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The Gift

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The Doctor was in awe. She was suspended in the air, a golden energy floating before him, and he was in awe. His TARDIS. His TARDIS, who didn’t care that he pushed when he should have pulled, who had always taken him where he needed to go. He had stolen her, and she had stolen him – they had run away together.

“I’ve been looking for a word,” she said to him. “A big, complicated word, but so sad. I’ve found it now.”

He did not want her to leave. She wouldn’t go anywhere, not really, but she was here in fronot of him. He could reach out and touch the dirty, torn dress she wore, or run a hand through her dark, tangled hair. He could talk to her. He did not want the moment to end. His voice was hoarse when he responded.

“What word?”

“Alive,” she told him, tears in her eyes.

“Alive isn’t sad,” he insisted. He almost laughed.

“I never got to tell you,” she said.

He closed his eyes, a tear slipping down his cheek.

“Goodbye,” he said. Everyone always said goodbye to him. Even his TARDIS, now, after hundreds of years.

“No,” she laughed. “I just wanted to say hello. Hello, Doctor. It is so very nice to meet you.”

She reached out a hand, brushing his cheek gently. A smile crossed his face. His wonderful, big, blue box, always telling him exactly what he needed to hear.

“Please,” he said. His voice was timid, like that of a shy child. “I don’t want you to.”

“I am always here, my Thief. I have a gift for you. She will remind you of that.”

Her words stunned him into a brief silence, his mind racing as he considered the possibilities of what she meant.

“She?” he asked, hearts pounding.

“My Wolf,” Idris said.

The golden glow in the console room intensified, and the Doctor, Amy, and Rory squinted and flinched away from the brightness. The empty walls of the TARDIS hummed with life again, filling the air with a wonderfully familiar energy. The room still seemed to shimmer as the light began to pale and fade away. On the floor, where Idris had stood, there lay a crumpled, pale figure. Blonde hair spilled onto the glass floor. There was a ringing silence that filled the room, the comforting hum of the TARDIS fading into the background. Time seemed to freeze as the three TARDIS occupants stared at the new arrival.

“Who is she?” Amy asked aloud, her voice quiet but rushed.

The Doctor stood entirely still, his hearts clenching. A wave of emotions crashed over him – guilt, confusion, hope – and he finally took a step forward. He choked out one word.

“Rose,” he said. The rasping sound escaped his throat, and suddenly, he couldn’t move fast enough. Dropping to his knees beside the unconscious girl, he let out a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob. He gathered her up in his arms, brushing her hair out of her face. Clutching her fragile body to his chest, he stood silently, and he ran to the medical bay, hearts pounding with every step.

Amy immediately followed close behind, afraid to ask any questions. She had never seen the Doctor so quiet. Watching him lay the girl on an observation table, she chewed on her lip. She felt Rory’s hand on her shoulder, but her gaze never left the mysterious blonde girl.

Rose, she thought. The Doctor had called her Rose.

The Doctor was intensely focused on her, unconscious before him. He was scanning her over with his sonic screwdriver and muttering to himself, bringing the device close to his face to read the results. He glanced down at her and froze for a moment.

“Impossible,” he breathed, reaching forward and brushing Rose’s hair from her face. Her skin was hot to the touch – too hot, he noted – and his eyes darted back and forth, checking for signs of responsiveness as his fingers pressed against her neck, searching for a pulse. He found it quickly, a steady thudding beneath his touch, strong if not a bit too fast.

“Doctor.”

Rory’s voice snapped him out of his concentrated state, his eyes snapping up to meet his companion’s.

“I’m a nurse,” Rory said. “Tell me what I can do to help.”

“She’s burning up,” the Doctor said. “Get a cold washcloth, try to cool her down. I need to get her heart rate back to a more normal level.”

Rory nodded, moving to rummage through the cabinets to get what he needed. Amy watched on quietly, not wanting to get in the way, all the while wondering.

Who is she?

The Doctor hooked up Rose to an IV, feeding medicine into it that would bring down her temperature and relax her. He was moving to take another scan with the sonic screwdriver when Rose began to convulse, her entire body shaking.

“No, no, no,” the Doctor said frantically, rushing to her side and cradling her head, holding her in one place.

“Here, let me,” Rory said, reaching for her. “Get what you need to stop this.”

The Doctor rushed for a syringe, rummaging through the cabinet drawers and filling it with a clear liquid. Moving back over to Rose, he reached for her arm and injected it. After a moment, the shaking stopped, and after another quick scan with the sonic, he confirmed that her heart rate was dropping back to normal levels.

Then, Rose gasped suddenly, a cloud of golden breath floating into the air. The Doctor scanned it quickly and his eyes widened at the results.

“Huon particles,” he murmured, his brow furrowing. He rushed over to a machine, typing away furiously at a keyboard.

“What did you say?” Rory asked.

“Of course!” the Doctor exclaimed, with a sudden burst of joy. “Huon particles! Just like Donna!”

“What are – “ Rory started to say, but he was interrupted by Amy.

“Who is Donna?”

“An old friend,” the Doctor half-explained, turning his attention back to Rose, who was now lying still on the observation table. Her chest rose and fell steadily, and the Doctor was suddenly exhausted.

“She’s going to be okay,” he said, a tiny smile crossing his face, and laughter bubbling in his chest. He shook his head with disbelief. “Rose Tyler.”

“What happened to her?” Amy asked, watching the Doctor for his reactions – any reaction that would indicate to her who this girl was, what she meant to him. Because she had a sneaking suspicion that she was incredibly important, but she couldn’t quite lay her finger on it.

The Doctor answered her question absentmindedly, still staring.

“Her body is tired. Dimension-jumping isn’t easy on the body, especially without a capsule – and this time, it was the TARDIS, pulling her through the cracks…”

“We’ll just,” Rory said as the Doctor trailed off, “give you a moment, yeah?”

Amy met her husband’s eyes and he nodded toward the door. She silently agreed and let him guide her out into the hallway. She glanced back at the Doctor just before she closed to door.

“We’ll meet you in the library,” she said. The Doctor nodded mutely. As the heavy door fell closed slowly, she watched him step closer to Rose and grasp one of her hands in his, lacing their fingers together. His eyes were glistening with unshed tears.

“He’s crying, Rory,” she whispered. “My god, he’s crying.”

“Leave him be,” Rory said gently. The door fell shut with a gentle click, and the couple made their way down the corridor, their minds reeling. If Rory noticed that Amy clutched at his hand just a little tighter than usual, he said nothing.


 

They waited in the library for ages, it seemed. Rory sat patiently on the couch, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees as he watched Amy pace back and forth, rambling the whole time.

“Who could she possibly be?” she asked aloud for the fifteenth time in the last hour.

“Relax, Amy,” Rory said, reaching out and catching her hand as she rushed past him again. His voice was soft. “We just need to wait for an explanation. He will tell us, Amy, when he’s ready. You know how he is.”

“An explanation,” came a familiar voice. The Doctor stood in the library doorway, leaning up against the frame. “I do believe I owe you one of those, don’t I?”

“Is she awake?” Rory asked. The Doctor shook his head.

