Rose awoke a few hours later with a slight shake to her shoulder and a gentle kiss. She opened her eyes and saw the Doctor standing beside the bed, smiling, showered and changed back into his original clothing.

"Good afternoon, sleepy-head," he said, watching appreciatively as Rose stretched and sat up. "You humans and your propensity to spend a third of your lives asleep. Really, it's a terrible waste," he said, with an affectionate shake of his head. Rose smiled to herself. That must be the posh variation of the Northern "Silly little apes! Sleep the day away, you would" and how many times had she heard that?

He returned her grin, noticing the faraway glance again. "I'm just going to be in the TARDIS getting everything ready to go. Romana's supposed to call me any minute now so we can discuss crossing back over. Her secretary said she's been in meetings for the past two days." He frowned, lightly, pausing. "She usually makes time for me whenever I need it...something must have happened to get the old fogeys all riled up." Rose stiffened slightly but the Doctor took no notice.

"Anyway, thought you might like to have a shower and pack whatever it is you'd like to take with you, make preparations to leave, that sort of thing." He sat on the edge of the bed and Rose pulled the sheet up over her chest. Even if they had just made love again it felt a little strange to sit in her bed, naked, chatting with the Doctor.

"What are you doing with your flat?" he asked, curiously, frowning slightly again, this time because she was hiding the sumptuous amount of flesh he had been busy admiring.

"Mum and dad are going to come by and clean it out once I'm...once I'm gone," she said, taking in a deep breath.

"It's ok to be sad for them, Rose," he replied, gently, taking her face in his hands and pressing another light kiss to her lips. She nodded and sniffed once. "What are they telling the tabloids?" he asked, shifting the conversation slightly.

"I think they're going to tell 'em that I ran off with the mysterious Byronic bloke who appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet days ago," she answered, putting her tongue in her teeth and eyeing him critically, which he responded to by pulling her blankets from the bed, making her squeak. He returned her perusal with a dark, fiery look she was beginning to recognize.

"Oi! Things to do, people to call, apartments to pack!" she exclaimed, scrabbling for the sheet he was keeping out of her reach.

"Just because there isn't time to stop and smell the roses," he said with a quirk of his mouth, which earned him a playful eyeroll from Rose, "doesn't mean one can't enjoy the view." He took a long deliberate moment to take in said-view: slightly sleep and sex tousled beautiful Rose Tyler, who flushed delightfully under his gaze. Unable to restrain himself, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers one last time. "I'll be on the TARDIS if you need me."

Rose gathered her clothes from the floor and took a quick shower. She then set about the task of packing up her meager apartment, occasionally setting something specific aside for her mum or Mickey or adding an object to the large red pack under the table. Two hours later, satisfied with her job she picked up the pack, tucked the precious picture from the table away in her pocket and walked into the TARDIS.

She found the Doctor standing over by the wall phone, his hand still sitting on the receiver with a familiar frown creasing his brow, looking lost in thought.

"What is it? Won't she help us?" Rose asked, concerned at the look on his face.

"Oh, yes," he said, waving his hand. "That's not it...it's just..."

"What?" Rose asked, afraid that she already knew the answer.

"I've been called home. Romana's requesting my presence immediately after I drop you off," he said, looking annoyed.

"You...you don't want to go to Gallifrey? To the rest of the Time Lords?" Rose asked, unable to hide the surprise in her voice.

He sighed dramatically. "No. Why would I? They're such a dull, dreary lot. All rules and regulations. And whenever they call me back it's either to reprimand me, put me on trial or to elect me president. Can't seem to make up their minds which it is."

"You've been the president of the Time Lords?" Rose asked incredulously.

"Yes," he waved his hand dismissively. "It wasn't nearly as much fun as it sounds. Anyway, they've got a good president in Romana so that can't be it and I can't think of anything lately I've done to get banished." Of course, they would be none too pleased about this latest development, he thought. Oh well. They would just add this to the long list of things they felt were inappropriate and improper about him and he would tell them and their list to sod off, as usual.

Rose stared at him, trying to wrap her head around his flippant nature. Of course, this him didn't know that soon there wouldn't be a Gallifrey to return to. That he would soon give anything he had to return to the place he detested now. She remembered his earlier statement about not belonging, about being an outcast. It seemed so unfair and it further explained some of his later, heavy guilt.

