Disclaimer: Don't own, never will.
Accepted Universe: Rose never came back. She stayed in the Parallel Universe and didn't go to work for Torchwood. There is no 10.5.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
It's not a silly little moment; it's not the storm before the calm.
This is the deep and dying breath of this love that we've been working on.
It starts with a feeling; an indescribable pull she feels in her oh-so-real dreams. Something beckons her, calling to her in the softest of voices. Rose knows who the voice belongs to, but it has been so long (so horribly, horribly long) she is not sure she wants to give in to the temptation of hope. Even after eight long years, she still sees brief flashes of her Doctor in other people. Some she knows, others she does not. Those flashes make her heart ache, but the pain is dull and sweet, no longer a suffering ache. Still, the hurt lingers, ever present as her short human life drags on.
Which is why, Rose thinks, ever year she still visits Dårlig Ulv Stranden, her Bad Wolf Bay. It is place of so much sorrow, yet it is the only place she can truly feel connected to the only man who eternally stole her heart. Who gave her adventure and showed her the marvels of the universe. Who loved her and whom she still loves in return.
A Doctor. ("Of what?" "Everything!")
A mad, impossible, wonderful Doctor.
It seems almost poetic now that it was the universe itself that separated her and her Doctor. A white wall. So smooth and blindingly white. She had beaten on it and cried and cried and cried. But the wall had remained just that: a wall. She could no more reach for the Doctor than he could reach for her. It was a symbol for the plane she could not cross. She was stuck; separated by that metaphorical white wall. It is probably why, even now, she cannot stand white walls. Her home is a colourful assortment – not a white wall in the place. And perhaps that is insane, painting her walls ugly, clashing colours just to escape any reminder she is forever apart from her Doctor, but Rose does not care. Let people think her in bad taste.
It is Mickey who drove her here. He is parked a ways away, no doubt listening to some obscure parallel-universe band she hates and the thought is endearing. He always takes her; every year, even though he has a family of his own now. Rose is thankful, because she is not entirely sure she can make the trip on her own.
The wind chills her slightly. She has taken off her sandals so the waves splash over her feet as they sink into the sand. It is a nice feeling and the salty smell of the air is nostalgic. She knows she will not cry. After all, she has not cried since her third visit; there really is no point in crying over what she can never change. Her mind is blank as she stares out at the sea. It is so serene, so peaceful that a soft, gentle smile touches Roses lips for the briefest moment.
And then she hears it. The sound of the universe echoing in and out of existence, bringing her long buried memories to life in a flash of warmth. Her breath hitches, but she does not dare turn around, too scared of being wrong.
A familiar creak meshes with the sound of the waves and for one moment – one single moment – all is quiet and Rose is certain she is imagining the whole thing. But one single word – one single word – shatters her will not to turn around.
She turns so quick that she almost throws herself off balance. What she sees, however, breaks what little is left of her heart. The man standing before her is roughly the same physical age as her and is undeniably handsome. His brown hair is windswept to the side and his nose is considerably large, but somehow fitting. Oddly, it is the bow-tie that stands out to her; it is a dull red and incredibly tacky. A younger her would have, no doubt, found this hilarious. (Her Doctor, wearing a bow tie? Ha!) The her now, the older, wiser, broken her just finds it sad. He is different. This man, who she recognizes but at the same time does not, is not her Doctor.
Still… "Doctor," she says breathlessly. She cannot believe it, he had said it was impossible—so why. Why is he here?
The Doctor continues to stare at her for a few more seconds before a girl exits the TARDIS, her red hair ablaze. "Oi, Doctor! This isn't Rio—" she starts to say, but cuts herself off when she spots Rose. She blinks and looks to the Doctor and, without missing a beat, asks, "who is she?"
Rose wants to laugh, but it comes out more like a hysterical chuckle. "You always did like gingers," she says, and something about the way she does is so broken, so lost. The girl is a pretty red-headed, green-eyed knock out, but that is to be expected. She is young and nimble and so much like Rose used to be. It is heart breaking in so many ways, seeing the casual way she stands next to the Doctor, touches him, speaks to him.
"Go back inside Amy," The Doctor says to the girl—to Amy—and there is something dark and panicked in his expression.
"What? Why–" Amy protests, face agape.
"Amelia," he says seriously. "Go back inside the TARDIS."
It is funny, Rose thinks, how instead of doing as he asks, Amy stands still, twisting her lips downwards into a scowl as she glares at the Doctor. It is odd, to note the difference between Amy and her. She would have trusted her Doctor and did as he said, reluctantly, of course, but not with quite as much obstinacy.
"Fine," Amy snaps, pushing past the Doctor as she storms back inside the TARDIS. She slams the door behind her and Rose is more than sure the Doctor will be receiving a tongue lashing later.
Rose finds herself smiling. "She's quite fiery."
