The TARDIS door closed softly behind the Doctor. He took a couple of steps up the ramp before some movement by the console caught his eye. He lifted his heavy head. Right in front of his eyes a blonde figure faded into existence, as if she'd just walked into the Universe. After a final few steps she stopped, keeping her back to him and looking around her as if in disbelief of where she was. "Rose."
She turned to face him. "Doctor." Her face lit up. "It worked." Her smile faded as she took in his appearance, he was soaked to the skin and he looked utterly miserable, haunted even, to the point where she couldn't tell if it was rain or tears on his face.
This was all wrong. She wasn't supposed to be here; she was supposed to find him on a street, not here in the TARDIS. "You can't be here." He was rooted to the spot but glad of it; he didn't trust himself to move without pulling her into his embrace and refusing to ever let go. "You have to keep going, make the jump again." He smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. "Save the Universe, Rose Tyler."
Rose's brow furrowed with a mix of confusion and distress, it took all her self control not to break down, she had come so far and he wanted her to leave. Then she remembered what she was wearing; that purple leather jacket and now she saw what he thought had happened. "He died."
From the look in her eyes he knew exactly who she meant and his hearts wrenched for her. "Oh Rose." His gaze met hers; the pain in his eyes increasing if that was even possible.
She took a few steps towards him. "Hug?" She was hesitant, her voice quiet like she could barely articulate the word; terrified he'd refuse her despite the fact they both needed it.
"I'm not sure I can do this." He ran his fingers through his hair; he had no idea where the self control came from. "Not if I'm just going to lose you again. I've lost you too many times already."
"Listen to what the TARDIS is telling you. I'm not ageing." He stared speechless at her; it was true, he could feel the warm purr in his mind telling him so. "I don't know if it's since Bad Wolf or from a combination of that and crossing the Void, but I'm not ageing."
He closed the gap between them and wrapped her in his embrace. "I'm so sorry." He buried his face in her hair as she pressed hers into his neck. "If I'd known…"
"But you didn't." She cut him off, arms wrapping tighter around him. "Neither did I; no one did." He pulled her closer if that was even possible, mumbling some words that were lost in her hair. "It wasn't your fault."
He choked back the tears, filled with so many emotions that he didn't know what to do with them. Rose Tyler was here, his Rose was in his arms and at least part Time Lord; they could finally have their forever. But then there was Donna, his best friend that could never remember even a second of their adventures together. "She's forgotten."
Rose pulled back just enough so she could see his face, he had tears in his eyes and looked completely devastated. She willing opened her mind to him when his consciousness pushed against hers; his thoughts drifted amongst her own, telling her exactly what he meant. She leant up and kissed his forehead, then held his head against her shoulder. "You'll never forget though."
"I wiped her memory. She can never remember because of me." The words were strained, his throat dry.
"She's alive because of you." Her voice was soft but still she sounded sure of herself.
"You always know just what to say." The Doctor smiled the slightest bit, actually meaning it which was surprising when not so long ago he had doubted he would ever truly smile again. "Oh I've missed you." He squeezed her. "So, so much."
She squeezed back. "Missed you too."
He was silent for a moment. "Don't you mean him?"
Rose's heart wrenched; the fear and doubt in his voice shook her to her very core. Her hands framed his face as she looked him in the eye. "He might have looked like you, had the same memories, and some of the same traits but he was always his own man. He's not you." She leant forward, pressing her forehead up against his. "I'm here now, with you, and I love you." She slipped her hands into his hair and firmly kissed him in the hope of demonstrating exactly how she felt.
"Rose." He breathed against her lips, struck by the sudden realization that he could finally say the words he'd been so terrified of; he wasn't about to lose her from the frailty of being human, this was the forever she'd promised. "I love you." He softly kissed her, just like he'd always wanted to; not to save her life, not to celebrate being alive, but just for the sake of it, because he could and because he loved her. "I am so in love with you, and have been for so, so long. I'm just…" Rose couldn't keep the smile off her face; he could babble about anything once he started, so she leant up and kissed him to make him stop. "Sorry I never said so." He finished, the words barely came out but there was so much regret in his voice.
"Not in so many words, but I knew! Of course I knew!" She leant her forehead back against his. "You showed me every single day! It was in your eyes and your smile and the way you hugged me." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close again. "I wanted to hear the words but I always knew." The TARDIS fluttered in their minds making Rose laugh and reminding the Doctor how much he loved that beautiful sound. "I think she's saying that she knew too." She leisurely extracted herself from him, walking over to the console and running her hands over the controls, a huge grin on her face. "Oh she's a clever old girl." The Doctor stepped beside Rose, holding out his hand and wriggling his fingers. She dropped her gaze to his outstretched hand as she took it, fingers curling into place between his. "She must have felt the presence of my key." She fingered her TARDIS key where it hung around her neck and looked up to see him looking back at her. "Felt me searching and pulled me here."
"Right where you're needed." He added, gently squeezing her hand. "You know she loves you, right?" Rose smiled as he ran his other hand through her hair. "Sometimes I think more than me. She doesn't communicate with just anyone, or let them look into her heart the way you did."
"Maybe she just doesn't want either of us to be lonely."
"Maybe." He pulled her close and kissed her temple. "Thank you."