Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who and it's probably just as well that I don't because it'd be nothing but hugs and hair ruffling for the foreseeable future.
Spoiler: Um, if you haven't seen Journey's End, this might ruin it for you. A bit.
Summary: "I thought I left you in another universe."
Author Note: Well, I said I wasn't going to write fanfic, but it appears that I lied. Just a bit of angst and whining while I work out some of my issues with Journey's End.
She stumbles back into his universe, into his life, a half-century later looking the same as she always has and he is stunned, wonders if he is hallucinating. He doesn’t know what she’s doing here, how she got here, or how the timelines got so messed up. It’s been ages for him, but from the looks of her, it’s only been a few years on her end.
He shakes his head as he stands at the door of the TARDIS, fingers clutching the rough wood as if it’s the only thing that’s real. They’re in London, sometime around the year 2060, at the Powell Estates. She’s sitting idly on the steps out front, looking lost and a bit out of place. Her hair is longer, darker, but not enough to make much of a difference.
He’s there on a routine trip. He always stops in at her old home every ten years or so, something akin to visiting a graveside. He never stays more than an hour; the place has changed so much it’s almost unrecognizable, renovated into an upscale complex. It doesn’t matter to him, though. It’s the only place in this universe that will always hold her for him. He made his choice the second time on Bad Wolf Bay, but that doesn’t mean he wants to forget.
She’s watching him as he takes a few tentative steps from the TARDIS and he clenches his fingers tight against the hem of his jacket. The look that passes between them is nothing like the one they shared the last time she made her way back to this universe. No, that last look was filled with joy and awe and the thrill of being back together. This look is quite the opposite. She’s frowning at him like he’s the last person she expected to see and his own face contains nothing but disbelief at her audacity and stubbornness.
He should have known better, he thinks, cursing her damned determination. She would never be content until she was back with him. She couldn’t be satisfied with what he gave her, what he gave up so that she could be happy. Instead, here she is again, puncturing up the universe like a kid with a pair of scissors and a big piece of construction paper. It’ll be a bitch to clean up her mess, but she’ll expect him to do it all while grinning over the happiness of having her back. And here he’d just started to get over her.
He stops moving, waiting several paces from her, waiting for her to get up and take those final steps toward him, toward the usual bone-crushing hug that always follows their reunions. He figures the frown curving over her lips is probably her own form of disbelief. She probably can’t believe that she’s finally managed it, can’t believe that he’s real. He gives her a moment to process it, and then another. She never gets up.
He hovers for a moment, shifting on his feet, questioning himself. He’d been almost positive that the look on her face was disbelief, somewhere around 93.687% positive to be exact, but then, it’s been a long time since he’s tried to interpret one of Rose Tyler’s expressions, so he has to take into account the probability that he is out of practice. A few swift calculations and that percent drops down to 17. So 17% positive. Not too positive at all, really.
He takes the last few steps himself, shifting to sit next to her on the steps. She doesn’t move to give him a bit of space, barely acknowledges his presence. It’s cold and the chill of the cement seeps through the layers of his trousers and trench and he wonders how long she’s been sitting there and if she’s cold. He’d offer her his coat, but doesn’t think she’d be inclined to take it. He can feel the heat of her, though, despite the chill. She was always warm, and although it’s been years and he’s held many hands since hers, he can’t shake the thought that no one radiates warmth like she does.
He looks down at her hands, flushed pink with cold and the nails trimmed short, no chipped dark colour like she used to wear. The curve of her fingers floods him with memories of their hands twined together, him pulling her, her pulling him, always headed for the next adventure. He lets out a little puff of air at the longing those fingers make him feel.
He’s set himself here now, put himself down in this path, and he’ll have to follow it through, but he needs some space. He leans back, the lip of the step above him digging into his back, but the slight change in proximity allows him to breathe a little easier. This is quite possibly the longest he’s gone without talking, at least in this regeneration, and he’s about to erupt. He doesn’t know what to say, though. They’ve been silent for far too long now, almost four minutes, and they’ve long since crossed the line into awkward. Anything he says now is going to sound strained, rehearsed.
He could always touch her, he thinks. A casual hand on her shoulder, the cupping of her cheek, something physical to let her know that all is forgiven, that he is simply glad she’s back. But contact is risky, given her current body language. Not to mention he doesn’t trust himself not to carry it too far. One false move and he’ll be pulling her into his arms, breathing her in, and pressing kisses against her forehead. No, better not to touch.
He settles for silence, watching the people pass by on the sidewalk. Rose always managed to make him see the details when all he could see was everything at once. It’s nice to slow down for a while; he’s been running at full speed for the past fifty years, but now he can catch his breath. He chances a peek in her direction. She’s still, more immobile than he’s ever seen her. While she was always the yin to his yang, peanut butter to his jelly, tranquil to his manic, he’s never seen her quite like this, so static. Something’s not right, and he can’t hold it in any longer and without thinking he says something stupid.
“I thought I left you in another universe,” he says, the words half joking, half meant to hurt and his words shatter the silence that had built up around them. He can’t believe that’s what he’s chosen to say to her, after all these years, but then his mouth always did run a few (okay several) steps ahead of his mind. She knows that.
None of that matters when she turns to look at him, and the sadness pooling in her eyes startles him. He hasn’t seen that look since the first time at Bad Wolf Bay, and the hopelessness in it is just as crushing as it was then. She raises her hands to her face, tucks her hair behind her ears, and then the sadness is gone, replaced with something more rigid, something that looks suspiciously like anger. “Well, Doctor, you thought I would die, too. Looks like you’re wrong more often than you think.”