“I’ll leave you alone from now on if that’s what you want, is that what you want? You know why I’d leave you alone? Because I care about your feelings more than mine. I love you. There I said it, not just on some chalk board. I would never let anybody or anything hurt you. I’ve never felt that way about anyone.”
“But I think that my soul knew something that my mind and body didn’t know yet. It knew that our hands were meant to hold each others, fearlessly and forever, which is why it’s never really felt like I’ve been getting to know you, it’s always felt like I was remembering you from something.”
Not long after the sun burnt up, after drying his tears as best he could, the Doctor set his next coordinates.
They had to have a better ending.
He landed a block from the Powell Estates 64 days ago, waited behind a lorry until he saw Rose and his younger self leave their TARDIS and head toward Jackie’s flat. His adams apple bobbed as he watched them longingly, remembering the weight of her arm in his, the way her fingers clenched his jacket sleeve.
His eyes began to burn again as the two turned out of sight. Summoning the tattered scraps of his will power, the Doctor slipped inside their TARDIS.
Rose’s eyes were dry when she finally returned to her bedroom in Pete’s house; she’d cried all the tears she had.
All she wanted to do was sleep, to block out her new reality with unconsciousness, but despite her bone-deep exhaustion rest wouldn’t come.
So she set to work unpacking her bags, sorting her things into piles in order of usefulness in the universe that would forever be her home. Her eyelids finally grew heavy as she began to empty the sandy transdimensional pockets of her black leather jacket, but she couldn’t bear to stop now.
Beneath the TARDIS key, a broken bazoolium, and apple grass flavored chewing gum, Rose’s finger brushed against a sharp corner that nicked her skin.
It was a photo she had taken of the Doctor and herself as they cuddled together on a hill of an uninhabited planet, taking in its spectacular purple and amber sunset. The Doctor had gone on at length about the atmospheric makeup that caused these particular hues but Rose had largely tuned him out, choosing instead to focus on the feel of his chest behind her back, his arm around her shoulder.
Weeks later, while Rose was flipping through her photos, she realized the Doctor wasn’t looking at the sunset but gazing down at her. She was struck by how natural they looked, snuggling together, how contentedly she smiled at the camera, head resting in the gap between his shoulder and neck.
The photo had gone missing months ago, disappeared from the place she had tacked it on her bedroom wall. She had searched for hours, moving her furniture and pulling back carpets to no avail. The Doctor had promised they’d return, try to recapture the moment, but of course they never had.
But she had never put the photo in her jacket pocket. That much she was sure.
Rose’s furrowed brow smoothed in understanding as she turned the photo over.
A familiar heavy, rushed script was scrawled across the back; a combination of lean and angular letters that made Rose realize she had tears left to spill after all.
"I love you, too."