Canary Wharf, 2007.
One last flash of vivid blue against black, one endless look into a face dominated by hazelnut-brown eyes that conveyed more fear than they had in front of the entire Dalek fleet, then she was gone. The gaping wound in the fabric of time and space closed, the pull died down. All that remained was a white wall and ringing silence.
The Doctor slowly loosened his grip on the magna-clamp, almost having to force his fingers open. Without even knowing that he had moved he found himself standing in front of the wall, staring at the concrete as if he could bring the barrier between universes down with sheer force of will. Eventually he raised his hand and touched the wall tentatively, as if feeling the solid concrete under his fingers would finally make real what he didn’t want to believe. She was gone.
The leather of his jacket scraped over the concrete when he leant against the wall, his forehead resting against the smooth surface. He could almost imagine that he could feel her warmth, as if the Void was nothing more than a veil he could pull aside. Almost.
He lost track of how long he stood there. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Except that she was gone.
After some time he became aware of his surroundings again. He straightened, closed his eyes for a brief second, touched the wall for the last time and left the lever room without looking back. There were two things left to do, and then he could go and let trouble find him. He felt empty. It had been her smiles, her hand in his, that had let him finally realise that the universe was still beautiful and that it was worth the fight. But without her everything looked as if it was covered in ashes, the air so thick he could hardly breathe.
The Doctor reached the basement without encountering anybody. The building seemed to be completely empty, which was just as well. No need to wait until it was dark or to warn anyone before he carried out what he should have done hours before. At least Torchwood wouldn’t have the chance to destroy even more lives beyond those the Cybermen had already taken.
He was following the corridor that led to the storage room where Yvonne Hartman had stored the TARDIS when he heard a male voice and the sound of rubber wheels on linoleum. He slipped into a room and closed the door behind him. Not that he really worried about what might happen to him, not anymore, but there were certainly deaths that were more worthwhile than ending up as a guinea pig for Torchwood’s scientists. Besides, blowing up Torchwood Tower would probably a bit of a problem if he was imprisoned. And she deserved at least a proper goodbye. Hell, she deserved the entire universe, and he would have given it to her if he’d had the chance.
“Shhh, love, don’t worry. We’ll find a way. I promise,” the person on the other side of the door said in a Welsh accent, the words barely louder than a whisper. The rest of his words were lost in the sound of the wheels of a gurney on the floor.
Thirty seconds later the Doctor left the room and continued his way to the storage area. He was mentally cataloguing his supply in explosives and the weak points in the structural integrity of the building, when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.
We’ll find a way. I promise.
She had used almost the same words, almost eighteen months ago in a dark alley in Carthage.
We will be separated once. But we will see each other again. We will find a way. I promise.
She had known. He clung to the words as if they were a lifeline. She had sounded so secure, so convinced.
He would see her again. He didn’t even think about doubting her. If there was one person in the entire universe he believed in, it was her. Any version of her. A tiny spark of hope ignited in his hearts. He didn’t know when, he didn’t know how long it would take them, but they would see each other again. The universe owed them that much.
A windy beach in Norway.
A group of people gathered next to a battered jeep, something nobody would have considered an appropriate car for its owner, billionaire Pete Tyler. A young blonde woman emerged from the group and brought some distance between herself and her family. She waited silently, her wind-swept hair the only indicator that she wasn’t a statue. She closed her eyes, paused for a few seconds and opened them again.
A ghost-like figure in a black leather jacket and with piercing blue eyes had appeared in front of her. The expression on his face confirmed what she had been suspecting since he had first called her in her dreams.
“Doctor,” she said, a forced smile on her face. “This isn’t fair. Whenever we have to say goodbye, you’re just a hologram. For a Time Lord, you’ve got really awful timing.”
“Yep, that’s me. No timing at all.” Rose would have believed manic smile on his face had it not been for the desperate look in his eyes.
“Where are you?”
“In the TARDIS. Orbiting a pulsar. The radiation enables the TARDIS to send this projection across the void. But we’ve only got a few minutes. This is the last hole between the universes and it’ll close soon.”
“Is there... Can you...”
“I don’t know,” he answered her unspoken question, his eyes never leaving hers.
“Yes.” One syllable, just three letters, spoken matter-of-factly in a harsh Northern accent, but somehow more convincing and reassuring than any copious declaration would have been.
For a few seconds they were silent. So many unsaid things lingered between them.
“Doctor,” Rose took a deep breath, begging every deity in the universe that might be listening for courage. She wouldn’t break down now. “I love you.” Her eyes shone with tears, but her voice was strong. She took another breath and tried to keep her voice from wavering. There was something else she had to tell him, for his sake. Without someone to care for, someone to keep him going, he would only sink back into the desperation that had been his constant companion when she had first met him. So she pressed, “Promise me that you’ll find someone to travel with. Promise me.”
“Oh, Rose.” She hadn’t heard this voice since Van Statten’s bunker, and even then he hadn’t sounded so devastated. “I love you.” He had said it, Rose realised with a shock. “You are my life and my soul. You saved my life in more ways than you can imagine. This is not goodbye. We’re gonna see each other again. Will you bond with me?”
“We’re gonna see each other again,” he repeated, still sounding as if he was trying to convince her as much as himself. “I know it. Y... someone told me, eighteen months ago. I love you. So will you bond with me?”
Rose wiped her eyes and a smile began to blossom on her face. “I...”
The hologram vanished.
“...will,” she whispered, only heard by the wind and the waves. She broke to her knees and touched the sand where his image had been. No imprints confirmed that he had really been here, that he had really said he loved her, that he had really asked her to bond with him. Nothing was left that indicated that this wasn’t a dream. But it was true. “I will.” She desperately hoped he had seen her smile and recognised it for what it meant: unconditional love and a “Yes”.
She knelt on the beach for a few more minutes until she reached a decision. This time she was going to do what he wanted her to do: have a fantastic life. Until they met again.
She gathered her courage, got up and went to face her family.