Author Note: This story is very A/U.
Rose is dying.
The doctors keep trying to tell her otherwise, tell her that there's a chance she might pull through, but she quite frankly knows that it's all bollocks. She's going to die, very soon now and there isn't a thing that their drugs and needles will be able to do, except prolong her life for a few more miserable days that she really doesn't want.
She doesn't leave her bed anymore. She wouldn't even if she did have the energy to do more than sit up and look out the window of her flat. Her blond hair is all gone, ripped out by the chemotherapy that was supposed to rip out the cancer from her body. Even her eyebrows are gone, leaving her face a smooth, white surface, much like an egg, she supposes. She's lost weight, leaving her bones to press against her skin more and more with each passing day. Her veins are visible as a map of thin blue lines, going up and down her arms and chest. She doesn't want anyone to see her, not even her mum.
The only person she wants to see is the Doctor.
He's been gone for ten years now and not a day goes by that she doesn't think of him, that she doesn't wish for his presence. She's tried desperately to fill the empty space in her heart that he left behind, trying out other men and going on blind dates, but nothing worked. They were all nice to her and treated her with kindness but they simply weren't him. They simply couldn't hold her attention, with their tales of rock-climbing and white-water rafting and long hikes through the wilderness.
She wants to tell them that she's fought aliens, that she's been to the farthest reaches of the universe, that she's confronted things most people only see in their nightmares. She wants to tell them that their tales of earthly adventures were no more exciting to her than watching paint dry.
She wants to tell them that she's in love with a crazy man with a big blue box. Instead, she merely smiles throughout their attempts to impress her before never calling them back for a second date. This was before the cancer, of course. She hasn't been on a date since that one day in the doctor's office, when he'd told her that the only chance of stopping her cells from destroying themselves was to launch an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. She thought that he might have showed up then, that the TARDIS might have popped up in the street that evening so that he could whisk her away to a distant planet where cancer was a joker's disease.
Nothing, of course. She didn't know why she kidded herself in the first place. He hadn't shown up in the ten years previous, no matter what the occasion. She'd passed ten birthdays alone, staring up at the stars, getting more and more intoxicated as she realized that he wasn't going to come back; at least not that year. But every year, that glimmer of hope remained, small as it was, that he would remember her birthday and come back from across the galaxy with tales and gifts and he wouldn't even know that he'd been gone ten years and she would have forgiven him.
But now she was dying and she knew that he wasn't going to come back.
There's a nurse that lives in her flat now, doing some cleaning and cooking and basically making sure that she dies in comfort but, on most days, Rose just wishes she would go away. She really doesn't care if her floors are vacuumed or if the windows are clean or if she's getting a decent meal. These things don't equal a comfortable death to her; they just equal the death everyone else wants.
The weeks slide by, one flowing into the other and eventually, Rose fires the nurse. Her mum declares herself as the replacement but Rose just gives her the same treatment. She doesn't touch her food, leaving homemade soup and bread to be tossed out. When her mum tries to vacuum her room or open the window, Rose just screams at her until she gets out. Her skin is oily but eventually, she just gets used to it, like she gets used to everything else. Each passing day leaves with a little bit of her energy, rendering her more and more helpless. One night, her mum drags her into the tub to bathe her and all she can do is weakly cry, like a newborn kitten, blind and deaf.
When the sun comes up the next morning, she can't open her eyes to see it. The glow bathes her face with warmth but her lids refuse to slide up. The sun was the last thing that she'd been living for so she gives up, letting her body just sink into the mattress, willing herself to become one with its surface. She thinks that her mum comes in at one point but she doesn't spend any time on it.
This is the day that she will die.
When she first hears the noise, she smiles, believing that she's finally passed on to Heaven. She sighs deeply, waiting for her eyes to spring open of their own accord and reveal the afterlife to her. She expects to wake up with all her hair back, to be able to walk again, to see her friends that have already gone before her.
She doesn't expect to hear his. voice.
The few remaining bits of energy in her body group together to make her eyes fly open. The TARDIS is sitting in the corner of her bedroom, barely squeezing between her bed and wall. Standing in front of it, The Doctor is holding a bouquet of flowers that are a cornucopia of colors, reds and pinks and blues. Rose can smell the aroma of bananas floating from them and she briefly smiles, remembering exactly where they're from. When they drop to the floor, she looks back up into the Doctor's eyes and sees that he's crying, tears silently falling onto her carpet.
"Rose, what happened?" His voice is hardly louder than a whisper, nearly getting lost amongst the noise of her mum vacuuming in the other room. "Where did... what... how?" It's the first time she can remember where he's actually been rendered speechless.
