A/N: So I really dropped the ball on this one. I actually had this completely typed up and online at another source over a year ago, meant to do some last minute editing before I updated, and then completely forgot all about it. Well, I finally remembered to edit and post it, so I hope I can be forgiven. (But seriously, if this ever happens again feel free to pester my at my livejournal.) Onto the story!
"So all you need is a piece of TARDIS coral then."
"Yes, and that should patch up the central immuno-relay control mechanism, triplicating the power flow through the artron particle converter thereby allowing the old girl to heal herself."
"Sounds simple enough," his past self said with a shrug. "Then we'll get going to my TARDIS? Though… I guess that means that there are two TARDIS's on this asteroid… Do you by any chance remember where I parked the TARDIS back when you were me? Because that'd be brilliant if you did. Well, you still are me, but you know what I mean."
"No," the current Doctor said. He searched for the right words. "I remember a lot of this meeting from your end, but then I… well, you… got into a spot of trouble."
"Oh, well those sort of things happen all the time, don't they? Mind you, some of them are less fun than others," his past self said, trailing off as his eyes traveled up and down, taking in the newer wardrobe. "Bowtie? Really?"
"Respect the bowtie. Bowties are cool."
"Well… I've worn worse. Oh, down this street here," his past self said, steering the two down another crowded side street. "I do hope Rose doesn't get herself into trouble."
"Is she stilling traveling with you? Well, I guess I should say me since we're the same person and all, but it does get very confusing. Do mind if I address you by 'you'? It will make the conversations a hell of a lot easier for one."
"No, go right ahead," the current Doctor said.
"You didn't answer my question," his past self said. "About Rose."
"Oh," the current Doctor said. "No. No, she… she's gone now."
The two walked in silence for a bit. Both were losing themselves in their thoughts, barely taking in the sounds of the sprawling market around them.
"Well, I should have expected that," his past self finally said. "I mean, she'll never be able to stay with me forever, so an eventual… departure has always been, well… not even really a possibility really, but more like a…" He paused as he tried to find the right word. "Inevitable… change."
"How long do I have?"
The current Doctor stared at his past self. "What?"
"How long until… no. No, forget I asked." His past self took a deep breath. "I don't want to know."
"If it helps," the current Doctor said slowly, lingering over each word of what he was about to say. It helped that he had memories of it already being said. "It will never be truly over. She'll be with you… always. Until the very end."
"Yeah…" his past self said. "That's her alright. Rose Tyler… Ah, but that's not the reason you're here now is it? It's time to get that TARDIS coral."
The two paused outside the doors of his past self's TARDIS. As his past self fished in his pockets for the keys, the current Doctor absent-mindedly ran a hand down the cool, comforting wood.
"Here we go," his past self said, holding up the key for the current Doctor to see before inserting into the lock. He opened the door and motioned for the current Doctor to follow.
It was strange how something could look so familiar and yet so old, as if it was from another lifetime… though it technically was a different lifetime if he thought about it from a certain angle. So many adventures, so many companions… all gone now.
Something caught his attention from the corner of his eye. As he turned to examine it, his hearts clenched.
"You really shouldn't let her leave her clothes out like that," the current Doctor said, trying to keep his voice from shaking. "The whole TARDIS will be covered with dirty laundry."
His past self turned to see what he was looking at and made a small noise of non-commitment. "Oh that," he said. "It's only a jacket. Though… I do suppose you speak from experience. Tell you what, I'll ask her to pick it up when she gets back. As for you, TARDIS coral, right?"
It was amazing really. For all the walking and wandering that people tended to do at bazaars, Amy figured that there'd be more places where somebody could sit down once their feet got sore. Eventually the two of them managed to find a couple tables over by a fruit juice stand. Sure, the owner told them that they had to buy a drink if they wanted to sit down, but that wasn't a problem. They each had plenty of credits and even with a fake atmosphere the sun was pretty hot. A cool, alien beverage and time to relax would be just what the doctor ordered.
