Disclaimer: I own Doctor Who, obviously. I own all eleven Doctors, and sometimes I let them out to play if they're good. Most days, I keep them inside and get them to make me tea.
A Post-Journey's End one-shot, but minus the Duplicate 10th, because I find that weird. Partly inspired by E.E Cummings's You Are Tired (I Think). Check it out, it's a beautiful poem that captures 10/Rose perfectly.
This story is continued in All the King's Men.
Reviews make me happy!
Her eternity is in a moment, and his moments are eternities. The dimension transporter sits heavy and warm between her breasts, and her legs ache from the miles of running she has been doing. She travels dimensions, traverses worlds and universes in her search. Sometimes she wishes she could forget what she was looking for, but the icy key around her neck is as potent a reminder as any.
She met a shaman once, after she saved his world from a hostile takeover. She had been preparing to leave, packing her duffel bag and reloading her gun while waiting for the rain to let up. He came up to her, and she flinched when he placed his gnarled hand atop hers. Is it worth it, he asked, whatever it is you are running from? She had paused, unwilling to talk about her ghosts with a stranger. I'm not running, she told him. I'm searching. She turned back to her pack, rechecking the straps and fixing several tears. Ah, he said from behind her. Aren't they the same thing?
By then, the storm had eased to a drizzle. She gathered her bags and left in the rain. About a mile out, she turned and looked back to the cave she had come from, where she had sought refuge with the shaman. The solitary glow from the cave's opening beckoned her, a beacon of light in the otherwise dreary world. She fingered the transporter around her neck, and found it recharged and weighty. She walked out to the darkness, and didn't look back again.
But that was the past, and now she is here, and she is running. Her lungs are screaming for air and her entire body protests and she can't stop, can't slow and she needs to get to the drop zone. The gunshot wound in her side is a gnawing, growing pain, and the hasty field bandages she had dressed it with are soaked with blood. Hers. The rebel fighters. Jane, the little Yvardian girl who died in her arms. Ivano, the guard she killed to access the mainframe. She doesn't know. Most days, she doesn't care to.
Explosions rock the ground beneath her feet, and flames engulf most of the buildings she dashes past. She trips over some debris on the ground, and lands hard on her dislocated shoulder. She bites her bottom lip to keep from keening in pain, and she tastes blood on her tongue. It is rather morbid, she supposes, that the taste is hardly foreign to her. A severed arm lies several feet in front of her, remnants of the battle and fighting that had wrecked this once-peaceful planet. The shells of houses surround her, and some still have clothes left on abandoned lines. The city is empty now, she knows, just as the houses are. She also knows that if she enters any one of these houses, she will find the bodies of their previous occupants, blackened and charred beyond recognition.
The shouts draw nearer, and she heaves herself up and resumes her escape. She is five hundred metres from the drop zone, where she can transport out to safety. The ground shakes more violently, and her pursuers are fast closing the gap between them. A jolting shake sends a shock of pain to the wound in her side, and her right hand comes away from it dripping with blood. This time, she is sure it is hers. Four hundred metres. Fire engulfs the building next to her as a bomb goes off inside it, and debris rains down on her, scratching and clawing at her skin. Three hundred metres. A bullet barely misses her, and gunshots ring loud behind her in the not-so-expansive distance. She ducks and dodges and swerves as much as she can, but the street she is running up is long and narrow and straight, and there are few places for her to take cover. Two hundred metres. She can hear their footsteps behind her, the Yvardian rebels who want her head for bringing down their revolt. They are closing in, and she doesn't dare look back. One hundred metres. The drop zone is ahead of her, and she can see it. The boundary of the community park that designates the drop zone parameter is a scant distance away, and relief is overwhelming. Fifty metres. A hand grabs her dislocated arm and she cries out from the shock and pain, and she distantly hears the rebels laugh. She wrestles with her captor, fumbling for the gun nestled against her stomach and blindly shoots. Screams of pain echo around her, and the grip on her arm slackens as she is roughly backhanded. She falls onto her back as the two remaining rebels out of the five that pursued her advance on her, and she spots the glint of a knife in the hand of one.
