Left To Do
Disclaimer. BBC’s characters. My words. Written for fun and not for profit.
Yet call not this long life; but think that I
Am, by being dead, immortal; can ghosts die?
- John Donne
Sunset over Norway, the sea creating the illusion of swallowing the sun, a gentle grave for light until it rises again. Never truly dying by dying ever day.
Rose is watching it in silence and he is watching her. No tears. They've dried on skin, and he imagines if he kisses it, he will feel only a faint taste of salt.
She will feel nothing.
He rams his fists into his pockets and stares at the sand, no footprints but hers to watch. Pete, Mickey and Jackie have departed already, giving Rose 'space'. A whole horizon of it and Rose seems so small in it all.
He can't take her hand and make them both feel taller than the sky. Not anymore. He doesn't exist in this world. Just an image. An echo. A little piece of mind not letting go when the gap closed. A ghost.
"Doctor," she says and pushes her head down against her knees, resting it.
He kneels down next to her, and they sit like that, a shadow and a ghost against the sea and the sky, as the waves rise and retreat, rise and retreat. Ever the dance of water and land.
When the last ray of sun touches her, he does too, and imagines the fading warmth in her cheeks is from his skin.
"Do you know," Rose asks, voice by his ear like a slightly insistent wind, "what it feels like to be abandoned?"
'Yes,' he could say. Tegan. Romana. Gallifrey. 'No,' he could also say. Sarah Jane. Susan. Gallifrey.
"Maybe," he says, and she sighs, crooking her head against his neck, her breath like an intangible caress.
"I wish you didn't have to teach me," she says.
Traffic in London is always traffic in London, time only making variations our of the curses. Rose navigates it like an expert, even if this isn’t her London. Adapting. Humans always do.
He rides with her, making jokes about roundabouts that she would laugh at and he certainly does. Roundabouts are funny, particularly driving over while being chased by particularly angry telephone boxes. (Honestly, the cell phone wasn’t his fault! Even if he did invent it.)
She doesn’t look too impressed when he tells her that. She doesn’t look impressed at all, just anxious. Tired. Lines across her face that he doesn’t remember.
She pulls into the Torchwood car park and stops, leaning her head against the wheel.
”Fuck,” she says. “Fuck.”
He touches her neck, tense skin framed by falling hair. It is as if her worries has leeched into the skin and now into him too, mingled with the warmth of her.
”Rose,” he says. She turns to look at him – through him – at the Torchwood building waiting.
”Right,” she says only to herself. “Fuck. But right.”
He stays in the car as she leaves, thinking about wrong, right and the long journey between the two and how far she might have to walk.
Rose’s hair tickles his back as she leans forward, still straddling him and keeping him trapped, like a prison of gold and curves.
He isn’t sure naked is a required prison uniform, though.
”Forever,” she says, her fingers burrowing through his hair until they tickle his scalp. “Forever, Time Lord?”
”You wanted forever,” he replies, turning around and trapping her against his chest. She laughs, laughs until he kisses her and tastes salt on her lips.
”Don’t cry,” he whispers, and she runs her hand down his face, almost like a gesture of pity.
Derek looks at Rose. John looks at Rose. Rose doesn’t pay it much attention, but the Doctor sees. There are always pretty boys – well-endowed boys too, the Doctor knows from a little haunt in the men’s toilets – and Rose won’t always walk with a widow’s shroud though Torchwood offices.
He has no right to feel jealous. He still does. He has nothing to mark her as his with. Just memories.
When Derek tries for a date with Rose and gets one with overtime instead, the Doctor tries not to gloat and fails spectacularly.
Just as well for his dignity that he is not visible to anyone, he figures.
”There will be someone after me,” Rose says, and he can’t deny it.
”Yes,” she says. “If there is no one around when the Doctor fixes the world, is he really a Doctor?”
”That’s not the whole reason.”
She nods. “I’ll still be jealous.”
”I want that,” he says, surprising even himself.
”Have it both ways?”
”Twice the hurt.”
”Twice the life,” he replies, pining her under him as she laughs, maybe at him, maybe just of joy. Maybe of both.
”Twice the death,” she promises.
ON a Monday, Rose crashes into Mickey’s house like a whirlwind, hair whipping around her face and lightning in her eyes.
”Harriet Jones!” she near hisses, and the Doctor fights an urge to shower her with kisses as he follows in. “Harriet Jones, that ignorant cow that doesn’t…”
She pauses, making a vague gesture at the telly or perhaps the universe. Either could qualify, the Doctor supposes.
Mickey doesn’t look too impressed, though. “I agree with her. The Chelonians don’t seem too friendly to me.”
”We shouldn’t just kill any alien that we come across because they’re unfriendly!”
”I think ‘declaring us all parasites and wanting our planet for a giant egg-laying park’ pushes it a bit beyond just being unfriendly.”
She seems suddenly devoid of energy, dropping down on a chair as if it’s a lifeline. “The Doctor wouldn’t.”
Mickey looks for a moment angry, then just nods. “He could leave, Rose. We have to be here tomorrow. For the planet – for our home – Harriet won’t risk it.”
Rose says nothing, just gets up and leaves, strangely calm. Deceptively calm, and as the Doctor lingers for a moment, Mickey seems to think so too.
”She doesn’t understand,” he says.
