Summary: Unlike what Shakespeare once said, sometimes journeys don't end in lovers meeting. Not the ones that matter, anyway.
The part-human Doctor wasn't unaware of what the Time Lord Doctor was going to do. Here's their conversation regarding it. And a scene of last chances with Rose Tyler. Angsty...it's set near the end of Journey's End, after all...
A Reluctant Decision Made by a Breaking Man
terminus quispiam proprius, exordium quispiam eternus
"You know what I need to do," the Time Lord said to the part-human Doctor as they stood watching their friends laughing and joking and smiling in relief and joy at saving the world and seeing each other again.
Rose had just left their side to catch up with Sarah-Jane, but she was still within earshot. "Let's talk this over somewhere she won't overhear," he replied softly.
They slipped out of the console room quietly, trying not to alert Rose's attention (and failing; he always alerted her attention. Now, though, she pretended not to notice). Walking in silence, they went to the library.
Once inside, the part-human Doctor sighed, breaking the silence. "What happens now?"
The Doctor's jaw clenched and he steadied himself for what he was about to say. "I drop everyone home. Including - " He paused, inhaled deeply. Let the breath out again in a rush, and continued, "Including Rose. Including you."
"Right." A pause. "But what does that mean?"
"Dålig Ulv Stranden," he clarified, swallowing thickly.
"She's not staying?" was his double's quiet, tentative reply.
"I want her, though," he admitted, voice low, chuckling darkly, without mirth. He looked at his hands. "Oh, I want her to stay with me, of course I do, more than anything, but I can't – I can't let her, can I? I'll only lose her again, far too soon."
The other Doctor nodded gently in agreement, but didn't say anything. He knew what his fully Time Lord counterpart was saying. And so, he didn't want to say something that might make him change his mind. He wanted Rose too, and it was sounding as though he was going to get her. He couldn't risk not getting her.
(Not that by getting her he meant possessing her or anything. He wouldn't want her to feel like he thought he'd won her or something. Although, he would, really. But not in an objectifying way. She was her own woman, after all. No, this was...well. Just, in a 'he loves her and thank god he gets to be with her sort of way.)
"And she deserves better than this," the Doctor cut into his thoughts. "I can give her time and space but not the things that matter. You can give her that," he continued, swallowing past the lump in his throat.
"Yes. I can. I will," was his soft reply, cautiously offering a small smile. He didn't want to showcase his overwhelming enthusiasm and excitement at the prospect of living that life with Rose in front of...well, himself. The him who's hearts were breaking again.
(He knew what that felt like the last time he'd lost Rose. He wasn't going to rub harsh salt into a furiously bleeding wound.)
"She's going to hate me. Taking her decision away from her again. I'll never learn," he sighed. "But I have to. You know that. You can tell her that. Tell her why. Please tell her why," the Time Lord begged, biting his lip anxiously and meeting his gaze for the first time.
"Of course I will." He paused, considering. Worrying. "It's not going to be easy for her. She's going to push me away. I'm you, but she won't see it like that. How am I going to convince her?"
"You have to tell her the thing I never have. That's how she'll distinguish. She's human, and it'll come down to who can say it. If she thinks I can't, won't, but knows you can and will, then she'll...well, she'll be happy, soon enough." He nodded at himself decisively.
The other Doctor tilted his head to regard his counterpart's pained expression quizzically. "I, you – we - did tell her, though, you know that, yeah? In every moment we were together, she knew."
"Yeah." He blinked quickly. "But I never said the words. You can, though. You can make up for that mistake we made before."
"You could though," the part-human Doctor argued, though he didn't really know why. He wanted the other one to give Rose up so that he could have her, of course he did, but he couldn't fathom how he was going to do it. He couldn't imagine giving her up for him, if it were he who had the choice. "I would've, before, and you're me, so I know – in all of those moments before I lost her – I would've said. I was going to say it. So many times. There was just, never the right moment. I was a coward, really. And now you're never going to get the chance to say it again? How can you give that up? Make her think you're incapable of the words? Don't get me wrong, I...I understand what you're saying about Rose and how it will... well, I suppose, ease her acceptance of me, but – well. Maybe it's the human in me now, but I can't see how you can be so selfless and... give that up?"
The Doctor rubbed wearily at his eyes. "Because I have to. Because otherwise I'll give in, and let her stay. Because I don't want her to have to see what I'm going to have to do to Donna." He paused, jaw clenching, eyes misting over. He glanced at his double, and saw a reflected expression.
