Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
“Closing Time,” Semisonic
When the car arrived to take them to the nearest airfield, Jackie elected to sit up front with the driver, giving Rose and her new Doctor some measure of privacy in the back of the limousine.
Rose had held tightly to his hand, hadn’t let go for a second, since the TARDIS had dematerialised. But no one had spoken a word. Everyone apparently content with the sound of the waves and their own thoughts.
In the back of the car, the silence finally got to the Doctor. He said the only thing he could think of, knowing it was slightly ridiculous.
“Rose, are you all right?”
She snorted and her words dripped with bitter sarcasm. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. It seemed like the right thing to say. But what he was apologising for, he wasn’t quite sure. For what he’d done. For what he’d allowed to happen. For what the other him had done. For his own existence. Rose was in pain, and it was his fault. How did he ever think this was the way to protect her?
“Stop it. It’s not your fault,” she berated him softly. But then she turned to him, searching his eyes intently. “Unless… you knew…” Her whole body stiffened as the horror of the possibility dawned on her. Was this Doctor a victim in this like she’d thought, or was he another player, tossing her life about like she was a pawn? “What he was planning. Did you discuss it? Did you know?”
“I didn’t know,” he answered simply and she relaxed a fraction. “Honestly, I thought we were coming here to drop off your mum. And…” he stammered over the last word, “… me.”
“Figured I was being banished. Even after we explained what I was. After he told you to stay and I offered you my new version of forever. I thought,” he swallowed heavily, still unused to all this sharing of his emotions that he was apparently prone to as a human, “I thought that when you kissed me… that it was my parting gift. A bit hard to believe he’d just… give you to me.” He cringed inwardly at the idea, her being passed around like a commodity. And his words had caused fresh tears in her eyes. Oh this wasn’t going to be easy, was it? None of it.
He slid his free hand to her cheek, willing her to believe him. “I didn’t mean to distract you, Rose. It wasn’t fair of him, to leave you like that. Without a goodbye. Without a… choice.” He’s pretty sure she wouldn’t have chosen him.
Her tears spilled over again as her heart freshly clenched in her chest for about the thousandth time in the last 24 hours. This Doctor didn’t believe he deserved her either. And this one would carry so much more guilt. Guilt for everything he’d done before he’d originally met her, guilt for everything he’d done since he was reborn. Guilt for the pain his counterpart was going through, back in the other universe. She wasn’t ready yet, to accept him. To accept that he was the man who was everything she wanted in the universe. To take up the role that was thrust upon her to make him a better man. But she couldn’t and wouldn’t abandon him, nor could she deny her love for him. Her innate desire to stop him from hurting. Because he was him. He remembered loving her and losing her. And what makes a man more than his memories? She drew his face to hers and kissed him. Because they could give each other this, this comfort, even if the rest would take time. It still felt a tiny bit like betrayal. She suspected maybe it always would.
The Doctor threw his arms around her and his whole body into the kiss, just like he had on the beach, not caring if the driver or Jackie might see. He’d love her for the whole world to see now. He owed her that much. Donna, the other Doctor, and now Rose had given him these chances: life, Rose, happiness. He knew he didn’t deserve any of it. But he’d be an idiot to squander these gifts the universe had bestowed on him.
She pulled away after a few moments, a little breathless. And as soon as her mind caught up again, the tears resurfaced. “Will he be okay?” she couldn’t resist asking. She didn’t miss the flash of pain in his eyes.
“No,” he said simply, because he found he couldn’t lie.
“Then how,” she choked out, “can we be happy? Knowing…”
“I don’t know, Rose. But we can try to figure that out.” His eyes begged for her acceptance. “Together?”
Her hand found his again and squeezed. It wasn’t an answer, exactly, but it was what they had.