Disclaimer: ::takes a second peak:: No, I really do not own them. We can all be thankful that other people do.
AN: You know what's really, honestly, funny? I wrote 95% of this story in my head two years ago.
It is not the first time he's gone back to see her. He doesn't go back on his personal timeline and he knows well enough not to do it on hers either, but in the wake of Canary Wharf and what came after he just had to see her. That was how he justified it to himself after his worst enemies took away all that mattered. But it wasn't the last, and in these last two years since he left her in another universe with himself, he's lost track of the number of visits.
He remembers each glimpse of her as something special. Scenes that are like a film strip captured from her life's moments. They're in a random order in his head as he flows in and out of her life and never once was she aware of him – until now.
But those were not the first times. He remembers the actual first time so clearly, because it was before it all happened, when they were still them and happy. He'd been a different man then and her presence was still so new. He'd left her sleeping in the room the TARDIS had made for her – exhausted after a particularly near-death adventure – but he had been unable to sleep himself. He rarely did, after all, and certainly not still hyped up on the nearest equivalent to adrenalin that flows through his veins. His fingers set the coordinates with only half a conscious thought because it's part experience, part luck and mostly the TARDIS. The landing is softer than usual because neither of them want her to wake, stumbling into the control room bleary eyed from sleep and wondering what's going on.
Outside it's dark and cold, but there's no snow this year. The Powell Estate doesn't look any different nine years previous to their last visit. There's maybe a bit less graffiti on the walls, but overall the place hasn't changed. Or won't change.
He slips back inside the ship and shuts the door. The storage room he wants is two corridors over. He doesn't know half of what's hidden away on the ship – many of the rooms were still full of abandoned junk when he liberated her from Gallifrey – but the particular object he's after is one he knows exactly where he left it.
There's no dust – the TARDIS' air filters clear out any particles before they can land, as well as toxins and viruses – but the surface is dull. He spends much longer then needed with a wet rag, rubbing gently until the surface gleams. He notes each chip and scratch in the paintwork. Afterward, he wanders the corridors from nearly thirty minutes before he locates the storage room with the paint – many things he has forgotten where they are – and carefully dabs away at the scratches until it looks almost new. It is close enough, he knows.
He wheels the bike down the corridor toward the control room – stopping briefly outside her door to listen to the gentle breathing of deep sleep – and out the door. It's well past midnight now and on this night of the year everyone's tucked up in bed. There's no one to watch him walk across the concrete courts to her building. No one hears his quiet steps up to her floor, carrying the present on his shoulder with ease. Even the sonic screwdriver sounds unusually quiet to his ears as he opens the door to her flat. Her door is shut. At least, he assumes it's her door. For all he knows she and her mother have switched rooms at some point, but in any event the flat is silent except for the gentle breathing of a girl he just left in his space ship on the other side of the Estate and her mother. He tries not to think about the second set of breathing.
He props the bike up against the wall by the scrawny tree. It already looks half dead. Maybe next year he should bring a new one. He stands in the hallway afterwards longer than he should listening to the gentle rhythm of life coming from her room. Finally he tears himself away long enough to remember that he should get back to the one he's left downstairs and not dawdle at another's door thinking about the future.
The TARDIS is stilling humming quietly when he gets back, which tells him she's still sleeping soundly down the corridor. He takes the ship back into the Vortex and leaves her spinning about in endless time, waiting for the next adventure.
An eternity away a twelve-year-old Rose wakes Christmas morning to discover a red bike waiting by the tree. She decides she really does still believe in Santa.
Months and what feels like years later, he visits her a year after her father's death, when she's still a baby and being held in her mother's arms. He witnesses her first major injury – ironically from the red bike and a spectacular collision with a concrete wall which results in a broken arm – and can barely stop from running to her aid. Or stopping her from the accident in the first place. But he knows he can't protect her from everything.
Her first day at school; a fight with a boy nearly twice her size; her first date with Jimmy Stone – and again he has to stop himself. In the space of a few years her life passes before his eyes.
This time will be the last. He knows that instinctively. She's seen him through one regeneration – or two, depending on how you look at it – already, but she will not see him through this one. All too soon he will be another man and all that will be left is the two of them in some other universe living. And in the wake of that knowledge he needs this last time. Needs to hear her voice and see her face so close he can almost reach out and touch her. It's all he can do not to.
But, at least, his last memory will be of her. As was his first.