He exhaled roughly and continued, "Because, what with the universe being out to get me and everything, I'll have to watch her wither and die, or maybe not even wither at all – it's so dangerous, think of how many times she's almost got killed since she began travelling the universe. Everything she's given up for me, everything she's put at risk. She could die tomorrow, and she doesn't deserve that. She deserves a chance to live a life, same as the rest of the universe. With a shared mortgage and a job and carpets and marriage and children and growing old together. All the... the stuff that I wish I could give her but can't because of my responsibility to the universe, but can, now, because of you, because you are me, and as long as you two are together, I can go on, knowing that she's happy, with everything she needs and wants right there with her. Jackie and Pete and their baby and me. You. A proper family, all together. How it should be. Forever," he explained, the last word breaking his voice as he tried not to cry in front of, well...himself.
His part-human counterpart was having less success, and there were a few tears falling from his eyes even though he didn't acknowledge them in any way. "You're really going to let her go? Let me...let me be with her?"
The Doctor sniffed, blinking rapidly. "Yes," he whispered, almost inaudibly. "And you have to promise me you won't waste this chance." He turned, and looked at him seriously. "Promise me you'll do everything for her. Promise me you won't care about being stuck on that one world with no way to travel the stars again. Promise me you won't wallow in self-pity when you have to get a job and earn money and pick out curtains. Because she's worth all that. Remember that. Oh, remember it always. Remember how damn lucky you are to have her with you." He paused, his voice cracking again. "Promise me you'll never desert her. Promise me you'll love her and only her, and you'll do so 'til the end." He stared into the opposite pair of eyes. "Please."
"I promise. All of that. I promise," he replied vehemently. "Easily. I'll do all those things. I promise. Of course I promise."
The Doctor nodded, as satisfied as he could be, given the circumstances.
"I'm sorry," the part-human Doctor said. "I'm sorry that you can't let her stay. And I'm sorry you can't let Donna stay, either."
"Don't tell her!" the Doctor cried out suddenly. "Don't tell Rose about Donna! Please. It'll break her heart to know that after all that, Donna will have to forget. You can't ever tell Rose that I'll be on my own again."
The other Doctor frowned for a moment. "But - "
" - sometimes, you should still keep secrets," he interrupted softly. "Tell her everything else, if you want, but please. Don't tell her that."
He swallowed thickly. "Okay." He was quiet for a few moments, before requesting gently, "Do I get to say goodbye? To Donna, I mean."
The Doctor nodded. "Stay here. I'll go and get her." He began to move.
"Wait," he called out to him. "Spend some time with Rose. Just for a bit. Let yourself have that, at least."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "You think that'll make it easier? If I get a few stolen moments now with the woman who can never be mine?"
"Not easier, no. And I won't pretend I actually want you to, but you're me, so I don't really think I have an argument against you doing, well, doing whatever, considering I might have a future for all that, if she lets me, and you won't."
"And the others are gonna be left hanging around in the console room on their own, are they? Hmm, you've thought that through," the Doctor replied with a small smile.
"Well, I'll talk to Donna in the console room; it doesn't matter if anyone else hears that, not really. It's not like we're going to need any...er, alone time."
As soon as the words left his mouth, both Doctors shuddered violently at the thought.
"That's just wrong. Donna would kill you for just saying those words," the Doctor chuckled.
"Yes, I think she would. Right! You stay here. I'll tell Rose to come and see you. Are you...are you going to mention anything yet?"
"No. No, she won't walk out of the TARDIS doors once we get there if she knew what we're going to do."
"S'pose not," he replied, feeling a pang of regret that Rose won't actively choose him; they are going to be forcing her into a life she didn't anticipate. Again. And he'll have to see her heart break. Again.
He shook his head sadly, and left the library.
When the blue-suited Doctor came in, she was chatting happily to her mum and Donna, still high on saving the universes (again.) She looked up at him and gave him a dazzling grin.
"Alright?" he murmured.
She nodded. "Better than. Well, a bit tired, but, you know. Relieved!" She let out a laugh. "You?"
"Yep," he replied, popping the 'p.' He grinned at her, and pulled her into a hug.
"Where's the other you?" she asked when they pulled back.
"Um...the library, I think. You should go talk to him," the Doctor suggested.
She smiled. "Okay." Her smile dimmed a bit and she looked at him nervously. "Listen, um, Doctor? This is all really confusing for me right now...what with, you know, you growing out of his hand and everything. But I think I get it. I mean, you're sort of the same, right? You're still, in a way, sort of...him?"
The Doctor's eyes were shining, and he swallowed thickly. "Yes, I'm him." He fidgeted a little guiltily. "I needed that hug, just then. Think he probably does too." He nodded towards the corridor.
"Yeah, I think he might," she laughed, and patted his arm fondly. "See ya later."
