Chapter 1: Impossible (Is Just A Word)
‘I’m still just an image. No touch.’
You hear him, knowing he means it’s impossible, but don’t care. He calls so many things impossible that end up being the precise opposite; until you can prove it’s true this time, you’re choosing to ignore him.
So you continue to move your arm towards his face, hand outstretched — and find, as you cup his cheek with your right hand and watch his eyes flutter closed as he leans into your touch, you’d been right to disbelieve him. The next thing you know his arms are around you, holding you against him in a hug fiercer and tighter than any he’s ever given you before. And then, just as you are beginning to relax into his embrace, he pulls away from you; his eyes are wild as he starts babbling some nonsense about how he’d ‘kissed it all out of her’ in a hoarse, rough voice you’ve never heard from him before.
He seems close to breaking down as his hands move to caress your face; in fact, the tone he uses begging you to ‘let go of it, Rose, please; let go. For me?’ sounds choked with tears.
The words sound strange, even to you; they echo in your head and seem to come from somewhere outside of you. You can do nothing but watch as the Doctor’s eyes go wide in terror.
His voice sounds very calm to your ears but you know him well enough to hear the betraying waver in it telling you he’s scared for you. And then you answer him, speaking once again in that voice from another world:
‘She said to you she’d never leave you. I am but the means by which she’ll keep her promise.’
What the hell that is supposed to mean is anybody’s guess; but if it means you never have to be apart from him again, if it means you can have a proper stab at ‘for ever’, you’re willing to give it a damn good go. You can’t stay at home with your mum all your life, after all. Nobody does that. You’d said your good-byes before you even stepped foot on this beach, so confident were you you’d be going home. There’s nothing holding you here any more.
And he’s kept his promise. He said once he’d never leave you behind, and even if he seems gobsmacked by how things are turning out, he seems to be recovering already.
He’s kept his promise. It’s more than time for you to keep yours.
For you, to think is to do; you hold out your hand to your Doctor, watch him take it while his worried eyes never leave your face. And then he is lunging for you with his other hand, obviously able to see something in your face. The last thing you are aware of before losing consciousness is of him catching you as you fall.
When you wake again, the first things you see are a much-missed glowing light neither altogether green nor altogether gold, and your Doctor’s worried face looking down.
‘Rose. My brilliant Rose. What have you done?’
Chapter 2: An Image Passing By
The Doctor’s POV.
The chapter title is from the ABBA song My Love, My Life.
You’ve tried everything you can think of to break through in a way that won’t cause impossible-to-fix problems, but you’ve failed every time. It’s been agony. When, at last, you find a minuscule gap between the Universes that’s large enough to let you send a message through, you feel conflicted even as your hearts leap with joy. You’re getting the chance to see her again, even if it is only to say good-bye.
You don’t know how long the transmission will hold; you think you have a good few minutes, but the connection’s ropey enough you can’t bank on it. Best not to take too many chances.
And here she is.
The sight of her proves enough for you to stop worrying about the transmission for a moment and shift your whole attention to her. Light for your darkness; a cliché, yes, but a cliché is a cliché because it’s true. She’s a welcome sight. You babble on for a few seconds about supernovas, throwing the bit about ‘good-bye’ in as casually as you can, hoping she doesn’t notice it immediately. Let us have this much, at least.
‘You look like a ghost.’
Do you? You’ve no way of knowing what the projection looks like; there’s already been a large amount of jiggery-pokery to get this far in the first place, and you don’t know how much more fiddling with it will take. But for her…
You fumble for the sonic, change its setting, and aim it at the console. It seems to work, because she doesn’t mention it again. You’re just glad you can at least appear solid even if in reality things are rather different. And you stand there and drink her in with your eyes as she walks towards you.
Oh, you’ve missed her. You manage a half-smile for her; the first in a while, it flickers across your mouth and is gone in almost no time at all, and you don’t want to take your eyes off her for a second. You can’t remember how long it’s taken to manage this, but it was a bloody long time in the making; it’s been too long since you’ve seen her, and this will be your last chance. It’s very much not an ideal situation, but you’ll have to make the most of it.
Your eyes lock with hers, every fibre of you attuned to her.
‘Can I t—?’