"Are you sure?" Rose asked as Amy insisted on paying. "I can at least buy mine if you want."
"No, trust me. I've got this," Amy said. "You go sit down and make sure our table doesn't get taken by some weird aliens with horns or something."
After a bit more back and forth persuasion, Rose finally backed off and let Amy go up to the cashier. She ended up with two cups of juice that were flavored by some weird, god-only-knew-what-galaxy-it-came-from plant that she didn't even know how to pronounce; they looked and smelled pretty though.
"So, Miss London girl," Amy said as she took a seat across from Rose and passed her one of the drinks.
"If you don't mind me asking, what are you doing way out here?" Amy asked. "I mean, Earth's not exactly near by, now is it?"
"Could say the same for you," she said. After an eyebrow raise from Amy, the blonde added, "Alright then, I guess you could say that I'm traveling. With a man. We just sort of… travel."
"Oh I know how that feels." Amy grinned as she swirled her drink slowly in her hands, poking it with a straw.
"Traveling as well. With two men though," Amy said. "My husband and…"
Amy trailed off as she remembered the Doctor's warning. It probably wouldn't hurt to tell Rose that she was traveling with the Doctor, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Especially after the Doctor had acted so serious about not saying certain things.
"Let's just say he's an old family friend," Amy eventually said. It was true in a sense; Amy, Rory and the Doctor… they were a family now, or as good as one. "Out of curiosity though, this man of yours… are you and him…?"
"Together? Oh no. Just friends. Just… friends."
Just significant pause friends. Amy fought to keep down the smile that was slowly creeping up over her face. Eventually she had to take a slug of her juice to hide it.
The drink itself was pleasant. Nothing special compared to all the crazy foods she'd tried since she began traveling, but not horrible either. It was impossible to describe aside from the overall sweetness seeing as how there was really no Earth fruit to compare it too. Alien food tended to be like that.
"So," Amy said, in between sips. "This 'friend' of yours. Is he here with you?"
"Yeah," Rose said with a smile. As if remembering something, she laughed. "He's actually letting me wander by myself today. He almost never does that; says I'm too 'jeopardy friendly.'"
"Have a problem with staying out of trouble?"
"Yeah, guess you could say that. Though sometimes it seems like he's being more than just protective…" Rose sighed, resting her cheek on top of her palm. "He's an impossible man to figure out, my Doctor."
Amy sprayed out all of the juice that had been in her mouth.
"Amy! Amy, are you okay? Just keep coughing… Is it the juice? Oh no, we didn't even think to ask if it was safe for humans! Jeopardy friendly, that's what he calls me… Don't worry. Everything will be okay. The Doctor will know what to what to do. He's here somewhere… in one of these streets…"
"…no…" Amy struggled to say between coughs. "It's… I'm… fine."
Amy continued to cough, but it was slowly getting easier and easier to breathe. "Just… went down… the wrong pipe… I'm fine… really."
Rose's worried expression softened, but she still looked a bit cautious. "If you say so," she said. She looked down at her own drink and bit her lip. "Perhaps we shouldn't drink these. Just in case."
"Maybe you're right," Amy said. She let out one final cough and then inhaled deeply. "It's not the best juice I've had any… No, wait a minute. You mentioned a Doctor. The Doctor?"
"It's just that I…"
No! This was exactly the kind of thing that the Doctor had warned her about. This girl, Rose, she traveled with him, probably an earlier version of him. Well, maybe an earlier version of him. If Amy told her anything about her own adventures, let anything slip, it might cause the end of the universe.
If she had the best interests of the universe at heart, she'd walk away right now without another word. She'd let enough slip as it was.
But surely… the universe was safe as long as Rose didn't know who Amy really was. As long as Rose didn't find out that Amy was traveling with the future Doctor… well, current Doctor from her perspective. Amy was traveling with the current Doctor who was the future Doctor to Rose who was traveling with the past Doctor, although to Rose the past Doctor was the current Doctor. And that's assuming the past Doctor was the past Doctor and not some future regeneration.
