Journey's Beginning

Rose had listened with only half an ear as Jackie told the…Doctor copy, clone, number two….about her new baby brother, Tony. Her mind had been in a sort of numb state of ecstasy in the T.A.R.D.I.S., when she had been right there, where she belonged, at the Doctor's side.

But here, feeling her sneakers sink slightly into the sand, as she gazed over the waves and felt the cold wind puff gently on her hair, she remembered why she had come here last time. Tears built around her eyes almost as if…she couldn't say why, but she had a horrible suspicion why the Doctor had brought her here.

"Hold on, this is…the Parallel Universe, right?" She turned to look at him as he strolled up with Donna Noble.

"You're back home." Was all he said. As if that was even relevant to what was happening.

"And the walls of the world are closing again, now that the Reality Bomb never happened. It's dimensional retroclosure." Donna rattled off, looking not a little smug as everyone turned to stare at her. "See? I really get that stuff now." She gestured. The Doctor just nodded.

This was wrong. The Doctor wasn't even looking at her…he was looking completely at Donna. She was the companion…but what did that make Rose? What happened to her, to him, to their…love? She realized her voice was breaking with the hopeless feeling, the helplessness she always felt when trying to go against him in this one matter. "No but…I spent all that time trying to find you! I'm not going back now." She forced some will power into the final phrase. She was not going back.

He stepped forward intently. His attention was on her again, but this wasn't the kind she sought. His eyes were hurting, so badly. The surface was a thin veil that Rose could have punched through. "But you've got to." His hands were firmly stuck in his pockets, as if taking them out would make him loose control. "Cause we saved the Universe, but at a cost. And the cost is him." He looked up with a sort of grimness at the man behind her.

Rose didn't even look back, feeling her eyes redden. No…no.

But the Doctor spoke on. Rose could feel his two hearts hurting underneath, throbbing with pain. How could a man not listen to his hearts? How could he look right through her tears, and spout out a load of rubbish? "He destroyed the Daleks. He committed Genocide." His face was reproachful and stern now, talking over her head. "He's too dangerous to be left on his own."

At that, the Meta Crisis Doctor stirred. "You made me!" Rose could hear the fear in his voice. Fear of separation from space and time. She could sympathize.

"Exactly! You were born in battle: full of blood and anger and revenge." This time, he looked down, he met Rose's gaze. She saw the hurt there again. Why couldn't he just come out and say it? Why was he hurting both of them? "Remind you of someone?" He asked.

Rose looked away from him, out to sea, as if hoping to find sense in the changeless tide. She didn't want to play this little game. She was angry now. But the anger was nothing compared to the agony.

"That's me, when we first met."

Shocked, she looked at him. This was his plan? No. Never. She couldn't.

Before she could voice this, he continued. "And you made me better." His face was gentler now, and she remembered those wonderful days in the past. By making him better, she had given him love. She had taught him how to break his hearts, and how to heal them. She couldn't give her love to anyone else, no matter how much they needed that. "Now you can do the same for him."

She shook her head a little, trying to work up the courage not to beg him, on her knees, to take her with him. Of course he would say yes. He would scoop her up and whizz her back through the stars. But it wouldn't be free, and it wouldn't be right. She had already confessed her love for him; he had to answer. "But it's not you."

"He needs you, and that's very me." The Doctor said. Just a few words, and they meant so much. He could find a million words that said 'I love you', without saying 'I love you'.

"But…but it's better than that though." Donna spoke up again. Somewhere beyond her misery, Rose noticed with a start that even Donna seemed to be putting on a fake smile. "Don't you see what he's trying to give you? Tell her, go on." She said urgently.

Rose finally turned, almost with dread, to look at the Meta Crisis Doctor. He looked at her. Rose saw his eyes, and nearly yelped with surprise and joy. There was her Doctor! The sorrow, the joy, the flying stars, the timelessness, the fire, the ice, all storming beneath his eyes in a breath stealing moment…but even there, she saw something was missing.

The Meta Crisis spoke, almost offhandedly. "I look like him, I think like him, same memories, same thoughts, same everything. Except…I've only got one heart."

"Which means?" Rose could tell where this was leading. But like a child in a dream, she lived on every word he spoke.

"I'm part human. Specifically the aging part. I'll grow old and never regenerate. I've only got one life, Rose Tyler. I could spend it with you…If you want."

The idea…"You could grow old at the same time as me." She could finally share her life, her experience, even her world with the Doctor. The Doctor.

"Together."

Rose couldn't believe it. She reached forward and placed a gentle hand on his chest, and heard it. Thump thump. Thump thump.

Whiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrr. A groan from the T.A.R.D.I.S. disturbed everybody. Rose could sense false joviality in that call.

"We've gotta go." The Doctor spoke out. "This reality's sealing itself off, forever." And he turned to go.

Just like that. He just turned and left her.

"But…" She ran. Her feet took off without her. She ran, protesting, almost begging. She saw the hurt in his eyes as he turned to her, trying to look stern. "It's still not right. Cause…the Doctor is…still you."

Everyone was painting this with happy suns and rainbows. Why was everyone so sad? Because something was wrong. Rose knew by the empty feeling where her stomach should be, the numbness of her mind, the freezing feeling in her heart. The world was moving away without her. The Doctor was leaving her. She had worked so hard to find him again, only to lose him? Doctor…tell me the truth. Don't leave. Face the future…don't run. Please.

But he didn't hear. He spoke like a machine. "And I'm him."