He furrowed his brow deeper. "Except...this time if feels different. It feels like...like something big is happening. Like there's a storm on the way." He turned to look at Rose who was watching him with large, sad eyes and he knew instantly that he was right. "Something big is happening, isn't it?" he asked softly.

"Yes," she said, her voice breaking with unspoken grief...grief for his people, his planet and most of all, for him. For his future and the terrible things it held...things she couldn't tell him, couldn't save him from and wouldn't even be able to help him with for years and years.

"You can't tell me," he said, stepping forward to brush away her tears and cupping her face in his hand. Rose wanted to cry out even harder at the achingly familiar gesture. There was a heaviness settling in his body. He could tell from Romana's insistent request that whatever was happening on Gallifrey was worse than he expected. Much worse he suspected, from the reaction he was getting from Rose.

"I know," she whispered. She felt guilty that he was comforting her when it should be the other way around. "It's just...it's gonna to get bad soon. Very, very bad." Suspicions confirmed, then.

"Well, I know what we can do. We'll let the universe get on without us for the rest of the day and I, Rose Tyler, will take you on a proper date before giving you over to the lucky git who happens to be me!" he exclaimed, moving gracefully to the console to set the controls.

"It's interesting, really. Not sure I've ever even been on a 'proper date' before. At least, not by human standards. Time Lord standards...now that's different. Stuffy political dinner chaperoned by a neutral party from another household. No fun at all, really. Lots of posturing, lots of negotiating...and no romance. Not big on romance, Time Lords."

Rose watched him silently. There it was...the bluster and bravado done to distract, to cover up his worry, his trepidation, his precognition of trouble. Sometimes he was more the man of his future than Rose could believe. He continued his enthusiastic ramble, pushing buttons and throwing an occasional glance over his shoulder at an unresponsive, lost in thought Rose.

"Of course, there was two night ago. That was a smashing evening. Especially before I got punched. Well, and then later on after I got punched. Really, the punching was the worst part. The before and after were grand. Was that a date? Hmm...Rose? What do you think?"

She shook herself from her reverie to answer him. If distraction was what he wanted, distraction she would give him. "I said it was, didn't I? On our way to the London Eye? Even if you did invite yourself along."

He gave her a wounded look. "You wouldn't have invited me anyway? I'm hurt, Rose. Crushed. So that would make this our second date, then? If those daft romantic films you lot mass produce are any indicator, the number of the date seems to make some difference."

"Ha! I knew you liked those films even before I came along! And you...fussing and moaning every time I wanted to watch 'You've Got Mail'!" she crowed, triumphantly.

"I maintain full innocence of all charges," he said, stiffly, hiding a smile and flicking a lever.

Rose grinned at him and walked over to wrap her arms around his waist from behind, pulling her body flush against his back. He made a small sighing sound as her hands settled on the front of his burgundy waistcoat. "Well, the party could be considered our first date, then dinner with my parents the next night. So, actually, I think this would be our third date. And you know what that means..."

"No, what does it mean?" he asked, full of innocence and curiosity, turning to face her and letting his arms settle loosely around her waist. "Some unknown human mating ritual of which I am unaware?"

She snorted. "Well, yeah, sort of. 'Course, we've already done the whole human mating ritual thing, so it doesn't really matter."

He laughed with her, gathering her up for a kiss. "You head off to the wardrobe room. I'm sure the TARDIS will help you pick something out. I'll just figure out where to take you for our spectacular third date. Then...I'll figure out where, after the date, I'm going to take you in true third date fashion," he said, seductively, raising an eyebrow.

Rose flushed delightfully and flounced from the room, stopping at the bottom of the stair to listen to the grind and whir that signaled the end of this chapter in her life. Pete, Tony, Mickey...her mum. They would all carry on their lives here and she would miss them, no doubt about that. But her eyes settled on mysterious, sweet, funny man standing at the console who raised his eyes to meet her gaze and gave her a brilliant, universe-shattering smile and she knew everything would be ok. Fantastic, even.

The Doctor paced up and down the console room, waiting impatiently for Rose to appear. He was anxious and nervous and excited, his hearts in his throat and his mind flitting. This must be what being in love felt like. He straightened his cravat and adjusted his waistcoat, fiddled with the TARDIS console, sat down in the armchair, stood up from the armchair, picked up and sat down a book, twirled his screwdriver and tapped his foot. He had his back turned to the sweeping staircase when he heard a slight creak of wood, a booming sound to his nervous, sensitized hearing.

