a/n: Okay, this is it. The last part. Thank you so much for reading my insane, obsessive ramblings. I hope you've enjoyed the story, and if you have, please drop me a note in the reviews. I truly am addicted to them.
Couple of things. First off, thanks to bittie752 for listening to me whine about writing this, and for reading over one of my chapters before I posted. Thanks also to HiddenintheTardis who helped me out so much when I first started this story. And thanks to everyone who has reviewed up to this point. You all have been so encouraging.
Last, but definitely not least, even though Part Human is over, their story isn't. I have a three story arc in my head that is mostly plotted out, and the second part is already started. It's called The Slow Path. The way I write, I need to have things mostly completed before I begin to post chapters, but I'm hoping to be able to start posting in a couple of months.
I hope you enjoy the epilogue.
Later, Pete told Rose he needed to talk to her.
"And alone this time, Rose," he insisted.
When Rose looked like she was going to argue, the Doctor took himself out of the equation.
"Tony, do you have a football?" he asked. When the boy nodded, he said, "You know, Tony, I have never played football before. How about we go outside and you show me how to play?"
Shortly before dinner, Rose went outside and found the Doctor and Tony playing on the lawn. The Doctor was just in his shirt, trousers and trainers. His shirt sleeves were rolled up and his jacket lay on the ground as if it had been tossed to the side, out of the way. She could see his tie hanging out of his jacket pocket.
"Not like that," Tony was yelling. "Like this." He kicked the ball to the Doctor, who expertly kicked it back.
"How was that?" he asked. "Better?"
"'S okay, I guess," Tony answered. "But when you're really playing you have to do it while you're running at the same time. Are you a good runner?"
"Am I a good runner?" the Doctor asked. He spotted Rose standing to the side, watching them in amusement. "Let's ask Rose. Rose," he called. "Am I a good runner?"
"The best," she said. "I've never seen a better runner. You know, Tony, the first thing I ever did with the Doctor is run. The Doctor is an expert at running. Some days, that's all he does."
The Doctor looked at her in amusement, not certain if he should be insulted or not.
"Tony," she said, crossing over to them. "Mum wants you to go wash up for dinner." When he began to protest, she continued with a jerk of her head toward the house. "Now, young man."
The Doctor and Rose both watched as the boy crossed the lawn and entered the house. Retrieving his brown pinstriped jacket from where he had left it in the grass, the Doctor reached in his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. He mopped his face with it.
"Human sweat glands," he said with look of disgust on his face. "Absolutely rubbish."
"Welcome to the world of humanity," she said, grinning at him cheekily.
He shot her a look. When she laughed at him, he found he couldn't help but laugh with her.
"Fancy a walk, Doctor?" she asked.
He looked at her curiously, rolling down his sleeves and slipping his suit jacket back on. He shoved his handkerchief back into his pocket, not bothering to put on his tie. "With you? Always," he responded.
She took his hand and led the way across the lawn to the path that led to the pond.
"So what did Pete want?" he asked.
"They found Lisa Hallett," she said. "She was wandering around in a daze by the London Eye."
"How did she get out there?" he asked. Lisa hadn't had access to a vehicle when she managed to escape the Torchwood compound.
"We don't know," she said. "And there's more. She's having memory problems. Could that be an effect of being linked with one of the Kern?"
"Could be. Maybe," he answered, uncertainty in his voice. "The human brain is very delicate. How much memory has she lost?"
"Let's put it this way," she said to him. "She thinks she's still engaged to Ianto."
He grimaced. "Over five years…"
"Yeah," she said. "In fact, when she was first found and Torchwood was contacted, it looked like she had been Ret-Conned. That's why we wanted to know if the Kern had done this to her. Because if this isn't an effect of the Kern…"
"Then someone did this to her," he finished grimly.
"I really hate to think that," Rose said. "Doctor, did we get them all? The Kern, I mean."
"I don't know," he admitted. "I certainly hope so." He paused. "What's Ianto gonna do?"
"About Lisa? Well, from what I understand, he's staying here for a little while. She doesn't really have anyone else. Since she lost five years, she didn't even remember her step-mother had died."
"Has she been tested for Ret-Con?" the Doctor asked.
"Yeah, and according to Frank Collins they didn't find any trace in her system," she said.
"Well, there's your answer, then," the Doctor said. He had a hard time having any sympathy for Lisa Hallett after what she had done to Rose.
They had reached the pond and automatically went to sit down on the rock they had sat on before. Rose found she was already thinking of it as "their" rock. The ducks were there again, and she thought that next time they came they should really bring some bread or something for them.
"You know, you never told me where you went when you took off this morning," the Doctor said. "I looked all over for you but I couldn't find you anywhere."
"Here," she said. "I came right here. I needed to think and this was the only place I could think of to come."
"So what did you think about?" he asked.
