She lifted her long hair into her hands, wrapping the band around the blond locks. Securing them to the back of her head, she dragged small wisps of hair down the sides of her face intently, purposefully. She hadn’t styled her hair like this in a long time but for this place and this time, it just seemed right. She wanted to look her best for what she had in mind. And she wasn’t even sure she had the backbone to follow through. But it was something she wanted to do. Something she needed to do. She checked herself quickly, running her hands down her blue jeans and fixing the gray sweater nervously. Did she look all right? She glanced into the crystal case housing several shimmering sale items and her reflection seemed the slightest bit pale and nervous.
But it needed to be today. And it needed to be done within the hour.
This market, along with the planet Auberon of the Indigo Sur system would come to its end within a year’s time. All of it, wiped away in the blink of an eye. Which made this day all the more important. She wanted this to be special, this last time. This first and only time she attempted what she had in mind.
Auberon, with its red skies and silver clouds, was the perfect place to try it. The markets were for traders and merchants. But in the heart of the main city the architecture was beautiful, majestic. Fountains, sprawling lawns of green grass and water that sparkled as if made from the clearest diamonds. Even the tinkling music, the jumble of sounds and reverent whispers, was heavenly to hear. This was the holy planet for the people of the Indigo Sur system. And the main city, at this time of year, was in its golden age. Which made it all the more sorrowful.
It was New Years Eve for her though. And that was all that mattered at the moment. Her watch, in tune with her Earth time, read less than an hour to midnight.
Keeping her head down, hands finding their way into the pockets of her sweater, she raced out into the mass of people. The market was flooded with all sorts of wonderfully different species and cultures, the smells achingly familiar. Not so much the scents themselves, which consisted of strange and beautiful aromas and odors, but the smell of something new and different. She had always loved this part.
She caught up with him under a covered stall, his dark eyes caught on a small trinket that clattered when he picked it up. “Rose, look at this,” the Doctor said with unabashed glee and she hesitated a long moment, merely staring at him in his long coat and wonderfully familiar pin-striped suit before coming up at his side. “It’s like one of your chatterboxes, those chattering teeth, see?” And he turned to her, holding out the item in his palm, long fingers splayed.
In the middle of his hand was a dark and gnarled set of teeth, all sharp and jagged, the edges stained a dark green where they met the disembodied gums.
“Looks…real,” she said as she stared at it, a small grimace curling her lips in distaste.
“It is real!” he crowed much too happily, eyes trained on the teeth.
She swallowed at that. “That’s…lovely,” she uttered. But glancing at him once more, she smiled faintly, her hands lifting and sliding into her back pockets. If she left him to his own devices he would stay here in this one merchant stall for hours. She needed to do this soon or she would run out of time. She took several steps away from him slowly, hoping he would subconsciously catch on to follow.
Still grinning adorably, eyes stuck to the item in his palm, he set it back down amongst others of its type and nodded his thanks to the merchant of the stall. He was given a smile in return, more of those twisted, dirty teeth flashing. “So, find anything good?” he asked her then, hands lifting to disappear into the pockets of his coat as he scanned other items for sale.
“Um…yeah,” she said haltingly and she looked back over her shoulder quickly, scanning the markets. Some were beginning to close up shop and in the darkening sky she could see the moons becoming visible. “I mean…scary stuff. Not stuff I’d display at home, necessarily, but-”
The Doctor lifted his gaze to her finally, a quick glance as he dragged his eyes from the stall. And as she turned to face him once more he came to a bit of a stop, staring at her.
She paused in mid-sentence at his expression. “What?”
He blinked at her, his face blank for a moment. Then, with a small shrug, he swept toward her, leaving the stall behind. “Nothing,” he replied shortly. And he sent her another smile, this one a bit soft.
She arched a brow at him as he came beside. “You’re acting weird again,” she murmured suspiciously, eyeing him.
“Am I?” he asked. And he held out his arm toward her, hand still in his pocket.
Hesitantly, slowly, she reached out and wound her arm through his, drawing close to his side.
He merely watched her, the strangest look on his face. An expression that was half wistful and half understanding. As she pressed to his arm, her other hand reaching up to clasp his wrist gently, he exhaled slightly. “Had enough of the markets?” he asked her.
She glanced around for a long moment, surveying the area. “Yeah. At least for now. I’ll probably come back for more later, though. If that’s all right?” And she raised slightly widened eyes at him.
He smiled, head tilting. “Absolutely. I want to show you the gardens anyway. I think you’ll enjoy them. Especially at night. The lights are remarkable.”
