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In the back of the Jeep, they sit side by side, knees touching, and for a long, long time, no one speaks. Even her Mum and Dad in the cab of the jeep drive on in silence while the long Arctic rays of spring filter through the canvas.

What could they say, really? The Doctor left them on the beach, Rose and his Meta Crisis, the one who loves her and has the guts to say it.

Not out loud. But he did say it.

Anger roils inside her. Neither the Doctor nor the Meta Crisis could say it out loud. Oh, they faced down Daleks and Cybermen and all manner of what-have-you, but three words? Out loud?

 She looks down at his hands, palms up on his knees. She stares at the freckle-flecks along the outer edge of his wrist, the bit of dark hair glimmering like copper wires in the fading sun. His hands, so like the Doctor’s, but not the Doctor’s. 

His fingers twitch and Rose glances at his face. Eyes closed, she realizes. He’s fallen asleep.

And just like that, her anger melts, running away like snow in an early spring thaw.

Because he’s human now. Half human. Human enough to be exhausted. Rose is exhausted, too, but so a-jangle with excitement and adrenaline, no way she could sleep, and wasn’t it just like him to be able to rest after all that had happened?

Not him, she corrects. An ache fills her, radiating from her heart to her fingertips like a tidal wave. She’d lost him on the beach, after all. This is, what? A facsimile, a copy, a... clone? What exactly is a Meta Crisis, anyway? And why... why does it hurt her to look at it? Why doesn’t she trust it?

The jeep jolts over pothole and the Meta Crisis snaps awake, exhaling a frightened “Rose!” before his eyes find hers. Without thinking, she clasps his hands. 

“It’s alright, I’m here,” she soothes. “You’re gonna be alright. I’ve got you.” Rose gathers a blanket around their shoulders, careful not to brush his skin with hers.

He watches her, wordless, his lips parted, and slowly, he slips again into sleep. Rose fixates on his eyelids, on the fine veins that resemble a dragonfly’s wings. She wants desperately — the wanting of a thousand days passed — to drink in those lips, to feel his lashes against her neck, his breath on her collarbone, his teeth, his tongue.

She feels a flush trembling under her skin. She breathes out and nestles under the blanket.

She thinks, This is going to be tricky.