Keywords: Tenth Doctor, Ten/Rose, Donna, Martha mentions of Ten/Astrid, Rose/OC
Summary: They always fell.
Spoilers: Post-Voyage of the Damned. Makes reference to the S4 trailer.
Word Count: 2, 600
A/N: I pretty much wrote this right after VotD. I’m not sure why it took me a month to edit, but I think there’s some similar themes in here. Of course, they say “insanity” means doing the same thing over and over in hopes of getting a different result. So… maybe this will convince Russell to give us cuddles in S4?
Thanks to scornedsaint for the beta! *smooch*
I travel alone. And he means it this time.
He tells himself that there’s nothing odd about an empty TARDIS. In point of fact, it’s how most Time Lords prefer it. He pretends he doesn’t notice that Martha left her TARDIS key behind in the console room or that he’s making an effort to carry around her phone.
He certainly does not close his eyes and see Astrid. He doesn’t see her falling; he doesn’t feel ghostly lips pressing against his like an accusation. (There were too many broken promises this time. Titanic—aptly named, indeed.) Sometimes, if he stares at one spot too long, he doesn’t see sparkling blue lights dancing out of the corner of his eyes.
At least this time he knows. He won’t spend countless hours (years) wondering what she’s doing, whose hand she’s holding, if she’s even still alive.
So he engages the randomizer and cleans out the TARDIS’s attic and tells himself that it’s better this way.
He knows it’s probably a lie, but it feels like one of his better ones.
When Martha gives him a ring, he answers too quickly. All of time and space at his fingertips, and the only thing he’s saved lately is a planet filled entirely with butterflies.
Martha works for UNIT and acts as a consult at Torchwood (he scoffs before he can help it, but Martha tells him to shut it). He tries to keep up with what she’s saying, but the only image in his mind is how she looked when she squared her shoulders and left.
He takes a breath and reminds himself that it was years ago. Now she’s a medical professional and she works for UNIT and consults with Torchwood. And that’s… that’s brilliant.
He tunes back in and catches Martha explaining something about an alien embedded just under the Earth’s core. He tries not to sound too excited.
He saves the planet, but not before running into Donna Noble. He grabs her hand without thinking about it, and fifty-two minutes later, she’s sitting in the console room eating Low-Mien out of the carton and he’s asking her where she wants to go first.
“I never meant to—” He gestures at her and Donna slurps on a noodle. “I wanted to keep traveling alone.” He pulls down on a lever and says, “Listen, I’m just looking for a mate. That’s all.”
Donna chokes on the Low-Mien and takes in great gasping breaths of air. “Oi. You keep your skinny arse to yourself or I’m taking the first transport beam back to Earth.”
“What?” he says and then feels compelled to turn around in a circle to look at his behind. He stops and frowns. “That’s not what I… oh, forget it.”
He sounds cross, but he isn’t. He thinks about the look on Astrid’s face when she asked to come with him and then pushes it from his mind.
It won’t happen again.
Donna beams at him triumphantly like she tore down the walls between dimensions with her own fingernails. Look who I found. There's a smirk playing at her mouth, and he feels a bit like he's just had the wind knocked out of him.
"I thought... I thought you went out to buy milk."
Of all the daft things to say. Donna rolls her eyes, but he's barely aware of her. His gaze moves past her and stops.
She’s got shoulder-length blonde hair, just like he remembers. She's biting down on her bottom lip, a hint of wetness in her eyes. He has to stop and blink, suddenly certain that his mind is playing tricks on him.
"Rose?" he manages and it feels like the TARDIS is crash-landing.
And then her arms lock around his neck and he presses his lips to her chin, her throat, her cheeks. He mutters nonsense in her ear. (He means "I love you" and "I looked, I swear I did," but it sounds like babble.)
Her chest hitches and her chuckles vibrate against his ear.
“Impossible. You can’t…”
Some part of him wonders if he’s finally cracked. Any moment now and Donna will ask him why he’s talking to thin air.
Rose pinches his elbow.
“Ow!” She’s turning into a surprisingly painful hallucination. He tries not to pout. “What was that for?”
“You travel through time in a box. A box that’s bigger on the inside!” She narrows her eyes. “And you expect me to believe that travel between parallel worlds is impossible?”
His mouth opens and closes—no words come out, but he does take in a fair amount of air—before he finally manages, “How?”
He fervently hopes she won’t pinch him again.
“Might’ve had some help from Torchwood. It’s this big… power generator smack dab in the middle of London. You might have heard of it? Figured if they did it once—sort of, anyway—they could do it again.”