The Doctor grins at the door and shakes his head, chuckling softly. "And impossible," he murmurs more to himself than Rose. He stands there a moment, lost in his own thoughts, seeming almost as if he's forgotten Rose is standing before him. It is a shame, really. Her Doctor never forgot. Every time he looked at her it was as if she were his universe—the only thing that mattered. It is how this Doctor—this odd, different Doctor—looks at Amy.
"How are you here?" It is a simple question. A hurtful one. Could he have always come back? Had he lied to her?
"Cracks in the universe," he answers automatically. "Nasty business. Rather complicated. Long story. Started when Amy was seven."
Rose almost asks him to elaborate, but she realises she does not want to know what adventures he and Amy have been on. She does not want to know if he has taken her to the places he took her once upon a time. She wants to stay special: the only companion to her Doctor. "You've changed," she says at long last, "but you're still you. Always babbling on about stuff I only half-understand."
The Doctor looks indigent for a second. "I don't babble," he protests.
Rose gives him a look and shakes her head. She is in no mood to argue with him. He would likely talk her in circles anyway. It is then that it occurs to her to ask. "What happened to him—er, to you?"
He does not appear surprised by her question; rather it seems he has been expecting it. "I met with an unfortunate amount of radiation," he pauses, before adding, "It was quick." Rose finds she does not believe him. He avoids her eyes after he has said it, and points the conversation in another direction. "That's how I met Amy, you know. Right after I regenerated I crashed into her backyard! She was a bright seven-year-old; brave, too. Sweet as could be. Wouldn't believe it now, seeing as she's all grown up. And impossible! Brilliant, but absolutely unmanageable. And, look!" The Doctor turns, gesturing wildly at the TARDIS. "The TARDIS regenerated too! About time, if I do say so myself. The old girl was getting quite testy."
But Rose is not listening. No, she is angry. So unbelievably angry. Her question is still hanging in the air unanswered. The topic is avoided purposely. And she gets it; she understands why he does it. He thinks he is being kind, that he is protecting her from whatever the horrible truth is. "I don't want to know about all that," she bits out, and maybe she is being unfair, because the Doctor seems so genuinely happy while she is so devastatingly sad. It makes her want to slap him, but she knows she never could.
But something in Rose snaps and she asks what she had promised herself she never would. It is something that should only have been asked of her Doctor. But it is too late for that now. "What was the last thing you said to me?" Perhaps it is harsher than she meant but after eight years of yearning and crying and never moving on she cannot find it within herself to be gentle and understanding. "Go on, say it."
He looks uncomfortable and dispassionate. It strikes her as wrong, but she cannot place why. "I said Rose Tyler…"
"Yeah," she says, voice cracking, "and how was that sentence going to end?"
"Does it need saying?" It is posed as a question, but Rose knows better. It is an answer of avoidance. This man before her–this Doctor–may not be her Doctor, but he has the memories of their time together. He could tell her what her Doctor never had the chance to.
Rose sighs. She is so very tired of waiting for the answer that will never come. "I waited eight years, Doctor. I was willing to wait the rest of my life. I think I deserve to know. You owe me that much, don't you think?"
The Doctor is silent. He says nothing for a moment, his eyes bright and flashing with so much thought. He looks oddly old in that moment. She can see the wear nine hundred years has had on him. All the pain and love and regret. It is all right there on his face, plain for her to see. He clears his throat awkwardly, shifting his weight back and forth between his feet. "I did... you know. It wasn't a lie. The other me, he did. I still do, in a different sort of way. You're special Rose. And I–"
"Stop." The word leaves her lips before she can stop herself. Her throat constricts painfully as she fights back the tears that threaten to spill. "You don't," she pauses, struggling to continue. "You don't have to say any more."
Regret is in his eyes; brief and fleeting. He does not apologize or offer comfort. He is not the type that will, she supposes. Her Doctor would have, but this man is not her Doctor, and it is wrong of her to expect from him what is not a part of his personality now.
"Just …" she trails off, wondering if perhaps this is too much to ask of him, too selfish of her. "I'd like to speak with Amy. For a moment or two."
The Doctor frowns at that. "I don't think, under the circumstances, that that would be the best of—"
The TARDIS door swings open suddenly and there is Amy, hands on her hips and defiant expression in place. "What am I seven again?" Amy says, rolling her eyes. "Of course she can talk to me." The knowing look she sends Rose is all the proof she needs to confirm Amy likely eavesdropped on her conversation with the Doctor. She remembers her first encounter with Sarah Jane, so she forgives the intrusion in light of the fact that she understands.
"Shut it, old man," she motions for Rose to follow her. "Come along Rose. And you," she points accusingly towards the Doctor. "Don't follow us," she says as if it is an order. "We need to have a womanly chat, you know woman-to-woman."
The Doctor looks as if he wants to argue, but he does not follow them away from the TARDIS.