She takes aim, and shoots both of them squarely between the eyes. Her breathing is loud in her ears as she watches the two men slump to the ground. She is sickly fascinated by the swirling pattern their blood makes on the dusty ground, and she draws her gaze down towards the gun in her right hand. A rosewood grip, she notes. Rosewood, her mind repeats, and it is a twisted song on loop.
Later, Mickey finds her hysterical, laughing and crying amidst the debris of a fallen planet, with a gun in her hand and five dead bodies around her.
He will attempt to reason with her and to rationalize, but she will be adamant to leave, and so he will sedate her. She will not remember this.
She wakes in the Torchwood infirmary, cold and shivering in the paper hospital gown she is clad in. The gunshot wound in her side is a persistent pain, and her left arm is in a sling, but she is alive and breathing, and maybe that is something good. Her feet are bare when they touch the ground as she stands, and she wanders around the room, too restless to keep still while waiting for whoever treated her to turn up.
A set of medical tools sit on an adjacent examination table, and she picks up a pair of forceps, inspecting it before placing it back once she loses interest. The surface of the examination table is a shiny metal, and she notes that it is covered in scratches and shows wear. Her reflection is thrown back at her, and she studies her distorted image on the uneven and marred surface. The mirror above a sink across the room reflects her bruised and battered form back in startling clarity, and her now-brown locks hang listlessly around her gaunt face. She holds her own gaze in her reflection for a moment, before looking back down at the examination table.
She never liked reality anyway.
The infirmary doors swing open, and she lifts her gaze to meet that of Mickey's. There is concern and warmth in his eyes, and she can see the pity that he tries to bury within.
"The medic says you can be discharged today, so you should go home and get some rest," he tells her. Home. The word sounds foreign to her, even in her own mind. She thinks she has forgotten what it means, and though her mother and Mickey and Pete and everyone tells her that it is here, she finds herself thinking of blue boxes and trenchcoats. She pushes the thought aside.
Mickey dawdles a little, attempting to draw out their conversation. She answers his queries with short sentences and monosyllables. How are you, he will ask. I'm fine, she will reply, and this is a little meaningless ritual of theirs, pleasantries and niceties masking the hurt and pain and memories that she guard fiercely. He will ignore her lie, and she will ignore his unasked question, and they will pretend everything is alright, because I'm always all right, as she sometimes tells him, just for variation.
He leaves the infirmary shortly after, and she changes into the set of clothes that he brought for her. She dons the jeans and long-sleeved shirt and boots and jacket like armour, and she slips back into the impenetrable skin of General Rose Tyler. She sets out for her office in the top floor, and ignores the looks and whispers that follow her wherever she goes. She strips off the sling around her arm and bandage around her side in the privacy of her office, and notes with pleasure that both injuries are almost fully healed. She knows what they say about her. Ice bitch, the more vindictive ones deride. Alien, the suspicious ones whisper. Cursed, the more fanciful ones say.
She agrees with all of them a little. The circumstances of her arrival were hardly convincing; the sudden appearance of Pete Tyler's daughter-from-nowhere, possessing vast knowledge of events and technology yet to happen or be invented.
The office watches her more than she realizes. There is a photograph on her desk, they know, the only personal artifact on display. It is grainy, and someone's thumb is in the corner of the photograph. General Tyler stands at some sort of console with an odd variety of controls (a bicycle pump, really?), and her arms are around a tall man in a brown trenchcoat and pinstriped suit. His arms are around her, and both of them are grinning into the camera. They don't know who he is, and those that do know refuse to speak about it. It is intriguing and infinitely mysterious, because the General never smiles.
Rumours are rife about General Tyler. Pete's mistress, cynics claim, but that is easily dismissed with the discovery of the photograph on her desk. A stranded alien, others are convinced she is, and Rose would be amused at this almost-truth. They know nothing of the man in the photo, so they conclude that he had been one of the unlucky masses who had been upgraded and killed in the Cybermen attack.
She hears them sometimes, these rumours and suspicions about her and where she comes from. The walls and doors in Torchwood are not as thick as most people would like to think, and her sharper hearing gleans her a great deal more information, some of which she is amused by and most that she would rather have been left alone.
She settles on her chair at her desk, and stares at the photograph next to her computer terminal. It is like picking at a scab, having the photo here, but she has never been the most patient of people to wait for it to heal, and she has always liked a little pain. The office is stifling and choking and she feels trapped, so she grabs the duffel bag beneath her desk and scrabbles for the spare transporter she keeps in her drawers but doesn't really need to use.