The Doctor was right; this was rather complicated.
"Amy, what is it? What do you know about the Doctor?"
Amy looked at Rose's face, a mixture of concern and caution that was slowly turning into suspicion, and knew that she had to make her decision quickly. And while time was all rather complicated and wobbly-wimey or whatever the Doctor had called it… and while she knew that any further time spent in the presence of Rose could theoretically cause the collapse of the universe (for starters)… here was someone who possibly knew something about the Doctor's past, was possibly from the Doctor's past, and would probably tell Amy all about it.
How could she resist?
"It's just that I've heard of him," Amy told her. "The Doctor. He's a legend where I'm from."
"Really? So the two of us finally get a bit of recognition?" Rose asked. She seemed to accept Amy's answer, her negative emotions quickly fading and replaced with her persistent smile. "Stuff of legend, we've been called. Glad to see our work is being appreciated."
"Oh," Amy said, feeling slightly awkward. "Well, actually… I've never heard of you. Just him."
"Oh." Rose's face fell a bit.
"Don't worry," Amy said quickly. "It's not your fault. He's just really really old, yeah? He's had like… centuries to get famous… or something. Perhaps the stories I've heard were about things he did before he met you."
"I suppose…" It didn't seem to cheer her up very much.
"What's he like?" Amy asked, eager to get her hands on some new information. She had to be careful not to sound too eager though.
"Well, you probably know, don't you? Since he's a legend and all."
"Well… legends and all. They're just stories. You know can't ever really trust stories since people are always changing the details. Besides, you've met him!" Amy said with a smile. "You're a first hand witness to all the incredible things he's done. It's not like museums or encyclopedias are any help. And even those he only uses to keep score… or… so I've heard. Anyway what I'm trying to say, at least when it comes to the Doctor, you're more believable than any other source."
"So you'd believe me if I said he ate… I don't know, safety pins and grass?"
"Oi, there's a difference between believing someone and keeping a bit of common sense. If the Doctor eats safety pins and grass, then I'm a space fish."
"Oh," Amy said, hesitating at her blunder. Inside jokes didn't make a whole lot of sense in context to people and companions who weren't there. "It's nothing. Just, you know, fish in space. Vampire fish… in space."
"Okay, well… I was going to say, if you really want to trust in a first hand source, I could always introduce the two of you. Figure it must be exciting to be able to meet a legend. He's hardly known back in the century when I'm from. Mind you," Rose said, lowering her voice to a half whisper. "It does tend to make his ego swell up for quite a bit after."
Amy felt a panic button slowly being pushed down in back of her head. Imaginary warning bells were starting to ring.
"Oh, I'd love to… but my husband is shopping around here and I promised him that I'd stay in the general area so we wouldn't get separated," Amy said as calmly as possible. She tried to sound slightly disheartened about the whole thing. Acting was never her strongest suit. "And we just got married recently, so I'd prefer to keep as many of my promises as possible while it's still this early in the game."
"No problem," Rose said. The girl seemed to accept the excuse; Amy guessed she was a better actress than she thought. "Though… We could always meet up with your husband and introduce the three of you later. He's probably heard of the Doctor too, right? And I'm sure the Doctor wouldn't mind meeting both of you. He loves meeting other travelers and hearing about new places. More the merrier and all. And the other person with you? The family friend?"
"Ah, well, you see my husband's not the biggest… fan of the Doctor, and my other friend… well, he…" Amy trailed off as her thoughts started to skid out of control.
How would she even finish that sentence? He… actually happened to be the Doctor from another timeline? Warned her specifically not to get into situations like this?
Amy really didn't like the way this conversation was headed. She had to change the subject, and fast.
So she said the first thing that popped into her head.
"So the Doctor and you, are you really just friends?"
Rose's smile disappeared instantly.
"What?" she said flatly.