“She won’t be for a while. I’d say thirty-six hours, at the very least. She’s better, though. Stable,” the Doctor said. He wrung his hands together, the way he always did when he was nervous or worried or uncomfortable. Amy wondered which it was this time. Maybe a mix of all three.

“Good,” Rory said, and the room was silent again. He and Amy stared at the Doctor, who rubbed his eyes and tugged at one end of his bowtie, leaving it untied around his neck. He looked tired, Amy thought. But there was a glow in his eyes, too, one that she had never seen before. And she knew, instinctively, that it was because of the woman lying unconscious in the infirmary.

“Her name is Rose Tyler,” he said, a small smile gracing his features. Through the exhaustion, Amy caught the twinkle in his eyes. “She’s…she was…we were…”

The Doctor trailed off, unsure of how to continue. How to describe Rose Tyler, the shop girl that turned his life upside down? It seemed an impossible task to do so in one word.

“She used to travel with you, yeah?” Amy guessed, prompting him. The Doctor nodded.

“Yes.”

“How did you meet her?”

The Doctor smiled at that.

“I blew up her job,” he said.

“Typical,” Rory muttered, and the Doctor smiled wider.

“She’s from London,” he continued. “I met her in 2005.” His smile dimmed a bit. “It was…it was right after the Time War. I was bitter and broken. She stayed with me anyway. Through a regeneration, even. She – she made me better. I lost her.”

The look on his face made Amy want to cry – it was distraught, damaged – a vast change from the silly, happy mask that the Doctor usually wore. She had seen him angry, she was familiar with the Oncoming Storm – but a sad Doctor, weighed down by heavy memories, was an unfamiliar one. It was a brand new side of him. He made his way to an armchair across from his companions and sat down with a sigh, shrugging off his tweed jacket and flinging it over the back of the furniture.

“She was stuck. In a parallel world. I thought she was gone forever. We were separated for years,” he continued. “But then she came back. Hopped from universe to universe until she found me. She…well. Things happened. And I had to send her away again. To be with her family, to have a normal life. To be happy.”

“But now she’s back,” Amy said, trying to understand. “The TARDIS…the TARDIS brought her back?”

“Yes,” the Doctor said, his demeanor brightening. “She did. Thank you, dear.” He looked up at the ceiling.

The humming of the ship increased in pitch and the lights brightened for a moment.

“But – you said you left her to be happy. To be with her family, to have a normal life,” Rory said. “What’s changed?”

“I don’t know,” the Doctor said honestly.

“How did the TARDIS bring her back? How can she do that?”

“I’m not sure, exactly. I’ve got theories, but I won’t be able to say for sure until she wakes up and I can run more tests.”

“Her name is Rose, you said?” Rory asked.

“Yes,” the Doctor said, smiling. He looked up at his companions, his eyes brightening. “She’s wonderful. Brilliant. You’ll love her.” His tone was so certain, so confident, and Amy’s eyes widened as she was struck with realization.

“You loved her,” she said, and it wasn’t a question. The Doctor paused, swallowing nervously and running a hand through his floppy hair.

“I…” he started, but he choked on the words. Amy and Rory were silent, waiting for him to finish.

“I did,” the Doctor finally said, but it was so quiet they barely caught the words. “I still do. I love her.”

The Doctor wasn’t looking at them – his gaze was on the floor and he seemed to be daydreaming, or remembering. Amy had the sneaking suspicion that he’d never said the words aloud before. The gentle smile on his face, though, warmed her heart – she glanced at Rory. She knew what it was like to love someone.

“I can’t wait to properly meet her,” Rory said, offering the Doctor a grin. The Time Lord looked up and met his eyes, his smile growing.

“You’ll love her,” the Doctor said. He cleared his throat after a moment of silence. “Well, it’s been an awfully long day, hasn’t it? You humans need your sleep!”

The Doctor stood up quickly. His usual, perky attitude was suddenly back, a spring in his step as he bounded toward the door. He paused when he realized his companions weren’t following, just watching him.

“Come along, Ponds!”

Amy shook her head, but a smile crossed her face as she grabbed Rory’s hand and they stood up to follow him.

Chapter Text

With Amy and Rory retired to bed for the evening, the Doctor returned to the infirmary. His hearts skipped a beat as he opened the door, almost afraid that Rose would have vanished while he was gone. But she was there, lying asleep on the infirmary bed, just as he’d left her. He took in the sight, relishing in every detail.

She wore a dress – a lovely champagne color that complimented her skin. Her hair was a deeper gold than the last time he’d seen her, touched up to the roots. Her chest rose and fell, steadily, softly, and his breath caught in his throat.

He walked closer, pulling up a comfortable armchair beside the bed and sitting down. Reaching a hand out, he ran his fingers through her hair – she was solid, she was there. Not a ghost, or a voice interface, or an image. His hand settled on top of her own, carefully grasping her fingers.

“You’re impossible, Rose Tyler,” he whispered to himself in the dim light of the room. The only sound was the TARDIS, humming happily in the background. Suddenly overcome with emotion, the Doctor glanced up at the ceiling.

“Thank you,” he said ardently. “For bringing her back to me.” He glanced down at Rose again, smiling. He stood quietly, placing a hand against the wall of the TARDIS.

Behind the Doctor, Rose shivered in her sleep. He gathered up a nearby blanket and draped it over her sleeping form, tucking her in carefully. He propped a pillow beneath her head. She let out a sigh, curled up into the new warmth.

He hesitated a moment before leaning down and pressing a soft kiss to her forehead, brushing her hair out of her face. Then settling himself in the chair, he relaxed for the first time in hours – maybe even years. With Rose here, in front of him, a tension had left his body that he wasn’t even aware of. Everything about him felt lighter.

His hearts clenched as she smiled in her sleep. He stayed awake as long as he could, watching her and remembering. But eventually the day caught up with him, and he drifted off to sleep.


 

The following morning, Amy made her way to the med bay immediately after breakfast, Rory trailing just behind her. She sighed as she stepped into the room. The Doctor was fast asleep, in a chair beside Rose’s bed. His empty hand rested on the bed beside her, palm upward, as if he were grasping for something.

Quietly, Amy made her way over to him and shook him awake gently.

“Amy?” he asked, slowly blinking awake and catching sight of her fiery hair as it caught the light.

“I know you don’t want to leave her, but you really should get some rest. Proper rest. Not just sitting around in this chair, waiting,” Amy said. “You’ll go mad.”

The Doctor smiled.

“I’m already mad. Madman in a box, that’s me.”

Rory spoke up.

“At least go change your clothes, Doctor. We’ll keep an eye on her while you do.”

The Doctor hesitated, looking down at Rose. His hand brushed against hers, his thumb tracing the lines of her palm.

“I want – I need to be here. When she wakes up,” he said. Amy’s heart clenched at the tenderness in his voice.

“You will be,” she assured him. “You said it would be a few days, didn’t you?”

“Alright,” the Doctor said after a moment, standing slowly. He looked sternly at Rory. “But if anything happens – and I mean anything – shout for me. That goes for you too.” He glanced up at the ceiling, addressing the TARDIS.