Turning around, his breath caught and even his respiratory bypass gave pause. He had chosen Coricana for several reasons...great food, wonderful dancing and, as it so happened, a propensity for Victorian dress so he could wear his normal clothes without a complaint from Rose. Not that she had been complaining...he had caught her admiring his tight breeches. What he hadn't considered was Rose in period dress.

She was exquisite.

She swept down the stairs in a burgundy and black dress that clung to her torso and swept out at her legs, a perfect combination of elegance and sexuality. Her hair was pulled off her neck in a delicate bun and the dress settled wide over her shoulders. He captured her image in his mind, burning it where it would shine brightly for the rest of his days. He could never have a more perfect moment.

It was an agonizing eternity before she reached him, before he could pull her to him and run his hands over her arms, her shoulders, her face, to convince himself that she was here and that she had dressed this way for him. Only for him, ever for him.

There was that possessiveness again. He really needed to watch that.

"You, Rose, you...you're beautiful," he finally breathed.

She glanced away from him and, bizarrely let her shoulders drop a bit. "For a human," she sighed. She should have known it would be a bad idea to wear thisdress, her Cardiff dress, but it reminded her of her first romantic attraction to the Doctor; the first time she had seen him, even briefly, as an ordinary man and not as an unattainable, mysterious alien entity.

That, and it matched his waistcoat. Work of the TARDIS, no doubt.

He took her shoulders and moved so she was looking him directly in the eye. "Why do you always say that?" he asked gently, peering into her eyes with breathless intensity. "You're beautiful. Full stop. I could look at you for days and never grow tired of the view. The way your hair frames your face, the way your eyes twinkle with light and laughter, the way you take my breath away...superior biology or not," he added cheekily to avoid sounding too naff.

She gazed up at him, letting his words soak in and then pulled him in for a delicate kiss. She loved him. She would always love him. Especially when he when he said things like that.

"Well, shall we?" he said, offering his arm to her.

"So, where are we? Is it safe?" she asked cheerily as they reached the doors.

He looked at her sideways. "Of course it's safe! Why would I take you someplace that isn't safe?" he asked. "Wait, no. Don't answer that. This," he said, pulling the doors open wide, "is Coricana."

It was Rose's turn to have her breath catch. The sky was a deep, vibrant purple and all around her were shimmering buildings of brilliantly hued glass. It was astoundingly beautiful. People of all shapes and sizes wandered through the streets in various facsimiles of Victorian dress and gorgeous music poured from the open balconies of the central building where, through the glass, Rose could see hundreds and hundreds of couples dancing and dining, wrapped up in the planet and each other.

"Wow," she said, turning on the spot while he leaned on the doors of the TARDIS satisfactorily.

"Good choice, then?" he asked, smiling at the way she seemed to light up in the new world. It let him see the universe in a different way, that light coming from this little human and it made him love her even more.

Examining the dress of the planet's natives, she turned back to him and raised a speculative eyebrow. "You just chose it because then I wouldn't tease you about your clothes, didn't you?" she asked, teasing him now.

"Might have done," he said, not even feigning hurt. "But there are a number of other reasons, too."

"For example?" she prodded, taking his arm and allowing him to lead her through the streets toward the building with the dancing and feasting.

"Well, for one thing, it's beautiful," he ticked off, counting on his fingers. "Atmosphere and climate: perfect for a human. Peaceful, tourist-based society. Best Italian food this side of the galaxy, told you that already. So...beautiful planet, beautiful weather, beautiful woman, dinner, dancing and romance. Perfect third date, if I do say so myself," he finished smugly.

"Is it the same as the one in the other universe?" Rose asked.

"Not sure...never actually been there," he responded, carefully.

"Why not? If it's so great, I mean. And it does seem pretty great," she replied. Everything he had said lined up with her perceptions of the planet so far. It was delightfully warm without being hot, like the sun on a perfect Spring day, they hadn't been chased by natives with pitchforks (yet), the glass buildings around them shone with grandeur and at least the smell of the food was spectacular.

"I'll tell you later," he responded cagily as they were taken to a secluded, intimate table for two near a terrace.

