"Time was, every single one of these people knew your name," Martha says as they look out over the Roald Dahl Plass. "Now they've all forgotten you."
"Good," the Doctor replies.
"Back to work," Jack remarks from where he stands across the railing from them.
"Oh, can't you stay for a bit?" Rose pleads.
"I really don't mind," the Doctor assures him. "Come with us."
Jack takes a deep breath. "I had plenty of time to think that past year. The year that never was. And I kept thinking about that team of mine. Like you said, Doctor. Responsibility."
"Defending the Earth." The Doctor nods. "Can't argue with that." And then he reaches out, grabs Jack's hand, and points the sonic at the vortex manipulator on his wrist.
"Hey, I need that!" Jack protests.
"I can't have you walking around with a time-travelling teleport," the Doctor tells him as he disables the manipulator. "You could go anywhere. Twice. The second time to apologize."
"And what about me?" Jack asks. "Can you fix that? Will I ever be able to die?"
The Doctor shakes his head. "Nothing I can do."
Rose reaches out, grabbing Jack's hand and holding it tightly. "I'm sorry," she tells him earnestly. "I really am."
"I know," he replies, and then turns to the Doctor. "But I keep wondering. What about aging? Because I can't die, but I keep getting older. The odd little gray hair, you know? What happens if I live for a million years?"
"I really don't know."
Jack laughs. "Okay, vanity. Sorry. Yeah, can't help it. Used to be a poster boy when I was a kid, living on the Boeshane Peninsula. Tiny little place. I was the first one ever to be signed up for the Time Agency." He sighs nostalgically. "They were so proud of me. The Face of Boe, they called me. Hmm." He grins at each of them in turn. "I'll see you." And then he turns and heads off towards the secret entrance to Torchwood Three, leaving Rose, the Doctor, and Martha all staring after him, completely dumbstruck.
The Doctor is the first to speak, shaking his head and uttering a disbelieving, "No."
"It can't be," Martha whispers.
"No," the Doctor repeats, shaking his head emphatically. "Definitely not. No. No." He looks down at Rose to see that her lips have curved up in a grin and the tip of her tongue is poking out between her teeth. He loves that grin, has loved it since the day they got back from their first ever adventure and she decided she wanted chips. Their first date, she called it.
"D'you want chips?" he asks her suddenly, and for a moment she doesn't reply because she wasn't really expecting him to ask her that. It wasn't surprising, really, just a bit out of context. But after a second, her grin widens, and she nods. "Yeah."
"Martha?" He turns to his other companion. "Chips?"
She hesitates, and then shrugs and says, "Why not?"
"Chips it is," he declares; he loops his arms over their shoulders, and, laughing, they head off. The Time Lord victorious and the two humans he loves more than anything.
"Right then, off we go!" the Doctor announces once they're all back on the TARDIS (which is sitting outside Martha's mum's house). "The open road. There is a burst of starfire right now over the coast of Meta Sigmafolio. Oh, the sky is like oil on water. Fancy a look? Or back in time. We could, I don't know… Charles the Second? Henry the Eighth. I know, what about Agatha Christie? I'd love to meet Agatha Christie, I bet she's brilliant!" Rose, who's standing just beside him, is grinning enthusiastically. But it's just now that he realizes that Martha's expression is completely somber. "Okay," he murmurs.
"I just can't," she says sadly.
"Yeah," he agrees.
"I'll, um –" Rose bites her lip awkwardly and points to the door. "I'll give you two a moment." And then she slips past Martha to the door and leaves the TARDIS, and the Doctor focuses his attention on Martha Jones.
"Spent all those years training to be a doctor," she says. "Now I've got people to look after. They saw half the planet slaughtered and they're devastated. I can't just leave them."
"Of course not," he replies without missing a beat. "Thank you. Martha Jones, you saved the world."
"Yes, I did," she agrees with a smile. "I spent a lot of time with you thinking I was second best. To you, and, you know, to…" She trails off, but the way her gaze flickers to the TARDIS door and then back to him makes it clear who she's talking about. "But you know what?" She grins. "I am good. You going to be alright?"
"Always," he says. "Yeah."
"'Course you are." She smiles. "You've got your Rose." She sucks in a deep breath, and says, "Right then. Bye." And then she turns and leaves the TARDIS.
And about a half a second later, she walks right back in.
"Because the thing is," she says, "it's like my friend Vicky. She lived with this bloke, student housing, there were five of them all packed in, and this bloke was called Sean, and she loved him. She did. She completely adored him, spent all day long talking about him –"
"Is this going anywhere?" he interrupts.
"Yes!" she says emphatically. "Because he never looked at her twice. I mean, he liked her, but that was it. And she wasted years pining after him. Years of her life. Because while he was around, she never looked at anyone else. And I told her, I always said to her, time and time again, I said… get out." She shrugs. "So, this is me. Getting out."
