"It’s funny, isn’t it?”
The Doctor glanced over at Rose, a frown furrowing his brow. “What is?”
She waved a hand vaguely in the air. “You know, time.”
He pushed himself up on his elbow and gave her an incredulous look. They were currently stargazing in the Forsyth Peninsula, lying on grass so smooth it felt like silk, a warm breeze rolling over them.
“What d’you mean?”
She wriggled slightly to get comfortable. “Well, no clock’s the same, is it? Even on Earth, no one ever knows the exact time.” The Doctor thought about this for a moment.
“Everyone’s life is governed by a clock - one they’ve grown up with, maybe, or had for a long time. Sometimes it’s a watch, sometimes it’s a clock, it depends on the person.”
She looked at him, eyes narrowed slightly in confusion.
“So it’s a bit like a body clock?”
He gave her one of his beaming grins.
“Exactly. Yours is probably that clock in your Mum’s kitchen.”
Rose was quiet for a while, her eyes skimming the stars far, far above them in the velvety night sky, and he knew she was thinking.
“What does it mean, though?” she asked finally. “There’s a set time for everything to happen? Bit Biblical, isn’t it?”
“Not really.” He grinned again. “It just means that major events in your life are generally dictated by the time on the clock. Not sure why, I think it’s some ancient rule of time.”
“What happens when the clock stops?”
The Doctor was silent for a moment, studying her with his piercing blue gaze, and there was an infinite sadness in his eyes that chilled her to the bone. Then he turned away, looking out across the dark hills into the far distance.
She never got an answer.
And many millennia and thousands of light-years away, the clock in Jackie Tyler’s kitchen ticked away, inexorably counting the hours, minutes and seconds that governed Rose Tyler’s life.
The day they went to Barcelona, the sun shone and the sky was the colour of cornflowers. They landed on a cliff-top, the sea stretching out beneath them for miles. The Doctor spread his coat out on the grass, sitting down and indicating for Rose to do the same.
“Barcelona,” he told her, sounding extremely pleased with himself. “As promised.”
“The planet, yeah?”
“Of course!” he said, sounding indignant that she could have assumed anything else. “Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful,” she replied, looking over the edge of the cliff to where the sea sparkled and shone, shimmering lilac beneath them. “What’s that?” The Doctor looked where she was pointing. Huge peaks of glistening ice rose from the sea, reflecting the light of the sun and producing a myriad of colours that glimmered against the sky.
“Well, that’s the thing about Barcelona,” he told her, taking her hand. “The temperature on land remains warm and sunny all year round, but the ice peaks never melt.”
Rose smiled. “Like in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.”
He grinned back at her. “Exactly like in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ It never rains either, but nothing dries up, and the ground is astonishingly fertile so everything grows. Very fast.”
“But it’s so beautiful,” she repeated once she’d digested this, “Where is everyone?”
“It’s uninhabited.” He shrugged. “That’s why it’s so beautiful, I suppose. No humans around to mess everything up.”
Rose pouted. “We don’t get everything wrong.”
He looked at her, his gaze softening. “No. You do have some redeeming qualities.”
Rose raised her eyebrows. “If we’re that bad, why don’t you just give up on us? Leave us to fight our own battles?”
The Doctor took on the tone of a teacher, looking at her patronisingly. “Well, for one, I don’t want to bring about the destruction of the Earth, which would be what would happen if I left you to yourselves, and two, well…I like you.” Rose grinned.
“Even though we never do anything right?”
“Yeah, you’re quite funny little creatures really.” She glared at him, and he backtracked rapidly. “I mean, you’re interesting. Think of all the stuff humans have done. Walked on the moon, sent shuttles into space, invented rice pudding…”
Rose spluttered. “Rice pudding?”
He nodded gravely. “With cinnamon.”
When Rose finally entered the console room, a full forty-five minutes after she’d left the Doctor drinking his tea in the kitchen, she found him spinning round and round on a wheelie chair that she was sure had never been there before.
