"run until a horizon is touched"
Genre: Drama, Romance
Time Frame: Post "Journey's End"
Characters: Rose Tyler, TenII
Summary: He's different here, stuck as he was on solid ground. In the end, they were simply learning old things anew all over again.
Notes: I've been working on and off on this since last summer. Finally finished it at midnight! Woot!
I normally have a really long angst/getting-to-know-you-all-over-again period. This time, I just wanted them to be happy a trite quicker than I normally do.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"run until a horizon is touched"
They are left on yet another beech with nothing more than shoes accustomed to running and a whole of an unforeseen journey stretching out before them. It is she who starts walking first
She finds a moment – or two, (however many it takes) – to kick at the sand with a frustrated point of a scuffed shoe. She hates sand, she finally decides. She hates beaches too – especially ones like these, with frozen gray skies pushing in on mourning gray waters, while the horizons looked to be even further off than usual. Eyes on where the sky meets the sea, she takes a moment to wonder what ridiculous turn of thought made him decide that he should leave her here. Here. She'd rather be anywhere else . . . everywhere else, preferably. With him, if she could.
And yet, here she is with sand in her shoes, catching between her toes, and her shadow falling on the man silently following close behind her. He traces her footsteps perfectly with a childish sort of indulgence. The movement is so achingly him that she burns with it, feels the fire behind her eyes as she pushes back tears. She's sick of crying, and so she won't anymore. She wishes that it were that simple.
Jackie is out talking on her mobile in a lilting cadence that she now associates her mother talking with her father. The fond tones were intermixed with whispers. Those, she knew, were mingled with her name. She can hear the pity, and oh, how she hates that from them at this point . . . She lifted her chin proudly to the cold air, determined not to break against the sand. She's gotten through more than this before, she knew . . .
There was a fallen tree a way up the shore. She walks that far and then sits tiredly down on the whitewashed limbs. The once strong thing was now a victim of the tides, its bare skin was smooth and dead under her palms.
She didn't realize that her hands were cold until he sat down next to her and covered one of her hands with his own. Her fingers curled against his out of instinct as much as memory. Her body recognized him, she knew. It always would.
She let a moment pass – a stubborn moment, a very human moment – before scooting close enough to him to lean her head on his shoulder. She says not a word when he wraps an arm around her form, causing her head to slip to his chest. The embrace feels right. Too right . . . She wished that it didn't feel so.
There's the careful beat of one heart under her ear, counting out the seconds with each beat.
While he may have taken his Time away . . . he has left her with his heart, she knew. Their history shown down in the eyes of the man that was looking at her with a question . . . an ever patient question. He was going to wait for her all over again . . . wasn't he?
She turned away from him, ignoring his eyes. Under her, his whisper of his pulse gently told her that there was only so much time that she could choose to waste this time around. They had no second chances left to them.
Her father sends a transport for them that they'll meet up with in a nearby town – something Zeppelin related with the newest something or the other technology. She knew that the Doctor could talk circles around her about it if he wanted to. There normally would have been nothing holding him back.
The town is just north of here. She remembered it from their last time in Norway. They start walking in a general-ish north direction, filed in a straight line through the somewhat barren scenery.
Of course, when the Doctor discards the GPS on Jackie's mobile with a disgusted sort of look – the Time Lord in him to the very last lingering on – they end up somewhere a little too far north and a little too far west in the end. She mutters something to him about men and asking for directions, and his reply of "human men, Rose" dies on his lips.
She pokes him in the ribs in answer, tongue between her teeth, and says that he has quite a bit to sort through now, doesn't he? He does look a little frightened at the prospect.
In the end though, his . . . side trip serves them well. This town is smaller and quainter, and it doesn't have the bitter feeling of alone associated with it as the prior one did. This one feels new. Lots of things around her were new at that time. It was a good feeling. Clean and promising.
She holds hands with him as they check in at the only inn in town to wait. The grasp feels the same to her as it always did. Age old. Timeless, even. It feels right. She tries to cling to that and nothing else.