The food was indeed spectacular and as Rose finished off the lightest, most delicious chocolate mousse she had ever tasted, she made a sound very similar to the ones she had been making earlier in the day. Sounds of which he had grown quite fond. Sounds that tended to affect him in a very profound way.

The Doctor, for his part, had become increasingly distracted watching Rose's delicate pink tongue work its way around the only dinner utensil he'd ever been jealous of in his entire life. Another new thing Rose had introduced him to, then. Being jealous of spoons.

More to keep himself from simply dragging her out on the terrace and capturing that tongue for more personal purposes, he broke the intimate silence that had fallen with a question. "So...what am I like? Later, I mean. The me's you know," he asked, hoping he'd like her response. "I don't like pears, do I?" he asked, suddenly horrified.

She laughed and then considered him carefully before answering. "My first you...he had the best arse I've ever seen." He laughed that that was the first comment she chose to make. She simply shrugged at him and let his favourite mischievous smile loose. "And these long, lean legs (from running probably), a jaw that could cut glass and these piercing blue eyes, like ice and fire and wind." She sighed and set the spoon down on the table.

"He was gruff, and moody and possessive but I rather liked that." She raised her eyes to grin at him and let her foot wander over to his and up his calf a bit. "Sometimes I would flirt with some alien pretty boy, just so I could time how long it would take for him, for you, to charge in and drag me away." She lifted her champagne glass and took a swallow, swirling the golden liquid around before continuing.

"S'when we first started to figure each other out...going from strangers to living together in the span of about four days. Not always the easiest bloke to live with, you were but..." she trailed off. It was worth it, was the unfinished end of that sentence. Or perhaps I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

"Next you, still a fantastic arse, really, really great hair and the most adorable, earth-shaking smile. Rude, spastic and talks too much. I swear...I think you babble aliens into submission than anything." Her eyes were alight and sparkled with memories of them both, full of love and laughter and he smiled, satisfied with her response. Standing up, he took her hand and led her toward the dance floor full of couples.

"Well, as long as I've got a fantastic bum, what else really matters?" he said, pulling her into a waltz hold again.

"My thoughts exactly," she said, letting her hands wander down to give him an unexpected, quick squeeze before returning to respectable territory as if she'd done nothing, her tongue in her teeth and his quickened breath the only indicators of her hands' nefarious activities.

He laughed again, a bright, happy sound that filled the room and her heart and he swept her around the room merely for the joy of it. There were bad things coming on the horizon, things he could feel, could see lurking on the edges of his Time sense, but for now, for tonight, he would laugh and love and dance. Oh, how he would dance.

Occasionally they would pause to catch their breath, to chat, to drink champagne or to kiss but for the most part, they danced. Late in the evening, couples started to dwindle around them on the floor but still they danced. Finally, exhausted but elated, they retired to the terrace where all around them other couples were gathered in pairs, enjoying the velvet night sky and each other.

The Doctor drew Rose in front of him, his arms settled around her waist tightly, one of hers on top of them, and the other reaching up and around to encircle his neck, holding him close.

"Do you know the other reason I brought you here, Rose Tyler?" he asked, his breath caressing her ear. She shook her head slowly and he buried his nose in her hair for a moment. "Look around, what do you see?"

She turned her head slightly, taking in the view around but not really looking too hard, unwilling to break the connection of their bodies. "Couples," she answered. "Everyone's here in couples."

"Yes," he breathed. "Coricana is a pleasure planet, part of a pair of them actually. They were created specifically for this purpose, for romance, for dancing, for evenings under the stars with the person you care about most in the universe. Coming here is a promise."

"A promise of what?" she asked, quietly, trying to control her flustered breathing.

"Forever," he whispered, tightening his arms around her and sighing into her neck.

Hours later, they wandered back to the TARDIS, hand in hand, hearts brimming, bodies humming with the thrill of being close and the anticipation of being closer. The Doctor unlocked the door to the console room and wordlessly took her hand again, leading her through the winding halls of the TARDIS and stopping in front of a door she'd never seen before.

"My room," he said, almost shyly, pushing the door open and standing aside to let her in, almost nervously awaiting her approval.

