Author's note: This starts out angsty as hell, but I GUARANTEE you, everyone gets a happy ending.
Rose stood on the beach still hearing the whirring engines of her home in her head long after they've faded away. The Doctor was holding her hand. It was warm. It was wrong.
"I'm sorry," He said.
She looked at him. She wasn't quite sure what to say. He was still the Doctor, she knew that, but this didn't feel right. She'd almost rather he regenerated. It wouldn't have been nearly as confusing. "Did he love me?" she asked. She wasn't quite sure why she asked the question. She was sure she knew the answer. If this Doctor loved her it stands to reason that the other one did too. But, then why did he leave?
"Of course he did!" the new Doctor reassured her. "More than anything! He always will."
"As much as I love him?"
"Yes," he said earnestly.
"Then won't it kill him to be without me?"
The new Doctor's eyes widened. He didn't answer, but his lips tightened to a thin line, the way they always did when there was something he was afraid to say.
"Tell me the truth," she pleaded.
"Yes," he answered after a pause.
Rose suddenly realized she kissed this Doctor in front of him. It must have cut like a knife! Hearing those words in his voice, she'd lost herself, forgetting the whole situation. "This is so wrong," she says.
"You don't want me." He sounded devastated. Hurt and vulnerable. She didn't want to hurt him. He was still the Doctor, so she loved him. God, this is so confusing!
"That's not it," She said putting her hand on his arm to reassure. "It's just; He's lonely and he's hurting and I just can't bear that!"
"He did this because he loves you. He-I...He loves you enough to let you go."
"But I don't want to be let go!"
"We can have the life you always wanted! The life you deserve! We can get married, have a house, kids - all those things I could never have before!"
That was why he did it? That was why he left?! "When have I ever said I wanted that?!"
"All humans want it eventually. And if you had stayed with the other me you could have gotten killed! I would have lost you again!"
"So? I could get killed here too! I work for bloody Torchwood! God, why do you always think you know what's best for me?! The Gamestation, sending me away with my family at Canary Wharf, this!" She was getting angry at him. Maybe she shouldn't but she was. He was a victim in this too, but he represented the man who just left her and he thinks the same way as him, so he was getting the rant about his thought processes.
"This isn't what you want?" Tears were beginning to shine in his eyes. He was human now, perhaps he was more emotional.
"I'm sorry, but no. This isn't the way it was supposed to be." After a moment of thought she said, "But I guess this is the way it is."
"I'm not even supposed to be." said the Doctor. Rose looked at him. He was staring into the middle distance.
"I'm not supposed to exist. I'm a mistake."
Now she felt horrible. "That's not true!"
"No it is. This all came about because of an accident, Rose. Because Donna touched my hand. I had no idea this would happen. You're right. This is wrong."
"That's not what I meant. You have just as much right to exist as anyone else! And you're still the Doctor, so I still love you. I'm just worried about the other you. It isn't fair to him and I still love him. I just... looking at you I'm reminded that there's another version of you out there who's alone. It just makes this feel wrong."
"Do you want to go back to him?"
"It doesn't matter. I can't. The walls are closed."
"No," he corrected. "The walls are closing."
"What?" There was hope? She could get back? But what of him, this new Doctor? What would he do? Could he come with her? She imagined living life on the TARDIS with both Doctors. It would be confusing and odd, but they could make it work.
"The walls will be completely closed in 24 hours, but they're not closed yet," he continued. He seemed sad as he was talking. He was usually so excited about figuring things out. "I can get you back, get you right on to the TARDIS."
"I'm connected with her. We're bonded in my mind and right down to my DNA, even in this form. If I use myself to power that dimensional cannon that you used to get back before the walls close, it'll send you straight there."
That sounded like it could work. But, if he used himself to power it, "What happens to you?"
He stared at her hard before answering with glistening eyes. "I'll die."
"It's the only way, Rose."
"It can't be! There's got to be another way!"
"There isn't and we'll have to work fast."
He took hold of her shoulders and looked in her eyes. "Rose I'm just a copy, it'll be okay."
She was regretting all those things she said now. "But you're not! You're a person! Every person has a right to live!" She was crying.
