I was talking with a friend the other day, and the topic came up in conversation about that classic final episode of the Bob Newhart show where he woke up and discovered the entire series had been a dream. It was then this rather silly plot bunny began jumping around in my head and wouldn't let me alone until I wrote this out.
The Doctor stepped out into the heavy rain, hardly noticing the cold or the wet because he was too numb inside.
"Bye then, Wilfred," he said, his voice toneless as he walked away.
"Oh, Doctor...," Wilfred called. The Doctor turned back. "What about you, now? Who've you got? I mean, all those friends of yours...?"
The Doctor paused and looked at him for a moment, his eyes empty and sorrowful. He had no one left. "They've all got someone else." He slipped on that familiar mask once more and told that same old lie "Still, that's fine. I'm fine." A lie that fooled no one.
"I'll watch out for you, sir," Wilfred promised.
"You can't ever tell her," the Doctor warned. His beloved friend could never be allowed to even remember him.
"No, no. But every night, Doctor, when it gets dark and the stars come out, I'll look up, on her behalf, I'll look up at the sky and think of you."
The pouring rain streamed down the Doctor's face as he looked in Wilfred's sympathetic eyes. His voice broke along with his hearts as he replied. "Thank you."
The Doctor turned and walked into the TARDIS. Alone.
He stood at the console, vacantly watching the Time Rotor rhythmically rise and fall. Such a short time ago this room held so many of the people dear to his hearts. Now they were all gone. Every last one.
Martha. Brilliant Martha. She had her own amazing life now and didn't need him. She never had, really. He was the one who had needed her. She had been there for him when he so desperately needed someone. But just like all the others, she was now gone.
Donna. She was forced to forget him, but he would never forget her. Like Martha, she had been there for him when he needed her most. She had been his best friend. He just wanted a mate, but she became so much more. Almost like a sister. Now that part of Donna was dead.
Rose. How many times would he have to lose the woman he loved? Before, he had carried the tiniest bit of hope that one day, maybe, just maybe, he would find her again. But now there was an agonizing finality to her loss. He could never go back. Even if the walls between universes were to miraculously open again, he had already given her away. He had given her to a part of himself who had the courage to love her in all the ways he himself had longed to be able to, but could not.
So he was alone once again. Always alone in the end. He peeled off his sodden jacket and tossed it aside. Beneath the heavy weight of sorrow and loss, the Doctor slumped forward against the console and stared blankly ahead. After several empty minutes passed, he straightened back up. The Doctor's footsteps were heavy as he made his way over to the jump seat and sat down wearily. He was so tired. Tired of losing everyone in the end. Tired of never having the courage to reach out and take hold of what he wanted because he told himself he didn't deserve it. Maybe he didn't. But if he only had a chance to go back and re-live the past, he would do so many things differently. But he knew better than anyone that there was no going back.
He closed his eyes against the sting of tears that didn't seem to be able to fall.
If only things could have been done differently.
If only he could just go back.
Gradually, he began to hear a faint sound, like a distant echo. It grew louder and louder until there was no denying its reality. But this was impossible. Absolutely impossible. It was the sound of the voice he would forever long to hear but never again could.
His eyes were bleary as they finally opened, focusing on the impossible pink and yellow woman standing before him.
"Doctor!" she called again. He stared at her in astonishment, his mouth falling open and his eyes wide. "Blimey, you're dead to the world once you finally slow down long enough to take a nap."
"Rose?" he questioned in awe.
She furrowed her brow. "Yeah?"
"You're…you're here," he said in disbelieving wonder. "In the TARDIS…actually here!"
"'Course I'm here. Told you I'd meet you back in here once I collected my laundry. You didn't have to hide out in here though, you know. But it looked like you couldn't get away from Mum quick enough," she snickered.
Fuzzily, it was starting to come back to him. He had taken Rose to pop back and visit her mum so she could get some washing done and give Jackie the Bazoolium Rose had purchased for her at the asteroid bazaar. Upon arriving at the flat, Jackie had quite disgustingly forced herself on him and assaulted his lips with her own – the thought of which caused him to shudder from head to toe. And when he could take the company of Jackie Tyler no more, he had sulked his way back to the TARDIS.
And then…and then he'd settled himself into the jump seat, still trying to shake of the after-effects of Jackie's horrid actions when he must have drifted off to sleep.
It was a dream.
It was all a dream! All of it!
No Battle of Canary Wharf, no losing Rose, no losing Martha, no losing Donna. No losing.
