"bid the hourglass to slowly fade"
Genre: Angst, Romance
Time Frame: "A Parting of Ways", "Doomsday", "Journey's End", "The End of Time"
Characters: The Doctor, Rose Tyler
Summary: "Goodbyes don't become easier over time, you know." Three too short goodbyes, and one rather long one between the Doctor and Rose.
Notes; Gah, my muse went all mushy on me. Curse you 'End of Time', curse you!! Curse you for all of your bittersweet beautiful-ishness, and your brilliant send-off for our dear Ten! You have messed with my poor and abused heartstrings for the very last time! You hear me? The very last time.
. . . Yeah. Um, anyway . . .
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"bid the hourglass to slowly fade"
i. (in which there is a stopping of the grains)
You have said so many goodbyes in your life.
They mesh together in your mind's eye now – your people; your companions, one after another like toy soldiers all fallen in a row. People you have met on your travels fade to mist in the long corridors of your mind, stretching on father than you can remember, farther than you can forget.
These things echo now, merging together, voices taunting. Hers is missing in that collection, and you are determined to keep it that way. Before you, she is one goodbye that you refuse to make.
In front of you, she is filled to the brim with power, glowing as she was with the Heart of Time. Her eyes are golden, and heated with tears that couldn't fall. Her body had not the strength to spare for tears, you knew. Rose, your brave Rose, how you adore her in that moment, ablaze as she was with the very essence of you, everything human and lovely about her burned away under the sheer power of Time.
You feel an awe seep through you, even as fear springs into the both of your hearts. This is a fate you will take in place of her, you know. In the end, it is oddly fitting that your body (one born of death and pain) would be rebirthed anew in the defense of the one who had taken the war cries from your tongue and the vengeance from your very veins. She has fixed you – completed you, you know. You merely do the same for her now.
You can feel power starting to flood your body the closer you come to her– true power this was, this way to cheat both death and time. Instead of backing away from it, you leaned forward and kissed her once, hard, sucking in a hundred memories and almost moments from a mouth that now lived in place of you. You breathed her in, tasted life anew on her tongue.
You feel yourself fill with her when you stepped away.
When you are born into this new form, you remember very little from your final moments but for the feel of fire and the far off, nearly forgotten taste of her. It is a phantom memory that stirs in your mind, even when hers is blank of it.
When, after you are completely regenerated and itching for the stars once more, you understood when she took a moment away from you.
She had a leather jacket in her hands, her last remnant of the you that had lived just before. There were black memories aplenty pressed against her skin as she lifted it to her nose to breathe in a forgotten scent. When she placed the jacket in the hall closet next to her pink Henrik's jumper, you tried so very hard not to smile. The smile flickered, faded, when she lifted a hand to trace out memories in the well oiled fabric. There were a dozen things unspoken in the swirls of her fingerprints, in the hammer of her pulse from where her grip became too firm. This was a goodbye, you knew, a farewell that was as much a turning of a new page as it was the conclusion of one as well.
When she smiled over at you, there was only a small hesitance that lingered in the turn of her lips. Distantly, you wanted to tell her that those sort of goodbyes would grow easier over time. A larger part of you could not lie to her – even now – and so you merely took her hand and set off with her again, far off worlds and adventures waiting to erase every nearly forgotten thing.
It is a system that works as well as it does not, at times.
ii. (in which these things are torn from your tongue)
You say goodbye to her before you are ready.
Before, when denials and pleas had followed her into the void, there had been no time for anything else. You needed more now – you needed a conclusion if not a solution, and so you did not even blink before burning a star to ash to say goodbye. You would burn a dozen more if it meant but even a few more moments, a few more moments to last you for all of your infinity . . .
You have never been good at saying goodbyes. You are better at walking away, leaving things unsaid and unspoken. It was safer that way, easier . . . This, you knew, was something unprecedented. But it felt . . . wrong, to just leave her as they had been. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair.
So very many things in his life seemed to take that turn, so very often.
When you saw her again, pressed to the wet sand by an unforgiving gray sky, waves lulling out a somber song behind her, you tried so very hard not to show what you were feeling on your face. You didn't have long here, you told her so, even as her hand passed though your holographic form like a ghost.