Amy slips out of her shoes and sighs as she splashes her feet in the cold ocean water. "Feels good," she says, grinning. Rose comes to stand beside her, the same waves licking at her heels. "What did you want to talk about?" Amy asks and she is so straight forward Rose decides she will return the favour.
"You love him, don't you." It's not a question.
Amy laughs. Loudly. "Yeah. Right," she snorts. "Who could love that bow tie wearing idiot?" But she is smiling fondly and it gives her away.
Perhaps Amy herself does not realise it, but Rose knows. She knows too well.
Which is why, she supposes, she tells her.
"You will fall in love with him. We all do, in the end. And he will love you back, for a time. It will be wondrous and beautiful and exciting; the most passionate love of your life. But, it will end. It always does. He will change into a person so like the Doctor, so mad and brilliant and honourable. But he will no longer be your Doctor, the Doctor you loved so fervently. He will no longer see you as he once did. And it will break your heart. I like you Amy. You're a smart girl. I know you won't listen," Rose smiles fondly. "I know I wouldn't have. But I wouldn't have felt at ease without at least giving you some sort of warning."
Amy is silent for a while. "Do you still love him?" She asks, meeting Rose's gaze with fierce green eyes.
"Yes and no," Rose replies delicately. "I loved the Doctor, but not the man you know him as now. He was gentle and caring and more human than he liked to admit. And he looked at me … he looked at me as if I was every good thing in the universe. Like I mattered. No one had ever looked at me like that before. It's no wonder I fell madly in love with him. He was enchanting and exciting. He showed me extraordinary things. I lived more in the years I spent with him than I will the rest of my life."
Amy looks at her weird, her expression entirely unreadable. "Do you regret loving him?" she asks so frankly, so openly that it surprises Rose.
It is a shock to her that, after all she has told Amy, that is the question she chooses to ask. "No," Rose answers her honestly. "I won't regret it for as long as I live."
Amy smiles mischievously now. "Well then, I don't have anything to worry about, now do I?" And just like that, she walks off, exchanges a few words with the Doctor—what, she cannot hear from so far away—and enters the TARDIS.
The Doctor looks bewildered as Rose advances towards him. And as she's walking towards him, all the puzzle pieces fall into place in her mind. As much as she loved—still loves—her Doctor, he is gone and their love was doomed from the start. They were never meant to work out.
Rose stops in front of him, face contemplative. "Doctor," she says slowly. "The previous you and I would have never worked out, you know. Our relationship was a lot like slow dancing in a burning room. The world was burning around us, but we were both too stubborn to get out while we still could." Rose's thoughts suddenly turn to Amy who is so beautiful and so fresh and so young, she cannot bring herself to hate her. "Take care of her."
The Doctor smiles; it is a long, slow smile full of warmth and care. A smile, Rose realises abruptly, that is only for her; only for Amy Pond. "Always."
Rose can see into the TARDIS now that the Doctor has opened the door. It looks different, and she remembers the Doctor said the TARDIS regenerated too. Amy is leaning against the control console with her arms crossed, as if she is waiting impatiently. But her eyes are locked on Rose, with a kind, friendly smile; it is almost as if she is thanking her. With a sudden burst of affection for the girl, Rose grabs the Doctor's shoulder before he disappears again forever. "Don't break her heart." Like you broke mine.
The Doctor smiles in that odd way that suits this new man. This new him. He places his hand over hers and gently slides it off his shoulder. "Goodbye, Rose."
Before she can do anything, before she can say anything, he has disappeared behind the closed TARDIS door and the TARDIS itself is blinking out of existence, fading from her life for the last and final time.
She stands there for a long while, staring at the spot the TARDIS had been just moments before. None of it feels real, but Rose knows it is. In a way she is thankful. At least now, she can move on. No regrets.
Mickey is bobbing his head up and down when she approaches the car and she startles him slightly when she slides into the passenger seat. He immediately reaches for the volume and dials it down. "Everything okay?" He asks and Rose smiles. It is the same question he always asks every year they drive out here. Leave it to Mickey to be the only constant in her life.
She chooses not to answer his question. "I won't be coming back next year, or the following year or ever, really. I'm done. It is about time I quit grieving for a man I lost eight years ago."
Mickey does not breathe a word and for that, she is thankful. He simply pats her on the shoulder and shifts the car into drive.
Finally, she can move on.
We're going down and you can see it too. We're going down and you know that we're doomed. My dear, we're slow dancing in a burning room. – John Mayer
Notes: This is my first ever Doctor Who fanfiction. I always felt that Eleven wouldn't feel for Rose the way Ten had and that if they were ever to meet (and 10.5 not have been created) it would be very tragic. I tried very hard to keep all character in-character, and I welcome constructive critique/criticism! This story would never have come to be were it not for MuslimBarbie. Not only did she encourage me to write this, but she edited it for me and offered suggestions for character development and ultimately made this fic a billion times better. She's amazing! Go check out her Doctor Who fics, right now! :)