps after spending so much time alone the differences have blurred in his mind. Relearning them inch by inch is tortuous, surprising him at every turn, always reminding him that she's cut from a different cloth and that no matter what they go through together, no matter how close their patterns seem, they will never be the same.

A small voice tells him that traveling solo would have been better, much more practical. None of this domesticity to worry about or potential clumsy death. Just him and the TARDIS, the whole universe lying open before him like a cracked chestnut, ripe for exploration and tasting. He'd been doing it for so long, it seems almost natural. So why change now? Rather, why go back to the way it was?

Part of him doesn't want to answer, to admit that it's been more lonely than it's worth, traveling in a party of one and longing for the past while running from it. And it's not just one past--it's a whole slew of pasts, all of them his, all of them shared with others.

He checks his watch before going over to meet her, the heels of his shoes clicking out a soft rhythm on the ballroom floor.

The watch does not tell the time: he already has the singing of the date a pale sweetness on his tongue and the passage of the seconds dancing across the back of his knuckles like a gold coin. Rather, it is to assure himself of something, something even he isn't quite certain about, other than that it is happening. The hour hand is squarely on the nine and the minute hand rests on the two. He takes a deep breath, relishing the change, the freshness, and walks over to his companion, one hand gripping the other's wrist behind his back.

"Come along. Too much of that and I'll be hard-pressed to find anything that'll impress you anymore."

She smiles and he takes her hand in his.

"You know, I thought you'd forgotten me." She says at last. Her face looks flushed, but it might just be the vibrant red of the planet's core reflecting through the window.

He rolls his eyes. Humans. "Well, that's being blunt."

Her look of mock offense--or is it real hurt? It's taking him too long to judge which--triggers a hasty amendment. "No beating around with bush with you. Straight to the point." He spades his hands in his pockets amiably, but refrains from answering the question-that-is-not-a-question.

Rose doesn't give up. "You wouldn't have left me there, right?"

He remembers plastic arms restraining him, yelling at her to run and leave him, and that strange feeling he'd gotten when he'd seen her swinging down a rope to his rescue. Hope, or shock that there was something else out there in the universe that understood?

His voice is a little hoarse at first, but he hides it wonderfully. "No, course not! What do you think your mum would do to me, eh?" He grimaces theatrically. "Probably have me put on a spit and roasted."

The two of them laugh as they reach the blue box and his thoughts have left the watch and its new anomaly: for the entirety he's been, well, him, the minute hand has remained steadfast on the one. Now it's reading two, like so many other things around him. He's the Doctor plus one, no longer solitary but partnered. But it holds a tacit warning: things have been set in motion, whether for good or ill, and they are just about to begin.

And that's just the way he likes it.