Well, this is my first writing foray into Doctor Who fanfiction. I've read a lot of stories and they've all inspired me to try my hand at it. :)

Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who. Period, dot, end of statement.

Grumbling, the Doctor got to his feet, brushing off the back of his pants, tugging his jacket back into position, and making sure his bowtie was still affixed correctly. Knowing it wouldn't do him any good to try to force his way back onto his cheeky ship, he instead sniffed at it and turned on his heel, wanting to storm away but not having enough anger to do so. After the loss of his Ponds, he'd moped about the TARDIS for quite a while, staying in the Vortex and railing against the unfairness of the universe. It wasn't a terribly uncommon thing for him to do when his companions were lost to anything other than their choice to leave (and even then he often pouted for a bit). Apparently, the TARDIS had grown tired of his "woe is me" attitude and took it upon herself to go somewhere and kick him out.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and kicked a rock along the ground as he exited the twilight of the alleyway into bright sunlight. Looking around, he saw all kinds of species wandering around the open air marketplace. Stalls lined either edge of the road, each one as unique as the next. Sellers hawked their wares and customers bargained for better prices. A large banner stretched across the street and proclaimed its welcome of the people to Edussu Fabit.

The Doctor sighed. Apparently the TARDIS thought that he needed to be around people again, and where better to go than a marketplace? Luckily for him, there was an unoccupied bench not too far away. Situated between two stalls that weren't open at the moment - one had a "for let" sign and the other had the equivalent of "out to lunch" - it was far back enough that it was glanced at and then passed over for a bench more socially inclined. He plopped onto it and decided that he'd brood for an hour or two. Hopefully, that would be long enough for the TARDIS and he could go back to what he was doing in the first place. He'd much rather brood in his ship instead of out in the open where anyone could walk up and ask him what was wrong.

Like now.

He didn't look at whoever it was that sat beside him, too annoyed that it had taken only seconds for his peace and quiet to be demolished by some well-meaning but ultimately useless person who decided to take pity on the broken-looking man sitting by himself. Automatically his mind began cataloguing the things he could tell without looking. Human, by the way the temperature had risen just slightly. Female, judging by the slight smell of hormones humans usually exuded. The faint smell and feel of Time… Wait, Time?

"Hello, Doctor."

No. It couldn't be.

"You're right. It couldn't be that me. That me's trapped in a parallel universe."

His mind was frozen, uncomprehending even as the cherished voice washed over his mind and a small hand took his.

"This is me before Canary Wharf. We came here right after the werewolf, remember?"

Her hand still fit perfectly in his. It always had. Even now, two bodies removed from the one she first met, it still felt like coming home. "I don't understand," he finally said. He still hadn't looked at her, too afraid that he was just hallucinating. A really vivid hallucination, mind, but still a hallucination.

"Not a hallucination, Doctor. It's really me."

"A hallucination would say that," he muttered. "This is the kind of trick my mind would play on me after losing more companions. Show me the one I lost who mattered most. Silly old Time Lord, imagining his friends were back with him again."

"Look at me."

It was an order, and as always, when Rose Tyler gave the Doctor an order he was helpless but to obey. Slowly, reluctantly, he turned his head. His eyes traveled up her body, memories beginning to filter through as details of his former visit resurfaced. There'd been a spot of trouble (well, maybe more than a spot, but really, they'd solved it in less than an hour) and they had enough time afterwards to browse the local market. As always, she disobeyed Rule Number One. Apparently, she wandered off to meet with his next regeneration.

When he reached her face, he gasped. It wasn't because this was the first glimpse he'd gotten of her face in over three hundred years (okay, so that was part of it - he'd forgotten just how beautiful she was); it was her eyes. They were golden - though not glowing - instead of the usual whiskey color he'd been so drawn to. Her smile turned into that tongue-in-teeth grin that he loved so much even as he gaped in astonishment. Without turning away from him, she pointed up. He followed the direction she was pointing and looked at the sign, where the words were morphing into a familiar phrase, one he hadn't seen since he last saw Rose in the Crucible.

"Edussu Fabit," Rose said, pronouncing the words effortlessly. "Means 'Bad Wolf' in Raxolian."

He continued to gape at her.

"Really Doctor," she said in what was almost a scold, "d'you think I didn't see what would happen on the Crucible?"

"But- but- what?" His head was spinning. "How are you talking to me? You should be burning if you looked into the Vortex again!"

"I didn't," she shrugged. "And I'm not burnin'. Got a bit of a headache, but I'll be okay for a little while. Bad Wolf's told me what I need to tell you." Her gaze suddenly hardened and her free hand came up, whipping across his face with a crack that made passersby wince in sympathy as their gazes scuttled to and then away from the pair on the bench. "I thought we'd been through the whole sendin' me away bit," she growled. "It's no good for you or me. You're rubbish on your own and you know it!"

That was… remarkably unfair. "I was trying to give you what you wanted!" the Doctor growled back. "One heart, a human lifespan. You wouldn't have to grow old and watch me stay the same. Well," he added sheepishly, seeing her raised eyebrow, "regeneration aside. Besides, I've been told I look like a twelve-year-old this time around, so there!"

"Well, can't disagree with that," she laughed. "Still. Did you ever ask me how long it'd been for me since the first time on the beach?"

What kind of a question was that? "Three years," he replied, confused. "That's what Mickey said."

