Rose turned her car onto the gravel path leading to the residence that now served as her home. Giving it that label would never make it true, though. Home for her had been a blue box that was bigger on the inside and traveled through time and space. A home now lost to her, sealed off a universe away.
After pulling up the drive, Rose turned off the ignition and just sat for a minute, listening to the heavy rain pelt the windshield. It was fitting, she supposed, that it should be pouring rain on Christmas Eve instead of snowing, since she wasn't feeling particularly festive on this occasion anyway. The dreary weather matched the mood she couldn't escape. She was simply going through the motions as she completed the definition of last-minute shopping, not having the chance to do it sooner because her work at Torchwood on the Dimension Cannon project had lately been taking every minute of her time. Time that could all end up being wasted, because as of yet they'd had zero success. She couldn't give up though; what would she have left?
The Doctor had told her any chance of reaching him was impossible. When asked through tears if she was ever going to see him again, he had answered with two words of heart-rending finality: "You can't." Yet he was also the one who had once said, "Never say never ever." Some days those words were all that kept her going.
Breathing a sigh of heaviness, Rose gathered her packages and stepped out of the car, making a dash through the rain and up to the front door. Once inside, she sat her packages down, then shrugged out of her sodden coat and hung it on the hook by the door. Rose cast a glance around the main floor in its state of renovation. When she had chosen this rundown, abandoned observatory as her residence she had known it was going to take some work to make it livable and functional as a home. Most of the time, she was glad for the distraction the remodeling work gave her during her spare time. Right now though, it might have been a little nice to have a cozy home trimmed for the holidays to return to instead of one in the midst of renovation. Then again, bright decorations filling the space would no doubt only serve as a further reminder of the Christmas cheer she was lacking.
She did have a tree. Her mum had insisted upon that. "It can't be a proper Christmas without at least having a tree," Jackie had said, as Pete had hauled in the pine through the front door. It was going to take more than a lighted tree to make Rose feel the Christmas spirit, though.
Jackie had asked if there was anything special Rose wanted for Christmas this year, but Rose wasn't able to make any requests. The only thing she wanted was not something that could be bought and wrapped. She only wanted her Doctor. The man she loved. The man she had spent every day working to get back to and every night thinking of since coming to this parallel universe. He had once told her to have a fantastic life without him. How could she do that when the man who made it fantastic was no longer a part of her life?
Christmas only served as a heightened reminder of the Doctor's absence. Her mind would go back to their Christmas together after he regenerated. Reliving the memory, she could still feel his hand fitting perfectly in hers as he'd pointed with an outstretched arm towards the stars and said simply, they would go "that way." He had said it was going to be fantastic, and it was. Oh, it was. It was also heartbreakingly brief. Not nearly enough time when you had promised someone Forever.
Rose shook herself out of her glum reverie and glanced at her watch. She was expected at the Tyler mansion for Christmas Eve dinner and would be staying the night with her mum, Pete and Tony. She needed to begin getting ready, so she headed up the spiral stairs to her bedroom in the loft. Once upstairs, Rose glanced upwards at the former observatory's glass-domed ceiling, the reason she had chosen this place as her home. It made her feel closer to the stars she could no longer explore. Never had those stars seemed further away than this night, shrouded by clouds of rain that wept the tears she could no longer cry. She had finally reached the point where the tears had ceased, but the silent sorrow remained heavy in her soul.
They say Christmas is a time for miracles. What she would give for just one. Rose thought of the setbacks and failings of the Dimension Cannon and wondered if she even believed in such things as miracles anymore.
As if on perfect cue, like the moments that existed only in her dreams, an impossible sound reached her ears and steadily grew louder. In that instant Rose learned just what a miracle sounded like. A moment later, Rose learned what a miracle looked like, too. It stood across the room from her in the form of a blue Police Public Call Box. Despite the visual evidence right before her, Rose's mind told her this simply could not be true. This could only happen in her dreams, which meant she must be dreaming right now. Imaginary as it may be, her dream suddenly became infinitely better as the man who occupied nearly all of her waking and sleeping thoughts opened the door to that impossible box and stepped out into her room.
