by Camilla Sandman
Disclaimer: Doctor Who and associated characters belong to the BBC. I'm just borrowing them for a little trip.
Summary: Time sings. She can feel it as she's clinging to him, skin to skin, his eyes closed and time almost still around them. Between heartbeats, there's a song. [Nine/Rose]
Author's Note: This is about 7,000 words. So jump in only if you've got the time. Spoilers for the whole series, more or less.
The musical terms used in this fic are as follows:
fugue - a composition in which the statement of the first theme is imitated a few measures later by another instrument and then becomes the harmony to the second voice; often four or five voices are used, thus creating a tight weave of harmony
dirge - song of mourning
romanze - a lyrical, usually sentimental song
nocturne - nightpiece
ostinato - continuously repeated pattern
lament - song expressing grief, regret
solo - music for a single performer
recapitulation - restatement of the original theme, usually toward the end of a movement
finale - final movement
coda - concluding section of a composition
We can share each other's lives in the time it takes for this / Time inverts the obvious / We tumble and die and kiss / Die and kiss / Die and kiss
- Stephen Sheehan, Thoughts of You
A hum at first, but it's growing, a crescendo of noise spinning inside her. It sings and she is the song and the words are in her. She tries to speak them, tries to make the words inside her pass through her lips.
"I can see everything. All that is. All that was. All that ever could be."
The words sound so less spoken in her voice. It's not enough to explain how she feels, capture the whole. Yet still he understands, she can see it burning in his eyes.
"That's what I see -- all the time. And doesn't it drive you mad?" he says and she thinks she nods. It's hard to remember her body when everything else is fighting for space.
"... my head...."
Her head, oh her head. Her head is the universe, a thousand universes stretching out through time. She can see them, see stars being born and stars die, planets crumble to dust, oceans dry out, civilizations and empires rise and fall, species evolving until death, children to parents to grandparents to dust. Everything dies and she's mourning it.
And the dirge is rising, and even as she feels her own tears, it's beautiful too. The TARDIS is singing her name.
You're so beautiful.
I'm killing you.
I don't care. I don't.
"Come here," the Doctor says, hands outstretched. She can see him, truly see him, everything he's been and will be, all the darkness in his burn. He's so beautiful. It's all so beautiful and despairing and everything and it's killing her.
"... it's killing me..."
And the song changes.
We can weigh all the tears in one hand / Against the laughter in the other / We could be hanging around here for centuries / Trying to make sense of this, my dear / While the planets try to get organised / Way above the stratosphere / But they keep bringing out the dead, now / It’s easy if we just walk away / They keep bringing out the dead, now / It’s been a long, long day
- Nick Cave, "Messiah Ward"
There was this singing...
"What happened?" she asks. She's in the TARDIS and the Doctor is there, staring intently at the TARDIS console. He's saying something she knows isn't true about singing the Daleks away and she tries to remember and all she hears is the echoes of music.
"I don't remember anything else..."
"Rose Tyler," he says, and she knows that tone. "I was gonna take you to so many places. Barcelona. Not the city Barcelona, the planet Barcelona. You'd love it. Fantastic place. They've got dogs with no noses. Imagine how many times a day you tell that joke and it's still funny."
He laughs and she echoes it faintly because it's such a delightful sound and she could feel it against her skin a whole lifetime.
And he falls.
She's too slow to catch him, but moments later, she's by his side, lifting his head. He's burning, his skin a furnace to touch. There's light in his skin, and for a moment, she can almost feel it hum. And then it's gone, as if it never was.
He doesn't stir and she struggles to haul his limp body up enough to get on her feet and carry him as a sack of alien know-it-all. By the time she reaches the end of the console room, she's run out of curses.
She doesn't know where his bedroom is, if he has any, but hers is there and the TARDIS seems to be in a helpful mood, keeping it close. She struggles to the bed, falling into it with him locked to her, reflecting that this was certainly not the way she's imagined having an alien in her bed for the first time.
She arranges him as well she can, finding an extra pillow to put under his head, taking off his shoes, removing the jacket. Without it, he seems almost vulnerable, as if it's an armor and now there's only skin.