”You do,” Harriet says from the bedroom door, the night gown draped around her like a regal shroud. “You’re not stupid, Mickey Smith.”
Stupid is as stupid falls in love with, the Doctor decides, running after Rose and taking her hand at the first stop she makes.
All she feels is air and memories.
”Every breath is a drug,” Rose says, her fingers on his lips. “You always want one more.”
’Yes,’ he doesn’t say. Even with a planet burning, your people already ashes, you still want one more breath. Life. A curse.
”Every kiss is a breath,” she says, kissing him with blood-red lips and aggression. “Mine to yours. Yours to mine. You’ll always have my breath, Doctor.”
He nods, feeling her forehead against his, sweat clinging to hair and skin.
”Kiss me again,” he whispers, rubbing his nose against hers and feeling her smile.
”You always want another,” she says, and this time her kiss is mild like absolution.
“Maybe you should think of him like dead,” Jackie says on a quiet Saturday, feet curled up under her and hands on her stomach.
”He’s not dead, mum.”
”I know, darling,” Jackie says quietly, looking down at her growing belly as if seeking strength from the life within. “You can’t do this. You’re like a walking ghost. You have to grieve him.”
”He’s not dead.”
”Rose,” says Jackie, compassion so sharp in her voice it might as well be a sword, “to you he might as well be.”
When Rose storms out, the Doctor follows and showers her with kisses all the way, but the only shadow on the pavement is hers.
”You should have told me,” she says, her head tilting back slightly as he kisses the pulse in her neck..
She shakes her head at him. “Coward’s answer. Fleeing words. So, I knew. Why was it so hard to say, then?”
”I fled my own name,” he tells her. “I made my own words.”
”On your terms. I too, was on your terms.”
”Yes,” he admits. “I still…”
”Yes,” she agrees, touching his brow gently. “I know. But you still have the words left to say, my little coward.”
Pete comes to Rose a Friday, looking so strangely proud even the Doctor feels a strange jab of jealousy. Fatherhood. Family. Once. No more.
”We still haven’t agreed on a name,” Pete tells Rose as she lets him in. “Your mother will probably want something flowery again.”
Rose smiles faintly, handing him a beer from the fridge. “What do you want, dad?”
”I already got it,” he replies quietly. “A second chance.”
She says nothing, looking down at her own beer.
”Rose,” he says, sounding such a father it seems to catch Rose by surprise. “You don’t always get it. You can’t wait for it forever.”
”I don’t know how to let go,” she whispers. “I still have hope. He taught me so much about impossible hope. I keep… He keeps… Dad, will I ever see him again?”
”Yes,” the Doctor says.
”No,” Pete says.
Rose only hears one voice.
She scratches her fingernails down his back as he thrusts into her, her nipples pressing against his palm and her teeth scraping against his lower lip. All he feels is body – skin, sweat and sensations, Doctor and Rose, human and Time Lord, body and body.
She exhales, he inhales, she throws her head backwards and he entwines her fingers in hers. Like that. Like this. Everything complicated is so simple. Attraction. Retraction. Live, love and lose.
Everything is so…
”Rose,” he says, breathing hard as she lifts her head to look at him, eyes clouded over. “How long?”
”As long as you hold on,” she replies, her body tensing and her hair tickling him as she falls against him this time.
He doesn’t let go.
Rose doesn’t sleep much anymore, and he lies next to her, watching her eyes stare at the ceiling and her chest rise and fall with every breath. Sometimes she pushes a hand through him and he feels like the ghost he is.
”I hate you,” she will say sometimes. It’s not an accusation, just a fact, and he has no defence. He tries to whisper excuses, but she only hears the window creak slightly in a soft wind.
”I needed you,” he says to her ear, kissing her earlobe before she shakes her head impatiently.
”I love you,” she will also say sometimes. It’s not a compliment, just a fact, but he will still feel warm at it. He tries to whisper assurances, but she only hears the light bulb hiss and hum before it dies.
”You did know,” he whispers, and in the dark he can pretend she does hear.
She isn’t sleeping as he lies down next to her, but she keeps her eyes closed, lashes dark against her skin. “Tell me about dying.”
She shakes her head. “That’s life. Tell me about dying.”
He leans forward and whispers in her ear, her nodding all the way, even smiling at one point.
”Good,” she says when he is done. “I won’t fear it, then.”
”No, silly,” she says, tapping his nose affectionately. “Yours. I’m a ghost. I have no dying left to do.”
Rose has no grave to go to. But she does have a beach in Norway that could vaguely substitute, and there she goes. He follows. He has nothing else to do.
She cries again, and he holds her in an embrace that is invisible to her but still is better than nothing. Even a ghost must be better than nothing.
”You’re not dead,” she says defiantly at the sky. He could nod, but doesn’t. He’s not sure ghosts qualify for life – or for death.
”You’re not dead,” she says again, calmer. “And I have living left to do.”
When she turns, the sun hits her and for the briefest second he thinks maybe, maybe it hits him too and she can see, must see because she’s looking right at him.
”I love you,” he says, and the wind dies as he takes her hand.
”Doctor,” she says, watching their hands linked together, “do you know what it feels like to let go?”
”No,” he says. He’s fled. He’s abandoned. He’s repressed. He’d moved on. He’s never let go.
She smiles, Rose’s ghost in his head bright as the sun, burning him and he still wanting more warmth.