There he stood, exactly as her mind had committed to sacred memory. The scuffed trainers, the pinstripes, the long brown coat, the really great hair, and a smile that was rapidly making her wish she could live forever in this dream.
And then he spoke.
"I suppose this is the point when one of us really should say something. And in that case, Happy Christmas, Rose!"
Rose stood fixed in place, gaping at this pinstriped apparition. "I'm dreaming," she murmured to herself. "I'll wake up and you'll be gone, just like all the other times."
The Doctor took a few slow steps towards her. He spoke softly, his eyes equally soft. "This isn't a dream, Rose. I'm here. Really here."
"But that's impossible," she whispered, still believing she was only speaking to herself.
"Weeell, you should know by now how much I like impossible."
His warm smile was back, and Rose found her feet moving herself closer towards him of their own volition. Slowly, her hand reached out to him, as if expecting it to pass through his form like a vapor of mist. When her palm came to rest upon the solidity of his chest, a sound halfway between a gasp and a sob rose up in her throat.
Without hesitating, the Doctor's arms came out and encircled her, drawing her to him. Rose clung to him with all her might, knowing that surely any second he would vanish, this moment would be gone.
"I'm here, Rose," he spoke to banish her disbelief. "I'm here. Really here. I'm not a ghost of Christmas past; more like a promise of Christmas future."
The more he spoke the less credence Rose gave to the word "impossible." She found herself not caring that the walls between universes had closed. It didn't matter that the TARDIS shouldn't even be able to travel in this universe. He was here, and that was her only truth.
And then he spoke the words that shattered it all and brought her back to reality.
"But I can't stay."
Rose pulled back enough to look up into his face, and what had begun the journey as tears of joy turned to tears of sorrow as they splashed on her cheeks. Was this yet another projection powered by a supernova, only this time one she could touch? Was he still a universe away, soon to slip through her fingers and once again out of her life?
"I can't stay yet," he hastily added. "But one day I will. One day I can." He cupped her face in his hands and dried her tears with his thumbs. "Because you'll find me, Rose. You won't give up and you'll find me again. You'll find me at the start of a brand new life, and we will have our Forever, you and me. The Doctor in the TARDIS with Rose Tyler, just as it should be."
Rose slowly shook her head, trying desperately to clear it and rationalize the swirling tempest of her thoughts. "I...I don't understand...any of this."
The Doctor's hand moved up to tug on his ear in an achingly-familiar gesture. He then began to ramble on as only he could, leaving her able to do nothing more than stand agape. This was insane, and it was so very him. "Well, basically, I'm here because I'm rubbish at giving Christmas gifts. And when I say 'rubbish,' well..." He coughed. "Anyway, I know I really should be better at this sort of thing considering I've got that little bit of human in me now, but—"
He halted, cutting his eyes to hers, which were currently round as saucers. "I probably shouldn't have just said that when I'm trying to clarify the situation here." He waved his hand breezily. "No matter. You won't remember this, anyway. Not right away, at any rate. As I was saying, sometime in your not too distant future, you and I are together again, here in this universe, and Christmas has rolled around, as it has a tendency to do. The only problem was I didn't know just what I should get you as a gift. Not a clue. I thought about taking you on a trip to a faraway planet, extraordinary and beyond imagination; but, well, we do that all the time regardless."
The Doctor paused just long enough to stop for a breath as Rose tried to catch hers. "So there I was, reduced to aimless...shopping." He spoke the word with a visible shudder. "Me, shopping! And not just in an ordinary shop. Oh, no. I was on the Shopping Planet. Yes, there is such a place. I've just never told you about it, because one: if I took you there you might never want to leave. And B: you might tell your mother, and then I'd have her clambering to get in the TARDIS to have me take her there, too. Talk about taking a bad thing and adding another suitcase full of bad," he muttered, then jabbed an excited finger in the air. "But! I learned the Shopping Planet isn't all bad because I found this! Hold on a tick..."