"Now what?" she says to herself. The TARDIS is in flight and she can't control it, land it or do much of anything. Jack's not here....
Jack's dead. The Doctor wouldn't leave him and the realisation feels like a million little shards of ice, all inside her. Jack's dead and the Doctor's sick and she can't lose him too. Not him. Anything but him.
'Even Jack,' she thinks and that hurts, too.
She doesn't cry. Instead she finds cold water, a bucket and a cloth, brews some tea, digs into her bag to find the painkillers she brought just in case. Maybe they'll be of some use.
She's not going to let him die. She will never let him as long as there is breath in her to do something, she knows.
His skin is still burning as she soaks the cloth in cold water and wipes it across his forehead. She can feel the sweat under her fingertips and he really is an illusion of human. His hand feels human in hers, the accent sounds human and Northern to her ears, and if she ever kisses him, she's sure his lips will feel human too. Only when he looks at her, does she sometimes see something beyond human in the brightness of his eyes. He knows too much to be human.
"You never told me what you're a Doctor of," she says and feels the softness of his hair against her palm as she strokes it softly. "Bringing trouble? Running for your life? Banter under fire?"
The thought amuses her and she laughs softly, only laughter doesn't bring tears like this or deep gasping breaths. She's crying and she can't stop.
"Please don't die," she whispers and rests her head against his chest. "Just don't die like everything else."
He's got two heartbeats, she realises, and they're beating a slow tune of hope. As long as she keeps listening, he'll be alive.
She can almost believe that.
She stirs to meet his alien gaze, realising she's fallen asleep with her head on his chest and her neck is aching. She's clutching the cloth with one and and his sweater with the other and he's awake and he's not dead.
"Oh," she breathes and embraces him and after a moment, she can feel his hands on her back, warm and comforting.
"It's all right, Rose," he says. "Just a bit of time vortex hangover."
She eases back slightly to see him smile, that all too human silly grin.
"Cheating," he declares brightly and she thinks he can hide all the darkness in the word behind that brightness. Sometimes, she wonders if he's doing it for himself or for her. "Didn't think I'd get away with it."
"Jack didn't, did he?"
The brightness is gone and there's only the dark. "No," he says, and she rests her head against his chest again and feels his hands stroke her back softly, as if drawing the grief out of her with his skin. She has no idea how he can carry her grief too, along with everything else.
"You saved a lot of lives, Rose Tyler," he whispers, and his heartbeats are like thunder against her cheek.
"Jack still died."
"Someone always does."
She closes her eyes, and their heartbeats seem to merge, one slow beating rhythm, so very slow until all seems still and he's just holding her forever.
The TARDIS is humming and she's watching it, the green light pulsating like a heartbeat. Heart of the TARDIS, time itself. The unstoppable force even the Doctor doesn't master fully, even if he'll never admit it to her. Too much bloke's pride, she reckons.
Blokes always have too much pride, she thinks and remembers Jack.
She doesn't look up as she hears steps and the Doctor comes to sit down next to her on the floor. He smells of a shower, and maybe even of alien aftershave.
"I looked into the TARDIS," she says, staring at the console. She remembers trying to open it, remembers the song, but not the melody or the words.
"I don't remember..."
"You're not made to remember it, Rose. Be glad."
She looks up him and there's nothing but sincerity in his face. The jacket is back on, she notices, familiar and worn and him. All back to normal, almost.
"You took it away. You absorbed it from me."
"Yep. Nearly killed me. Should've killed me." He frowns slightly and she punches him in the shoulder. "Ow!"
"How dare you! How dare you almost die! How dare you do that to me!"
"How dare you do it to me!" he counters and she wants to slap him, hit him, hug him, kiss him, hold him until there is no more time and he's safe. Even if she knows he would never be happy like that. He breathes danger and adventure and is dancing with death. All she can do is offer her hand and hope her feet is up to it.
So she just laughs, and after a moment, he joins her. It's a laugh fused with despair, but it's still a laugh.
"Look at the pair of us," she says and he grins.
"Not half bad, all things considered."
"Jack liked us, at least."
"Jack likes everyone. He's the friendly type."