“Enjoying yourself?” she asked, grinning, and he came to an abrupt stop, his face slightly wary, as if he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t.
“You were ages…” he told her in an attempt to explain himself, and she raised an eyebrow.
“You told me to dress for every single type of weather I could think of. That’s no easy feat, you know.”
He looked her up and down then, a slight frown on his face. She was wearing her trademark jeans, t-shirt and jacket, something he was sure wouldn’t withstand Arctic blizzards or African sandstorms.
“Obviously not.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “When I said every single type of weather possible…did you just hear ‘sunshine and showers?’”
She gave him one of the looks that reminded him very, very much of her mother.
“I think you’re overreacting. What kind of place is freezing one minute and boiling the next?” She took his hand and they stepped out of the TARDIS. He grinned at her.
“It’s sunny.” She told him slowly, as if she was afraid he might be starting to lose it. “It’s not-” she broke off and shrugged off her jacket. “OK, OK, it just got hotter.” She rolled her eyes at his face. “Go on, I can tell you’re dying to give me the lecture.” He took a deep breath and cleared his throat, now in full teacher-mode.
“This is one of the seasonal planets. It’s a lot like Earth, but instead of having four seasons over the span of 365 days, they run over an hour.” He looked at her triumphantly. “We’re currently in about June, July.”
She gaped at him.
“You’re telling me that the seasons are repeated over and over again every hour?”
She shivered suddenly and slipped her coat back on, the sky darkening to slate grey as a chill wind seeped through their clothes. He took her hand and they started walking, Rose’s mouth clamped firmly shut so he wouldn’t see her chattering teeth.
As they walked it grew steadily colder, until her hands were so icy she was forced to tuck them uncomfortably into her sleeves and hug her arms around her body. Up until now, the Doctor had seemed completely oblivious.
“Are you cold?” He asked suddenly, and she shook her head defiantly. She hated showing any kind of weakness around him. “You are.” He stopped and turned her round, pulling her towards him and wrapping his coat around them, so her icy cheek rested against his chest. “Blimey, you should have said. You’re freezing.”
Rose swallowed, her heart thumping madly in her chest. The Doctor — the emotionally-stunted, boundary-loving Doctor - was cuddling her. Frantically, she wracked her brains for what to do, and when the answer came, it was obvious - hug him back, idiot. She slipped her arms around his waist and pressed her face closer to his body, using him as a shield against the bitter wind.
As the first flakes of snow fell around them and settled like glistening jewels in their hair, Rose was sure she felt something brush against her temple.
For a wonderful, fleeting moment, she wondered whether maybe it was the Doctor, pressing a kiss into her hair. The silence between them was heavy, intense, and she was just tilting her head up to look at him when the heavens opened and an icy torrent of rainwater was dumped on them from above.
She gave him the sternest look she could manage with dripping hair, a see-through t-shirt, and jeans that shrunk with every drop of water that soaked into them.
“Great choice, Doctor.” She said sarcastically, unable to keep a grin from spreading across her face despite the litre of freezing water running down her back. “Really, really great.”
“Oh come on, please.” wheedled Rose. “I’m not going swimming by myself!” The Doctor looked up from his position lying on the sand, shielding his eyes from the sun.
“There is no way I’m going in there.”
Rose tugged at his hand. “Please, Doctor! You must have some swimming trunks somewhere in the TARDIS!” He looked up at her again, and then for some reason which he assured himself had nothing whatsoever to do with Rose’s scarlet bikini, he sighed.
“Okay, fine. Just this once.”
“Thank you, Doctor!” Rose hugged him quickly, then shoved him off in the direction of the TARDIS.
And so it was that, ten minutes later, the Doctor found himself back on the beach, wearing nothing but a pair of baggy shorts, and carrying a towel over one arm. Rose grinned at him, holding out her hand, and they ran down to the sea together.
The water was warm and clear, the seabed golden and littered with shells. The Doctor reached down into the sand and picked up a dusky pink shell.