The transporter is warm against her palm, and she finds her thoughts drawn towards a key that was once warm and glowing, the blue box that key opened, and the man in that blue box. The sun is high outside the windows, and it is a lovely April afternoon.
There are zeppelins in the sky.
She lands with a resounding thud in a deserted alley, and she shoulders her pack before stepping out onto a crowded street. This planet is faintly oriental, she notes, eyeing the florid red lanterns and dragon motifs that bedeck the stalls around her. The planet's occupants around her seemed to have discovered inter-planetary travel, and the marketplace is a hive of activity as races of all shapes and sizes barter and bargain.
She trails around the winding stalls and shops hawking their wares, and comes across a booth selling sweet-smelling buns. She buys one, paying in Druidean currency that she finds in her pocket, and wanders to the fountain in the city square. The fountain is Roman in influence, and she finds herself intrigued by the hodgepodge of architecture on this planet. She settles on a nearby bench, and watches the crowds around her.
A small hand nervously takes hers, and she is startled out of her reverie. She meets the eyes of a young child – an Illuvian native, she judges from this girl's ridged forehead and purple skin – and smiles tentatively, knowing that this race is one of tactile empaths, surrounded by legends of their fortune-telling skills.
"I tell your future for ten denarii," the girl says in halting English. Rose begins to shake her head, about to refuse, before taking in the girl's matted hair and grubby clothes and realising her poverty-stricken situation. She acquiesces, fishing out twenty denarii from her pack, pressing it into the girl's palm while telling her to keep the change. The girl makes to take Rose's hand to begin, but she holds one finger up in the universal gesture for her to wait.
Rose picks up the paper-wrapped bun she had bought from the market and gives it to the Illuvian girl, who gapes at her before devouring it in gratitude. Her heart feels lighter as she watches the girl eat, and she thinks that this is good, that maybe she is recovering, that maybe she will begin to feel again. The bells in the nearby hospital chime in alarm, and Rose makes to leave as another adventure beckons. She stands, and the girl scrambles to her feet from her perch beside her earlier.
"Miss!" The girl cries, obviously puzzled at the one-sided transaction that had just taken place. She waves the girl away as she grabs her pack and heads off in the direction of the bells.
The girl grabs her hand, and a voice fills her head. You are sad, the girl says, so very sad. Rose is vaguely aware that the girl is speaking in her native tongue and that she understands it, and she is cognizant of the gift of languages as yet another new ability of hers. I am, she replies in Illuvian, and the girl is bewildered at her knowledge of a lost language. How do you know our tongue? she asks. Rose pauses. A curse, she replies at length, smiling to show her not-jest.
The girl has serious eyes, and Rose sees the wisdom of years this girl does not have reflected in them. You are special, the girl says. Rose disengages her hand from the girl's grip, and sends her a small smile before slipping away into the night. Maybe, she wants to say, and the word lingers on the tip of her tongue.
Later, she finds herself in the operating theatre of the hospital, surrounded by medical staff of all races and species. The hospital is in an uproar as a cadaver-borne swarm of faulty and destructive nanogenes is unleashed. The victims of the nanogenes lie scattered around the hospital's hallways, decomposed and deconstructed in ways so gruesome and gory that she, who has seen more than anyone should, finds herself retching into an empty bedpan. The operating theatre is the last refuge. Air-tight and sealed off to prevent pathogens escaping or entering during operations and procedures, there is usually a central air system that feeds oxygen into the room. The air system is currently down, and she knows that they will not last long. There is nothing that external help can do, even if the nanogenes have yet to feed on them.
She has to stop the nanogenes before the rest of the planet dies the same way that the corpses that litter the hallways had. She thinks of the little Illuvian girl, and she thinks of the half-decomposed baby she saw. She thinks of him, and she thinks of home. For the first time in a long while, she realizes that she doesn't want to die. The crowd in the operating room is huddled around her, giving her nervous glances, all wondering who this unknown savior is.
She swallows hard. She can kill the nanogenes, she knows. She just has to isolate them in one place so that she can destroy them. She has a solution, but for once, she doesn't jump to take it immediately. There is a dying man in the room, she knows too. A week to live, tops, she had heard one of the nurses say. She opens her mouth to speak, grateful that the dying man is unconscious and cannot hear her. Her words are bitter on her tongue, and her stomach churns in revolt and she is disgusted with herself for so vile a solution.
