Always

There's quiet.

Amy and Rory are off sleeping or something else humans do, and the TARDIS is having a little rest, powering down for a short while, recuperating from a little bash on their last trip.

Consequently - and it feels like it's for the first time since he regenerated, but maybe he's just getting old, maybe the running and the noise are more obvious, now – there is peace.

He pretends it doesn't give him shivers. He pretends that the thoughts ticking over in his mind will not send him mad if he doesn't find some sort of distraction soon.

And then, a slow smile creeps onto his face.

Because it's at times like these when he can turn around, face the other direction, and imagine she's there. Standing behind him, teasing little smile on her face, tongue poking out between her teeth, at the console. A different console.

Of course, new TARDIS, now - on the inside, anyway.

Well.

Of course, new man, now.

Just on the outside, though.

Thoughts, feelings, memories; they're what count. When you live a long life like him, with the ability to cheat death and change every atom in your body, they kind of have to be. And he is the same, in those things. Those things that make a man.

He is the same. Always.

And so he imagines she's there. Imagines so hard that for those brief moments of suspended time, he's right where he's supposed to be. The Doctor. In the TARDIS. With Rose Tyler.

He does not turn around to face the empty space for an indeterminable amount of time. It is only when Rory and Amy come down the steps calling his name, when they are breaking the quiet that he'd been filling with memories of her voice, and when they are asking him where their adventuring through time and space will take them next, that he sniffs, blinks and retreats back into reality.

He smiles, and does not tell them further than we've ever gone before. He does not tell them your wish is my command. He does not tell them that he was like Rory, once; holding hands with the girl he loves. He does not tell them that the girl was Rose Tyler, or that Rose Tyler is brilliant, or that Rose Tyler is human, or that, because he is not, he gave her a him who is (partly). He does not tell them that this hurts him every day, though he tries to ignore it.

He does not tell them any of these things. For he does not think they'd quite believe him.

Alien, him. And he feels more like one with each lonely moment that passes.

He tries not to take them anywhere he's been with her, but they touched so many stars, the Doctor and Rose, even in their short time together, that it's difficult to resist temptation

I could see her, just a glimpse...or...or not, I mean, imagine...imagine that, one last day with my -

and bypass the bits of the universe with her still in it.

Still. Best not indulge in that sort of wishful thinking. The sort that makes him question how flexible the rules of the continuum really are. He thinks, perhaps, in his wildest, most complex rationalisations, that maybe he could slightly bend them -

But no. No, it just can't be. Sure, time can be rewritten. But not that much.

So. Best play it safe. Timelines and all that.

He tells them he'll take them to Rio. Never been to Rio with Rose.