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Title: The Last Act of Living is Dying
Author: redknightalex
Fandom: Doctor Who
Rating: PG
Pairing/Characters: Ten/Rose, established relationship
Warnings: Character Death
Spoilers/Setting: Series 2
Word Count: 1,000
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The BBC and other creative forces own these characters. I just play around with them.
Summary: In the end, you always run out of time.

Author's Notes: Written for challenge 1 at [ profile] doctor_rose_las, prompt “something borrowed.” I had to edit out around 300-400 words to twiddle it down to 1,000 words exactly (the limit) but it somehow worked.

Originally posted here.

They lasted twenty years. A beautiful, wonderful twenty years of adventure, romance, and hand-holding, as if by breaking that connection they would loose one another. It never mattered when they celebrated their anniversary, of either his current regeneration's birthday, their first kiss, their first snog against the console, or their first coupling in his bed, everyday was one to celebrate because they were alive, alive and happy.

They lasted twenty years. Rose was reaching mid-age, a time when her body started to slow down slightly – her running was never the same after that run-in with the marathoners of 2165 – but her beauty, to the Doctor, would never fade. He caressed her cheeks exactly the same way he had when he first touched them and would continue to do so until she was twice her age now. Forty, eighty, 999: it didn't matter as long as she was with him and he with her. Forever had suddenly no longer become an abstract thought.

Then they visited a planet, the name of which escapes him now, that had them running from an angry horde, armed only with bows and arrows. One had hit Rose's shoulder but still she ran for the TARDIS with him. They made it safely back only to realize the terror was not yet over: the arrow had been fatally poisoned. By the time they had figured it out, running every test he could think of, time was almost out.

The Doctor searched high and low for a place to find his love an antidote, taking samples of her blood to every advanced civilization he knew of, every hospital, every laboratory, every science station, and still everyone came up wanting. This poison, this toxin flowing through Rose's system, was unstoppable without the original specimen.

When he went back to that planet looking for an antidote, he found the place ravaged by the throes of war, fires burning across the beautiful landscape and tainted by the screams of a billion people dying. It was too late now, to turn back time and convince the people for an antidote – he knew which war this was from. He turned against the heat, thankful for the way it dried out his eyes. All of their hopes were suddenly thrown away by the foolishness of war.

This was never to have happened, never should have happened, was never possible to have happened, yet still he and the TARDIS had somehow crossed his own time lock and entered a planet wiped out by the Last Great Time War. He could never go back.

How ironic that they would be brought together by the aftermath of his own struggles only to be torn apart by the same destructive mechanisms that he had once created.

A small, tiny voice brought him back from his brooding. He turned his head to find Rose, lying in their bed, looking at him with tired, resigned eyes. Unlike him, she had found peace in her death, saying only that all good things must end and that she would never have changed any of it for the universe. They had always been living on borrowed time, he now realized, and forever was only an illusion he had allowed himself to fall into. The meaning of the phrase suddenly made clear by the slow passing of his dearest love with the curse of the Time Lords ringing true once more.

“Oh, Rose.”

“It's ok, Doctor,” she said soothingly, her voice coming out in quick, laboured pants, “just...stay with me.”

The Doctor nodded and crawled into bed with her. He thought for a minute, seeing her pale face and sunken eyes, before deciding to move lower down her body, his feet dangling over the edge. He placed his head gently over her chest, listening to the steady, yet slow, beat of her one heart, so precious and exceedingly fragile, while his right hand was placed over her stomach. He felt the slow movement of her diaphragm and closed his eyes.

Time passed as the two of them lay together. Eventually her fingers began to play lazily in his longer hair, all in disarray, and he closed his eyes. The tears forming behind them were too much to bear and, with a false hope, he reasoned that if he never opened them, the tears could never escape.

And so they waited for the inevitable to come.

The Doctor listened to her increasingly strained breathing and with a discreet flick of his screwdriver, he increased the pain killers flowing through her system. The hurt in her voice would decrease but so would the beat of her heart.

Words never came to them yet it didn't matter. All that ever needed to be said, all that ever should have been, all that ever would have been, had already been spoken a thousand times over, either in the middle of an adventure with aliens at their heels or in the breathless moans that came when they found peace and solace in the arms and naked bodies of one another.

Now was not the time for words.

This was the last, endless battle against time, the Doctor finally realized as the tears seeped out from behind his clenched eyelids and the sobs starts to overcome his body.

The hand in his hair clenched tighter, as if to give him strength, before slowly relaxing and petting it down. Borrowed time.

He stayed with her, just like that, unmoving, for a measureless amount of time he never wanted to end. He began to count the beats, the slow rises of her stomach, and the temperature of her body. Up the pain killers, down the breathing. He was the maker of their own demise.

Eventually, her breaths came in gasps, then in fits, and then in-between moments of horrible silence.

At the end, there was no last gasp, no definitive last breath, no grandiose struggle for life, so when it finally came to an end, it all just... stopped.
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September 2011

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