They make it home in the afternoon of the next day.
That evening, after their stories were told and their living situations were hashed out, she takes to watching him unacknowledged. Her parent's home was to be her home for the next few days, it would seem – Jackie insisted on them staying for as long as they liked. She doesn't mind, anyway. Her flat she had was hardly what she would call a home . . . she had never intended on returning there, after all. She had never made this world her own. She never saw the need to, even with words like 'impossible' and 'never' ringing in her ears.
She carried on her vigil leaning against the door, arms crossed at her chest, blue leather crinkling in response. There was a thoughtful expression on her face – neither pleased or displeased, merely mute as she took in the day's events with somewhat tired eyes.
The Doctor – her Doctor, and should she come up with a name for him now? No, the idea seems silly. Why change the name when what's inside hasn't changed . . . Had it?
Her head hurts. She thinks that she has had enough of twisting paradoxes and temporal conundrums to last a life now.
The Doctor – she firmly will call him this, she knows – had taken to painting on the side of a cardboard box with Tony, who was going on with a child's wonder about stars and far off places. The cardboard box – a child's rocket-ship and days full of imagination spent – would be the furthest any of them would be getting to the stars, she knew.
"Which star do you reckon we should see first?" Tony said, four years old and bright with thoughts of adventure and myth.
The Doctor stills. There was bright blue paint staining his suit sleeves, and he frowned at it as if it was the source of his problems. The glare struck a tender part of her hard with memory.
"Tempus IV," he says after a moment. "Terrible cheese there, but lovely mountains. Purple seas too – you've ever been swimming in purple seas, Tony?"
The child laughed. "Seas can't be purple. That's just silly."
"They can be purple on Tempus IV," he countered. "There blue seas are just silly."
Tony's nose wrinkled in thought. "I guess," he conceded.
The Doctor smiled, a sort of tight thing that twisted at her. "I guess we'll have to stick to the likes of Candermine for you – every sort of taffy known to the galaxy, and then some."
Tony smiled. "Wicked," he breathed out, and took to coloring the windows on the cardboard box with his fingers. Sometimes, things were easier when you could touch.
"Thought you might like that."
She knows not when he started looking at her with that look in his eyes, but she finds that it doesn't bother her as much this time as well. On her sleeve, her fingers were tapping out steady beats – seconds passing into minutes defined, and she knows how long every single one of them must seem.
So, she enters the room, and picks up an extra brush. "So, I hear that there's a trip to Candermine being charted?"
"We're going as soon as the ship's ready. Will you come, Rose?" Tony's eyes were wide, pleading.
And so she smiled, her gaze shifting over to see her Doctor's on hers. Silent and waiting. Always waiting.
"As long as you two could put up with me," was her eventual answer.
In her hand the brush was heavy. She abandoned it to feel the paint on her fingers, soft and cold underhand. It felt a bit like freedom.
She tires of sleeping alone three nights later.
She was tired . . . so incredibly tired. She was tired of glances with undertones and hearing another man in his voice every time he spoke. She was tired of harsh words and accusations – she has had enough of them these past few days to last a lifetime. She was tired of her own mind – human and bitter and hurt - and she was tired of chasms. She was tired of waiting for things to begin, most of all. She has been waiting for that since before she had met him.
When she walks down the mansions halls that night, slippered feet whispering in the dark as she trod in the violet shadow of a Zeppelin from outside, she thinks that he knew she was coming. He was sitting awake in bed, a copy of H. G. Well's classics in his hand even as his eyes were fixed on the door and not on the text before him.
He said nothing upon seeing her – didn't leap into a rant about how in this universe 'War of the Worlds' was gone but 'The Invisible Man' still thrived, a right travesty in his mind – he simply watched her. Curious and cautious.
She was quiet as she slipped into bed next to him. He made room for her, making sure that the covers were tucked in properly and that she was rested comfortably with her head against his chest. Both were silent for a moment more, his fingers tracing through her hair as she let her eyes scan over a few lines of his book before turning up to meet his.
