Pairing: Rose Tyler/The Doctor
Fic Title: Postcards to Gallifrey
Rating/Warning(s): PG / none
Genre: Alternate Universe, Romance
Why This Must Be Read: Five different snapshots of the Doctor and Rose's life on Earth after the TARDIS breaks down as they learn to live life the slow way, from day to day. The author's prose is just gorgeous and almost heartbreaking in a way. Rose and the Doctor are by far my favorite TV couple, and this story really does them justice.
She wakes, one morning in the false dawn of the early morning, to find herself alone. He does this occasionally, going out walking while the ground is still covered in its blanket of mists; his restlessness needing an outlet. But she hears a strange noise, rhythmic and sharp in the cool air. So she wraps her dressing gown around her, puts the kettle on, and goes off, over the field that is their back garden. The TARDIS, against the back wall of the house, is silent and empty, so she goes on. Finally, down on the stream on the far edge of the garden, she identifies the source of the sound, from the little shed that she never paid much attention to, before now.
He’s just taken something out of the little fire that’s hot enough to warm the entire space. Rose comes in cautiously, watching the sparks fly up from the hammer blows. As she watches, he makes some mistake, apparent by his incomprehensible swearing. He looks up, noticing her and stopping dead. “Oh, um,” he looks away, at the scene she’s walked into, “hi.”
Rose enters properly, and he goes into action, turning down the gas of the forge and taking the cherry-red metal with the tongs into the trough of water, where it lays, hissing. Soon, the forge is quiet, the heat slowly escaping into the cool air. “What are you making?”
“Oh, nothing really. Just messing around a bit,” he replies, not really answering.
She steps forward, asking again. He doesn’t look at her when he speaks. “Nothing important. Just something pretty perhaps, I was thinking it could be, I dunno, trinket or something.”
She doesn’t ask again, but the question hangs in the air between them. His expression, his mask, slips just a little. He shakes his head, turns away, because Rose knows what’s going on. “We didn’t have the parts,” she says quietly, an echo from the past.
He nods, and she gets it. He’s trying to make the parts they need; parts that won’t be invented for a couple of hundred years, at the least on this planet, if at all. There’s something else that she realizes, something that needs to be said. “It isn’t going to work, is it?”
The Doctor doesn’t have to answer, because they both know she’s right. She’s staring at his back, because he won’t face her and she won’t force him to. She asks the question that’s been chasing her, for a while now. “Is this my fault?”
Puzzlement finally gets him to glance at her. “What do you mean?”
She realizes that the question is confusing, and rephrases. “Why are you doing this? Not the metal,” she waves a hand, encompassing the little workshop, “but the house. The living a life, day after day. Are you doing this because of me?”
He turns the question back around on her. “Why do you leave when I do? Why don’t you stay?”
She blinks, thinking about it. “I told you, when,” she stops, “when they left; that I wasn’t going to leave you.”
That’s not good enough for him. “But that was when I could show you the universe, every planet in the cosmos. Anywhere in the whole of time and space. When the TARDIS worked properly,” he adds quietly.
“You think I stayed for the stars?” She asks.
And there it is; the thing that’s been there all along. He turns to face her, full on. “Are you ever going to leave me?” His tone is neutral, as if he has no opinion on the matter; still trying to keep that mask.
She tilts her head, watching him, waiting for the facade to crack again, wanting to get under there. “Do you want me to?”
The Doctor can’t answer that, he just can’t. It’d be against the rules, to tell her the truth, to tell her that, other than a crippled TARDIS, she’s all he has left. That, if she left, he’d go on, of course, but there would always be a part of him with her. And even that’s against the rules, he realizes. He’s loved every companion that he’s had, all of them the same. But Rose, Rose has wormed her way into his very being, become so much a part of him, more than any other.
“Do you want me to leave?” She asks again. “Because, if you do,” she hesitates, weighing the truth of her statement, “I would. If that’s what you wanted.”
He doesn’t give her a straight answer, not that she’s exactly expecting one. “Do they matter anymore? All those rules and codes that I scorned for so many years.” She realizes he’s talking about Gallifrey, and keeps silent. “Does it really matter now?”
She doesn’t have an answer for him, and he keeps talking. “There were rules I followed, you know,” he tells her, gazing at something so far beyond this place she can barely comprehend. “I was a renegade, a rule breaker,” he says, without the pride that once would have been there, “in everything but this.” He looks back down at her.
Somehow, without either of them noticing the exact moment, he isn’t hiding anymore, not from her. “I don’t want you to leave. But someday, you’re going to want to. When that day comes- I don’t want to keep you where you don’t want to be.”
She scoffs a little. “Yeah, but what have I got to go back to?”
Because she doesn’t have a family to go home to anymore. The Doctor flinches, because he feels that her decision is his fault. “And that’s what I chose,” she says, just a little sadly.
He wants to ask her if she thinks she made the right choice, but he’s afraid. He can face down demons and Daleks and anything the universe can throw at him. But he’s not brave enough to ask her that question. He doesn’t take this chance, though the dialogue is one that never really goes away between the two of them. Rose turns. “I put the kettle on for tea,” she says simply.
The Doctor nods, letting go of the previous thread of conversation. They have tea, at four in the morning, and watch the sun rise in a slow creep of light across the land. It’s too early for Rose still, so she goes back to bed.