A/N: This will be a four chapter story. Set during and after GitF. Do not, I repeat not, be alarmed by the existence of Reinette in this chapter. Hope you enjoy!
Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.
She walked into the room and watched him staring out of the window, up at the stars, with such melancholy written all over his face that her heart sank.
"You feel trapped," Reinette observed.
"No, I don't," the Doctor denied.
"Yes you do. I think you look out there and you see all you miss; all those stars and all those planets. The slow path will drive you to despair. You are restricted to one time, one place, and you are condemned to live it out in a linear fashion; something you are not accustomed to."
"It's not that," he replied shortly.
Reinette smiled to herself. "No, I don't suppose it is."
He glanced at her. "What does that mean?"
"I am not a fool, Doctor. She is lost to you now, and you regret leaving her." She prided herself on keeping her voice steady, and offered him a graceful smile.
He looked away; back up at the stars, back up at where Rose was, somewhere, somewhen; far from now and at that very moment. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"There is no need to apologise, Doctor," she replied. "Matters of the heart might not always be convenient, but they cannot be repented."
The Doctor scoffed quietly. "If I don't get back, she'll never know," he pondered sadly.
She arched an eyebrow. "Know what?"
"She must, though. Deep down," he sniffed. "She must've been able to tell."
"Tell of what?" she persisted. She may have been inside his head, but it had not been long enough for her to reach his deepest, most precious memories, desires or feelings. It was the way he looked at Rose, and the way he was acting now, that revealed to her exactly what he was talking about, though he did not explicitly say.
"Unless this has changed her mind. Unless me, coming here, has made her think she's got things wrong..." he said then. That thought didn't sit well with him, and he shifted uneasily. "Nothing's changed, though. Just because I came here, it doesn't mean..." he trailed off, leaning against the window pane despondently as he wondered how he could justify his actions to her when he saw her again. Well. If he saw her again.
"If you can't have the one you love, love the one you are near," Reinette murmured softly.
The Doctor swallowed thickly. "I can't do that."
"You can learn," she suggested.
He shook his head, removing his glasses and rubbing at his eyes wearily. "No, I can't. I really can't. She's..."
"The only one you are supposed to love," finished Reinette. "I understand."
The Doctor sighed, wishing he had a hand to hold. Specifically, Rose's hand. But she was thousands of years away, and he felt every mile of distance between them weighing heavy on his hearts as if he'd had to walk them himself.
"I do understand," she insisted.
"Then why did you ask?"
"I didn't. I merely thought it could comfort you."
"Comfort me?" He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm so sorry," he sighed. "But that can't comfort me." He heaved a sigh. "Why do I always realise things when it's too late?"
Reinette could not answer.
"It's like...it's like, I knew how I felt about her, I honestly did – have known since preposterously early on – but I got scared, see, because things were so perfect and then, well, then I met this friend of mine, who I hadn't seen for years and years, and it made me realise how fleeting Rose's life would really be, made me realise she would leave me, at some point, and I realised how naive and silly and young I had been acting, thinking she and I could..." he broke off, his eyes widening as he turned to face her. He tugged at his ear sheepishly. "I'm really sorry, I shouldn't be saying all of this, I - "
Reinette swallowed hard and shook her head. "It's fine, Doctor. You may continue, if it is helpful for you, to come to terms with things."
He rubbed at his eyes again. "I don't know what to do."
She stepped closer to him, her hands demurely folded in front of her as she walked. "Continue, Doctor," she commanded softly.
"I..." he started. He closed his eyes and leant against the wall. "I invited her old boyfriend to come along with us," he admitted. He opened one eye, saw that Reinette had raised a pitying eyebrow, and closed it again, groaning. "I know, I know. It was really stupid. Really, really stupid. I thought I ought to put some distance between us, see, and Mickey being there was the way to do that. But, well...he's a good bloke and that, but I wouldn't say I enjoy him being with us. Dividing Rose's attention. Stealing my seat next to hers at the table. Making her laugh." He sniffed, and folded his arms. "My own fault; but it's awful having to share her."
Reinette tutted and he opened his eyes. "What?" he retorted defensively.
"You really have no idea how to deal with being in love, do you?" she asked him gently.
He swallowed thickly. "She's going to die, and I'll have to live on without her for the rest of my life," he whispered furiously. "So no, I don't know how to deal with being in love with her."
"Inviting her previous lover on your travels with you and jumping through a mirror to the past to save a woman you hardly know is surely, obviously, not the way to do it, though?" Reinette observed, her eyebrows rising to her hairline.
He stared at the floor, shrugged one shoulder and mumbled, "S'pose not." Like a sulky teenager.
"Even if you push her away, even if you don't let anything more happen between you, you're too far gone not to hurt in the most painful way possible when you lose her, Doctor."
"I know!" he exclaimed loudly, his head snapping back up to look at her, his eyes blazing. Reinette took a step back in shock, and he shook his head at himself, feeling guilty again. "I know," he repeated, more quietly.
"Why did you do it?" she asked quietly, even as she dreaded the answer.
"Why did you leave her there and rescue me on your own? You must know that she cares about you enough that she would have come with you, if you'd asked."
"Exactly," he sighed. "But firstly, I couldn't condemn her to this, living the rest of her days out of her time. So I couldn't even ask her, or else she'd do exactly that, for me. And later, she'd have resented me for it. Secondly, if she's there, well – she's clever, maybe she'll figure out a way to get me back..." he trailed off, thinking about that for a moment, before hurrying on, "And thirdly, I thought I might be able to pretend."
"Pretend?" Reinette questioned, swallowing against the lump in her throat.
"I'm not proud of it, but for that split instant, I truly believed that being away from her and her ridiculously gorgeous smile for a bit, I could pretend it doesn't bloody well make me want to kiss her every minute of the damn bloody day." He let out a long whoosh of breath and looked at Reinette apologetically. "And I really shouldn't have just said that out loud."
She shook her head slightly. "I cannot blame you. You are distressed. You miss her. Maybe I used to think that I could consider you as mine, seeing you at different points across my life as I was. I realise, now, that this was never the case. Your hearts belong to dear Rose, and I shan't attempt to take them from her, for I know I would not succeed."
"I am sorry, Reinette. You're a beautiful woman and incredibly intelligent, and the way you saw into my mind like that, I...I...but I just, I simply can't..."
"I know. You love her too fiercely for there to be room for another."
"But you can come with us, if I find a way back," he suggested. "I know you want to see the World, and believe me, you'll see more than that."
"I'd like that," replied Reinette gratefully. She may not be able to have the Doctor in quite the way she desired, but even his friendship – and Rose's – would still be worth the monsters.