"Frollin in the thirty-second century," she said suddenly. "We were on the run from a woman who thought that you had taken her Bajiin mud flees and sold them to the Wradian vender, remember? What did you eventually offer her in return to appease her?"
The question wasn't a test, she didn't think. She just had to know, had to affirm it in her own mind where it was already solid in his . . .
He made a face at recalling that particular instance, "Really, anyone who sees a need for Daverian dates is off their rocker, especially if they replace something as useful as Bajiin mud flees. She was wearing a hideous shade of orange too – not flattering with the whole green skin thing."
She let out a breath that she hadn't realized that she'd been holding. "And the Firski vendor?"
"Thought that bedazzled ties were in style."
"And I told you?"
She smiled gently at that. "Apparently you didn't listen to me about that blue suit though -"
"Oi, not the suit again!"
" - really, whomever was stuck with you after me must have been out of her right mind."
He rolled his eyes, mumbling under his breath in a language or two that she didn't recognize. She tried not to shrug off the feeling of familiarity this time. This time she tried to let it rise up in her, purging everything coarse and cold within her.
"My favorite food?" she asks next. The light feeling in her was growing.
"Agnes Gray – said Anne Brontë was overlooked compared to Charlotte and Emily, and if I ever said anything about your copy of Miss Eyre getting more reading time then you'd find a new unfavorable home for my sonic screwdriver."
She did say that, didn't she?
"Favorite movie?" was next.
"You mean anything other than that Nicholas Spark nonsense?"
"It isn't nonsense -" He had the slap to his chest coming. He prepared for it, catching her hand under his and trapping it there.
"It beats the Twilight phase, I'll give you that." He shuddered, but she would let that slide from a man who had met Vlad the Impaler in the flesh. She thought that his tales of tea (no cream, two sugars for the young and spoiled prince) amongst battlefields of rotting corpses to be a bit farfetched, but he still had every right to dislike that man's sparkly knockoffs.
Still . . . "This coming from the man who was caught reading Harry Potter behind that copy of . . . what was it again?" she couldn't help but tease.
"Theoretical Temporal Conjectures and Conundrums in the late Sixty-second century, by Professor Xian Xog the XXI" he had readily. "The Ferdinians were way past their time, you know -"
"Doctor," she reigned him back with a smile flickering on the corner of her lips.
He flushed a little pink. "Right. You were saying?"
"Favorite color?" she continued her questions.
He did not miss a beat. His eyes were glinting in that way that was so incredibly him and a little something more . . . something more human and less timeless. "Blue – thank goodness you got over that god awful pink phase."
"Favorite travel to date?"
"Would that be Collstin – home of every flavor of ice cream known to the galaxy, or Gladrious – the ideal tropical getaway?"
"Eh, either will do." She didn't know which she preferred herself.
"Thought so," he smiled.
"The one place I'll never go again?"
The answer gives her pause. She twined her fingers in the sheets as she bit gently on her lip. Really, she had been only been thinking of Vladorin III in the eighteenth century (home of the infamous green hair and pink skin blunder that she had been sore over for weeks), but that would do. It was more true than she had thought . . .
"And . . . how long did I say I would stay with you?" The question was dangerous. It whispered against her heart and kept her hard pressed against gravity's hold. She held her breath.
"Forever," was his whisper, low and affirming in reply.
She let herself exhale.
"I meant it, you know," she said softly as she burrowed into him, seeking the heat he offered. "I really did."
His arms were tight around her, she thinks that there was something almost desperate about the hold. "I know," he said in reply, his voice whispering in her hair before falling away against her skin.
She nodded, her eyes dry as she closed them, and a moment later she was lulled off to a peaceful sleep. Drawn away on the slow cadence of a single heart.
The next days pass smoother. They are not perfect, by any means, and there is tripping aplenty on both sides. Both have grown, after all, away from and with each other, and there are moments when the melancholy and what-ifs linger right beyond their spoken words. These are heavy things, unacknowledged for the most part. She plans on keeping them that way.