Arm closing back to his side, he trapped her elbow against his waist and began to float back toward the entrance of the markets. The crowd was thinning down at this time, stalls closing for business and the red sunlight waning. Auberon had three moons, but only two of them were close enough in proximity to light the planet. As it was, moonlight was almost as strong as the sunlight, the red beginning to dwindle to silver. It was so very beautiful, as if being bathed in white silk. She knew she would remember this always, this light, and the breeze that fluttered his hair and carried his scent to her.
She knew this was a memory that would stay with her forever.
Leading her out of the marketplace, he floated silently, his head bowed. She didn’t recall him ever being like this, this quiet. This contemplative. At his side, her arm caught in his, she risked a glance at him from the corner of her eye. And then another look, a longer one. To study him. To see his face and find it so achingly painful.
The main city was quiet tonight, mirroring him. And as they walked she knew where they were going. He was taking her to the fountains. From the city square where the markets were closing down, barely a few of their city blocks away stood the fountains of the holy city. The people of Auberon believed in a deity without gender but every statue of their god was made of a pale blue stone. And every statue was a fountain, spraying the clear diamond water into gentle pools. One such statue stood lost in a field of dewy grass, beneath a blue tree with golden leaves. The first time she had seen the tree, her breath had been stolen from her.
Tonight would be no different, she knew.
He led her silently throughout, her arm trapped in his, his face somber. She glanced at him once more, cautiously, trying to keep up with his lean form. He had such an abundant amount of energy and she felt it within his frame, threatening to spill out. “You want to run, don’t you?” she questioned him and as he glanced at her quickly, eyes the slightest bit wide, she smiled at him crookedly.
He blinked. “Well, yes. Sort of,” he answered her, looking as if she had taken him off guard with her question.
Her smile turned into a full grin and before he had a chance to say anything she was pulling her arm free of his, her fingers trailing down his wrist to fish for his hand. He slid it out of his pocket, gazing at her in bemusement. But then she had his hand in hers and she turned to face him as she darted into his path, practically dragging him. “Then come on, Doctor. Let’s run!”
With that, releasing his hand, she spun back around and took off.
The Doctor stared off after her figure for a full moment, surprised. Then, realizing what had just happened, he also grinned and began to run.
She was faster than he had expected, than he had thought her to be. Any other day and he would have gained on her easily. But tonight, in the moonlight, she was nimble and fluid, her hair loosening the slightest bit and spilling a lock. He slowed only momentarily, the blond wisp of hair caught in his gaze.
And it hit him once more. What he had always seen but had rarely allowed himself to think. She was beautiful here, tonight. As she ran, as she looked over her shoulder and slowed, laughing up at the two visible moons above, she was beautiful.
And she wasn’t his.
The tree loomed ahead of them, at the top of a hill, the blue statue waiting below. Racing up to it, her chest heaving in exhilaration, she came to a stop and whirled to face him, her cheeks touched with pink. Taking the last few steps to reach her, he was grinning, his hearts also racing.
“You’re slowing down,” she laughed at him, breathing heavily.
His grin was wide, his hair wild as he ran a hand through it. “Or maybe you’re just catching up,” he remarked and he came closer to her, his eyes catching on the fountain. At the foot of the statue, the crystal water reflected the moonlight brilliantly, casting silver flecks of light across the bark of the blue tree, lighting the golden leaves.
She raised her eyes to it, still searching for a single clear breath but now, standing here, she felt alive and so very ready. The silence was complete around them, the tiniest strains of music reaching them from the city and it had to be here and now.
He came toward her, his trainers kicking across the green grass absentmindedly and as she looked at him once more he met her eyes. There was something there, in the depths of those dark eyes, something unreadable. Indecipherable. But something recognizable yet. She waited for him as he neared still, her eyes fixed to his. And as he reached her, his hands in his pockets, she turned fully to face him. Her own hands trembled, she realized then. Staring at this person, this man before her, she saw someone so very familiar and yet so very different. And for a moment she didn’t know if she could do it.
“There’s something…that I’ve been wanting to do,” she said to him quietly, gazing up at him.
He blinked slowly, his hair fluttering gently in the breeze. “And what’s that?” he asked her.
Swallowing inaudibly, she hesitated still, her fingers straightening then closing at her side. She wasn’t sure she could bring herself to do it. And he would never do it himself. But this was her one chance. After this she would get no other chance because she was not going to allow herself another.
She knew what her watch read. Less than thirty minutes till midnight.
“I don’t know if you know,” she said to him, attempting to sound nonchalant, “but it’s New Years. Eve. Today. At home.”