That’s one of the few things you can’t give her. She wants to touch you, of course she does; the two of you are such a tactile couple you couldn’t go more than a few minutes without touching each other. It’s been so long for you, and the ability to touch her is second only in your list of desires to the ability to bring her home. You crave it, it’s almost a physical need by now, but you can’t; the knowledge is bitter. Knowing you need to tell her as much, too, hurts even more. Your next words sound almost as if they’d been dragged out of you, so reluctant are you to tell her what you must.
‘I’m still just an image. No touch.’
She blinks at that, and you wonder if she believes you; the fact she doesn’t lower her hand but keeps moving it towards his face answers the question and you brace yourself for what you know will happen: her hand will literally go right through the image of you.
Or so you’d thought.
When you first feel the hand cupping your face, the fact it ought to be impossible doesn’t factor into your response; you let your eyes close as you lean into it, the feel of it sending familiar electricity through him. Instinct takes over, and you wrap your arms around her waist, pulling her against you in a hug unlike any you’d given before. Where did this second chance come from?
And then your brain kicks in.
This is supposed to be impossible. The whole point of this exercise is for you to say good-bye to Rose, because you can’t bring her back to you and she couldn’t ever see you again. And you certainly aren’t supposed to be able to touch her at all. You’re grateful for it, Chaos knows, but still...
Then, just as quickly as you’d pulled her into a rough and desperate embrace, your mind provides you with a possible answer and the shock of it made you pull back from her and look up into her face. And there it is, just as your brilliant mind had suspected: that swirling, shining gold in her eyes is doing the impossible and quite possibly killing her into the bargain.
‘Oh no,’ you gasp, in a hoarse and rough voice. ‘No, no, no; I kissed it all out of her. I died for her!’
It’s supposed to be gone. Where’s it come from? This is worse than you’d imagined; is losing her not enough? Are you going to be forced to watch her die, too? You feel close to breaking down as you move your hands as if to caress her face; you can’t remove it from where you are. Your only hope is to get her to relinquish it of her own volition. How you’re going to manage that, you have no ide— no, no, wait a minute, you do have an idea that might just work:
‘Rose, my love, listen to me. It’s all right. I’m here. I’m here, and I swear I’ll never leave you. But it’ll kill you; let go of it, Rose, please; let go. For me?’
You’re close to losing control; your throat is closing over, choked full of tears, and your eyes hurt. For a moment, you think it worked. Only a moment, though.
You stare at her as you listen to a voice you’d never thought you’d hear again. The words sound strange, but familiar; they bring memories of the last time you’d been parted, seemingly for ever. The echoes of that time frighten you. Not for your own sake – you’ll be fine, you can regenerate – but for her. For Rose. You can feel your eyes go wide in terror as you realise there’s nothing you can do about it at all.
You fight for and retain control of your voice, which panic threatens to overcome; when you speak, you sound calm. You hope she doesn’t pay enough attention to hear the waver in it betraying how scared for her you are.
Your attention is wholly on her when she speaks again, still in the tone that terrifies you:
‘She said to you that she’d never leave you. I am but the means by which she’ll keep her promise.’
You can’t bear to hope. You’ve always known the risks involved in loving Rose; you’d outlive her, by far, and the idea of letting somebody that close to you and then losing them terrifies you. Now the Bad Wolf, for you don’t doubt for a second that this is what you’re dealing with, implies you and Rose will have for ever. You long for it with every part of you, but you don’t believe it. You’ve been let down too often to willingly let yourself believe quite so easily.
My Rose. I kept my promise. I didn't leave you behind. As if I ever could.
You can see her holding her hand out to you; your eyes never leave hers as you reach to take it, interlacing your fingers with hers. Then, looking closer at her face, you frown before lunging for her when she appears to lose consciousness; catching her as she falls is easy.
You lower her gently to the ground, ground that bears a suspicious resemblance to the grille of the TARDIS console room. You don’t need to see the green-gold glow to know where you are. Instead, you slide down beside her and pull her gently back into your arms, and sit there holding her until she wakes up. Déjà vu, you think, but damned if you’ll leave her now.
This is how the first things the woman you love sees when she wakes are that familiar green-gold glow and your face, with concern and worry and all the love you hold for her written all over it, looking down at her.
As she tries to smile up at you, you grin down at her and hug her gently.
‘Rose,’ you say. ‘My brilliant Rose. What have you done?’