He looks different here, stuck on solid ground as he was. He didn't seem as tall . . . the bounce in his step was grounded and the lilt to his voice less exotic and more human. He was still hers in every sense of the word, but now he was more so . . . or less, maybe. Perhaps, anyway. It is a conundrum that she hasn't fully unraveled yet.
And yet, in a moment when the sun hits his brow with gold, and he pulls her running towards the horizon hidden beyond the London skyline, she thinks that she would very much like to learn this him anew.
It's something she's become accustomed to before, after all. This should be no different.
There are more practical things to adjust to, in the end.
A Time Lord body did not require eight hours of sleep or three meals a day. There had been times, a lifetime ago, when she had thought him to exist purely on fresh air and determination. Only a rather stolen moment when she had walked in on him in the TARDIS control room to find him asleep in the pilot's chair – his legs over the arms of the chair and a book crossed over his chest, while his glasses smashed under his face at an awkward angle – had affirmed that he did in fact sleep.
Now, there was "The sleeping and the eating – a grand waste of a day, you know? Do you realize how much of your life you waste sleeping? – years, Rose. Years!" and "The chips – I didn't need them before, but now they're like life!" Coffee had been an interesting switch, to be sure.
Convincing him that aspirin was safe for this new body was a treat. Adjusting to a slower blood flow meant quite a few headaches, no matter what the physiology, and that meant that he was well acquainted with the little white pills.
While they were stuck on solid ground – the stars pressing against them only in the form of the night sky – there was a part of him that was at peace, she knew. This was the only uncharted adventure left for him, he had said. After all, he had experienced death a time or two, but never life. Not like this. He enjoys dishes but hates laundry. With no TARDIS to prepare his suit for the day – and her refusing to take up that task – he has a tie that's wrinkled more often than not, but it somehow adds to his gawky sort of charm. Not that she will ever tell him that.
The mere breathing of the word 'mortgage' has him balking most curiously. She knows to move in baby steps at times.
As it was, he had settled well into this universes Torchwood. In that way he had come close to the things of his past without leaving Earth to touch them. Just last Thursdays he had had tea with a race of Jorgians who were obsessed with poetry. After explaining to them why Earth was not a suitable form of inspiration, he talked at length about a ring of planets past the Horseshoe nebula that would suit just what they were looking for. Of course, the whole conversation had been done in Jorgiani – which was a strange combination of clicks and whistles and rather alarming puffs of air that had a staff member or two giggling immaturely.
He needs glasses for real now. Just for reading, but still - she didn't even pause before teasing him about that one.
He settled into this world with a grace she never attributed to him before, but now feels blind to have missed it all along. At times, it was hard to remember that he was ever anything more than human and hers.
And then there would be moments, beautifully tender moments in which she would awaken to find him sitting up beside her, rubbing at his eyes while something a lot like awe flooded the features of his face. "Humans dream in color," he whispered.
"You haven't dreamed yet?" she asked, bemused.
He merely shrugged, "I guess that I just needed new memories to dream about."
It was something that she did not argue.
It is fall day, some months later, when they take a walk on the Themes for the sunset. There were the sounds of children laughing from an ice-cream vender some paces away, and the autumn leaves swirled across the cool pavement, forming ever floating constellations in their patterns.
After almost five years on this planet, she no longer jumps at the sound of Zeppelins overhead. He still looks up whenever their shadows pass over.
They turn a corner, and she is struck by memories of an older version of him - the ninth from his stories – with the northern accent and the leather jacket and the ashes of a war forgotten in his veins. She can see him plainly before her – dangerous and dark, a ghost of her younger self running after him with every sort of fierce determination.
"This is where you tried to get rid of me," she said, a smile on her lips and a teasing glint to her eyes.
"Right irritating little ape you were too," he said fondly. "I couldn't get rid of you."
