The Doctor had long since finished up the repairs to the TARDIS. The ship had exceeded his expectations in the amount of recovery time it would need, and now appeared to be in perfect working order. Despite initially thinking that the TARDIS would need to work up slowly before being ready for full-time travel, he was quite certain he and Rose could begin that now. He would have been overjoyed with that if it weren’t for the fact that Rose wasn’t on the best of terms with him at the moment. The TARDIS might be ready, but apparently the traveling was still going to have to wait.
With no repairs left to complete, the Doctor was now just idly tinkering. After several strong shocks from the console, the TARDIS had made it clear that enough was enough. The fact of the matter was he was stalling. He wasn’t sure if Rose would be ready to talk to him yet or not.
The Doctor paced around trying to think of the best way to go about making up to her. Should he bring her some little token as a peace offering? Perhaps flowers, he thought. Human women liked that sort of thing, didn’t they? Maybe roses? He quickly squelched that idea. No, that was just too cliché.
He decided the best course of action was the direct approach. He would land the TARDIS right in her living room and tell her what he had to say whether she was ready to hear it or not. With a burst of confidence, he set the coordinates.
The door to the TARDIS squeaked open as the Doctor peered out into the downstairs living area. “Rose?” he called tentatively. No response.
He stepped out and glanced around. No sign of her on the main floor. He was heading for the stairs to check the loft when a sheet of paper sitting on the coffee table, which had his name written at the top, caught his eye. He picked it up and quickly read it. It was from Rose telling him she had left a message for him on her computer. This wasn’t good, he thought to himself. Had things between them gotten to the point where she wouldn’t even talk to him face-to-face?
He quickly switched on the computer and accessed the message. He watched as Rose’s words played back to him.
She appeared even more distressed than the last time he saw her, he could see it in her eyes; but it was clear she was trying to remain neutral.
“Doctor,” she began, her voice unsteady and having to clear her throat before continuing, “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you this in person, but I thought it would be better this way. What I have to tell you isn’t easy, but it has to be said.” She looked away from the screen and seemed to be struggling with the words that came next. “I’m leaving,” Rose finally said. “I’ve decided to go with Joron.”
The Doctor instantly felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach. She couldn’t possibly mean that! He could feel his pulse quicken as he continued to listen in utter disbelief.
“I know now that he is the one I want to be with. The one…,” she stammered, “the one I…love. I understand now that the feelings I had for you were that of a childish infatuation. But things between us are never going to work. It’s just not possible.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “But Joron is the kind of man I can build a life with, and that is what I have chosen.”
Rose had been gazing off from the screen as she spoke, but with her final words she turned back, and the anguish in her eyes was evident. “I’m sorry,” she said, her lip slightly trembling. Then she seemed to gather her resolve as she spoke firmly, seemingly staring directly at him with a penetrating gaze. “But you know that I’ve made my choice.” She then looked away once more, staring down at her hands folded in her lap as she spoke quietly. “And if you love me, then you’ll just let me go. Don’t try to come after me, and don’t try to see me. My family will understand,” she added. “They know my life has never been tied to this Earth.” Rose looked back up at the screen one last time. “Goodbye,” she whispered.
The message ended.
The Doctor couldn’t even breathe.
Over the next several minutes, he replayed the message again and again trying desperately to make sense of it. Surely this couldn’t be true. This wasn’t even conceivable. He knew Rose had been angry with him and was feeling hurt, but a fallout of this magnitude just couldn’t be possible.
There was so much the Doctor could say he had been uncertain about. This whole new life he now had was unlike anything he had ever experienced and sometimes left him feeling like he was groping in the dark. Yet one thing was and had always been true: If he believed in one thing, just one thing, he believed in her. He believed in her love more than anything else in the universe. Rose would never leave him – not like this.
The Doctor promptly decided he needed to see Jackie and Pete. Not only did he know that she would never leave him like this, he also knew Rose would never leave her family without at least telling them goodbye. He had to let them know what had happened, and maybe they could shed some sort of light on this.
