It's winter on Woman Wept.
Rose breathes in deeply as she steps out of the TARDIS. "It's so beautiful!" she says in amazement. "Everything's so white and clean."
Behind her, Jack steps out of the TARDIS, looks around, and shakes his head.
"Not my idea of a vacation spot."
"Look how white everything is. We should get some ice skates and go skating!" Rose has never been, but she's willing to try.
"I'll leave you to it, Rose," Jack says, and turns back to the TARDIS.
"Where are you going?" Rose follows him back to the TARDIS door. "We have to go explore."
"I'll be in here," he says, and disappears through the console room.
"Leave him," the Doctor says, coming out and closing the door to the TARDIS behind him.
"But it's gorgeous!"
"Some men have no appreciation," he agrees. Taking her hand, he leads the way across the landscape.
"This was an ocean, once," he tells Rose. "Right where we're standing. The sun burned out, in the space of an instant. Whole planet froze up, just as it was. Even the oceans." He gestures in front of them, where waves of ice are frozen high above their heads.
"We're on a frozen ocean?" Rose says doubtfully. "Is it safe to walk on it?"
"'Course it is! Water's never gonna unfreeze, is it? Not without the sun."
Rose lets go of his hand and walks ahead. Standing beneath a frozen wave, she looks up. "It's like a giant icicle!" she calls.
He stays where he is, hands in his pockets. It's bitterly cold, but he wears only his black leather coat. He grins at her.
She can't help but grin back.
When they leave Woman Wept they'll go to Cardiff to refuel the TARDIS. Rose will meet Mickey to pick up her passport. Then they'll go to Raxacoricofallapatorious on a quick errand. After that they land in medieval Kyoto. The Doctor didn't mean to land there, but they did, and they spend an exciting hour trying to escape a warrior group that Jack inadvertently offended. They won't be back on the TARDIS more than a few minutes when a transmat beam picks them up, one by one, and deposits them in the year 200100.
You know what happens next.
It's always winter on Woman Wept.
Rose breathes in deeply as they leave the TARDIS. "It's so beautiful here," she says contentedly. Her boots crunch through the snow as they walk.
The Doctor surveys the landscape in satisfaction. "One frozen planet, as requested. Although why you wanted to come back here, I've no idea. I was thinking more of the south of France, myself. Or maybe that nice little beach on the east coast of Balthus Four. They serve those little bitty drinks with umbrellas in them. Far more sunny than this place."
Rose smiles up at him. "I like this place. Remember the first time we came here?"
He pulls her scarf out from under her coat and wraps it around her neck. "Of course I remember." Satisfied that she's warm, he buttons up his long coat and offers her his arm. Rose threads her hand through it.
"What do you remember?" she challenges.
"I remember standing out here on the ocean. Had the hardest time getting you back inside the TARDIS."
"I loved it here. Everything's still frozen," she marvels.
"Bound to be, what with no sun." Together they look up at the sky. The pale reflection of ice and snow bouncing off the frozen waves provides the only source of light. It's bright enough to look like midday.
Rose is holding the Doctor's hand, standing close enough to rest her head on his shoulder. Looking up at the empty sky, standing like that, gives her the courage she needs.
"Back in London," she begins, "at the Olympics?"
"Yes?" He turns his head to look into her eyes.
She looks up at him, the compulsion to ask the question stronger than her fear of the answer.
"You said there was a storm coming," she whispers. "What did you mean?"
His eyes are dark and unfathomable. "I say a lot of things, Rose. It didn't mean anything."
"You felt something," Rose presses on. Something is bothering him, and she needs to know what it is.
He moves away from her abruptly. "It was nothing, Rose! Just an odd moment. Nothing to worry about, eh? Come on!" He takes her hand again and pulls her along.
Rose goes willingly, but she doesn't forget. Two questions in her mind, nearly all the time. What storm is coming?
And was he a dad once? Truly? Words spoken offhand in the TARDIS, when they were trying to find out what was happening to the residents of a London street in the year 2012.
Rose needs to know the answer to that one most of all, and she will never ask it. The Doctor can be strange and mysterious, and too often he makes her feel uncertain of her place in his world, even as he shows her in so many ways that he loves her.
She lets the moment go, as she's let so many others go.
Woman Wept is cold and frozen and lovely. When Rose gets too chilled they head back to the TARDIS for hot chocolate. The slight tension between them is gone and they easily share a plate of biscuits, the Doctor eating three for every one that Rose takes.
"Seriously, some day you are so taking me to Barcelona," Rose insists as she sips her chocolate.
"Absolutely, Rose Tyler," he agrees.
"The planet, not the city."
