Though the sky was streaked with clouds, Bad Wolf Bay was bright with the sun. Rose Tyler was cold. A chill wind was blowing in from the endless, desolate waves of the sea, but the cold Rose felt was the numbing iciness of her soul sinking and her heart breaking. Again.
She had been aglow with warmth and hope and love and triumph. She had used the broken, jagged pieces of her spirit to fuel her indomitable fire, to persevere against all obstacles and all impossibilities, and to win her way back to her Doctor. No power in all the multiple universes could stop her from being reunited forever with her soul mate, but somehow, again, she was losing him. Her mind clawed and grasped for any shred of hope, tore and screamed against the futility of it all
The Doctor’s other self, his copy, his shadow, his newly born human form, leaned into her, his soft mouth pressing so slightly against her ear. Shivers ran down her neck at the sensation of his sweet, tickling breath, and he whispered those never heard words that had haunted her dreams for a seeming eternity.
“Rose Tyler. I love you.”
Her soul mate. A different vessel, perhaps, but the same memories, the same feelings, the same desires. The same soul. He would love her forever, grow old with her, and they would be happy until their dying breaths. And he needed her. He needed her to mend his broken psyche, to make him a better man. It would do. It would more than do.
* * * * * *
He lay on his back, the firmness of the grass and earth a comforting but cold cradle as he gazed up at the stars. There were a few differences between these points of light and those he knew from the parallel universe he originated from, but the similarities were numerous enough to serve as constant reminders of his travels and adventures through all of space and time. These travels and adventures were not his own, but those of his other, true self. They belonged to the last of the Time Lords; to the Doctor. But he remembered them all as though the time had been his own. His enemies, his friends, the wondrous worlds and universes and times he had moved through like a mote of dust that left ever-expanding ripples in its wake. These moments burned in him like raging stars, like sharp points of light that eternally adorned the dark vastness of his essential self.
But that had been years ago. Years that felt like a blink to his centuries old mind housed in a frighteningly mortal and decaying body, but years none-the-less.
Her voice called to him from the front door, lilting, as usual, with flirty playfulness.
“You comin’ in, Mr. Smith? Mum’s got supper on.”
Within an imperceptible instant, with the reflexive ease of constant practice, his memories flashed back, rewinding in a blur through the days, nights and years of his time spent with Rose Tyler on this alternate Earth. Their freelance work with Torchwood and U.N.I.T., her happiness when he accepted his teaching job, the melancholy pleasure of helping his students strive toward their dreams, laughing and playing with Jackie’s child, the hours spent entwined within Rose’s limbs and kisses, always feeding her undying passion for him. And then, finally, that moment on the shore of Bad Wolf Bay.
* * * * * *
He had known the Doctor’s thoughts as clearly as if they were being spoken aloud. He had known what the Doctor was asking of him through the communication of a single glance. He and the Doctor were, after all, nearly the same person.
Travelling with Rose had been a balm to his loneliness and guilt. She was brave, and young, and fun, and she had allowed him to sometimes forget the weight of his past. She had made it easy for him to sometimes pretend that he was carefree and happy, and he had missed that when she was gone, and he had felt guilty about losing her, and truly happy at finding her again.
But standing at Bad Wolf Bay, seeing her pain and her hurt, he acutely felt and understood the terrible damage he had done to her. While he had been playing at forgetting, she had been falling in love. He had, of course, always known this, but he had also believed she would eventually come to her senses and move on. Yet here she was, willing to kick a hole through the universes to be with him. She would break before allowing herself to truly say goodbye. She was too far gone to survive this and maintain any sense of true happiness, and she did, at the very least, deserve to be happy.
So the Doctor had asked his human self to make a sacrifice for the sake of poor, sweet, simple, lovesick Rose. The Doctor had caused such damage to his friends over the centuries, but at least the Doctor’s human self was in a unique position to mend some of the damage he had caused this one.
* * * * * *
His fleeting reverie ended. He pleasantly and lovingly called back to her.
“Be right there, luv.”
Where he should have felt the warm beating of his second heart, he felt instead a cold emptiness. The stars would never again be his. He would forever deny himself access to the threads of time and the fabric of space. It was a small sacrifice to make. This life, after all, would be over in a blink. The number of beats remaining to his single, human heart was mercifully few.
She called again from the front door.
“I love you, you know. Don’t want you ever forgetting.”
“And I love you, Rose Tyler.”
The lie always came easily. He did, after all, have centuries of practice.