Sometimes he thinks he’ll never understand the Universe, the intrinsic dips and flow of the cosmos. Nine centuries in and he’s still left breathless in the wake of its changes and decisions.
No second chances he thinks, yet here he is getting just that. Or is this the tenth chance? Different, Rose had called him, and she hadn’t been wrong. He is different. He's new. New in ways that are foreign, unfamiliar - alien, even to him.
But Rose is the strangest change amongst them all. The way her hand slides into all the crevices of his palm in all the familiar ways, yet feels so fundamentally different in the same moment. It’s the way she flutters through his mind like she’s always been there, like when he looks over his shoulder he just expects her to be there; always just a little slower but gladly willing to be pulled along.
It’s a dangerous feeling, this complacent attitude, but he’s finding that he can’t stop it.
The mattress dips beside him and when his eyes flutter open they're met with hers. They’re so dark; her eyes that is. He likes that, he always has. That sometimes when she looks at him he can hardly distinguish her iris from her pupil, and then sometimes they glow like amber in the light, something bright and warm.
“Feel better?” he rolls onto his side, matching her gaze and ignoring the way her knees brush against his thigh. He can smell the chemical make-up of her moisturizer, can count the small sun spotted freckles along the bridge of her nose now that there’s not a coating of foundation to cover them.
“Loads,” she mumbles, smiling as she adjusts her arm to cushion her head. “I felt so spacey after...” she stops, frowning slightly. She’s so human in this moment, she can’t help but sympathize with Cassandra's outcome despite what they've been through today. “It was like my brain and my body weren’t totally connected, like there were some wires loose, you know?”
He nods, “Common side effect. Psychografts are particularly nasty on the connections between consciousnesses. Just your neurons fixing themselves out, is all. You’ll be good as new after a bit of rest. ”
She smiles, “a new, new me to go with a new, new you, then?”
A grin spreads across his features as her tongue slips past her teeth. “Yes, I suppose you could say that.”
It's quiet after that and the longer he stares at her, the stronger his instincts are becoming, telling him to get up, to move, because there’s just so much to do, to see, to touch. But as her hand hesitantly reaches up to brush along his brow, he finds he just doesn’t want to move. There’s a blush slowly blossoming on her cheeks, and he can read the insecurity in her eyes. They’ve never quite done this before, this level of innocent intimacy.
“New, new Doctor.” She mumbles quietly, the pad of her finger tracing down the bridge of his nose now. This new, new him loves too much. He can tell already. He feels too much; wants too much. There’s far too much restless energy flowing through him this time around and sooner or later he can tell he’ll cross the line. That’s just the kind of man he is now. He pushes boundaries, he presses buttons; he opens doors that would be better left locked.
He’d said before he didn’t know when to stop. It hadn’t been a lie.
But as her hand shyly trails down his jaw, he can’t help but smile. She makes him feel alive.
The world engulfs him, his heart picking up speed as the beat is doubles into two and Time ebbs through him. It crushes him, the weight of it all in that moment. His memories, his feelings, they all unfurl before him. Martha, poor Martha who’d fought to keep him safe.
Time rebuilds him; the Doctor renewed. Brought back to do his job and save the Universe. But this time there will be no mercy. No sweet hand to pull him from the edge. There’s no warmth to greet him this time when he wakes; no wonder in the Galaxy and all it has to offer, for he’s seen it now. The Universe takes from him, takes all he has, all he wants, until there’s nothing left but the skin of his hands and a body that just won’t let him rest.
The fob watch is warm in his hand; John Smith’s heat still clinging to the surface.
If this is what the Family wants, eternity, stagnant and unchanging, then that is what he’ll give them. He'll share the curse. For the stillness is what hurts most of all.
There’s a warm breeze that blows in through the window, rustling the curtains in its wake. The house is quiet, and for once his mind feels quiet too. Across from him Rose blinks, gnawing at the skin of her thumb. He's more than a little in awe at it all. Despite everything, all the pain and the loss, all the times he’d ruthlessly fought against the loneliness that had taken her place at his side, here she is.
She found him, just like she always seemed to do, whether he’d wanted it or not.
There are just a few feet between them, but it might as well be the Void. Just Rose’s comforter and the polite distance one keeps to avoid invading the others personal space, but it feels like so much more. There are worlds between them. A world in which Rose smiles at him from across the console and the double beat of his hearts quicken. A world in which they are together again, just like they were before with nothing and everything to tear them apart. But there's also this world, a world in which after all this time, he finally gets what he's wanted since the moment he'd taken her hand on Christmas Day; her love and humanity.
This is so new to him, so very incredibly new. He wants her arms wrapped tight around him, her heart pressed against him like it should be. Like he knows it was made to be. But he can't bare to touch and have her pull away. This version of him has always been rubbish at this, at showing what he really wants, what he really needs.
“Rose,” he says quietly, and she flinches slightly like he’s startled her. “You-” the words feel hard to say suddenly. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to know the answer. “I don’t regret what I did.”
She blinks again, her brows furrowing.
“I don’t regret what I did on the Crucible with the Daleks. It had to be done, there are just some things that don’t get second chances, and I- don’t regret my decision. I don’t want you to think I’m some abominable being, but I had to do it, Rose. I just... I had to.”
She shifts her elbow under her head, “I know,” she says softly. “I don’t think you’re some killer. You always do what you think you need to, I know that. Besides, I’m not really one to judge am I?”
He pauses, the edges of a mirthless grin playing with his lips. Bad Wolf, Protector of the Universe. There is an egotistical part of him that thinks, hopes, that maybe she was made for him; to keep him safe when he needed her most. Bad Wolf, there to find him time and time again.
Slowly her hand unfurls from its tight fist and bridges the gap between them. Her hand brushes his brow, twining through his hair before sliding down to his cheek with the tips of her fingers.
“New, new, new Doctor, yeah?” she asks softly, her voice breaking slightly as her eyes shine with unshed tears.
His hand engulfs hers; pressing her palm so squarely into his cheek he’s sure it will simply melt into him. “Yes,” he says hoarsely, “new, new, new Doctor.”
He's fought the War. Fought Time itself in all its infinite power. And as the warmth of Rose's skin seeps into his, he thinks maybe just this once he's won.
A tiny grin ghosts her lips, and finally, finally with all the mad possibilities in the Universe, he feels alive.