"I noticed," she says, tapping her lips with a finger, remembering a kiss goodbye. After a heartbeat, the Doctor mimics the gesture. That too, he's shared with her. It scares her she's forgotten how it felt before him, before she shared his life and he shared hers.
"You know Jack. He'd ever pass up a chance to kiss humans or aliens."
"I know. So unfair. I've travelled with you longer and I still haven't kissed an alien."
He smiles, ever so faintly, as if knowing something she doesn't. "Plenty of time still."
Time still for her. Time still for the Doctor. Not for Jack. Not for so many others she's seen die. And with all she's seen, the Doctor has seen it a thousand times more, perhaps a million. How can he carry it?
"Come on," he says, and takes her hand. "Let's go somewhere."
They move on.
don't think of the other places you should have been / it's a good thing that you came along with me
gold in the air of summer / you'll shine like gold in the air of summer
- Kings of Convenience, "Gold in the Air of Summer"
The sun is red, is the first thing she notices. Bright red, like a dying fire, more embers than flames. It's still warm, its heat travelling through the cold of space to stroke her skin. No blistering hot, but summer definitely. The planet is green and lush, long grass moving in the wind and in the distance, rustling leaves of a forest are making a symphony.
"The planet of Vekramon," the Doctor says behind her, slipping into his guide mode so easily. "Populated by a human related spcies known as the Vekraan. Generally considered the best-looking aliens of all time. You can kiss one of them."
"You brought me here for an alien kiss?"
"You were the one going on about never getting one."
"I was not going on about it," she protests, but is unable not to return his grin. "How good-looking?"
"Nothing to me, of course," he says, folding his arms.
"Of course," she echoes, even as tempted she is to voice disagreement just to see his cute wounded look.
"Glad you agree. So, Rose Tyler, want to meet the alien kissing candidates?"
'I've already met one,' she thinks and feels his hand in hers.
It's funny how there's always a London, even on alien planets. Hurried people, traffic problems, ugly buildings scattered around, even the religious nutter on the corner. Except the nutter is trying to convert her into the Right Way of the KraKra here, and the people are aliens. Not fully alien, though. She can see the human related the Doctor mentioned in the shape of them, but the skin seems slicker and the eyes are definitely bigger. There's think layers of hair across their shoulders, almost like fur.
She's almost afraid to ask the Doctor what humans 'danced' with to evolve this species.
"They only build out of stone or trees," the Doctor says as they walk. "They're very skilled. Consider it a sacrilege to have metal in anything but its pure form in nature. They get over it soon enough when they realise the profit they're sitting on. Planet's got plenty rare animals. They strip it bare, making it inhospital in the process."
"You're telling me. They had the best bananas in known time."
"You and bananas," she says, shaking her head slightly, just as she feels another London familiarity. "Oi!"
Spinning around, she just has time to see the pick-pocket set off with her phone and without thinking, she sets after. Alien or no, no one steals from Rose Tyler, especially priceless alien-tampered phones with no bill. She has no doubt the Doctor could find her another, but it's something of her old life still and she's already given up too much.
Luckily, she has longer legs and manages to reach the little brat just as he - she? - turns a corner. Confronted with the aspect of being caught, the thief tosses the phone in one direction, bolting in the other. Rose doesn't bother pursue. Picking up the phone, she turns to return to the Doctor, only to find a large alien in her path.
"Trouble?" he asks, flashing a smile. For a moment, he reminds her of Mickey, just slightly in the curves of his smile. An universe of differences, and it's still the familiarities she notices.
"No," she says and smiles back. "No trouble."
"There is now."
The Mickey-smile alien is named Veerkry, it turns out, and he doesn't take no for an answer. So she finds herself in his home, a mansion of wood clearly built to impress. She knows his kind. He probably drives the stone equivalant of a Ferrari. With the top down.
"Not many aliens come to Vekramon," Veerky says, patting her arm in a way she definitely doesn't like. She doesn't much like his gaze either.
"Just passing through," she says brightly.
"Thought so. You're here for the trade?"
