"Rose Tyler," he says, mingled pain and pride evident in his voice. "I-" His picture fuzzes for a second, and then he is gone. She gapes at the windswept beach for a moment, unable to believe that the universe could possibly be so cruel. The next few moments are a blur, but when she realizes what's going on, she is crying in her mother's arms.
"It's going to be all right," Jackie comforts her daughter, although she knows that "all right" will be a long time coming. "Come on, let's get you home."
"No," Rose sniffs, and pulls away, wiping at her eyes. "Please, just a little longer. A few hours. He always told me, wait exactly five and a half hours. He's the Doctor, he'll think of something."
The others look as though they want to argue, but no one speaks up. They end up sitting in the car, huddled into their jackets, while Rose stares stoically at the ocean. Six hours go by. Pete starts the car. Rose bursts into tears again.
She doesn't even know Pete is in trouble until she hears Jackie sobbing. She's spent the last month and a half in her room, huddled under the covers, only eating when someone begs her to. She's come out to use the toilet, and hears the crying.
A Torchwood mission has gone wrong. There are aliens. They've taken hostages. Pete is among them. Rose listens dully to Jackie's tearful explanations for a moment, and then a detail catches at her. "What did you say?"
The second-hand description sounds familiar, and as she pries more information out of her mother, she realizes what's going on. She and the Doctor have encountered this race before, and there's been a terrible misunderstanding.
"Give me the phone," she demands, snatching it without waiting for her mother to comply and dialing Torchwood.
Within a few hours Pete and the rest are home safe, and Agent Rose Tyler is officially on the Torchwood payroll.
The blue hoodie that he last touched has long since worn out from constant cuddling. She continues to wear the same clothes from the beach in Norway, as though they somehow carry his psychic imprint. She drifts in and out of Torchwood where needed, identifying an artifact here, handling a negotiation there.
They begin to speak of her in awed tones. "Rose," someone says, and nobody needs a last name or qualifier. She becomes almost mythical, her burning ambition making her unstoppable.
She reads voraciously, pesters Torchwood scientists on their lunch breaks, and spends time in the labs tinkering. After a solid week spent at work, eating out of the vending machines and crashing for naps on the couch a few hours at a time, she emerges, smudged and exhausted, carrying a rough draft for the most ambitious build Torchwood has seen yet.
The first time the dimension cannon shows promise of actually working, the dog doesn't come back. The physicists mutter among themselves, continuing to hone about a year of fine-tuning. Jackie is furiously relieved that her daughter did not get to be the guinea pig for this first test as she had pleaded, insisting, "I told you so!" at every opportunity.
The second time, she materializes with her leg inside a wall. Below the knee she is melded with hard stone, and the force of the cannon jerks her painfully forward onto her face. She can't even tell if she is on the right Earth, but luckily the alley is deserted. She spends the next half hour crouched against the cold wall, sobbing in terror. She is almost too frightened to hit the button that will send her home - what if she comes back missing part of her leg? - but there is no real alternative, so she does.
Her leg is intact, although fractured from the force it experienced when her momentum tried to pull it out of the wall. The scientists go back to the drawing board, while the medics set her leg. She tells Jackie she slipped on some ice, and by the time it is healed the dimension cannon is ready to try again.
This time she ends up in the middle of the ocean, and it is a cold, wet half hour before she can return, dripping, to report their failure. The medics tsk and treat her for hypothermia. They are interrupted when one of the scientific team runs in to pull her to a computer, where he shows her a video taken from one of Torchwood's many satellites. What she sees turns her even colder than the icy water could.
One by one, the stars are going out.
At first Donna Noble does not seem like the kind of woman the Doctor would choose to travel with, but slowly Rose begins to understand what he must see in her. The shock of seeing the Doctor wheeled away lifeless on a stretcher only leaves her functional because she knows that this is not how the universe is supposed to be. She can't tell Donna too much, and she doesn't want to scare the poor woman anyway, but manages to save her life at least.
On a park bench late at night, she wants to hug the other woman, tell her, "Thank you for taking care of him," but she will not understand, and it will only serve to confuse her more. Instead she waits until she knows Donna is ready, and takes her to where she will double back on her own timeline.
She has a moment of Doctor-like glee when she gets to show this Donna the TARDIS for the first time, and completely misses the fact that she has all but turned into him. She admires poor brave Donna's courage. At the last she is there for Donna the way she was for Pete, but she can't help but try to get a message through to the Doctor. She is not even sure that Donna will remember it, but she can't not try. Telling Donna to give him her name is out of the question, so she gives Donna two words.
Two words to make him understand that once again it is the end of everything.
Her vision resolves out of streaks of white, and for a second her heart stops beating. He is there, at the end of the street. He is talking to Donna; his back is to her, and he hasn't seen her yet. Frozen for a moment, she can't make her feet move. What if he isn't happy to see her? What if he's angry about the dimension cannon?