Alright, perhaps that was too much of subject change, and perhaps Amy was getting into other things that she also should've been staying away from, and in all honestly she expected this topic would only last for five minutes at the most… but if it was between the destruction of the universe and prying into the Doctor's potential sex life, Amy didn't mind being a bit nosy.
"So is there something or isn't there?" Amy asked with a grin.
"No," Rose said, too quickly to be comfortable. "It's nothing. There's nothing. Your question was just random, that's all. Why do you even-"
"Nothing random about a crush," Amy said. When Rose opened her mouth to protest, Amy waved her quiet.
Okay, so now she was at risk of Rose either slapping her or storming off, Amy certainly would've done so if a rude stranger started interrogating her about her relationships, but at least they were off the topic of Amy's Doctor. And the only direction to go was forward.
"Believe me. As I said before, he's a legend where I come from. You don't have to be embarrassed; I'm sure half the galaxy's wanted to shag him at one point or another."
"It's not like that!" Rose shouted. "I-"
She stopped in mid-sentence. Her mouth hung open, but no words came out. Then her mouth closed, and she suddenly looked away.
Amy starred at her. Suddenly this conversation was swinging in a completely different direction. It couldn't be…
"You love him," she said. "Don't you."
Rose glanced at Amy out of the corner of her eyes, but said nothing in response. She waited for a slap, an indignant outburst detailing how Amy could mind her own business.
She's with the person that she loves most now. And I'm happy for her.
No… it couldn't be.
The girl that the Doctor had told Amy about that night, the girl he used to love… it couldn't be Rose. Could it?
As if she had set off a domino chain, other pieces started to fall into place. Separate memories that had seemed unconnected, they'd always been part of a bigger picture. The Doctor swearing when he never swore…
Amy had seen the TARDIS malfunction before. She had seen it explode. But even then the Doctor never swore. Never said anything cruder than the occasional "damn" or "bloody hell." So why now? Because he knew that he was going to have to face something that he'd rather do anything to avoid?
And now that she thought about it, the Doctor's avoidance when she and Rory had first asked him what was wrong, when he had insisted that the two of them stay in the TARDIS while he met his past self… it was the same avoidance whenever the two of them tripped into a topic that the Doctor didn't want to talk about. It was the same avoidance that he had used that night when he'd started telling Amy about his previous companions, when he mentioned the girl he obviously had feelings for… the unnamed girl… the girl who was quite possibly named Rose.
Of course she could be wrong. Perhaps this girl was indeed from the future, a future companion for a future Doctor. Perhaps this girl was like Martha, someone who loved the Doctor, but was never loved back. Not in that way. After all, the Doctor was old, almost impossibly old. He probably had hundreds of ex-companions for all she knew. There was really nothing about Rose that made her different from any of them.
Also, there was something that didn't make sense. If the girl the Doctor loved was Rose, and if Rose loved the Doctor, then why would he say that she was now with the person that she loved the most? Perhaps Rose wasn't the girl after all. Perhaps she was just one of the other hundred.
But that was also unfair. If Rose was just one of the "others," then wouldn't Amy be just one of the "others" as well? And Amy didn't feel like an "other;" she didn't think she'd enjoy feeling like an "other."
So what if the Doctor might not feel the same way? It didn't make Rose's feelings any less important. Besides, keeping one's feelings locked away when traveling with the Doctor – or anyone for that matter – was a recipe for disaster.
So, after all her deliberations, there was really only one thing Amy could say.
"You should tell him."
"What?" Rose, who had apparently been lost in her own thinking, turned her full attention back towards Amy.
"Well, you obviously have feelings for him," Amy said. She grabbed one of Rose's hands and clutched it in moral support. "The TARDIS is bigger on the inside, plenty of extra rooms and hallways to hide away in when you don't want to face the world… or so I've heard, but that doesn't make it any easier, does it?"
"You don't understand," Rose said. "It's not like that. Me and him… we just… travel together. And we're going to keeping traveling together for…"
"Forever," Rose finished lamely.
Amy frowned. The girl was being extremely open considering the circumstances, and that was almost depressing in its own right. Rose must've really had no one to talk to about this before.