“Go,” Rory said, laying a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder and pushing him toward the door. “The sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll get back. Eat something, while you’re gone. Something tells me Rose wouldn’t be too happy if she woke up and you were starved to death.”

A tiny smile crossed the Doctor’s face.

“Always keeping me in line, aren’t you Ponds?” he mused. “I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”

“Thirty,” Amy said.

“Twenty?” the Doctor asked.

“No less than twenty-five,” Amy said, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow, daring him to disagree with her.

“Fine,” the Doctor grumbled.

“Hey,” Amy said, reaching forward and straightening his hair. “She’s gonna be fine, you said. You can’t stop taking care of yourself.”

The Doctor nodded, and Amy pulled him into a hug. He clung to her, tightening their embrace, and pressed a kiss to the side of her head, his hearts clenching. He realized, in moments like this, how lucky he was. After everything he’d seen, everything he’d done, a gesture as simple as a hug was what tugged at his heartstrings. He cleared his throat after a moment and released Amy.

“Twenty-five minutes,” he said, pointing at her as he walked backward to the door.

Amy nodded, watching her best friend exit the room. The door fell shut almost silently. When she turned around, Rory was reading monitors, in full nurse-mode. The TARDIS had generously translated everything into English for him.

“How is she?” she asked him.

“Still a bit dehydrated,” Rory noted. “She’ll need another IV, I reckon. And her brain activity is still off the charts, but there’s not much I can do about that, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting her, so…”

“So she’s okay,” Amy summarized.

“As far as I can tell.”

Amy sat down in the chair that the Doctor had previously occupied and curled her legs beneath her. She stared at Rose, contemplating. She frowned.

“What is it?” Rory asked when he noticed the look on her face. He reached over to switch out the IV bag that hung just above Rose on the bed.

“Why hasn’t he ever mentioned her before?” Amy asked. She bit her lip. “I mean – I guess I always knew, you know. He’s twelve hundred, obviously he’s had a life before he met us. But he’s in love with her Rory, isn’t he?”

“I reckon he is, yeah.”

“And he’s never mentioned her before. What happens to us? Once we’re gone? He never talks about us again?”

Rory sensed the growing frustration in Amy’s tone. As he finished taking care of Rose’s needs, he sat on the edge of the armchair beside his wife.

“He’s old, Amy,” he said cautiously, laying a hand on her head and running his fingers through her flaming hair. “I think we forget that sometimes. Rose certainly isn’t the only one he travelled with before us. I think…I think it hurts him. To talk about them. Think about it, Amy, he’s outlived everyone he’s ever cared about. They’ve died or they’ve left him.”

“Not us. Never us.”

“You can’t be sure of that,” Rory said.

Amy sighed and dropped her head in her hands.

“You’re right,” she admitted, the sound muffled. Then she lifted her head again and resumed staring at the unconscious woman before her. “What about River?”

“She’ll be gone one day too,” Rory said.

“No – I mean. Her and the Doctor. They’re married, aren’t they?”

“Yes, I suppose.”

Amy glanced up at Rory, quirking an eyebrow and silently indicating that he should elaborate.

“I mean,” Rory said, “River and the Doctor…you can’t tell me honestly, Amy, that you’ve ever believed he truly loved her that way. Not now, not when it happened. Not ever.” Amy hummed noncommittally, unable to disagree. “And you saw him, last night. This morning. The way he looks at Rose…that’s how I look at you.”

Amy’s heart softened and she reached out to Rory. He took her hand.

“You’re right,” Amy said softly. “I know you are. This is all just so strange.”

“I know,” Rory said. “I know. We’ll have to just talk to him. Trust him, like we always do.”

“Do you think he’ll even want us around anymore? Now that he’s got her back?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Amy,” Rory said, brushing his thumb over her knuckles. “He’s your best friend.”

Amy nodded, biting her lip.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, he is.”


 

The Doctor returned, as promised, exactly twenty-five minutes after he’d left. He showered and changed his clothes, donning a fresh bowtie and tweed jacket. Then he made his way to the galley and ate, all the while, an awful anxiety building in his chest. The longer he was away from Rose, the more he itched to race back to her side. The TARDIS attempted to calm him as much as she could, but her soothing telepathic presence was only doing so much.

When the time came, he rushed back to the med bay with purpose in his step. Amy and Rory glanced up with surprise as he entered, interrupting their hushed conversation. The married couple sat together on a wide couch, a replacement to the arm chair that the TARDIS had offered them.

The Doctor’s gaze immediately rested on Rose and the tension that had been gathering in his body dissipated. She was still there, she hadn’t vanished.

“You look better,” Amy said. The Doctor smiled at her, still reeling in his own relief. He looked to Rory.

“How is she?”

“The same,” Rory said. “Stable, except the abnormal brain activity. Replaced the IV to keep her hydrated and nourished.”

The Doctor raised his sonic screwdriver, scanning Rose yet again. The results were just the same as before. He sighed, clicking the instrument off and putting it back in his jacket.

“We’ll be able to figure out the brain activity when she wakes up,” the Doctor said, approaching Rose’s bed. “Not much to do until then.” He glanced up at Rory, as an afterthought. “Thank you.”

Rory simply nodded. Amy stayed quiet. The Doctor walked around the bed and dropped down between them.

“So now we wait?” Amy asked. The Doctor nodded.

“Now we wait.”

“I’ll go get us some tea,” Rory offered, giving Amy a meaningful look that clearly meant Talk to him. He left the room silently, shoving his hands in his pockets as he walked away. The door swung shut behind him.

Amy glanced at the Doctor, who didn’t even seem to care that Rory had left the room. He was still staring at Rose. She marveled at the openness of his expression and the tiny smile that graced his face. She wondered what this simple, human girl had done – how she’d been able to break down all his walls and reach his hearts.

“Doctor?” she said, breaking through the quiet.

“Yes, Pond?”

“What are you going to tell River?”

The Doctor tensed at the bluntness of her question, but he swallowed and nodded, knowing it was a fair one. River was their daughter, they had a right to be worried about her.

“Be honest,” he said simply, fumbling with his hands. “I never thought – I never could have even hoped…

He trailed off, looking up at Rose.

“I thought for three hundred years that I would never see Rose Tyler again,” he continued. “I wasted so much time, Amelia. Always dancing around the truth, toeing the line, but never crossing it. I never even told her I loved her, and then she was gone. I won’t let this chance go to waste again.”

“You never…?” Amy asked, trailing off and leaving her question hanging. She taken aback by his sudden honesty.

“I love River, Amy, but not the way she wants me to,” the Doctor sighed, turning to look at her. “The way she needs me to. But I think you know that.”

“Yeah,” she agreed softly. “I do.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. She shook her head.

“Do you…” she started to ask, but she fell quiet, seemingly thinking better of it. Rory had told her before – she was being ridiculous. But she needed to hear it from the Doctor. Then she took a deep breath and spoke in a rush. “Do you want us to stay?”

The Doctor’s brow furrowed.

“Don’t you want to stay?”