She pulls her mobile phone from her pocket and tosses it to him. "Keep that," she instructs, "because I'm not having you disappear. If that rings – when that rings – you'd better come running. Got it?"
He holds up the phone and nods. "Got it."
She grins and points to him, saying, "I'll see you again, mister." And then, still smiling, she turns and leaves the TARDIS.
Once she's out the doors, she pauses for a moment, just making sure that she's making the right decision. And then she takes a deep breath and walks away.
Only to stop in her tracks when she hears a voice behind her.
"Is it my fault?"
She turns – she'd almost forgotten about Rose, leaning up against the side of the TARDIS, 'giving her and the Doctor a moment'. "Is what your fault?"
"You," Rose replies, pushing off the TARDIS and stepping towards Martha with her arms crossed in front of her chest. "This. You're not – you're not leaving because of me, are you?"
Martha allows herself a breathy laugh. "No, Rose," she says. "It's not you."
"Then what is it?" Rose asks. "Because no one just leaves. All the things the Doctor shows you, all that mad, incredible wonder, you can't just go back to living a normal life after that. I've met an old companion of his, Sarah Jane, she told me how hard it is. Going back."
"Well, I'm not her," Martha replies. "I'm not you. I wanted to be, yeah – all that time with him, I spent a lot of it wishing I was you, because the way he talked about you… I wanted that to be me. But I learned a lot over that last year, and one of the things I learned is that I'm not you. I can't be." She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly; the air hisses softly as it escapes her lips. "That's not why I'm leaving, though. This is the right thing for me. I'm just now sort of… finding myself, you know?"
Rose nods. "Yeah," she whispers.
"You found yourself a while back," Martha comments. "The Doctor, he helped you to find yourself. But that's another way that I'm not like you, because while he's around… I can't. I can't be me when I'm with him, because when he's around, he's all I'm about. And… I want… more in my life than just him. I've got to find myself on my own. If there's one thing that last year taught me, it's that I'm stronger on my own than I thought." She shrugs. "I've got to be away from him. It's the only way I'm going to be me."
Rose nods, and she seems to understand. But when Martha embraces her, her expression goes from understanding to uncomprehending. "What's that for, huh?"
Martha shrugs. "I'll miss you."
Rose frowns. "Why?" she asks. "I would've thought… I mean, I was sort of the reason he never looked at you twice. Right? And you loved him."
"I still love him," Martha admits. "But I'm moving on. I mean, he's never going to see me that way, especially not with you around. But here…" She sighs. "I'm still young, there's hope for me yet. Who knows, maybe I'll find someone else."
"What'll you do?"
Martha breathes in deeply, as though tasting the air. "Anything," she replies. "I'll spend time with my family, help them to get through this. Go back to medical school. Be a doctor, like I always wanted to. Move on." She smiles. "You know. Anything I like."
Rose nods, her lips spreading in a small smile. "Are we gonna see you again?"
"I hope so," Martha replies. "I left the Doctor my mobile. If I need you, I'll call."
"Even if it's just for a glass of wine and some girl talk," Rose suggests, her smile widening. "Been a while since I had a best mate."
Martha smiles. "I'll soon fix that," she promises. "Alright. I'll see you around, Rose Tyler."
Rose nods. "Good luck, then, Doctor Jones."
At the use of the title, Martha grins and gives an appreciative nod and a playful salute, which Rose returns. And then the two women turn their backs on each other and go their separate ways – one towards the house which holds her family, and the other back into the box which holds the man she loves.
"Is she alright?" the Doctor asks, concerned, as Rose walks up the stairs towards the console and him.
"Yeah, she's alright," Rose replies as she walks right up to him and wraps her arms around him, resting her head against his chest. "She's more than alright. She's brilliant." She pulls away just far enough so that she can turn her chin up and meet his eyes. "Are you?"
A grin crosses his face. "Rose Tyler," he says, folding her in his arms and hugging her fiercely; a small squeak escapes her lips when he lifts her off the ground and spins her around once before placing her down again. "I have never been better."
"You're mad," she laughs, grinning. "You are completely and properly mad, and I love you." Now that she's said those words more than once, they come as easily as breathing. She almost feels like she'll have to keep her mouth shut if she wants to prevent them from slipping out. They rage in her mind, dominating her thoughts, a mantra repeated over and over again, chanting in her head like the Master's drums. I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.
"Quite right, too," he agrees, picking her up and spinning her around again. She's laughing uncontrollably as the TARDIS interior blurs around her and the only solid things are her and him, and when he finally puts her down, she dizzily collapses against his chest, still shaking with laughter. She can hear him chuckling as well as he puts his arms around her, and she willingly folds herself in his embrace. They stand there, together, until their laughter fades into deep, rhythmic breathing. She can feel the beat of both his hearts against her chest, and he's not beating out a samba today. They're quietly thumping in perfect sync with her own.