He wasn't alone, with his fate sealed and far too late to change. Rose was still here – not ripped away from him; and wonderful, terrifying possibilities lie stretched out before him, his for the taking if only he had the courage.
He had the courage. Thanks to his nightmare, the Doctor was not letting his dreams slip through his fingers.
"Rose," he breathed, then his breath became a shout of joy, "Oh, Rose! It was a dream. It was all just a dream! A Jackie Tyler horror-induced nightmare!" He whooped in joy.
Rose was quickly beginning to feel concerned for him. Had he contracted some sort of alien virus that was making him delusional? Had he…eaten a pear? "Doctor, are you okay? What on Earth are you on about?"
"Everything," he replied in glee, sounding breathless. "This is about everything. About glorious second chances and not making the same mistakes twice."
The Doctor tugged on his hair, causing it to stick up in the extreme, as he paced around in circles and his brain began working overtime. "It was a dream. But dreams can have a basis in reality. Which means…," he exclaimed, as he came to a sudden halt and spun around to face her once more, "that we just may have some friends to go meet." He then began spouting off about his plans at break-neck speed. "First we'll stop off at the Royal Hope Hospital and look for a very brilliant young medical student. And this time I'm not going to be an ignorant prat sending mixed-signals." The Doctor paused and looked pointedly at Rose. "Because my signals are going to be very clear." He cleared his throat. "And this time I'll be the kind of friend I should have been the first time around."
Rose slowly shook her head, completely at a loss for what he was even talking about. She began to say something just as the Doctor went off again. "And then!" he exclaimed, "Then we'll stop off in Chiswick and look up a fiery, ginger-haired woman who knows how to put me in my place and stop me when I need stopping." The Doctor pulled on his earlobe as he stopped and thought about it for a minute. "Although, we may need to bump into her more than once. Apparently I can be just a wee bit overwhelming the first time around."
Rose was growing more confused by the minute. "Doctor, I have no idea what you're even talking about, but it sounds like the TARDIS is about to get…crowded."
"Oh, it is!" he beamed, as he shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels happily. "Isn't it brilliant? You might even have to give up your room."
"Um, okaaay," she replied slowly, now completely lost as to what he meant by all this.
The Doctor took a step towards her. "But you could always, well…share with me…?"
Share with you, Rose's lips repeated silently. "Doctor," she began, trying to keep her voice calm and measured, "what are you trying to say?"
He took another step closer, then another. "What I should have said such a long time ago. Because some things do need saying. And I'm not going to wait until it's my last chance to say it." The Doctor reached for Rose's hand and took it in his as he gazed deeply into her eyes and drew a breath. "Rose Tyler–"
"Oi!" came the raised voice of Jackie Tyler from outside the TARDIS, "Don't think you two are just gonna go swanning off again before sayin' goodbye first."
The Doctor's eyes went wide in horror. He spun around and ran like a shot down the ramp, slamming the door shut and spreading his arms wide to barricade the entrance. The Hordes of Genghis Khan might not be able to get past the door, but he wasn't taking any chances where Jackie Tyler was concerned.
Rose snorted at the comical sight he made. "What are you doing?"
"Something else I should have done a long time ago," he said gravely. "I am not letting your mother within kissing distance of me ever again."
Rose burst into a fit of laughter as she pointed a finger at him. "You're afraid of my mum!"
The Doctor scowled. "You have no idea the powers of calamity that woman has! If those Lips of Doom were to plant themselves on me again, there's no telling the hideous, dark nightmares I'd have the next time." He visibly shuddered. "I'd probably end up dreaming the entire human race had been turned into…the Master! And me, being the clever genius that I am, would undoubtedly outwit him, but only to still end up dying in the end and have the face of an…an Ood be the last thing I ever saw!"
Rose continued to laugh and shook her head. "You are such a Drama Queen."
The Doctor spluttered indignantly at that remark, but quickly sobered as he registered the intense look in her eyes as Rose slowly began advancing towards him, not stopping until they were a few inches apart, both now ignoring the irate pounding of Jackie on the other side of the door.
"Now then," Rose purred in a low, seductive tone as she traced a single finger down the front of his tie, "before we were interrupted, I believe you were about to tell me something."
The Doctor swallowed hard. "Yes."
Rose leaned forward and whispered in his ear. "Yeah? And how was that sentence gonna end?"
Much later, as the Doctor held Rose quite contentedly in his arms, he came to realize that the kisses of Tyler women were not always such a bad thing after all.