He could hear them talking, as he stood against the wall. This was a bad idea, he knew. But he couldn't leave this life without seeing her at least once. He was so afraid, deep down in the secret places of his hearts, that when he left this body he would no longer love her. And he needed his love for her like he needed the air he breathed. She was so much a part of him that he knew he could not leave without a glimpse of her. After all, this was his reward.
They were talking together, Rose and Jackie. Arguing more like. Rose was advising her mother on her love life. The Doctor smiled at that. It had always astonished him how the relationship between mother and daughter seemed almost reversed at times, Rose acting mature and comforting, while Jackie was the naive one.
"You never know," Rose said, stopping their walk to rub her mother's shoulder. "There could be someone out there."
"Maybe," Jackie conceded. "One day." Then, a smile spread over her features. "Happy New Year!"
"Happy New Year!" Rose echoed, hugging Jackie tightly.
Ah. So it was New Years. But New Years of what year, the Doctor wondered. How many years would it be till a younger, war ravaged him would meet her. He had told the TARDIS to bring him to Rose, but he hadn't specified a date.
"Don't stay up all night," Rose said, releasing Jackie.
"Try and stop me," she said, moving towards the door of the building.
Arms swinging, Rose walked forward, a smile on her beautiful face. The Doctor watched her, soaking her in, storing her up for later remembrance. He wanted to remember her like this always: happy, carefree.
Another tremor hit. The pain! The terrible pain that pulled at every cell in his body. He had been able to hold off on regenerating for this short time, but every minute was costing him dearly, and he knew that he couldn't hold it off much longer. Like birth pangs, his new self was struggling to be born. The pain increased, and he groaned, leaning against the wall for support.
"You alright, mate?"
His eyes flew open to see Rose looking at him inquisitively. She took his breath away with her loveliness.
"Yeah," he managed.
"Too much to drink?" she asked, amused.
Let her think that. Let her think he was drunk. It was easier that way.
"Something like that."
"Maybe it's time you went home," she advised.
Didn't this small, pink and yellow human understand? Home was wherever she was. And he hadn't been home in a long time.
"Yeah," he whispered.
"Anyways. Happy New Year." She gave him one of her beautiful smiles, the kind that made his hearts ache to tug her into his arms and hold her there forever. But he couldn't.
"And to you."
She turned away from him, walking towards the building.
What would life have in store for his Rose? How many years would it be till they met again? His curiosity got the better of him, and he called out to her.
"What year is this?"
Rose whirled around, her blond hair creating a halo around her head.
"Blimey! How much have you had?" she asked.
"Well…" the Doctor let himself trail off.
"2005," she answered. "January the first."
2005? It was just beginning. Everything. It would only be a few months until she would meet him, until both their lives would be irreversibly changed.
"2005? There you are. I bet you're going to have a great year."
She had no idea.
"Yeah?" Rose asked, grinning again. She turned to go.
And he couldn't bear it. He couldn't bear to see her turn away from him. This was his last chance to tell her; he would not get another.
She froze, and then turned slowly.
"How do you know my name?" she asked suspiciously.
The Doctor took a step forward, his decision made.
"I need to tell you something. Something very important. And please, please forgive me for not saying it every day."
She was looking at him with those inquisitive eyes of hers. Almost like she was looking right through him.
"Who are you?" she asked.
The Doctor only shook his head.
"I need to say this. I'll never get another chance. And I want you to remember it, alright? For all those times when I never do get to say it. I love you. I love you, Rose Tyler."
And then he turned, and walked away. Walked towards the TARDIS, with the snow whirling around him, and a very confused human standing behind him.
"Crazy old drunk," he heard her mutter, and then her footsteps crunching as she ran towards the building.
"If you see Rose, tell her… tell her… oh, she knows"