Rose looked around her. She'd never been in his room before, any of him, and it was a little hard to believe she was here now. The room suited him to a t. Like the console room, the furniture was a rich, elegant mahogany with carvings in the unfamiliar circular language she recognized from post-its around the console room and a high, vaulted ceiling. There were books and knick-knacks scattered around the room, obviously tinkering works-in-progress. The bed was large and ornate, sporting a comforter of deep, velvet burgundy. Her mouth quirked at the corner, thinking it funny that man who so rarely ever slept would have such a large, luxurious bed.

He smiled gently with her, following her line of sight, seeming to read that thought. "It's actually not usually that big or...fluffy," he said. "The TARDIS seems to like you a lot."

"Good to know she approves," Rose responded, patting the wall nearest her and feeling the happy thrum she received in reply. The Doctor watched her with deep eyes, smiling at her interaction with his beloved ship. How lucky he had been to find her, this mysterious woman who had worked her way into his life, his hearts and his ship. He felt the ship return his affection and her wave of love for them both.

Rose grinned to herself thoughtfully. The TARDIS had shown her approval in more than one way...even providing Rose with some rather beautiful and very sexy underthings for the dress. He'd find that out soon enough.

Their silence stretched on for a few more moments and the Doctor fidgeted nervously like an adolescent 200-year old. Really, he shouldn't be nervous about having a girl in his bedroom. A beautiful girl. A beautiful post-third date girl who was now perched on his bed looking at him expectantly.

Rose seemed to sense his sudden inexplicable sense of nerves and offered him a warm smile and stretched out her hand, waggling the fingers. It was perfect. He felt his nerves flee instantly and he reached forward to take her hand, pulling her up to stand in front of him. He put his forehead to hers and for a moment they just stood, breathing in each other's presence. He transferred his mouth to her ear and felt her shiver in response.

"So...third date. How'd I do?" he asked, letting his lips wander from her ear down to her neck and back up again.

"Dunno," Rose responded, turning her head a bit to give him better access. "Date's not over yet. Still have the final exam to go," she said. "Full marks for the preliminary round, though."

He lifted his head from her neck and Rose sighed at the withdrawl. The Doctor moved to stare her directly in the eye. "Rose, I..." he began and then trailed off. Her eyes softened and she raised one of her hands to caress the side of his face. He leaned into her touch and closed his own eyes for a moment, relishing her human hot hand against his cool cheek. "I just want to tell you that the past few days have meant more to me than...well, than anything."

He took a deep breath, turning his head slightly to press a butterfly light kiss into her palm and continued, "And even though I'll have to forget this for a while...I want you to know that I'll carry it with me forever, locked away until I can remember again. And even if I can't remember the specifics, no matter what it is that's coming...and I know something is, I'll remember that I was happy and subconsciously I'll keep looking for you, no matter what, even if I don't know why. I'll find you and we'll start this all over again."

Rose leaned forward and pressed a sweet, light kiss to his cheek. "Promise?" she asked.

"I promise," he replied before leaning forward to capture her mouth again, still sweet but with a slow burn replacing his light touch from before, their lips engaging in a now-familiar new dance. His tongue glided carefully in beside hers, languidly exploring the intimate corners of her mouth, memorizing every inch until it no longer held any mysteries. He filed away every nook and cranny, every ridge and fall and catalogued every exquisite sound she made.

Her fingers ran up his sides, over the strong muscles of his chest to rest on his cravat, untying it and drawing it from his collar. She slowly divested him of his jacket and clever fingers began to work on his shirt and waistcoat. Gently nudging them from his shoulders, soon he stood before her shirtless, letting her glorious fingertips trace all across his naked torso, memorizing the lines and sinews much as he was doing to her sweet mouth.

He was suddenly forced to retreat from her lips to draw a ragged breath as she scraped her fingernails lightly across his nipples down toward the narrow line of hair that led into his trousers. Encouraging her with one of the moans of which this body was so fond, he eased back from her to watch as she hungrily removed his breeches, cupping him against the taut fabric of his desperately tight pants, sighing with him at the contact and stroking him through the straining fabric. For a few moments, he merely stood, enjoying her ministrations, exploring their shared vocalizations.

Gazing at her with his arousal-fogged eyes, he realized that she was entirely too clothed. Passing that thought onto her, which she responded to with a light laugh and a desire-darkened gaze, she stood back so he could remove her dress. He divested her of it achingly slow, savoring each inch of skin revealed to him, caressing it with fingers and then lips before revealing another. How was he possibly going to carry on without this delightful wonderland at his fingertips now that he had found it?