You had a speech worked out – thank-yous for everything she had done for you, and pretty words and prettier feelings, and yet all of it seemed to fade away when she tore all of his plans asunder with one tearful, "I love you."
Those words were more rarer from your lips than goodbye.
In the end you get out neither.
And you were left alone in the TARDIS, stunned denial turning your eyes straight and your hands white knuckled from where you had grasped the railing for support.
"I love you," he finished, mouthing the words to the wind. His voice had been robbed of him.
And when he whispered it again, over and over like a mantra, there was no one there to hear.
iii. (in which these final moments are stolen)
You did not prepare yourself for this farewell.
She had appeared as a surprise to you, even though in retrospect she should not of. You knew that Donna had seen her – the woman who had spoke of approaching darkness and fading stars. Yet, hearing of a far off meeting, and seeing her again in a street strewn with rubbish and things forgotten in the Dalek inspired mayhem, your hearts were raw and open on the bleeding ground around you.
And now here she was before you, after the day is saved and the TARDIS is full of people rejoicing, while behind them Earth was brought back to her proper place in the sky. Rose's eyes are overjoyed, and every line about her body is hopeful – expectant, even. By Rassilon, but she would spend the rest of her days with you, if she could. She would stay here and now, you knew, and oh, but how badly you want her to . . .
And then you would lock eyes with the human you from across the control room, and a sinking part of you knew that you will have to say goodbye to her so very soon.
Perhaps it is this immanent farewell – something she has no idea of – that weakens your resistance. Perhaps it is your cowardliness for not telling her, or perhaps it is your selfishness – just once, please, just one moment to remember her by – that makes you unable to push her away.
She had followed you into the TARDIS' labyrinth of tunnels when you tried to escape the jubilation of your companions – raising a knowing wink from Donna, and an obvious catcall from Jack. You had not turned at the sound of her footsteps behind you. Instead you had closed your eyes at them, listening to her breathing quicken, and tasting her heartbeat against the air.
"I've missed you," is the only thing that escaped her mouth before you turned sharply, and then you were kissing her. She tasted the way you always imagined she would taste, something heady and intoxicating and perfect that escapes your ability to rationally define. And how glorious this moment was, without Time polluting her taste or another's consciousness in her mind as you drank in deep of her . . . She molded instantly to you, arms thrown around your neck as you pressed her back into the coral wall, every touch of hands and clash of lips desperate and needing and not enough, never enough . . .
She cannot recognize the goodbye you pull from her. It is the passion of a beginning of a forever sort of thing to her. For you it is how both of your hearts break.
You only draw away when you feel your human self's eyes on you, and you know that he saw the goodbye as well. And understood. It is hard to hate yourself sometimes, but in that moment it was so pathetically easy.
When she smiled back at you, something shy and adoring about her eyes, you had to choke back the 'I love you' that threatened to slip from your lips. The only way you kept it in was by leaning down to kiss her one last time, the movement so soft and infinitely tender that you think she heard and understood you anyway.
iv. (in which the hourglass is tilted one last time)
You say goodbye to a younger her who did not yet know you on New Years day, 2005. It was not enough, not nearly enough . . .
So, you leave her shaking her head and amused, ignorant of just who you were, and stumbled back to the TARDIS, sparks shooting from your fingers and agony written down in your very bones. You ask for just one more improbability, one more what-if. These are rules that are in place for a reason, but you are dying, and care but for little of rules. Your whole life has been holding this universe together, but not now, you don't care now . . .
The TARDIS materializes outside a mansion in another universe's London, and you immediately know that you are where you want to be. You can feel it on the air, in the low thrum inside of your hearts. She echoes everywhere here, and you are closer to her than you have been in such a long time when you follow the shadow of a far off Zeppelin when you make your way inside of the dark Tyler mansion. It is well past midnight here, and not a person stirred as you stole like a ghost through the halls.
You instinctively know where to go, even after all of this time.
Your feet bring you into a room that still had a lamp burning low. It is not her room. It is a room painted in pastels, with childish spaceship cartoons decorating the walls. The wide french doors leading to the balcony let in starlight, dotting on the hardwood floors in twinkling plays, illuminating the form in the corner that had stood on weak legs upon seeing you.
"Doctor?" was the disbelieving whisper on the evening air.
