Haven't posted a fic in a really long time. This happened after I spent all day thinking about the Doctor and Rose - specifically the eleventh. Then this happened, originally, as a oneshot to Toph. Figured I'd post it in here.
River asked to be dropped off at some University.
"Professor River Song, remember?" she had quipped when he had scoffed at the thought of her standing in some classroom for hours upon end talking to students who had less ambition that he was sure she did when she was only baby Melody Pond at Demon's Run.
"You're too much like me, River. And you and me, we run. So how does someone like you stand still long enough to teach?"
"Someone has to."
"But why you? And why archaeology?"
She gave him that smile of hers that made him feel as though he knew absolutely nothing, even though they both were well aware that he practically knew everything. "I teach them about the past so they can be worthy of you in the future."
"Future companions?" He smiled. He liked that.
"That. Or future creators and leaders of the worlds in which you'll find yourself running."
He liked that too.
"Besides," she winked at him in that way she does, "who said anything about standing still?"
And with that she was gone.
And for the first time since Manhattan, he had to face the truth in the suddenly cold Tardis console room.
He was alone.
The Tardis hummed. He stroked her affectionately. "Just you and me again, old girl. Same old life."
On your own?
He shuddered at the sudden memory, the sudden flash of blonde hair. Part of him thought he felt the Tardis shudder, too, but that had to have just been the momentum of their take off.
It had been much too long since he was alone, really alone, enough to think about any of that; the pain and the hope and the intensity of remembering Rose.
Yes, he had traveled alone throughout the years, and there had been many of them. He was a boy in his 900s when he had first laid his new eyes on young Amelia Pond, and here he was a man in his 1,000s. He supposed he should stop keeping track. What did it really matter anymore.
But even in those years in between visits to the Ponds, he was never really alone. He could go back to them when they needed him. No. When he needed them.
He could always bring his beloved Ponds home to him.
But it was time to move on, as he always did. Thus was the curse of the timelords.
(It had been forever since he had that thought. Forever and a regeneration ago, to be more exact.)
He remembered how hurt Rose was the first time he had explained the curse to her. How afraid she was that she would become just like Sarah Jane - a memory he kept locked in a compartment in his timelord mind. It was his reality, a fact of his life, that she became acquainted with much too well.
There was no forever with the Doctor.
Well. This version of the Doctor at least.
He laughed at the thought. Of all the companions, Rose would be the one to get a forever with the Doctor she loved. It just wasn't him. He was standing right here, in the Tardis. He was alone.
He wondered how they were. The other him and Rose in the other universe with their lives. It wasn't jealousy making him wonder, just curiosity. He had River now and he loved her (although the more time he spent with River the more he feared the Library would come all too soon. That picnic on Asgard was one he was very much not looking forward to packing), but Rose would always be his Rose.
Every so often in that contrived way the universe sometimes worked, he'd find a small crack in the universe still closing. Wounds in the universe that took longer than others to heal, even after his Big Bang Two debacle.
He was thinking of those wounds now.
The Tardis hummed. She knew what he was thinking. She always did.
"Just one. Just for a minute. Half a minute, even. Amy is happy. So were the others, last I saw them. But Rose... I just need to know. I need to know she made it off that beach and into a happy life."
The Tardis shook gently.
"Okay, fine. I need to just look at her. Not to see if she's happy, though that would be a plus. But because I need to right now. There has to be at least one crack open. Just one. Just for a minute. For Rose."
The Tardis never could deny anything that came to Rose.
The clattering from the basement could only really mean one thing. His other self - the one who was still that skinny man with the pinstripes and the trainers - was tinkering away at something. Based on the preliminary glances of the house in which he assumed the half human Doctor lived with Rose, he tinkered often, building crazy sorts of gadgets that looked out of place (though so perfectly in place) next to the pink couch pillows he could only assume Rose picked out.
It also meant that even as half a human, the Doctor did not require sleep. It was four in the morning, after all.
He probably should have felt more awkward about walking up the stairs towards a bedroom that another version of himself shared with a woman he once (would always) loved, but he was too distracted by the pictures hung all over the place of the two of them.
He smiled. Each picture was taken in a new location. Even without a full grown Tardis, they managed to travel. They didn't need other planets and universes and time travel to have their adventures.
That made him happy. Neither he, no matter what version, nor Rose were meant for simple domestics.
A soft cry came from a room to his left the moment he stepped onto the second floor carpet. Maybe they were meant for some domestics after all.
Slowly, he opened the door and found himself standing in a nursery. A crib off to the far wall, where little whimpers could be heard caught his eye.
He thought of Melody Pond, his beloved River, and of how Amy had her baby ripped from her and returned as a psychopathic adult that they all still very much loved, but deep down all knew the pain and regret and guilt at never knowing that small baby girl they lost.
He thanked every God he had ever learned about in his travels that Rose would not have to deal with that kind of pain.
He stepped over towards the crib, where a small baby boy in a bright blue onesie covered with stars stared up at him. Little wisps of light hair covered his head, his eyes very much Rose's. "You have a Timelord nose," the Doctor told him.
The baby wiggled and cooed, and the Doctor, knowing how to speak baby, knew immediately that he wanted to be held. He picked him up gently, and the baby fell into place, his head on the Doctor's shoulder.