He smiled faintly at that, an eyebrow arching. “Rose Tyler, if you wanted, it could be New Years Eve every day.” And his smile widened slightly.
She gazed at him. “Yeah. Yeah, I know,” she said with a nod, her eyes darting sideways. Down below the hill were the gardens of the holy city. All the blue trees with golden leaves, the fountains and their crystal diamond waters. Almost blinding, the light that was reflected there. She dragged her eyes back to his and he was waiting for her, silent. “But there’s not going to be another night like this,” she finished quietly. And as she looked at him he frowned gently, tilting his head slightly. “So, I’m just going…to do something. And I don’t want you to stop me. Ok?”
The Doctor lifted his head back a bit at that, his lips parting.
But as she took a step closer to him he held himself still, silent.
Lifting her hands slowly, her heart suddenly beating rapidly, she gently took hold of his suit jacket, wrapping her fingers around the material and tightening her shaky grip. He allowed her, seeming uncertain, but he did not fight her as she took the last step to stand before him. Nor did he resist as she pulled him slightly, rising on tiptoe to reach him.
“Happy New Year, Doctor,” she whispered softly against his skin, her breath ghosting across his jaw. And then, even as he didn’t turn his head or attempt to stop her, she closed her eyes and pressed the gentlest kiss to the corner of his mouth mournfully.
He exhaled as she did so, his breath warm, his eyes slipping closed. And for a long moment she didn’t move, her head tilted against his, her single heart beating in tune with both of his. She caught his scent on the breeze, pressed to him as she was. His was a painfully familiar scent, one that had gotten lost slightly in time. She clenched her eyes shut as she thought it, as she stopped herself from fighting it.
Then, reluctantly, she lowered herself onto solid ground, her fingers the last to leave him.
He was left with a rumpled suit jacket, his eyes closed, a faint frown furrowing his brow.
Inhaling deeply, attempting to sooth her racing heart, she murmured, “Sorry. I just…I’ve been wanting to do that. For a really long time.”
His eyes came open, dark in the night, but as he raised his gaze to her once more the moonlight was reflected there. She met those depthless eyes uncertainly, her lips parted.
They stood in silence, merely staring at each other for a moment.
Then, her lips tightening into a straight line, she nodded awkwardly. “Anyway, I was…um, looking at something earlier, just down the hill. I’m going to…go and look some more.” She raised a hand, pushing aside her bangs in a flustered gesture as she darted around his stiff frame. He didn’t turn to follow her as she began to back away but she continued on still, feeling now as if she rambled. “Just give me a few minutes, to check it out. Then come and get me. If you don’t find me there just…look for me. I’ll be around.”
He turned his head slightly, his back still to her as she continued to retreat, making her way down the hill in reverse.
Swallowing past the thick ball in her throat she finally spun around and headed down the hill, feeling as if she couldn’t breathe correctly. She had done it. She had practically fled immediately after but now she could push it from her mind. Comfort herself that he was fine, that he would be fine with it. Nodding inwardly, she staggered downhill another step, her thoughts flying past her furiously, incoherently.
She realized she had only taken a very small number of steps from him when his voice came after her, halting her. The only calmness in the storm that was her thoughts.
“When do you leave?”
And as she hesitated, uncertain as to the answer or even to what the question actually meant, he was still speaking, his voice hushed and sounding so very far away.
“Me, I mean. When do you leave me?”
She turned then, finally, her lips parted, looking up toward him where he stood still beside the fountain.
His face was suddenly quite tired but very gentle. He tilted his head back slightly, reading her expression. “Yeah,” he shrugged, eyes darting about in the dark night, nodding. “You’re right. It’s better that you not tell me.” And he smiled faintly, a small chuckle leaving him.
She gazed at him, her frame slightly cold. “How…how did you know?” she questioned in a whisper.
His dark eyes returned to hers only to trail down to her lips then past them toward her collar blindly. With a slight shrug, turning his face from her to look out over the moonlit grounds again, he replied, “Numerous ways. Your hair, for one. It’s bound exactly as hers but there’s more blond in it now. No roots.” And his expression was strained the slightest bit now, just barely.
She lifted her hand to her hair slowly, grimacing slightly. “I thought…” she murmured. And she broke off wearily.
“Your scent,” he continued almost absentmindedly, eyes lifting to the moons in the night sky. “Not exactly the same anymore. A shift in your chemical composition. And there’s the smallest taste of something else. Powder.” And he swallowed so very faintly, hands shifting in his pockets. “How many do you have?”
She hesitated in confusion. “What do you mean?”