"And then what?" Amy said, letting go of Rose's hand. "You're just going to sit in there in the TARDIS forever? And you're never going to tell him? Forever?"
"I suppose… maybe one day…"
"Rose, I want you to listen to me very carefully," Amy said, lowering her voice so that Rose would have to lean in close to hear her. "Life is crazy. It's unexpected. You should know that, seeing as how you travel with the Doctor. Sometimes we take things for granted, and without realizing it we… we lose the chance to say what we really want to say, the chance to let the people we love know how much they really mean to us…"
Amy closed her eyes as she began to remember the dream world, the expression on Rory's face as he crumbled into dust before her eyes. Again when he was hit by the Silurian blast… swallowed by the crack… For the longest time she couldn't even remember that it'd even happened.
"You speak from experience. Don't you?"
Rose's voice snapped Amy out of her thoughts. Her face was softer, sensing the pain that Amy had unconsciously brought to the surface.
"Perhaps you're right," Rose said. She sighed. "See, I had a friend, before I met the Doctor. Mickey, his name was. And I… after I met the Doctor I never treated him good enough. Took him for granted, like you said. And now… now he's gone."
"I'm sorry," Amy said.
"Oh, don't be. He's still alive," she said. Her usual smile was back on her face, but this time Amy thought it looked a little forced. "He's got his gran, and a new mate, and my dad, well I say he's my dad… it's a long story. But he's got all that, and I've got the Doctor… so I guess it all sort of worked out in the end."
"Don't you think you're taking the Doctor for granted though?" Amy asked. At Rose's indignant stare, she added, "Just saying as a fan. You know, as a fan, you don't take legends for granted. You're very lucky to be able to travel with him."
"Hmm," was all Rose said. She rested her chin on one of her hands and stared up at the synthetic atmosphere. "I guess you're right."
"So you'll confess?"
"Your feelings. To the Doctor. And don't give me any of that 'one day' nonsense," Amy said before Rose could say anything in return. "Because you and I both know if you keeping saying that, nothing will ever happen."
"I'm not saying that I'm confessing anything. Just a maybe," Rose quickly said. Her eyebrows narrowed. "And I'm not doing anything public, so if you've just been saying all this because you think you're going to get a show…"
"No, nothing like that. Thought never crossed my mind," Amy said. "Okay… well maybe a little, but you can't help a girl for wanting a bit of extra drama."
Rose laughed. "I should throw this drink in your face for saying that," she said.
"But you won't."
"No, I won't," she said. "I should be mad, irritated even… but I'm not. Why am I even telling you any of this?"
"Because I'm Amy Pond and – let's face it, we've only known each other for about half an hour, but you probably already know – I'm pretty awesome."
Rose rolled her eyes. "If you say so… How did we even get on this topic anyway? I mean, don't get me wrong. It feels good in a way, getting it off my chest."
"It always does."
"Oi, I told you, you're not getting a show."
"And I told you, I'm not expecting one."
"Well, as long as we have that clear…" Rose stood up and offered out a hand to Amy. "Want to do some shopping with me?"
Amy looked at her hand. So many things could go wrong… but if the universe was going to collapse, wouldn't something have happened already?
"Sure," Amy said, grabbing it and pulling herself up. "Why not?"
"Brilliant," Rose said. She was smiling again.
Amy briefly wondered if she and Rory smiled that much or if it was just a side effect of being in love with the Doctor. She wondered if the Doctor's past – or future – self smiled in the same way. The Doctor had told her that she couldn't meet him, but perhaps she could discreetly spy from around a street corner or something.
"So," Amy said as she picked up her still-cold juice from the table and started to follow Rose down the bazaar street. "What are we looking for?"
"Just something small but interesting," Rose said. "It's for my mum back home. I'd get her anything really, but she doesn't like things that are too…"
"Alien?" Amy offered.
"Exactly. So I was thinking of getting just something small for her, and – if I find something interesting enough – then maybe something for the Doctor."