He smiles. "Of course. You don't wish to speak about it. Perhaps you don't trust me. Let me show you what I have to offer and you soon will. I promise, my wares are far better than your usual contact can offer."
He's led her to a door, and opens it with an exaggerated gesture. "My treasure room."
Veerkry is not much of a religious alien, she realises and stares dumbly at the rows and rows of weapons. So many weapons, glimmering metal at her.
"Feel to inspect them," Veerkry goes on, and there's pride in his voice. "I'm devolping a new line you might be particulary interested in. Old alien artifact, but we're working on improving it. I haven't quite finished it yet, but..."
She looks into his hands for the weapon he's holding up and for a long time, she just looks. A Dalek's gun. The gun that killed Jack, killed so many, offered for sale so it can kill even more.
"Excuse me, Master," a Vekraan says somewhere behind her, "but there is an alien at the door. He's insisting his companion is here."
"That's my partner," she says quickly, knowing it can only be the Doctor. "He'll want to see your wares too."
"Of course, of course."
Veerkry's smile is all indulgement and for a moment, she almost wishes the gun worked so she could use it on him and see how much he smiled then. But only for a moment.
As it turns out, it is the Doctor at the door, standing with his arms behind his back, smiling as ever. But she knows if politeness would have failed, he would have ripped the house apart to reach her.
"Rose!" he says and there is just the tiniest hint of relief in his voice. "Got in a bit of troubling running into a Vekraan. Sorry for being late."
"That's okay," she replies in the same bright tone as him. "I was just telling Veerkry here you'd like to see the wares too."
The Doctor looks for a moment confused, and Veerkry is still eyeing her and the solution to both suddenly seem too tempting, too near. Just a step, and she flings her arms around the Doctor and kisses him enthusiastically on the lips, no hesitation. He goes still, if due to surprise or reluctance she doesn't know.
"He deals in guns," she whispers against his lips, "and he's ogling me."
The Doctor kisses her back before she can say anything more, lips gentle even as they seem to drain all the breath out of her. Her alien kiss delivered, and it feels so human it makes her ache.
He pulls away finally, taking her hand as he does, and she knows he's about to do something very stupid. And she'll be right there, helping him.
"You always find trouble," he says, and his eyes are shining.
The sun is still red and burning when they climb back towards the TARDIS sometime later, but it's no longer the only one. Yellow are the fires of Veerkry's little home slash business slash gun storage as it burns and she can only imagine how much Veerkry is regretting taking trouble home.
And somewhere in the fire, a Dalek arm is burning too. She didn't tell the Doctor of that one. She lost Jack to it, and so did he, but he also lost a whole planet. She doesn't want to remind him of that grief. Not when she can remind him he's alive and not alone instead.
"That was an impressive boom," she says and he grins.
"So was that tackle of yours. And distracting Veerkry with that religious nutter of KraKra was almost so brilliant it's on my level."
"You're so full of it," she says and shakes her head. He gives her the wounded look again and he's so him her heart seems to sing with it. Alien or human, it doesn't matter. She's chosen him over everything else in her life and she would again in a heartbeat.
He turns slightly when he senses her slow down, worry in his eyes. "Rose?"
She takes his head in her hands, and he doesn't hinder her, just looks at her with those bright eyes.
"What are you doing?"
"What you brought me here for. I'm kissing an alien," she says softly, standing on her toes as she brings her lips to his. He inhales once, sharply, but parts his lips willingly to let her feel the taste of him. Faintly, a memory stirs, but it's buried under a hundred new impressions. She traces his teeth with her tongue, feels the slight stubble of his cheek scrape against her skin. His hands have gone to her waist, locking her to him. She can hear the faint sound of leather against cloth, his jacket against her top.
"Now we're in trouble," he whispers, breath ragged.
"It's a good thing I have a taste for it, then," she replies, tilting her head slightly, feeling the wind catch her hair before he kisses her, the sun warm at her back.
She could get used to this.
I'm not gonna talk about doubt and confusion / On a night when I can see with my eyes shut.
-The Proclaimers, "The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues"
The wall of the TARDIS is uneven against her back, one particular round-metal-something digging painfully into her back and she doesn't really care. What does a little uncomfort matter when there's pleasure and the Doctor is kissing her with the expertise of a 900-year-old Time Lord?