The Doctor spun on his heel and dashed back to the TARDIS, leaving Rose dizzy in the process. To say this was a lot to try and take in was a ridiculous understatement. He bound back over to her, carrying a medium-sized rectangular package wrapped in blue shimmering paper and topped with a silver bow.
"This is what I found," he said, a little more subdued as he held it out before her. "You can wait to open it later. A mystery gift you'll no doubt wonder who it was from for some time to come. But I'll tell you what's inside. It's a jacket." He spoke the word as if it were the grandest thing in the multiverse.
"A...a jacket?" Rose repeated dumbly.
"A blue leather jacket that was just made for you and fits you like a glove." His voice was almost solemn then. "And it looks gorgeous against the backdrop of an abandoned street."
Rose took the package from his hands, looking back up at him. Her mind was still spinning like a top. "I'm guessing that somehow this is all supposed to make sense."
The Doctor took the package from her and sat it down, turning back to take both her hands in his. Oh, how they still fit perfectly. "This is the very jacket you were wearing when you found me again. Yet there it was, right before me as I began looking for your gift. The moment I saw this, that's when I knew. That's when I knew that I am very good, if I do say so myself. Because the only way this could have gotten from that planet to you was through me. And that's when I knew exactly what to give you as a gift: This moment together — a glimpse of the future and a glimpse of hope, even if just for a moment."
Rose began putting the pieces in place, awestruck. "You're saying that you've come back in time to let me know that one day we'll be together again?"
His slow grin lit up his entire face. "Exactly. You won't be able to remember this after I've gone so that the events will unfold just as they were meant to. But you'll carry it deep in your subconscious, and maybe this is what will give you that spark of hope to keep looking until you find me again. Because you will."
Despite being rendered near-speechless, Rose had a multitude of questions without answers. "How is it that you'll be here with me, in this universe?" she asked, somehow finding her voice. "And...and you said something about being part huma—"
He shushed her with a finger to her lips. "All in good time. I promise it all works out brilliantly. But right now I'm not quite done giving you your gift. If this hidden memory is going to help carry you through, then let's make sure it's done right, shall we? I don't have any mistletoe on hand, but we've never needed that bit of foliage to do this..."
And then he was kissing her and Rose forgot how to breathe. The Doctor was here, he was telling her they would one day be together again — forever, apparently Kissing Was Something They Did (yes, that deserved capital letters), and he was kissing her now. To think that just minutes before she had lost her belief in miracles!
So many times her mind had tortured her with the fantasy of what it might be like to kiss the Doctor. Now Rose realized her fantasies were poorly lacking. Nothing could possibly compare to this moment of reality. His hands coasted down her sides, circling around to the small of her back as he pressed her forward, her body flush with his. She opened her mouth, be it to gasp in surprise or sigh in pleasure she wasn't sure, but the sound became a moan of desire unleashed as his tongue slipped past her lips and began working its magic, coaxing hers into a glorious dance.
From that single point of contact, something akin to electricity grew and traveled out in every direction through her body. He was surrounding her, within and without, and her only sense of awareness was of him and each place he touched; the warmth of his hands as they caressed her back, her spine tingling beneath his touch, the glide of his tongue along hers as each stroke, each taste made her weak in the knees. He let out a groan, resonating deep in his chest as she sank her fingers through his hair and pulled him closer, a sound that let her know he was as consumed by her as she was by him.
As Christmases go, this just topped the list. His hands moved to cup her face, his tongue gliding exquisitely beneath hers before sweeping it across her bottom lip, suckling gently and then easing back. Rose slowly lifted glazed eyes to his, drinking in the gorgeous sight of his mussed hair and parted, glistening lips. Words were not intended for moments such as this because there was not a single one that was adequate, nor could her mind have come up with one if there had been.