His head finally came down, his frame turning back toward her slowly. “Children,” he answered and the look on his face was soft. Understanding. “How many do you have?”
She didn’t reply for a long moment, her eyes betraying the smallest glimmer of aching pain. “Just the one,” she whispered. And she gestured weakly, turning from him in defeat.
He said nothing more, his eyes following her as she sighed.
“I thought I could do it,” she murmured quietly, her arms lifting to wrap around herself. “I haven’t changed much, my face, my body,” she explained slowly, remembering everything she had done so she could appear as herself. “Same weight, same figure, really.”
“Your hair is longer,” he remarked. And when she didn’t turn back to him at his words he instead floated toward her, hesitating a step away. His eyes came to rest on the blond lock of hair that had fallen loose from the rest.
She felt his eyes as if they burned into her. But she didn’t dare turn to face him. This was not the way she had wanted it to go.
Gently, he reached out and trailed a finger down the blond lock of hair, pressing softly against her skin under it.
Tilting her head slightly, she looked at him over her shoulder and his face was sorrowful, his eyes caught to the wisp of hair as the breeze lifted it.
“I just wanted to say goodbye,” she whispered. And she moved to face him, seeing his hand fall away as she added quietly, “Properly, I mean.”
His mouth tightened faintly and he bowed his head in a firm nod, his hands finding their way back into his pockets.
“Because we don’t get a chance to say goodbye…when we…” she explained, pain evident in her voice. She looked to the side, fighting it, fighting the very familiar warmth that threatened to rise in her eyes. “We don’t get a chance to ever say what we want to say.”
A small mirthless smile curled his lips, his eyes trained on the grass beneath him. “Isn’t that just always the way it is,” he murmured.
She laughed at that, much too loudly and much too abruptly as she felt the tears rise then. She quickly turned her face from him, looking out over the fountains, no longer seeing any of the beauty below.
Behind her he shifted slightly, exhaling wearily.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “This wasn’t what I intended.”
He was nodding at her words, eyebrows rising slightly as he struggled to accept it. It was how things were, how they would always be. Especially when it came to companions. “No. It’s good that you came. I’m glad that you came.” And then he paused as he suddenly thought it, his head snapping up. “How did you get here?”
She glanced at him, tears shimmering in her reddening eyes. “I can’t tell you that. You know I can’t,” she said to him thickly with a slight arch to her brow.
He looked away quickly, awkwardly. “Right. Right.” And he continued to nod, bowing his head once more. “Of course.”
She looked down at her watch restlessly.
“Does he know you’re here?” he asked her then, still refusing to lift his head. When she frowned at him silently he added, “The father. Does he know…where you are right now?”
She blinked. “Oh. Yeah. Yeah, he does. He actually thought it was…that I should. That I should do this.” She nodded as well, looking about and never feeling as out of place as she did then. “Take care of the bad dreams. Sleepless nights. All that. Would be good for the both of us, he said.” She continued to nod, lips tightening into a firm line.
Fighting the urge to glance at her watch again but knowing the time was drawing near, she looked at him silently, gazing at his down-turned face and wonderful brown suit. And she said quietly, “I have to go now.”
He quickly raised his head, meeting her eyes once more. “Right. Ok.”
She hesitated, staring at him. She wanted to tell him everything. All of it. How her son was now just over a year old. How she had named him John after his father. How he had her dark eyes and her very human curiosity. She wanted to tell him all of it. But nothing made it past her lips except a breathless sigh.
Instead she nodded once more to him and turned away, taking a step to leave.
“If it means anything,” he said suddenly from behind her, bringing her to a stop. As she looked toward him, her eyes wide, he attempted it once more, his mournful gaze caught on her face. “At all-”
She waited for him, wondering for a moment if he would say it. If he would ever say it. But then, as she gazed at this man, at this lonely Time Lord, she understood he never would. He hadn’t before and he wouldn’t now. She bowed her head, understanding it then as she had before.
“I know,” she murmured to him. And she smiled at him, her hands lifting to curl into her pockets. With that she turned to go.
His fingers wrapped around her arm, pulling her suddenly and she had a mere moment of surprise before she found herself in his arms. She hadn’t had enough time to pull her hands from her pockets as he embraced her but as his fingers tangled in her hair she didn’t much care then.
The kiss was more than gentle but not as feverish as she knew it could be. And yet, his taste was different from the one she knew, the one she was accustomed to. She sighed against him, feeling her hair come loose in his hands, his fingers playing against the back of her neck and he knew all of her spots just as the other did. He knew exactly how to trail his fingers to elicit the trembling breath from her lungs, exactly how to tilt her head to taste just that little bit more of her. And even as she wished to reach for more, fighting to pull her hands from her pockets, he was ending the kiss, the barest touch of his lips to hers.