She's gotten used to kissing him, the feel of his lips against hers, though in a slightly getting-used-to-have-won-the-lottory way. There is still the little moment of joyous rediscovery in moments like this and she hopes that never fades. The moment she gets too used to it, too used to this mad life in the TARDIS is probably the moment it comes to an abrupt halt. Superstition, perhaps, but she still clings on to her moments of awe.
And she's not quite willing to admit it's also because he seems to enjoy them so.
His hand is warm on her hip, lifting her top just ever so slightly, enough to brush against naked skin. She sighs into the kiss, and he pulls away slightly, his face in shadow. The light of the TARDIS is faint, almost as in night, even if the TARDIS doesn't really do day cycles.
"Rose Tyler," he says, and she slides her hands across his chest. "How come you never do what I tell ya?"
"Because I'm not a dog."
He grins. "I'd hope not. That'd be kinky."
"I did save you from the Cloxan," she points out, sliding her hands up this time, only under his sweater and across skin.
"I could've solved that!" he protests, closing his eyes for a moment as she strokes a finger across his nipple.
"He was about to have your head off!"
"I always get my best ideas when in immidiate fatal danger."
"Uh-huh," she mutters, leaning forward to kiss his neck.
"Huh!" he insists, but seems to give up protesting as she trails kisses along his chest, the feel of his heartbeats strange on her lips. She can feel the echoes even as she continues down, pressing light kisses around his navel, feeling his hipbone under her fingers.
When she tilts her head up, he's looking at her with so much intensity it feels like his gaze slams into her. They've been playing kissing games for days now, but they haven't gone this far before.
Probably partly because they've also been busy saving the Universe from hungry Cloxan feeders, she reflects, but it still feels like he's been waiting for something. Maybe he's still, despite all, waiting for her to tell him to stop, sure it will come.
She lifts her face back up to his, pressing one soft kiss against his lips, feeling his breath mingle with hers.
"Come with me," she says, and takes his hand.
She watches his face as he sinks into her, her body slowly adjusting to the unfamiliar hardness. He doesn't close his eyes, doesn't say anything, just sighs, just once. It sounds like a surrender and she wonders how long he's been wanting to do this and denied himself.
Perhaps as long as she has.
He laces one hand in her hair as he moves slightly, a flicker of pain crossing his face.
"It's okay," she whispers, kissing his ear. "You won't hurt me."
"I will," he replies. "I'm sorry."
She wants to protest, but he's moving again, and she's digging her fingernails into his back and the sounds she's making doesn't even sound like her. There's a white fire somewhere behind her eyelids and he's stroking it, stroking her skin, touching her until she is the firestorm and the roar is flying, flying, flying...
And then there's stillness in the moment of flight. She's alive, she's everything, she's Rose and her heartbeats can hold an infinity. It's almost too much, but then his hand is there, holding hers.
Gasping, she feels his body greet her back as she slumps against him, her hand clutching his so hard it must hurt. But he's just smiling, and in her eyes she can see the mirror of herself loved and it's so bright it hurts.
And a little later, when her body finally coaxes him to come, his face is so beautiful she hopes her eyes are mirrors too.
He's tracing patterns with his fingers across her skin, and she's tucked her head under his, listening to time passing through the TARDIS. It's almost like a lullaby and it's almost like night, darkness at the edges of her bed, one couple post-coital.
This is almost domestic.
"Don't even say it," he says and she smiles.
And she lets the lullaby drift her to sleep, thinking it almost familiar.
And in the passage from the cradle to the grave we are born, madly dancing / Rushing headlong through the crashing of the days / We run on and on without a backwards glance / We run on and on without a backwards glance
- Dan Fogelberg, "In the Passage"
It's becoming a familar scenario.
Running, she nearly crashes into tree and only a last minute yank from the Doctor's hand makes her turn right and avoid smacking right into it. Behind her, she can hear the water coming.
"Great idea!" she gasps. "Going to the beach on the day of a tsunami!"