The Doctor drew her close once more, tucking her head beneath his chin as she wrapped her arms around his waist, never wanting to let go.
Rose felt him breathe in deeply as he prepared to speak. "There's a sentence I once began that you haven't yet heard the end of." His voice rumbled against her cheek as he spoke. Rose lifted her head from his chest to look up into his face. He smiled slowly then, filled with an emotion so strong he once again stole her breath. The Doctor leaned forward and whispered in her ear. "Ask me one day how that sentence was going to end, and I promise in that moment I'll tell you." He kissed the sensitive spot just below her ear before pulling back. "That was the moment those words were always meant to be spoken, but I think you already know what they are."
Rose felt emotions rising up in her like the tide. Her eyes as she looked into his spoke the words her shaky voice could not. I love you, I can't live a life without you, please don't leave me. That last thought made it to her voice as her hand clutched his. "I don't want you to go," she spoke out on a whisper. "And I don't want to forget."
He smiled so softly, stroking a hand down her cheek and causing her to shiver. "I know. But this memory is not going to be lost; and until I can give it back to you, a part of you will still feel it. I know, because you once gave the same thing to me. It's a rather long story involving a temporal collision, but when I was at one of my lowest, darkest points, you came and were able to give me a glimpse of future hope. And even if it didn't stay at that time in my memory, it remained in my soul and carried me through until I was able to fully remember. This will do the same for you."
Rose felt a smile overtaking her as warmth filled her soul. "And at a Christmas sometime in my future, the future you're returning to, you'll let me reopen this gift?"
Rose searched the depths of his eyes, seeing within them the certainty that gave her hope. "I suppose some gifts are worth waiting for. And until then..." Rose clutched him by the lapels of his suit and pulled him down for one last, breath-stealing kiss. The Doctor slipped his hand up to her temple, tucking away this memory deep within until it could be remembered again one day.
Rose fell gently into his arms in a moment reminiscent of their first kiss. In this way she wouldn't have to say goodbye. They'd had enough goodbyes. The Doctor carried her to the bed and laid her gently down, placing a soft kiss to her lips. She would wake in about ten minutes without remembering, but she would undoubtedly have some very pleasant dreams.
The Doctor picked up the wrapped package and tucked it under his arm as he slipped down the staircase. Approaching the tree, the Doctor knelt and nestled the gift beneath its branches. Rose would no doubt puzzle over who it was from, but he also knew she was going to like it. Everyone should have a special, favorite coat, the Doctor thought to himself as he stood back up and tucked his hands into the pockets of his own.
"Red bicycle when you were twelve, blue jacket when you're twenty-two. Who says I'm not Father Christmas?" the Doctor murmured to himself with a gleam in his eye.
Rose stood facing the mirror in her bedroom loft, smoothing her hands down the front of her deep red silk blouse, paired with black slacks. Despite their life of travel in the TARDIS, she had kept her place here for when she and the Doctor spent time on Earth, as they were currently doing over the Christmas holiday. She wasn't surprised when she came out of the en-suite after changing to find the Doctor and the TARDIS were both gone. She suspected he'd been looking for an opportunity to slip away and get her a Christmas gift, and he apparently used the time while she was preparing for their Christmas Eve spent with her mum, dad and Tony to sneak off and complete the task.
This was their first Christmas in this universe since the start of their new life together. Rose knew the Doctor wanted it to be special, but he had also been struggling just a bit. Though the Doctor had experienced many a Christmases, he had never been much of an active participant, especially since it seemed he was always in the midst of tackling whatever crisis presented itself at that particular time of the year. Sharing Christmas dinner with her mum and Mickey after defeating the Sycorax was as near as he'd come to experiencing it on a close, personal scale, but even then there had been no pre-anticipation or exchanging of gifts. This year, for the first time, he wanted to relish the experience and do it all with flair.
And he'd yet to get her a single gift.