She didn’t want him to let go yet.
Silently, his head bowed to hers and his eyes closed tightly, he released her still, his hands drawing away from her hair. And as he straightened, his eyes coming open, he merely gazed at her.
“It’s very long,” he whispered, his gaze leaving hers momentarily to graze the blond hair framing her face before flying right back.
“It’s been a while,” she replied, distrustful of her legs.
He inhaled at that, swallowing faintly. And only then did he finally take a step away from her, his eyes refusing to release hers.
She allowed him, feeling him take the warmth away as well. Dropping her eyes, breathing shallowly, she said quickly, “I loved this place. Love, I mean.” She nodded, continuing on. “When you show me the fountains, which you haven’t yet so don’t forget to,” and she motioned over her shoulder back the way they had come. “When you show me the fountains and the trees, later tonight, it’s one of the few times that I…that I close my eyes and feel at peace. Because you hold my hand when I breathe, and I breathe you in at the same time that the breeze picks up. And there’s music playing and it reminds me all over again how much I loved being with you. Love.” She nodded as she corrected herself. “Love.”
The Doctor was smiling gently as she looked at him and she found her heart tearing at his wonderful smile.
“So please don’t forget to show me,” she said again. And she glanced at her watch. “I have to go now.”
He exhaled silently at her words, merely gazing at her.
Hesitantly, uncertainly, she finally just whispered, “Goodbye, Doctor.”
Ever so softly but with a smile that only grew tenderly, he replied, “Goodbye, Rose.”
With that, her entire frame beginning to buzz faintly either from the fierce emotion within her or the power of the jaunt, she turned from him and took a step. Then another. And one more. Until she was walking away at last, feeling the night breeze lift her long hair once more.
As she began to feel the familiar disembodied chill race down her frame she looked toward him once more. And she couldn’t help herself, smiling mischievously and calling back up toward him. “He has your smile.”
The Doctor’s expression turned questioning before going slack in disbelief.
Then she took one last look and she stepped from one world into another.
The Torchwood facility was empty when she reappeared like a ghost, small lights flickering. She turned to look over her shoulder at the large arch she had come through, still buzzing with power and she knew. In the morning, after the New Year was well on its way, she was going to dismantle the machine and lay it to rest. There would be no more jaunts to see him after the one tonight.
Leaving the main room, she stepped out into a cozy hallway carpeted in warm beige and absentmindedly made her way to the elevator, tapping a button. The wait seemed eternal but the burden that had rested on her shoulders was slowly lifting, leaving her able to breathe for the first time in over a year. Riding the elevator to the designated floor she stepped from it and out into another hallway, this one in soft brown. She had to swipe her badge at the console at the end of the hallway but as the doors slid open the blue phone box waited in the center of the room, so very achingly familiar.
Created from a piece of TARDIS coral that had once belonged to one last lonely Time Lord.
She found him in their bed, their son curled up at his side and under a soft warm sheet. She paused at the doorway, leaning against the frame and merely observing her child and his father. Her son would grow to be tall, she knew. Just like his father. They already shared the same adorably goofy smile and the same thick dark hair.
The boy’s father lifted his eyes to her sleepily, setting aside his book and motioning for her to come into the room. “I just put him down,” he whispered, his wild hair ruffling as he inched over on the bed a bit.
“Just now?” she asked almost inaudibly, her eyes wide. And she looked over at the clocks on the wall, searching out their current time. “Oh, I missed it! I’m sorry. I thought I’d make it.”
He smiled at her as she scooted around the side of the bed and bent over her son, pulling the sheet back a bit. “It’s all right. I knew where you were.” And his smile turned cheeky.
She arched a brow at him as she tucked the sheet down once more around her son. “It occurred to me that you knew. It really only hit me when I got back to Torchwood. That since I made the jaunt for that specific time, that I would be running into your past self. Sometimes all this time travel really just…blows my mind.”
“Why do you think I let you go?” he asked her slyly and he lifted his head toward her, tilting it slightly.
An unspoken demand.
Smiling wryly, she leaned toward him and kissed him gently, softly. The same kiss but a different taste to this very human Doctor. But she loved him still, even more so. And she loved the small person sleeping between them quietly, the child that had his smile and her eyes.
“Happy New Year, Doctor,” she murmured against his mouth.
“Happy New Year, Rose.”