Rose's Christmas Carol

Part I

"It will get easier over time", they said. "Time heals many wounds", they said.
No, it doesn't, if it gets hurt, it collapses and takes everything with it., Rose thought bitterly and took the bend to her parents' house.
As much as she loved them, she'd rather been alone today. Maybe go to work tomorrow. Anything to distract her from Christmas and - most of all - remembering.
"Oh no, I'm not lettin' you mope around in your flat, all by yourself, on Christmas!", Jackie had said sternly, thinking she'd do her daughter a favour. Rose had given in at the end, tired of fighting back.

But how was her mum to know that being with her on Christmas would hurt more than being alone? How was she to know that Rose felt ashamed to be with her family, after she'd been so ready to leave them behind? She couldn't know what Rose had told the Doctor after she'd crossed over and how sure she had been.

Still, he was gone. Another evening, another day, another night without him.
Rose stopped her car and leaned her head against the steering-wheel for a moment, exhaling slowly, gathering herself.
The radio was playing "Last Christmas" again. Rose huffed.
"Last Christmas I gave you my heart", George Michael sang. "The very next day, you gave it away."

Last Christmas, she thought, I woke up crying and catatonically sat in mum's kitchen two days straight. Rose ignored the tears gathering in her eyes.

'You saw me. I changed, right in front of you...'

No. Not again. With a bit-back sob, Rose pushed herself back and gathered her things in a sudden rush of newfound angry energy and dragged herself out into the cold along the frontyard.
Her feeble fingers pressed the doorbell.
"Dad, it's me!"

'Every single cell in my body. But ... I'm still me.'

Rose shook her head, as if she could get rid of his voice, wondering if it would ever stop. The door opened and Rose tried not to think about the other failed launch of the dimension cannon.
She let Pete hug her and for a moment, she didn't manage to hide her emotions behind a smile. Her father laid a hand on her shoulder and smiled sympathetically, almost apologetic. He'd been there when the launch had failed for the umpteenth time, he'd been the one to drag her out when, in a moment of one of her rare breakdowns because the frustration and grief and exhaustion took over, she had been weeping and hitting and screaming soundlessly.

Rose gathered up a tight smile at her dad and then pushed through the door into the living room.
"Rosie!", the voice of a child squealed and Rose couldn't help but crack a smile when she gathered her little brother in her arms. "Hey, Tony.", she crooned softly and stroked his curly-haired head. "You okay? Did you and mummy decorate the tree yet?"
"Mummy said wait on you, Rosie!", Tony replied happily. "'m helped choosing the tree!"
Rose's eyes flickered over to the tree, boxes set beside it.

'Remote control. But who's controlling it?'
"Oh, did you? Well, you did a brilliant job, it's beautiful! Best tree I've ever seen!", Rose praised and Tony giggled when she threw him up in the air a little. His little arms clung around her neck when he came down again.
"So, you wanna get started?"
"Yeah!", Tony exclaimed and wobbled away when his sister let him down again.

"Let's just call mummy and then we'll -"

Rose broke off when she suddenly faced her mother who stood in the door of the kitchen, a wooden spoon still in her hand. Rose knew she'd insist on cooking herself for Christmas and that she'd given the entire staff off for the holidays. She didn't even have time to do anything and Jackie wrapped her arms around her daughter with a soft call of her name.
"Thank you.", she whispered into her ear, just loud enough for Rose too hear and the young woman swallowed the lump in her throat as she pulled back.
Jackie smiled and took a step back, taking in Rose's tired, dull eyes and the attempt to hide the bags under her eyes with make-up, her pale skin and the harshness of her once so soft lips.
Rose tried to ignore the flash of pity and sadness in her mother's eyes when she said quickly: "You look good, Rose."

'First things first ... be honest. How do I look?'
Rose ducked her head. "Thanks."

'Good different or bad different?'
Her eyes swam back into focus when Tony tugged her sleeve.
"Rosie, can we start?"
She forced a grin on her lips. "Sure." Quietly, just for herself, she whispered: "Allons-y."

Jackie's gaze had barely left Rose's face the whole evening.
Eyeing her carefully, she catched her daughter throw a quick glance at the door for the twenty first time. She seemed restless, looking at the door every now and then, as if she was waiting for something. Jackie could only have a faint guess and sadly pushed the thought away.
A year and a half had passed now and still Rose couldn't let go. Pete kept telling his wife about the launches and Jackie knew about Rose's latest "breakdown", he'd called it. She thought these had been over; she knew it still was bad but she didn't know it was that bad.
Not even two years had gone by, after all. She hadn't expected her daughter to move on quickly and would have rather been worried if she'd found her daughter back at her old self in just a few months.

