You learn this lesson early: Time does not obey its rules. It imprisons creation, commanding it to follow a crudely carved course from a first moment to a last, but counts itself above this constraint. Time deceives, disguises itself; it is not a year, a minute, an era, but a map. The path to the nearest point weaves, loops around itself. The story may end before it begins.
Somewhere on the map, an extraordinary man steps out of his extraordinary vessel. He speaks to you. He says: Did I mention it also travels in time?
This is not the beginning. It is a beginning, but not the beginning.
(Nor is this:
I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words. I scatter them...in time and space. A message to lead myself here.
Nor is this the ending:
Quite right, too.
Nor is this:
He needs you. That's very me.)
The Doctor does not follow time's design. He navigates it, sails across it like he knows it all from memory. So you must too. You learn. You absorb the sights of the landscapes you traverse.
Somewhere else along your journey, you wait.
You do not look like a woman who is waiting; you blend in well enough.
You have become stilted by time again, torn from your heavens to a life of blindly blundering through, but an unnameable intuition insists you wait—something in the air, something coming—just wait. You cannot articulate this feeling, so you keep it secret. You wait.
One beginning is hidden. Blink and you miss it, a man in an alley on New Year's Eve. Drunk, you mistakenly believe. You are young, so young, there.
At a crossroad, your feet sink into the damp shore. You stand between a pair of outwardly identical men, and your heart is so heavy it might disappear beneath the sand.
One man will continue his indefinite voyage across generations, while one must step down from immortality, and your choice is impossible. You love them both.
You see the Earth consumed, its crumbled remains drifting away from each other. He holds your hand, takes you for chips, and your grief melts away.
You remember the place where you believe the Doctor is infallible. You remember your disappointment, deep and bitter, the day you learn he is not without fault: You and Mickey wait, terribly uncertain of your fates, as he dances with Madame de Pompadour, as he nearly waltzes her from her timeline.
This second reality of yours is withering. You are a poison; you should not be here, yet for now you must be.
You sit beside a man who is also withering. He is ill-made, a corruption of creation. He will die soon. His frailty causes you more grief than he has caused you before, but you love him more each day. He is still the Doctor—your Doctor—and you love, you love, you love him.
Here is the place where you two rest: His body is new—New New Doctor—and his spirits are high. You follow him as he bounds happily from date to date. You encounter darkness, but your hand is in his. For a moment, the dark cannot touch you.
Along the way, the path splinters. It will take you away from your family. You see it on the horizon, you anticipate it, you dream of that titanic moment. You have worked it out: Bad Wolf carries you and you carry Bad Wolf, but Bad Wolf cannot remain under time's yoke. So long as you remain here, you build Bad Wolf's rage.
When at last you and the moment come together, thunder cracks savagely in the sky, and the Earth opens. There is heat and light—they remind you of the heart of the TARDIS—and you step forward undaunted.
You emerge gasping for breath, two entities one again.
Before you reach Dårlig Ulv Stranden:
You give your life for his.
He gives his life for yours.
You go in circles, exchanging the roles, needing only your belief in each other.
The other side of the fissure is not twenty-first century London. It's far beyond that. You are alone, somewhere, but you are magnificent.
Time passes, you suppose, and you forget your name.
The Doctor's arrival does not startle you; time is yours to view as you please, and you know that in his timeline, he has already found you once before. When he arrives, he is dying. No regeneration could save him, had he any left. He collapses at your feet. He tells you that he loves you, staring into your eyes as his chest heaves as he struggles to breathe. You hold him. You could heal his broken body, preserve his life, but you know it would be wrong. Everything must die.
He whispers two words against your hair. "Bad Wolf." You send the words out into time.
His eyes close. His final breath is drawn, yet this is not the end of the story; it is the beginning.
Somewhere frightful and uncertain, the Doctor smells a storm on the horizon. His eyes are dark and serious as he embraces you. Caresses and sighs follow. You are steeling yourselves against the storm.
For a millennium, you simply watch. A thousand years stretch across the map, a patch of empty, barren land along your journey. Many die and many are born, and you watch them all. You watch him. Lovingly, you wait. He will come to you again, so you need not go to him; you know because you designed it. He may evade time's discipline, but time bows before you.
Time becomes your plaything. You spin it like a globe and watch it whirl. Sometimes you let it slow to a stop, and you witness what unfolds; other times you stop it abruptly with your fingertip. More often than not, you see the Doctor. You observe as his complex timeline unfolds; you watch over him as he journeys from Gallifrey to Earth, from Earth to countless places, and back. You see his face change once, twice, eight times before he becomes the Doctor you first met. You may not be with him, but you will keep him safe.
Somewhere sacred and beautiful, you go to him at a time you call night. The TARDIS drifts through the void. It's just you two, has been since you returned Adam to London. You find him in his room, the place on the TARDIS he least often visits, half-heartedly tinkering with one gadget or another.
You come to the Doctor's side and wait. After a moment, he looks up at you. He finds no pity or sorrow in your eyes, because you feel only admiration and affection. He hesitates, but only briefly, then reaches for you.
He arrives in the midst of his eleventh change, although he has been moving toward you for years, following the stars to you like an explorer following a compass north.
You hold him through his change. His eyes betray his disbelief, but he curls into you and digs his fingers into your skin in desperation until it's done.
"Rose." He fears what you have done.
"Doctor," you say. You nearly start at the sound of your voice; you have passed centuries in silence. "I was knitted into a creature greater than myself. It couldn't be undone. We became a new thing." You silence his protests with a kiss. "It's all right," you promise. He rests.
He remains with you for a time. You exchange stories. You unroll time before him; together, you gather sands from Gallifrey at its birth and soil from the last planet in creation to die. Your love fully unfurls at last. Yet everything must pass, and he must travel onward.
This is the end, you think.
Somewhere on the map, an extraordinary man steps into his extraordinary vessel. He's hurtling toward 1776 when a voice whispers "go back." He spins around, but he's alone in his ship. The whisper echoes, urging him.
He returns to 2005.