He stares, but then he breaks out into a grin as the full impact hits him. Rose broke down the walls between universes. Rose did the impossible. For him.
She returns his grin, but her gaze is fierce. There’s a promise in her eyes. Forever. And it hurts to hope.
She kisses him before he can say whatever stupid thing she knows he’s about to say. She kisses him until he’s dizzy and he sees stars behind his eyes.
She pulls away with a wet plop. They gaze at each other, but Donna breaks the mood, “Guess I’m moving out, then.”
He manages to glance away from Rose. “Hmm?”
“Like I want to watch you two moon at each other,” Donna says. “No thanks. Got better things to do.”
“You don’t have to—”
“Think I do.” Her smile fades. “This life changes you. It happens a bit at a time and sometimes I barely notice it, but it’s not right. It… it scares me.” She releases a breath. “Time to move on, then, isn’t it? That’s what I think.”
He stares at her mutely, mouth hanging open in frozen silence. He doesn’t know why this always feels like a surprise. Rose squeezes his hand, squeezes his fingers until it hurts, silently telling him that she doesn’t agree.
“Tell you what, though,” Donna says. “You two, do me a favour? Just be… brilliant together.”
Rose bites down on her bottom lip, but then she straightens. “Yeah,” she says slowly. She meets his eyes and grins. “I reckon we can.”
He feels like he’s living on slow burn. He keeps waiting for something to take her away again. It’s like staring into a pot of water and waiting for it to boil. Like waiting by the door in hopes of the post arriving.
And he’s driving Rose barmy.
“Nothing alien this time, I swear,” he says, trying to snap the bracelet on her wrist while she dodges out of the way. “It’s only a GPS tracker!”
“What about when we go to a planet that isn’t Earth?” Rose says, ducking under his arm.
He almost plows into the console, but avoids it at the last moment. “Who says we have to go to other planets? There are loads of things to do on this one!”
“There is not!”
She gives him a severe look and he reconsiders the bracelet idea. He vaguely ponders locking her in the TARDIS.
“I know what you’re thinking!” she says accusingly.
He gapes at her. “Do not!”
Rose sighs and then holds out her arm. “Put it on.”
He blinks. “Really?”
She smiles. Slightly. “Yeah.”
He almost reconsiders and then thinks about the way she screamed (he screamed) when she fell into the void.
They always fell.
He snaps the bracelet on. “I am not losing you.”
Rose looks away. “You will one day.”
The words hit him in the chest. It’s the one thing they never talk about.
“Stop it,” he says and his voice sounds low and dangerous, like it belongs to someone else.
Rose’s head snaps back around to look at him, crinkle between her brows. She searches his face and then softens. She looks like she wants to throw her arms around him and never let go.
“I mean,” he continues thickly. “I won’t let it happen again, not like… like before. We just—we have to be careful.”
Rose hesitates and then says, “You? Careful? Isn’t that breaking your number one rule or something?”
He squeezes his eyes shut and listens to the TARDIS hum around him. If he’s very, very still, he can even pick up the steady thump thump of Rose’s heartbeat.
Rose’s fingers skim over his cheek and then her lips press against his chin. He opens his eyes and her responding smile is almost shy. “Parallel worlds have got nothing on me, yeah?”
He gathers her up close. “Yeah.”
He runs around a corner, silently berating himself for not holding her hand tighter, for letting her go off on her own. He almost gives a strangled cry when he sees her.
His hug nearly knocks them both over, but Rose looks more irritated than happy.
“I’m fine,” she snaps. She disentangles herself and then folds her arms across her chest. “I just needed a few minutes, yeah?”
He looks around. It’s only then that he notices where they are. The Powell Estates.
He glances back at Rose. There’s a hint of wetness on her cheeks and she brushes furiously at her eyes.
His breath comes out in a rush. “You miss them.”
“Course I do,” she says. “They’re my family.” She presses her lips together and her face softens. “I’m sorry for worrying you.”
He reaches for her hand, squeezing her fingers together in desperation. “Rose, I can’t—”
“Lose me, I know.” She pushes away her grief and forces a smile. “Maybe you could teach me how to regenerate?”
He opens his mouth and almost launches into a long lecture about Time Lord cells and degenerate human genes and then thinks better of it.
Slowly, he shakes his head. “Time Lord thing.”
She laughs. “That figures.”
They start back towards the TARDIS, their joined hands swinging between them.