Still, there was this constant layer of sadness in her eyes, deep down. Past the faked smile and the touched-up teint and the bright red lipstick she was wearing now. Under that mask, it was easy to see it in her eyes. The grief, exhaustion. The weariness. Drained. Rose looked drained. Depressed. Empty. the longer Jackie looked at her, the more she couldn't help but think that maybe Rose would never really heal.
Because maybe her Rose, the old Rose Tyler, had stayed on the other side.
Behind the void, in the TARDIS, with the Doctor.

Rose perked up when she heard the rattle of porcelain and quickly she jumped up.
"Oh, mum, let me."
Her mum smiled. "Thanks. Be a dear and get some more potatoes."
"Sure, hang on a mo'."
Rose got up, took the bowl and made her way into the kitchen, a warm smell of turkey still in the air.

'Back to your mum. It's all waiting - fish and chips, sausages and mash, beans on toast - no, Christmas, turkey!'

Rose set the bowl on the counter, sighing. Quickly, she scanned the cooking plate in search for the mashed potatoes - when something suddenly caught her eyes' attention. A round plate, covered by an aluminium layer.
"Oh, and I think we're ready for the nut loaf, too!", her mum called from the dining table and Rose tried not to fall apart as she made her way through the kitchen towards the door, still staring down on the plate she held in her trembling hands.

'Although ... having met your mother ... nut loaf would be more appropriate.'
The plate slid out of her hands and crashed on the cold tiles.
And that was when Rose gave up. That was when she just couldn't take it anymore, the moment she let the tears run freely down her cheeks.
She barely even felt the shattered pieces of porcelain and crumbles of loaf around her when she slowly sank down, clutching the wood of the door frame.
That was how Jackie found her seconds later when she heard the crash.
Rose sat on the floor, sobbing violently, her face screwed up as she constantly whispered a single word she felt like drowning.

"Oh God, Rose!"

'Rose Tyler ...'

The voice of her mother was mixing with the one in her head and it made her crumble. Rose felt hands drag her up and she curled up on the floor, wanting nothing more than to just lie there and cry herself out.
Jackie crouched down next to her and after a while she managed to pull Rose into her arms and then Rose clung to her like a drowning man to a lifesaver.
"Rose ... Rose, what's wrong? Rose ..."
Rose opened her mouth to talk, but no sound came out, no word of how tired she was and how much she missed him and that she wished she could just leave. She let herself be picked up and led to the living room where she was sat down, still weeping because everything was missing and she felt so out of place.

Nobody touched her in ten minutes.
Jackie shook her head when Tony wanted to run to his sister and picked him up in her arms.
"What's wrong with Rose, Mummy?"
"She just ... she just misses her friend, sweetheart.", Jackie replied softly and Tony asked if she meant the Doctor but broke off when Rose let out a whimper at the mention of his name and hid her face in her hands. He'd never seen his sister cry.
It was not until five minutes later that Rose had calmed down to a level she could talk. She looked up at Jackie with red, tear - stained eyes and whispered:

"I ... I ..."
"What, sweetheart, what is it?"

Jackie sat down next to her and Rose clasped her hands in front of her mouth, holding back a sob.

"I miss him, I m-miss him so much."
Jackie looked at her daughter and felt her heart break.

"I know, sweetheart, me too." She pulled her into her arms. "Me too ..."
Rose let herself be held and hid herself in the warmth of her mother's arms and finally gave in. And then all the words suddenly started flowing out of her mouth, unstoppable now and she wasn't able to take them back or hold them in.

"I just keep waiting, I keep thinking he'll burst through that door any second, I, I keep w-waiting for him to walk in bec .. because he promised, he ..." She drew a deep shaking breath, the tears still hadn't stopped and another sob escaped her when she pulled out her her mother's arms, her own arms helplessly by her side.

"He said he'd be here.", Rose whispered then, half sobbing. "He said he ..."
She broke off and wiped her eyes but it only left her eyes stinging.

"And nothing works, nothing ever works, I've been trying for - for months I've been trying to get back to him, but it doesn't ... and I'm sorry, I'm so sorry because I keep hurting you, I tried to be okay, I really did, but it, I can't, can't ... be ..."
"I know, Rose, I know.", Jackie said softly and took her hand but Rose slipped hers out of her grip.

"It's okay." Jackie's voice, too, was trembling but she continued: "It's okay to be heartbroken and no one expects you to live up to any expectations, you need to take your time."
Rose said nothing and just sat there, crying quietly, staring into space.
Time, she thought, that's the problem.