“Here.” he said, holding it against her throat for a moment. “You should thread it, make a necklace. It suits you.” Rose smiled, reaching out to take it, but suddenly the sand fell away from beneath her, and she was pulled under the water.
“Rose!” With a frantic cry, the Doctor dived beneath the surface, clawing his way through tendrils of waxy seaweed. The pit seemed to go on for several metres, and he could only just make out Rose entangled in the seaweed, which seemed to have a mind of its own. Kicking out at the sticky strands, the Doctor grabbed Rose around the waist and pulled her up to the surface, dragging her a few metres closer to shore.
“Rose.” he said again, pushing wet hair out of her eyes and looking at her desperately. “Are you okay?” For a moment she stayed limp in his arms and he panicked as he’d never panicked before, but then she spluttered, coughing, and opened her eyes.
“Okay,” she choked, as soon as she could speak, “d’you want to tell me exactly what just happened?” He hugged her tightly, so glad that she was safe, and kept his arms wrapped loosely around her as he explained.
“Well, that’s the thing about this planet,” he said sheepishly. “I knew there was something I’d forgotten.”
Rose looked at him disbelievingly. “You forgot that massive pits open up in the middle of the sea, with killer seaweed waiting at the bottom?”
He opened his mouth, then closed it and nodded. “That’s about it, yeah. The seaweed…it’s like it’s alive. The pits are traps, to catch its…er…prey.” He looked at her worriedly. “Er…sorry?”
To his surprise, she just wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder and shaking with laughter.
“You are so useless! I don’t believe you’d forget that!”
He laughed with her. “I suppose we should probably get out. The holes don’t open very often, but just in case…” He scooped her up into his arms and began to carry her bridal-style out of the sea.
“Doctor,” she protested half-heartedly, “I can walk, you know. I only fell into a hole, it’s not life-threatening.”
He just shrugged. “You never know.”
Rolling her eyes, she relaxed against him, and allowed him to carry her all the way up the beach and deposit her on her towel beneath the trees. Flopping down beside her, he watched her for a moment, then turned his gaze to the sea. The sun sparkled off the water as evening drew on, and the birds became silhouettes against the orange and purple night sky. She turned to him at exactly the same time as he turned to her, and their eyes met for a second, just long enough for them both to realise what was about to happen.
Their lips touched in the briefest, softest of kisses and they gazed at each other, wide eyed in wonder, before the spell was broken.
Gently, the Doctor pushed Rose back onto the sand, lowering himself so that he was directly above her, one arm on either side of her face. So close that their noses were almost touching, he stopped, and his tongue ran lightly over her lips before his mouth found hers again, kissing her with all the passion he could muster. She wound her hands into his hair, pulling him closer, and then suddenly it was over.
The Doctor rested his forehead against hers, and then grinned at her, sitting up again. He dug into the pocket of his shorts, and opened his hand to reveal the grey-pink shell he’d found earlier.
“Here, have it.” He handed it to her, tracing the line of her jaw down to the base of her throat. “Will you wear it for me?”
She nodded, kissing him again, softly.
Rose was trembling as she stepped into the TARDIS, the horror of the day finally catching up to her. Her face was pale beneath a layer of grime,
and she was just starting to feel the throb of her sprained ankle. She winced slightly and sat down on the captain’s chair, the fabric brushing
uncomfortably over the grazes on her hands.
“We need to get you cleaned up.” The Doctor was at her side the moment the familiar wheeze of the TARDIS engines filled the air. “Come on, MedBay.” He tried to take her hand but she pulled it abruptly away, tears springing unbidden to her eyes as he caught the raw skin of her palms. “Oh Rose, I’m so sorry.” He helped her carefully to her feet, his touch feather-light in case he hurt her, and led her slowly to the medical room, his eyes trained worriedly on her the whole time.
“Sorry.” she said quietly, a weak smile on her face, but he shook his head.
“No, I’m sorry. I should never have left you there. I thought you’d be safer…” he trailed off. “Tell you what, new plan. In the future, we’ll
stick together.” Rose smiled for real this time.