“Well, yeah, of course we do,” she said. “But – you’ve got Rose back, now, and – “

“Stop,” the Doctor said, and her mouth clicked shut. “You and Rory will always be welcome on the TARDIS. Rose is not going to change that.”

“Okay.”

The Doctor smiled at Amy and tucked an arm around her. She leaned her head on his shoulder, the corners of her mouth quirking up. They fell silent again.

Rory returned a few minutes later with three steaming mugs on a tray. He handed them out, careful not to spill anything, and settled down on the couch beside his wife.

“She looks better,” he said, nodding at Rose. She had been rather pale before, but some of the natural color was returning to her cheeks and her chest rose and fell steadily. The Doctor nodded.

“She should be awake soon, yeah?” Amy asked.

“Yep,” the Doctor said, popping the ‘p’. He made an odd face, his expression contemplative, and mumbled to himself. “Haven’t done that in a while.”

“Tell us more about her?” Rory asked. The Doctor looked at him, rather surprised at the question.

“Well – what do you want to know?”

“You said you loved her,” Amy said softly. The Doctor swallowed and looked away from them, but he nodded. “Why?”

The Doctor looked at Rose.

“She promised me forever,” he said simply. He reached out to take her hand within his. His thumb traced her fingers and he smiled. Rory cleared his throat.

“Can you – I mean…you said you lost her. In a parallel world? What happened?”

The Doctor hesitated, but he nodded after a moment.

“You’ve met the Daleks, Amy,” he said. Amy froze, remembering the adventure. She’d just met the Doctor, then.

“That’s why you hate them so much,” she realized, recalling his angry outburst. The Doctor swallowed and nodded slightly.

“There’s much more to it than that,” he said. “But…yes. They were a part of the problem. They took her away from me. Both times.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Travel between universes is only possible when there are tears in the fabric of reality,” the Doctor explained, diverting to a scientific explanation in place of an emotional one. “They were taking advantage of those tiny weaknesses, the first time. You probably heard about it, both of you. They called it Battle of Canary Wharf.”  

“What – you were there?” Rory asked, surprised.

“I was. With Rose and her family. We were able to open the Void, send them back where they came from. Closed itself, in the end. Healed the universe. But Rose and her family were stuck on the other side. I tried everything I could to bring her back. I searched for weeks, but I couldn’t do it, not without the universes collapsing. I had to burn up a dying sun just to send a projection to say goodbye.”

“That’s awful,” Amy whispered.

“Then how is she here?” Rory asked, genuinely curious. “If travel between universes isn’t possible.”

“The TARDIS definitely had something to do with it, but she was only able to because…” the Doctor trailed off and shook his head, smiling and looking back at Rose. “Rose looked into the heart of the TARDIS, once. We were trying to stop the Daleks then, too. She was trying to save my life, to get back to me after I’d sent her away, and she tore open the console and absorbed the Time Vortex.”

Amy and Rory turned to look at Rose. She looked healthy, but still weak and vulnerable, lying before them. Nothing like the Doctor was describing.

“She’s only human,” Rory said. “That sounds dangerous.”

“It was,” the Doctor said. “She nearly died. I took it out of her – but apparently the removal was not as clean as I thought it was. There are still Huon particles left in her system, the same kind of energy that helps power the TARDIS. Activate the particles, and they attract one another. Something happened that activated the energy in Rose – likely something the TARDIS did.”

“So she was pulled back here,” Amy said. “From another universe?”

“Yes.”

“Blimey,” Rory said. “No wonder she was in such a rough state.”

“Well, I’m happy for you,” Amy said, laying a hand on the Doctor’s arm. He rose an eyebrow. “Really. I’m glad she’s back.”

He smiled at her.

“Me too, Amelia. Me too.”

Chapter Text

Rose Tyler blinked slowly as she woke up. She was wrapped in a warm blanket, her head resting on a fluffy pillow. She squinted into the brightness of the room. The light dimmed just as she’d had the thought, and her eyes snapped open when she felt an oddly familiar presence settled in the back of her mind.

She reached out hesitantly, unsure at first, but she was bombarded by the TARDIS’s joyful mental embrace. Her mouth fell open and her eyes pricked with tears. She was home.

She returned the TARDIS’s enthusiastic caress and sat up slowly. Her eyes scanned the room – the infirmary looked just as she remembered it – and her gaze settled on the sleeping man in the chair beside her bed. Her eyes drifted up and down his body as she took him in – the tweed jacket, the suspenders, the bowtie. The hand that lay on the bed just beside hers, grasping at the empty air. And she knew.

“Doctor,” she tried to say, but her throat was too dry, and it came out as a rasp. She coughed violently, her entire body convulsing with the effort, and moaned. The Doctor stirred at the sound. He blinked tiredly, then snapped awake when his eyes registered the scene before him.

“Rose,” he gasped. She tried to respond, but was thrown into another coughing fit. He scrambled to his feet and rushed to get her some water. He rifled through the cabinets for a glass and filled it at the sink, bringing it back to her and placing it in her hands.

“Here, it’s alright, you’re safe,” he murmured as she drank gratefully. “Small sips.”

The cool water soothed her throat, and when she had finished the glass, the Doctor took it from her and set it aside.

“Doctor,” she said. Her hand reached out and rested against his cheek. He held her hand there with his own. He smiled at the sound of her saying his name, one he hadn’t heard in hundreds of years.

He was rather surprised that she recognized him, but quickly dismissed the thought. Of course she’d know. She was Rose. She’d know him anywhere.

“Hello,” he said.

“Long time no see,” she quipped, echoing an ancient conversation.

“Been busy, you know,” he returned. The corners of her mouth turned up. Her fingers danced across his forehead, brushed the ends of his floppy hair, and landed over his temple. He felt the faintest brush of her consciousness against his. He stared at her, features softening as puzzle pieces clicked together.

“You’re telepathic,” he said softly. “That’s why your brain activity readings were off. When – how did that happen?”

“Not now,” she said, shaking her head. “Give us this moment, please, where we don’t have to think about this.”

His jaw tensed just slightly, but he nodded.

“Okay. But how do you feel?” he asked her anxiously. “Does it hurt, anywhere? You crossed the Void without a capsule – unexpectedly. You’ve been unconscious for three days.”

“’M sorry,” she said, feeling a pang deep in her chest. “You’ve been going out of your mind with worry, haven’t you?”

The Doctor let out a short laugh, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. He choked back the onslaught of emotions that threatened to overflow and sniffed. He looked down at his shoes.

“That’s so…you,” he said, shaking his head. His hands fumbled in front of him for a moment, then waved about manically, like he had no control of them. “That is so typically Rose Tyler. You’ve just gotten out of a healing coma and you’re asking me if I’m alright.”

She lifted his chin with her hand and his eyes drew back up to hers.

“I’m fine,” she said. “I promise.”

Her hands drifted from his face to his shoulders, from his shoulders to his arms, trailing down his body until she held his hand in hers. Their fingers laced together automatically, without another thought. The Doctor lifted their joined hands and clutched them close to his chest.

Rose shifted sideways so her legs dangled off the side of the bed. The Doctor took a step closer, pressed just between her thighs, but there was nothing erotic about the moment – he just wanted to be closer to her. They’d been apart for far too long.