The Doctor rocked him gently. "Now, I know what you're thinking. I don't look very much like Dad. I don't sound very much like Dad. And my coat is much more scratchy than Dad's. But something feels the same. I can tell you that while your Dad and I were once the same, we haven't been in a very long time. And he is very, very lucky."
The baby pulled at his bowtie.
"I'll have you know, baby Tyler, that bowties are cool... hey now. I see you've inherited your grandmum's attitude."
"Is he giving you sass?"
The Doctor turned abruptly at the door, where she stood, leaning against the frame. "I speak baby."
"I know you do."
He thought of the other Doctor, tinkering away a couple floors below them. "Of course you do."
"He's called James. We're taking him on his first big trip next week. Rome. It's very nearly the same as the Rome back home. Last time the Doctor and I were there we didn't leave for four months."
"That many people to save. Aliens dressed as Romans, real proper Romans. Can you imagine that? Perception filter kept everyone from really noticing."
"I knew a Roman once."
"You know, most people don't take it too lightly when strange men come wandering into their houses in the middle of the night to hold their babies. If the Doctor, I mean if my, I mean, if he knew-"
"He knows," he replied. How could he not? He was almost certain his Doctor counterpart sensed him the moment the Tardis landed. "I suspect he's giving me my space."
"How long ago did you change?"
He wondered if it was easier for her to separate them now. "Quite some time ago."
"Still not ginger."
"Still pretty rude." He paused. "Maybe even moreso now."
It was then he remembered the baby still in his arms, and he handed him out towards Rose. James curled right into his mum's embrace. The Doctor couldn't help but smile.
"I don't know what I'm doing most days still. We didn't plan him. For the longest time we scoffed at the idea of settling down and having a family. Being normal. But you want to know the truth, Doctor? James is the biggest adventure we've ever been on."
"Life is full of adventures, Rose Tyler, and I am glad to see you're taking advantage of every single one."
A silence settled in between them, and it amazed the Doctor that even after all this time, it still was a comfortable one.
"Why are you here?" she finally asked. "I'd ask how, but I always knew eventually you'd find a way."
"Cracks in the universe. Little girl's wall. Long story that just recently ended."
"Are you okay?"
"You know me, Rose Tyler."
"I do. Who's looking out for you?"
"Amelia Pond did. You'd have liked her. She traveled with me on and off for a while, along with her husband Rory. Lovely couple."
"Where is she now?"
"Living a day to day life. Not unlike yours, I'm sure. In another time and place I'm not allowed to."
"You managed to get here."
"So now then? Who's looking out for you now, Doctor?"
"Should I be jealous?"
As if on cue, a loud crash sounded from the floors below them, followed by a "sorry!"
"Should I be?" he smirked at her. She smiled. He liked this.
"I'm glad you have her."
"I'm glad I do, too."
"Why do you sound so sad, then?"
He paused. Motioned towards the basement. "Ask him about her one day. And the Library."
"So what's next, Doctor?"
"I don't have much time. I just..." I needed to see you. He couldn't bring himself to say it.
"I understand." She always did. "Same old life?"
"Same old life."
"On your own?"
God, he loved her.
"Amy asked me not to be. As did River."
"I only ever take the best. And you were, Rose Tyler. The best."
"I still am." He loved her smile. "Find someone, Doctor. Don't worry about the pain of losing them. Think about the fun we had. The fun I'm sure you had with Amy. That I know you had with Martha and Donna and Sarah Jane and all the rest."
"We did have fun, didn't we Rose?"
"More than that, Doctor."
He looked at the baby boy now sound asleep in her arms. "Maybe one day I'll come back for James. Unless you get a Tardis up and running."
"You worry about your own universe. We can take care of ours." she smirked. "But if you happen to come back when he is much, much, older... who am I to stop him?"
"Rose Tyler. Defender of the universe. The other mums will cower with fear."
"Got that right."
A door closed downstairs. "Rose?" his old voice called up.
"Seems like I've overstayed my welcome."
"He understands. He's just looking out."
"I should be going, anyway."
"Let me put James in his crib. I'll walk you out."
He saw the look on Rose's face as she looked upon the old police box. Knew that she was itching to go inside, but knew that she couldn't, and wouldn't, bring herself to do so.
His counterpart stayed in the basement, and he was grateful. He wasn't sure how the other him felt, but some things he just wasn't ready to face.
"She misses you, you know."
"The Tardis? I miss her, too."
"Well, I guess this is goodbye."
"Our first proper one."
He realized she was right.
"Promise me, Doctor. Promise me and Amy and River. Promise you'll find someone. You'll always find someone."
Neither of them could stand it anymore. They weren't sure who moved first, but they closed the space between them and embraced in a hug. She always hugged him the best.
They could have stayed like that all night, but he knew the crack they came through would close like all the rest. He wondered how long any others would be open if he wanted to come back. Realized eventually, there would be no more wounds to ever crawl through.
They pulled apart, and she wiped a tear from her eye. "Promise me, Doctor."
He snapped his fingers. The Tardis door opened. He turned to step inside.
He never could deny her anything.
The Tardis doors closed, and it faded away. The front door opened, and Rose's Doctor stood there, silently, waiting patiently for her to be ready to come in.
Across time and space, in an alternate universe, the Tardis landed. And the Doctor met a girl named Clara who reminded him of a Dalek that he once knew.
He kept his promise.