The Doctor didn’t even bother with the formalities of landing outside and knocking on the door. There was no time to waste, so he just materialized right in the main living room.
Tony ran up to him excitedly as soon as he stepped out of the TARDIS, eager to see the famous ship Rose had told him such stories about, and asking if the Doctor would take him on a trip. He then began enthusiastically rattling off a list of things he wanted to see at a speed that could top even the Doctor. Tony finally settled on Barcelona, bouncing up and down excitedly and asking if he could see the dogs with no noses – a particular favorite among the stories Rose had told him. The Doctor had to hide his present concern from the child, and put on a false smile as he knelt down in front of him.
“Tell you what, Tony Tyler, one day, if your mum lets me, I’ll take you anywhere you’d like to go. How does that sound?” The boy’s eyes lit up at the promise of that as he nodded emphatically. The Doctor picked him up and stood as Jackie was approaching. “But right now there’s something important I need to talk to your mum and dad about,” he continued, as he handed Tony over to her.
Jackie could tell by the Doctor’s demeanor that something was wrong, and she didn’t even protest his landing in the middle of the room or his promise to Tony of traveling in the TARDIS.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you go upstairs and play for a few minutes while your daddy and I talk to the Doctor. Can you do that for me?”
Tony was reluctant to leave, but finally agreed in a small, disappointed voice, with sad eyes that reminded the Doctor painfully of Rose.
Jackie set him down and ran her fingers through his blonde hair then gave him a pat on the cheek. “That’s my boy. Now off you go.”
Pete had just come out of his study upon hearing the arrival of the TARDIS and walked towards them both. “Doctor,” he greeted as he put an arm around his wife, “what brings you here?”
“And where’s Rose?” Jackie added.
The Doctor’s eyes were dark as he responded. “She’s gone.”
“What’d you mean ‘gone’?” Jackie asked, quickly growing more concerned.
“She left with Joron, but I don’t think she would have done so willingly. Do you know anything about this?” he queried, desperate for any answers.
“I knew Joron was leaving, but certainly not with Rose. He made no mention of that,” Pete replied.
“Rose would never just leave with him,” Jackie added. “She never felt for him the way he did towards her, she told me so. And I know she would never leave you. Not now that she finally has you back.”
Rose’s words kept replaying in the Doctor’s mind: she had made her choice. Though some of her words had faltered, she sounded so resolute when she said that. It was then that it struck him, and he finally had no doubt that Rose had not done this of her own free will. Of course she had made her choice! That was her message to him. She was trying to tell him what that choice was — the choice she had made a long time ago when she said she would never leave him. How could he have doubted that even for a moment?
The Doctor ran an anxious hand through his hair. “She left a message for me saying she had decided to leave with him and for me to just let her go, but I don’t think there is any possible way she would have done that willingly.”
“Do you think he’s hurt her?” Jackie quickly asked, growing even more concerned.
“He wants her, so I don’t think he would. At least not yet,” he added darkly as the Oncoming Storm boiled up inside him at the thought of what Joron’s intentions for Rose might be. “And he is not going to get a chance to either because I am going to get her back. I’m leaving now.”
“Doctor,” Pete interjected, “you have no idea what could be waiting for you if you set foot on Zendor on your own. Take some people with you. A team from Torchwood – the whole bloody organization if you have to, but…”
“No,” the Doctor cut in, “The Zendorians are born warriors. If anything, Joron would be more prepared for an all-out battle, leaving Rose caught in the middle. I’ll do this on my own,” he insisted. “I will bring her back,” he vowed as he locked eyes with Jackie.
The Doctor then turned and walked purposefully back into the TARDIS. If Joron thought he could just take Rose and there would be no consequences then he had made a fatal mistake. The Doctor was coming for her, and there was no power in the universe that could stop him. He had experienced death itself in order to finally get back to Rose, and he was not going to allow anything or anyone to take her from him now.