“I like that plan.” Because I get to stay near you, she nearly added, but managed to stop herself just in time. “What’ve you got then?” she asked, sitting carefully on the bed. “Special magic tool?” He couldn’t help waggling his eyebrows at her, and she blushed.
“Oh yes, but I’m not going to use that now.” He grinned impishly and waved something at her. “Dermal reparatory implement - repairs the skin, heals bruises…” He trailed off. “Where does it hurt?”
“Everywhere.” she groaned, but shifted a little to show him. “Here…” she showed him her hands; “Here…” she indicated her ankle; “Here…” she ran her hands lightly over her ribs; “And here.”” she pointed to her shoulder blade. He turned away, supposedly fiddling with a dial, though Rose knew it was simply a guise for his discomfort.
“Right then,” he said breezily. “Whip your top off and we’ll get started.”
“Wh-what?” Rose stared at him incredulously and he turned round.
“Oh come on, it’s not like I haven’t seen it all before. I’ve had plenty of female companions, and I always used to patch them up.”
Rose tried to ignore the pang of jealousy she felt at his words and nodded slowly, reaching down and pulling her top over her head in one fluid
movement. The Doctor’s eyes widened and Rose was amused to see a blush staining his cheeks.
“Good.” He said matter-of-factly, and slipped his glasses on before dipping his head to look at her. She glanced down too, shocked to see a patchwork of black and blue adorning her torso. Blushing slightly under the intensity of his gaze, her eyes met his, and she was astonished to see a deep passion burning in their chocolate depths. She felt his fingers move like a whisper over her body and tried not to cry out as the machine healed her wounds, burning like fire and bringing tears to her eyes.
She started suddenly as she felt something cool brush her shoulder and turned just in time to see the Doctor’s face looming embarrassedly in front
“What are you doing?” she asked quietly, for they hadn’t kissed since that wonderful day on the beach a few weeks ago. He scratched his ear
“Kissing it better.” He muttered embarrassedly, and she couldn’t help grinning.
“No complaints from me.” She told him, her smile growing as his face lit up. She watched over her shoulder as he bent to her now flawless skin once more, planting a trail of delicate kisses down her spine that made her shiver. He traced the line of her goose-pimples with his lips, journeying over the curve of her neck and up onto her cheek. He moved round in frontof her, his hands tickling down her sides to rest lightly on her waist, and his lips finally found hers.
She sighed into his mouth, her arms curling around his neck and threading through his hair as she pulled him closer.
“What was that for?” she breathed as he drew back slightly, and he grinned, laying her back slowly on the bed and moving atop her.
“Absolutely nothing.” He replied, supporting his weight on his elbows as his lips mapped her face, sliding down her neck and across the top of her
chest as her eyes fell closed. “D’you know what?” He said, in between pressing open-mouthed kisses to her bellybutton. She shook her head
wordlessly. “I think my bedroom is a much better place to make you better.” She raised an eyebrow, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“Yep. More cushioning for your head.” He paused. “You see, I really need to give you a thorough examination.”
Rose nodded seriously, though she could barely stop grinning.
“You’re the doctor.”
He scooped her into his arms then, his lips seeking out hers, and she remembered no more.
“Are you okay?” the Doctor asked quietly, kissing Rose softly on the forehead, “You haven’t said anything for ages.”
“Yeah.” She shifted in his arms, trying to get into a more comfortable position on the sofa. “It’s just…” She looked up at him shyly, almost pleadingly. “Kiss me?” She tilted her head slightly and their lips met in a soft kiss. The Doctor couldn’t for the life of him work out what was the matter with Rose, but she was now kissing him so desperately that he knew something was wrong.
“Rose.” He broke the kiss, reaching up with one hand to gently touch her cheek. “Tell me.” He looked at her closely and was surprised to see the tidal waves of emotion in her hazel eyes. She bit her lip worriedly and the Doctor leaned forward to kiss her again, but she stopped him.