"A couple of things," she said. "Although mostly about what an idiot I am."
"But you're not," he protested. "You're brilliant."
"That's very nice to say, but honestly, sometimes I'm an idiot," she said. "I sat here, thinking about how I had fallen in love with you without remembering one of the most important things about you."
"What's that?" he asked curiously.
"That you're an alien. A real, honest to goodness alien from outer space. You're not just from the Balkans or Bangladesh or Barcelona or something. You're a space alien. It's like one of those awful tabloids you see at the market. 'I fell in love with an alien.' And I did. I mean I knew it, your regeneration after the Game Station was a dead giveaway, but sometimes I forget how alien alien can be."
"Is that okay with you? That I'm an alien, I mean," he asked seriously. "Although I'm not as much as I used to be."
"Yeah, of course it's okay, cos it's you," she said with a smile, bumping into him with her shoulder. "You know, you asked me that when I first saw the TARDIS. If it was okay that you were an alien. It was okay then, and it's still okay now. Besides, I'm the alien to you, yeah? Is it okay with you?"
"It's more than okay," he said, smiling at her. After giving her a quick kiss, he continued. "You said you thought about a couple of things when you were down here. What else?"
She paused for a moment. "You know, I kept on telling myself you couldn't be, well, you, partially because it was impossible for there to be two of you without one of you being a parallel or something. I've been on this planet so long, and then traveled to so many different parallel worlds that parallel people is something I understand. But parallel people are similar; they aren't the same. I love Pete and he's my dad in so many ways, but my dad, my real dad, died in 1987 saving your life, saving my life, and saving my whole planet from reapers because of something I did. This Pete didn't do that." She grew quiet for a moment as she did whenever she thought of her real dad. She was always sad that she hadn't known him better, but was so incredibly proud of him for what he had done to fix her mistake.
"Anyway," she continued quietly, "the other reason I couldn't believe you were really you is because you are so different than you were. You've been so much more open. And… you told me I was beautiful. That time in my office. You said then that you were the same man, but part of the reason I didn't believe you was because you were so different." She paused again, almost afraid to ask the next question, but she knew she had to. "That's not from the meta-crisis is it? Or is it?"
The unspoken question, are you different because of the human DNA, because of Donna, hung in the air between them. The Doctor was shocked. As soon as he heard Rose's question, he had to admit it was a fair one, but how could she not know?
"Rose," he said. He cupped her face in his hand. "That wasn't the meta-crisis. That was Canary Wharf. Losing you was…" He paused, closed his eyes and swallowed thickly. When he opened them again, he continued. "It was… hard. And then when I ran out of time, that first time on Bad Wolf Bay…" He rolled his eyes. "A Time Lord who ran out of time," he said derisively, shaking his head. "Anyway, losing you, it… changed me. And then when you found me again, despite the complete impossibility of you doing it, I told myself things were going to be different. I told myself I wasn't wasting any more time. I'm tired of wasting time."
She stared at him, this gorgeous man whom she had both loved for years and had just recently fallen in love with. And he stared back, his timeless eyes full of love. Neither was certain who moved first, but suddenly she found she was in his arms. He lowered his head to hers. And his kiss, soft and loving rather than hard and passionate, was nevertheless devastating in its intensity and shook her to the core.
Eventually they broke apart, both a bit breathless, and he laughed.
"Rose," he said, "I really think we need to find our own place. We can't come here every time I want to kiss you uninterrupted. As lovely a spot as this is…"
"Why Doctor," Rose said flirtatiously, grinning with her tongue just peeking between her teeth. "Are you asking me to move in with you?"
"I think I already did that," he said, grinning back. "Remember? Asked you to run away with me. And when you said no, I came back and said 'Did I mention it also travels in time?' Gave you my key and everything."
She laughed for a moment and then became serious. "About finding our own place…" Her voice trailed off.
"What? Don't tell me you want to stay here at the mansion?" He sounded so worried that she had to laugh.
"No," she quickly assured him. "It's just something else Dad and I talked about. We… talked about Cardiff. By the way, he told me who it was who reported Owen."
"Really?" he asked. "Who was it?"
"Tosh," she said. At his surprise, she continued. "Evidently she's been worried about how self-destructive he seems to be, and she thought that by reporting him maybe it would shake him up enough to make some changes. But Dad led Owen to believe that he was caught on CCTV so he wouldn't know Tosh turned him in."
"Anyway," she continued slowly. She was nervous about telling him the rest of the conversation. "Dad, he, uh, wants me to take over Torchwood Three." She cringed, not knowing what his reaction would be. "He said I was the only qualified candidate who could control Owen. But that would mean moving to Cardiff. And you couldn't work at Torchwood anymore. Not officially anyway. That's assuming you want to come with, of course," she said in a rush.
"Why wouldn't I want to come with?" he asked with a puzzled look on his face.
