A/N: I know, I know, it's been done a million times before. Oh well, here's a million-and-one.
The title's from the song Laddie, Lie Near Me, of which I am rather fond. (Note: NOT a song!fic!)
Rated Teen for mild profanity.
The Doctor stood on a chilly, wind-swept beach in Norway and watched Rose break apart.
There were no tears; her grief was dry and strangely empty. She dropped his hand, and he thought of satellites that finally slip out of orbit and plummet to the ground. She curled into herself, and he thought of ancient stars collapsing, all their fuel consumed at last.
As much as he might need her to keep him steady in this new world, in this moment, she didn't have anything left to give. He'd never seen her look so tired.
"Rose" he said, instinctively reaching for her, "I'm the same man. He and I, we're the same person. I promise."
Eyes closed, she shook her head. "I know." She rubbed a hand over her face. "That doesn't really help, though. That just makes it worse."
He dropped his hand. "Worse how?"
She opened her eyes and looked at him, her gaze level. "Because. That's the point. You're exactly the same. Except for one thing."
The Doctor felt his mouth go dry. "And what one thing is that?"
She shook her head again. "We need to get going. Last time we were here, there was a little fisherman's lean-to near where the road ends." She straightened up and took a deep breath, resigned to do whatever had to be done, and he thought, oh, yes, there she is—the girl who could cross the universe all on her own, if she had a mind to.
"You can keep an eye on my mum while I walk to town," she told him as she started hiking across the sand.
"Can't you just call on your mobile?" he asked.
"What about your super-phone?"
Rose sighed. "It's not so super in this universe. Just works like a regular phone."
"Oh, right," he muttered, scratching the back of his neck. "Sorry about that. We'd need to alternate the transcomm frequency to account for the different universal resonance. I can fix it for you, when we get to London."
Rose ignored him. "Mum," she called to Jackie, who was some distance away, waiting for them. "I think there's a place for you to wait up that way. Let's go have a look."
"All right, but go on ahead. It's going to take me longer in this sand," called Jackie.
Rose just shrugged. "'Kay," she said and started walking again.
The Doctor glanced back at Jackie and saw her surreptitiously gesture toward her daughter once Rose wasn't looking.
Well. He could take a hint.
The Doctor turned and quickly fell into step beside Rose, hiking through the damp, hilly sand. "The one thing—is it the TARDIS?" he asked after a moment, once they were out of earshot.
"Because I really do think I can grow another one."
"It's not the TARDIS."
"It's the one heart, then? Don't want to watch me to age?"
She shook her head. "Don't be daft."
"Rose," he said, stretching out his arm to catch her shoulder. She stopped. "It's not what he said, is it? That I'm full of blood and anger and revenge? That I shouldn't have destroyed the Daleks?"
She turned to him and rolled her eyes. "No, but while we're on the subject, that was some serious, first-class, Freudian, self-hatred bullshit." He winced at the profanity, but she didn't seem to notice. "I mean, honestly, what was he planning on doing with the Daleks, send them to finishing school?"
"Oh, I don't know," he said, trying for a joke. "Might have been a good idea. Teach them to say 'If you don't very much mind, I'm going to exterminate you now.' It could be a nice change, don't you think? Ooh, and maybe train them to carry wee little tea trays."
Her lips curved reluctantly, and he was tempted to ask if that was a smile. But before he had the chance, she shook her head.
"Look, I know you've never been a companion to yourself before," she said. (He decided not to correct her—oh, the fights that had broken out whenever he'd run into his other selves!) "But see, you can only really listen to about a third of the things the Doctor says."
His mouth popped open. "What! That's not true!"
She shrugged. "First rule of being a companion. Could have asked Donna or Martha or Jack—they'd all tell you the same thing."
"The first rule is 'Don't wander off!'" he fumed. "And my companions listen to more than a third of…wait." He stopped suddenly and frowned. "Actually, that explains a lot."
"Yep." Rose started walking again. It was cruel, she thought. She was being cruel, to him of all people. But she couldn't seem to help it. All she could see when she closed her eyes was a hopeless parade of parallel worlds with the sonic screwdriver at the end of it, lying in a puddle where it had fallen from his dead hand. All she could hear was the sound of him leaving her in the end, after all.
They walked on in silence for a time.
"Will you tell me eventually?" he ventured to ask.
Rose just shrugged. "Can we maybe not talk about this? I just want to get to town and arrange a ride to London." He started to object, but she raised an arm, pointed to a rundown lean-to standing where the beach stopped and the gravel road began. "Here it is. You two can stay dry in there if it starts to rain. Mum," she called. "You and the Doctor wait here, all right? I'll get to town and ring Pete to get us some transpo back home. Then I'll find a car and come pick you up."
Jackie caught up with them, puffing as she walked through the deep sand. "Sweetheart, take the Doctor with you," she said after she had caught her breath. "I'll be fine waiting here by myself."
Rose shook her head. "We don't know what's out here. No" she said, holding up a hand when Jackie started to speak again. "I'm the trained Torchwood field agent, you're the mum, remember? Which is why I told you not to use the Dimension Cannon in the first place," she muttered. "Lucky you didn't bloody well end up in Brazil."
"Without a passport," chimed the Doctor, hoping to make her smile again. But Rose seemed determined to ignore him.
"I should be back in about two hours. See you soon." Thrusting her hands into the pockets of her jacket, she started off down the road alone.
Jackie watched her go and then sighed. "Well, I s'pose we should make ourselves comfortable, then." She turned to poke her head in the shack. "Eurgh, smells a bit like fish gone off in here," she complained. "Think we're better off waiting outside." She tested her weight against the exterior wall before leaning back against it. "You alright, sweetheart?" she asked him quietly.
The Doctor didn't answer. All he could do was stand in the frigid Norwegian air and watch the figure of Rose, walking away from him.