Much later, hours after the dinner and after Tony had been brought to bed, Rose still sat on the couch in the living room.
It was way after midnight and the radio started to annoy her but she just couldn't be bothered to get up; also because she feared her legs would give up on the Rose sat alone, listening to 'Merry Christmas' for the fourth time.

She hated it.
Oh, how she hated Christmas.
" ... and a happy new year!"

But it was never a new year, not ever a new new year, ever again.
It was just another year, another year without him.

Rose knew nights like these. Nights like these, when she'd sat alone in the tiny kitchen of her new flat between the still uppacked boxes and reconsidered her resolution not to drink. The nights she remembered she had forgotten her important meeting at work. The nights she cried herself to sleep because she missed her life and just couldn't fix this gaping hole inside of her. The nights she spent on her computer looking up flights to places she'd never go because she needed to leave but also couldn't do it without him. Nights where she felt like drowning and like the walls of her flat seemed to move in closer and closer until they crushed her between them.
But most of all, the nights that were just so bloody lonely.

She wondered how she could feel so lonely just because of missing one person.
Rose thought of the Doctor and wanted to cry, but her eyes stayed dry. She hoped with all her heart he was better. Better than her and not falling back into his darkness. She thought of the picture she imagined every day, every time she launched another test, the Doctor sitting alone in the TARDIS, his brown eyes dull and empty, face unmoved. Lonely. She didn't want that, she never wanted him to be lonely.

Rose felt her heart skip a beat when she started up out of all sudden. Everything was absolutely silent. The radio had stopped. 'Finally', her first thought, then: 'Why's that?'
Slowly Rose got up.
Really, the screen of the radio was dark and empty. And then another noise started. The one sound in the whole universe she had yearned for. Tearing her apart, ripping her soul in half - with a gasp, she stumbled back and her hands gripped the edge of the table. For a moment her heart stopped.
It couldn't be.
Part of her was aching to take a second look, the other part of her didn't want to because she feared it might have been another daydream of her, the trick of an eye and the melody of her lonely heart playing the wooshing sounds of her home in the back of her mind. Finally, Rose forced herself to look into the darkness a second time.

There, in the dark backyard of the Tyler manison ... stood the TARDIS.

Rose froze, her heart beating faster than ever before, throwing itself against her ribcage as if it wanted to flee.
But she couldn't be sure until she had touched it, until she hadn't been inside of -
"Rose?", a voice - oh, how she wished this wasn't a dream because this was all it could be - called behind her.
Rose turned around, almost sure to see nothing because it was another nightmare after all and she was so angry at her own memory for giving her such an accurate imitation of his voice.
She tried to fight the urge to cry when she saw the tall, slim figure stand in the door, pinstripes and all. Her heart stopped as it was torn apart and then she started crying and her legs took a stumbling step forward, then another, another, yet another and by the time she reached him she had thrown every care away. It had to be real. This time it was.

Doctor. The Doctor. Oh, my Doctor.
And then, Rose Tyler stopped in front of the Doctor.

Part II

The Doctor thought he might break as he saw her standing there, face turned away from him, by the window looking out into the garden.
Her name escaped his lips in a whisper but it felt loud enough to be a scream. And it tumbled off his lips a second time when she suddenly started moving and he felt his legs carry him in her direction, and suddenly he was running towards her and all the times he's been running in the past year suddenly get clear because really, he'd always been running back to her.
Her name felt like a prayer on his lips when she stopped and reached out a hand, lips agape in awe and glistening with tears. No words came over them as she moved them, soundlessly repeating the same words from the goddamn beach.
'Can I t-'

"Rose.", he breathed again and hungrily scanned her face with eager eyes, taking it all in and it broke his hearts a second time when he realised how broken she looked. It devastated him how much she matched him.
And yet he couldn't wipe the broad grin off of his face and his sight blurred when her fingers brushed his cheek.

Rose choked back a sob and instead of pulling her hand back, she took his face in both of her hands.
"Oh God, oh God, it's you.", she sobbed and he nodded thickly, still grinning under her trembling touch.

"Yeah - yes, it's me." His voice broke.
God, his voice.
Rose's eyes plunged into his and the Doctor felt like drowning, it had been too long, too damn long and the smile blossoming on her lips was all the validation he needed.

The Doctor pulled her close in the same moment that Rose flung her arms around him and then both were trembling, melting against each other.
Minutes could have passed, whole eternities, for all they could care. Time stood still and all the Doctor heard was the erratic beating of their joined heartbeats and the sound of her breathless sobs into his neck. He hadn't stopped whispering her name over and over again and clutched her even tighter to him.
And then Rose pulled back, only so much so she could look at his face and couldn't stop grinning. The Doctor's own eyes were red and still wet from tears and slowly, Rose raised her hands and gently wiped away the stray tears.
The Doctor let out a breathless chuckle and couldn't quite believe his luck.
Rose continued stroking his cheek and finally managed to whisper:

"I missed you."
His voice was rasp and thick from tears, a rough whisper when he spoke.