"And then you'll give it to him as you confess?"
"What is it with you and confessing? You keep bringing it up and I'm gonna leave you, no kidding."
"Alright! Alright, I'll stop with the personal questions," Amy said with a laugh. "Sorry, by the way. I'm really not trying to be the Spanish Inquisition."
"And don't think quoting Monty Python makes it okay."
"I said alright!" Amy let out an exasperated sigh. "So let's go find a gift for your mum already."
"You're all set with that then?"
"Yeah, should be all she needs," the current Doctor said. He held the small piece of TARDIS coral up towards the sun to make sure it was in perfect health before pocketing it in his jacket.
"Wait a second," his past self said, looking at spot somewhere behind the current Doctor. His eyes widened. "Is that the TARDIS?"
The current Doctor turned around and looked at the unremarkable wooden door that his TARDIS was currently camouflaged as. "Oh that," he said. "Why yes. Yes it is."
"You fixed the circuit!"
"Now don't you go blaming me," he said. "I had no choice in the matter. Couldn't have had Rose seeing two police boxes today."
"Rose? What does Rose…"
His past self laughed as the current Doctor watched Rose make her way towards them through the crowd.
"I should have known," he said. "You remembered being me, seeing you, seeing Rose." He briefly waved to her before turning back to his other self. "Isn't a bit anticlimactic though, running through everything just because it's happened before?"
"You're telling me… Now careful, she's getting into ear range."
His past self gave him a wink before turning and enveloping Rose in a huge hug. "Miss me?" he asked.
"If I say 'yes,' can I pick out where we're going next?"
"Aren't you the cheeky one today?"
"Well, can I?'
"We'll see. Or," he said, drawing out the vowel. "There's a solar eclipse happening on the fourth planet in the Pangeon System; the moon is made out of solid diamond. Millions of colours never before seen by human eyes. Happens only once every 472,895 years. Your choice."
"But Doctor, we've got a time machine. It doesn't matter when it happens."
"Rose Tyler!" his past self said, sounding as scandalized as he remembered being. "It always matters when it happens."
"I'll just get going then," the current Doctor said. He half-hoped that the two would actually let him leave, but he knew better than that. He remembered better than that. But oh how he wished…
"Oh, sorry. The Doctor and I, sometimes we get sidetracked," Rose said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. She turned towards his past self. "Well, aren't you going to introduce me to your new friend?"
"Oh, yes. Just helped him with this thing. Um… well, this is-"
"Alastair," the Doctor said, holding out his hand. "Alastair Lethbridge Stewart."
"I think I'll just stick with Alastair," Rose said, reaching out to shake it.
As their fingers slipped together, the Doctor repressed a shudder. The last time he had held Rose's hand it had been on the Crucible. Her hand was different then, rough with calluses, probably caused by years of work for the Torchwood in Pete's World. And guns, he remembered her having a gun. He hated guns.
This hand was soft. It was the one he remembered sometimes when he saw Amy and Rory together and reached out his own hand only to find nothing there. This was the hand that he had grabbed right before he had first told her, "Run!" This was the hand that had color-changing nail polish on it, nail polish that would be removed as soon as she got back into the TARDIS because the people from Earth didn't have color-changing nail polish quite like that yet.
This was the hand that he didn't want to let go of.
She noticed his reluctance, her smile fading slightly. Then she blinked and looked at him like she was trying to decide something.
"We haven't met anywhere before," Rose said slowly. "Have we?"
"Why would you say that?"
"I don't know… You just… seem familiar, I guess."
"Stupid. Yeah, I know," Rose said with a laugh, slipping her hand out of his. As she took a step back, the Doctor slowly clenched his hand into a fist around the empty air. "Sorry I brought it up. Oh, by the way, Doctor. Look what I picked up."
She reached into her pocket and held up a small, gold trinket for the past Doctor to look at. His past self pulled out a pair of glasses and bent over to examine it. The current Doctor fought to keep his face impassive.
