I don't own anything from Dr. Who, nor am I making any profit from this story.
“Take me home.”
He sat remembering that night, those words, and his already broken hearts broke anew.
She came quietly into the control room where he had been tinkering into the late hours. He had assumed she had been asleep. She had wandered off earlier without a word, and he hadn’t thought much of it. He had just supposed she was tired. She must have been packing.
He looked up when he heard her footsteps echoing across the grating. She looked somber as she gently lowered her bag to the floor and uttered those fateful words. He recalled that the tool in his hand had fallen from his slack grip as his mouth opened slightly, his breath hitching, his eyes dimming as her words had penetrated. He honestly thought that his hearts might have stopped for a moment or two. He pulled himself out of the floor and replaced the grating slowly, careful not to look her in the eye, afraid of what he would see.
He snorted to himself. He had been afraid. Him, the last of the Time Lords, was afraid of seeing the rejection, the disappointment in her eyes. He didn’t know. Whatever she was feeling, he was sure he had put it there. They had been growing more and more distant as time had gone on and he had felt powerless to stop it. He had run her from one end of the universe to the other, from one point in history to the next, trying to keep her so occupied that she wouldn’t realize what he wasn’t giving her, couldn’t give her.
Didn’t she realize that there was no future for them? There was only the now. There could never be a lifetime of tomorrows. He was too broken, and her lifetime was too short. She deserved so much more.
She climbed into the jump seat, getting out of his way, as he walked around the circular console, gently pushing a button here, easing a lever there, and setting the course to take her back to her mundane existence on Earth. Never had he been this sedate in piloting his ship, he had always been so excited to show her the next magnificent place. Now he was just trying to contain the pain within him. The TARDIS whirred to life, shifted herself to the right space and time, and settled down more gently then he remembered her doing in a long time. Perhaps she felt as he did.
Rose felt the TARDIS land and settle. She hopped up off the jump seat and sighed. He stood silent, watching, as Rose pulled the key out from inside her blouse, still on the long chain that it had been on when he had given it to her so long ago. He needed to try one last time.
“Rose, I... don’t... what I mean to say is, I...” he said finding his voice, and then losing it.
She didn’t look at him. Carefully she laid the key on the console, her hand resting there for a moment, as if waiting for him to finish his sentence. He couldn’t, his pain was too palpable. He willed her to look at him and see in his eyes all that he couldn’t say. Her head stayed bowed, her eyes focused on the console. After a moment she bent down to retrieve her bag, squared her shoulders, and walked out the door.
She never looked back.
She never said goodbye.
The TARDIS powered down, her lights dimming as if in mourning. He stayed there, standing on the grating for who knows how long. The Time Lord actually lost track of time for once, lost in his thoughts which were tumbling one over the other. She had promised him forever. He had promised her thrills and wonder. In the end he was left with nothing, for he found she took all the thrill and wonder with her when she had walked out the door.
Didn’t she realize that he could never be that man again? He could never be the man she loved. He tried; at least he thought he had. Maybe it hadn’t been enough. Maybe he should have done something, anything more. Should he have shown her more? Should he have given her more down time? Should he have just jumped back into their relationship as if nothing had happened? Humans weren’t that resilient. He had assumed, maybe incorrectly now, that time and space were what she had needed to rekindle what there was between them. Now he would never know.
At some point the TARDIS had taken him away without him lifting a finger. She hadn’t done that in a long time, not since the Time War ended, and he had been too broken to even think, or to feel. Like now.
At some point he was aware he had sat down in the jumpseat, cold now, her heat hadn’t lingered long.
“I...,” his voice was harsh after not speaking for so long.
At some point he realized that he was clutching her key, the metal biting into his palm hard enough to draw blood.
“I love...,” he tried again, his voice almost failing him.
At some point the full weight of his loneliness struck him with an unbearable force, tears springing to his eyes.
“I love you,” he whispered into the empty chamber around him. He closed his eyes and cried.