You closed your eyes at it. You felt your lifeforce flicker.
It would not be long now.
"Rose," you chocked out on an exhale.
"It's you." She could tell the difference, no matter how close in form you looked to the man that was hers – defined as their bond was by the band that was on her fourth finger, and the child asleep in the crib . . .
This was harder than you thought it would be. There was something burning gathering in your throat that went far past the paltry pain of death and all it brought with it . . .
"Rose," is all you could breathe again, and then you heard the whispering of her slippered feet against the floor. She was hugging you a moment later, and you felt your arms go around her out of habit as much of anything else. Your body remembered her, and so your arms moved of their own accord as you buried your nose in her hair – it was shorter now, darker too. Just how much time had passed here?
She was clinging to you almost desperately. "What's wrong?" she was asking next, ever perceptive. "Your hearts are beating a mile a minute," her hands were warm against your icy skin as they stole under your suit shirt. "You're not well," there was real alarm in her voice.
You shrugged. "Radiation poisoning," you said it as if talking about the weather, your voice quivering and your hands shaking as they clasped over hers. You could not let go of her, it seemed. Your touch was greedy almost, and she leaned into it, understanding.
"Of course," she whispered, and there was something almost amused about the tilt of her eyes that bellied the fear in her voice. "How long do you have?" she whispered.
"Not long," you answer, and felt pain lance through your body in affirmation of the fact. You closed your eyes at it, unwilling to go into the dark just yet. Not now, not after coming so far . . .
"Not long," she echoed. Her tone was wearied, accepted. She understood that there was something different this time. You would not have fought your way to her if this was just a regeneration like any other . . .
Her tears were wet against your shoulder.
"You've been busy, I take it?" she said, trying to infuse her tone with a light humor.
You chocked back a laugh at it. The effort rattled in your lungs. "No more so than you," you said, and you felt as she raised a head, looking over at the crib in the corner.
This time when she spoke, there was nothing like pride in the tone. "A daughter," she whispered. "And completely like you – him," she remedied. "Like you . . . and him. She's fantastic."
A daughter. You had been a father once, so long ago, but this was different, so completely different. This was Rose.
"Can I see her?" To your credit, your voice only caught at the end.
"Of course," she said, and you had to sit as soon as you didn't have her to lean on. You tried your best to completely ignore to rattling in your bones as Rose came back to you, a bundle of pink in her arms. The child was all dark eyes – hers, and untamed nut brown hair – his, and completely perfect. What was left of your breath was stolen.
"Aw, she's gorgeous," you breathed, a smile stretching onto your face past everything occurring around him. You felt both of your hearts jump as the babe reached a small hand out to wrap around yours, and Rassilon, but this was what you had given up during all these years . . .
Your eyes were coming suspiciously close to watering. Rose watched the unshed tears more closely than you cared to acknowledge.
"You came to say goodbye?" she whispered.
"Something like that," you said in return, your eyes watching as the babe's eyes fluttered closed. She was tired. As was he . .. so completely exhausted . . . Bone weary, even.
She nodded, biting her lips.
"You're happy here?" you asked, needing to know, although you already knew . . .
She shrugged. "As much as can be expected." The answer was hedged, sparing your feelings as well as hers. "It's . . . not the same, but it is enough, you know?"
No. "Yeah, I know," you whisper anyway, absolution in your tone.
She hears it, and leans into you at it.
In the end, she only asks one question. "Was it worth it?"
And you can only say "yes." It always would be, this life lived on behalf of others, and you had to believe that for the sake of both of your hearts . . .
She pressed against you, nodding, and you wrapped an arm about her and the child. Yours both by every extent of the term, by every wish and want within you . . .
You hold her well until the sun rises, and leave her only when she sleeps. You bent down wearily, and brushed a kiss against the child's forehead before lingering to kiss her lips once. You wanted your last sensation to be her taste again, you wanted to die with her on your tongue.
"Goodbye," you whisper – for the first time, and the last, speaking the sentiment aloud.
She shifts once, and you let your eyes linger until the flames in your blood become too hot to ignore.
When you leave this world once more, you are not ready by half, but you have nothing left waiting for you to delay you any longer.
You breathe in deep, and can feel new life waiting for you, even as this one fades away.