"Wasn't meant to be a tsunami today!" he replies and if he says anything more, she can't hear it over the roar of water. Stronger and stronger it sounds, until everything else is drowned and the water slams into her with persistence.
It's going to be another long day at the job, she thinks.
"I hope there's someone to send this drycleaning bill too," the Doctor says, sounding displeased. The water has fallen back to the sea, but not without disorganising everything in its path and leaving Rose's hair as soaking wet as the Doctor's leather jacket. She's taking it with better grace with him, or perhaps only on the surface.
He's thinking and she can see steel in his eyes. Something's wrong and he intends to find it, fix it and get his jacket properly cleaned. And then maybe ravage her, or that might just be her having fantasies again.
She sighs and wrings her hair, smelling the salt. There's still a faint trace of it on her lips too, from swallowing too much sea water while trying to float. She's decided not ask for another beach vacation for years.
"This not a natural occurance, then?" she asks. "Since you said it wasn't meant to be and your history is always perfect."
"Not sure," he says and frowns, staring at the sea. "This lot shouldn't be advanced enough to tamper with creating earthquakes yet."
"Aliens? Slitheens again, maybe?"
He makes a face. "Hope not. I'm all out of vinegar."
They wander back to the TARDIS, the outside dripping wet and not a trace inside. It still seems odd to her to the doors that so easily open to her is a wall of steel to everything else.
"Gonna do some Spock?" she asks as he leans over the console. "Scan for alien technology?"
"I'm beginning to think you're carrying a torch for this Spock," he replies, eyes on the screen. "What's he got that I don't?"
"Smaller ears? Cool hand gestures?"
"I can out-gesture him anyday. Aha!" he declares. "Spock!"
"Spock" turns out to be an alien spaceship doing undersea drilling. The TARDIS lands them in the middle of the commando centre, but unfortunately, the Spockers aren't all too keen to leave.
"I'm getting to see a lot different dungeons and shackles," she remarks, watching the Doctor trying to use the sonic screwdriver with his mouth. It really is a good thing aliens are not keen on body searches or keeping watch inside their dungeons, she reflects. "I should write a book. 'Your Guide to the Kinkier Side of the Universe', by Rose Tyler."
He only grunts and tilts his head, aiming the screwdriver at the right shackle. With a light buzz, it finally comes open. The second is easier, and in a few steps, he's by her side, freeing her and kissing her in the same motion, leaving her slightly breathless.
"And for the grand finale, I'm gonna tamper with this ship's navigation system and send it back into space, get it lost and delete the coordinates to this planet!" he declares, and she laughs until he kisses her again, the taste of sonic screwdriver in his mouth. "Followed by a fantastic shag and amusing hand gestures in the bed of Rose Tyler."
In the end, he does everything he said and some he didn't.
Remember me / You know my name / I'm still the same / But not for you / That's not enough / You wanted more
- A-ha, "You Wanted More"
"Your mother's not cooking, is she?" he asks as they walk up the familiar steps to her home. It's August in London, a light drizzle of rain and grey skies.
"Nah," she says. "Don't think so, at least."
"If there's cooking, I'm waiting in the TARDIS."
"It's just a quick pop-by."
"Nothing is ever 'just' with you," he replies. "'Just a quick trip home, Doctor. Just a quick change of clothes, Doctor. Just let me try steering the TARDIS once, I promise I won't crash, Doctor. Just let me buy an alien artifact, I'm sure there won't be any curses attached to it, Doctor. Just a quick shag, Doctor.'"
"Oi! You didn't mind the last one," she counters, planting a finger on his chest. But he's not looking at her, he's looking at the open door and her mother, who is not looking particular amused.
"I'm not having alien grandchildren," her mother says, crossing her arms. Rose can already tell the Doctor is ready to turn and head for the TARDIS, so she yanks hold of his hand.
"I'm not! It's had enough you running off with that... Cradle snatcher!"
"I don't snatch cradles, thanks for asking," the Doctor says calmly. "Stole a bed once from William Shakespeare, though. Nice pillows, shame about the ink spots."
Rose laughs slightly before she can stop herself, and her mother gives her a glare. "How've ya been, mum?"