The others are silent as the magnitude of what she says sinks in. "Do it," a squat Fevaro male says, and she presumes him to be in charge as the rest murmur their assent. She approaches the man, and places her hands on either side of his temples. She slips into his mind.
It is black, soothing and calm and peaceful, and she acknowledges that he is truly brain-dead. It gives her little comfort. She climbs onto the bed frame around him, her fingers never leaving his temple, never severing their connection. She will ease what pain and horror she can from his passing. They wheel his gurney out into the operating room preparation area, right before the sealed doors. The rest of them retreat into the operating room, sealing it behind them. Through the glass, she nods, and they disengage the air lock around the preparation area.
She feels the nanogenes seep into the room, and feels their vaguely sentient thoughts brush her mind. She is aware of the moment that they identify an incorrect body, and swallows as she feels them descend onto the man. They will attack him first, she knows, because he is more ill and more damaged than she is. She doesn't think, doesn't let herself think about what the nanogenes are doing to the body beneath her as she focuses on the man's mind, focuses on taking away the pain and hurt and kill the nanogenes, destroy destroy destroy and god, it hurts so much, so much, but she cannot lose focus, she has to killkillkillkillkill –
The pain stops, and she is left gasping in its searing wake. The nanogenes are gone, she is sure, and she drags her gaze down to the man beneath her, disengaging her hands from his temples. She gags, and scrambles off him, throwing herself to the floor, away from the mangled corpse on the gurney, away from the man she killed, away from the man that died in the most horrible way possible with a smile on his face. She gags and gags and nothings but bile comes up, and she is horrified by what she has done, disgusted and half-mad.
The doors tentatively creak open, and the group in the operating room file out. The hardly spare the partially-decomposed man on the gurney a second glance, instead jubilant in their survival and grateful for her heroics.
The monarch of this planet throws a celebratory ball that evening in her honour, and she has little choice but to attend. There are talks of deifying her, and she feels ill at the thought. She thinks of twisted and mangled corpses and little girls and keys, and eats but one plain roll of bread.
Don't, she tells them, and her eyes are far away, don't put me on a pedestal. She walks away from the laughter and celebration and joy around her, and they watch as she disappears into the night.
She walks for miles and miles until she is absolutely certain she is lost. Her walk brings her to the edge of a canyon that dips into darkness below, lighted by the shimmering distorted reflection of the planet's two moons in the river at the bottom. She sits on the edge of the canyon, and wonders at the drop. A thousand feet? She wonders if she would survive that fall. She laughs a little at this, shaking her head. Probably not.
She hurls herself over the edge, into the deadly embrace of the water an eternity away.
It is sunny, and the yellow-red rays batter her eyelids, turning the world when she closes her eyes into a blood-orange chiaroscuro. She sits up, and finds herself on a beach (and no, she is certain, it is not the one he left her on). She is fairly sure she is on earth, and wonders what year it is. She barely spares a thought as to how she ended up here. The universe works in strange ways, she knows, and it is beyond the understanding of anyone, even her.
There is a faint buzzing in the back of her mind, and she identifies this as the consciousness of several other sentient beings that are fast approaching. She is indifferent to their approach. What can they do to her that hasn't already been done to her? What can they take away from her that she places value in? The TARDIS key sits cool against the skin of her chest, safely tucked under layers of clothes. She takes stock of her belongings, noting that her transporter was gone, and recalls that she had abandoned her pack on the canyon edge.
Standing, she moves down the beach, absorbing the sights around her. A tourist location, she muses, and wonders at the irony of existence. Several deck chairs under colourful umbrellas are scattered across the beach, and the azure waters lap the shore in a calm rhythm. There was once, she acknowledges, when she wanted a life like this. Of leisure and relaxation, and enjoyment and luxury.