Rose’s breath trails softly along his neck and her hand moves up and down his arm. He closes his eyes and lets himself enjoy the lazy warmth of their limbs entwined together. He wants this moment to last forever. He wants to keep it as a perfect, crystal memory, preserved for all eternity.
“Doctor, are you still awake?”
He keeps his eyes closed and nuzzles the side of her head, nose pressing against her ear. “Just wondering if the new President of France is an alien.”
Rose shifts onto one arm and a blast of cool air hits him in the chest. “Seriously?”
“I think it’s the eyes.” He frowns. “He never blinks. Humans blink, Rose. It’s unnatural.”
Rose ponders this quietly, but then says, “I need to tell you something.”
His eyes pop open, caught off guard by her serious tone.
“What is it?”
She bites her lip hesitantly. “I, um… I met someone. In the other world.”
His insides freeze and he can barely meet her eyes. He licks his lips.
“I was in the Caribbean on a recon mission for Torchwood.” She pauses and moves away from him. It’s only inches, but it feels like worlds. “We, um… we barely even spoke the same language. He talked constantly. That’s the first thing I noticed. It was a bit like you.”
The jealousy is hot and thick and comes before he can stop it. Not that he has any right. He hasn’t so much uttered a word about Joan or Astrid.
“We had a weekend together,” Rose continues. “It had just been so long since I’d… and it was nice. It was like… like since we were separated, I was carrying around this extra weight. It felt like there was this hole inside of me and nothing could fill it. But for that one weekend, I almost forgot to be sad.”
He carefully turns his gaze to the ceiling. “I know the feeling.”
Rose finds his hand. “On Monday, his team was caught in an ambush.”
He catches the slight hitch in her voice and his mind fills in the blanks for him.
“Oh, Rose.” He pulls her back into his arms and she goes, sniffing quietly, pressing her nose against his throat.
“But I didn’t regret anything,” she murmurs. “I never regretted anything.”
Her message doesn’t go unnoticed. If he keeps clinging to her, he’ll lose her anyway. He nods and presses his cheek to the top of her head.
“It’s not even very reliable, that GPS bracelet.”
“You could use the sonic screwdriver on it.”
He drops his voice. “Or you could take it off.”
“Or that,” Rose whispers. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” He swallows. “No regrets.”
Rose eats her chips slowly, licking the salt off her fingers after each bite. The music in the background is a fast swing-dancing ditty and her heels click under the table as she taps the floor in tune with the music.
“Maybe the next time you regenerate, you could try looking a bit older.”
There’s a sprinkle of gray in Rose’s hair that he’s been trying to ignore.
She’s making that increasingly difficult. “I’ll make a mental note.”
“I mean it,” Rose says. “Would a few wrinkles hurt? Maybe you could have an enlarged prostate gland.”
He chokes on his chocolate milk. “I’m sorry?”
She shrugs. “My granddad had one before he died.”
“We could both get the seniors discount at the movie,” she says, but her tone betrays her. She doesn’t really want him to regenerate. Starting again, now… well, it would be difficult.
“You’ve been reckless lately,” she whispers. She looks at him over her chips. “Reminds me of what you were like after I first came back.”
He reaches for her hand under the table and her fingers are sticky with ketchup and salt.
He inclines his head slightly. He doesn’t tell her that he’s trying to keep her safe. She only has the one life.
And she’s not as quick as she used to be.
She reads it in his eyes. She looks down at her chips. “Your next incarnation will still love me, won’t he?”
“Always.” He squeezes her hand under the table.
She looks reassured. “Well, then.” She goes back to her chips. “Just a few wrinkles. Especially around the eyes.”
He thinks the stress might be giving him those anyway. But he only says, “Anything.”
Rose grins. “Chip?” She holds one out.
“Ooh, must’ve done something right if you’re willing to share.” Then he adds, “And don’t think this means you’re entitled to my chocolate milk, Rose Tyler.”
Her eyes narrow, but he takes the chip before she can protest.
There’s a sudden crash in the kitchen. He turns his head and that’s all the distraction Rose needs. The chocolate milk is gone before he thinks to protect it.
Her eyes sparkle over the top of it, making it seem like she’s nineteen again, like they have all of forever.
“Too slow,” she singsongs.
He makes a half-hearted attempt to grab it back, and a moment later, she slips into his booth, snuggling down against him without a single word. She pulls the chips to his side and tilts her head to smile up at him.
A warm feeling settles into his stomach. It might be contentment.
They share the rest of the chips.