"Worrying about my daughter who hardly ever calls, thank you," her mother snaps. "Oh, and trying to get our new neighbour to turn down the music at three a.m. Had my knickers stolen by a stray dog. Listened to endless calls from your ex-boyfriend."
Her mother looks slightly softened, but her tone is still steel. "Knocked up his girlfriend. And don't you dare follow his example!" she directs at the Doctor, who looks slightly horrified.
And somewhere in the pit of her stomach, Rose can feel something break.
The rain is still falling, and she sits in it, watching London spread out beneath her. Her home. And somehow it still feels wrong that it should change, even as she did. With a time machine, perhaps she's forgotten that for everyone else, time only goes one way.
She doesn't look up as she hears steps, and a moment later, the Doctor stands beside her. It reminds her of another scene on this rooftop in what feels an age ago, but wasn't really. Life had moved on without her then too. And it wasn't raining then.
"I can't believe your mother just gave me a lecture on safe sex," he says and she's torn between laughing and being horrified. "She even had a book!"
"It can't be worse than the one she gave me at thirteen."
"I wouldn't be so sure."
"She made illustrated drawings."
He groans and she laughs, and then she leans against him, feeling the soft wool of his jumper against her cheek. He holds her gently and the rain falls on, the water against roofs like drums of a funeral march. Her old life died a long time ago, but it still feels like a loss. So much she might've had. So much she wouldn't have to endure. The loss of Jack. Thousands dying, a planet turned to dust and rocks, the metallic voice of Daleks ready to kill.
So much she wouldn't have had, too. The chance to make a difference. A thousand wonders, a planet being saved, the soft hum of the Doctor and the TARDIS both as he tinker about the console room.
And not this.
"You all right?" he asks, pressing a kiss against her forehead.
It's a lie that will be truth some day, she thinks.
This is your life, are you who you want to be? / This is your life, are you who you want to be? / This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be? / When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?
Don’t close your eyes
- Switchfoot, This Is Your Life
She awakes to the dark. It takes her a while to realise she even is awake, and it's the pain edging itself stronger and stronger into her mind that finally convinces her she's not just sleeping. She can feel rock under her fingers, cold and freezing. As she lifts her head, she feels something sticky on her head too. It's warm, and she can only think of one thing it can be.
So, she's been knocked over the head and has a bleeding wound, is somewhere dark unless she's gone blind and how the hell did she get into this mess?
The TARDIS had left her, she remembers with a sense of horror. This is sunny Canberra, Australia and the Doctor had taken care of an shape-shifting alien masquerading as an Australian politician. She had just left to look at a swimsuit sale... And no TARDIS when she came. No calls on her phone. She'd waited until it got dark, and still nothing. And then...
She grits her teeth. She's in an alley in Canberra, it's the middle of the night and a bastard knocked her down and took her phone, money and no-longer-cursed alien artifact.
This is really starting to piss her off.
Bully turns out to be Daniel, Rose discovers after a lovely chat with a shop-owner. And no one messes with Daniel because his father is a police chief. No one that doesn't want trouble, at least.
Fortunately, she's dying to have some. She even makes a mental list over all the trouble's going to get into and have.
1. Find bully and get phone back.
2. Make sure bully doesn't bully ever again.
3. Do something about the police chief
4. Leave cranky voicemail until the Doctor damn well calls and picks her up.
5. Smack him.
6. Kiss it better.
7. Shag it better.
Right. Good plan.
When the TARDIS materialises into view, Rose is leaning against a wall and trying on her smug smile. She can't really tell how it looks without a mirror, but it feels damn good at least.
The Doctor looks worried as he sticks his head out, and upon spotting her, he beams.
"Rose! So sorry! Alien bugger dropped a time distortion grenade in the TARDIS. Has taken me weeks to repair and it's still being wobbly. I was afraid I'd miss you by years!"
"No, just a week," she replies, crossing her arms.
"Sorry. Did you keep yourself entertained?"
"Yeah," she says calmly. "Made my journalist debut, got an inquiry started on police corruption, got one police chief fired, got a bully named Daniel community service. Got my phone back, too."