"What happened to me?" she asks softly, suddenly feeling very self-conscious about her lack of hair and her skeletal face. "What happened to you? It's been ten years, Doctor!"
"I know and I'm so sorry but everything was just a bloody mess, all over the universe and I ended up in jail for a bit and then..." Rose sighs deeply, smiling despite the thoughts racing through her head. Even after a decade, she can't stay angry at The Doctor; she simply can't.
"Rose?" Rose snaps her eyes back open; she hadn't even realized that she'd closed them again. Despite her happiness, her body won't change its mind. If possible, she's getting even weaker, her awareness being torn away by sneaky fingers.
"I'm still here," she whispers, smiling as The Doctor kneels beside the bed, flowers forgotten on the floor. He's smiling as well but it doesn't reach his eyes; his eternally sad eyes, filled with the grief of hundreds of years of death.
"Would you mind one last trip?" he asks, glancing sideways towards the TARDIS.
Rose doesn't even realize that she'd fallen asleep until her eyes spring open, revealing to her the gleaming control room of the TARDIS. She's lying on some sort of small couch that she's never seen before, made of some silky-smooth, violet fabric that's pleasantly cool underneath her skin. The Doctor himself is standing across from her, flicking switches and knobs like usual, although his heart is certainly not into it. His fingers only barely move to make the appropriate action while before, his entire arm would be thrown into the mix, making him resemble a drunkard or maniac.
Rose can't help but smile when she realizes that the Doctor is a manic. She wants to say something to him but he turns around first, the corners of his mouth turning up slightly in a mockery of a smile. His eyes are more red than before and if the moment wasn't so serious, she'd ask him if he'd been experimenting with her makeup.
But she hasn't worn makeup for months now and they both know that the entire time Rose was asleep, he'd been sobbing his eyes out, hoping to every omnipotent entity in the galaxy that she'd wake up, just for a few more moments, so that he could say goodbye. But now, he doesn't know how to say it; he's forgotten how to properly say goodbye. So instead, he gently pulls Rose to her feet, supporting her meagre weight with his arm, and lets the TARDIS hover in space, far away from any planets. By the time they get to the door, Rose's pitiful energy is completely zapped again and she practically collapses to the floor, leaning heavily on the wall as the Doctor opens the door before sitting back down.
The scene in front of them is, in the Doctor's eyes, rather simple. It's merely a never-ending expanse of stars, stretching on and on into infinity. To Rose however, it's beautiful. She rests her head on the Doctor's shoulder, his jacket gently scratching her cheek, and slides her fingers into his. She's so, so tired but she doesn't try to fight it anymore. With her feet curled up towards her body, she sighs heavily, letting every last ounce of breath in her lungs fall out.
"I'm so sorry Rose." The Doctor is speaking quietly but his voice still manages to fill the air around her, eliminating the silence of the stars. "I'm so sorry that I missed all your birthdays and that I was too late to..." He pauses, bringing in a watery breath before continuing.
"... to save you. I just wish-"
"Shush." With her eyes half-lidded, she tilts her chin up to gently lay a kiss on his neck; she doesn't have enough energy to reach his lips. He sighs and returns the favour to her smooth scalp. He just wishes that he knew what to do, how to help her, how to make her die happy after he's made her sad for so, so long. He's so distracted by his own thinking that he only barely feels her fingers squeeze his extra tightly before letting go completely, sliding from his grasp. He jolts up slightly and she falls sideways, eyes closed.
She's gone. The tears immediately come back in full force and the Doctor pulls her body towards him, letting tears fall onto her snowy skin. He hadn't even told her that he loved her; she knew, of course, he knew that she knew but he couldn't even do that before she died. He looks down into her face, beautiful even after it's been ravaged by cancer and pauses, cradling her still-warm head in his hand.
She's smiling. Even with her eyes only half-closed, there's a smile frozen on her pale lips, not moving. The Doctor can only stare at it for a few moments, feeling hundreds of different emotions run through his head, none of them sticking. What finally remains is a strange mixture of pure, unfiltered love, sadness and relief. It suddenly becomes very clear to him that the squeeze of her hand had been much more than a last muscle movement, a mere twitch as she passed on. That last squeeze had said more than all his babbling had done.
I forgive you Doctor. I love you too.
With the stars as his witness, The Doctor continues to cry, holding Rose still, but the tears are bitter-sweet. He knows that he will probably never love another human as strongly as he'd loved his poor, beautiful Rose Tyler but he also knows something else.
No one will ever love him as much as she had. And, for the moment being, when it was just him and the TARDIS and billions of silent stars, he decided that he could live with that.