She had traded that life for a wanderer's when she became the Bad Wolf. She is now a traverser of universes, a traveller of worlds and a murderer of millions. (Four million, three hundred and two thousand, six hundred and eighty-one, she recalls, and adds one more to the list in honour of the man who didn't know he died to save his world)
She cannot remember all of their faces. She has not seen all of their faces. She recalls hearing it said, some time ago – a lifetime ago – that killing is easier when you don't know who you kill. It isn't, and she can attest to that. She remembers Reyvra-7, where the push of a button had sent a bomb hurtling towards a city with a population of five million. Three million had been evacuated, but there had not been any time or resources to save the rest, not when disease had rampaged the remaining and would have devastated their world.
She didn't sleep for five nights afterwards, thinking about the two million people she had murdered, wondering who they were, what they did, how they loved and laughed. She keeps a tally of the numbers she has murdered; her mother always said to forgive and forget. She cannot forgive, and she will not forget. So she keeps that number, that ever-growing number close to her heart and remembers, because no one else will, and maybe someday she will be able to come to terms with what she has done, even if it is beyond forgiveness.
The sentient beings she had sensed when she first came back to consciousness are nearing, and she finds herself weary at the thought of company. She hastens her pace, catching sight of the hewn-in stone steps that lead away from the beach, and switches course for it. They increase their pace as she does hers, and she is thoroughly annoyed.
Wait, comes a voice in her mind, and she freezes. One of them is telepathic, and she is instantly on the alert. Who are you? The voice flits through her mind again, and she hears them draw up behind her. She doesn't turn, afraid of what she is to find.
Just a traveller passing through, she returns. I mean no harm, she is quick to add, wanting to return to solitude.
Where are you from? The voice – male, she belatedly realizes – asks, and the timbre and cadence of it is so familiar that her heart breaks a little. Nowhere, she replies. Everywhere. As I said, I'm just a traveller.
She senses his mounting anger, and feels his frustration at being unable to see her face, what with her back being kept to him. You appeared from thin air, he accuses. Travellers don't do that. Tell me where you come from, and I can help you get home. Her laughter rolls over their minds, broken-amused without mirth. She senses him stiffen.
Home? She murmurs. I have none. It left me, and it is gone. You cannot help me. He tenses, and she can feel his curiosity piqued. Impossible. Where were you when Ga – home was destroyed? She puzzles at the abrupt cutting off of a word in the middle of his sentence, but brushes it off. She begins to walk slowly, away from him, towards the stairs that are fifty feet ahead of her.
She hears another voice behind her, distinctly female in pitch and tone. The wind blows their whispered conversation away, too quickly for even her advanced hearing to pick up. This female, she knows, is not telepathic like the man.
Saving the world, she replies to his question, and feels his heart (hearts?) skip a beat. Suspicion dawns upon her like quicksilver, and she picks up her pace. If it is him, she cannot face him now. She is too sullied, too vile, too tainted to be with him, even if her heart screams at her to turn around. He feels her bolt of suspicion, and senses him startle out of his conversation.
I don't – how – how did you survive the fall of Gallifrey? His question is soft, even in her mind. I didn't, she returns, and feels him pause. I watched them burn, Time Lord. She is all-too-aware of the clenching of his hearts. (she did, she really did watch them burn in her travel through time and space, and she felt their anguish and his and mourned for them as he mourned, and the grief was all-consuming) She pushes the grief from her mind, but not quickly enough for him to miss it.
Who are you? He asks again, and the question is almost reverent this time round. A traveller, she replies, and gives nothing more.
"This is bloody ridiculous," comes a female voice behind her, and they both are jolted from the intensity of their telepathic conversation. "I can't even hear what's going on! Who the hell are you?"
Footsteps march up behind her, and Rose can feel her presence drawing close. He senses Rose's apprehension and wariness, and makes to stop this woman.
"Martha, don't –"
A hand is extended to grip Rose's shoulder from behind. Rose feels this, just as she feels the wind blowing lightly against her skin, the passing of time, the moving of the earth. In a motion too fast for the human eye to follow, she has Martha on the ground in front of her, facedown in the sand, arms pinned behind her back and Rose's knee pressing down at a an uncomfortable angle.
Don't! He shouts in her mind, and she winces at the volume. What do you want? She throws back, anxious to leave and wanting so badly to turn around and hurl herself into his arms. She is fairly certain she knows who he is.
Get away from her, he warns, and she is annoyed at his easy ignoring of her question. She feels the sonic screwdriver whir into life. I am armed, he warns, so step away from her slowly, and lift your arms above your head.