"Quite right, too.", he offered and both chuckled at the irony.

"How long?", Rose asked quietly and smiled when now the Doctor reached out to gently wipe away her tears, his fingers so soft and careful as if he was afraid she might break under his hands.

"Two years.", he told her, not quite finding his voice yet.
Rose's heart was still drumming violently and she wondered if she would ever catch her breath. Her fingers slowly brushed down his face and rested on the pinstriped lapels of his suit. A trembling smile grew on her lips as she stroked her hands over the ever same material, and it felt like nothing had changed.

"Two and a half.", she told him then, meeting his eyes again.
She almost gasped when the intensity of his stare hit her. The Doctor looked at her and cracked a light, apologetic smile, feeling new tears rise in his throat at her words, at hearing how long he had left her here.

"I'm sorry I didn't make it ealier."
His voice was quiet, almost inaudible and Rose leaned closer as he leant down, his breath prickling on her skin and it felt like home when she rested her forehead against his.

"Why now?", she asked after a while, searching his eyes again, her hand finding his scruffy cheek again.
The Doctor smiled like he hadn't in a long, long time now.

"Consider it a Christmas present."
For a moment, they just stared at each other.
And then Rose laughed. It bubbled up in her chest and then burst out of her, leaving her breathless and she startes crying again because there were too many emotions at once and the Doctor joined in with a breathless, happy, disbelieving chuckle as Rose buried her head in his chest, muffling her laughter and soon her sobs. Smiling sadly, he pressed a lingering kiss on the crown of her hair and wrapped his arms around her, holding her steady against him as she cried.
Rose didn't even know why she was crying. But she felt overwhelmed with everything and now he gave her a stupid answer like that. God, how she had missed this. How she'd missed him.

"Rose?", she heard the Doctor mumble into her hair after some time when she'd calmed down again.
She hummed against his chest, hiding her teary smile in his oxford.
The Doctor rested his face on her head and closed his eyes, breathing her in.

"I love you.", he finally told her with a smile and he felt so, so relieved.
The words barely left his mouth when Rose froze in his arms.
Slowly, she pulled back. Stared at him with wide, still tear - stained eyes. And for a moment she thought she hadn't quite heard him.

"Say that again.", she requested numbly, her voice a mere whisper.
A slow smile spread on the Doctor's face and he lowered his head to whisper into her ear:

"Rose Tyler ... I love you."
He pulled back, his smile never faltering. Rose closed her eyes, her face suddenly just a few inches away from his.

"Again", she whispered and without wasting another breath, the Doctor gently grabbed her face with both of his hands and closed the gap between them and kissed her. Softly first and ever-so-slow, but then her soft lips started moving against his and Rassilon, he felt himself lose control. His hands wandered down to her shoulders, roaming them as she fisted her hands in his hair and a sigh escaped his lips when she partened her lips.
Instinctively, Rose wrapped her arms around his neck as the Doctor pulled her to him by the waist, drawing her closer still and she would have lost her balance had she not held on to his neck.

"Again", she breathed against his lips as they both gasped for air and the Doctor smirked, his eyes still closed.
Rose escaped a chuckle as he started to pepper her face with kisses, repeating the same three words between each kiss.
When he reached her lips he ran a thumb across them and slowly pressed his lips on them again, suddenly tasting salt. Surprised, he pulled back and discovered her crying, still smiling.
With a soft, loving smile he brushed a thumb across both of her cheeks, so relieved to finally being able to do this, the feeling of desperation when he couldn't that day at the beach still lingering inside of him.

"Something went wrong, don't you think?", he whispered hoarsely. "All I did today so far was making you cry."
Rose chuckled and shook her head, leaning back into him.

"'s alright.", she mumbled and sniffed a little. After a pause she looked back up at him. The Doctor felt one of his hearts skip a beat when she gave him one of his beloved signature grins, tongue poking out between teeth that alone made him feel like he could fly without a TARDIS. "I can give you one or two ideas of how to make it up to me."
He hummed happily and pulled her back against him.

"Mhh, I'm listening."

"Well, first, you could consider having a Plus One.", she replied, almost casually and the Doctor grinned brightly.

"Oh, you can count on that, Rose Tyler.", he breathed and released her from his arms, taking a small step back, her eyes on him the entire time. "But first ..."
He grinned and offered her a hand.
"Let's go home."