And so we reach the final chapter. Thank you so, so much to everyone who has read and reviewed this story! I can't even begin to say how much that means to me! I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. For me, thinking of the story happening in this way makes "The End of Time" just a little easier to bear.
The ending lines are cliché and have probably been used a thousand times before. But really, is there any other way to end it for these two? ;)
Rose stood and left the infirmary to follow the Doctor back to the console room, wishing desperately there was a way to ease his current anguish and somehow let him know the two of them would one day be together again. She followed silently behind him, his shoulders heavy from the weight of the all-too familiar sorrow of losing everyone who ever mattered to him.
Just as they were emerging from the corridor, the TARDIS began shaking violently. The Doctor staggered to the controls to try and stabilize the ship.
"Another dimensional fissure is opening within the TARDIS!" he yelled, as Rose grabbed hold of a nearby strut to steady herself.
A crackling wall of energy appeared on the other side of the room, and a figure began to emerge from the center. The fissure then suddenly enfolded upon itself and closed with a loud hiss. Left standing in its place was a mirror-image of the Doctor.
A smug smile tugged at his lips as he took in the shocked expressions on his wife and his double's faces. "Did you miss me?" he asked casually.
A wide grin broke out across Rose's face as a laugh escaped from her throat. She ran and flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and legs around his waist. He returned her enthusiasm and began kissing her in a manner that would've had them both divested of clothing in a matter of minutes if the other Doctor hadn't cleared his throat rather loudly to get their attention. This display was even worse than what he'd had to witness back on that blasted beach, he thought to himself.
"Oh, hello! Sorry," the Doctor replied to his past self. "Got a bit carried away." Then he gave Rose a wink as he straightened his disheveled tie. "Happens quite a lot, actually."
"How did you get here?" Rose asked, still beaming.
He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by his past self. "Reversed the dimensional stabilizers and created a temporal fold-back, recreating the event that caused the first one," he supplied. "The same thing I was working on," he added a bit defensively.
"Ah, yes," the other Doctor responded, "but you were just a bit slower at it than me." He then looked knowingly between Rose and his past self. "But then again, I'm sure you've been busy."
He shot his wife a smirk as she blushed. Rose then took him by the hand and pulled him off to the side, a million thoughts going through her mind. Maybe now she could get some answers.
"How was this even possible?" she asked quietly while the other Doctor stood at the controls, making the final preparations to send them both back. "Why didn't you remember this happening in your past? Or did this not happen before?" she questioned, still perplexed by it all.
The Doctor breathed deeply as he began to explain. "This was the time leading up to my final days in this universe. I didn't yet know it then, but Time itself was bleeding," he said dismally, a shadow crossing his face as he recalled those dark days. "That's what Ood Sigma had tried to warn me of just moments before this happened, but I ran. When I finally did go to them, I was told, 'Shapes of things once lost are moving through the veil.' That apparently didn't just pertain to the Master and the Time Lords returning, but to this event as well. The universe at this point in time has been weakened, and that's what allowed this temporal convergence." He then smiled gently at her. "And I realize now that this had always happened. I just didn't remember it because I'm going to have to take these memories from myself when we leave so that what I've experienced won't change what happens in my future. But now that the event has circled back around, those memories are beginning to filter back through and I'm starting to remember some of the details from my other perspective." He then leaned in closer to whisper in her ear. "And that kiss was rather magnificent, if I do say so myself."
Rose blushed. "You remember that? I...it was just that I...," she stammered.
He placed his finger on her lips. "It's okay," he whispered, the memories of that kiss having now returned to him. "Because you were right: I'm him. And you know what? I wasn't sorry for it, either," he said with a sultry grin.
They were interrupted as the other Doctor called over to them. "It's time," he said somberly. "If you two are ready, I can re-open the fissure between dimensions and send you back now."
Rose quickly looked back at her husband. "If you're gonna have to take these memories so he, I mean you, won't remember, then couldn't I...,"
"Tell me everything?" he finished.
He sighed. "My past self will only be able to know for a moment, Rose." Then he smiled slowly. "But I already knew you were going to ask that. So yes."
She grinned and turned to go over to the other Doctor when her husband took her by the hand and gently turned her back around.
"Thank you," he whispered, grateful not only for this, but for all Rose had given him. He gazed over at his past self. He had forgotten, or at least tried to forget, how far he had fallen at this point. He was lonely and desperate and just a bit dangerous. He now had Rose to ground him, but sometimes he needed to be reminded of the past and just how far he was capable of going so he never repeated those mistakes. Remembering his former self gave him a renewed, overwhelming gratitude for the life he was now able to have.
Rose approached the other Doctor, who was looking so torn and anguished but trying desperately to hide it.
"Well, I suppose this time we get to say a proper goodbye," he said with a smile that didn't reach his sorrowful eyes.
Rose reached out and took his hand in hers. "He's you," she repeated once more. He opened his mouth to reply but she silenced him with her fingers on his lips. "No, I mean really you." She took a deep breath, trying to think of how best to explain this. "Your song will end soon," she stated.
A look of darkness crossed his face at hearing those ominous words yet again. "That apparently seems to be universal knowledge," he replied, trying to keep his tone light but failing miserably.
Rose grinned widely, which wasn't exactly how he thought she would react in such a conversation. Well, at least one of us doesn't seem bothered by my impending death, he thought to himself glumly.
Rose stepped closer and wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace, then turned her head to whisper in his ear. "But the story never ends."
She pulled back and took both his hands in hers as she gazed deeply into his eyes. "This isn't something you're gonna be able to remember — at least not for the time being. But if it takes away your pain for even a moment, then it's worth it." She exhaled deeply. "I could try to tell you, but I think it would be better if I show you. You've been teaching me how to use our bond to communicate telepathically and share thoughts and feelings. So, here goes..."