“Doctor.” Rose took a deep breath and ploughed on. “You know about you being the last of the Timelords?” A flicker of pain crossed his face as he nodded. “Well, the thing is, you’re not. Not anymore.” She let this sink in for a moment, watching his reaction. He was frowning now, not understanding.
“What do you mean? There isn’t…” He trailed off, his face clearing briefly but then taking on a strange expression she’d never seen before. “Oh, Rose,” he breathed, “You’re not…”
She nodded slowly, still watching him closely. “Yes,” she whispered, “I am.” Rose didn’t know how she was expecting him to react to her news, but she certainly hadn’t expected him to just stare at her frozenly, no emotion whatsoever on his face. She stood up, not wanting him to see her cry. “I’m sorry. If you want me to leave, I’ll…I’ll…” He stood up too, standing in front of her.
“Are you sure?” he asked her, and she nodded.
A grin spread over his face. “Then that’s brilliant!” He threw his arms around her, hugging her tightly. “Don’t you think it’s brilliant? Say it’s brilliant!”
Rose smiled, immensely relieved. “It’s…it’s brilliant.”
“Exactly!” he said, grinning at her again. “Isn’t it just?” He suddenly became serious, the manic grin sliding off his face to be replaced by something infinitely more tender.
Never breaking eye contact with Rose, he slipped his hand beneath her top, resting it on the bare skin of her stomach. Lips slightly parted, he gazed at her in something close to wonder.
“That’s my baby,” he breathed, his fingers moving gently over her stomach. “Our baby. Oh, thank you, Rose.”
He kissed her gently, her hand linking with his on her stomach as he pulled her closer against him. After a moment, Rose pulled away, refusing to meet his eyes.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to…to get rid of it?” she asked, finally looking up at him again. He looked aghast, raising one hand to cup her cheek.
“I’m sure. I’d never ask you to do that, Rose. Never.”
“Okay.” She thought for a moment. “Then it looks like we’re having a baby!”
“Together,” added the Doctor, grinning at her happily. “We’re having a baby together!”
Rose’s grin matched his. “I can’t wait.”
“Nor can I.” He took her hand. “I’ll be with you the whole way. I’m not running away from this. I’ll be there when it’s born, I promise.”
“Thanks,” she told him quietly. “Can we go and tell Mum? She’ll be so happy.”
The Doctor looked at her sceptically. “Somehow I doubt that. I’ll be lucky to get out of there with one regeneration left.”
“She’s not gonna kill you,” Rose protested. “Not if I can help it anyway. I’m not bringing up a baby on my own. And I can give her that weather thingie we got on the asteroid bazaar at the same time.”
“Okay,” the Doctor sighed, “Next stop the Powell Estate. But just…keep her away from me, yeah?”
Rose laughed, and, his hand on her stomach, the Doctor was sure he could sense the glowing spark that was the tiny life inside her.
Rose stood alone on a windswept beach in Norway, her face set as she willed him to come. She knew she'd heard him in her dreams, calling her, guiding her, but now she began to doubt herself, doubt him, her fears rising as tears in her eyes.
"Rose." She spun round at the sound of his voice, soft and sad and so un-Doctor-like that she had to fight back a sob. She had to be strong. It was his image that shocked her the most. It was translucent, shimmering and shuddering like static, and she was reminded of their time in Coronation England.
"Where are you?" She asked, but she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know the answer. She hated to think of him stuck millions and millions of miles away, alone in that great empty ship, the weight of the Universe on his shoulders once more. More than anything, she just wanted to hold him.
"Inside the TARDIS. There's one tiny little gap in the Universe left, just about to close. And it takes a lot of power to send this projection, I'm in orbit around a super nova. I'm burning up a sun just to say goodbye." He laughed softly, almost ironically, and Rose took a deep breath. Her mind went back to Sarah Jane, to all the other goodbyes he'd never wanted to say, and her heart broke a little bit more.