“I know you feel fine,” he said, “but I’d really like to make sure, if that’s alright with you.”

She nodded her consent and he took his screwdriver from his jacket and stepped back. He ran the instrument up and down, pointing it at her.

“New sonic,” she said softly. The light shut off as the scan finished.

“My old one got eaten by Prisoner Zero,” he said absentmindedly, looking at the results. One of her eyebrows quirked up. She was sure there was a story there. “Abnormal brain activity, even for a telepath…but other than that, you’re…perfectly healthy?”

“I told you,” she said, taking the sonic from his hands and tucking it back into his jacket for him. Then she grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket and pulled him closer to her. He fumbled with his hands. Rose made a note of the new, quirky habit.

“New new Doctor,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Still not ginger.”

“Rose Tyler,” he breathed, his eyes wide with awe as he stared at her. “You impossible girl.”

Rose smiled and her eyes watered. Her name still sounded the same on his tongue, the syllables uttered with fondness and awe, and he looked at her like the most precious miracle in the universe. She gasped out a wet laugh, leaning forward and pressing her forehead against his. Their minds rested against one another The Doctor sighed contentedly, and tentatively, she pushed her thoughts forward.

The Doctor nearly staggered back in shock, but he resisted his instincts and opened himself to a connection with Rose. He delved into the golden comfort of her aura, struck with the overpowering, unyielding emotion that resonated to his core.

I love you.

The words were a brief, runaway thought. His breath caught. Even after all this time, she still felt the same. She still loved him, after all he’d done –

Rose opened her eyes, didn’t sever their mental connection, letting the Doctor relish in the comfort and closeness they shared. Her heart clenched at the look on his face. Silent tears, left unnoticed, streamed down his cheeks. His eyes opened and he choked on his words, suddenly unable to hold them back.

“I love you,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

She shushed him, tugging him closer, echoing his words aloud.

“I love you too.”

His hearts clenched and he let out a shaky breath. She pulled his face closer to her, pressing her lips against his. The soft pressure against his mouth, the movement of her lips against his, was intoxicating – something he’d wanted for so long, for centuries – and he responded immediately, fervently.

She eased out of the kiss as their movement slowed, her hands trailing through his hair and making him shiver. He smiled against her lips just before she pulled back.

After an indulgent moment, delighting in her presence, he eased out of her mind, and immediately felt emptier, like something was missing. He still felt the warmth of her skin against his cool hands, though, and that was enough. He breathed heavily, as did she, and they stared at each other.

“How did you do that?” he asked her, his voice shaking slightly.

 Rose shook her head, her eyes still watering, and pulled him into a hug. The Doctor buried his face into the crook of her neck. He was mumbling something, over and over again – her name. She felt his lips move against her neck.

“Doctor,” she whispered, clutching at the lapels of his tweed jacket. “My Doctor.”

The Doctor lifted his head to meet her eyes. Her hands cupped his face, her thumbs stroking away tear tracks.

“I missed you,” he said.

“I missed you too,” she said, her voice thick. “So much.”

“I love you,” he said again, a happiness bubbling up in his chest. The freedom to say the words, without caring about the consequences, lifted a weight from his shoulders that he had been carrying ever since their goodbye on Bad Wolf Bay, all those years ago. He felt her smile, pressed against the corner of his mouth. His hands fell to her hips in a loose embrace.

They both turned to look at the infirmary door when it began creaking open. Rory entered, carrying a tray with some steaming mugs. He balanced the tray carefully as he kicked the door shut behind him. Then he turned around and looked up.

“Oh!” he said, vaguely surprised to see Rose sitting up, looking at him with a furrowed brow. “Um, hello.”

“Hi,” Rose said softly, offering him a smile. Rory’s gaze flicked from her to the Doctor. He was staring at Rose, clutching her by the waist, standing between her legs, which dangled off of the infirmary bed.

“I’m Rory,” Rory said, clearing his throat. “Sorry – I didn’t mean to interrupt. But I figured it was better for me to check on you than Amy, she’s been getting rather antsy, still doesn’t think you’re taking care of yourself enough.”

Rose looked at the Doctor.

“Still useless without someone her to take care of you?” she asked softly, her fingers playing with the hairs at the back of his neck.

“Always,” the Doctor murmured. “Thank you, Rory.”

“I’m Rose, by the way,” Rose said, turning to Rory. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Rory said honestly. He grinned, crossing the room and setting the tea tray on the nearest counter.

“Who is Amy?” she asked.

“Amy’s my wife.”

“A married couple?” Rose balked. She looked at the Doctor. “That’s new. Whatever happened to ‘I don’t do domestics’?”

“I met you,” the Doctor said with a smile. He stepped back from her, rather reluctantly, and moved to grab her a mug of tea. He stirred in two sugars and held it out to her. She accepted it gratefully, taking a cautious sip. It was the perfect temperature, soothing her still-sore throat. She hummed.

“You remembered how I take my tea,” she said.  

The Doctor stopped in preparing his own and Rory looked at him curiously.

“You’re hard to forget, Rose Tyler,” the Doctor said, his voice coming out hoarser than he would have liked.

“I’ll just give you two a moment,” Rory said, feeling like he was intruding.

“You don’t have to go,” Rose insisted kindly. Rory shook his head.

“Really, I shouldn’t let Amy sit around alone. We’ll see you in the morning, yeah?”

The Doctor nodded.

“Sounds like a plan, Rory Williams,” he said. “Thank you for the tea. Tell Amelia not to worry about me.”

Rory nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets as he walked back toward the door. He glanced back at the Doctor and Rose on his way out, noting the shine in the Doctor’s eyes and the way his hand trailed up and down Rose’s bare arm.

He smiled.

When the door fell shut, Rose turned back to the Doctor with a soft smile.

“I’m glad you haven’t been alone,” she said. “I always worried, you know.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry. I wish I’d never left you, I just – I wanted you to be happy Rose…”

“I was happy,” she said, shaking her head. A sad sort of smile crossed her face. “We were happy.”

“You were?”

“I promise,” she whispered. She pressed another gentle kiss to his lips. “That life was meant to be. But so is this one, I think. Don’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” the Doctor said, closing his eyes to glimpse their timeline, the golden wisps that tied them together. “I do.”

Chapter Text

When Rory returned to his wife, she was sitting in the galley at a table, glaring at a piece of toast like it had offended her. She tapped the table absentmindedly, clearly impatient and anxious. She looked up at the sound of his footsteps.

“Well?” she demanded.

“Rose is awake.”

Amy stopped her tapping and nodded thoughtfully.

“Did you talk to her?”

“Just for a moment. They need some time to themselves. He hasn’t seen her in a long time, Amy.”

“Was she nice?”

“Yeah,” Rory said thoughtfully. “Again, we didn’t talk much. But she was polite. And blimey, Amy, you should have seen it – the Doctor was so happy.”

Amy smiled.

“Yeah?”

Rory nodded, dropping into the chair beside hers and pressing a kiss to her cheek.

“Yeah.”

They sat together in a content sort of silence for a while, Amy munching on her toast.