"It was three years for Mickey," she agreed, "but it was way longer for me. I was the only one who used the dimension cannon at first. I wouldn't let anyone else go until we could land on this dimension's Earth every time. I made over a hundred jumps. And time doesn't flow the same in every dimension."

The Doctor buried his face in his hands. He'd never thought about that. He had noticed that she looked like she hadn't aged, but he chalked it up to refusal to see the signs because he (forgive the pun) was looking at her through rose-colored glasses. After that he hadn't had any time to dwell on it, what with the aborted regeneration and Davros and the DoctorDonna and everything. Even at the beach, he tried not to look at her too hard, knowing that the Metacrisis would tell her what he couldn't bring himself to say even then. "How long?" he asked softly, voice muffled by his hands.

Rose watched him sadly, placing a hand lightly on his back. "I was 43," she answered just as quietly. "I promised you forever, Doctor, and Bad Wolf made it happen. And you sent me away, just so you didn't have to watch me wither and die. James Noble died three years after the beach, and she's all alone now." Her voice was matter-of-fact. She wasn't trying to be cruel, he knew, but the words still hurt, reinforcing how selfish his actions had been. He hadn't even given her a choice, but left her on that beach and did what he did best: run. Tears that he didn't realize he could still shed filled his eyes, and he buried his face in the crook of Rose's neck as she embraced him tightly. He could feel a few of her own tears dropping on his head.

He didn't know how long they sat there on that bench. His time sense was nonexistent at the moment, mired as he was in his emotions. All he was aware of was the flush that spread across his face as he slowly sat back up and the soft smile on Rose's lips as she let go and dug in a pocket for a tissue. She handed it to him and became very interested in the goings-on of the people in the market, studiously ignoring the facial cleansing going on next to her.

A warm feeling stole through the Doctor's mind as he tossed the soggy tissue into a nearby bin. Something else that he'd missed when he left Rose behind - she just knew what to do when he was emotional. Amy was a close second, but Rose… She knew when he needed a moment to collect himself or when it was okay to sidle into his personal space and give him a shoulder to lean on. Most importantly, she knew when to push something and when to leave it alone. If he didn't know better, he'd think it was instinctive - very rarely had they ever clashed during a time like that due to a misstep on Rose's end.

"Bad Wolf didn't want me tellin' you about that just to make you upset, Doctor," Rose said, looking back at him and grasping his hand again. He gripped it tightly, memorizing the feel of her hand in this body's hand. "She wanted you to know because there's a way for me to get back. The TARDIS coral you gave to us only took a couple of years to grow. We were able to go on a few adventures, but Jonathan's mind burned after six months of being on our TARDIS. He knew it was happenin' and showed me how to contact another TARDIS in the other universe. Never knew if you would get it, though. Go back to Dårlig Ulv Stranden and you should be able to get the message and pull her TARDIS through to yours."

Before he even registered what he was doing, he had hauled Rose up against him and kissed her hard. She stiffened for a moment and then melted against him, one hand on his chest and the other threading through the hair at the back of his neck. He groaned slightly and let his own hands wander where they would. One came to rest at her waist, thumb stroking the strip of revealed skin lightly. The other stole up to her neck and rested against the comforting beat of her pulse. For the second time that day, the Doctor paid no attention to time, too busy basking in the first truly intimate contact he'd had with Rose in much too long.

Rose broke away first, needing to breathe, and even he was breathless, respiratory bypass or no. She put her forehead against his. "I have to go," she said reluctantly, not making any move to break away from the embrace. "My headache's gettin' worse. I need to get back to the TARDIS soon."

The Doctor leapt to his feet, nearly knocking her off the bench. "Well, let's go then!" he cried, extending a hand and waggling his fingers. She grinned at him and accepted the help, letting him pull her up. He hooked an arm around her shoulders and held her tight against him, walking in the direction of her TARDIS. "I'll walk you back. If I remember correctly, I'm on the other side of the marketplace right now, haggling for a new chronometric astrometer." He spotted a flower stand nearby and changed course. "But first…" With a flourish, he plucked a flower that looked a bit like a lily and presented it to her, brandishing his credit stick at the merchant. "A lily for my Rose."

Rose smiled softly. "Thanks, Doctor," she murmured, sliding an arm around his waist. She leaned harder against him than she usually did and he knew that she was feeling worse. He picked up the pace as soon as the transaction for the flower was finished and it wasn't long before they could see the past TARDIS up ahead. Rose reached into her pocket for her key, but a click of his fingers made the doors open. He gave her a smug grin and delighted in the exasperated eye roll she gave him in return. "You think you're so impressive," she teased, making her way to the jumpseat.

"I am so impressive!" he cried indignantly, then laughed as he recalled their very first trip to the future together. His grin faded into something softer and more loving as he watched her curl up on the jumpseat.

"Bad Wolf said she'll hide this memory until you contact me," she told him, laying her head on one arm.

"All right," he replied, taking the lily from her unresisting hand and placing it behind her ear. He leaned down and gave her one last chaste kiss, brushing the hair away from her face. "I'll see you in a little while."

"Love you," she yawned. With that, she was asleep.

The Doctor backed away, not wanting to lose sight of her until he absolutely had to. When he finally got through the doors, the TARDIS promptly shut them in his face. He stood unnaturally still there for a moment, then let out a loud whoop and raced toward his own TARDIS. "Come on, Sexy!" he cried as he ran in, barely getting the doors open before he smacked into them. "Let's bring Rose home!"

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