"You look like a ghost." She told him finally because, really, what else was there to say? He frowned a little and took out the sonic screwdriver, pointing it at something she'd never be able to see, and she smiled in spite of herself. Seeing it, that little silver tube that could do so much, was so normal, so routine, that she felt this must all just be a terrible dream.
His image suddenly solidified, so much so that it was as if he was standing right in front of her. Her heart leapt into her throat and she took a tentative step forward, her hand reflexively moving to caress his cheek.
"I'm still just an image. No touch." His eyes clouded momentarily, and she knew it was hurting him just as much as her. She let her hand fall uselessly to her side, awkward all of a sudden. She was desperate to touch him, hold him, kiss him, and yet the universe was determined to take every little bit of her heart and stamp all over it.
"Can't you come through properly?" This time her voice trembled, and she mentally kicked herself. She steadied herself, swallowing back tears.
"The whole thing would fracture. Two Universes would collapse." For one tiny, fleeting moment, she could sort of believe they were on some wonderful alien planet, and he was giving her one of the infamous lectures that she'd never paid much attention to but now seemed impossibly important.
"So?" She said brokenly, and by the look on his face she knew he could tell she was only half-joking. He gazed at their surroundings, a question on his lips.
"Where are we? Where did the gap come out?" She wanted to scream at him then, tell him he was safe and sound in the TARDIS, and that it was she who was stuck here in stupid, stupid Norway.
"We're in Norway." She answered in the end, because she knew that it was as much a prison sentence for him as for her.
"Norway." He said awkwardly. "Right." There was a strange silence that nearly smothered the two of them.
"This place translates as Bad Wolf Bay." She blurted suddenly, for it'd been bothering her ever since she'd arrived. They exchanged sad smiles in remembrance for days long gone, and suddenly she hated the universe for tearing them apart. "How long have we got?" She asked, voice laden with tears, and he sighed.
"About two minutes."
She laughed ironically. "I don't know what to say!" The Doctor grinned too but sobered almost immediately, his eyes following her hand as it came to rest lightly on her stomach. She bit her lip. "Doctor..." she trailed off. "The baby...the baby kicked this morning." She didn't fail to notice the way his jaw clenched, his stance tautened.
"I promised I'd be there." He said almost angrily, and he glared at the sky, unable to meet her eye. "I wanted to be there."
"I wanted you to be there too." She whispered, glancing away and hating herself for telling him. Sometimes she wished she knew when to keep her mouth shut - too long spent with the Doctor, she guessed. She glanced back at her family - her Mum, Mickey, her sort-of Dad - and took in their drawn faces, all pale with worry for her. "I'll have help. I've got Mum, Dad, Mickey..." His fists clenched at Mickey's name, the one who got her in the end, and she changed the subject. "There's still a Torchwood on this planet, open for business. I reckon I know a thing or two about aliens." And all at once, his stance softened, a smile spreading across his face.
"Rose Tyler. Defender of the Earth." He was so, so proud. His Rose, defending the Earth, just like him. "Here you are. Living a life, day by day. The one adventure I can never have." She didn't miss the bitterness in his tone.
"You would have had it." Tears glittered in her eyes as she spoke. "We would have been a family."
"I know." His voice was impossibly sad. "I know."
And now she couldn't stop the tears. They poured down her cheeks in a flood as she cried for the Doctor, for their life together, and for their baby who would never have a father.
"Am I ever gonna see you again?" He looked at her, hurting and broken and desperate, and he couldn't find it in himself to lie.
"I lo..." she trailed off, her nerve breaking as much as her heart. "I love you." The words they never ever said. He smiled softly, and as her hand moved up to brush away her tears, he caught a glimpse of a dusky pink shell, hanging above a shiny silver key around her neck.
"Quite right too. And I suppose, if it's my last chance to say it..." he paused, urging himself on. "Rose Tyler..."
The Doctor vanished, the words half-formed on his lips.
And in the kitchen of an abandoned flat on the Powell Estate, millions and millions of miles away, a clock stopped.