Life As You Know It by avoria



Summary: As the relationship between Rose and the Doctor develops, can he resist the temptation of his own selfishness? Follows every episode of season two. Sequel to Welcome To Your Life. TenRose.
Rating: Adult
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, Other Character(s), Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th)
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Het, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Romance
Warnings: Explicit Sex, Swearing
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2007.06.04
Updated: 2009.07.22


Index

Chapter 1: The Christmas Invasion
Chapter 2: New Earth
Chapter 3: Tooth and Claw
Chapter 4: Interlude - Remember the Old Days
Chapter 5: School Reunion
Chapter 6: The Girl in the Fireplace
Chapter 7: Interlude - The Stuff of Legends
Chapter 8: Rise of the Cybermen
Chapter 9: The Age of Steel
Chapter 10: The Idiot's Lantern
Chapter 11: The Impossible Planet
Chapter 12: The Satan Pit
Chapter 13: Interlude - In the Space of a Moment
Chapter 14: Love and Monsters


Chapter 1: The Christmas Invasion

Author's Notes: I’ve finally managed to get this one up. Wasn’t intending to do a series, but oh well, that’s the way it went. Reading the companion pieces to season one isn’t necessary to understand this, unless you want to see how the Doctor and Rose’s relationship has developed so far. My aim is to make this believable and what actually could have happened between episodes. I hope this covers all your needs (:

“Speaking of trouble – and change, come to that – er ...how did I end up in Howard’s pyjamas?”


Part the First — The Christmas Invasion


“Right, there we are then,” the Doctor chirps happily, slapping the side of the ship. “On the way to the coast of Orion’s Belt. Ladies and gentlemen, will you please keep your hands inside the TARDIS at all times. You’ll find the exit to your left and refreshments can be purchased down the corridor, up the stairs, three rights, once on the left. Any questions?”

He spins comically, looking Rose right in the eye and grinning. She has been standing watching him, entranced by the difference. The old Doctor would have taken things slowly, asked questions, welcomed her into the process. This one just shouts and laughs and does things she doesn’t understand.

His grin fades slowly as he watches her. “Okay ...detecting multiple hints of distaste from the corner with the young blonde.” The Doctor pulls one lever, right down, and the TARDIS stops. Just like that. He stands straight and folds his arms. “What’s the problem?”

Rose, startled, takes a moment or two to reply.

“Nothing. S’just ...you.”

“Oh. Just me, is it?” He doesn’t mean to sound insecure, but he can’t quite help it. “What about me?” He glances down the length of his body, then up again with a slightly worried face. “Too tall? I’m too tall, aren’t I? I knew there was something — ”

“No, it’s not that,” she answers quickly, tipping her chin upwards a little. “It’s not anything.”

“Well, it must be something. I’m not dragging you around the universe with that pouty face. It’s not half as much fun.”

She gives a cursory smile, but it’s neither warm nor real. The two consider each other for a half a minute or so, the only time they’ve been alone since he crashed the TARDIS, and even then, he wasn’t quite himself. Rose isn’t sure he’ll ever be himself again.

“I only changed,” he explains suddenly, surprising them both. She frowns at him.

“Oh yeah, ‘cause that’s not a big deal at all,” Rose mutters coldly.

His face drops. “But — but ...You were fine! Remember? We chatted! And ...and you were ...” His voice fades as he watches the steadily darkening expression on her face. “ ...Fine ...”

“Yeah, well, I’ve just had some time to think, yeah?”

He becomes more serious in an instant, and takes a step towards her. “So, not fine, then.”

It isn’t a question.

Rose breezily reaches to tuck her hair behind her ear, looking up but not quite seeing him. “You’re just ...not the same.”

And that hurts. He’s stunned a little, stands stock-still, hand half way towards her and face like it’s been frozen in the wind. It’s vulnerable, but he doesn’t mind. The fact that she doesn’t accept this — accept him — is shocking enough.

She continues on, a little shakily, and he can just stand and watch and take it. He’s that kind of a man.

“You ...you changed,” she says through teeth that are almost gritted, blinking back blinding tears now. He doesn’t respond. “You changed. You were there, standing there, and I saw you. And then ...then it was someone else, in your place. How can I ...? What am I supposed to think, Doctor? How can you be the same man when you’re just so ...not.”

He finally breaks out of his silence. Quietly, he answers, “But I’m here. I’m right here, Rose. Same man, new face. I don’t know what I’ve got to do to convince you — aside from what I’ve already done, and even that isn’t enough for you. So tell me. What do you want? Tell me what you want, Rose, because I’m at a loss. A complete loss.”

“I jus’ ...I dunno. I want you back. The you you. I don’t want all this ...” She waves her hand absently in the air, “...stuff. I just want you.”

“You’ve got me.”

She’s startled and he makes to continue on the point, then closes his mouth and smiles to himself. Her confusion really is quite charming.

“Look, Rose,” the Doctor chuckles gently, wanting to get this sorted once and for all. The sooner she comes to terms with it, the sooner he can start showing her the universe — again. “I’m not saying it’s not going to take some getting used to. I’m not saying it’s not going to be weird, or difficult, or embarrassing, or any other sort of adjective you want to throw in at the last minute. I don’t expect you to leap into acceptance right away, that’ll happen in your own time. I’m just asking you to give me a chance.” He has been edging towards her, closer to her, and even though she looks at him through pitiful eyes, he still reaches for her hand and holds it between their bodies. He looks down, right into her eyes, and sees her struggle against tears. “Let me prove I can be the same man for you. Because, let’s be honest — ” And he smiles that smirk, that gentle, side-on, ‘you-know-what-I’m-talking-about’ smirk that twinkles in his eyes. “If I can’t convince you, I can’t convince anyone.”

She glances to their hands, hers held in his so perfectly it makes her wonder how there was ever anyone else who she let hold her hand.

Then she looks up to his eyes, sees them watching her intently, waiting for the verdict. In a small, timid voice, she says, “I just don’t understand why you didn’t tell me.”

The expression she gets in response startles her, even if it’s only there for a second. A small, fleeting moment of shock. It’s hidden behind a blank mask, a look that’s so quiet she can’t even describe it.

“Tell you what?” he asks quietly, all too aware of how small the console room suddenly feels.

“That you could change.”

“Ah.”

They look between each other for a second. When Rose can’t bear it any more, she pushes gently.

“That all you’re going to say?”

“Well, not much else to say, really. It’s not exactly something that comes up in conversation. ‘Oh, hello, I’m the Doctor. I can regenerate when I’m close to death’.”

Rose actually giggles, and he grins, if fleetingly. It’s good to hear that sound again; better to know that he’s the one behind it.

“So, it’s that simple, then?” she asks shyly, looking up at him through thick lashes. He tilts his head, having forgotten what they were talking about.

“Hmm?”

“The regenerate ...thing. You just change? Whenever you want?”

“Well ...” The Doctor puffs out his cheeks, thinking. “It’s a little more complicated than that. And it’s not unlimited, I only get thirteen tries.”

Rose frowns. “What happens after thirteen?”

The Doctor raises his eyebrows, holding her gaze but giving her the sort of look like she should know better.

“Oh, right,” she mumbles quickly, glancing downwards. “Sorry.” Then she looks at him again, an inquisitive frown staining her face. “Thirteen — what are you on now?”

“Ten.”

“Oh.”

They look at each other.

“Is there a problem with that?” he asks quietly, squeezing her hand.

Rose shakes her head. “No. It’s jus’ ...that’s not many left.”

“It’s more than you,” the Doctor points out good-naturedly.

“Yeah, I guess.”

He wants to keep her in this space forever, in this trusting, faithful, calm atmosphere. He tugs gently on her hand, almost forcing her to look at him again. He smiles gently, kindly. “Don’t worry. I don’t plan on changing again for ...ooh ...centuries yet.”

“Plan the last one?” Rose asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Ah. Yes, good point. Suppose that means we’ll have to stay out of trouble.”

He winks, dropping her hand but staying close to her. And then, just because he feels like it, he leans towards her and says quietly in her ear, “But then, when have you ever known me to stay out of trouble?”

He’s standing straight again before she even realises he was there in the first place, and it takes a moment or two to process the words he’s said. Then Rose blushes and the Doctor grins, stepping away while she tries to fumble for a response.

Suddenly, he’s whipping around again, face panicked and hair dishevelled.

“Speaking of trouble — and change, come to that — er ...how did I end up in Howard’s pyjamas?” Her eyes go wide with shock. The Doctor winces. “Because if your mother was in any way involved, I need to make a mental note on how long until I can see her again. The better part of never should just about do it.”

“Nah,” Rose answers, shaking her head. “Don’t think even Mum would stoop to that. She’d probably be scared you had ...I dunno ...tentacles. Or something.”

And to his complete and utter dismay, she gestures vaguely to his genitals with her hand. And then it suddenly becomes very clear to him quite how he woke up in Howard’s pyjamas, and who put him there. She probably got quite a good view of him. The minx. He can’t even retaliate.

So instead, with a very matter-of-fact voice, he looks her dead in the eye and answers, “I don’t have tentacles.” Then, regaining himself, he grins wickedly. “But then, I suppose you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you Rose? I’m just glad it wasn’t your mother.”

He physically recoils, an unpleasant shiver shooting right the way down his spine, like someone has just run a finger down the sensitive bones. He grimaces.

“I didn’t ...look, or anything,” Rose tries to correct, her blush taking away any leverage she has in the conversation. The Doctor, a cheeky eyebrow raised, sidles slowly over to her.

“No?” he presses, almost like he’s dejected she didn’t. “But you must have at least caught a glimpse. New Doctor, after all. Things need to be scrutinised.” He waggles his eyebrows flirtatiously. Rose doesn’t break, however, simply holding his gaze and giving him a slight, un-telling smirk that’s impossible to decipher. The Doctor frowns, and she has to stop herself from laughing.

This new man, new Doctor ...he’s so unlike who he used to be. Yet deep down, she can still see he’s there. She saw him today with the Sycorax, and her Mum, and Harriet Jones. There are whispers of him resonating from this new Doctor, and the fact that there are so many twists and turns to him now just makes the journey all the more exciting.

“You know,” Rose laughs, looping her arm through the Doctor’s and entwining their hands. He grins down at her adoringly. She takes just a second or two to notice the new curves of his face, before matching his grin and squeezing his hand. “I think you an’ me are going to be all right.”

“Yeah?” he questions, eyes sparkling with the promise of adventure.

“Yeah. In fact ...I’d say we’re gonna be fantastic.”

Back to index


Chapter 2: New Earth

Author's Notes: “No,” he interrupts. It’s soft yet forceful and Rose stops mid-sentence, astounded. She stares at him.

“What d’you mean ‘no’?” she wonders somewhat sceptically. “You just said, you can’t ignore the inevitable.”

“I know. But the answer is still no.”


Part the Second — New Earth


The tone in the TARDIS is sombre as it reappears in the time vortex. Rose takes a breath like she’s about to speak and the Doctor looks up, expectant. But she lets it out again and the air is still silent around them. The Doctor nods in acceptance and casts his eyes downward, flicking a small switch on the side of the console that turns on the landing light two floors up. It’s a bit useless, really, but he supposes it’s something to do.

He can’t stand the silence for too long, however, and looks up again to find Rose watching him.

“Are you all right?” he asks sincerely — there’s no smile to hide behind now.

“Yeah.” She shrugs. “I’m fine. And ...I guess that’s it, then.”

The Doctor tilts his head to one side. “Hmm?”

“Cassandra,” Rose explains, feeling suddenly chilled. “She’s ...well, y’know, she’s ...”

“I know.”

Rose feels the corners of her mouth pull up in a weary smile. “Was it safe, leaving her with ...her? No danger of a time paradox or anything?”

“Oh, I shouldn’t think so,” the Doctor sighs, folding his arms and considering the matter. “She’s seen enough to learn not to meddle with time.” Rose raises an eyebrow and it makes him laugh. “I say we give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“Yeah, all right,” Rose smiles back. “But if we end up having to clear up after her — again — you know who I’m coming to find.”

“The Face of Boe?” the Doctor interjects hopefully. “I’m quite looking forward to seeing him again. ‘A great secret’ ...wonder what he could mean.”

Rose smiles and wanders over to him. “Now you know how I feel when you go all ...what’s the word you used ...”

The Doctor grins cheekily. “Enigmatic?” he suggests.

“Yes,” Rose laughs. “All ‘enigmatic’.”

They smile at each other in the soft light of the TARDIS. Rose, suddenly feeling slightly bashful, puts her head to one side and watches the Doctor from the corner of her eye. He simply watches her, a thousand things going on in his head at once. Her hair falls in front of her face and he has the sudden urge to reach out and put it right again. But he doesn’t. Somehow, the time for that has passed.

“Rose... ” he says, not quite sure where he is going with this. He isn’t even sure why he said her name.

“Yes, Doctor?”

A million thoughts come to his mind at once, along with a million answers to that one question. He takes in a breath and holds it for a second or two, never once taking his eyes off her. She frowns a little and stands straight, giving him that look that tells him she doesn’t quite understand. One thought means more to him than the rest of them and he picks it out, turning it over in his mind as though it were a particularly delectable piece of toffee.

“Promise ...promise me you’ll never be like her. Cassandra.”

“What?” she asks with a snort of laughter. “I don’t think I like what you’re trying to say.”

He doesn’t let her laugh this moment off and takes her hand quickly. The light atmosphere fades and she’s watching him again, intensely, like she doesn’t know what’s going on. His eyes are large and shadowed, the irises so dark she can barely make them out from the pupils. She hopes it is just the lights of the TARDIS playing tricks with her mind.

“I mean it, Rose,” he pushes, all humour from his voice gone. “She couldn’t accept things — there always had to be a way around it. There was so little human left inside her by the end that it wasn’t worth the fight to begin with. People died because of her inability to accept the inevitable. So I’m asking you — promise me that no matter what happens you’ll accept it when the time comes. Everything ends. Even us.”

She squeezes his hand, a tad of worry flowing through her like an impurity in water. She isn’t used to seeing him be so serious like this. Somehow, in his last form, she accepted it. With this man, it’s new. And it worries her. “Where’s this coming from, Doctor?”

“I’ve seen what fear can do to people.” His voice is grave and he pulls his hand out of hers.

“Yeah,” Rose nods defiantly. “To people. Not to me.”

He lets out a sound that is a cross between an aggravated sigh and moan. He turns in one instant, dropping her hand, and stares up the central column of the TARDIS, the emerald light casting strange affects on his angular face.

“Christmas,” he says solemnly.

Rose frowns. “What?”

“Christmas,” he repeats in exactly the same tone of voice. “When we were back at Jackie’s after watching the ash. You were asleep upstairs, worn out from the day. I was standing in the window of your living room, just watching. Jackie, bless her soul, she made me a cup of tea. We watched the street together for a while, not particularly talking. Then she turned to me with that incredibly motherly look on her face. And do you know what she said to me?”

The Doctor turns and looks Rose right in the eye. His arms are folded but his face is gentle. She swallows, circulating saliva around her unnaturally dry mouth.

“What?” she asks quietly.

The Doctor turns his head and stares at the floor, like he is unable to look at her. He gives a small, bitter laugh, more like a forced exhale than anything else...

‘I don’t know what happened to you, Doctor, to make you change, and to be quite honest, I don’t want to know. But when you came here yesterday and Rose was looking after you ...I was scared. I’ve never seen you like that before. What if it happens again? What if Rose is the one who ends up having to look after you? Who’s going to look after her?

‘Up till now I’ve tried not to think about it. I know she goes with you wherever you go and, though I don’t like it, God help me if I ever tried to get in the way; but you’ve always been able to protect her in your strange little alien way. Or at least I always thought so. But now I’m not so sure. If she’s the one looking after you ...then who’s going to be there for her? Who’s going to protect my daughter, Doctor?’


Silence hangs in the air like a thundercloud as the Doctor’s explanation dies away around them. Rose, not being able to think of anything to say, looks at him and tries to form a sentence in her mind that doesn’t sound like absolute rubbish.

“I had to lie to her,” the Doctor continues, this time looking at Rose very hard. “I had to tell her that I would always be there for you and that I would always, always protect you — no matter what. I had to tell her that there was a backup system that would bring you home if the worst case should happen.”

“How was she?” Rose asks, not even daring to ask the question of what will actually happen should the worst come about.

“She seemed happy. She left with a smile. I could lie to her to keep her happy. But Rose, I can’t lie to you.”

“What’s the truth, then?” she asks without missing a beat, folding her arms across her chest defensively. The Doctor sighs and closes his eyes for a second. He rests his head in a hand, just briefly, then looks up again. She is still watching him.

“I can’t protect you forever,” he answers and his teeth are almost bared.

“You’re managing all right so far,” Rose says kindly, but he continues as though she said nothing.

“I’d fight planet after planet to save you, Rose. When things go wrong, my number one priority is to keep you safe and I’ll do anything and everything in my power to do just that. But I can’t fight forever. One of these days we’re going to come across something that’s going to get the better of us and you’ll be out of my reach. And when that happens, I don’t want to see you turn into Cassandra. I don’t want you clinging to any form of hope just because you think it’s better than acceptance. You’re better than that, and stronger than that and you have to learn to live on.”

This wave on information crashes down on her, and she takes a moment to hold back her emotions — as she has seen the Doctor do so many times. Eventually she nods and shifts from one foot to the other.

“You’re forgetting one very important thing there, Doctor,” she points out, her voice as equal in gravity as his.

He tilts his head. “What’s that?”

“That one of these days, when I’m with you, I might actually d— ”

“No,” he interrupts. It’s soft yet forceful and Rose stops mid-sentence, astounded. She stares at him.

“What d’you mean ‘no’?” she wonders somewhat sceptically. “You just said, you can’t ignore the inevitable.”

“I know. But the answer is still no.”

“Why?”

He takes a breath, adding to the pause between them. “Because nothing except old age is going to kill my Rose Tyler.”

The sheer weight of his words almost crushes her and the barrier she put up against her emotions begins to rattle and shake.

“How can you say that?” she asks with disbelief cracking her voice.

His eyes glitter with dark promises. “There’s nothing in this universe strong enough to stop me.”

It’s the sort of voice that scares her and makes her feel like she’s living in the wrong skin. She shouldn’t really understand what he means, but something regretful inside her knows that she does. Maybe it’s that that scares her most of all. She isn’t used to seeing what she does to him — his other form was so good at locking it away. This Doctor ...he’s different. Happier most of the time, which is strange, but the man he really is still just under the surface.