It has been too long though, and all of a sudden she is walking, picking up speed as she draws closer. Donna glances over the Doctor's shoulder and after a moment says something to him. He turns around, and for a moment it's like he can't believe what he is seeing. Then his face splits into the most beautiful grin she has ever seen and he is running towards her, running like his life depends on it. She feels an answering smile light up her face and takes off up the street, her gun bouncing off her hip.
She doesn't see Donna, she doesn't see the Dalek. All she sees is him, her Doctor, and they are so close, and then she hears the voice.
The Doctor lights up and for an instant she can see through him, all the way to his bones. He collapses. She screams. An instant too late, Jack blows the Dalek's head off. She doesn't notice. She is cradling his head, pleading with him not to die, not to regenerate, because while it might still be him, she doesn't know if she can get used to yet another face, another voice.
She doesn't know if he will feel the same about her.
They half-carry, half-drag him into the TARDIS, and it's happening, that golden glow is surrounding him, and she tries to choke back her sobs for his sake, when all of a sudden the glow surges and melts away, and he is still him.
When she falls into his arms, it is like coming home.
They are standing on a heartbreakingly familiar beach, and she doesn't understand. She is standing between the Doctor and his twin, the biological metacrisis who she would be having trouble telling apart if he weren't helpfully wearing the blue suit.
"How was that sentence going to end?" she asks the Doctor, her Doctor, and when he answers her heart feels like it has shattered, because he could not have said anything harsher if he had tried. In desperation, because she has to know, she looks at the metacrisis, who has all of her Doctor's memories along with his appearance. "And you?" she asks him, begging him to end years of wondering and hoping.
He whispers three words into her ear, and she can't help it. Hearing those words in that voice, something overwhelms her and she grabs his face and kisses him as though the world is ending.
When a familiar sound breaks through the sound of the waves and she turns to see the TARDIS gone, she feels as though it has.
She can't look at him. She has let him stay at her flat, because after all he has nowhere else to go and she will not inflict Jackie on him, but he stays in the guest room and she spends as little time at home as possible. He looks just like her Doctor; the one she has lost, the one she never got to kiss, the one who is wandering alone through the other universe without her.
She alternates between being heartsick and furious at him. The metacrisis notices her mood swings and stays out of the way when he senses a change coming. He hasn't pushed things, only stared at her with terribly sad eyes, eyes that would melt her heart if she hasn't been so upset and if that look were coming from a different pair of identical eyes.
She avoids speaking to him by name, using awkward pronouns and getting his attention by saying "Hey" a lot. She cannot bring herself to call him "Doctor." He tries to prove to her that he is essentially the same person, bringing up small references and stories from their past, even some from his previous incarnation, but she freezes him out. She cannot stop thinking of them as two different people, and the one she wants is somewhere else.
She has always known that Torchwood would probably be the death of her, and as the alien raises its threatening-looking device and points it in her direction, she knows that time has come. She is out of words, she has no tricks up her sleeve, and she and her team are going to die. She takes a breath and stares her opponent in the eye, but the sound she hears is not the firing of a weapon.
The door explodes open and a team of Torchwood backup rushes into the room, a familiar figure at its head. The team lays down covering fire as he physically imposes himself between her and the threat. "Run," he growls at her.
He is not reminding her of old times; in fact, she can tell that's the farthest thing from his mind right now. Still, as their feet pound the floor and the backup team withdraws behind them, her hand slips into his.
She begins to relax around him, falling into old habits. He seems desperately grateful for her attention, and she realizes how terribly she has treated him. With all the same memories and emotions, even tempered by Donna's, it is as though she has been treating her Time Lord like nothing. Since she cannot get to the other him, she vows to make it up by lavishing affection on this one-hearted, more open version of him.
The first time she forgets herself and calls him "Doctor", he freezes and stares at her as though she has grown another head. Then gently, his dark eyes brimming with emotion, he leans down and kisses her.
She does not pull away.
A few months later, as they are saying their goodnights, she hesitates. Then she pulls him into her room and shuts the door.
They have miscalculated. The crashed spaceship is about to explode and when it does it will take out a couple of city blocks, along with one Rose Tyler. If she opens the door they will lose the containment, and the explosion will take out much more than that.
She huddles in a reinforced room, knowing that it will not be enough, and asks for the Doctor over her headset. She calmly explains to him the situation. He rages and screams and in the end several of their team have to hold him down. "I love you, Doctor," she tells him with all her heart in it, and he is crying his love and her name when the world flashes white and heat.
She is not expecting to open her eyes again. When she does, she flinches back from the light, even as something in the back of her brain tells her that it isn't actually that bright. She is inside an ambulance, and the Doctor and several medics are all staring at her.
"Hi," she croaks, and she thinks the heat and smoke from the blast must have damaged her voice. No one says anything. They keep staring, until, impatient, she sits up. She feels fine, not at all as though she has been through an explosion. She looks up, and her reflection in the back window of the ambulance catches her eye.
She can't stop screaming.
The Doctor is there in an instant, his arms wrapped around her, babbling something about the Time Vortex and Bad Wolf and regeneration and unexpected side effects. She still can't stop screaming and finally they have to sedate her.