"You still after the dogs with no noses, are you?" He winks at her over his own mug of hot chocolate.
"I want to see how funny they are for myself."
"All right, then! Finish your chocolate and change your clothes. We are headed for Barcelona."
As Rose is getting dressed for Barcelona she sees that she's running dangerously low on clean laundry. She heads back to the console room. The Doctor is on his back under the floor grate, tinkering. Rose bends down close to his head.
"Doctor? Can we stop off first and see my mum? It's been a while since I've been home."
He groans. "Barcelona, Rose!"
"It'll be quick," she promises him. "She's been dying for me to come home. I have a bunch of laundry to do, and we won't stay too long."
"She hasn't seen you in a while. The last thing a visit will be is quick. And you can do your laundry right here."
She smiles at him and waits.
He sighs, but he says yes. Rose gathers her laundry into her largest red backpack and changes from summer clothes into black pants and a light blue sweater.
You know how this part ends.
The first Christmas that Rose spent on Pete's World was memorable only for the pain she was feeling. Walking through the streets with Jackie, trying to act like everything was fine and Christmas shopping was the most fun a girl who'd been flung into another universe with no way back home could possibly have.
That year Rose spent her time searching the streets for familiar faces, for blue police boxes and tall skinny men in brown suits. She wandered the streets with a mobile phone that couldn't catch a signal and a metal key on a string.
She never had use for either one.
She went to work for Torchwood, once she knew she wouldn't be leaving. She helped track down alien artifacts and very occasionally picked up an alien or two. Torchwood here was not after aliens to study, but Rose let them escape home anyway. The thought of anyone else kept from going where they wanted to go was something she couldn't stand.
The second Christmas was a little better. There was the baby to shower with gifts and attention. Mickey's gran had moved in, taking a guest suite on the first floor. Most of the time Rose forgot that this Rita was not the one she'd grown up with. She moved into a flat over Jackie's objections and tried not to spend too much time there. She had her work to keep her occupied, and most of the time it worked. Instead of searching for what she wanted, she tried to actively find it. All she ever found were aliens, but she kept trying.
He may have told her she couldn't see him again, but she wasn't going to settle for that.
Jackie may have guessed that she wasn't herself, but she was so wrapped up in Pete and Tony that she didn't make much of an issue about it. Mickey and Jake both tried to help, keeping her company and forcing her to socialize. She made friends with the other Torchwood field teams. She made some very good friends there, and though she was grateful for them it wasn't enough. Rose let them all think that she would get over it eventually. That all she needed was time to adjust.
More than anyone, Rose knew that her time was running out faster and faster, and she had to do something before it was too late.
It's winter in Pete's world. Always is, for Rose. Walking along the streets of London, she pays no attention to the wind.
A fountain has frozen over in the square, the water stuck in an arc. Looking at it, Rose can almost picture an immense frozen ocean, waves curving high over her head. She sees a dark head leaning in close to her, slowly blocking out the light. If she closes her eyes she can almost feel lips brushing against hers.
Tears rush to her eyes. Rose brushes them away. She searches the sky, waiting. Always waiting, always hoping.
"Come back," she whispers for the tenth, hundredth, thousandth time since she's found herself here. "Find me."
The skies are empty of flying blue boxes. The key is cold in her hand.
Eventually, she forgets the exact feel of her hand in his, forgets the clean scent of his hair. But she doesn't forget what matters, and she keeps trying. What else can she do?
The third Christmas she comes to a decision. She is going back no matter what. Jackie protests, yells and cries and pleads, but Rose doesn't care. The scientists at Torchwood aren't willing to help her, even with Pete's silent approval. Her arguments get her nowhere. She's lost her chance to make it back, and now she is well and truly stuck.
Then comes the darkness. Stars begin to go out, one by one by one. Something is happening that is beyond their control or understanding. Planets that once hung in the skies wink out without a sign.
That day Torchwood's scientists begin to work in earnest.
The dimension cannon is created, and even though Pete is against Rose's trying it, she goes. She is flung into a brand new world, and the shock nearly kills her. Managing to get home, she goes over what went wrong and what went right, and tries again.
She never counts how often she moves, going from world to world. She sees almost immediately how the Doctor was needed. His touch is everywhere. In some worlds he travelled alone, in others she was with him. The variations of what happened to her, and to him, on those worlds almost brings her to her knees.
Sometimes she dies, of age or by accident, leaving him alone. Once or twice he was forced to regenerate. She left him, once, to live out a normal life, the one thing he couldn't give her. He lived on, alone and dark and sad.