Something dawns on her.

“This isn’t about Cassandra, is it Doctor?”

“No.” He shakes his head.

“This isn’t even about you and me. It’s about fighting.”

Her wisdom astounds him still and he even smiles. It just goes to show that she really is learning something from being with him. Rose continues, unaware that he’s seeing her in a different light.

“Then I promise, Doctor, that no matter what happens, I’ll keep fighting. I’ll keep fighting right up until I know it’s time to move on.”

The Doctor gives her a gentle smile. “Me, too.”

“Even if it’s for different things.”

He had started to turn back to the console, but this comment brings him reeling right back to look at her. “Excuse me?”

She smiles slightly. “It doesn’t matter.”

He shakes his head and walks towards her. “I don’t care. Tell me?”

Their eyes lock, and he can see something dancing behind hers that didn’t used to shine through quite like that. It captures him.

“You’ll find out one day, Doctor,” Rose smiles wryly. She turns on her heel and walks towards the door that leads to the rest of the TARDIS. At the last moment she turns back again and points to him.

“And I don’t want you causing a mess in here, either. Don’t break anything.”

He grins, and the atmosphere is light again. “I never break anything,” he tells her in a very matter-of-fact voice.

“Oh, that’s right. You just ‘fix’ things, yeah?”

“Cheeky,” the Doctor admonishes fondly. “I’d like to see you do better.”

“Wouldn’t you just.”

The Doctor continues to smile, then bends down to remove a slice of grille from the TARDIS floor. He un-pockets his sonic screwdriver and, whilst finding the right setting, calls, “Oh, and Rose?”

“Yes, Doctor?” she answers from the doorway, where she is leaning watching him.

Without looking up, he continues, “If we ever meet Cassandra again ...you can tell her she’s a very good kisser.”

What follows is a most incredible silence that the Doctor has never heard before. And as he hops down into the depths of his ship, leaving Rose to take whatever she wants from what he’s just said, he decides he rather likes it.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Tooth and Claw

Author's Notes: I've been away all summer, hence the silence. However...

There is silence for a few moments and then the muffled sound of fabric on fabric. The door opens, just wide enough for Rose’s head to poke around the corner, and the Doctor notices with some surprise that – firstly – she hadn’t locked the door and – secondly – she is wearing little more than a pink bath towel.

“Did you just ask if I wanted a ...sandwich?”


Part the Third — Tooth and Claw


They’re almost in the Time Vortex again, Rose feeling thoroughly amused by the prospect of having werewolves in the monarchy, when the Doctor stops suddenly and looks up. His look is quiet, calculating, and it take Rose a moment or two to realise he is looking at her.

“What?” she asks, when he obviously isn’t going to say anything.

He simply shrugs, clears his face, and puts his head down again. “Nothing.”

“Is that the sort of ‘nothing’ that means ...something?”

His gaze is on her again and he can’t help the half-smile, half-smirk that tugs at his mouth.

Rose laughs. “What?”

His smile widens a little, showing his teeth. “You look cute in dungarees,” he says at length, watching her. “That’s all.”

A pause passes between them as Rose tried to work out if he’s joking or not.

“Seriously?” she asks at last, with a tone that doesn’t quite believe him. “That’s what you were thinking?”

He nods, entirely content. “Yes, it was.”

“Okay ...”

It is he who laughs this time. “What?”

“Nothing,” she says quickly, self-consciously tucking hair behind her ear. “Just not used to you complimenting me.”

“Well, get used to it.”

She meets his eye with a strange, slightly wary, gaze and the Doctor looks away. He clears his throat, regaining his former composure.

“So, Miss Tyler, where to next?” He is back in ‘Doctor’ mode again, leaving Rose somewhat thrown.

“Shower, I think,” she answers definitely.

The Doctor stills and glances towards her, his face set as he wonders if he’s heard her right. He blinks, rather like a deer caught in headlights. “Beg your pardon?”

“For me?” Rose clarifies slowly.

“Oh, yes, right. Sorry. By all means, shower away.” He grins, his guard up once again. “The universe can wait.”

“Whatever you say, Doctor,” Rose chuckles as she leaves the console room. “Whatever you say.”

She’s gone within the minute and the Doctor lets out a heavy sigh. This regeneration is so different, so prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve, that it’s a wonder he can even concentrate on what he’s doing for longer than thirty seconds. He’s certainly not used to fending off Rose when she’s not even the one making the moves on him — quite the contrary, in fact.

He feels guilty for lots of things today, not least leaving Rose alone long enough so she could get captured and almost eaten by the werewolf. And there is something about that Queen Vic that he doesn’t much trust, either; perhaps the fact that she mistrusts him. He shall have to be careful in that era for a while — at least until he regenerates again, probably — but no doubt her tantrum will come to nothing.

Something twinges in the right ventricle of his left heart, and he isn’t quite sure why.

It is at that moment something eerie reaches his ears and he freezes to the spot (not that he has moved much in the first place). Singing: Rose singing, in the shower, and the TARDIS carries it to him for reasons no better, he can see, than to torture him. She’s not even particularly good at it, which he finds strange because he’d always imagined her a good singer. Maybe there is something about a shower’s acoustics which make humans sound particularly dire. The thought entices him and he makes a mental note to try it some time.

Whatever it is she’s singing, she is making it impossible for the Doctor to do any work. He goes to the library in an attempt to get her out of his mind through reading — but the music follows him, getting no more or less loud as he passes the bathroom door.

It’s not so much Rose’s singing that bothers him as the image of her in the shower — suds everywhere — just feeling at home enough to be herself and not feel embarrassment. Although, no doubt if she knew he could hear her, she would gain that attractive blush in her cheeks and shy away slowly. He will be sure to give her a compliment about her singing when she is out of the shower.

However, the problems still stands that he cannot get her out of his head. He is left eventually with what feels like his only option — standing outside the bathroom and rapping on the door with his knuckles. It is also almost the same moment when the water is turned off and the sounds of showering and singing desist. She’s going to think him pretty rude after this, he reckons, and probably a little bit mad.

“Doctor?” calls out her voice nervously; she is obviously not expecting company. Then again, why would she? It isn’t as though he makes a habit of coming to the bathroom when she’s having a shower.

“Er ...” he stumbles, his original reason for being here now dissipated. “I ...wondered if you ...wanted a — a sandwich.”

There is silence for a few moments and then the muffled sound of fabric on fabric. The door opens, just wide enough for Rose’s head to poke around the corner, and the Doctor notices with some surprise that — firstly — she hadn’t locked the door and — secondly — she is wearing little more than a pink bath towel.

“Did you just ask if I wanted a ...sandwich?”

Her face is quite sceptical; he supposes he can’t really blame her. It was a pretty poor excuse.

“Might have done. But you’re busy. So ...I’ll come back later, shall I? Good? Okay, see you later then - ”

“Hold on a minute.” Rose reaches out and grabs his arm gently and the towel slips a little. The Doctor gulps, sure he has been busted (though quite what for he has no idea). “Actually, a sandwich would be great. Thanks.”

He feels slightly relieved, but no matter how hard he tries to stay focused on her face, his eyes dip — just for a second — to where the towel has loosened. Fortunately for both their sakes it seems to have fixed itself, and — perhaps more fortunately for the Doctor — Rose doesn’t seem to have noticed his ‘casual glance’.

He leaves with orders for a cheese and pickle sandwich not a moment too soon, and silently curses himself as he makes his way back down the corridor for acting like a randy teenage boy. He’s going to have to start keeping tabs on himself at this rate, if he’s not careful. What he needs, he thinks, is a nice little distraction ...

-I-


When Rose approaches him some time later with news of a phone-call from Mickey-the-Idiot and a problem at the local school, he knows that that was not the distraction he had in mind. He’s in the kitchen when she finds him, absorbed in a rather good piece of literature (“Doctor, why anyone would read in the kitchen, I don’t know,”) and he’s not in the mood to go gallivanting back to Earth. Especially not for a misguided idea about ‘something fishy’, and especially not for Mickey. (“Honestly, Rose, the boy can’t even remember his own name.”)

“No,” he states without even having to look up from the pages.

“But why not?” Rose pushes, standing in his line of sight just above the top of the book.

“Because!” He brings his head up with such force his glasses ride a little way up his nose. Rose refrains from correcting them and instead folds her arms. “We’re busy!”

“So, what, I’ll just ring him back up and say ‘Sorry Mickey, we can’t come right now, we’re busy’.”

The Doctor nods, then looks down to his book again. “Seems fine to me.”

“What’s the matter with you?” she asks, sidling closer to him. “What happened to the time when you would have leapt at an adventure?”

“It isn’t an adventure,” the Doctor argues, giving up on the reading and removing the spectacles from his face. “Not when it’s Mickey involved. Besides ...I sort of wanted to ...you know, spend some time with you.”

He’s said it now, he tells himself gently — no going back now. Rose’s surprise is evident on her face and she taps her mobile phone against her mouth while she thinks. Her eyes linger on the Doctor.

“So what am I supposed to tell him, then? When he rings back?” She’s being serious now and the Doctor feels ever so slightly on edge.

“Tell him, in these exact words - ‘I’m not interested’.”

He takes sincerity from the words by air quoting.

Rose gives him a playful slap across the top of his arm.

“Doctor,” she admonishes, though it is not without humour.

“Worth a shot,” he mutters.

“Please, Doctor?” She is trying her best persuasive efforts now, using a bit of her womanly charm and stroking his arm enticingly. Despite his best efforts to ignore her, it even begins to work. He looks up to her innocently and sees that shameless tongue poke out of the side of her mouth. “You get to play teacher ...”

His face lights up at this. “Really?”

Rose nods. “There’s a lot of space on the faculty — I’m sure the psychic paper could get us in, no problem.”

He sits back in the chair a little, considering. He then frowns and looks at her.

“What will you do while I’m covering teacher, then?” She scowls and the Doctor winces. “Sorry,” he adds, not meaning to have offended her intelligence. “That was rude again, wasn’t it?”

“Look,” she says, somewhat irritably, fumbling for her phone again, “if you really don’t want to go, I’ll just ring him back and say — ”

“Rose.” He reaches out a hand to take hers and she stops, a little perplexed. He’s smiling and she can’t help but smile too. “We’ll go. If you want to.”

“It’s just, I thought it’d be something to do.”

“You don’t have to find excuses to go back and see him. If you miss him — ”

“I don’t miss him,” she counters pointedly, slowly. “It’s just that ...if there’s something alien going on, and we leave the world to fend for itself — ”

“Rose, believe it or not, there have been aliens on Earth throughout your entire history. And you’ve still come out strong. The Human race, born to survive.”

He adds a grin, just for good measure. Rose smirks.

“So, what you do, then, that’s just ...interfering with history.”

“Not interfering, no. Keeping an eye on, maybe, and jumping in at the last minute. That’s what we do.”

“Sounds like you’d be up for a school full of demented kids then,” Rose teases as the Doctor stands. “I haven’t seen you with kids since World War Two — ”

She stops mid sentence, realising just how long ago that seems and just how much has changed since then. The Doctor notices and looks at her with masked features. Slowly he outstretches his arm, his hand towards her and his fingers open for hers to slide through.

“Come on,” he says softly, “let’s see what this school of yours has to offer.”

“You sure?” she asks, taking the hand with her own and letting him lead her towards the console room.

“Positive. Except ...I want to make a pit-stop first.”

Anything for a distraction.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Interlude - Remember the Old Days

Author's Notes: “I think it’s time,” he begins hesitantly, a slight frown pulling at his features, “that you knew the truth.”


Interlude — Remember the Old Days


It is like a desert. All brown and orange and red, in every direction. A bright orange sky streaked with peach clouds, dark sand and dark stones everywhere. And it’s so warm. Rose can feel the heat of the planet through her shoes as she and the Doctor tread through the village.

“Tell me again why it’s built on sand?” she asks, squinting up at him in the light of the three suns.

Hands in his pockets he continues striding on, keeping an eye out for the place they need to be. “The gravitational pull of this planet is slightly more than that of Earth, making the sand very dense. There’s no need to create anything else — no need for roads or pavements. The elements here are limited, which is why everything is built out of very similar material.”

Rose glances to the buildings they pass, feeling a little as though she’s been caught up in Disney’s Aladdin. The buildings have simple wooden doors and slits for windows. People are bustling to and for through the street they walk through now.

“Market Day,” the Doctor comments, noticing her eyes wander to the leather-skinned locals and around the stalls. “I’m here to pick up a spare part for the TARDIS.”

“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that one before,” Rose laughs.

He gives her a disbelieving look as they walk. “You what?”

“The TARDIS doesn’t need that many parts, Doctor. I’ve figured you out, you just like using it as an excuse to visit weird places.”

“I do not,” the Doctor scoffs, smiling politely as he steps out of a hurried local’s way. “And this is not weird,” he adds defensively, as an afterthought.

“Whatever, Doctor,” she smiles, as a small animal with four legs nips at his shoe before pulled hurriedly along by its owner.

He clears his throat. “Look. See that stall, over there?” He points, indicating a little place just up to the road. “That’s where the bi-atomic subsidiser for the subsonic dampener in the laundry room is. Well, its replacement, anyway.”

Rose blinks at him. “You talk total rubbish sometimes — you know that, right?”

The Doctor grins at her winningly and they weave their way through the jostling crowds towards the stall.

While the Doctor umms and ahhs over the various bits and pieces laid out (which look suspiciously like the innards of a radiator), Rose takes the time to really look around them. It’s a rather small village in comparison to other places they’ve visited, really, and the buildings are only just taller than the Doctor. It’s a strange little place, tucked away in the corner of the desert on this planet, but she feels an instant warmth to it.

She finds herself wondering where all the little roads and alleyways lead to and has an itching desire to explore. She’s almost walking off when the Doctor taps her on the shoulder, bringing her back down to earth. Or... wherever it is they are.

“Got it,” he grins, pleased with himself. He holds something up that — in all honesty — looks like a bit of rusty pipeline.

Rose eyes it sceptically. “You’re not serious?” she asks, meeting his eye over it.

The Doctor’s grin fades a little. “Why wouldn’t I be serious?” he responds, pocketing his little device. “I wouldn’t just come out here on a whim, on a sudden little visit to somewhere I knew you’d like. Not where the sand is warm continuously and it’s incredibly easy to tan.”

“Course you wouldn’t,” she answers.

She smiles the cheeky smile, the one where her tongue ends up in the corner of her mouth. She links arms with the Doctor and they thread their way back through the crowds.

He smiles down at her and things are happy between them. It’s the sort of time they spend with each other that they love.

Until Rose stops dead and stares, face slowly paling, at a building. The Doctor frowns and follows her gaze, but when he sees what her eyes are resting on even his hearts skip a beat. It’s simply a few markings on a wall, as insignificant as a scribble on a page. But the shape is unmistakeable, even if it is just coincidence.

“That’s a...” Rose starts, eyes glued to it and heart startled. She swallows.

After a long moment, the Doctor looks away. “It’s just a coincidence,” he tells her solemnly. “That’s it. They’re all gone.”

The markings themselves are fairly vague, meaningless to those who aren’t time travellers. But It’s the first time either of them have seen anything resembling a Dalek since Satellite Five, and the memories it brings for both of them are unpleasant.

Rose starts to walk again, feeling slightly unnerved, but the Doctor pulls on her arm and stops her.

“What?” she asks, turning to him.

Eyes lingering once more on the unfortunate markings, he says, “Did I ever tell you what happened on Satellite Five?”

“No...” Rose replies carefully, shaking her head.

With a sigh the Doctor turns his head abruptly to look at her. She blinks back with patient eyes.

“Is it important?” Rose adds when he says nothing.

Moments pass by and he just looks at her. She can almost see the cogs going in his mind, see the thoughts that flit and flicker behind his eyes. He’s watching her steadily, and she’s just about to ask him for a second time when he speaks.

“I think it’s time,” he begins hesitantly, a slight frown pulling at his features, “that you knew the truth.”

He reaches for her hand then and, silently, escorts Rose to a bench a few feet away from them. She follows without a word, entranced by the sudden change the markings have brought over her Doctor. Blood pumps around her body; she has the feeling he’s about to tell her something that may change her life.

The pair sit on the bench and watch passers-by. Or, rather, the Doctor stares distantly at the thin crowds while Rose stares softly at him. He can feel her gaze on him, awkward, like wearing clothing that’s a size too big. With a small nod to himself as if to prepare for the conversation he has rehearsed many times, he turns on the bench and — draping his elbow over the back of it as he angles his body — looks at Rose.

She looks back.

“Rose, I...” the Doctor begins, but finds himself too caught up in thoughts to be able to express them verbally.

“What is it, Doctor?” she asks, looking worried.

The Doctor frowns slightly, determined. “Rose. How much do you remember about Satellite Five?”

The shock is evident on her face as her features relax a little.

“Um... Bits and pieces, I guess. I remember going there with Adam, and the Jagrafess.”

“No, no, after that,” the Doctor persists, and shifts on the uncomfortable bench.

Now it is Rose’s turn to frown. “I remember the Daleks. And you, you had some sort of master plan... sent me home, an’ I still haven’t forgiven you for that. I was at home, I wanted to get back. Mum took me for chips, but I couldn’t let it go. You were 200,000 years in my future fighting for us all. Mum, she... she got a truck from somewhere. We hooked it up to the TARDIS, trying to get it open. I kinda... I thought, if I did that, I could help you. Then I don’t know. I think it must have knocked me out, or something, ‘cause the next I know I’m lying on the floor and you’re standing there like nothing’s happened.”

Rose eyes the Doctor meaningfully, all too aware that at that time he knew exactly what was happening to him at that time. He clears his throat and glances to the sandy ground.

“You really don’t remember,” he says quietly.

“Remember what?”

His eyes lift to hers, serene in the almost twilight, and he answers earnestly, “You don’t remember saving my life.”

It takes a moment or two for the words to sink in.

“But I didn’t,” Rose argues eventually, feeling slightly flustered. “I... I broke the TARDIS, and you fixed everything. You got rid of the Daleks then came and got me.”