Finally the dress fell to the floor, falling with a very satisfying whoosh and she stepped out of it, every bit the golden goddess of his dreams. She wore two tantalizing scraps of matching black lace and surveyed him with deep, hooded eyes. With wordless communication, they surged toward each other, physically and mentally, meeting passionately in the middle, exalting at the completion. They would have to be separated eventually, but for now, this was everything and nothing would keep them apart.

Easing back to kneel face-to-face on the bed, they slowly began exploring each other's bodies, all the haste from their earlier couplings falling away, replaced by the desire to know each other as fully as possible. He ran his thumbs over the exquisite black lace over her breasts, feeling the nipples rise to meet his touch, kneading and pressing until he had no choice but to remove the cruel barrier separating him from his prizes, baring them to his gaze and guiding her carefully back on the bed to lie down, allowing his teeth and tongue to continue the job as his hands danced away to the matching fabric below, stroking her through the satin fabric before quickly deciding that this barrier too should be quickly be removed. With a desperate moan, she lifted her hips to comply and he managed to remove them without pausing in his oral indulgence.

He ghosted his fingers over her thighs and hip bones, gently kneading her lower stomach while his mouth worked on her collar bone. She ran her hands up and down over his back, fingers caressing his spine, his shoulders and his bum, squeezing gently and making him moan in anticipation. He was determined to make this experience last because when it was over it would be time to let her go.

Minds connected and pulsing with shared joy and desire, he slid down to her feet and slowly began to work his way up her body, using all the things he'd learned both from his memories of the last few days and his book, watching with delight and fascination as her ardor grew in his mind. When he eventually reached her mouth again, she was whimpering for him and he was only too happy to comply.

He entered her slowly, drawing out the first contact with incredible restraint, pushing into her velvet heat with utmost care and devotion. Once fully immersed in her body, for a moment they simply laid there together, neither moving, barely breathing, taking one another in, letting pleasure and affection radiate across their link.

Then, as one being, he rippled forward and she raised her hips to meet him in an exquisite tango of passion and perfection. Time seemed to slow around them as the gentle push and pull of their bodies became the sole focus of both of their worlds. No matter what happened in his future or hers, they would always have this, always have this night of perfection.

Subtly her sounds began to shift and his control began to weaken and their bodies began a more desperate push for completion. Their worlds erupted together, stars exploding and pleasure surging through them physically and mentally until they both shivered and shook, utterly spent and completely happy.

In a clever twist of his body, the Doctor moved without disconnecting their bodies so Rose was lying beside him, held close to his chest, as close as they could physically be. Despite having had the most thorough and mind-blowing orgasm of his entire life, the Doctor was still half-hard inside her and he intended to stay that way as long as they possibly could.

"So what made you leave?" Rose said suddenly into his neck. He could feel her hot, sweet breath there, almost driving him to distraction.

"Hmm?" he asked. He couldn't see her face without shifting their bodies and he had no intention of doing that.

"Gallifrey. What made you leave Gallifrey in the first place?" she asked.

He sighed and pressed a lingering kiss into her hair, the only part of her that was convenient to his lips. "There's too much of the universe out there to be stuck on one planet reading books, debating philosophy and manipulating politics for thousands of years. Very few Time Lords understand that, understand me. It's being alive...but it's not living."

"And this is? Living, I mean?" Rose asked, quietly.

He rolled them again so she was beneath him and he could look her in the eye. "Yes, Rose Tyler. This is the best bit of living I've done in 1074 years. And I mean that."

She sighed and rolled her hips against him gently, feeling him stir the rest of the way inside her. In wordless (although not silent) communication, they once again to fell to the simmering play of two figures enthralled with each other and determined to live as much as possible in the short time they had left.

Later that night he left her sleeping soundly in his bed, pressing a kiss to her forehead, careful not to wake her. Moving silently, he collected his strewn clothing from the floor and re-dressed, eventually moving to the console room to set the coordinates to return to their universe.

Right on schedule, Romana called and the two of them worked together to move his TARDIS back across the Void into familiar territory. He tried to ignore the desperate, darkened sound of Romana's voice and impending sense of doom he was feeling settle around him. He also prayed that Rose wouldn't wake up quite yet, not wanting her to wake up to the empty bed that he himself would experience for the next unknown eternity until he could find her again.

