Title: The Long Walk Back
Spoilers: Journey's End
Chapter: 1 chapter, complete
Disclaimer: Characters and settings belong to the Beeb. I make no claim to them. I’m just here to have fun.
Summary: Rose and the Doctor walk away from Bad Wolf Bay, facing a new life that neither of them could ever have imagined. Where to begin?
Rose watched the TARDIS -- her Doctor -- disappear, the grinding of the time rotor fading against the sound of the wind and surf of Bad Wolf Bay. Her chest tightened as she watched it go, the walls closing one last time. Even as her heart twisted with the TARDIS' departure, she could still feel the sensation of the Doctor's lips on hers, the jolt of his solid body against her. It felt like a betrayal even though it wasn't. A hand took hers: the Doctor's hand, large and warm and sure. Once the TARDIS was gone, truly gone and silent, she looked up at the Doctor, her new Doctor. His gaze was dark, serious. Strange to see an expression she knew so well on her first Doctor's face here now, on this new man -- this new man, not Time Lord.
Wordlessly, they turned and walked toward Jackie. Rose reached out her hand; her mother took it. The three of them fell into step together and walked as one down the strand.
Near sunset, they found a motel in a tiny beach-side hamlet built on the tourist trade, if the boutiques and souvenir shops lining the streets were any indication. They didn't need Norwegian--the motel clerk spoke English, enough at least to understand they wanted three rooms; he only had two. Jackie retreated as quickly as she could, saying she'd attend to the travel arrangements to get them back to England. As she watched her mother enter her room and shut the door behind her, Rose couldn't have been more grateful, or more terrified. Part of her wanted to jump the Doctor right there; part of her wanted to retreat with her mother to sort things out.
The Doctor motioned toward the door to their left.
"Shall we?" he asked.
Rose stepped toward the door. She slid the card key in and out of the door lock. A little light over the doorknob flashed green. She pushed the door open and went in. The Doctor paused, then followed.
They hadn't spoken during their long walk back to civilization. For once, Jackie had sense enough to be quiet. Rose found herself speechless at the enormity of what had occurred. Her thoughts had been jumbled as they'd walked back together. Grief, elation, confusion, desire: a mad, whirling storm inside her. And she had no idea at all what the Doctor was thinking.
He left me so he could stay with me, she'd thought as they walked down the beach. He's here. He's real. He's mine. Forever. Those words, that idea, made her look at him as they walked. He smiled--a sort of half-smile. Was he unsure? She suddenly felt shy. All that wanting, all that grieving, had come to this: the two of them walking down a beach toward a future rapidly reshaping itself in ways Rose could never have truly hoped for.
But as they walked, Rose found herself turning that future over and over again in her mind. What would he do here, stranded on Earth, no TARDIS, no sonic screwdriver, no escape? Who was he without the things that seemed to define him? Did he want to escape? Who was he now? Who was she?
The room Jackie had secured for them had two queen beds -- which left them options -- a small bathroom, a chest for clothes, and a curtained set of sliding doors that revealed a view of the beach. The sea spread toward the twilit horizon. As Rose stood at the window, she heard the hotel room door shut, and soon felt hands on her hips, the Doctor standing close behind her.
"Rose Tyler, struck dumb. I should mark the date," he said close to her ear. She could hear the smile in his voice.
"What about you?" she replied, unable to keep herself from smiling but keeping her gaze firmly out the window. "You haven't said a word." She wasn't sure what she wanted him to say, after he'd said the one thing she'd wanted to hear more than any other. The intimacy of his touch, of him so close set her heart beating. Why was she feeing so shy, so unsure?
Because everything had changed. Everything.
He leaned down, wrapped his arms around her waist, kissed the left side of her neck then nuzzled her with his nose. She couldn't help but lean back into that embrace, enjoying the moment, one more nightly fantasy realized--shot through with uncertainty.
"We should talk," he said, his breath tickling her skin, sending shivers through her. The touch was familiar, the intimacy all she had ever wished for -- but this Doctor, this man, was a stranger--part Donna, part the Doctor.
"Doesn't feel like talking," she said without hesitation, almost smiling, calling up an old conversation that had become a mantra between them after their first adventure with Jack. The familiarity was comforting. He tightened his embrace around her, then let her go.
"You're right," he said. He took her hand and drew her to the only place there was to sit: one of the beds. Rose folded one leg beneath her as she settled on the corner of the nearest one. He let go of her hand and sat down on the other. She suddenly realized that she needed the space. He probably did, too.
"I know what you're thinking," he said. "I'm not him."
Rose looked down at her hands in her lap; he was right, of course. "Yeh," she said, embarrassed by her transparency.
"As long as there's a 'him,' there will never be an 'us,'" he continued.
She looked up at him then, seeing the truth in his eyes. How quickly he'd come to the point. The old Rose, the Rose she'd been before she'd met the Doctor so long ago, would have rolled her eyes and smiled in relief at a man who didn't beat around the bush. But now, cutting to the quick the way he'd done, it was painful.
"I asked you, on the beach, I said, 'I've only got one life, Rose Tyler. I could spend it with you. If you want.'"
Rose opened her mouth to speak, but the Doctor raised his hand. "No, don't. Don't make a promise you don't know if you can keep." Rose closed her mouth. He was right. "All I ask is this: Let's take it step by step. See who we are now. I've got . . . so much to figure out. I need to learn how to be human."
She smiled then. "Less than you think."
He smiled, too. Rose delighted in that look, the unabashed arrogance that she found so appealing.
"Well, no one's perfect," he said. For a moment it felt right. And then his smile was gone. "I do need a teacher, a guide. It's a whole new life." He leaned forward then, elbows on knees, his gaze boring into hers. "I said it on the beach, and it's true. I love you, Rose. I want to try -- if you do."
Rose's heart filled. There it was again: an old expression on a new face. That naked need, that cry for one light in the darkness.
"One step at a time," she said. "We can do that. We can try."
This time, when the Doctor smiled, it wasn't that wide, cheeky grin, but rather a gentle smile. "Good. I'll get your mum. Leave you two to sort things out."
He got up then and headed for the door.
"Wait!" she said, before he could grab the doorknob. She got up, walked to him, and put her arms around him. He embraced her. "One step at a time," she whispered. "Yes."