The Doctor almost laughs. “No, Rose,” he counters, quite beside himself with her innocence. “You got rid of the Daleks. I had nothing to do with it. I was ready to give myself up. I was willing to sacrifice the whole world, Rose, and I would have. But then there you were. You looked into the TARDIS and saw a common goal with her: you both wanted me safe. So you absorbed her. You absorbed all the energy that my ship has, and then you came back for me. You destroyed the Daleks, every one of them, and ended the Time War. It was the most incredible thing you could have done for me, and it almost cost you your life.”

Chipped memories fall into Rose’s mind as she listens, and she frowns harder, thinking. “But... you said... you said you absorbed all the energy from the time vortex. That’s why you regenerated, that’s what you said. You told me you absorbed it.”

The Doctor swallows loudly and looks away. “I did.”

“But you just said — ”

“Yes, I know what I said, and I meant that too.” Bravely, he reaches across to take her hand; but he still can’t look at her. “You absorbed time and space. It was running through your tiny little mind, burning you up from the inside out. It would have killed you if I hadn’t... if I hadn’t taken it. From you.”

Confusion crosses Rose’s brow as she tries to comprehend the Doctor’s words.

“You... you took it from me? You just... you took time? Out of me?”

“Yup.”

“Just like that?” She snaps her fingers.

The Doctor, smiling gently, shrugs. “More or less. I had to form a connection with the vortex so that it could flow out of you and into me. I took all the effects with me, which is why you survived and I...”

“Didn’t?” Rose offers fearfully.

“I suppose. That’s more a matter of opinion.”

Rose sits back on the bench and lets out a sigh, her gaze wandering over the market-goers beyond.

“So I did it?” she asks at length.

“If by ‘it’ you mean faced the Dalek emperor, defeated his raving hordes, saved my life, saved the world and won the Time War... then, yes. You did.”

“Wow,” Rose breathes, the shock of it hitting her like a brick wall. Then, with a sad smile, she adds, “Pity I can’t remember any of it.”

Without really thinking about the words, the Doctor replies absently, “You never know. Maybe one day I’ll show you.”

She turns to him with a strange smile. “Doctor?”

He gets to his feet, ignoring her unasked question.

“Come on, time we were off,” he says with a bit of a stretch. “Can’t be in one place for too long, it’s dangerous.”

Rose laughs and stands beside him. “There you go, making stuff up again.”

“I’m not making stuff up!” he replies indignantly. “I’ll have you know it really is very dangerous to stay in the same place for too long. Especially on Dracota — stay standing still for too long there and your skin starts to melt. Nasty stuff, all to do with the plasma-toxins that roam the atmosphere. Wouldn’t recommend there for a holiday.”

“Every day with you gets weirder and weirder,” Rose says, shaking her head laughingly. Before the Doctor can respond with a hurt expression, she looks up to him and adds, “I love it.”

His grin resounds in the air around them. “Good. So do I. Now, let’s see what time and space hold for us next, hmm?”

Back to index


Chapter 5: School Reunion

Author's Notes: “Rose,” he whispers, in an unbelievably soft tone that he knows sends a shudder down her spine even when she’s trying to be angry with him. “Look at me.”

She does so, and her eyes are so cold he almost winces.


Part the Fourth — School Reunion


“So, Mickey-boy, where d’you want to go first?”

Mickey grins excitedly as though he were ten years old — this is obviously some sort of big deal for him.

“Oh. My. God. Aliens and spaceships and stuff. And I’m part of it! Rose, how fantastic is this?”

“Yeah — it’s the greatest thing in the world.”

Mickey is either too stupid or too excited to notice the sarcasm (let alone be deterred by it), but the Doctor does. He glances over to Rose, who is sitting on one of the seats attached to the looming pillars of the TARDIS, staring at the wall. Her body language oozes tension from every inch, like blood from a wound, and the Doctor suspects he needs to clear the air. He has a horrible feeling he has done something wrong.

“Er, Mickey,” he commands in the sort of voice that sounds like he’s thinking on the spot, “be a good boy and make yourself some lunch, will you? You must be starving.”

Mickey stops bouncing on the spot and stares at him incredulously.

“What?” He looks from the Doctor to Rose and back again, his face confused and questioning.

“Mickey! It’s not hard!” The Doctor doesn’t mean to snap, but already the third presence is diminishing space in the TARDIS. “Go down the corridor, make a left, and then a right, into the kitchen and raid the fridge. There should be sarnies in there, if I remember correctly. It’s the best you could do considering I’ve just stopped the entire universe from being rewritten.”

Mickey stares at him, a little like a fish out of water.

“Right,” he stutters eventually, seeing no joke in the Doctor’s eyes. “So. I’ll just get on with that, then, shall I?”

The Doctor just looks at him and Mickey turns angrily, storming out of the room and muttering something along the lines of, ‘I bet not even the tin dog had to put up with this’ under his breath.

As soon as Mickey is safely out of earshot, he turns and faces Rose, who is very obviously not looking at him. She hasn’t said a word. Carefully, his eyes on her, he makes his way towards her and crouches down. He takes her hands and she doesn’t pull away; she doesn’t react at all, which is somehow worse.

“Rose,” he whispers, in an unbelievably soft tone that he knows sends a shudder down her spine even when she’s trying to be angry with him. “Look at me.”

She does so, and her eyes are so cold he almost winces.

“What’s wrong?”

Letting out a heavy sigh she takes her hands from his. “You wouldn’t understand.”

She stands and walks past him towards the exit. He fixes her back with a hard stare then says her name in the sort of stern tone that cannot be ignored. She sighs, then turns and folds her arms, her face dark. He does so hate it when they fight.

“What’s the problem?” he asks again, this time much less sympathetic.

There have been a rather lot of angry people in his console room in a rather small space of time and he hates it when he feels trapped between these walls.

“Sarah Jane,” Rose supplies at last, looking coldly at him.

The Doctor blinks, not sure if he heard her correctly. “What?”

“She was just like me once upon a time, wasn’t she? It was ‘the Doctor and Sarah Jane’.”

He folds his arms defensively, not sure he’s liking where this is going, and locks her eyes in a hard stare.

“Yes. It was,” he tells her bluntly and can see a flicker of surprised hurt cross her face. He adds, a little softer, “It was a long time ago.”

“Right, well, there we go then.”

She turns away, and the Doctor raises his eyes to the heavens.

“Oh, Rose,” he groans with aggravation, feeling at the end of his tether. “The people I travel with are all unique, special and different in their own ways. You can’t expect me to pretend they’re not.”

Rose laughs bitterly. She turns around, looking at him with anger flashing in her eyes, and she shakes her head laughingly.

“It’s like they say, Doctor,” she tells him coldly, shrugging her shoulders. “‘You’re unique, just like everyone else’. That’s me, yeah? Just someone else to add to your collection.”

“Rose, you’re being ridiculous!” The Doctor throws his hands into the air: when did she get so childish?

“Oh!” she shouts back, anger flaring in her voice. “So now I’m being ridiculous, am I? Nice to know my opinion’s valued.”

The Doctor wipes his palms down his face, groaning into his hands. He really does not want to be having this conversation. It’s one of those fights that can go round and round and do no more, yet he can’t seem to find a way out of it.

“Where has this come from?” he asks labouredly, dropping his hands to his side. He fixes Rose with a stony expression. “Hmm? You can’t have honestly thought you were the first person I’ve travelled with.”

At this she loses a little of her fire. Folding her arms, she shrugs and looks to one side, as though she knows she’s lost an argument but is trying not to admit it.

At her reaction, the Doctor nods. “Ohh, so that’s it,” he says with a low voice, no trace of humour or joviality at all now. She’s pushed him and now she’s going to deal with the consequences. “You thought you were the only woman I’ve ever cared about. And now you’ve found out you’re not; no wonder you’re feeling so insecure. Wake up to realisation, Rose. I have a past that doesn’t involve you and nothing is going to change that.”

His bitter words hang in the air between them like a storm and when Rose finally looks at him, he’s not sure what he sees in her eyes. It’s either anger or hurt — or both. She opens her mouth a little, but swallows, seemingly fighting with a lot of thoughts going on in her mind.

The Doctor isn’t proud of what he’s just said, but he isn’t going to take them back either. Rose needs to learn that she isn’t unique to him — if he can convince her she’s no different from the others, he stands a chance of protecting her. Of protecting himself.

“What about Sarah Jane, then?”

The Doctor sighs, beaten. “What about her?”

“She was like me, once. She was ...with you. She travelled, she helped you. Then you just turn around and get rid of her. You dumped her back on Earth like she was nothing, didn’t even say goodbye. She thought you were coming back, Doctor. She waited for you ...but you never came.”

The Doctor watches, keeping his face unreadable, as Rose walks towards him while she talks. That look on her face is one he never wants to see again, not towards him. It’s almost a look of disgust; he feels a sudden surge of anger. He thought he had finally managed to get through to her, on the street outside the café, but clearly he hasn’t. This whole conversation revolves around her inability to understand. He stares at her, his eyes flashing with electric anger as he grinds out his response. “I never go back.”

Rose snorts bitterly. “No. Course you don’t. ‘Cause you’re the wonderful Doctor, and you think you’re above it all — ”

“I am above it all!” he shouts harshly, eyes blazing now. She has managed to push one or two of his buttons and he doesn’t like that he has lost control so easily. With a deep breath he tries to steady himself. “There’s no other authority. I’m the only one left with any real power in this universe. My ship. My rules.” Then, softer, he adds, “I thought you knew that, Rose.”

“So ...” She dips her head, looks to the floor. He wonders why she can’t look at him and tries to look sympathetic. “That’s what you’re gonna do to me, then. Leave me behind without looking back.”

She does look up now, and he is momentarily caught off guard. There are shining tears in her eyes and it suddenly hits him like a bolt of lightning. She’s not angry; she’s scared. He wants to comfort her so much in these few seconds that it’s almost unbearable. He walks slowly towards her, frowning a little.

“I told you Rose,” he says softly upon reaching her. “That’s not what I’m going to do to you. You can stay with me for as long as you like. I’m not going to leave you behind.”

“Yeah, but ...I bet you said the same thing to Sarah Jane.”

And he takes her hand. She looks at him, startled.

“No,” he whispers, eyes and face gentle, like they were when he was trying to convince her he was still the Doctor. “The alternatives don’t bear thinking about ...but I’ll never leave you, Rose. I promise. I give you my word.”

She sniffs, blinking away unbidden tears.

“Doctor... ”

He pulls her comfortingly into his arms, folding her into himself and holding on tight. She buries herself in his warmth and he’s happy to stand here, eyes fixed on the floor, while he comforts her. He isn’t sure quite why she needs comforting — perhaps seeing Sarah Jane has had a bigger impact on her than he first thought. Perhaps she just needs confirmation that she’s not like all the others and ...part of him regrets contradicting himself, but for the sake of making her happy, it’s worth it.

A loud cough from the other side of the room alerts them to Mickey’s presence. They jump away from each other as though they have been caught snogging behind the bike-shed at school during lesson time.

“Not interrupting anything, am I?” Mickey snarls, glaring at them.

“Mickey!” the Doctor enthuses with a wide grin. “We were ...we were just talking about you.”

“Yeah, I bet,” he mutters darkly, a deep tone of sarcasm slashing his voice.

The Doctor frowns, trying to hide his awkward air. “Did you find those sandwiches?”

“Wasn’t hungry,” Mickey says quickly, walking into the room and not looking at him. “Rose, can I talk to you?”

She briefly makes eye contact with the Doctor, who inclines his head upwards just slightly. He then turns away, apparently finding the metal panelling around the console very interesting. Remembering the feel of Rose in his arms, closer than she’s ever really been before in this body, he realises that the distraction of Mickey isn’t working as well as he hoped. What he hoped to gain from letting the young man on board was an escape for Rose, a distraction for them both that would allow him to focus on what he actually travelled the universe to do. Instead he’s spending his time making sure his companion is as happy as she can possibly be.

He shakes his head, trying to block the two of them out.

-oOo-


Rose steps over to her almost-not-quite-ex-boyfriend, unsure whether she is angry at him for interrupting her time with the Doctor, or angry at the Doctor for letting him on board in the first place.

Mickey opens his mouth, looking at her intently; then he suddenly seems to have a better idea. He turns towards where the Doctor is standing.

“Mate,” he says tersely, “no offence, but me and Rose are trying to have a private conversation. How about you shove off for a few minutes, yeah?”

Rose, gobsmacked and appalled, stares at him. “Mickey!”

“No, Rose, he’s got a point,” the Doctor responds quietly, surprising her. “I’ll ...be in the library.”

With that he saunters smoothly off, seemingly very aware that he has left a heavy atmosphere behind him.

“What did you go and do that for?” Rose hisses vehemently, eyes blazing. “This is his home, you’ve no right to order him about like that.”

“Oh, but when he orders me to go and make lunch, that’s okay?”

She shrugs. “That’s different.”

“Like hell it is, Rose. You just don’t want to have to talk to me. Look, even now, you can’t even look at me.”

He’s right. She is staring at the floor, finding it impossibly difficult to look him in the eye. However, at his challenge she looks straight at him and is surprised by the obvious anger he is harbouring.

“What do you want me to say?” she asks boldly.

Mickey shakes his head. “I don’t want you to say anything. ‘Cause for once in your life, you’re gonna be quiet and I’m gonna do the talking. And you’re gonna listen to me.”

She opens her mouth, but he glares and she shuts is obediently. He nods.

“I’m not the Doctor,” he says. Rose looks bewildered, but he continues. “I don’t have a time-and-space ship, or a sonic screwdriver, or a tin dog, or nine hundred years behind me. I know I’m not half as impressive as him and I can’t whiz you all over the place just to take you on a date.”

She looks like she is about to protest, but Mickey holds a hand up.

“I’m not done, yet. I don’t have all those things he’s got. But I tell you what I have got. I’ve got the decency to be honest with you. I’m not gonna sit at home waiting to pick up the pieces from what he does to you, ‘cause let’s face it Rose, one day he’s gonna hurt you and you’re not gonna know what to do. But I’m not gonna be sitting around waiting for it to happen. I’m better than that. You treat me like dirt ‘cause you think I’m not better, and that I don’t understand how you’re feeling; but I am and I do. That’s why I’m here, Rose. I’m sick of being just the tin dog and ...and you need to know you can’t treat me like I don’t exist. Not any more.”

He finishes with a high air, his head up and eyes looking defiantly into hers. Rose doesn’t know what to say. She feels tears burn the back of her throat for realising how much she has hurt Mickey — everything he’s said is true. And she hates herself a little bit for it.

“Mickey,” she sniffs, her eyes glittering like tiger’s eye in the TARDIS light. “I’m so sorry ...”

She slides forwards into his arms, wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging him so that he knows she is sorry — because she is. It isn’t fair how she treats him and up until now she has tried to ignore her actions and find excuses for them.

Mickey pats her back awkwardly. Then, as though giving in, he wraps his arms around her properly and closes his eyes, at the same time putting inward barriers up against her. He’s not stupid enough to think that she really means it, or that she’s not thinking about the Doctor. But he thinks that maybe — just once - he’s allowed to be selfish for a change.

“It’s okay, Rose,” he says quietly while he hugs her. “We’ll be okay.”

She does nothing but tighten her arms around him.

-oOo-


A shadow lurks in the doorway that neither of them see. From the darkness of the corridor the Doctor looks on, his face an unreadable canvas of emotion. He tells himself silently that this is for the best, that Mickey and Rose deserve each other like this and that he’s happy to see them sorting things out. He tries not to feel guilty for the fact that he might have been the reason they broke up in the first place.

Perhaps Mickey, is a good distraction, he decides. He brings a void between himself and Rose and keeps Rose happy. Perhaps, now, things will start to change. A growling need somewhere inside him asks for a distraction for himself and he smiles slightly. His eyes fall on the figure of Rose, such beauty and warmth in one person. It’s all about distractions, really.

She was his distraction from the Time War; Mickey is her distraction from him; and his distraction from her? He has time yet to find one, he muses wryly.

He ignores the rather animal part of him that says distractions can only keep him from the inevitable for so long.

Back to index


Chapter 6: The Girl in the Fireplace

Author's Notes: What he wanted so desperately with Reinette, he also wants with Rose. He can’t hide. Not now, not after everything that’s happened. It was easier with the fantasy, with the distraction, because part of him knew it would never be real. But Rose...


Part the Fifth — The Girl in the Fireplace


Rose and Mickey sit in the kitchen. Silence envelopes them like a storm, Mickey looking across the counter at Rose and Rose somewhere else entirely.

“Hell of a day,” he quips, attempting some humour. But when he doesn’t even get a cursory smile from Rose, he stops trying and sighs into his mug of tea. He swallows and doesn’t look up. “Go to him, Rose,” he says after an undefinable amount of time.

This seems to snap her out of her reverie and she shakes herself back into reality. “What?”

Mickey looks up, can see that she hasn’t — and won’t — touch her tea and that she’s looking completely and utterly resigned. He knows the look of a broken man when he sees one, and he knows when men need to be left on their own. But it must have been half an hour now, at least, and the Doctor has made no appearance. Something needs to change.

“Go to him,” Mickey repeats. “If I know my stuff, he’s gonna need someone right now.”

Rose shrugs dejectedly, slipping down in the chair. “He doesn’t need me. Not any more.”

Mickey snorts and shakes his head. Rose, looking up, frowns at him. “What?” she asks, like he’s just criticised what she’s wearing.

“Obviously not as clued in on him as you think you are.”

It isn’t meant as a criticism, but he can see Rose bristle anyway. He’ll admit, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do — tell the woman he loves to go and comfort the man she loves instead — but someone needs to do it.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asks defensively.

“Nothing. But Rose, I mean it. Go talk to him, go ...find out what’s wrong.”

“I know what’s wrong.”

Mickey holds back a groan of contempt. He meets her eye defiantly. “I get it, yeah? You’re upset ‘cause he found a girl that wasn’t you — ”

“I never said — ”

“ — but sometimes it’s not always about how you feel. He needs you now, Rose. He does. Honestly, he does: a man to man won’t cut it. And even if it would, I don’t think he’d appreciate it.”

Rose looks at him now like he holds all her answers, and for a second, Mickey revels in that. Then he lets it go as a fleeting fancy and sips his tea.

“How do you know that?” she asks quietly.

Mickey smiles to himself. “Call it a man’s thing. When something happens to the woman you jump through a mirror for, it takes your best friend to pull you out of that. So, go.”