Oh, it wasn't for lack of trying. And the one gift he had managed to obtain and wrap had looked lovely beneath the tree for all of two days. Until it exploded. He never would say what had been in the package, only promised that he would have all the bugs worked out in time for her birthday. A few days prior, with little time remaining until the looming deadline of December 25th, he'd finally come to her, feeling as if he'd failed at all things Christmas, and confessed he was utterly lost as to what to get her for a gift.
Rose had done her best to reassure him that the trappings of "gift giving" wasn't what this was all about. That didn't matter to her. The Doctor wanted to make sure their Christmas together was perfect, but to her it already was. She had already been given her gift on a beach in Norway when she placed her hand over his single heart and he offered his forever to her, which as it turned out was going to be a very long time.
Rose was just fastening the sterling clasp of a ruby pendant around her neck when she heard the familiar whirring of the TARDIS materializing in the room. She turned in that direction as the Doctor stepped out, hands in his pockets, an open, warm smile on his face.
Rose just stood and gazed back at him for a moment. Sometimes she still had to remind herself this was real. After those painful years of separation and the loneliness of living in this universe without him, he was actually here with her. Sometimes it felt like a dream.
The Doctor shared the same feeling of awe that would overtake him in unexpected moments. Just being able to be here with Rose at Christmas was incredible to him after all he'd come through. He thought back to what his past few Christmases had been like without her, each one filled with the ache of being alone.
"I spent Christmas day just over there, the Powell Estate. With this...family. My friend, she had this family. Still...gone now."
"I travel alone. It's best that way."
"I suppose in the end...they break my heart."
His last Christmas before this had been his darkest of all, heralding his death. The Doctor didn't know in the midst of that it would also bring him new life. There were times when the sound of four knocks still echoed through his subconscious and haunted his dreams, but then he would wake to the reality of having been given his reward. Pondering these things made him see with clarity just what Rose meant when she said this time together wasn't about something as frivolous as buying gifts. It ran so much deeper.
He did, however, have a gift for her. For him, the gift had been given mere minutes before; for Rose, it had been tucked away all this time, giving her quiet strength during the moments when she'd needed it most.
Their forward steps mirrored each other until they stood together, close enough to touch. His hand reached for hers and gently tugged her that one step closer. The Doctor's hands then came to rest on her waist as Rose's arms draped across his shoulders, her fingers lacing together behind his neck.
"And what have you been up to, then?" Rose asked, her eyes twinkling back at his in the soft, lamp-lit glow of the room as snowflakes began to fall on the clear dome overhead. It was like being inside a snow globe come to life. "Sneaking off to galaxies far, far away without me? If you'd been gone much longer we'd end up being late to Mum and Dad's."
The Doctor gave a slight shake of his head, then indicated with a sideways tilt to the TARDIS. "Didn't I ever mention it travels in time?"
Rose laughed softly. "You never have to keep a linear schedule, do you?"
"Lord of Time, me" he replied with a wink. "And to answer your first question..." There was a pause for dramatic effect. "I was sneaking off to galaxies far, far away to get your Christmas gift."
Rose released a quiet sigh as her hands slid down his shoulders and came to rest on his chest. "Doctor, you are my gift."
The Doctor dipped his head to press his lips to hers, both breathing out a soft sound of pleasure. "I was hoping you would say that," he murmured against her lips.
His hand moved up to her temple, unwrapping her gift and revealing its treasure within. Rose gasped into the kiss as a shrouded memory of a Christmas past was revealed to her in glorious, vivid detail.
She pulled back, gazing into his eyes with sheer wonder. A smile began to form on his face and didn't stop until its brightness was enough to rival the lights on their Christmas tree. "Merry Christmas, Rose."
Nearly overbalancing him as their kiss resumed with fervor, Rose then proceeded to give the Doctor a well-earned gift of his own.
Being a Time Lord with a time-traveling ship that freed him from keeping a schedule was indeed a very good thing right about then, because both were in agreement that Christmas Eve dinner could wait.