“When do you think we’ll be able to meet her?”

“Soon,” came a voice at the door, and they looked up to see the Doctor stepping inside the room. A content smile graced his face, and it made Amy’s heart warm.

“Is she okay?” she asked immediately.

“She’s fine,” the Doctor said. “I’m going to need to run more tests, of course, now that she’s awake, just to make sure. But she was still tired. I set her up back in her old bedroom, so she’ll be more comfortable. We’ll handle everything else in the morning.”

“I’m glad,” Amy said, and the Doctor’s smile widened.

“She’s anxious to meet you too,” he said. “Wants to know who’s been keeping me in line.”

Rory snorted.

“Wouldn’t call it that, so much. More like tagging along and telling you not to do dumb things, and then watching you do them anyway.”

The Doctor looked a bit wary at that.

“You and Rose are going to get on a bit too well, Rory,” he said. “You’re both…”

“Sensible?”

“I suppose.”

“Good,” his companion declared, crossing his arms. “Maybe you’ll actually listen to her.”

“She’s gone to sleep, then?” Amy asked, before the boys could delve into an argument.

The Doctor nodded.

“I’m going to stay with her,” he said. “I still don’t want her alone for too long, not yet. She told me I should tell you, first. She didn’t want you to worry.”

Amy’s features softened, and Rory made an appreciative sound.

“I like her already,” he said. Amy hit him on the shoulder and he quickly closed his mouth before he could dig himself into a deeper hole.

“That was nice of her,” Amy said. The Doctor looked at the door and fumbled with his hands.

“She’s always nice,” the Doctor said, glancing back at them for a second, before his eyes were drawn back to the door.

“Go on, then,” Amy said, sensing his impatience. “Get back to her. I’m sure she’s waiting for you.”

The Doctor smiled.

“Thank you,” he said honestly.

Amy shook her head and sipped her tea as she watched him bound out of the room, nearly tripping over his own feet as he turned out of the door. She reached for Rory’s hand.

“You were right,” she said. “He is happy.”


When he stepped into Rose’s old bedroom, she was staring at the pictures she had put up on her wall, centuries ago in the TARDIS’s time. She had changed into her pajamas, a loose t-shirt and shorts, and tied her hair out of her face into a messy bun. She glanced back when she heard his boots padding on the beige carpet. She was smiling, just barely, and her eyes were a bit glassy.

“Everything in here is all dusty,” she said.

“I haven’t been here in a while,” the Doctor admitted. “I’m glad it’s still here, actually. The TARDIS, she had to delete a lot of the nonessential rooms, and I wasn’t sure if – “

He stopped rambling when Rose stepped closer to him and laid a hand on his chest. His own hand immediately came up to cover her own, to hold it in place where it belonged.

“How long has it been for you?” she asked softly. He swallowed and turned his head.

“Long enough,” he answered. It was very typical of him, to offer such a vague response, but it wasn’t good enough. She shook her head.

“Doctor,” she said. “Tell me.”

“Two centuries,” he said quietly, and she winced.

“I’m so sorry, my love.”

“How long…”

“Seventy-nine years,” she told him, and his eyes widened.

What?

“Calm down,” she said, lifting her hand to run it through his hair. He stared at her with his mouth dangling open, trying to process what she’d said. She waited patiently for the information to sink in.

“You don’t look a day over twenty-five, Rose,” he said finally

“I know,” she said.

“And what about – the other me. Was he – “

“We were married for almost seventy-five years,” she said. “We were happy. We grew our TARDIS, we hopped around the universe and explored. The Stuff of Legends.”

“As it should be,” he said. “But you…”

“He started getting older,” she said. “I didn’t. We assumed it was because of the time vortex, but we couldn’t draw any solid conclusions about it. He wanted me to come back here as soon as we found out, to be with you. But I promised him I wouldn’t leave him. And when he…”

She trailed off, before her voice could crack, and the Doctor waited for her to finish.

“When he was gone,” she said, “I started looking for a way back. I started digging though the old dimension cannon files from Torchwood, again, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work without damaging the fabric of reality.”

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“Stop it,” Rose said fiercely, staring him in the eyes. “I told you before. That life was meant to be. I don’t regret one moment of it.”

“I don’t deserve you,” he said.

“I don’t care what you think,” she said firmly, and she stood on the tips of her toes to kiss him. She pulled his head down to hers and his arms circled her waist. It was brief and gentle, an effort to convey to him how she felt, how she didn’t blame him, how she loved him.

They stood there, her arms linked around his neck and his resting on her hips, breathing the same air.

“You should get some rest,” the Doctor said. Rose nodded reluctantly and moved toward her old bed, crawling under the crumpled duvet. She held them up expectantly, and the Doctor smiled softly.

He kicked off his boots and shrugged his tweed jacket off of his shoulders. He tugged on his bowtie, loosening and removing it, and left it lying on her nightstand. Unbuttoning his shirt, he revealed the white t-shirt he wore underneath.

When he was undressed, he shifted under the covers beside Rose. She let the blankets fall, draping over them, and she snuggled closer to him, his arm falling over her shoulders and hers draping over his waist. She tucked her head into is shoulder.

“I love you,” she mumbled as her eyes fell closed. The Doctor relaxed back into the pillows.

“I love you, too,” he said, and she smiled before she fell asleep.


Rose started awake the next morning, her heart pounding. She was wrapped in a warm blanket, her head resting on a familiar chest. As she remembered where she was, she sat up quickly, her breath catching. Her hands dug into the dark blue sheets of her bedroom on the TARDIS.

Her eyes fell upon the sleeping man in the bed beside her. She smiled in the silence, tears coming to her eyes. The Doctor. He’d stayed with her. She watched him, and almost let out a laugh, but clasped her hand over her mouth.

She tried to think back to her dream, knowing it had been strange, but she couldn’t remember it – the events were clouded in a golden haze. She closed her eyes, concentrating through the shimmering fog, but then there was a sharp, stabbing pain in her temple. She let out an involuntary cry, clutching at her hair. At the noise, the Doctor stirred, snapping awake.

“Rose!”

She inhaled sharply – she heard him call her name, and tried to respond, but she was too busy focusing. She rubbed her eyes furiously, willing the pain to go away.

He scanned her with the sonic frantically, frowning at the results he examined. Her brain activity was going wild, fluctuating madly.

“Where does it hurt?” he asked, the question soft, but urgent. “Show me.”

He reached up to grab her by the wrists, tugging her hands away from her face so she wouldn’t hurt herself.

“My head,” she said, “it’s killing me.”

The Doctor’s hearts stuttered as she unconsciously echoed her words from so long ago.

“Rose, love, I need you to open your eyes. Look at me.”

Rose’s eyes snapped open at his request and he felt like he’d been hit in the chest as all the air drained from his lungs. They were shining, golden.

“Bad Wolf,” he whispered. His fingers immediately raised to her temples, reaching out for her mind, and she welcomed him openly. Her warm presence washed over him and he tried to understand what he was seeing.

His presence seemed to calm her down, or at least lessen her pain, and he felt her relaxing. The intense, blinding light that permeated her mind faded into a gentler shimmer, and she let out a sigh or relief.