Roe seems to consider for a few moments. Then she slides out of her chair and Mickey bows his head in acceptance. Then, suddenly, Rose is at his side and she kisses him on the cheek.

“Thank you,” she whispers softly, then turns on her heel to find the Doctor.

He sits for a while, mulling things over in his head. After today, maybe Rose will understand things a little bit more. He smiles, and knows he made the right choice in coming aboard. He finishes his tea alone.

-I-


The Doctor is still in the console room, right where she left him. She stands in the doorway, unsure of what to do. He looks so tired, so alone, standing there like the last stone sculpture ever made. She wants to say his name but can’t even manage that. Tears pinprick in her eyes and she closes them, trying to shut out her own emotions because she needs to be unselfish now The Doctor needs her.

She isn’t aware how long she stands in that doorway. It could be a few seconds or a few minutes, or even a few hours. The Doctor doesn’t move. He appears to be stuck, transfixed, with one hand on the console and the other down by his side. She isn’t used to seeing him defeated, and it scares her.

She walks bravely forward into the room.

“Doctor?”

He turns, surprised, and for a second she sees on his face a glimmer of grief that she didn’t think was possible for this Doctor. In that split second he looks so hurt and lost that she just wants to run to him and sweep him into her arms. But then it’s gone, wiped away by his hands and replaced with a smile they both know isn’t true. This, she realises, hurts.

-o0o-


He realises too.

“Rose,” he says, voice straining with emotion he’s quickly trying to bury away. “I thought you were with Mickey.”

She shrugs and looks to the floor. “I was. But he’s ...thinking ...”

The Doctor frowns and slips his hands into his pockets, ignoring the burning sensation he feels from the letter at his chest. “What about?”

“Just ...stuff.”

He nods slightly. “Oh.”

Silence descends on them, unwelcome and unbidden. He hates this silence; it’s the sort of silence where he can hear all his thoughts, equally taunting him and teasing him with what could have been. He makes a conscious effort to push it away, to concentrate on the here and now, to hide from Rose what he’s really thinking. Can’t let her in, can’t let her see: there are some things too dangerous for even Rose, and who he is — who he really is — is one of them.

“Doctor,” Rose says quickly, like she’s trying to catch him before he leaves the room, “what happened?”

He shrugs and puffs out his cheeks, letting his gaze dance to his feet. “When?”

“With...” She stumbles, trying to retain eye contact but having to break it every few seconds. She tries again. “With ...Madame de Pompadour.”

“Oh, nothing,” he lies. It is for her own good, he tells himself firmly. She doesn’t need to know that his one chance at a distraction ultimately spelled his downfall. She doesn’t need to know that Reinette — sweet, caring, classy, innocent, daring, beautiful Reinette — broke down his final barriers and that he’s now in very impending danger of going to a place with Rose he’s promised he will never set foot.

Rose frowns, walking towards him, and he manages to keep his face blank with a hint of a smile.

“You can honestly look me in the eye and tell me nothing happened?” Her voice is soft, gentle, coaxing him into an answer without any force at all. She isn’t blaming him, isn’t running around the place screaming and shouting that he left her, and for that, he’s proud of her. But she’s clever, too. She’s playing the card that calls his bluff — because she knows he can’t, and won’t, lie to her.

He looks her in the eye. “She died,” he says gravely, voice devoid of anything that could betray his emotion.

The words hit Rose as though they were bricks and he watches as various emotions pass across her face — surprise; sympathy; grief. It seems wrong, somehow, the Rose should grieve when he can avoid it so easily.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers softly, her voice barely audible.

The Doctor shrugs and sniffs, looking away. “Nah. Don’t be. All in the past now, after all, and we’ve got a brand new future ahead of us to explore. What d’you reckon? Cocktails on Riverhill Beach? I tell you, they’re the best thing that planet has to offer.”

Already he is darting around the controls with feigned enthusiasm, hitting a switch here and cranking a lever there. Rose isn’t fooled and her question startles him: partly in itself but partly because Rose has never been one to push before.

“How did she die?”

He slows to a stop and looks up regretfully. He swallows, the air around them feeling thicker than it once did.

“Illness, I think. She ...she got ill... ” He mentally kicks himself for the lack of eloquence in his words and realises, with some degree of shock, what Rose has managed to reduce him to. Intentional or not, he knows there is no going back now. He hasn’t had sufficient time to put walls up yet and already, if he thinks about it too much, he can see Reinette’s face in his mind, hear her voice, feel her hand in his and her lips on his...

He looks to Rose, startled, refusing to lose himself in the memory. He doesn’t want to be thinking these things, doesn’t understand why he feels like this.

And suddenly from nowhere she’s in front of him, gazing up at him gently with a mournful frown, then pulling him to her. He steps forward without fighting back because he doesn’t have the strength to keep doing so any more. She holds him, his head atop hers and her hands on his back. He resignedly acts in kind, slipping his arms around her shoulders as he lets her undeniable warmth and compassion pour from her into him. He gives the floor a hard stare.

And for a moment, he lets himself believe. He takes a breath and closes his eyes and just loses himself. He lets himself believe that where they are, right now, is where they are going to be forever. He lets himself believe in the fantasy he created with Reinette and lets himself believe it was real. He lets himself believe that what he had with Reinette can be recreated with Rose, that he can travel with her on the slow path and meet her at the end together.

He never expected his distraction to turn into such an attainable fantasy, and for a while he almost believed that living it would save him from the real world, and the real monsters he has to deal with every day. The real monsters that come in the form of situations like these, which he both desperately wants to hold on to and push away all at once.

What he wanted so desperately with Reinette, he also wants with Rose. He can’t hide. Not now, not after everything that’s happened. It was easier with the fantasy, with the distraction, because part of him knew it would never be real. But Rose...

Keeping Rose at bay is becoming decidedly more difficult, and he has a feeling it is only going to get worse.

She speaks, breaking through his thoughts like a waking voice through his dreams. “It’s okay to grieve, Doctor.” She smiles, if only slightly. “I may be human, but sometimes I can see stuff you can’t. And if you need to ...I dunno, let her go. It’s okay.”

He opens his eyes and pulls back just enough to look at her, not yet brave enough to lose her comforting touch.

“What makes you think I need to grieve, Rose Tyler?” he asks gently, looking deep into her eyes.

When she says nothing, he hesitates, unsure of what to say next. He is presented with a multitude of answers, but none of them feel quite adequate. He takes a small risk, seemingly insignificant.

“There’s nothing to grieve,” he tells her eventually, and it is said with some sense of honesty.

“You asked her to come with you,” she points out.

He gives her a gentle smile. “I did,” he confirms, tilting his head slightly.

Rose frowns, obviously a little surprised. “You don’t ask ...everyone to come on board.”

“No, that’s true,” he reasons, finding his smile fading. “It would get rather cramped in here if I did that.”

They still stand, arms around each other, discussing this as naturally as though they are discussing London’s weather while in the park.

“You said...” Her voice trails off and she can’t look at him now, having to make do with focusing entirely on her buttons of his suit. He, however, has eyes only for her.

“I said?” he prompts quietly.

Rose sighs in his arms and he can feel it almost as a part of him.

“You said, before ...that everyone you travel with is special, unique. That you only take the best.”

“Right — I still stand by that.” His hands tighten on her slightly.

She looks as though she is about to say something telling; he feels the breath hitch in her throat and the quickening of her heartbeat. But then she shakes her head and looks around them instead.

“Do you really think she’d have liked all this?” Rose wonders. “Not a bit space-age for her?”

Oddly enough, it is this that finally breaks his last barrier. He doesn’t want to dwell on the question, but he finds himself doing so nonetheless. Reinette, he knows, is a special case. What he felt for her even he can’t quite decide: but thinking about her now brings all the memories and feelings rushing right back to him and he stills for a moment, stolen by the memory.

She saw things in him no human has ever been able to see, that not even Time Lords have been allowed to see. But she saw it. She saw all the dangers and grief he carries on his shoulders (or at least what isn’t buried in the pit of his mind) and she understood. She is very like Rose in that way; the fact that neither of them have shown fear scares him a little — because they should be scared. There are good reasons why monsters have nightmares about him.

This world, full of monsters, would have killed Reinette quicker. Her death would have been his responsibility, his fault: she was too innocent to know what his world really requires. He would have watched his fantasy wither in front of him and would have been helpless to stop it. He knows it was wrong of him to ask her, but he still wasn’t able to stop himself. Just as he wasn’t able to stop himself asking Rose to come on board.

It seems so long ago now, especially after everything they have been through. No, Reinette would not have been right for this world: she belongs in her own life and her own time. She isn’t Rose.

The Doctor, memories filtering in front of his mind, clears his throat.

“I don’t think this life would have suited her at all.”

Rose, surprised, looks back to him. “Then why did you — ”

“She was an incredible young woman,” he mutters bitterly. “Witty, sarcastic, funny, sexy — you name it. All the men fell for her, one way or another. But this? You and me?” He looks straight into her eyes now, knowing his broken emotions show by the way Rose holds back breath. “It wouldn't have suited her. One can tolerate a world of monsters ... only for so long, Rose. She was an important figure in human history. Her life had meaning. I shouldn’t have ...it was wrong of me to ...”

Rose sees his difficulty and reaches up a hand to whisper across his cheek. He closes his eyes, unable to stop himself.

“It’s okay,” she tells him gently as he tries to frown away his hurt. “Doctor, it’s okay to do what you want to make yourself happy. You don’t always have to follow the rules.”

A bitter chuckle escapes his lips and he keeps his eyes closed, enjoying the feel of her so close to him. She is forgiving of him that he feels he doesn’t quite deserve it.

“You’re so like her,” he muses, almost to himself.

Rose snorts. “Yeah. French courtesan, that’s me, Doctor.” Then suddenly the meaning behind his words hits her and she’s at a loss for what to say. His eyes open and he’s looking into her, burning, but with something else there too.

“She died waiting for me,” the Doctor admits in a hoarse voice. Rose teases her bottom lip with her teeth and he wishes she wouldn’t.

At length, she asks the only question she can.

“How come?”

“When I left her, she was thirty-seven. She spent an entire five years without me, waiting for me to come back to her. She believed I’d be there for her, but ...I wasn’t. I never am, Rose, don’t you get that? I can’t even promise... She’ll never know I was there. She’ll always think I left her, that I just left without looking back. I didn’t mean that to happen, I didn’t mean any of it! She’ll always think... She’ll never know ...”

He breaks off, finding it impossible to continue while tears burn like rum at the back of his throat. He shakes his head, loosening his hold on Rose as he tries to get her to leave him.

“Doctor,” she says firmly, properly taking his face in her hands and looking at him straight in the eye. He has the feeling that if he thinks she’s going to let him get away with leaving things like that, he’s got another thing coming. “If she really was anything like me — she’ll know. She’ll have kept it in her heart and she would have been a better person because of it. Don’t blame yourself for giving her that ...‘cause honestly, Doctor, it’s the best gift in the world.”

Her voice is filled with such raw honesty that the Doctor almost feels like it’s forgiveness and he’s suddenly very, very glad he’s got her. He’s not quite sure what he would do without her words, without her smile, without her forgiveness. He blinks down at the human in such awe that he can’t even form words. He nods slowly, trying to show her by tightening himself around her just how much she means to him.

She lowers her hands from his face and they rest on his chest, one over each heart. Carefully, slowly, while looking directly into her eye for any signs that this isn’t okay, he slides his hands from her back to her waist, pulling her into him. He looks at her with such an honest, open expression that Rose looks like she may cry. They take this moment — for it is so rare to just have silence like this — to simply look at each other, as though they are seeing each other properly for the very first time.

The Doctor takes in a steadying breath, his eyes shining.

“Thank you,” he says earnestly, voice coarse with emotion. “For everything. You’re a better person than I am, Rose Tyler.” She smiles shyly and he deftly reaches to place her hair behind her ear. “And I ...I’m sorry I ...left you.”

She shakes her head, the smile turning bitter-sweet at her lips.

“I know,” she answers, swallowing down a rising a tide of emotion. “I know.”

They dissolve into each other for another hug, the Doctor cradling Rose to him gently while she slips her arms around him once more. He lets himself be with her, the grief of losing Reinette that little bit easier to bear. He will still carry the guilt for a very long while, but perhaps with Rose’s forgiveness it won’t hurt quite so much.

She was everything he wanted in a fantasy, including the fact she was a stranger to him. He was free to kiss her, go to a party with her, dance with her: for a small while he managed to relieve himself of responsibilities and consequences and live the sort of life he never dares to dream about. Part of his guilt is knowing he simply took advantage of her. Her death, he realises, was the universe’s way of stopping him because he couldn’t stop himself; it drew a defining line between fantasy and reality.

He has to live, now, in the real world. Here, with Rose in his arms and the smell of her surrounding him, he decides perhaps — every now and again — it is good to indulge in a little fantasy.

Except that now he has started, he isn’t quite sure if he’s ever going to be able to stop.

Back to index


Chapter 7: Interlude - The Stuff of Legends

Author's Notes: After half a minute or so goes by, it’s pure misfortune when both men speak at the same time.

“How are you getting on with this life?” the Doctor asks, just as Mickey says, “You know she’s got feelings for you, right?”


Interlude — The Stuff of Legends


Rose pulls open the door and pops her head out. Her face instantly becomes alive with joy, and she turns back into the TARDIS, meeting eyes with the Doctor.

He smiles smugly.

“Seriously?” she asks, evidently unable to keep the excitement in her voice at bay.

The Doctor just tips his head, not answering, and beside him Mickey smirks. Rose glances between them and narrows her eyes good-naturedly.

“You’re both in on this, aren’t you?”

Both of the men shrug and avoid her eye, at which point Rose bounds over to both of them and flings her arms around their necks.

“Thank you,” she says warmly, looking at each of them, and then she’s merrily skipping off towards the door again. “You coming?”

The Doctor and Mickey exchange an equally pleased glance, then head down the ramp after her, the Doctor shutting the door behind them.

“Good idea, mate,” Mickey mentions quietly to the Doctor as they follow a few paces behind Rose. “Look how happy she is.”

The Doctor brushes it off. “Well, it was your idea. Coming here for a bit of light relief — absolutely what we all needed. Spot on, if you ask me!”

“Didn’t actually know there was a planet that was made of fun-fairs, though, did I?”

Hollow, child-like music echoes around the trio as they walk deeper into the heart of the fair. It’s a planet that hosts an all-day funfair, a tourist place on an asteroid out on the third belt of Hortu. With a skyline that’s always twilight blue and a constant twinkle of stars, it’s one of the more perfect places to come to relax.

Bright, colourful lights dance over the frosty ground and the faces of the public as people mill through the rides. It’s an exciting and fun atmosphere that all three could do with after their recent adventures.

Rose is the first to race up to one of the rides and haggle outrageously with the attendant. The Doctor and Mickey just amble behind, watching pleasantly and indulging in the whims of their favourite woman. That is, until the Doctor suddenly breaks into a jog and joins Rose in front of the gruff-looking ride attendant. He pats his pockets up and down, before nodding and searching through one flamboyantly.

“Lost something?” Mickey asks, coming up on Rose’s other side. She looks at him and gives him a warm smile, lights twinkling in her eyes.

“Ah,” the Doctor says, pulling out a battered looking wallet. “Thought I’d forgotten something. The rides here aren’t free, Rose. You have to pay. I’ve got some money in here. Hold out your hands” He tips a few oval discs into Rose’s cupped hands. Grinning cheekily, he meets her eye. “Now, don’t spend it all at once.”

She rolls her eyes. “Yes, Dad.”

The Doctor jerks his head and Mickey makes his way over to collect an equal amount of coins from him.

“Now, you’re both free to go on this planet wherever you like,” he informs while replacing the wallet. The ride attendant looks on idly. “Any of the rides, any of the views or surrounding area. Obviously you can’t just wander in to somebody’s house, but that’s common sense.”

Mickey laughs. “Sounds like something you’d do, Doc.”

“Anyway,” the Doctor continues, seemingly not having heard him, “my point is, think of this as a holiday. We’ve had a bit of a tough lot recently, and, well...” His eyes fall on Rose and the gaze locks and holds. “You deserve it.”

After a moment she nods and pockets her money. “Right, then, the first thing I wanna do is go on that.” She points above them, to a large Ferris wheel that spins above their heads. It’s fairly basic as rides go, but it’s also one of the prettiest. Intricate drawings line the wheel’s supports and the music drifting from it is one of the more serenely beautiful pieces.

Both the Doctor and Mickey make a doubtful noise.

“Oh, come on,” Rose tries with a positive tone. “It’s not that bad. It’s just a wheel.”

“I’m... not a fan of heights, Rose,” the Doctor admits, his face pleading when he looks at her. “You understand.”

It’s impossible to tell whether he’s being sincere of if he’s just making up an excuse, but dutifully she turns to Mickey with an eyebrow raised expectantly.

“Sorry, Rose,” he laughs sheepishly. “I sorta wanted a go on the dodgems.”

She looks between them, then shakes her head. “You’re both such boys,” she complains. “Fine, then, I’ll go on my own.”

And up she steps to the attendant’s ticket box, asking for one ticket, then crossing the threshold of the ride to wait until it stops and she can get on.

The Doctor and Mickey stand a little way to the side, far enough back to watch her when she gets on but out of the way of passers-by.

“Definitely a good idea,” Mickey comments as Rose finally climbs into one of the circular orbs when it stills. “It’s about time that girl had a rest.”

“Tell me about it!” The Doctor laughs. “She’s always on her feet, always raring to go. Sometimes I still have to force her to go to bed. ‘Rose,’ I tell her, ‘you’re just a human. You can’t cope with being awake like I can.’”

Mickey snorts. “I bet that goes down a treat.”

The two men smile and fall into silence as the ride starts up again. Rose waves at them from her seat and, candidly, they both wave back.

“She’s one hell of a girl,” Mickey comments idly, watching as the wheel spins.

The Doctor nods in agreement. “Mm.”

“Think she knows it?”

“Oh, I shouldn’t think so. Things like that tend to go right over peoples’ heads.”

Mickey smiles to himself and nods. “Yeah. Like when someone fancies you.”

The silence that follows is decidedly more awkward than the first, and both men make a conscious effort to keep their eyes on Rose.

After half a minute or so goes by, it’s pure misfortune when both men speak at the same time.

