Rose's eyes met the Doctor's and she said. "It's really there, right?"
"Oh, yes." The Doctor replied emphatically. "Oh, I am so so brilliant!"
They both scrambled out of their booth, nearly knocking over the bored waitress, who was bringing their drinks.
"Sorry!" Rose said.
"Make 'em to go!" The Doctor ordered enthusiastically and raced out the door like a shot.
Rose followed him as he skidded around the far corner of the diner and came to a panting stop.
There it stood.
The Doctor was frozen. Staring at it. "But that's my TARDIS." He said quietly to himself. "How...?"
"Doctor?" Rose stood behind him. "What's wrong?"
The Doctor walked up to the blue box and pressed his palm against it. Then reached into his pocket and produced a key. A twist of the lock and the door swung open with a creak in its hinges.
The Doctor stepped inside and Rose followed him.
"Doctor, it's the TARDIS!" Rose said, not understanding his suddenly troubled pensiveness.
"Yes, yes. But you're so old, girl." The Doctor said. He stroked the console and patted the engines.
"Isn't this good?" Rose asked.
"I don't understand." The Doctor said to himself. "This isn't the plan."
"It was a mad plan." Came an unfamiliar voice from the shadows of a hallway. A very young man stepped slowly into the console room and faced them. "Rose." He said.
Rose stared at the newcomer. He was of medium height, slim, and about her age with a shock of wild ginger hair. He was wearing a dark blue corduroy jacket, a grey t-shirt, jeans, and black Chuck Taylor-style plimsolls. He was a stranger. Then she got closer and she saw his eyes. Ancient eyes. "D-Doctor?" She said.
The young man gave a crooked smile and lifted his shoulders in a shrug. "Finally ginger." He said, pointing at his head.
Rose gave a strangled laugh. The ginger Doctor stepped forward, holding onto a railing, with the crooked little smile still in place. "Hello." He said.
"You regenerated." Rose said.
"Yes." He replied apologetically.
"Since yesterday?" Rose asked.
"No, Rose." Her dark-haired Doctor finally stepped in, the troubled expression still on his face. "For us, yesterday. For him...a hundred years? No. A hundred and thirteen."
"What?" Rose said in shock.
"How many times?" Rose's Doctor asked the young-looking man.
"Two." The reply was short, gruff.
"I see." Rose's Doctor said grimly.
"I don't." Rose protested. "What's going on?"
"How long have you got?" Rose's Doctor asked.
The ginger Doctor smiled. "Not long." He said. "A few minutes."
"Someone tell me what's going on!" Rose demanded testily. "It's like you're speaking code." She directed this complaint to her tall, dark-haired Doctor.
"Rose, you see...even Time Lords don't go on forever." He replied after a long pause. "Everything dies."
"He's dying?" Rose gasped. She turned to the ginger Doctor. "Can't you just regenerate?"
He smiled at her, his eyes lighting with some warmth. "Rose Tyler." He said. He swallowed hard. "No, I can't. I'm sorry. We only get so many goes."
"He and I thought...well, maybe he'd have time to grow a TARDIS for us, Rose. He could bring it to us just before the doors between the universes closed." Her Doctor said. "It was a mad plan. TARDIS's take hundreds of years to grow and I've never been lucky with lifespans. And you could've crushed two universes in the process!" He said the last with some heat.
"I ran into some trouble...and, well, you see. Then I knew I couldn't grow one in time, so I brought you this one. Got through the void just in time. Didn't get the place quite right, though. Croydon instead of Norway..." The young ginger Doctor cut off and gritted his teeth. Sweat beaded his forehead and he sat down abruptly on the floor in the console room. "Sorry. Hurts." He said.
Rose knelt beside him and touched his face.
He gazed up at her, his face terribly pale, and gripped her hand against his cheek. "Has he been good to you? Have you been happy?" He asked it desperately.