Rassilon, she shoots back, culturally accurate, and feels his flinch, how many bad cop movies did you watch on earth?
Her anger at him, anger for leaving her behind, anger for giving up, anger at moving on and replacing her, anger at herself, anger at what she's done comes boiling out, and she feels the rage overtake her mind as she battles for control. She has had over seven hundred years to be angry, and she wants so badly to let it go, but everything thing she's done and every life she's taken comes screaming back at her.
He feels her anguish and pain, and she knows he commiserates. The sonic screwdriver continues whirring behind her.
I don't want to harm you, he tells her in his most reasonable tone. I just want some answers. I want to help you, if you will let me.
She wrestles her emotions in check. She is just tired, just so very tired at the endless cycle of living and doing.
Oh? What are you going to do? Try to unlock the door to my head with setting 3678? She smiles wryly, picking herself up off Martha and resuming her walk towards the stairs. His breath catches, and the wind around them stills. She feels the Oncoming Storm long before she sees the clouds roll in from the distance.
The next thing she knows, she is flat on her back, and she is being pinned down. She is amazed at his speed, knowing that he must have moved even faster than her eye could see or sense to have done so. She stares up at him, stares at his unruly not-ginger hair, eyes that now border on black with the Oncoming Storm, and the familiar features that she traced a million times in her dreams.
He pushes off her abruptly, and his face is stony.
Who are you? He asks again.
A traveller, she once again replies. But when you knew me, I was Ro –
Don't you dare finish that sentence, he seethes, and the pain in his eyes is overwhelming. You have no right to that name, no right to that body and face. I don't know what you did to her, or how you survived the Time War, but you will get out of her body, or I swear by everything I hold dear and true that I will murder you, and I will enjoy it.
He is different; a darker and lonelier man, and her heart reaches out for his.
I can't give her back to you, she says, and she hurts, because she knows the Rose that he wants is not the Rose she is now. She is gone.
He is furious, and the sky around them flashes with lightning and rumbles with thunder before splitting and letting out the tears he cannot shed. His female companion – Martha, she recalls – stands next to him, apart from their silent conversation and arms crossed around her chest. She stares at this Martha for a long second before looking away.
She – this Rose you speak of, Doctor, she can't come back. She died, when she was twenty and you left her on a beach in Norway. The only people who remember her are those that you left her with, and even they die too, and she sees them die, but she visits when she can.
She is still sprawled on the ground, and she sits up, drenched by the rain as she pulls her knees to her chest.
Rose. She hardly answers to that name now, did you know? Only when she visits them. She has many other names, some of which you are aware of. The Bad –
The Bad Wolf, he says, looking stricken, and she nods, swallowing before she continues.
Yes, the Bad Wolf. The Valiant Child. The Saviour of Worlds. The Destroyer. The Harbinger of Death. Discordia. Thanatos's Woman. She sees him clench his jaw at the last title, and the knowledge why weighs heavy on her thin shoulders. I've become many things over the years, Doctor, but I am still Rose.
His eyes shoot to hers, his gaze intense and unfathomable. I'm Rose, she continues, just not the Rose you know. That Rose is gone. I'm sorry.
I was there, you know, at the fall of Gallifrey. I watched your world burn, and I mourned its loss with you. I took your hand as you lay unconscious, and I sang to you. She watches him, and his gaze is still on hers. Emotions flash through him too fast for her to single any one out, and she knows he is conflicted.
It was you, he manages after a long while. You were the one that kept me alive. I often wondered – he breaks off, and stares out into the sea as the waves crash violently to the shore.
I'm sorry, she offers again, because she doesn't know what else to say.
He shakes his head, and she is left wondering what that means.
They enter the TARDIS much later, and they settle in the kitchen while the Doctor makes tea. The silence is thick, and Rose can tell that Martha is fairly bursting with questions.
Martha clears her throat. "So, who in the world are you? Must be kind of mysterious, given that he," she gestures to the Doctor behind her, "won't tell me." Rose pauses, unsure of how to answer the question. Who was she, really? She was no longer Rose Tyler of Powell Estates, or the Bad Wolf entirely. It is a question worth thinking about.