“How are you getting on with this life?” the Doctor asks, just as Mickey says, “You know she’s got feelings for you, right?”

After a few more moments, Mickey sniffs awkwardly. “’S all right. Takes a bit of getting used to.”

“Yes,” the Doctor laughs, nervously. “Yes.”

“Was that — ?” Mickey begins.

“Er, no. I mean, yes, but no. It wasn’t.”

“Right.”

“I don’t think it’s got much to do with me any more,” Mickey says as Rose loops around to their side again. He smiles at her. “She’s kind of... a bit... y’know. With you.”

“Oh, she’s just used to this life,” the Doctor replies flippantly. “She gets a bit caught up sometimes. I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on her if I were you.”

Mickey ponders this, his face thoughtful. “D’you think?”

“I think...” The Doctor pauses for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “I think she’s young. Very young; far too young for my world, at least.” After a further moment, he adds, “You both are.”

“So, what? Are you saying — ”

“I’m not saying anything. Well, I am, but there’s no subtext. No hidden meaning. And, to answer your question... Yes. I know.”

Mickey nods. “You gonna do anything about it?”

Quite calmly, and with a hint of a content smile, the Doctor responds, “Tell me what I could possibly do, Mickey Smith, and I’ll do it.”

The young man fades into quiet thoughtfulness, an answer seemingly impossible. The Doctor gives a nod.

“Precisely.”

The ride above them draws to a halt and, slowly, people start filing out of the orbs. The Doctor and Mickey walk over to meet Rose at the end, who remains completely unaware of the conversation they’ve just had.

“All right boys?” she asks, her tongue snaking its way to the corner of her mouth.

“Enjoy that, Rose?” Mickey asks teasingly, giving her waist a bit of a squeeze.

“No cheek from you,” she warns with a smile, “or you’re sleeping outside the TARDIS tonight.”

“Oi!” Mickey protests, looking at the Doctor. “She can’t do that. Tell her she can’t do that!”

The Doctor, with a wink towards Rose, shrugs his shoulders. “What can I say, Mickey-boy? When the lady has her mind set, even the time vortex can’t stop her.”

She nods in resolute affirmation, then turns to Mickey. “Coming on the dodgems?”

His eyes linger on the Doctor for just a moment before he turns to her and smiles. “Wouldn’t miss it. Come on, you.”

Together, they link arms and disappear into the throng of crowd, leaving the Doctor to stand and watch.

“Funny couple, them.”

It takes a few moments for the Doctor to respond, unaware that the words were spoken to him. He turns and looks up to the ride attendant, who is looking after the young pair with mild interest. The Doctor turns back, looking the same direction.

“Yes. I suppose.”

“We don’t usually get humans this far out. Not unless they’re making a delivery,” the attendant notes as he sits back in his seat again.

“Why ever not?” the Doctor asks, looking around at the spinning wheels of rides and fun stalls of games. The lights and music are never-ending, a constant cycle. “I’d have thought this was the perfect place to relax.”

“Oh, it is, sir. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just usually a bit far out for humans unless they’re here by a different order. There’re plenty more places to go if they want to ‘relax’.” He pauses, scraping a clawed finger across his chocolate brown chin. “They must be pretty important to be out here for a rest.”

The Doctor smiles. “Oh, yes. Very important. I’d say those two are two of the most important people I’ve ever met.”

The attendant sits up, his eyes interested. “Really?”

“Definitely,” the Doctor answers, looking at his friend. “The best. A real duo. A lot of people owe their lives to those two.”

“You don’t say... Who are they?”

It takes the Doctor a moment to reply, but his eyes glitter with pride when he does. “The stuff of legends.”

Back to index


Chapter 8: Rise of the Cybermen

Author's Notes:
The risk of using the small piece of the TARDIS almost isn’t worth it – but the risk of death, especially of those he is supposed to be protecting, is so much worse. The decision has already been made, really.


Part the Sixth — Rise of the Cybermen

He stares forward, worry flooding through him like an angry storm. He blames himself for their arrival here, despite the fact that he knows he couldn’t have stopped it. All the things he could and should have done race through his mind at the same, frantic pace as his heartbeats.

He should have protected Rose from this. As soon as he saw that poster when they arrived, he knew there would be trouble. She isn’t old enough or experienced enough to cope in this world — not where her father is alive. He should have protected her from the alternate doppelgangers because it’s going to hurt so much more when they leave again. It’s not her father. Not her mother. In this world, she doesn’t even exist. Mingling in the wrong world can have dire consequences.

Like now.

He stares into the face of an emotionless Cyberman, each one looking identical to the next. He thinks of the real, living humans these things once were and pities them profoundly. Rose’s words echo in his mind.

Why no emotions?

Because it hurts.


He was as right then as he is now, warily taking in the scene around them. Surrounded by Cybermen and about to be ‘deleted’ — he has faced worse than this, surely. The beacon from the TARDIS pulses in his hand and he weighs up his options. He knows he can use the power of the vortex to disintegrate the Cybermen, but only one or two ...and he can’t promise that by doing so he won’t trap them here forever, that the power won’t be sucked out completely.

He can’t even promise that by using it he’ll save Rose, himself, and the rest of them: there’s no guarantee the vortex won’t just burn them all up as well.

His heartbeats quicken further as the death call of the Cybermen ring out around them. If he doesn’t do anything, they’re all going to die anyway. This life is all about risks. It was a risk to visit Pete Tyler in the first place, a risk to bring Rose here, a risk to allow Mickey to wander off (somehow it doesn’t surprise him that the Idiot managed to stumble onto his parallel) and a risk to try and find out what was going on.

Because he wishes he didn’t know. He wishes he was back in the TARDIS, with Rose, and that they were safe and happy and not staring down reality in the form of a cold, hard face.

The risk of using the small piece of the TARDIS almost isn’t worth it — but the risk of death, especially of those he is supposed to be protecting, is so much worse. The decision has already been made, really.

Besides, he swore to Jackie — the real Jackie — that he would do everything in his power to protect Rose and he still stands by that. He will get her home, safe and sound, even if it means sacrificing himself in the process.

His hand tightens around their only salvation as he prays to whatever God he doesn’t believe in that she won’t be harmed; that they’ll all get out of this alive.

It’s amazing how much can go through a Time Lord’s mind in a split second.

He activates the sphere in his hand and jabs it towards the nearest Cyberman.

Please, he thinks as the gold light shoots from it like a stream of fire. Please. Save her.

Back to index


Chapter 9: The Age of Steel

Author's Notes:
He doesn’t prompt her for an answer because maybe she doesn’t need to say anything. He’s content to just lie with her, surrounded by her warmth and her fingers between his as he just holds her and wishes that he could always allow himself times like these.



Part the Seventh — The Age of Steel


For the sake of Rose, the Doctor has decided they’re to stay in the Powell Estate for a couple of days. He moves the TARDIS out of Jackie’s living room for convenience, parking in the familiar alleyway just down the road. Even he doesn’t feel restless for once, happy to take a couple of days for breathing space. Jackie, perhaps not entirely impressed with the sudden arrival, kits him out on the sofa with a blanket and a pillow. She doesn’t ask questions and nobody tells her: she seems to know anyway.

It is late into the second night. They have already eaten, an awkward affair sat around the table in the kitchen that consisted of the clatter of knives and forks and not much else. The Doctor pretended to like the cooking, Jackie pretended she hadn’t cancelled a date with Howard and Rose pretended that everything was all right.

It’s hours later, after some quiet conversation in the living room, that Jackie finally retires to bed. She wishes them a good night then looks pointedly at Rose, suggesting she could get some sleep. Rose smiles without warmth and nods, and then her mother is gone. The smile fades with every footstep.

Rose lets out a heavy sigh, wiping her damp hands against each other between her knees. She stares at the floor, quiet. So far she has managed to avoid talking about Mickey, but there’s only so long she can hold back her words.

The Doctor, in a seat across the room, sits back in the arm chair and considers her over steepled fingers. He says nothing, simply watches her behind black-rimmed spectacles and waits for something to cool the heavy atmosphere between them.

“D’you reckon I should tell her?” Rose says at last, but she doesn’t look at him.

He clears his throat slowly, a deep frown carved into his features.

“I dunno. Maybe. Probably best she knows, but ...perhaps we should give it a while.”

She lets out a shuddering breath. “Yeah.”

The Doctor, unable to take it any more, pockets his glasses and sits straighter in the seat. “Rose, it was his choice. He’s happy.”

She looks up fiercely, her eyes red with unshed tears and he backs down somewhat sheepishly.

“You can’t say that. You don’t know it. What if he changes his mind, Doctor? What if he wants to come back and he can’t? What if ...what if a Cyberman manages to ...to... ”

She buries her head in her hands, fighting back against the choked sob that takes her. The Doctor is out of his seat in a second, crossing the room and joining her on the sofa. He wraps an arm around her shoulder, pulling her into him slightly and taking a deep breath. He puts his cheek against her head and strokes her arm comfortingly while she struggles with tears.

“He’ll be all right,” he tries, knowing that in reality he has no idea if that’s true. “He’ll be all right.”

“You don’t know that,” she sniffs from his chest.

“I do.” He pulls back and holds her by the shoulders, looking deep into her eyes with honesty. “If there’s one thing I know, Rose, it’s that. Mickey is perfectly capable of defending himself, as well as the Earth. They’ve got a good defender now; he’s not going to let them down.”

She swallows, looking as though she’s about to argue — but then she nods. Tears have stained her perfect cheeks and, without realising, he wipes the bitter trails away with his thumb.

“He’s happy,” the Doctor repeats, at a loss for anything else to say.

Rose shrugs dejectedly. “Maybe.”

It’s better than defying him outright, he supposes. With a sympathetic look he pulls her back into his shoulder again, sighing through his nose as he considers the man he’s never going to see again. He was a good asset to the TARDIS, and a good chap — he ignores the guilt that says they didn’t treat him properly. It seemed so easy to take advantage of him, but it was still wrong. He was selfish in his actions, he knows. After what happened with Reinette ...he wanted Rose all to himself. He still does.

“You’d better get some sleep,” he says after a while, beginning to pull back from Rose. “It’s getting la— ”

“No.” She pulls at him, makes him stay close to her. His eyes flick to her face and her eyes are closed, but there’s definite pain and hurt still there. “Stay with me,” Rose whispers, almost desperately, in a beaten voice. “Please.”

He wants to say no, feels the word a whisper on his breath — but looking at her, feeling her in his arms and the quiver of his hearts at her words, he knows he can’t deny her. He thinks perhaps she literally can’t be on her own, that perhaps she needs to know there is warmth and comfort somewhere in a universe that can, at times, seem very, very cold. So he sheds his jacket, then gathers her into his arms again, shifting them both so that they lie on the sofa, his back pressed against the uncomfortable rest and Rose pressed into him for warmth and comfort.

She faces away from him, which he thinks is just as well. Without her knowledge his eyes caress her body and he frowns. His arms tighten around her, one beneath her neck and across her chest, the other slipped over her waist. She lies with her hands close to her face and, slowly, they reach for his. He lets her have this comfort — just this once — because every other man in her life has deserted her and she needs to know that she isn’t alone.

Her hair tickles his face, but he doesn’t mind. He even smiles into it, indulging in this fantasy perhaps a little too easily. Without being able to stop himself, he lays a chaste kiss on the back of her head, then pulls her tighter to him still.

“You’re not alone,” he says quietly in the darkness: only the hall light shines in through the doorway.

She moves slightly against him and her hands tighten on his. “I know.”

Whether or not she believes it, it doesn’t stop her voice from sounding so, so tired.

The Doctor, closing his eyes for strength, prepares to embark upon a speech he has rehearsed many times but promised he would never let her hear; but some things are more important than selfishness. It’s dressed up in talk about the alternate world, but he knows that that won’t hide its meaning from her.

“Rose,” he says softly, but is unsure where to take it from there. She stills in his arms, quivering only slightly, and he’s not sure if he’s brave enough to continue speaking. Daleks, Cybermen: those things don’t scare him truly — but a simple human girl who has made herself as part of his life? He doesn’t stand a chance.

“What?” she prompts quietly, squeezing his hand for reassurance. He smiles, just because.

“Rose, I ...That world we saw. It’s another time, another life. Parallels are all over the place, for every decision you make. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of billions. Billions of billions. Each one unique in its own special way.”

“Okay ...” she responds, and he can hear the frown in her voice. He curses himself for not being able to make this clear, for letting his mind be clouded by just how much he cares for this woman.

“There’s only one of me,” he says eventually with a grave tone in his voice.

“Oh.”

He breathes into her hair, inhaling the dizzying scent of her shampoo.

“And — there’s only one of you,” he clarifies quickly, not wanting her to feel like he’s pushing her away from him, even though that’s exactly what he should be doing. “Well, only one who’s quite like you. Even if there had been an alternate Rose, she would have been a little bit different. Like Ricky. She’d have been ...I dunno, ‘Mose’, or something.”

He feels Rose laugh a little in his arms, and that’s good. The more smiles he can get out of her, the better.

“So ...what are you trying to say?” she asks eventually once she has stilled, settling slightly into the comfort of his arms.

The Doctor closes his eyes and takes the plunge.

“We’re two very different people in a world that goes on forever.” His hearts are rocketing in his chest and he hopes that Rose can’t feel it; but considering he can feel her heartbeat, in time with his own, he has a suspicion she might. “Our worlds aren’t even the same. Your world should consist of beans on toast, going to work, watching telly, falling asleep and doing it all over again the next day. You shouldn’t even be aware of the dangers of my world.”

He pauses for a moment, hearing nothing but Rose’s breath and the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece. She is giving him space to finish and he appreciates it. After another breath, he continues, despite the dangers of doing so. He promised never to tell her this, yet somehow, the words spill out of his mouth so naturally he can’t seem to stop. Perhaps it is easier to say this when she isn’t looking at him, when he can still be convinced that he’s talking to himself.

“But you are. We’re part of each other’s lives now, Rose, and no matter what happens ...nothing is going to change that. The day I met you, my entire world changed. It shaped to fit you, and now you’re just as much a part of it as ...well, everything else. You are my life, Rose Tyler. So you can never be alone. Not really, not truly — not until our worlds don’t collide any more: and I’m never going to let that happen.”

She is quiet for so long that he wonders if she’s fallen asleep. It gives him time to think, time to worry about saying the words that shouldn’t have been said and regretting them later. He tries not to show that those words are more terrifying to him than anything they’ve just seen in the alternate universe, although he can’t pretend that he wasn’t terrified there, either.

He doesn’t prompt her for an answer because maybe she doesn’t need to say anything. He’s content to just lie with her, surrounded by her warmth and her fingers between his as he just holds her and wishes that he could always allow himself times like these.

“You’re much better at this than I am, Doctor.”

Her voice is a laugh and he can’t help smiling.

“Thought you were asleep,” he teases, nudging their hands from side to side slightly. “And ...better at what, exactly?”

“Saying the right thing.” She tries to shrug but it ends up as just snuggling closer to him — he doesn’t mind. “Making me feel better, even when everything’s so ...shit.”

He chuckles into her slightly, unable to help the smile that tugs at his mouth. “You’re far more capable than you think you are,” he tells her honestly, stroking his thumb absently back and forth across her stomach. “It’s not always about saying the right thing at the right time. Sometimes just being there is enough.”

Silence settles on them for a few moments. Then, in a quiet voice, Rose replies, “It’s enough for me — being with you.”

He is reminded painfully of her child-like innocence, and her youth, and her total inability to comprehend the real evils of this world. She isn’t old enough to know that forever isn’t forever, just a frame of mind. He can’t reply in kind, because he promised that he would never lie to her, so instead he just lies in thoughtfulness.

“Quite right, too,” he settles for at last with a smirk. He can imagine the amused frown crossing her face and is delighted when he hears it in her voice.

“You’re a cocky git,” she complains, though it is not without humour. “I s’pose that’s your way of pretending I didn’t just say that.”

“Not at all. Quite the contrary, in fact.” He refrains from adding that simply being with her isn’t enough, because he’s not sure if it’s true.

Rose takes in a long breath and, closing his eyes, he momentarily loses himself in the feel of her, warm and pulsing beneath his hands.

“Who’s gonna be there for Mickey?” she asks quietly.

The Doctor’s eyes flutter open. “He has Jake. He’s got his Gran. Pete will probably stick around, too ...he’s got tons of people. He’ll be fine.”

“...Yeah.”

He sighs a little. “I know what you’re thinking. He doesn’t have you.”

Rose doesn’t answer right away and he wonders just what’s going on in her mind. He waits patiently, because there’s nothing else he can do.

“I don’t think he needs me,” she decides resolutely.

“Maybe not,” the Doctor agrees. “But that won’t stop it hurting.”

“I just ...it’s weird to think I can’t ever see him again. That he’s gone.”

The Doctor really feels for her, squeezing her tightly against him.

“I know,” he whispers into her hair. “He was a good man — he still is a good man. He stayed behind to fight the fight and you know he’s going to be out there, protecting the world one Cyberman at a time.”

Rose smiles ruefully. “Mickey Smith, saving the universe.”

“I always knew he had it in him.”

“Yeah, but I ...I never saw it coming.”

The Doctor sighs and nods his head slightly. “You never do,” he admits. “It’s never something you think about ...‘the end’. And it never really happens in any of the ways you imagine, either.”

“Sound like you’re speaking from experience,” Rose says sadly.

“I am.”

They let the silence envelop them, each lost in their own thoughts. Eventually, Rose yawns loudly and the Doctor smiles to himself.

“Go to sleep, Rose,” he chides gently, kissing her head once more. She settles in his arms, hands tightening around his.

“You’ll still be here when I wake up?” she asks in a hushed whisper, as though she’s not quite sure she’s speaking to anyone there at all.

“Yes,” he replies, smiling softly, “I will.”

“And ...I’m not dreaming?”

The question startles him a moment, and he suppose she means the closeness that they’ve happened to share.

“No,” he confirms. “Not dreaming. At least, I hope not, because I know for a fact that my imagination isn’t this good.”

He lets her consider the words for a few moments before settling himself into a state of comfort. He hasn’t slept for a while and although he will probably lie here for an hour or so while Rose sleeps — simply enjoying her trust in him so — he intends to slip into the realm of dreams eventually. He has a strange feeling that everything will be so much calmer with Rose in his arms.

“Good night, Rose,” he says, feeling their heartbeats settle into the same rhythm.