Settling in the armchair, he placed his fingers on his own temples and started to work through his own personal Timeline to find the wild-haired pretty boy he was to take Rose to now. The actual events in the line were blurred but he could sense the general atmosphere of the occurrences and he skipped around until he caught a glimpse of the man from the picture.

There. He began to move to the console, keeping the image and time frame in his mind's eye to lock onto his future TARDIS but his control slipped and he backtracked a moment, drawn to a horrendous gap not far along in his Timeline, undoubtedly the huge storm that was currently brewing. Gasping, he stumbled and fell to his knees and the TARDIS cried out for him, trying to quell the terror and anguish he had felt there.

Even if he couldn't see what exactly had happened, he understood that it would be horrible. And that he would never make it through alone.

He turned his eyes back to the stairs out of the console room, glancing toward the door that hid his beautiful sleeping new acquaintance.

It was wrong. It was terribly selfish. She was expecting to go to "her Doctor" to live out her happily ever after and he was supposed to give it to her. But all he wanted to do was steal a bit of that happiness for himself, happiness to help him through the darkness that was coming.

As if on cue, the stairs behind him creaked and he turned to see Rose, dressed now in a hoodie and jeans, carrying her red pack standing at the top of the stairs watching him. The red pack tugged at his already straining heartstrings, representing her intention to leave him, to abandon him to his fate, to betray him by no fault of her own.

He wanted her. He needed her. And his next form would need her even more. He half-expected the TARDIS to argue with him, to try and talk him out of it but she was silent. In that instant, he decided.

Rose descended the stairs, still watching him closely as he moved around the console, setting dials and pressing buttons. She had hated waking up alone without him by her side but she had suspected he would be here getting ready for their goodbye.

Collapsing in the armchair near him, she gave him a radiant, encouraging smile, noticing his tense posture and the grim line of his usually playful mouth. His hearts broke a little more and his resolve steadied, knowing he would never again be able to look at that armchair without feeling that she should be in it.

"So we're back in our universe, yeah?" she asked to break the shifty silence between them. He must be able to feel even more that something was coming for him to be acting so odd. He opened his mouth to answer but the TARDIS groaned and whined and eventually settled down without the normal jolt to the floor, as if she was subdued as well.

He moved beside her, wordlessly handing her the pack to shoulder and led her to the doors from the console room. "Yes, original universe, out there," he said quietly, not looking her in the eye.

"And...you're out there, too?" she asked, looking at him sadly.

"Future TARDIS, future Doctor, yep," he said. She reached her hands up to run them over his face, across his cheekbones, his strong brow, over his eyelids and through his long, chestnut locks. She would miss him, this him, so much. He had shown her a glimpse of a future with the Doctor that she had almost never believed would be possible, had shown her how much the War had changed him, had shown her a glimpse of the man he had been before, the man she would help him find again. But to do that, she had to lose him now. Sometimes loving him was so hard.

She put her forehead to his and they both dropped their shields, connecting once more before she left. "I wish there was some way I could help," she said in his mind and he could feel her sincerity, her love washing across the link. It made him feel reassured and guilty at the same time.

"You will. I'm sure you will, Rose," he replied. He opened his gray-blue eyes to stare into her hazel ones, willing her to feel everything he felt and willing her to forgive him for this small deception. He thought he had given up his manipulative tendencies with his seventh body. Apparently not. They had lost him Ace. He prayed fervently to any deity that was listening that they wouldn't lose him Rose.

He leaned forward and kissed her fiercely. He wouldn't lose her. He couldn't. She would forgive him.

Wouldn't she?

Finally, they broke the kiss in silent communion.

Rose gazed up at him with lovely compassion filled eyes, one hand on the door out of the console room, out of his life, this life. He reached up to cup the side of her face. It would be so long before he would get to see that expression again.

Putting his hand on top of hers and opening the door with her, he whispered "Go on, get in there. I need you."

He watched her form retreat out the door and when it was closed, he sank against it, collapsing to the floor with his head in his hands. With silent tears, he slowly forced the golden memories of their time together into a box at the back of his mind, somewhere safe in the recesses where he would be able to find it again eventually. As he had promised Rose, he kept the deep feeling of satisfaction he had felt when he was with her and instilled a drive to find her once again.

He was right. He would need her.

He just had no idea how much.