Somewhat amused boredom, that was the expression he remembered. That was the expression that he had to keep now.
"I was shopping with this other girl, and we ended up going back to this one stall that had all this weather related stuff that was rather nifty. You see, when this gets hot, that means it's going to be sunny. And when it's cold, it's going to rain," she said. "It's umm… made out of this metal that's really sensitive to the atmosphere."
"Ah, bazulium. Basic alloy from the mining fields of Intrensus Five."
"Yeah, that's it!"
"Bit useless though," he said. "Having a weather predictor in the TARDIS."
"Don't be stupid. It's not for you, it's a present for my mum."
"Oh," he said. There was a bit of a pause as he stared at the trinket. He looked back up at Rose. "Did you get me a present?"
"I couldn't find anything that I thought would interest you more than two seconds," she said. "And don't give me that look. I see you every day… my mum doesn't get to anymore."
This was it. He knew it was coming from the moment that he'd discovered the TARDIS was sick. And he had cursed. He hadn't been able to help it.
Oh, how cocky he used to be. He used to be so proud of himself. He was a man who could topple down gods and raise up empires. He was the man who had taken down Harriet Jones with only six words.
And now he was about to destroy himself with only five.
"I bet she misses you," he said.
She looked up at him. "You mean my mum? Yeah…" She trailed off as she looked at the bazulium trinket in her hand.
"Rose?" His past self looked at her, his eyebrows furrowing slightly in concern.
"Doctor? Can we… Can we visit my mum next?" she asked him. "We'll do the moon thing right after. Or something else if you want. Whatever you want. It's just…"
He wanted to scream. To warn them. To do anything but stand here with a blank expression. If only his past self hadn't listened to her. If only he had been selfish for once. He could have said no and taken her somewhere else. Somewhen else. All he had to do was not listen…
But if he knew anyone, the Doctor knew himself, and the Doctor knew that he had never been able to resist that smile. And – more importantly – he had already lived through what happened next.
"I understand," his past self said, oblivious to the war that was raging on inside the current Doctor's skull. "You don't have to say anything. Jackie will be happy to see us, you probably more than me."
The current Doctor watched as the two of them entered into another hug. After what seemed like both forever and the briefest of moments, they detached and turned once more to face the current Doctor.
"It was nice meeting you," Rose said. "Any friend of the Doctor is a friend of mine. Maybe we'll see each other again someday."
"Oh, and good luck with the thing," his past self said.
"Come on," Rose said, tugging on his arm. "You know my mum doesn't like to be kept waiting."
"But she doesn't even know that we're coming yet," he protested as she started to lead him away.
The Doctor watched as the two walked away. Halfway down the street, Rose turned around one last time.
"Bye!" she yelled with a wave.
The Doctor waved back. "Goodbye," he said, in a voice not loud enough for her to hear. "And… I suppose. If it's my last chance to say it…"
With one last smile, she turned back around and continued walking away. He watched the back of her head as it started to disappear again into the crowd.
"Rose Tyler… I love you."
And then she was gone.
"Amy, I don't think we should even be here. The Doctor said-"
"Shhh! If you're so concerned about being noticed, then don't talk," Amy whispered back. "Anyways, it looks like they're leaving. And… the Doctor's waving goodbye. That's it; it's over. Come on!"
"Amy? Amy, no! Wait! Amy!"
Amy walked out from where she and Rory had been watching from behind the nearby corner. Sneaking up was easy.
"Hello!" Amy said cheerfully as she tapped him on the shoulder.
The Doctor whirled around with an expression far more serious than she had been expecting. "Amy! What did I tell you about-"
"Look I'm sorry I didn't completely listen to you," Amy said, initially thrown off but rolling straight back into it. "But from as far I can tell, nothing's happened. So the universe is going to be fine, right?"
"It's time to go," he said without a trace of warmth.
"Look I said I was sorry," Amy said, as the Doctor pushed past her towards the TARDIS. "But that was Rose, right? She looked really happy."