"You didn't want to, even then," she mused. "All that talk of time and space, thinking that that should have scared me away . . ."
"Any sane person would have thought me out of my mind."
"Are you implying something, Doctor?" she asked coyly, twining her arm through his.
"Who? Me?" he questioned, all innocence on his face in the light of the dying day.
They walk on in silence for a moment, lost in memories both before he speaks again. "You know, I can't feel it now."
She blinks at him, thinking before his meaning sets in. "Feel what?" she asks softly.
"Time," he says. His voice was blank, an imparting of facts if not of feeling. "The ground's firm under my feat . . . it doesn't spin. I can't feel the seconds, or the minutes, or the hours . . . I can't see your Time when I look at you – every possible future and past for you. My vision is empty. I hear nothing . . . You know, I never realized just how quiet the universe was to you humans before . . . You can't hear her sing . . ."
Her next steps are heavy. She feels like an anchor next to him, her hands like barbs that once pried away would let him fly again. The feeling is silly, she knows, and yet . . .
He looked over to her, his grin lopsided, his eyes heavy. Too heavy to be just human, bound by a mortal coil. "Aw, don't look like that Rose," he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, drawing her close against him. "She doesn't sing anymore . . . but she gave me you. A pretty good trade, if I do say so myself."
A part of her – human and so ready to believe the worst – looks at him, and sees the traveler itching for new shores right under his eyes. When she curved into him, she could feel the tapping of his fingers on her arm. He was counting seconds, she knew. Odd, how in this body, devoid of Time, he was more in tune with it than he had been as lord and master over it.
They were silent the rest of their walk, their footsteps mingling and echoing against the far off sky.
She wakes him up rather rudely the next morning with a forceful shove at his shoulder. He blinked wearily against the inky shadows before he blearily found the clock next to the bed. The blinking red numbers obnoxiously informed him that it was much to early for any sort of rational thought – let alone the sort of moving around that Rose was intent on.
He forces himself to sit up when she flicked on the lights with a determined sort of switch. She's already dressed – pale blue jeans and a dark blue Torchwood jumper on with trainers laced on her feet. She has mascara on thick and heavy around her eyes. She smelled like lip gloss – cherries and cream, and he moaned when he realized that her being ready to leave the house could only mean bad things for his intention to sleep.
She's none too sympathetic, yanking the pillow out from over his head and throwing it to the floor. His resulting moan is every bit that of a five year old child and nothing of a former Time Lord.
"C'mon, Doctor, get up!"
He gave an unintelligible moan.
When she starts throwing open drawers and taking out clothes at random, he sat up, just a little bit. She considered it a triumph. "C'mon, you lazy alien," she drawled affectionately.
"We've talked about the horrors of the eight hour sleep cycle, yes?" his voice was throaty and tired. Irked, even. She tries not to feel too triumphant.
"Baby," she said in answer. "I'm more human that you – and I'm moving around just fine."
"Everything human in me is curtsey of Donna," he drawled the name as if that should explain everything. In a way, it did. He snorted when he saw her mug on the dresser. "Besides - you've already hit the coffee. It's not fair."
When she had her arms full of clothes, she kicked open the suitcases that she had dragged up from the basement. The clothes were dropped there without ceremony.
Finally, she has his interest.
"Rose, what are you doing?" his voice was more alert.
She paused, being sure not to wrinkle his suits from where she was throwing them. He'll thank her later for the consideration.
She can hear his confusion. "For what . . .?"
"To travel," is her simple answer.
"Everywhere," is her reply, her eyes glinting with an impish sort of mischief, even as her hands shook. "Anywhere."
And because that made perfect sense, he was fully awake and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Rose, hold on a minute," he grabbed her wrist as she past, putting a stop on her flurry of activity. She was making him dizzy. "Slow down – you're giving those possessed Christmas trees a run for their money."
And she was, wasn't she?
She bowed her head just a little, letting her hair cover her flushing cheeks. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"Don't be – just tell me what's going on," his eyes were concerned. She was shaking just slightly under his hands, her pulse jumped at her throat like a caged bird.