His own wild emotions were threatening to take over, though, and he knew he couldn’t communicate to her the way he needed to. He opened his eyes, but maintained their connection, so he could speak with her face to face. Even then, he stumbled over his own words.

“You – “

“I’ve got the time vortex swirling around in my head,” she said. “That’s what that was, wasn’t it?” The Doctor’s mouth opened and closed, but when he couldn’t respond, he simply nodded.

“That’s impossible,” he managed. “No one’s meant to have that – especially not a human – that power, it should kill you.”

“Doctor,” she said softly, and he fell silent and watched her. She shifted on the mattress, crawling closer to him, onto his lap. His arms came up to cradle her back, holding her head to his chest.

“If it were going to kill me, I think I would have been dead a long time ago,” she said. His grip on her tightened, and she titled her head up to press a kiss to his jaw.

“I just got you back,” he whispered. “I’m not taking any chances. I won’t lose you again.”

“I know. Medbay?”

The Doctor nodded, clearly surprised at how easily she agreed.

“Please,” he said.

He released her reluctantly as she slipped out from under the covers and walked over to her dresser. She pulled a soft sweater over her sleep shirt and exchanged her shorts for a pair of yoga pants.

When she turned around, the Doctor had put on fresh pants and was buttoning his shirt. Rose approached him quietly, reaching for the bowtie he had abandoned on her nightstand the night before. When she slipped the strip of fabric around his neck, he stopped moving and watched her intently. She tied the bow with a practiced motion, giving it a little pat when she was done.

A surprised sound was muffled in her throat as he leaned forward and kissed her firmly, cupping her face in his hands. She returned the kiss with enthusiasm, opening her mouth under his. His tongue stroked against hers for a long moment, before she pulled back, needing to breathe.

The Doctor pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead, and she felt his smile against her skin.

“You have no idea how often I wished you were here to do that,” he said.

“Do what?”

“Tie my bowtie.”

A tiny smile crossed her face.

“I always used to, didn’t I? Whenever you broke out the Tux of Doom.”

“Haven’t worn that in years,” he said. “I’ve got a new one now, I wore it to Amy and Rory’s wedding. Significantly luckier than the last one, I think.”

“I would hope so,” she sighed. “All right. Let’s go, then. The sooner we start, the sooner we finish, yeah?”

The Doctor nodded in agreement, ignoring the nervous feeling that was bubbling up inside him. He was afraid of what he would find, he knew. But when he looked down to reach for Rose’s hand, he realized that she already had it held out to him, and when he entwined their fingers, he could feel his anxiety dissipating.

She was here, and he wasn’t going to let her go.

Chapter Text

Rose settled herself on one of the observation tables in the med bay, her legs dangling over the side of it. She watched as the Doctor worked, following his gentle orders and helping him however she could. Still, she saw the tension building in his shoulders, even through the thick material of his tweed jacket, and the uncomfortable clench of his jaw. He was dead quiet, starting a blood sample analysis, when she spoke.

"Relax, Doctor," she said. She kept her voice soft, and saw his shoulders settle just a bit. He turned around to look at her.

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding tired. "I just want to make sure you're okay."

"I am," she said. "Or I will be, in any case. Anything that's wrong, you can fix it. I know you can."

"You have too much faith in me," he said warily, rubbing his face with his hands.

"That's what love is," Rose reminded him, and the simple statement made him stop in his tracks. "You believe in me, don't you?"

"Yes," he whispered. "More than anything."

"So let me believe in you, you daft alien," she said. A tiny smile crossed his face and he nodded.

"Okay," he agreed. She watched him thoughtfully as he went back to work, blowing up an image on the computer monitor. Rose's brow furrowed.

"Is that my DNA?" she asked, recognizing the double-helix structure. She shifted off of the observation table, her bare feet hitting the floor with a tiny slap. The Doctor slipped on a pair of glasses and squinted at the picture. She smirked.

"Still pretending you need glasses, I see," she teased, leaning on the back of the chair that he sat in. Her hands rested on his shoulders, kneading at his still-tense muscles. 

"I stole the glasses from Amy. Don't tell her," he said sheepishly, and she laughed. They fell quiet again as the Doctor concentrated on the image before him, occasionally tapping on the screen to enlarge some of the text.

"I think you were right," he said finally, "about the remnants of the vortex."

The Doctor pointed at the image, his finger tracing an odd, unfamiliar third strand that circled around the double helix. It was thin and golden, like a piece of wire, weaving itself in and out of the twisting ladder.

"What is it?" Rose asked.

"When you absorbed the time vortex, it left these Huon particles in your system," he said quietly. "They're part of you now. Essentially, this strand of energy is what makes you the Bad Wolf."

She felt his shoulders tense again beneath her touch, and she stroked a hand through his hair in an effort to calm him.

"I don't think we need to be afraid of Bad Wolf, Doctor," Rose said.

"Bad Wolf nearly killed you, Rose," he said, turning around in his spinning chair. He took his glasses off and shoved them in his jacket pocket as he stood up in front of her.

"Bad Wolf helped to bring me back to you," she reminded him. "Didn't she? The TARDIS would never have been able to bring me home if it wasn't for Bad Wolf."

"And that in and of itself was incredibly dangerous," he said, moments away from snapping. "You were in a coma, Rose."

She was saved from answering him when they were distracted by the creaking of the door behind them. It opened slowly, and an unfamiliar ginger woman stepped through the doorway. Rory stood just behind her, his hand at the small of her back. Rose put together the pieces and smiled. 

"You must be Amy," she said. 

"Hello," Amy said, looking a bit awkward. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, now," Rose said. The Doctor made a sound of protest, and she turned to look at him. "I told you, stop worrying."

"A coma, Rose. You could have died."

"But I didn't, did I?"

"No," the Doctor said. "Thank god."

"Thank the Bad Wolf," Rose countered, crossing her arms. 

Amy watched the exchange curiously - the Doctor was on guard, as he bickered with Rose, but still, he was more open than she had ever seen him before. 

"Come on in," Rose told Amy and Rory. "Please, sit. Don't mind the Doctor. Apparently he's a bit high strung this time around."

"I'm always high strung when it comes to you," the Doctor grumbled, turning back to his work.

"Suppose I can't argue with that," Rose said. 

Rory stepped past Amy, taking her hand and dragging her into the room to meet Rose. He was rather surprised when she reached out to hug him, and then Amy.

"Nice to see you again, Rose," said Rory. 

"You're looking better," Amy said. 

"Thank you," Rose said. "Sorry for all the trouble these last few days. And the Doctor told me how you helped him take care of me - so really, I owe you one. Especially if he's been acting like this the whole time."

Rory ignored the Doctor's indignant "Oi!" and smiled proudly.

"It was nothing," he said. "I'm a nurse, it's my job."

"A nurse? That's brilliant," said Rose. "How'd you end up with him, then?"

She pointed at the Doctor, who was still concentrating on the computer monitor. He answered on Rory's behalf as he typed commands, starting a new scan.

"I crash landed in Amy's garden."

"You crashed the TARDIS?" Rose asked incredulously. "Blimey, I know your driving is bad, but really."