"Yes. It hasn't been long, but yes." Rose said. She was starting to cry and she looked up to her Doctor. He looked back at her with his own ancient dark eyes. He walked over to them, crouched beside her, and put a strong arm around her.
"Good." The ginger Doctor said, his clutch on her hand relaxing. "That's good. No more regrets then." He said with a deep sigh. His body shook and Rose put her arms around him.
"How did this happen?" The brown-haired Doctor said gruffly.
"Doesn't matter." The dying Doctor said. "Doesn't matter. I brought her back to you. The TARDIS. So now I've given you everything I love." He gave another deep sigh and a cloud of gold light puffed from between his lips. He gave a tired chuckle. "S'pose that's enough to get me to heaven?" He asked.
"Doctor!" Rose whispered, it was a sob. "Don't go."
"He has to, Rose." Her Doctor said gently. He swallowed hard, watching himself growing weaker and weaker. "It's time."
"It's time." The ginger Doctor agreed. Another cloud of gold energy escaped with his breath. "It's Time." He repeated. His voice was just a rattle in his chest and he closed his eyes as his last, long breath rushed from his lungs, filling the TARDIS with a moment of bright golden light.
Then it was dark.
"No!" Rose begged, holding his lifeless body even as her brown-haired Doctor held her. She rocked him slowly and then lay him down, turning into her Doctor's arms with a deep, wrenching sob.
They sat on the floor of the TARDIS, huddled, until Rose's weeping relented. The Doctor held her tight, his own eyes bright with unshed tears.
He gently tilted Rose's face up to his and kissed her gently. She sniffled and sighed, resting her head against his chest. "What should we do?"
"Give him a proper Time Lord burial." The Doctor replied. He gave a bitter laugh. "That's a bit surreal, even for me. Giving myself a funeral."
"He came back." Rose said. "Could he have come back anytime?"
"No. He couldn't. It was insanely risky. It really could've collapsed two universes. I'm surprised he tried it, even knowing he was dying." The Doctor looked over at the pale, peaceful face of the dead Doctor. "But then I don't know what kind of man he was." He added.
"He was still the Doctor. Still you." Rose said. "He gave us each other. He gave us the TARDIS."
Rose sighed and shifted her weight. The Doctor lifted them both to their feet and then bent and carefully carried the body of the last Doctor down a long hallway until he reached his bedroom. He lay him on the bed gently, frowning in the dim light for a long moment.
Rose came up behind him and lay a hand on his shoulder.
"I told the driver he can go home." She said quietly. "Okay?"
"Yes. Yes...that is..." The Doctor paused.
"Do you want to go home? To London?" The Doctor asked.
"I want to stay with you." Rose said. "Forever."
"I go where you go." The Doctor returned seriously. "Shall we go traveling or settle down?"
"We'll have time to settle down later." Rose said, her eyes shining.
The Doctor's face blossomed into a smile. "I can take you anywhere now. No more timelines to worry about. A whole new universe and...Gallifrey. Gallifrey!" He shouted the second time. "Oh! I'd stopped hoping. But it could be there and then we could take...me...there." He started to blink back tears, all the while laughing. "I could be buried at home!"
Rose beamed up at him and he gave one long, last glance at the body of the last of the Time Lords before bolting out the door and into the console room.
Rose lingered a while. She arranged his hands peacefully on his chest, straightened his jacket and, finally, pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. It was already growing cool. "Thank you, Doctor." She whispered. "For all of this. The TARDIS, my family, him. I'll never forget you. I never could."
The rattling of the TARDIS gears caused her to take a deep breath and swallow against the tears that threatened to fall again.
She left the room and walked down the hallway. She came into the console room where a wild-haired man in a suit danced madly about the instruments, just where he belonged. As she entered he looked up and saw her. His dark shining eyes met hers as he threw a lever and the TARDIS's core whooped and sparkled.
He smiled and Rose knew that this was their day after day. This was the Doctor in the TARDIS with Rose Tyler. Just as it should be. Forever.