Rose then took his face in her hands and closed her eyes as she pressed her forehead to his. He was suddenly overwhelmed as thoughts, memories and images began to flow through his mind in rapid succession. He saw images of his current, lonely life coming to a close, but oh, it didn't end there. He then saw the gift of new life and unfathomable love. He was shown everything — all the joys, trials, and triumphs that would soon be his life. His life! And he could see the timelines — their timelines, as they merged and came into perfect sync. He could also see a future lineage, and the possibility for new timelines arising from their own — children born of love and a new race of Time Lords continuing on.
He understood now — all of it. It was always destined to be this way. He had to leave Rose in order to come back to her in the way it was meant to be. But come back he would! Because his Tenth self, the one who had always loved Rose beyond his own control, was destined to be with her from the moment he was created for her, as he drew the Time Vortex out of her with a kiss, creating this version of himself.
The last of the Time Lords would have died that day on Satellite Five if Rose had not come back to save him. And because of her profound love that made her willing to sacrifice her own life for him, she was given a part of him — the one who held all the love of his Ninth, as well as the love that then merged, grew and intensified with his Tenth self, to be with her always. Just as it was meant to be.
Tears of joy swelled in his eyes and spilled over down his face as Rose pulled back from him and lowered her hands. "Oh, Rose," he whispered, his voice trembling in awe and disbelief. How could he even begin to put into words what he was feeling in this moment — what all of this meant to him? He had gone from thinking he had lost everything in life and that his own life would soon come to an end, only to learn he was about to have everything he never even dared to allow himself to hope for.
Rose raised her hand to his face and swept away his tears with her thumb. "Shhh, I know," she replied in a hushed voice, then leaned forward and gave him one last soft, lingering kiss. It was tender and gentle, but succeeded in taking his breath away. He wrapped his arms around Rose and pulled her closer as he lost himself to her in this moment in the way he had always dreamt of.
Oh, he could certainly do with much more of this, he thought to himself as he held her in his arms. And apparently one day soon, he would get that chance.
Rose pulled back slightly, stroking his cheek, then placed one last kiss on his lips. "I'm sorry I have to leave you." She said gently, then gave him a slow smile. "But I promise to make it up to you later on when your future self and I get back."
He returned her smile, positively beaming. "One day I'll hold you to that," he replied.
Rose took both his hands in hers and squeezed them gently. "Stay strong through what lies ahead, and know in your hearts we'll be together again one day," she said softly but with conviction as she gazed into his eyes. Rose gave him one more smile. "I'll see you soon, my love," she whispered as she released him and took a step back.
His future self then approached. "Are you ready?" He nodded. The Doctor then placed his fingers on his past self's temples and removed those memories of what would soon be his future. Once he released him and stepped back, the memories had already begun to fade.
By the time the future Doctor took Rose's hand and stepped towards the fissure that was beginning to open, the other Doctor had already forgotten the memories Rose had given him. Once the two of them were gone, he would no longer remember that they had even been here.
Just before leaving, Rose turned back to him. Having now forgotten what she had shown him, he was already feeling the all-too familiar pain of her loss, thinking Rose Tyler was leaving his life for the final time. But as she grinned at him, the tip of her tongue peeking out between her teeth, he couldn't help but smile genuinely in return.
"Tell you what," she said with a mischievous glint in her eye. "I bet you are gonna have a really great year."
Rose and her husband grinned knowingly at each other as they turned to step back through to their universe. Just before slipping away, Rose threw him one last grin over her shoulder. "See ya!" she called.
The memories were already slipping away from him, and in a matter of minutes, he could no longer recall any of it. Yet what he was left with was an unexplainable calm and a feeling of peace where there had once been turmoil. It was almost a sense of joy. He had a renewed zest for life and the desire to do something just for the sheer joy of it. Perhaps, he thought to himself as he walked up to the console with an extra lightness in his step, he'd go see the Phosphorous Carousel of the Great Mingelinga Stat. He'd always wanted to see that.
And then, he thought maybe it would be time to pay Ood Sigma a visit. Because whatever his future held, he now felt prepared to face it.
As soon as Rose and the Doctor returned, he practically pounced on her. "I seem to recall somewhere in my past you giving the promise of making something up to me," he husked into her ear once he released her from a rather spectacular and dizzying kiss.
"So I did," she replied breathlessly, looking a bit dazed.
Rose almost had to jog to keep up with him as he led her by the hand purposefully down the corridor to their room. She knew that look in his eyes. It meant she was hardly going to have a chance to catch her breath.
And she was right. It was fast and it was frenzied and Rose didn't mind one bit. She liked it when he lost control and got just a little bit desperate. Rose was feeling just a little desperate herself.
Their lives could have taken such different paths if they had not been given this second chance together. They had both been reminded of what a precious gift they had been given, and the enormity of their love that had bound them together and brought them back full-circle into each other's arms.
After the raw desperation had been soothed, they made slow, passionate love, cherishing and adoring each other.
Hours later, Rose lay curled in the Doctor's arms, their fingers interlaced and resting over his heart while his other hand traced the intricate circular pattern of his name across the skin of her hip.
The Doctor leaned forward to nuzzle at the side of her neck, then whispered softly in her ear. "How long are you going to stay with me?"
It was the same question he had once asked her before, but this time they didn't have to wish and pretend that her impossible answer could be true. Now she could say it without a trace of doubt between them.
Roes turned in his embrace and gazed deeply into his eyes as she replied with certainty.