The Doctor looks impressed, she notes and this time, she's sure the smirk is perfect.
"I was all ready to save you from trouble," he says, and shakes his head, sounding a little deflated. "Sounds like you did it all on your own."
"Yeah," she agrees, and walks over to him. "But it was less fun."
"Really," she assures him.
He grins wildly before lifting her up, spinning her around, kissing her, dancing with her to a song she can almost hear in the beats of his hearts.
"Rose Tyler, you're bloody brilliant!" he declares and she nods, because when he says she is, she believes him.
And in the end, she does nearly everything on her list.
Time is gonna take my mind / and carry it far away where I can fly
- Eliza, "Dancing"
She can feel it as she's clinging to him, skin to skin, his eyes closed and time almost still around them. Between heartbeats, there's a song.
"Rose," he whispers, and that's a song too.
Faith has been broken / Tears must be cried / Let’s do some living / After we die
Wild horses / Couldn’t drag me away / Wild, wild horses / We'll ride them someday
- Rolling Stones, "Wild Horses"
In the end, she supposes she should have suspected it couldn't be forever. But it had been such a lovely life, years passing in a mad dash. Sometimes, he'd still time when holding her, but even then, it did pass.
And she's always known somehow that it's meant to be like this. She's always meant to take the burn for him. One hurled ball of energy, one Rose Tyler in the way. One Doctor living.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
"Rose," he whispers, staring at her, face so still and horrified it cuts to her heart even more than the pain of dying.
"I'm sorry," she whispers back. She tries to smile, but her is burning with pain and she can barely even think. "My head..."
"Come here," the Doctor says and she can feel time slow down as he cradles her gently, each heartbeat longer and longer. The pain in fading in the stillness, but she can feel everything else fading too.
"... it's killing me..."
"I think you need a Doctor."
And he's kissing her, softly, so softly, like a first kiss, a last kiss. She can taste the salt of tears and thinks them his until she realises they're hers. She's crying and she's dying and living, dying and living and the TARDIS is singing...
She knows this song.
What's he doing?
He's taking me away from you, Rose.
No. You lived. What might have been. What was, somewhere within me. I hold all that is, all that was, all that will be, all that can be.
Will I remember?
No. You'll have another life with him now, another life with another skin of his. You cannot live it knowing what could have been different. You're not made for it. He was.
I'll forget it all?
I'll keep it for you, Rose. I'll keep it for you and sing it sometimes in the dark of night. And when time ends, I'll give it back to you. My gift to you, twice beloved.
She knows this song. And even as she's grasping to understand the words, it's fading, fading - no, it's her fading, falling until something catches her and the last tone dies.
And she wakes.
We're glad for what we've got / Done with what we've lost / Our whole lives laid out / Right in front of us
Sing like you think no one's listening / You would kill for this / Just a little bit, just a little bit / You would...
Sing like you think no one's listening
Straylight Run, "Existentialism on Prom Night"
There is a room in the TARDIS that reminds her of rooftops in London and always rains and she sits there now, listening to the water fall. It sounds almost like drums of a funeral march and she is almost mourning. The TARDIS hums around her, and that too almost feels like a song.
Maybe it's mourning him too.
"Bit like the rooftop in London that one time, this," the Doctor says and she looks up to see him, this new him, standing in the doorway.
"Except it wasn't raining," she replies, tilting her head as she looks at him. Suit and coat and tie. New skin and new clothes. She's not sure just how much of everything else is new too. Part of her doesn't even want to find out.
"Wasn't it?" he says, then smiles faintly. The smile is new too, but she still returns it, hesitantly. "Come on."
He's holding out a hand and she looks at it and at him and at change. She could ask him to take her home, and he would and she could always remember him as he was, build a shrine to him of her life and make it a fantastic one. And she'll never know what might've happened had she stayed.
She wants to find out.
"I know just where to take you," he says and she takes his hand and lets him pull her to her feet. "It's got the most beautiful rain in the Universe."
They walk out, leaving the rain behind. But the TARDIS sings on around them, holding time within its tune. It's almost beautiful, Rose thinks, almost familiar, as if she's known it all her life.
It almost sounds like it's for her.