The day she saw him on Earth on Christmas Eve, destroying the empress of the Racnoss and her offspring, was the day Rose realized the Doctor was a force she had never really understand.
Dark and dangerous, alien and mysterious.
She doesn't care. She loves him.
Finally, finally, Rose does it. Makes it to the right world at the right time. Only to find the Doctor dead. Dead, not regenerated. It almost breaks her, but she goes back home. Armed only with the name of a red-haired woman, she finds a way to make it work again. To change the outcome of his fate and alter time. She calls on the power of Bad Wolf. Bad Wolf is still there, within her, small and tiny and waiting. She only dimly understands how she harnesses that power, but she does. To send him a message that he can't possibly misinterpret.
To get what she wants.
She moves again, using the dimension cannon to shift her across the worlds to the correct one. She lands in the midst of battle, the sights and sounds of it so familiar by now that explosions don't make her blink. She moves through the dark carrying a weapon guaranteed to kill a Dalek.
She finds the Doctor, finally finds him, finally gets to touch him again. She has no plans to leave him. She'd said her goodbyes and made her plans, and her focus was always on the Doctor. She will stay with him forever, travel through time and space with him on the TARDIS, and live happily ever after. They have saved the universe together, and the very least she deserves is a forever with him.
The Doctor has other goodbyes in store, other plans for her. Once again, he makes a choice for her without asking what it is she wants.
This time, Rose lets him. She's seen too much to risk his life again. She lets him manipulate her into something she doesn't want, and truthfully, she doesn't realize it's been done until she turns around on that beach in Norway and sees the TARDIS disappear.
Her Doctor. Dark and mysterious. Rose could never see how alien he was, how the core of him was simply not a man.
She blinded herself to it.
You know where this ends, on a beach in Norway. You know how it ends for her.
This Christmas is different from any other. Her parents have decorated the mansion with greenery and bows. Tony is in a froth of excitement. There is snow on the ground and Rose has stopped waiting.
The man she was manipulated into choosing is here with her, and she no longer resents the Doctor for doing this to her.
He's seen many things in his life, most of which he's never told her about. She's seen some of it herself, thanks to the dimension cannon, and she's accepted that this is the life she was meant to have. Different world, different father. Different Doctor.
He's accepted that this is the life he is meant to have, as well. That this is the only life he'll have. Together they move forward and make it work, day by day.
Jackie and Pete are throwing a Christmas party. People from Vitex and Torchwood, as well as friends and neighbors, mill about the mansion. Guests are everywhere as they step inside. Rose hangs up her own coat and lets him lead her to the buffet tables.
"Do you see my mum?"
"Have you looked?"
"No." He is happily eating one small canape after another, pleased as punch not to be doing anything else. Rose admires him in his tuxedo and makes plans for later that night. He smiles back at her, admiration for her and for her red dress plain in his face.
"You're beautiful, Rose Tyler."
Despite hearing it from him nearly every day, she can't help blushing.
"I promised Tony we would say hello," she says, to keep from telling him how handsome he looks. "Shall we go find him?"
He stuffs an extra canape in one of his pockets. "Absolutely."
They are well known in Torchwood and at Vitex, where Rose sits on the board. By the time they make their way to Jackie's private parlor, where Tony is playing, nearly half an hour has gone by.
"Hi!" Tony greets them both with hugs. "I'm making a list for Santa Claus." He holds up several sheets of paper, all with crayon scribbles on them.
"Nice," the Doctor says approvingly.
"There you are!" Jackie, dressed in black satin and glittering with diamonds, sweeps in to hug Rose and give the Doctor a kiss. "Oh, you're so pretty together," she says approvingly, wiping lipstick off his cheek and smoothing back his hair. "Be a love and hang up those stockings for me, Doctor? They won't stay up. And then come out. Your father's going to make a speech. Tony, time for bed."
"Mum, Rose and John just got here!"
"You'll see them in the morning. Say goodnight."
"You'll be here in the morning?" Tony demands.
"Absolutely," the Doctor assures him before Rose can say anything.
"All right. See you tomorrow." Rose is a bit bemused as Jackie and Tony leave, but she obediently finds the Christmas stockings. "We weren't planning on being here overnight."
"Of course not. We'll come by for breakfast."
Rose hides a smile. He adores her small brother, and that adoration is returned right back.
"Your mum quite dotes on me these days," he continues, a bit smugly.
"She does, doesn't she? A bit odd, after all this time."
"I'll take a kiss over a slap any day of the week, thank you."
He hands her a Christmas stocking to hang over the mantel. Rose was looking at the row of family photos on the mantel, and now she has stopped to stare at the logs on the fireplace.