"Do you want to get back to him?"
"Not like this."
"Rose..." He gave her that sad loving look he had so many times before. He really was the Doctor. He really did love her.
"I can't watch you die." She whispered.
"It won't be permanent. You'll be with me in a second afterwards."
"It'll be permanent for you!"
"It's alright. I'm not even supposed to exist. And once I'm dead, how can I care that I've died." He tried for a chuckle, but it was humorless and she could tell he was scared.
"I care," she said. "I saw you die once before, in that alternate timeline where Donna never met you. I can't see that again."
"The Racnoss, right? That's how I died? I drowned in there?"
"Why do you think I didn't regenerate?"
"I don't know."
"I didn't want to, Rose."
She looked up at him in surprise. What did he mean he didn't want to?
"I had just lost you. I was beyond devastated. I couldn't see life without you. There was a moment, in the flames and the water, when I was watching the Racnoss queen scream over her drowning children, that I thought, 'It ends here. All the pain and the suffering and the broken hearts that I have and that I bring to others. It all ends here.' I was going to let myself die. I didn't have you, so I didn't see the point in going on. If Donna hadn't been there to call me out of it...well you saw what happened."
"Why would you do that?!" She was furious. Why would he just let himself die?!
"It wasn't just then. I was borderline suicidal for about a year after I lost you. Constantly throwing myself to the wolves without planning to regenerate. Martha saw it. She had to perform CPR on me the day we met, because I let myself die."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because you said you didn't want me to die. The Doctor that just left is going through that all over again. He could die the next time he steps out the TARDIS doors. He needs you. He loves you and needs you so badly! By sacrificing myself to send you back, I'm saving him. Either way, you lose one of us. It's better that it be me. I'm just a spare."
Rose stared at him for a long time, this Doctor who was human and loved her as much as the original. They were both so willing to sacrifice their own happiness for her. It wasn't fair. Someone always loses. She weighed her options. This Doctor was right. But she felt so selfish. No, either way she was selfish. Selfish for staying with this Doctor and disregarding the pain of the other one. Selfish for going back to him and allowing this one to sacrifice himself. This was all so morbid, all so terrible!
"Rose," he said, when she didn't answer. "I want you to be happy, I want me to be happy! It's alright. I want to do this."
"I can't make this decision!"
"Then I'll make it for you. We're doing it."
She cried. She didn't know what else to do. There was no right answer.
"Jackie!" She heard him call out to her mother as he walked away. "Call Pete! Tell him to send a jet down here to get us to Torchwood right away!"
Should she stop him? She was at a stalemate. What should she do?
They sat in the jet across from each other. She couldn't look at him; she'd start crying again. Her head was spinning. "Doctor.."
She looked up at that.
"Don't try to convince me otherwise, Rose. It won't work."
"This is best. Trust me."
"What did I say about deciding what's best for me?!" she said.
He was impassive. "This is best for me too," he said calmly. "I've been alive for less than a day, and I know I shouldn't be. There's a me out there who's not living, but existing, and missing you so much. I want to do this. I really do."
"But you have all of his memories."
"That's all they are. I'm not real."
"Yes you are! You're here!"
"Martha had a clone," he said. "She died too. Had all of Martha's memories and died."
"I don't know what to do," Rose said helplessly.
"I do." He had such a peace about it.
Rose kept quiet, but formulated a plan to keep him living.
They were readying the cannon in what used to be the lever room at Canary Wharf. It wasn't a cannon as such, more of a pod with a cannon shaped launching console. They'd called it a cannon because it launched her across the void.
The Doctor had his arm in the wires at the base of the console. He had said he would disintegrate into energy that would guide her to the TARDIS when they launched.
Rose was in the pod and Pete was standing at the console configuring it to send her back. Rose had said a tearful goodbye to her mother.
"Five, Four," Pete was counting down. "Three, Two, One!" Rose took the laser blaster from behind her back and shot it straight down the Doctor's arm, slicing it off. He screamed. "Launch!" cried Pete, before he noticed. The pod charged up, it would take a few seconds before she was actually gone.
"Rose, why?!" cried the Doctor.