"She's someone I used to know," The Doctor butts in, setting three mugs of hot tea on the island counter, and she is grateful for the intervention. She stares at the mug of tea in front of her, and finds herself casting back, trying to remember when the last time it was that she did something so cozy and domestic. The Doctor, ever-perceptive but still frustratingly thick, misinterprets her hesitance.
"Rose used to like my tea," he snaps out, and she recoils at his barbed words. "Yes, she still does," she murmurs, and casts her eyes down as she sips at the drink. The silence is choking and stifling, and she excuses herself from the table. She departs for the console room, lightly fingering the all-too-familiar but yet completely foreign fabric of the jump seat, and she pauses before settling down and curling up in it.
Before she changed (Evolved? Died? Mutated? She doesn't know, and she is so tired of knowing and not-knowing), she used to sit in this chair during their travels, in the dead of night when she couldn't sleep. Sometimes, she would find the Doctor tinkering with the console, and she would join him in quiet companionship. Other times, she would just sit in the dark and stare at the haunting green-blue beauty of the TARDIS core, and sometimes it sang to her.
The TARDIS is quiet now, but she can feel it at the back of her mind, and she knows the TARDIS is pleased to see her again. She had missed this, missed her life as Rose, missed everything about the Doctor. Her pain at his refusal to accept her is sharp, and it makes it hard to breathe.
She hears a noise to her left, and she spots the Doctor make his way up the ramp from the kitchen towards her. He approaches her, stopping several feet away. He brushes her mind with his again, and she almost flinches as the acute hurt from earlier is still fresh.
I'm sorry, he gets out, and she is stunned at his apology. He runs a hand through his hair, mussing it even more. It's just hard to get my mind around everything – and believe me, that is saying something.
She pauses, unsure. Her mind casts back to the shaman she met (Running, searching, aren't they the same thing?), and she takes a leap of faith. She stretches her arms out towards him.
Let me show you. He is wary of her still, she knows, but his need to know is greater.
He moves in front of her, legs on either side of hers as she sits in the jump chair. She nervously places her fingers on his temples, and she –
She shows him herself, on the beach in Norway watching him leave, and the pain is all-consuming. The dreams she had, of voices calling and wolves howling. Torchwood. Their dimension transporter. Her ability to transcend time. Reyvra-7, and the millions she sent to their deaths. Lirzon, where she had killed twelve men to get to their prisoners. The discovery of her immortality. The beginning of her quest to find him. Fegut, and the thousands she left to die because their planet was imploding and she couldn't get enough shuttles. Yverdia, where she killed hundreds while trying to put down the rebel forces. Her ability to understand and speak any language. Oriate, where she deliberately brought a man out to die in the worst way possible so she could kill some nanogenes. Rasmodus, and the fifty men she condemned to die for exposing their plot. Giving up on her quest to find him after a child calls her a murderer. Dvorner. Swayne. Teydol. Ugfiol. Cochin. Refron-89. Wudern. Every planet she's ever touched and hurt. Every life she's every taken. Every bullet she has ever fired. Every windpipe she has ever broken. She shows him everything, and she has nothing left.
She disengages with a start, and she is exhausted. Her internal clock tells her that forty-three minutes have passed since they began. She is afraid to look at him, afraid to see rejection and disgust and horror in his eyes. She looks straight ahead, staring at his chest as he stands in front of her. The rise and fall of his chest with his breaths is calming, and she doesn't want to face reality yet.
"Oh, Rose," he says, and he tilts her chin up to meet his eyes. She finds pain and hurt and empathy and a whole tumult of emotions, and maybe, maybe she even glimpses admiration. A storm is in his eyes.
He moves away from her, towards the console. He keeps his eyes on hers, serious and dark. "There's something I was saying to you, a long time ago, on a beach in Norway. It went –"
He looks at her expectantly.
"It went," she continued, "Rose Tyler –"
He nods. "Rose Tyler, I love you."
Every thought she has ever had falls out her mind, and her senses dull to focus on this one man in the room ahead of her, and she cannot think of anything else.
"Well?" He asks, a little impatiently, and she smiles a little and it is tiny and broken, but it is for the first time in years, and he is just as she remembered, and he is everything.
"Well," she concludes, "I love you too."
He takes her hand and they run out the TARDIS into the rain, laughing at the sky and dancing on the beach.
(they have eternities, and it will pass like a moment, but they will make it count, and maybe time will be kind)