In answer she reached over into her jacket pocket to grab a handful of maps. She handed them to him with a small sort of smile.
He raised a brow in question as he thumbed through them – Paris, Naples, Glasgow, Venice . . . Barcelona, even.
"You weren't kidding about the everywhere part," he said lightly.
"I wanted you to see everything," she whispered, and the inflections on the word – longing and something a little like lost chances and despair clues him in to what's really going on. She's always been thankful for his quick perceptions, and this time is no different.
"Rose, I am seeing everything," he said softly. "I have everything from the world that I want." This is said with a deep look, his eyes are piercing – cutting. She can feel herself open under the gaze.
"No, you're not," she said. "What are you going to do, Doctor?" her voice was hard. "Go to work every day from nine to five, have dinner with me and then kiss the kids goodnight? Get up tomorrow and start it all again?"
"Yes." There was no hesitation. Not even a blink. It threatens to unhinge her.
"That won't be enough eventually!" she exclaimed. "You've been everywhere, for so long . . . when will you tire of me?"
"Is this about earlier?" he asked, remembering their moment on the Themes. She is silent. It is his answer. "I told you, Rose, I don't need all of that . . . Really I don't."
She was shaking her head, tears budding and blurring her mascara.
He cupped her face, brushing the spots away with his thumbs. "Listen, Rose, listen to me." she tried to move her face away, unwilling to meet his eyes. He wouldn't let her. "Listen – I traveled for so long looking for something I never found – something I never found until you. Space and time is beautiful – but it is empty and nothing when you have no one to share it with. You breathed life into me . . . a part of me died when you were taken, Rose. Died. I am the last one left – was, the last one left. That crushed me, every single day. And so, I always said goodbye on my terms before people were taken from me. Now . . . I don't have to say goodbye. This is the first time I can see something out until the very end . . . with you. I love you, Rose Tyler, and I refuse to start saying goodbye now."
She was very still, her eyes wide as she blinked at him. "You love me . . ." she whispered, something heavy and awed on her voice from hearing the words spoken aloud. They had never needed to say it before, but now . . . She bit her lip. "Then if you don't need this . . . do you want this?" she questioned. "I want this. I need this. There'll be time enough for everything else – nine to five jobs and kids and mortgages – that doesn't have to start just yet."
He was looking at her with that smoldering sort of expression that she didn't have to stretch to interpret anymore. It was a look he saved for when she had absorbed the heart of Time, or decided to stay with him over her family a universe away, or had made her way across oceans of time to find him . . .
His hands sorted through the maps. He pulled up one for southwestern Ukraine with a raised brow. "You really want to go to Karvosastan?" he questioned, a smile invading his voice.
She smiled wryly, "I wanted to go somewhere you've never been before."
His fingers twined through hers. "I am somewhere I've never been," he whispered.
"Right," she whispered. There was something blooming inside of her, something that she thinks that might be contentment . . . It is the first time she has felt it since traveling with him so long ago . . . She thinks he can see it in her eyes, for a moment later he leaned foreward to kiss her lightly, taking the smile from her lips and making it his own.
It was amazing how natural moments like this were becoming . . . Her heart jumped a little in her chest, echoing against his.
"So, what do you want me to pack?" he asked when he pulled away. He was still holding her face, unwilling to completely give up contact.
She leaned her forehead against his, breathing in deep on his scent, basking in his nearness. "Everything." she mumbled.
His smile was growing, catching and feeding off of hers. She disentangled from him with a bubble of laughter in her throat. As soon as her feet touched the ground, she took off towards the hall.
"What are you doing?" he called after her.
"Running," she said, her face breaking into a grin. "Care to follow me?"
He waits a moment, simply staring stupidly after her. Then he kicked to covers off and grabbed the blue suit from the top of the suitcase. He leaves everything else behind as he ran after her, the maps staring at them forlornly from the bed.
He won't come back for them. They've never needed them anyway.