He instantly stopped, and then turned slowly to face her. "How do you know her name?"
"We met, earlier in the marketplace. I already told Rory about it. Hello, Rory!" Amy said with a smile as Rory finally walked over to join them. "I was just telling the Doctor about Rose. But as I was saying, we started talking, and then we started talking about you. And you know how we were talking that one night and I said how it was never good to keep your feelings locked up to yourself? Well, I told that to Rose and she told me that she was going to tell you – the past you, that is – that she loves you… maybe. To tell you the truth, she was a bit nervous about the whole thing… Doctor? Doctor, what's wrong? The universe isn't going to end because I told her to confess, is it?"
"I told you this wasn't going to end well," Rory muttered.
"Doctor, tell me what's the matter," Amy said, her voice shaking slightly. Despite the universe looking like it was in picture perfect health, she had obviously done something terribly wrong. The Doctor was now as white as a sheet, and his eyes carried an inevitable dread to them. "Doctor, you're starting to scare me."
"Nothing," he said. The sharpness of his words made Amy's skin crawl. "Nothing's wrong. It's all happening exactly like I remember. Ha!"
"So she does confess?"
"As a matter of fact, she does."
"But you love her! Don't you?"
"Wait, the Doctor loves someone? That girl you were just telling me about?"
"Since you must know everything," the Doctor said, ignoring Rory. He shoved his jacket sleeve up his arm and looked at his watch. "Going by TARDIS time, in six hours and thirty two minutes she confesses, though I'm sure you and your wonderful advice had nothing to do with it. And, less than a minute after that, our time together ends. Forever. So yes, you're right. The universe will not be destroyed because nothing even changed. Congratulations for helping cause something that already happened."
"So this was the last…" Amy trailed off as she looked down the street, trying to catch a glimpse of Rose and the past Doctor in the crowds. It was no use. She turned back to the Doctor… her Doctor. "But the two of you were so happy! I just saw you together. You were right here!"
"They just left. They can't have gotten far. Go after them! You can tell them about what's going to happen."
"I told you, Amy. This is a closed time loop," the Doctor said. He paused, taking a deep breath in and out. "What happens now has to happen… because it already has."
"But time can be rewritten! You've told me that yourself!"
"Not this time. Not ever."
"But that's not fair!" Amy yelled, tears starting to well up in her eyes. "The two of you love each other! Don't you?"
"Life's unfair! If you haven't noticed that by now, get used to it!"
The last time the Doctor had yelled at her, it had been on the Starship UK. She had forgotten about the sheer fury and pain that could lie behind his anger. It stunned her into silence.
They stared at each other, unmoving, and then Amy watched him slowly walk away, watched how his hands shook as he pulled out the TARDIS key and forced it into the lock. It took him two missed tries before he was able to turn it. She tried to move, to call out to him, but she was frozen.
Down the other side of the street she heard the sounds of laughter. Was it them? Probably not. The two would be far out of her ear range by now. Maybe they were even back at their TARDIS. They only had six hours left. By the time they left this planet, maybe it would only be five. And the Doctor was just letting it happen… because he had to.
Between the universe and himself, he would pick the universe every single time.
She didn't care what he said. It wasn't fair.
"Amy?" Rory said softly, moving over to stand next to her. "Amy, I don't understand everything that just happened, but it's going to be okay, you hear me? The Doctor's got us now. You don't have to cry."
"But I do," Amy said, fighting back a sob. "Because he won't! And it won't be okay… not for him. Not for him…"
As Amy started to wipe away her tears with the back of her left hand, Rory slipped his fingers through her right. She searched through the crowd one last time, hoping to see… well, anything. A glimpse of blonde hair… A snatch of brown trenchcoat… Was she only imagining them now?
She felt a soft tug and looked down to see Rory holding her hand. No matter how much she wanted to stop it, time moved on. But she didn't want to go… If she left, if she chose to move on, it would end for sure.
With one last glance at the crowd, she let him lead her back to the TARDIS.