"I dunno. Didn't want to assume." She shrugged, uncharacteristically shy. "And we don't have to go at all. I know you don't really like Cardiff."
"No, this is an excellent opportunity for you. You should go. And of course I want to come with," he told her. "And Cardiff is perfect."
"Well, for one thing, it's close enough to visit your mother, but not close enough for her to just drop in unannounced all the time," he said pointedly, and she grinned. "And I should be able to get a job doing something or other in Cardiff as well as here. Plus, if we get a place that is close to the rift, close but not on, it'll provide just enough energy for the TARDIS coral to grow without overwhelming it. And when I need a break from working on the TARDIS, I can finish analyzing the changes to my DNA. And maybe even figure out what happened to those stars." And figure out what's going on with your DNA as well, he added silently to himself.
"Plus, Rose Tyler," he said softly, lifting his hand to caress her cheek. "Cardiff is where I… well, it's where I first realized I was falling in love with you."
Her heart skipped a beat. He had told her he loved her before, but she still wasn't used to hearing it. Something told her she'd never be used to hearing it. But then the rest of what he had said registered in her mind.
"Hang on," she said, her brow furrowed. What he had said just did not add up. "You told me on the beach that you loved me, and that was before we went to Cardiff."
"Not that time, Rose," he said. "Not that trip to Cardiff. Before. When we were traveling."
She thought back to the two times they had been in Cardiff while they had been traveling in the TARDIS. She stared at him as her mind reeled. They hadn't traveled to Cardiff since he had regenerated after the Game Station. He had been in love with her that long?
"Was it when Blon Fel Fotch grabbed me in the TARDIS? Is that when you realized it?" she asked finally. The Slitheen had threatened to kill her before the Doctor had convinced Blon to look into the heart of the TARDIS, regressing her back into an egg and, in turn, saving Rose. She was floored that he may have loved her that long.
The Doctor just shook his head.
"But then…" she said, bewildered.
"There we were," he said, "locked in a dungeon in Cardiff, about to die, and you told me it wasn't my fault. You said we'd go down fighting. Together. And you grabbed my hand. And I said…"
"'I'm so glad I met you,'" Rose finished. She stared at him in amazement.
"And you said, 'Me too.' There we were, about to die, and you were still saying you were glad you met me. That's when I knew I was in trouble. Truth be told, it probably started before then, maybe even when you rescued me from the Nestene Consciousness, but it was in Cardiff that I began to realize how I felt about you. And then by the time we were in Downing Street it was all over."
"'I could save the world and lose you,'" she breathed, wide eyed, quoting him. She would never forget him saying that.
It took her a few moments for her brain to process what he had revealed to her. It put a completely new spin on her memories.
"It took me longer, you know," she eventually admitted quietly. "My mum knew, and Mickey knew, before I would admit it to myself. You were just so, I dunno, important and," she sighed, "impressive and I just worked in a shop. It never occurred to me back then that you could care for me. But you know, Doctor, really… you had me at run."
An hour later they were still there. They sat on the rock holding hands, her head resting against his shoulder, watching the sun go down. The sunset was gorgeous, orange and red and yellow and casting a glow on everything it touched.
They sat in companionable silence, enjoying each other's company without feeling the need to fill the air with unnecessary talk. Not everything had been said between them, they still needed to talk about a lot of things, but for now, for the moment, things were right. Comfortable. Peaceful. Perfect.
She glanced at him and squeezed his hand. Warmer than it used to be, yet still much cooler than a human's. That same hand, which had first taken hold of hers in Henrik's. Which had been cut off on a spacecraft above the Earth in a different universe. Which now belonged to her third Doctor. Her Doctor. Her new, new, new Doctor.
As she held his hand, it struck her, as it always did, how their hands fit perfectly together. Despite his regenerations, despite his hand being slightly different than it had been in Henrik's, their hands always fit perfectly. She should have known, she told herself in a moment of whimsy, she should have realized it was really him if only because their hands fit, like they always had, and like no one else's ever would.
She looked out at the pond. The ducks had long since gone, back to their nest or to wherever ducks go when they leave a place, but the pond itself looked alive. The reflection of the setting sun made the water appear on fire, and the glow was almost too bright to look at. Above the pond, above the tree line, several zeppelins flew, black against the orange sky and scarlet clouds.
She glanced back at him, at the handsome face she had loved for so long, and the man that wore it that she had loved even while he had worn a different face. He saw her looking at him and looked back at her, his face reflecting such love and devotion that she was almost embarrassed, feeling unworthy of the feelings she now knew he had for her, and had had for her for so long. Who was she, that such a man should love her?
Instead of revealing that, she quoted his own words back to him, words spoken on a different planet, in a different universe, a lifetime, for him, away.
"How long are you gonna stay with me?"
He looked at her seriously, his dark eyes piercing into her soul, and spoke one word.
And then he smiled.