As she turned, Rose let out a whoosh of breath. The smile on her face faded. She knew they'd been conspiring. About what, she couldn't fathom. She wasn't silly, though. There were so many questions that were begging to be asked. How the hell were two Doctors gonna work? How would she deal with...that?
Well, she concluded - her mind aching from so much thinking and so little sleep - she'd just have to play her part in whatever they'd decided.
With that thought, she pushed open the library door.
He had his hands ruffling nervously in his hair as he paced up and down in front of the sofa on which he and Rose had spent many an evening curled up cuddling together, when he heard the door creak open.
He span around. The sight of her made his hearts stutter a bit, and tears welled up in his eyes.
"Rose," he breathed out.
She beamed at him. "Doctor."
And then there was this rush, this force that compelled them, much like magnets, to attach themselves to each other rather fiercely; running, running without interruption from a spoil-the-moment-why-don't-you bloody Dalek. Her arms wound around his neck and her legs around his waist as she jumped into his arms, and he laughed into her neck in a soft, heartbreaking sound as he gripped her thighs to hold her close. She laughed too, joyously, and that almost killed him right there, right then. Tears leaked from her eyes; he could feel them against his shoulder as she snuggled herself into that space that was made for her; and then his own tears were falling and his hands were moving, sliding up her back to her neck, into her hair, leaning back to make her look at him.
They stared at each other for a few moments, barely inches apart; his eyes boring into hers, knowing, knowing - from her silence and her expectant gaze - that she was waiting for him to tell her, anticipating it, assuming he would. Hoping, expecting him to finish his abandoned sentence. He wanted to. Oh, he wanted to.
But all he could do was stare into her eyes and hope she would understand.
He'd promised his other self the opportunity to say those immortal words, and he couldn't go back on it now. Not when he'd rationally made the right decision. For her, mind. The right decision for her; not him, never for him, not this him, because how can letting her go be the right decision, in any circumstances? It can't, it can't, he loves her, for Rassilon's sake, why can't he keep her? Why can't he just bloody well lock them both in this library and never let her out? Why can't he just say it, and be selfish, and let her stay?
But then. She can't stay for long, anyway, can she? Not really. Not that it'll hurt any less to let her go now, instead of later. But still. He – the other he – he is the better part of himself. The more human, the one who can give her more (relatively speaking) and – and...well, if he's honest, the parts of him that he always, always wanted her to see. To have.
He's going to give her the best of himself, and she probably won't realise that for a while, but she'll be grateful eventually, and that (though the thought makes him choke slightly) that is all that matters.
She will be happy. He promised he'll be with her forever. The other him, that is.
(This him will just have to go on and pretend he's alright. Because...well. He's always alright, and it's a line he has no choice but to find easier to spin to others each time he has to turn away from Rose Tyler.)
"All of it, all what was, is and what will be; it's all for you. For you, Rose," he whispered, praying she believed him.
She hugged him closer, tears falling down her cheeks; unable to stop crying. She couldn't voice a reply even if she truly understood the meaning behind his words; she was too choked up. And after several moments, somehow, without either of them really noticing the whys and wherefores, they'd ended up in a heap of Time Lord and human on the sofa.
And from there, after they'd realised their position...well. The kissing was inevitable. Clothes migrated. The room pretty much span. Rose laughed her happy, happy laugh and he tried not to cry. Time slowed down and space expanded and he wished it would last forever.
It didn't; couldn't possibly. Unsure of exactly how much time had passed, bodies became re-fabricated, and they smiled sheepishly at each other as they ran hands through hair and straightened themselves out.
And then he gestured with his hand and she led their way back to the console room, back to the others, back to the other him. Unwittingly, she was leading the way to her new life and what might as well be the last of his.
He held her hand for the final time, gently nudged her through the door to where the others were all waiting for them, and over the course of their goodbyes to his other friends, he silently counted to nine hundred in his head. The year, the age, at which his life had begun with her. The only life that had ever truly mattered.
And then he stopped counting, and took the remaining passengers to a beach. Not just any beach, but the beach he hated most. The beach she hated most. Life was poignant like that. Taking him back to where he said goodbye to her before, for his journey with her to finally end.
He stands alone, soaked to the skin, and stares at the time rotor, despondent and forlorn.
Oh, he's lost them all. His friends. Donna. His dear, dear Donna.
He's breaking, he can feel it. The beginnings of it, the cracks in the surface, the ripples of an earthquake waiting, starting, striking. Slowly, over the coming days, he'll unravel.
Everything's collapsing, undoing, rewinding him back to a man he used to be, before he was fixed.
At least Rose won't have to see it, he thinks.
But then again, if she were still here, he wouldn't have to feel it.
Remind him again why he sent her away?
Because he can't remember anymore. He just doesn't know.