Her hair is still blonde, but curly. Her eyes have changed color. She is a little taller. Her facial features have shifted. Rose runs over the changes in her mind once again as she looks at herself in the mirror. She still does not recognize herself.
They don't know if this was a one-off or if it will continue to happen. The Doctor has understandably never seen anything like it before. His best guess is that it was a one-time thing. For his sake, and hers, she hopes so. She does not want to live 900 years without him.
He has finally told her the truth about Bad Wolf. She is furious for a few days, then terrified at what else might happen to her, then furious again, especially if what has just happened means that he hadn't needed to regenerate. She is weakly psychic now, an extension of what the Doctor says are latent abilities in all humans, and with his help she searches her mind for any last remnants of Time Vortex.
She finds nothing, and she can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
The Doctor is dying. The metacrisis always had a chance to destabilize, he tells her, and outlines what happened to Donna. He tells her that there was less of a chance that it would happen to him, having started with Time Lord DNA instead of human, but the chances increase over time and it seems that chance has caught up to him.
Because he is more Time Lord, it will be slower. Rose doesn't know if she is grateful for that fact.
She quits her job to spend whatever time he has left at his side. He takes her down to his private workshop in the basement and pulls down a plywood wall that he has built up across one end of the room.
"It's a baby TARDIS," he says of the softly glowing object revealed this way. Rose just gapes in awe. "Donna gave me... call it the seed, before they left. I didn't want to tell you, in case it wouldn't grow. I didn't want you to be disappointed. But now..." He gives a small, sad, what-does-it-matter shrug, and she kisses him desperately.
They travel, and spend time at home cuddling. They make love furiously. They eat and read to each other and play games. And the entire time, the Doctor is deteriorating.
"Come here," he says suddenly one day. Drawn by the urgency in his tone, she stops what she is doing and kneels down on the floor next to the couch where he is lying. He looks pale and drawn, his eyes burning and too dark in his face. She caresses his hair back from his face. "I want to teach you something," he tells her, and what sounds like music falls from his lips.
"What was that?" she asks, startled.
"Gallifreyan," he tells her. "I want you to learn it."
She's about to tell him it's too hard, that her voice will never make those sounds, but she looks at his desperately earnest expression and swallows her words. Instead, she makes her best try at those lovely musical syllables.
They work for a few hours. She thinks she is getting better at it, when he bursts out laughing. "What?" she asks him, and he tells her that she just said something terribly unflattering about his mother.
She finds it easier to treat it as a song, music instead of words. He says it yet again, slowly, and the pattern suddenly clicks in her head. Haltingly, she repeats it. Wonder washes over his face and he smiles at her, the same smile from so long ago when he and the other Doctor were still one body and he had seen her standing at the end of a dark street. "Say it again," he entreats gently.
She does, a little more confidently this time. His eyes are closed in bliss, and she thinks painfully that this is probably the first time in forever that he has heard someone speak his native language to him.
"What does it mean?" she asks him.
His eyes slide open and he looks at her, unbearable tenderness filling his gaze. "Doctor," he says.
They stay up all night, and eventually she learns a few simple Gallifreyan phrases. No more than baby talk, almost, but it seems to please him. When he finally succumbs to exhaustion she writes everything she knows down phonetically, so that she will never forget.
A week later, he is dead.
She whispers, "Goodbye," in Gallifreyan over his grave.
The TARDIS is ready for flight. Whatever part of the Time Vortex she has absorbed in her regeneration has left her with the knowledge of how to fly it, at least in theory. She is able to bond with it, although the connection is weak and feels like holding a conversation over a staticky phone line.
She kisses her mother, brother, and stepfather goodbye and goes on an adventure. She knows he would want her to, her metacrisis Doctor. She wraps herself in his long coat and heads for the stars.
One day, she finds a crack in reality.
She is in the 51st century when she sees him again. He does not recognize her, and she does not recognize him at first, because he has regenerated as well. But she begins to realize, and when he says the word "Doctor" she almost throws her arms around him. She can't, though. This is the Doctor who left her standing on a beach with her heart broken a second time, the Doctor who never said the words. He is the Doctor, but he is not her Doctor.
When he says her name she freezes for just one second, because it is the name she wanted to change hers to as a child, because she thought Rose Tyler was terribly boring. They have evidently met before (the perils of time travel), but she can't help but feel hurt that she has recognized him, even through regeneration, but he does not recognize her.
She decides to remain in the 51st century. She knows he will return. She takes up a job similar to her old Torchwood job, playing with strange alien artifacts. He does return. They have adventures. She still doesn't tell him who she is. She can't.
He is here somewhere, he's answered her summons like he has so many other times before. It's just a matter of finding him. She leads them through the deserted building like she knows the way, and maybe she does, because she steps through a door and there he is.
She steps forward and greets him with a smile.
Author's Note: The only episode I have seen with River Song in it is the "Silence in the Library" two-parter. This is nothing more than a crackpot theory I formulated after seeing that episode and having just come off finishing "Journey's End". I am probably dead wrong, but PLEASE do not tell me the truth about River. I haven't gotten there yet and I want to find out on my own, okay? :)