"Yeah. And then he disappeared again, and didn't come back until twelve years later," Any said, raising and eyebrow at the Doctor. Rose laughed.

"Oh, some things never change. First time he brought me back home to visit my mum, it was a whole year later. Everyone thought my boyfriend had murdered me."

"You're kidding!"

"I wish I was."

"Why do you have to get along so splendidly with everyone?" the Doctor asked Rose. 

"It's easy, when you have a mutual alien friend who's an awful driver with a time and space ship."

"That crash wasn't even my fault!" the Doctor protested, turning around his chair to fully join in the conversation. "I had just regenerated. I always get a bit of driver's amnesia."

"How many times have you changed? Since you last saw me?" Rose asked, her hand settling itself in his hair. She stroked her fingers through the dark strands in a repetitive, comforting motion, and he leaned into her touch. 

"Only the once."

"You mean - you had just changed your face, right before I met you? Way back when I was a kid?" Amy asked.

"Yes," the Doctor said. "It was a powerful one, too. Damaged the TARDIS. She had to redesign the whole console room. I held it off, too long."

"You can do that?" Rory asked. "Like...delay it?"

"Only for so long. I had a few people to say goodbye to," the Doctor said. He looked at Rose. "I went back to see you, one last time. Everyone else, too. Made my rounds."

"And you haven't seen them since, have you?" Rose guessed. The Doctor shook his head.

"I..." he began, sounding sheepish, but Rose cut him off.

"It's okay, love," she said. "I understand."

"I do keep up tabs on them, though," the Doctor said. "Jack is still at Torchwood. Donna is married, has her own family now. Martha and Mickey got married."

"You're kidding," Rose gasped. "Oh, that's brilliant. I'm so happy for them."

"I didn't know you had...friends, Doctor," Amy cut in. The Doctor smiled just a bit.

"Thanks, Pond," he said sarcastically. 

"Oh, you know what I meant, you idiot," she said, rolling her eyes fondly. 

"You traveled with all those people?" Rory asked. 

A beep from the monitor stole the Doctor's attention again, and he turned to look at the results of the completed scan. His jaw went slack. 

"What is it?" Rose asked him immediately, worried by his wide eyes and the way he'd stopped to hold his breath. 

"Oh, are you doing scans on Rose?" Rory asked, peering over the Doctor's shoulder beside Rose. Neither of them could read the information, displayed in the Doctor's native language on the screen. 

"Rose Tyler," the Doctor whispered, and then he let out a disbelieving laugh. He stood up and grabbed her by the waist, picking her up and swinging her in a circle. She let out a sound of surprise when he set her on her feet and ducked his head down to capture her lips with his own. 

Amy and Rory stepped back, giving them space. Amy's eyes watered as she watched them. she had never seen the Doctor act that way before - so open about his emotions, exploding at the seams with happiness.

When the two finally pulled apart from each other, Rose was the first to speak.

"Not that I'm complaining," she said breathlessly, "but what was that for?"

The Doctor beamed, pulling her with him to the screen. He pointed at a specific bunch of interlocking circles. Amy and Rory approached them from behind, standing close and listening attentively. 

"See this, here?"

"Yeah," Rose said. "What's it mean?"

"I did two scans, on top of that DNA analysis we discussed before," said the Doctor. "Species identification brought up no results. But this, Rose Tyler, is your anticipated lifespan."

"You mean - how long she's going to live? You can tell that about a person, just from a blood sample?" Rory asked.

"Not the way you're thinking. It offers an estimate. You're both human, so the machine would use that information to tell me that your expected lifespan, without accidents or illnesses, should last about eighty years, on average."

"I'm guessing my expected lifespan is more than eighty years," Rose said, and the Doctor nodded. Amy caught the way his eyes brightened.

"Hand on - so Rose isn't human?" Amy asked. "What planet are you from? I just assumed..."

"Rose was born on Earth," the Doctor said. "The system couldn't identify her species. She was born human, but now she's something more. Something in-between."

"In-between what?"

"In-between human and TARDIS," the Doctor said. "That's my best guess. Because as the program points out here - " He pointed to another line of circles. "Rose's lifespan matches that of the TARDIS."

"There's something linking me to the TARDIS," Rose said softly. "Because I looked into the time vortex."

"She forged a connection with you, or you forged a connection with her. Either way, your lifeline is tied to hers, now," the Doctor said. "And because I'm her pilot, her lifeline is tied to mine."

The room fell silent as the information sank in. Rose stared at the Doctor with wide eyes.

"We're both tied to the TARDIS," she said. "Which means..."

"We're tied to each other, too," the Doctor finished, a giddy smile forming on his face. Rose's eyes watered. 

"So Rose - she's going to live just as long as you?" Amy asked, trying to keep up. The Doctor nodded, his smile widening. 

"I get to stay forever," Rose whispered.

"The Doctor and Rose Tyler in the TARDIS," said the Doctor. "As it should be."


That night, Amy was surprised to hear a knock on her bedroom door. She exchanged a glance with Rory before she shifted off of the mattress to go answer it. She heard him place his book on the nightstand and move to join her, his feet padding on the soft carpet.

When Amy opened the door, Rose stood on the other side of it, looking flushed and happy. She was freshly showered, the ends of her hair dampening her nightshirt. 

"Oh, hi," Amy said, a bit caught off guard. "Did you need something?"

"Oh, no," Rose said quickly. "Sorry. I'm not here to bother you for long. The Doctor just hopped in the shower, really quickly - and I realized, I never properly thanked either of you."

"Thanked us?" Rory asked. Amy's brow furrowed at Rose's grateful nod, and was startled when the blonde woman pulled her into a tight hug.

"For making sure he wasn't alone," Rose said. "Keeping him company all this time. I know how exhausting that can be, but you never gave up on him. He needs people like you, you help him see the bright side of things. And it's not easy to do, I know from experience."

Amy felt rather emotional as she reached to return Rose's embrace.

"I'm so glad you're back," she said. "I never even realized how sad he was without you here. The last few days he's been happier than I've ever seen him."

"Rose?"

They were both startled by the Doctor's loud call down the corridor. 

"I'm talking to Amy," Rose called back, and Amy took the opportunity to wipe the wetness from her cheeks before anyone could see it. 

The Doctor rounded the corner wearing a pair of striped pajamas, his damp hair sticking up everywhere, and Amy bit back a laugh. He smiled when his eyes fell on the two girls.

"I was wondering where you'd gone off too," he said. "You've been awake for less than two days now and you're already breaking rule number one."

"Rule number one?" Rory asked.

"Don't wander off," Rose and the Doctor chorused. 

"Right," said Amy, smirking when Rose rolled her eyes. "We'll be off to bed, then. See you in the morning, yeah?"

"Bright and early Ponds! We're back to adventuring, tomorrow!"

Amy watched them walk away. Rory hugged her from behind, looking over her shoulder. The Doctor reached out for Rose's hand.

"I think things on the TARDIS just got a lot more interesting," she mused.

"Let's go to bed, Amy," Rory said softly, tugging her backward into their room.

The door shut with a quiet click behind them.