Unbeknownst to him, she smiles. “Good night, Doctor.”

It is a lazy sun that begins to rise several hours later. As weary beams bathe the room a mass of different colours, light falls upon two sleeping figures on the sofa. They are entwined, entangled, bodies merging together perfectly, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They sleep precious hours of their life away, each comforted by the warmth of the other in a time of quiet they rarely get.

Both may be alone; but they will always, always, have each other.

Back to index


Chapter 10: The Idiot's Lantern

Author's Notes: His knuckles graze her jawline softly, his touch a caress. She looks at him with wide, dark eyes, her attention focused completely on him. He is not even aware if conversation has been passing between them, but the next thing he knows he is leaning towards her, eyelids sinking closed in the heat of desire.


Part the Eighth — The Idiot’s Lantern


He escorts her back to the TARDIS because he is a gentleman ...and because she hasn’t quite managed to learn to walk in those shoes yet. They have both enjoyed the easy stroll back from the party, the setting sun bringing a gentle ambience to their surroundings. They walk back talking of trivialities and the Tommys of this world, both laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

It signifies the end of two long days when the Doctor cranks down a lever to send them fading out of existence.

“What a day, hmm?” he muses as he does so, grinning perfectly at her across the controls. He just can’t help it — seeing those eyes, that smile, that expression: it’s almost too good to be true. “I need more days like this.”

Rose smiles, watching him from her slumped position on the moth-eaten seat. “Everybody lives?” she quotes from a long time ago.

He beams. “Exactly. Everybody lives. Except for the Wire ...and Mr Magpie ...” His smile falters a little.

“You did your best,” Rose tells him quickly, sitting up. “Besides, he was the one selling all the TVs in the first place. He deserved what he got.”

The Doctor studies her carefully. “Do you really think that?”

They look at each other for a long moment, until eventually Rose looks away. “No, Doctor, I don’t,” she admits in a small voice. “I don’t think anyone deserved what that ...that thing did to him.”

He sighs a little, then walks over and nudges her so that she budges up on the seat.

“You’re all right, aren’t you?” he checks, attempting to hide the weight of his words behind a light tone.

“Yeah,” Rose answers with a brief smile, shrugging. “Though, getting my face sucked off ...won’t be remembering that experience any time soon. Might not tell Mum about that one.”

The Doctor’s face drops. “Please, don’t,” he begs, only half-joking. “Jackie wouldn’t rest until my head was strung up on her wall.”

Rose laughs at that mental image and it is a sound so precious — a sound he very nearly lost today — that he memorises it for future reference. He has already burned her features into his mind, wiping clean the blank, haunted flesh that lay there before. He never wants to come that close to losing her again.

“What about you?”

He blinks, not having realised where his mind had wandering. He sits back in the seat, gazing thoughtfully at the central column.

“What about me?” he questions back.

Rose shifts in the seat, looking at him.

“Are you all right?”

“Me?” He tries to pass it off like all the other times and avoids her gaze. “I’m always all right.”

She nods silently, says nothing, and he has a feeling he’s said the wrong thing. Tentatively, he adds, “I’m more all right now than I was before.”

He reaches for her hand, holds it without entwining her fingers. She looks at him, her eyes an odd colour in the light.

“You mean that?” she asks gently.

He smiles inwardly: as if he’d say something like that if it wasn’t true — saying it when it is true is hard enough.

However, in response he squeezes her hand that little bit tighter and gives a soft smile, just for her.

“Yes. I mean that.”

It’s these sorts of times, as they just sit in stillness looking at each other, that he realises the barriers he has put in place are pointless. She is more than capable of getting through to him, and though he keeps fighting for his own protection, these moments make every struggle and thought so insignificant he wonders why he bothers. Everything is so inexplicable and inescapable in terms of Rose, especially as she is all too aware of the power she has over him. Yet she never uses it; she never exploits his weakness for her, and that he appreciates.

In the TARDIS light with her hand in his, it seems less like a weakness than a strength. He can’t even imagine what losing that strength would do to him.

“If ...If reversing the energy fields from the Wire hadn’t worked ...” He lets his eyes rest on here, taking the time to trace the contours of her face: eyelids, cheeks, nose, lips: it’s all there, back where it should belong. Beautiful perfection.

“ ...Then you’d have found another way,” Rose finishes decidedly.

He is vaguely startled, but hides it from his face well. When he speaks, it is in a voice that’s grave with regret.

“You have so much faith in me.”

Rose shrugs, an embarrassed flush burning her cheeks. In this light it makes her ten times more attractive.

“I guess I ...” She tries to pass it off as nothing, but the Doctor knows better. “I — I can’t think of anything better to believe in.”

He nods and swallows, her words meaning more to him than most other declarations he has heard. She believes in him. She believes in him. Oh, he knows she trusts him and has for a long while, but believing in him is something else entirely.

She puts her faith, belief and trust in him and — knowing that now — he knows he wasn’t misguided when he put the same in her, all that time ago. Somehow, he knows her faith in him will keep him stronger and keep his belief in her alive. He trusts that through some divine intervention she will always find a way back to him and — consequently — he will always find the strength to keep saving her. It is an ongoing cycle and a trade he happily accepts.

“Doctor?”

He has been staring into space for some time, his thoughts so prone to wandering these days. He can’t bring himself to words yet, but he meets her gaze and realises they are much closer on this sofa than he remembers. The space between their bodies is minimal and he has a small suspicion he hasn’t always been leaning like this, arm propped up on the back of the chair and head against his hand . In fact, he has a further — slightly more worrying — suspicion that he has been gazing at Rose the entire time. He still holds her hand, resting the join on his knees.

A lock of hair has fallen wayward from her bun and, releasing her hand, he instinctively moves to take it between his fingers. Her expression doesn’t change, but he can sense the rise in her heart rate like it is pounding in his own chest.

His knuckles graze her jawline softly, his touch a caress. She looks at him with wide, dark eyes, her attention focused completely on him. He is not even aware if conversation has been passing between them, but the next thing he knows he is leaning towards her, eyelids sinking closed in the heat of desire.

For the breath of a second he pauses, just a little, before he gets too close; he opens his eyes, just enough for them to meet and hold the gaze in hers. He can’t read anything from her, which is rare for him.

His gaze drops slowly and rests on her tempting lips. He feels his body move once more and he tilts his head while wetting his lips with the small tip of his tongue. His breath, hot and slow, mingles with hers ...

...And it’s in that moment he realises what he’s doing. Lips pass lips just as he jerks away, fear rocketing through his hearts. He stands abruptly, his look one of fear — a deer caught in headlights — as he stares down at Rose.

She looks bewildered, and hurt, and confused and he suddenly cannot be in the same room as her.

“Right, yes, er, snooker!” he garbles with a flustered air, too panicked by his actions to even care about what he is saying. “Pool! I know, a good cup of tea. That’s what I need, a cup of tea and a biscuit and a lie down. Good stuff, tea, clears those synapses right up; it’ll sort me out and no more worrying about anything to worry about. I’ll be right as rain. You know, odd expression, that. Since when is rain right? All I ever hear you lot complaining about is the rain, and here you are coming up with sayings that contradict everything you’ve been complaining about! Honestly, I think I might just look it up to prove you wrong ...”

He stumbles backwards, tripping over his own feet, as the words come out in a rush of one breath. Reaching the door he whips around and strides down the corridor. Rose calls for him and she’s probably hurt, but right now he needs to be selfish before he hurts both of them all the more. With quick paces he tries to block out thoughts and feelings as they lay siege to him, concentrating very hard on walking.

It’s only when he reaches the dark sanctuary of his bedroom and sinks down into the bed, that he’s able to put his head in his hands and let out a shuddered, emotional sigh.

He curses in lots of different languages and a variety of ways. Even Jackie would have gone red upon hearing him, but whether it would be out of embarrassment or anger he doesn’t know.

He curses the unknown for putting him in this situation; he curses Rose for nearly being lost to him, for not stopping him, for looking irresistible; but most of all, he curses himself. He’s such an idiot. He’s a careless idiot with his head stuck in the clouds.

Losing control isn’t something he’s used to. He’s usually so in control, of everything, that he doesn’t recognise when it is slipping. He was going to kiss her, for pity’s sake — he did kiss her! And now he sits in his room surrounded by darkness, just wishing it were the same in his mind. But no, there are explosive images of Rose and forbidden fruit and Gallifrey and memories and the sheer fear of letting someone get that close to him. It isn’t right, isn’t fair, isn’t sane. But since when has he been right, and fair, and sane?

He can’t embark down this impossible path with Rose. It’s okay to kiss strangers and it’s even okay to fall in love with them, because they aren’t part of his life and they never will be. It isn’t okay to treat Rose that way; it simply isn’t the case of a quick kiss or heartfelt expressions of love. She is part of him now. She lives and breathes the same life he does and he can’t let her get closer because her fragile human mind will not be able to cope with the sheer magnitude of what he has to deal with; and his fragile Time Lord hearts will not be able to cope with the further heartbreak of watching her wither before his eyes.

Coward, every time.

He knows that his actions were more about knowing he lost her in such an awful way. He is a dangerous man when Rose is taken from him, because without Gallifrey, he literally has nothing else to fight for. Still, that doesn’t excuse him. He is going to have to take extra care around her, to make sure she stays safe. And he knows that good, sweet, innocent Rose will let the matter slide as easily as he will. She’ll sit in silence, too scared and too startled to talk to him.

The Doctor sighs and sits up, his eyes adjusting to the gloom. He’s lost control one too many times for comfort; yet he knows, even only giving in for a split second, that he has allowed himself to go too far to stop. By peering through a crack in the doorway to a life he could have — part of him regretting that he’ll never be able to have it — he knows he can never fully shut the door on it now. It almost terrifies him, the storm of emotional elements that Rose excites in him. He’ll have no real control over his action once he crosses that line.

With a grimace into the darkness, he realises that no matter how much he fights, he is already gone. From here on in, it is just a matter of time.

Back to index


Chapter 11: The Impossible Planet

Author's Notes: She can feel her own tears rise from the back of her throat and, untangling her hand from his, she shifts to pull him to her comfortingly. She doesn’t know what else to do.

WARNING: Lots of angst.


Part the Ninth — The Impossible Planet


The wrought iron door creaks on rusty hinges at it swings open. They have already been given the tour of the place, of course, as well as officially being added to the laundry rota; but being presented with a room that’s labelled ‘theirs’ somehow means that little bit more.

“I’m sorry it’s so small,” Ida apologises earnestly. “But it’s the only spare room we’ve got clean, and we weren’t exactly expecting visitors.”

The room is more of a cupboard than where he landed the TARDIS. Rose can’t quite believe the Doctor and her laughed off that option of turning back when they had the chance.

She gives a friendly nod to Ida, not caring to point out the obvious that she and the Doctor don’t actually share a bed. It doesn’t seem important right now, and she’s sure he has other things on his mind anyway.

The two of them are left alone with promises of being woken again in a few hours. What with the rest of the crew retiring to bed for the night shift and the Ood being put into their chambers, there is little choice for the Doctor and Rose but to follow suit. Neither of them are actually tired, however, which makes the quiet atmosphere between them all the more awkward.

There is barely enough space to walk around the single bed, decorated in nothing but a garish yellow duvet. A small bedside table and a wardrobe set into the walls are all that are supplied.

The Doctor lies down on the bed seemingly without a thought, his mind probably on the mystery and the danger surrounding them; his face is completely blank. He stares to wherever his eyes happen to rest as he lies, still, with his hands woven together on his chest. It’s in these moments, at his utter stillness, that Rose imagines she could fear him. He’s waiting in silence, like a pan of water waiting to boil.

She still hasn’t forgotten that time after 1950s England, when they had been sitting on that settee, although they have been through a lot since then. She’s filed it away into the back of her mind, along with the first kiss, the hugs and occasional touches that mean just that bit more, the words that are rare between them — especially for him — but that make her love him that little bit more.

Those things, she has come to realise, are not understated declarations as a more naïve version of herself may once have thought. They are not the Doctor trying to tell her something he believes she doesn’t know. They are actions to show he cares about her and he wants her safe, yes, but most of all, they show he wants not to be alone.

She sometimes forgets he’s the same man who lost everything in the Time War. He never brings it up these days — not unless she counts that one time he told her about what happened with the Emperor — so it’s easy to forget, and to assume that everything in his mind is okay. It’s easy to be fooled by that jovial grin and the shrug that pretends to shift the world from his shoulders.

Except for these moments, when she’s reminded painfully that he really is the same man on the inside.

I’m left travelling on my own because there’s no one else.

...There’s me...


She wonders how true those words still are.

Rose, despite her growing tiredness, still hasn’t moved since she closed the door behind them. The Doctor shows no signs of acknowledging her existence so she finds herself wondering if the floor really is as uncomfortable as it looks.

“How long are you going to stand there?”

His words are slow, with no meaning behind them other than what can be taken at face value.

Rose jumps, just a little.

“I ...er ...you were thinking,” she supplies, stating the obvious and suddenly finding the frayed shoelace on her left trainer very interesting.

The Doctor’s eyes stare forward as he answers, his actions eerie, as though he is being controlled like a puppet by some unseen force.

“Yes,” he agrees, still not moving. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”

“There’s not exactly room,” Rose reasons; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how little space there is on that bed, even if the Doctor is taking up one side.

“I’m sure we’ll manage.” The reply is only ever so slightly tart. “Unless you want to sleep on the floor, that is.”

Rose sighs and clambers onto the bed next to him. She makes every effort to stay as far from him as possible, and consequently strains muscles while she tries to avoid falling off the side of the bed. She almost hates him for being able to be this close to her and completely ignore what nearly happened... before, as though him nearly kissing her never happened.

She looks at the wall, willing it to change in front of her eyes. But she knows, no matter how hard she tries to convince herself, this room is nothing like the TARDIS; she’ll never be able to sleep here.

Still the Doctor doesn’t move, but the dead tone in his voice cuts her like a knife.

“So, now that I’ve lost the TARDIS, I’m going to lose you, too?”

Rose sits up a bit, turning over to look at him but unable to meet his eye due to his position.

“What?” she asks, uncomprehending of his question.

Then his head turns, a simple movement, and he’s looking right at her, his eyes burning.

“You,” he repeats solemnly. “You’re acting like you want to be as far away from me as possible.”

There isn’t any accusation in his words. There isn’t any anything in his words: no animation, no grief, no defeat. It’s like he’s already died and just the corpse is left to roam.

For the first time, it occurs to Rose that perhaps he wants her close to him, to try and convince himself he’s alive. It’s not a risk she’s willing to act on, but she does wonder about it.

“I don’t,” she tells him honestly. “Want to be away from you, I mean. It’s just...” She wonders if she can tell him but, after licking her lips nervously and catching his expression, decides to do so anyway. “Whenever Mum used to go quiet, I always had to go away. Not allowed to see her be herself, I guess. Was never allowed to see her worried, or thinking, or sad.”

The Doctor looks bemused and it’s as dead as everything else.

Rose sighs and gives up, turning slightly away from him. “Forget it.”

“You think you’re not allowed to see me be myself?” he questions as an answer, not letting her drop it.

Rose just shrugs and looks away again.

“Rose. You’ve seen more of me than anyone else. You’re seeing me now — I’ve lost my last piece of home. It’s like losing a part of my sanity, part of what makes me, me. If we ever get out of here, I’m left with a linear timeline and no idea where to start. I’m not trying to shut you out.”

Without feeling, his words are just meaningless facts.

She looks up at him again, sympathy spreading through her like a cure of a disease.

“You’ll figure something out,” she reasons, trying to ease his mood.

“No, I won’t,” he tells her, eyes dark in this strange and unfamiliar light. “But thank you for still having that faith in me.”

Rose, slightly irritated at his negative nature, settles on her back and gives the ceiling a hard stare. She isn’t used to this side of him and it’s making her wish he would just be the Doctor again. It’s sometimes painful to watch him hide behind that trademark smile, but at some times it’s necessary. She needs the Doctor to be all right so that she doesn’t fall apart.

“How did we get here, again?” she tries to laugh, longing for the TARDIS.

He is looking at the ceiling too and doesn’t answer. They lie side by side, shoulders barely touching and words failing. Eventually, Rose can’t take it any more and rolls over a little to look at him. She is shocked to see his eyes filled with deep tears.

“Doctor?” she whispers fearfully.

When he looks at her, the stare is empty, as though he is looking through her. But then he’s blinking, swallowing, sighing and somehow he changes, right in front of her eyes.

“Hello,” he says softly with a hint of a smile that, though far from happy, at least has some sort of feeling behind it.

“Hello,” Rose answers, surprising herself by how cracked her voice sounds.

The Doctor frowns.

“I’m sorry,” he sighs, then moves onto his side to face her and give her more space. “How are you holding up?”

“If you’re okay,” she says truthfully, “then I’m fine.”

“Well, I’ve been in worse,” the Doctor admits in a slight chuckle.

Rose eyes him dubiously. “Seriously?”

She watches him think, his eyes staring off again as he tries to remember. “Well, probably. No matter what I go through, I’ve always been through worse to some description and I’m still here. So I’m not worrying.”

Rose shuffles closer to him. “You,” she informs with a smile, “are a big liar. All you ever do is worry.”

“It’s not all ever do,” he retorts indignantly.

Rose’s tongue darts to her corner of her mouth. “You’ll get wrinkles, you will. Great big worry-wrinkles that’ll just... take over your face.”

He blinks at her. Then, mouth twitching, he snorts, and then laughs properly, his face animated with a warm grin. It’s a precious, rare sound.

“Come here, you,” he says, reaching for her and curling her into his body for a crushing hug. “Rose Tyler,” he breathes into her hair. “Whatever would I do without you?”

She doesn’t have the leverage to properly hug him back, so instead just holds herself close to his body and grins widely.

“Go mad?” she suggests from his chest.

The Doctor absently trails his hand up and down her spine. He smiles. “I don’t know, you’ve pushed me to that brink many a time by yourself.”

She thumps the only part of him she can reach. “Cheeky.”

“I learn from the best,” he grins, pulling back slightly to look at her. His smile fades into a strange, calculating look and his hand stills on her back. “You really are fantastic. You know that? You always know the right thing to say.”

Rose fights through her blush with confidence Shareen would have been proud of.

“What, calling you cheeky?” she counters, playing stupid and giving him a winning smile. “Nah, that’s easy.”