"Alright." She would make him say it. She KNEW he would say it. He had to. For both their sakes. He had to. "Both of you, answer me this." She turned to give a glance to the Meta Crisis Doctor, who came forward.

The Doctor took a step forward as well. That's good. Rose thought. Little bit of enthusiasm.

But she felt she had to look at the Doctor. The real Doctor. "When I last stood on this beach on the worst day of my life, what was the last thing you said to me?" Of course he would say it. She prodded him. "Go on, say it."

He seemed to have difficulty speaking, swallowing before he opened his mouth. His whole aspect was restrained and tense, like someone having his teeth pulled without anesthetic. "I said Rose Tyler."

"Yeah, and, how was that sentence gonna end?" She frowned a little.

He looked at her…it seemed ages. The words were forced and distant to the physical ear, but to her heart they were full of such passion, such emotion, such heartbreak. "Does it need saying?"

That was it? For one second, Rose got tired of trying to make this wonderful yet strange man to open his hearts, to find happiness. She almost turned to the human Doctor, to ask him. But, as she stared reproachfully into the Doctor's eyes, she saw what had been missing in the Meta-Crisis' eyes, that one element that had meant the world to her, made her sacrifice her family and safety for the sake of his smile. The one element that was for her, and her alone.

The love.

Oh my poor Doctor.

She grabbed his lapels, completely surprising him as she pulled him forward. "Doctor, look me in the eyes. Think of what we've done together, think of all we could do. He's not you, and you know it. I don't love a copy. I love you. Just say it. Say the truth. Don't run."

His mouth opened, his brown eyes still hurt and sad. He shook his head, eyes not leaving hers.

Her hands crawled up to either side of his head, holding it steady, forcing him to be still. "How was that sentence gonna end?" She said firmly, practically ordering him with every force of her will to say what his hearts screamed.

He gazed at her, his eyebrows sad. He had been so prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Now he was being pulled out of his shell, his plans being ripped to shreds by the brown-eyed gaze of Rose Tyler.

"I…" He halted, like a baby trying to say his first words.

"That's it. Just say it. Say it Doctor." Rose's hands travelled to behind his neck.

He heard her voice, felt her arms around his neck, met her gaze squarely, and all his strength of will fell like a tower, with a crash. He was shaking. The words came, trembling like mad, small, weak, almost whispered, but they came.

"I…love you."

Immediately when they were out, his arms wrapped fiercely of their own accord, drowning Rose in his sudden, desperate strength. For a few seconds, they simply clung to each other, supporting each other.

And then the Doctor tipped Rose's head back, his eyes suddenly so strong and daring and full of fire. He had done the impossible, had flaunted the laws of time themselves, for love. He had thrown cares to the wind, forgotten boundaries, and broken his hard shields for love. She felt a fierce pride and fulfillment welling in her. He had done it. She had done it.

They kissed.

Donna, with a strange little smile, went to stand by the Meta Crisis Doctor, who was staring fixedly at the sand, more from modesty than disappointment. He had no love for Rose really, just a great fondness. He sensed her presence and looked at her. They smiled at each other.

It was almost 10 minutes before the Doctor and Rose separated. He put an arm around her shoulders, literally pulling her towards the T.A.R.D.I.S. before he wheeled around suddenly. "Oi wait a minute…what about you lot? Rassilon! What do I do with you?'

Donna grinned. "Well you might give us a piece of T.A.R.D.I.S. metaplasm."

"The what?" Rose asked.

"Brilliant! One sec!" The Doctor was gone in a flash, barely leaving footprints in the sand.

"What's metaplasm?"

"Piece of the T.A.R.D.I.S. structure that's imbibed with artron energy…oi, wait a tic…that takes hundreds of years to grow!" The Meta Crises Doctor ended, turning to look at Donna.

"You dumbo." Donna said affectionately. "If we shatterfry the plasmic shell and modify the dimensional stabilizer to a foldback harmonic of 36.3, we'll accelerate the growth by the power of 59!"

The MetaCrisis Doctor raised his eyebrows. "You're brilliant."

Donna could not possibly look any smugger. "I know."

The Doctor trotted back out, tossing a piece of coral at the MetaCrisis Doctor. "There ya go! Donna talked about it earlier. Brilliant she is. She said we…"

"She told me." The MetaCrisis interrupted. The Doctor quieted down and took Rose's hand, looking at Donna and the MetaCrisis holding opposite hands. "You know…about the MetaCrisis…it can't work."

Donna opened her mouth to retort, but then looked down at the sand. "I don't care. I'm not going back."

"No. You're not going back. You and him, you complete each other. The Timelord minds, the human bodies. You'll keep each other alive and stable. You'll be unstoppable."

Donna and the MetaCrisis grinned first at the Doctor and then at each other. Oh yes, they'd be unstoppable.

Jackie walked around them and towards Rose, eyes hard. "Rose…"

"Mum." Rose took both her hands. "I…"

"No." The shorter woman cut her off. "Just listen to me, for once. I saw how you were when you lost him, at the Battle of Canary Warf. I saw how you were when you thought you could find him again. I see how you are now, that you've finally got this skinny excuse for a Timelord. And I understand. It still hurts, but I understand." She pulled Rose into a hug.

"Love you, Mum. You're wonderful." Rose sniffed into her shoulder.

Then, quietly, she turned and took the Doctor's hand, and he smiled at her. Without looking back, she stepped into the T.A.R.D.I.S., into space, into time, into love.

And slowly, the police box faded.

FINIS