"You all right?" he asks, peering down at her.
She smiles. "Yeah. Just thinking." She hangs the stocking up and holds out her hand for the next one.
He continues to hold on to it. "Are you sure?" he asks skeptically.
"Yes, I'm sure!" Rose snatches the stocking away.
"Remember our first Christmas? Charles Dickens in Wales."
"Remember our next one?" she counters. "Sycorax invasion in London."
"Maybe we should run a scan, make sure nothing's headed this way tonight." He glances toward the door to the parlor.
"I don't care if there is. I'm not going anywhere." Rose takes his hands and stares at him, hard. He is and he isn't the same. He killed the Daleks to save the universe and he's stuck here with her, and he's his own man.
"What?" he asks self-consciously.
He is a tall man. She has to look up to see into his eyes. They gaze back at her with love.
Dark and mysterious, yes, but the danger is not here, not in this man. He's made decisions before, that were painful and hard, but those other outcomes of his life never happened here. Will never happen to him.
He is human, Rose reminds herself. He is human and that is why he can love her so much, and can let her love him back.
"You saw the storm, in 2012," Rose says quietly.
Human body, but Time Lord mind. "I felt it," he says, just as quietly.
"It was the Cybermen, coming through from this world."
"And the Daleks. And Torchwood. And..." She can't finish the sentence, even after all this time.
"And the Void ship, and the wall," he finishes for her. "I didn't know all that, of course. I just knew something was coming."
"Something bad, yeah?"
"Obviously, given all that happened. But at the time, I didn't know what it might be. I didn't want to frighten you, Rose."
"No, I know you wouldn't want that." Amazing, Rose thinks to herself, how easy it is to ask the questions, when the man she is asking has held her in his arms and told her what she needed to hear.
That other question she will never ask him. Some things he doesn't want to talk about, and some things he never will, and she has accepted that. Sometimes at night he'll wake up, breathing quickly, and if she wakes up with him she'll hold him tightly and feel his single heart, beating fast. He tells her what he dreams about - not always, just sometimes - and she listens and rests her head on his shoulder until they both fall asleep again.
No, there are some things that hurt him too deeply for her to ask about.
But he can surprise her, all the same, even now. Especially now.
"We were busy, in the year 2012, weren't we?" he asks.
"With the Isolus? Yeah." Rose can't help but smile at the memory. He sent the pod back home, but she was the one who found it buried in the road.
"You told me I didn't understand kids."
"I didn't say that," she denies.
"Close enough. I told you that I was a dad."
Rose doesn't know how to respond. Her mouth opens but she can't form any words. His mouth quirks up at her speechlessness.
"You asked me what I'd said, and I kept on talking. Couldn't believe I'd actually said it, and then I wanted to take it back." He shrugs. "I'm not that man anymore, Rose. I'm human now, and this body is different. I understand how little time we have left together."
"It's Christmas!" Rose can't help protesting. "Of all the times to be doom and gloom!"
"I lost my family in the Time War," he says quietly. "All of them. When I told you I was the only one left, it was true."
She nods. "I know, Doctor."
He takes a deep breath. "My children are all gone now. It was such a long time ago, Rose. You can't even fathom how long ago. But this time is all I have left, and I want to spend it with you."
She smiles. "And I want to spend it with you." A warmth is spreading through her chest, dissolving a worry that she hadn't even realized was there, had been there for a very long time.
He clears his throat. "I understand that it is a human custom to kiss beneath the mistletoe."
"It is," she says solemnly. "But we don't have any mistletoe."
"Are you sure?" he murmurs, stepping in close to her.
Rose raises her arms to his neck as his hands slide around her waist. "Yes, I'm sure."
He lowers his head to hers. "Look up."
She looks up, and is startled to see the greenery hanging above their heads. "Where did that come from?" she starts to say, but his mouth covers hers in a kiss.
"Merry Christmas," he tells her.
"Merry Christmas." She hugs him close and together they stand and look into the fire. Rose can almost see herself in the flames, all those younger Roses, flitting through time and space. She didn't end up where she thought she would - wrong place, wrong man - but now she sees that she is exactly where she is supposed to be. Every step and adventure and danger were leading her here to this moment.
Once she saw all that is, all that was, all that ever could be. She never saw this, when she was walking across parallel worlds to stop the darkness. She never saw this possibility. Now that she has it she will hold on to it with all of her might.
"I love you, Doctor," she says softly.
"I love you, Rose Tyler," he says back.
Winter leads to spring in Pete's world this year, a glorious spring full of sunshine and flowers. Snow and ice thaw and melt away as if they were never there.
What happens next? They will wait and see. Together.