The Doctor’s mouth pulls up at the corners. “You said, a while ago, that I’m better at saying the right thing than you are — do you remember that?”

How can she not? It was one of the most intimate evenings she’s ever spent with him. She simply nods in answer.

“Well, I think you’re wrong. No matter where I am or what’s gone wrong, you always seem to say just the right thing to bring me back. So thank you. I’d be that little bit more lost without you.”

Rose shrugs with a warm expression tingling over her face. “What are friends for, eh, Doctor?”

“What indeed...” he wonders, eyebrows rising. He then catches Rose’s eye and fixes her with an earnest expression. “I know we’re trapped,” he admits, squeezing her slightly, “and I know we’re stuck on this ...impossible planet. But I’ll try my best to figure it out.”

She beams. “There’s the Doctor I know and ...well.” She blushes, hard. “We’ll work it out together, yeah?”

He reaches for her hand and holds it tightly. “Together. Every time,” he promises in a whisper.

-I-


They smile at each other, neither really noticing just how close they are, or how each can feel the other’s breath on their cheeks. It just feels so right, this closeness, like a simple extension of their current friendship.

Presently, Rose’s expression becomes more serious. “Do you have any idea what we’re gonna do?” She doesn’t even try to disguise the worry in her voice.

“No,” he admits, his tone remorseful. “I don’t have any ideas. None at all. I don’t even have a backup plan. I lost our only source of escape, our only hope. Everything for emergencies was on — ”

“Don’t,” Rose pleads quietly, blinking up to him with wide, compassionate eyes. She raises a hand and threads her fingers through his chestnut hair, clearing it away from his eyes. He looks back, schooling his expression into innocence.

“Don’t what?” he asks in a low voice, enjoying this intimacy just a little too much for comfort; part of him is very much tempted to bolt for the door. Another part is tempted to very much not.

“Blame yourself,” Rose elaborates, pulling her hand away. “You don’t need to justify yourself to me, Doctor, and you don’t need to make excuses. It’s okay not to know.”

It shouldn’t come down to a human allowing him forgiveness, but it does.

He opens his mouth, hovering on the brink of words. Then he closes it again and simply takes one long breath in, turning it into a cold sigh in his lungs.

Silence passes between them as he loses the battle to his thoughts again.

“You’ve never thought I was responsible... Never to blame,” he says suddenly, rousing her. In the long silence that had followed, and quite unbeknownst to him, her eyes had fluttered closed.

“’M sorry?” She blinks up at him.

His eyebrows pull together into a solemn frown. “From the beginning, you never thought I would... I mean, when I trapped you with that Dalek — so long ago, now — but when I did it, you told me. ‘It wasn’t your fault’, that’s what you said. And when I’d locked us in 10 Downing Street with no way out and needed to sacrifice you to save the world, I could see it in your eyes. And even when you were going to burn to death from the sun because I’d slipped up while trying to show off, the first place we went. You never ...you never blamed me, Rose. Not once.”

She looks up in awe for him.

“How could I?” is all she says, and the Doctor closes his eyes to try and concentrate on those words and those words alone. It’s the simplicity of them that gets to him the most. Then she’s speaking again, but he doesn’t really hear — he’s drowning in her voice, in her words, and falling to somewhere dark that he really doesn’t want to be. Not without her.

-I-


“Whatever happens, Doctor,” Rose says, so sure of him it hurts, “you never mean to hurt anyone. I know you; you’d never make anyone suffer if it wasn’t necessary, so how could I blame you if something goes wrong? How could I ever blame you?”

His eyes fly open and, right at his core, Rose sees something golden and not quite human burning there. Fear takes an instant hold of her heart, but she tries to ignore it and remembers that she loves him.

“I’ve done things that should make you hate me,” rasps a voice that grates down her spine like fingernails on a blackboard. “I look into all of time and space, every moment, and make it burn; only the heart and mind of a killer can do that. Why aren’t you scared? Don’t make me show that to you. Please.” Then suddenly the gold evaporates and he’s left, instead, with the residue of shining tears. “You’d hate me,” he finishes with a desperate whisper, his voice much less menacing, but also the most scared and vulnerable that Rose has ever heard from him.

She can feel her own tears rise from the back of her throat and, untangling her hand from his, she shifts to pull him to her comfortingly. She doesn’t know what else to do.

Fingers wind in his hair as she holds him, his head nestled into her shoulder, and stares hard at the wall to stop her tears from falling. She had thought — hoped — a long time ago that his regeneration had fixed the Doctor’s pain, and that maybe he would be able to move on and be all right. But now, lying here with his arms wrapped around her so tightly she can feel every bone in his upper body, she knows that this is the most broken she’s ever seen him.

This crept up quickly, from nowhere, but now Rose has the uncanny feeling that the Doctor is weeping — ever so slightly — into her consoling embrace, and she tries to ignore the shaking of his shoulders as she cradles him. She physically bites down on her lip and closes her eyes, blocking out all temptations to let this overwhelm her and break down with him. For once, she has to be the one to remain strong as their world comes crashing down. He needs her to be all right so that he can fall apart. She does this for him because she loves him, and because that means accepting the faults and imperfections, too.

She rocks him gently, attempting some vague form of comfort. It’s only a small movement, tiny in fact, but it makes the Doctor pull at her harder. He only lets out one sound; one breath that sounds like he’s sucking it in through his teeth, the sort of breath that only one who has learned never to cry can make.

Rose doesn’t let it phase her. Instead, she stays strong, stays with him, and doesn’t let him go through this alone. There are no more words; he falls asleep in her arms, spent from trying to hold back for too long. Rose sleeps, too, eventually. But only after she has let the Doctor finally have this chance to mourn the death of his ship; and, with it, his last remaining shreds to a place he once called home.

Back to index


Chapter 12: The Satan Pit

Author's Notes: It's been a long time since he's burned. WARNING: Graphic themes in this chapter.


Part the Tenth — The Satan Pit


The Doctor scratches his ear and takes a couple of steps around the console.

“So, where now?” he asks as the TARDIS stills.

At another time, in another place, Rose may have come back with a sarcastic comment. Now, however, all she can mange is a weak smile. Her heart still thumps in her chest; she still feels as though she’s trapped on Sanctuary Base 6.

“Rose?” the Doctor wonders quietly.

She wets her lips. “Uh... I dunno, I guess ...wherever you want to go.”

He lets out a sigh through his nose, then looks away.

“Well. The TARDIS needs some recalibrating after...” He trails off, unable to say the words. He can barely even look at her. “We don’t have to go anywhere for while, is what I mean.”

Rose nods. “Okay.”

With the conversation apparently finished, Rose turns and heads for the corridor. Then she spots something out of the corner of her eye: the Doctor’s spacesuit, now draped over one of the railings after he hurriedly got changed. Her attention fixes on it and her strength wavers as she remembers just how close she came to losing him today. They’d said he was dead. They had told her and she had claimed not to believe it, because she knows that the Doctor is better than death. He’s beyond it. But that didn’t stop her being terrified by the thought.

She raises a hand to her face, surprised that a small number of tears have fallen from her lashes. It has been such a long, such a very hard, day.

The Doctor looks up at the soft sound of crying and, when his eyes fall on Rose, his hearts break. Just that little bit. She looks so scared and alone, even if her back is to him. Then he sees what she’s looking at — why didn’t he have the sense to put it away? A reminder of what they’ve just been through is the last thing they need.

He walks across to her and without words takes her in his arms. She turns into him willingly, but he can tell she’s trying to hold back tears. He wraps his arms around her tighter, enfolding her into his warmth and comfort as his eyes fix emptily on the spacesuit. Unpleasant memories flicker back to him. This is going to be one adventure he isn’t going to forget in a hurry.

This hug is nothing like the last. The last was reunion, and hope, and sheer joy at seeing each other alive again. This is holding on to another’s life because one’s own seems so inadequate.

“I’m sorry,” Rose sniffs after a moment, pulling back from him. There are mascara smudges across her cheeks and she reaches to wipe them away fervently.

He looks at her with fond heartache. “Don’t be,” he pleads. “It’s all right to cry. And it’s all right to be afraid.”

Rose nods, squinting back more tears. She closes her eyes and bites down on her lips and the Doctor pulls her into him again, cradling her head in his chest. He strokes her hair gently, whispering comforting sounds to try and calm her. He hates seeing his Rose so beaten.

“I thought I’d lost you,” she whispers from his chest. He stills. “Ida said ...she said you fell. She said you fell into the Pit and that she couldn’t stop you.” She pulls back from him again, just enough to look questioningly up into his eyes. Hers are red and filled with tears, and there are more stains on her cheeks that she doesn’t wipe away. “Why?” she chokes out at last.

The Doctor, aware that his own emotions are becoming tangled with hers at this point, blinks softly down at her. “I had no choice,” he says quietly. “I had to take that risk; there was nothing else we could do.”

Rose shakes her head, biting down on her lip, and breaks loose of his hold on her. She walks away, just a little, a few feet, with her back to him. He goes to say her name, but she pre-empts him, turns around with helplessness written all over her face and fire sparking in her eyes.

“But you ...you could’ve...” She can’t even say it, and he doesn’t blame her.

“I know,” the Doctor agrees calmly with a small nod. “But I had to.”

Rose, trying to understand, wipes the back of her hand across her cheeks. He has to play the hero and he has to save the world. That’s what the Doctor does.

“Rose, I was the only one who could do anything,” he informs, eyes wide and face serious. “It was worth the risk to — ”

“How can you say that?” Rose demands, anger hiding behind her tears. “You just, you got lucky. That’s all. You didn’t know what was down there, you didn’t know you’d be all right. But you went anyway.”

Her words cut him, but he tries not to let it show. “What did you want me to do?” he challenges quietly.

Rose sniffs and looks away, blinking away another onslaught of tears. She sighs, helpless. She knows he had no choice but to go down into that Pit, and that had he not, they all would have died anyway. Or worse: the Beast would have had his freedom while the Doctor and Ida suffocated to death.

“You coulda...” she tries, but there are no words to finish her sentence. She can’t contemplate the loss of him. It hurts too much. “I don’t want to lose you,” Rose admits at last, voice cracking under the strain of trying not to cry.

She remembers holding him in her arms while he broke down on the Sanctuary Base. They haven’t mentioned it since, of course, but the memory of him being so distraught still affects her. It made her realise that perhaps her Doctor isn’t so strong as she once thought.

“It was never an option, Rose.”

She looks at him and frowns unbelievingly. “How can you know that?”

“Because some things are meant to be.” In the light of the TARDIS, his smile is almost real. He wonders if she’ll believe his faith in them... He wonders if he does. They’ve been through so much and seen so many different fears; he has no choice but to believe in them, really, to believe in her. It’s all he has.

When he was down in that Pit, terrified to death at the thought of having to give Rose up for the sake of what’s right, the revelation of his utter belief in her astounded even him. He is aware, yes, that he believes she means it when she says ‘forever’; he believes in her faith in him; he believes in her compassion towards others when he can’t seem to manage it.

But he didn’t know, until that moment, just how passionate and deep his belief runs. If he thought he was in trouble before, he had no idea. Because now, he knows that he will never be able to give her up. He knows, from having even a flicker of that feeling while with the Beast, that if he loses her, it will well and truly destroy him.

So he has to believe in them, because if he doesn’t, he might well fall apart.

He is reminded painfully of the effect of losing the TARDIS and of having no clue what to do; Rose shouldn't ever have to see him like that. No one should.

“Doctor?”

He looks at her, pulling himself back into reality like the black hole pulled at Krop Tor.

“What actually happened down in that pit?” Rose asks apprehensively. Perhaps she has noticed the expression his face, or the darkness in his eyes as he recounted the memories. “What did you do?”

“I...” Survived? Met the thing that called itself Satan?Saved the world but lost you? “...had faith.”

He walks towards her, face as hard now as it is when he’s angry. He isn’t angry, though — he’s not sure what he is, but he’s not angry.

Rose seems to sense his mood and looks sympathetic, maybe even scared. “Faith in what?”

Oh, she shouldn’t have asked that. He is close, now. Too close. He can’t seem to take his eyes off her. That voice, that body, that person; he almost lost her completely, no matter how much he believes in her. He still condemned her to death when he broke the prison. He still chose the universe over her. And even though it was necessary, even though they’re all right now and everything is as it should be, even though he believed that his wonderful Rose would find a way out of it ...he still did it. He still put her in that danger. Despite the fate he knows he has in her, he couldn’t trust it, right when it counted. The guilt is consuming.

And, right at the back of his mind, he hears that voice again. That impulse.

Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on...

With all that they’ve been through today, it’s no wonder he’s lost the will to fight. With a rough hand he cups her cheek and stares into her eyes. Rose is obviously startled but he doesn’t care any more. Her flesh is warm and pure. He can feel it tingling between his blood-stained hands, so pristine and innocent that he’s surprised it doesn’t burn him.

He answers her question with six, simple words.

“You, Rose. It’s always been you.”

Then he’s pulling her towards him and his lips descend on hers in a passionate kiss. There is no shying away now. She is startled at first and, for the fraction of a second, unresponsive. But then her hands wind around his neck and she’s kissing him back with equal vigour. He tilts his head, requesting silent permission, and she allows him access by opening her mouth. He slips inside, warm and wet, kissing so unrelentingly because now that he’s started, he just can’t stop.

Hands cling to her desperately, one at her cheek and the other at her waist, fingers crushing through her clothes and into her skin. He feels her fingers in his hair and he likes that sharp pain, loves it because it’s the most alive he has felt in centuries. He needs, more than anything, to convince himself that he’s still alive, that he can still feel — even if it’s just pain and despair and wrath.

And if Rose is the one to remind him how it feels to live again, well, so be it.

His hand slides to the back of her neck as he holds her, his kissing almost violent in its sheer need to be with her. The voice at the back of his mind laughs with sardonic glee, especially when he pushes into Rose’s body with so much power she’s forced backwards until she hits the wall of the TARDIS. He doesn’t mean to hurt her, that’s the last thing he wants, but right now he’s guilt and need and so much pain that he can feel it crushing him from all sides.

Her fingers dig into his back through his jacket and he needs more than this. He needs more than their tongues colliding and their hands grasping. He needs flesh and blood. He needs body, mind and soul. He needs her.

He pulls back from the kiss, watching her shaking and breathless form as she opens her eyes. He can easily see that she is still startled by his nature. Feeling suddenly guilty, he touches her jaw tenderly with his finger.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs with words he doesn’t mean, not believing how beautiful she looks in this light. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Rose tightens her hold on him, “If you think I’m letting you run off again, you’ve got another think coming.”

He smiles devilishly, knowing his eyes are hooded with desire. Then he kisses her again, gentler this time, and with languid passion while his tongue explores anywhere she’ll allow.

“Rose...” he whispers as his mouth moves to her jaw. She arches her head backwards and he feels his passion, his need to manipulate her, grow. “...I need you...” His hand slides down her body as his lips travel to her ear. “...Now...”

He feels her shudder beneath his hands and he craves it, wonders what she’ll feel like when it’s skin on skin and no barriers between them.

“Are you sure?” Rose asks quietly.

He stills, then pulls back a moment, looking questioningly into her eyes.

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life,” he tells her honestly, suddenly granted a moment of clarity. “Well. Not this life.”

He’s doing it for the wrong reasons. He’s doing it because everything he knows and loves has been challenged beyond belief; he’s doing it because he’s cracking at the edges and he just doesn’t have the strength to keep himself together; he’s doing it because feeling cold and empty is not something he wants to experience alone any more. It’s selfish, yes. But he’s sure.

“Good,” Rose says defiantly, and he’s surprised to find her hands at his cheeks. “’Cause so am I.”

Then there is kissing again and he just can’t stop his hands from coasting her body, or his hips from arching into her, powerful and immovable. Her moan echoes in the back of his throat and he likes that sound, wants to hear more like it. He likes what he can do to her because it reminds him of the man she thinks he is.

“Bedroom?” she pants in his ear when his mouth finds her neck, tongue swirling over the pale skin as he draws patterns of Gallifrey in her flesh. He draws back and, breathing heavily, nods his affirmation.

“I think...” He kisses her again, teasing her bottom lip very lightly between his teeth. “...That...” Now he kisses her properly, tongue winding with hers as his body rubs against her. Ah, there’s that noise again. “...Would be a very...” And he reaches up, untangles her hands from his hair, holds them, kissing her and roving his tongue in and out of her mouth, until he stops and finishes, “...Good idea.”

He pulls back, enjoying the way her laboured breathing makes her pulse and shiver against him. If he concentrates, he can almost remember what it’s like to feel alive. Almost.

Then, without words or hesitations, he tugs on her hands and leads her out of the console room. His mind darkens sardonically with the thoughts of what he’s about to do to this naïve human; it’s been a long time since he’s burned.

-I-

It’s his room they end up going to because he’s in more power here, and right now, all this is about is power. Or at least, that’s what the Doctor tells himself; somehow, he knows he has to be on his own territory for this to happen because what he’s about to do doesn’t justify excuse elsewhere. It doesn’t justify excuse anywhere, but if he doesn’t think about it, he can almost convince himself that this is right, that he isn’t taking advantage, that it isn't just some last desperate attempt to shift the weight off his shoulders to someone else — just for one night.

The lights are dimmed and he can’t remember if he left it like that or if it’s the TARDIS trying to tell him something.

Rose has been in his room before. Quite a few times, actually, but never under these circumstances. There was just once that she fell asleep with him, after a particularly nasty encounter with an alien that recreated one's worst nightmares and brought them into the living world. The Doctor had been lucky enough to escape it while they were running, but Rose, just behind him, had the full effect. He wonders if she still hurts from that experience.

He starts to lead her towards the bed, but Rose slows and the Doctor pauses, looking back to her.

“What?” he asks quietly, walking closely to her and brushing her cheek tenderly with his knuckles. He is so desperate to turn that touch into more, to rip at her clothes and devour her taste right here and now — but he can’t, because one shred of humanity still resides in him, and it wills him not to hurt her.

She leans into his touch and kisses his fingers delicately. Lust shimmers in his eyes. He wants her so very much.

“I never thought you’d...” Rose starts in a small voice, but trails off and just looks at him.

A thought dawns on him, shadowy with the fear it brings. “Are you scared, Rose?”

“I...” She nods, slowly, her eyes wide. “Yeah. I am.”