"First 15 hours, right?" she said.
She watched as his arm grew back in a haze of golden light.
"There's a vial of my blood in the Torchwood archives," she said as she started to fade away. "And we've confiscated some Sontaran clone technology. It works a little different than in the other universe, but you should be able to figure it out." She was almost gone now. "You don't have to be alone."
And, with that, she was launched across the void.
The Doctor sat at the end of the ramp against the TARDIS doors watching the console oscillate. Tears were streaming down his face but he wasn't sobbing like the last time he lost her, after he left Donna on Christmas. He was too tired. He didn't have the energy it took to sob all out. He didn't have the energy for anything anymore. Again he had lost his chance to tell Rose he loved her. No, not lost. Gave up. Those words had sat, unspoken, on the tip of his tongue for three years and he didn't say it. He had wanted to. Oh, how he had wanted to. He had been screaming it in his head.
"And how was that sentence gonna end?"
I love you. No. He couldn't say it. If he did, the flood gates would open and he wouldn't be able to leave. She had to know though. He had to let her know somehow. I LOVE YOU! He struggled to keep down the words he truly wanted to say and finally choked out, "Does it need saying?"
He just hoped she could forgive him.
How could he go on after losing her again? It was his own fault, really. He really was a glutton for punishment. He didn't even have Donna. Again, his fault. If he had thought ahead, if he had just regenerated...if, if, if. Those thoughts were no use. No, he was meant to be alone. Doomed to it. There was no other way to be for him. Donna would live and Rose had everything she needed to live a happy life, and, by proxy of sorts, he'd live his dream life too. He'd just never get to actually experience it. He hung his head and resigned himself to his self-righteous solitude.
A flash appeared behind the console from where he sat, accompanied by a feminine yelp. "What?" he uttered.
He got up and rushed to the other side of the console. He couldn't believe his eyes. There, on the grated floor, was Rose. "What?" he breathed.
She looked up and smiled. His hearts stopped, suspended on a ledge. This couldn't be. He left her to be happy with the other Doctor. "Hello," she said.
"You helped me," she answered the unspoken question. "The other you."
"But you were supposed to be happy!" he cried. "We could grow old together, live a proper life! It was perfect!"
"It wasn't perfect for you!" she countered. "You ended up alone! Again!"
"It's better that way," he said.
"God, you're such a masochist! This 'Lonely God' routine is so stupid! Do you really think you wouldn't be able to save the universe if you were happy for a while?"
"And what about your happiness?!"
"You ARE my happiness!"
He was speechless. She really loved him that much? But, the other him, "Didn't you love him? He was still me."
"Of course," she said gently. "But you were here, sad and lonely. Do you really think I'd let that happen?"
"But now he's sad and lonely."
She smiled. "Not for long. We have some Sontaran technology. Clone for clone."
He didn't know what to say. He felt like such an arse. "Even after what I did. Leaving you, and not telling you what you needed to hear. You still came back to me?"
She smiled gently and touched his face. "How many times will it take for you to figure it out? I'll always come back to you."
He was dumbstruck. So, he did the only thing he could, the only thing he wanted to. He kissed her. He breathed her in deep through is nose, wrapping his arms around her as she kissed him back. It was long and deep and hot and sweet and she tasted of ocean air and void stuff. It was perfect.
When the kiss ended, he leaned his forehead against hers. "I love you." he choked through the lump in his throat.
"I love you too," she breathed.
Rose woke up with a gasp. She was covered in goo and it felt like there was something on the back of her neck. She wiped her eyes and opened them to see an impossible face smiling down at her. The Doctor. But how? The last thing she remembered, she was taking her Torchwood employee physical. "Doctor?"
"Hello, Rose." he said. "Well, not Rose exactly, well you are, only you're not."
"But then I'm not really the Doctor. I mean, I am, but, again, I'm not."
"You're not making sense."
He smiled. "I'll explain in a bit. But you should probably get washed up and dressed first."
Rose looked down. She was indeed naked in the bath of green goo.
"It's okay," he said. "I was born that way too."
The next story in this series is Remembrance, followed by Existentialism in a Human Life, and Love is Divine