When she pulls away, she doesn't leave his arms. Just as before, she only withdraws enough that she can make eye contact. "Say it," she whispers.
He frowns. "Say what?"
"What you were going to say," she clarifies. "On Bad Wolf Bay, what you were going to say to me. You said 'Rose Tyler', and then… the end of that sentence…" She lifts her hand to his cheek, brushing her fingers along his jawline and then draping her hand over his shoulder. "Say it."
He's silent for so long that she starts to think that he doesn't plan to say anything at all. But finally, he says, "I've got a bit more than two minutes, so I'll say a bit more than I was planning to." He lifts his hand and gently cups her cheek. "Rose Tyler," he begins. "Nine hundred years of travelling, and I've never met anyone quite like you. You're not just the next in a long line. You're different. You saw an angry, vengeful man, a battle-hardened warrior, bitter and cruel after just losing everything, and you didn't run away. You saw more than what he was – you saw what he could be. A good man. And you single-handedly turned him into that."
Rose opens her mouth to say something, but he shakes his head and cuts her off. "No, don't say anything. It's my turn." He caresses her cheek with his thumb, takes a deep breath, and continues. "You never give up. You never back down. You never do what I tell you to, and I hate that about you, but only because it scares me. Watching you throw yourself into danger was always difficult for me, because particularly in this body, losing you was always the worst thing I could imagine. And when I did lose you, it hurt more than watching my entire planet burn. And when you found me again…" A smile crosses his face. "Rose, you have no idea. I never wanted to let you out of my sight again. And I was so proud of you. So, so proud. You did what you do best – you stood strong. You never gave up, and, against impossible odds, you found your way back to me. And I can never thank you enough for that."
He lifts his other hand and places it on her other cheek, so he's cupping her face between his palms. "Rose Tyler," he breathes. "You're as bright and strong as the sun and as lovely and compassionate as the moon. You make stars shine and worlds turn. You can take a bitter man and turn him into a better one. And I will never be worthy of you, but I don't care." He smiles weakly, brushing his thumb across her cheek. "Because I love you."
She doesn't let him say another word – before he has the chance, she turns her face upward and presses her lips to his. It's stronger than the time she kissed him in the alley when he was trying to convince her to leave, but not nearly so heated as their kiss on the Valiant. It's not crazed or passionate, nor is it a whisper of a kiss. It's something in between. It's soft and sweet, hesitant at first, but more confident when he responds. He lifts his hand to the back of her head, tangling his fingers in her hair; he pushes her lips apart with the force of his kiss, savoring the taste of her breath in his mouth. It's simple and emotional, and when she pulls away, there are tears glistening in her eyes.
"I love you," they say in unison, and their faces light up in identical grins. And they waste no time in returning to snogging.
This time, it's more heated, and he's not ashamed to admit that she's really leading and he's following. She's the one who backs him up against the console, who presses her hands against his chest, who forces his lips apart and explores his mouth with her tongue. He follows her lead, right up until the moment when the downside of kissing against the TARDIS console manifests itself and his hand hits a lever, and they're interrupted by a blaring alarm.
They break apart and stand there, silent, for a few moments before they both burst out laughing. Everything – the absurdity of their situation, the giddiness over kissing each other, this new awkwardness – just mixes together into a recipe for unreasonable hilarity. He stops laughing first, saying, "I should probably fix that," but she's still basking in her euphoria and his statement only doubles her peals of laughter. And he can't help but join in as he circles the console, searching for the problem and eventually fixing it with the push of a button.
And then he turns back to her, and he asks her, "How long are you going to stay with me?" Just the same way he did before.
And her answer is exactly the same: a simple, pure, heartfelt promise of, "Forever."
Oh my God. It's over. I finished this little monster.
Holy crap. This is sad.
I managed to end on a rather fluffy note, didn't I? I hope you're all happy with how this turned out (it certainly ended up a lot longer than I expected it to!). I'm considering writing a sequel, which would basically just be Series 4 with Rose added in, but I'm not really sure about it. It's been done a million times before, and rewrites bug me. I much prefer to write original content, it's more fun. But if you all really want me to do a sequel, I will. Because I love you all that much.
Anyways, leave me a final review (ooh, that sounds a bit ominous, doesn't it?) in that box down yonder, and if you liked this story, give some of my other fics a read! Yep, shameless self-advertising. Seriously, though. Check them out, they're fantastic/brilliant/cool.
And now, as I wrap this up, let me say - this has been an incredible experience, and I've been along for the ride right next to you. I've enjoyed writing this for you guys so much, and I'm really sad to see it end. You guys aren't just the best group of readers a girl could ask for - you're friends. And if that's a little creepy, than so be it. I love you anyways. So thank you so much for taking this ride with me. You really are the best.
I love you all!