The Doctor cups her cheek, brushing his thumb across the trails of mascara residue. He tries to pretend that there isn’t some part of him that relishes that fear in her eyes, that relishes the power of fear he has over her, because it honestly scares him to death.

“Don’t be afraid,” he says in a low growl, his senses already tingling with their combined arousals.

She shakes her head, forcing him to drop his hand, and tentatively reaches to whisper her hand across his cheek. He closes his eyes and concentrates on that touch; it feels like ripples over water, but he wants to take the plunge.

“Are you real?” Rose suddenly whispers, and the tears in her voice startle him, so much he opens his eyes again.

His hands drift to her waist, closing around the perfect curves of her body. The sight of here in his arms like this, within tasting distance... it’s almost too much to bear.

“I’m quite real, Rose,” he assures, tightening his hands.

She gasps and shuts her eyes when he pulls her into him, their bodies touching in such a way that she can have no question of his arousal. He leans forward, breath hot and heavy as it tickles her ear. “I need to feel you, Rose.”

Without giving her the chance to respond, he kisses her again, and again, turns them, walks them back towards the bed, the actions second nature as he explores her mouth fiercely with his tongue. Rose’s calf bumps against the frame and they tumble down into a mass of sheets and duvets, the Doctor never once breaking the kiss. His tongue weaves expertly with hers and his hand, by its own accord, finds the zip of Rose’s jacket. He brings it down teasingly slowly, enjoying the shiver that travels down his spine with the sound as he does. Then he pulls her up, simultaneously kicking off his shoes while relieving her of her jacket, which he then drops to the floor. Hands coast the bare skin of her arms, feeling every raised hair and texture.

She has grown confident in her kissing now and he feels sudden force behind her response. He pulls back slightly, hands moving down and up against her arms.

She meets his gaze, cheeks flushed, lips swollen and eyes dark. She’s the most powerful epitome of beauty he can ever remember seeing.

“Doctor,” she whispers, the word weighted with a question.

“Shh,” he commands softly. “I just want to look at you.”

He takes this opportunity to burn the image of her into his mind, because after tonight, she will always be tainted with his imperfections and he’ll have to live with that knowledge for his whole life.

Then he can’t stand to be away from her any longer and he’s kissing her again, this time mouth and tongue drifting across her jawline. He can feel her nimble fingers on the buttons of his suit and it cannot happen quick enough. He needs this fire, because without the fire he cannot burn, and without the burn he cannot feel. This goes far beyond giving in to desires, or meaningless declarations — this is comfort in its lowest form, cold and unforgiving. He’s not doing this out of love. But he’s seen too much in the universe to even let it faze him now.

Rose works the jacket down his arms as he kisses her pulse point, sucking and nibbling so hard that he draws blood to the surface. She whimpers under the siege of his relentless mouth, her head bent to allow him better access as she clutches blindly at the fabric. He needs to mark her as his, and mark her he shall. No other man will ever dare to touch her after this.

He finds her lips again once the coat is disposed of, hungrily devouring her taste while she pulls at his tie, almost ripping the fabric off him. He lets his hands ghost down her torso and come to rest just below the hem of her t-shirt, teasing her with promises of removal as she starts at the buttons on his shirt.

“Rose,” he manages when she gets to the third. His hands have slipped under the fabric now, slender fingers pressing into her frame and pulling her towards him.

“You’re cold,” she notices quietly.

“I’m different,” he reminds, not caring to comment that her skin feels as though it’s on fire. “Very different.”

Rose shuffles closer to him on the bed, toeing her own shoes off as she settles herself.

“I don’t care,” she informs him and kisses him. He is sure there is something he’s meant to say, to warn her about, but as her tongue does incredible things with his, he can do nothing but reach out for her. He supposes she’ll find out soon enough.

Her hands finish work on the shirt and, once he’s shrugged that off, he sits with his chest completely bared to her. He watches as her eyes roam him, taking in the smattering of hair, equally as haphazard as the freckles on his face. She drinks in the strong, toned muscles, pale skin, broad shoulders, and a line of hair on his abdomen that disappears below his belt line.

To be bared to her like that feels wonderful, but he wants more, so the Doctor kisses Rose just once before relieving her of her t-shirt. However, he doesn’t get a chance to survey her as she has done him, because her mouth is suddenly at his collar bone, coasting downwards, while she pushes him onto his back. The feel of her mouth, so hot and sweet, against his skin almost sends him into oblivion. He can’t help but tense, then arch, when her teeth start to tease his nipple. Her tongue flicks out like a serpent, tasting the point, and he gasps at feeling so lost within her already.

“Rassilon, Rose,” he utters without meaning to, feeling every bit as scared and turned on as she probably does.

She stops the assail on him and looks up, smirking. She is obviously quite proud of herself.

“Having fun?” she quips playfully.

“Right,” the Doctor pants, his mind clearing again. “Come here, you little minx.”

She squeals as he sits up and, through quick manoeuvring, traps her below him. He looks into her eyes as his hand worms its way underneath her for the clip of her bra.

“Never tease a Time Lord,” he murmurs, lips close enough to hers that he brushes them with his movement. He holds back from kissing her, instead releasing the catch between his fingers. She looks impressed. With her help he is able to rid her of the flimsy fabric and deposit it over the side of the bed.

Then, with whispering promises of how beautiful she is, he lets his tongue and mouth lazily drawl down her chest. She whimpers with want when he reaches a spot just above her nipple and he aches for that sound again. As an experiment, he lets his tongue dart out to taste her just there, and when she helplessly gasps his name, he knows he’s got it right. The river of need swells and he descends onto the tight bud with force, sucking and licking and nibbling and teasing until the feel of Rose’s desire in his head overwhelms him. She’s moaning and arching beneath his touch, setting him on fire as he reminds himself of her innocence.

Without diminishing attention with his mouth, he slowly slides his hand up her body, using his fingers to arouse the pinnacle of her second breast. He twists it, teases it, and begins to set up a subtle rhythm between his hand and mouth as he pins her to the bed.

A string of expletives follow from her when his mouth moves to her second breast, his other hand taking over on the wet peak of the first. She’s begging him, pleading with him, but he continues to let his tongue lick lavishly over her risen bud as she writhes. There are fingers in his hair again, pulling desperately, and nails clawing into his lean back between his shoulder blades. This is the feel of skin on skin, the raw connection and indescribable sounds along with it.

Before he realises it, the Doctor is being pulled up, his lips forced to crash onto Rose’s again as she hungrily takes him in. He kisses unforgivingly, feeling her wet nipples stiff against his chest and feeling a flash of possessive need for more. He brushes his hand down her body, lower, lower, until he finds the button of her jeans. With excruciating ease, he coaxes it through the hole, then slowly pulls the zip down as, following the downwards movements of his hand, his mouth slides to her collarbone. He trails wetness against her neck, never once breaking his contact with her as he makes their touch more intimate.

He feels his erection start to strain against the tight cage of his trousers when Rose gasps his name, stretching out the syllables, when his hand dips inside her trousers and rubs just the right spot through her knickers. He can feel her dampness, and the knowledge that he’s the reason behind it makes him almost lose himself.

Fingers stroke up and down against the cotton and Rose presses into him, her sounds delectable to his ears and encouraging him all the more. His mouth moves to her shoulder and bites down, almost penetrating her skin, as his fingers slip around the defence of her knickers and he pushes up inside her. She gasps at the sudden change and strains her head back against the pillow. With his thumb moving in slow circles gently over her clit and his fingers pulsing inside her, the Doctor smiles into Rose’s skin. He craves so much more than this simple control. He moves faster, kisses harder, feels the heat flare in Rose’s skin as he brings her closer and closer to breaking point. Her moans and noises are incredible, and he drowns in them. When she begins to form the syllables of his name in a helpless, breathy whimper, he decides in that moment to withdraw his hand, and leave her cold to that touch.

Her body relaxes, disappointment oozing off her, but arms wind around his neck as he moves up and kisses her gently on the lips, breathing in the whimpered sound of his own name. He smiles.

“Patience,” he chuckles against her lips, then kisses her again.

A few moments are spared to the attention of the removal of trousers, in which Rose gasps helplessly while the Doctor peels the fabric down her skin, and he in turn lets out a number of strained sighs as Rose eases his trousers off. Then, kissing and moving as one, the undergarments are discarded and each is completely naked.

The Doctor doesn’t give either of them a chance to survey one another, as his mind is screaming with the sheer intensity of needing to be touched, of needing to know he can touch her in a place no other man can or ever will. He does, however, cast his eyes once up and down her body while he settles on top of her. She truly is beautiful, and so very willing to be his it hurts. She lets out a groan and tips her head backwards, frustration coming off her in waves as she feels him so close yet so far. He can’t help but take the opportunity to kiss her neck again, mouth wide as he grazes her skin with his teeth, and he teases her opening with the head of his cock.

“Doctor!” Rose cries desperately, shocking him. In a quieter voice, she adds. “Please. I need you.”

He stops, hesitates.

“Rose, once I...” He doesn’t know how to phrase the words, doesn’t even know if he has the words. There’s just him and Rose and being surrounded by each other, and the terrifying comfort he finds in that. The words of the Beast ripple back to him and he closes his eyes, burying his head in her neck as he tries to drown them out.

This one knows me... Killer of his own kind... Valiant child, who will die in battle so very soon...

He doesn’t want to lose her, can’t lose her, won’t allow for the numbness that is sure to follow if he does. He can’t lose his last grasp, on sharing what he feels every day. Those words, those predictions, haunt him like a nightmare, and will continue to do so until the day they come true.

“This connects us, Rose,” the Doctor explains, moving in such a way that makes Rose moan and press her hips into his. His need is growing by the second, but he has to warn her because if he’s going to be selfish, she at least needs to know. “In every way. No secrets. Nowhere to hide.”

“Please,” she begs, but she’s nodding with understanding. “I get it. Just... please.”

He knows she doesn’t understand, she’s too far gone with desire, but he cannot deny either of them any longer, so he reconnects his lips with Rose’s skin and pushes into her, the angle having been lined up perfectly. He’s hard and aching and she’s tight and wet, and he glides in with such a perfect, absolute fit that they both cry out in pleasure. Except it’s more than that. He’s sliding deeper than any man has been able to reach, touching a point so far inside her that the connection goes beyond physical, just as he knew it would.

She’s around him, in every way, and he can feel her clench and take him in and it’s good, so good, so complete, so right as he moves in and out gently. He has craved this passion, this touch, and he’s on fire, his mind burning with her and everything she is. He’s kissing frantically, her name falling from his lips as he gasps at how this feels. This, this, is what it means to be alive, to be free, to be human. This is Rose in every way, and he can drink her in because he’s inside her, in her flesh and mind, and he can bathe in that glorious feeling of utter purity as his passion and pleasures grow tighter in the pit of his soul and stomach.

She moves with him, meeting strike for strike, and he can’t stop her name careering from his mouth if he tried. This feels like completion in its highest form. He can feel what she does, think what she does, remember, sense and experience what she does. Nursery, childhood, school, a string of people and a string of names that mean equally everything and nothing to him. He’s her, at the edges of his consciousness, and as he withdraws then presses into her tight warmth once again, the connection grows. He seeps his mind through, bears his soul, out of control of his own body.

Rose gasps, her voice strangled, and then she’s choking on his name and the breath is wrenching from her in harsh cries; he knew this would happen, he was expecting it, it’s what he wanted, to push his burdens onto her... but that doesn’t stop him stilling inside her, and opening his eyes to survey the form of his distressed salvation. Arms around him, hands pulling on his back, hair matted to her forehead and beads of sweat shining on her skin. She’s crying. There are tears streaming down her temples, leaking through from behind closed lids. Her face, contorted in pain, and hurt, and guilt, and too many emotions he has hidden away for too long, reminds him of the man he truly is.

“Don’t stop,” she pleads in a hoarse voice. The Doctor, unable to prevent them, feels his own tears well up at the sight of her — his own, sweet Rose — so distraught, yet so willing to throw away his fears and feelings, the ones she’s feeling right now, through him, and give him what he wants. She must know by now. She’s seeing everything — everything — that goes on in his mind. Including that he knew this would happen; including that he’s doing this only to be touched by someone so pure, it is worth the half-life racked with guilt he’ll suffer as punishment; including everything he’s never wanted her to see, because she’ll hate him for it afterwards.

“Don’t stop...”

Tears mounting at how much this is hurting her, he starts to move against her again; but even as she moans in pleasure at the feel of him inside her, it doesn’t stop the cascade of tears running down her cheeks. In fact, it makes them worse.

“Doctor,” she cries, and he pushes deep inside her again, telling himself that her fragile human mind isn’t ready for his grief and his burdens: trying to tell himself that part of him isn’t enjoying every last minute of this because it gives him a chance to be free. While he is plagued with feelings of love and fear and unfulfilment, she is experiencing everything he ever kept locked away in his own mind. He knows because he feels it every day.

He’s both a killer and a coward. Screams and pleas for his compassion deafen and blind him in his mind as he desperately tries to shut out the memories of the Time War. It hurts more than anything else he’s done in his life and he knows that Rose feels it too. She’s there, seeing it, seeing who he was and what he did and feeling how every day it tears him apart. And she forgives him.

“Oh, Doctor,” she manages again, her voice racked with his pain, his guilt, and reality slams back into him harder than the Time Vortex itself. “Oh Doctor, my Doctor!”

“It’s okay, Rose,” he breathes quietly, quickening the rhythm between them in the hope that it will end this hell quicker. He can feel her pleasure heighten and tightens his arms closer to her as he moves.

“So alone,” she sobs, voice torn and ripped at the seams. “So very, very alone. All those people. All that history. Everyone you ever met who died because of something you did. Everything you lost. The people who aren’t alive, because of you. So very alone.” More tears force themselves out and she whimpers. “Oh, God. So much hurt. Everywhere. Hurting like it’s ripping you apart, every day, from the inside out, and nobody’s there, nobody understands — ”

“Rose,” he cuts across, practically screwing his eyes shut in a vain attempt to keep his tears back. He kisses her, finds that perfect spot for her again. She arches, breaks away from his mouth, moans. “Please. Stop,” he begs.

“I can’t,” she gasps, “it’s everywhere. There’s nowhere safe because you’re always alone. There’s so much light. It hurts. It hurts!”

Tears fall from his eyes and onto her skin. He rocks their bodies gently while Rose cries because of who he is and what he does. How could he have done this to her? The sick part is that he feels better, he feels less alone because this innocent woman has taken on board the feelings he suffers and now, finally, understands what it means to be ‘the Doctor’. The man behind the name. He has plagued her with impurities because it’s the one way he’ll ever be able to feel again, to be touched in a world that’s dark and cold — the only way he can cast the weight off his shoulders to someone else, someone too pure and innocent in this universe to understand. He hates himself for what he’s done to her.

“Doctor, please,” Rose gasps again, hands grabbing at his shoulder blades as she coaxes him into moving once more. He can already feel that pressure build, with each long stroke in and out. He touches an inner core of her being that makes her writhe and brings a new sheen of sweat glistening to her body. She still cries, but he shuts it out, holding her close to him and whispering encouragement in her ear. He feels increasingly sick with what he’s doing, but she’s too wrapped up in the pain and guilt for him to help her any other way.

He can feel her orgasm building along with his as the tight ache in his stomach intensifies to unbearable levels. He gasps in time with her, unable to ignore the fact that pleasured gasps and frustrated moans make him want her more than he ever has before.

“Rose,” he growls in her ear, coherence losing itself as he feels the first spikes of pleasure on the end of his mind. “Come for me.”

She utters sounds that make his hearts race in fear: no one should know those sounds, those syllables. The sounds of his name, his real name, no title to hide behind and nowhere to run. He has truly turned her into something inhuman, and grief wrenches through him. He’s a monster for having done this to her, for letting her feel this way about him. He can still feel her in his mind, her compassion, her forgiveness: she’s seen it all and she’s still right here with him, feeling things that make him sick because of what he’s done to her.

He drags in and out one last time before Rose, in his ear, whispers, “I love you.” All he can think is that he hates himself so very much, and then they’re both tumbling over the edges of climax together. She’s sobbing, crying her heart out for him, and as he rides the waves of pleasure by moving inside her, the Doctor realises that he is sobbing as well. He can’t stop.

In a last effort he calls her name, long and strangled, and then there’s everything and nothing as meanings explode into one another.

When the light eventually dies enough that he can slide out of her and hold her exhausted body in his arms, only then does he let everything he passed on to her come flooding back to him.

Sweat lines his forehead and coats his body, and Rose’s too. He rocks her gently as she shakes in his arms, all the while letting his own tears fall silently down onto the pillow. She never has to know; the link is broken now. How can he even touch her after what he’s done?

“Doctor...” Rose whimpers from his chest and he holds her closer to him, as close as he possibly can without suffocating her.

“I’m here, Rose,” he replies quietly, eyes stinging with exhausted grief. “It’s all right. You’re all right. Shh.”

When she does eventually calm enough to sleep, the Doctor just lies, his heartbeats erratic in his chest. The lights in his room have gone out completely, so all he is left with is the sleeping figure in his arms and the dark thoughts that follow. He want to place a kiss to her forehead, an unworthy apology, a signature of his remorse, but he can’t. He can’t touch her. So he just lies, patiently, waiting.

-I-

It’s an hour or so later and he’s still lying with his arms clasped around the worn out figure of Rose, still staring forward blankly into the darkness. Her breaths are long, relaxed, as she sleeps off the exhaustion of what they’ve just been through.

Dark thoughts drift in and out of the Doctor’s mind, but he’s used to them now. One idea in particular, darker than the others, ambles towards the front and successfully gains his attention. It’s one he’s thought about before this evening. Where once he might have cast it off as unfair to Rose, silent thinking time of what he’s done to her makes it seem like the next logical step.

Slowly, he unwinds his arms from around her and extricates his body from hers. Rose stirs only slightly and gives a small mumble in her sleep; once upon a time the Doctor may have smiled with adoration at the noise, but now his face remains blank as he climbs out of the bed. His moves are robotic and his silence acute as he crosses the room in search for his discarded clothes.

It doesn’t take long before he finds the crumpled garments on the floor. Within minutes he’s buttoning up the jacket and adjusting his tie, fingers nimble as though he’s dressed like this a thousand times before. In the dark he stares into the full-length mirror in the wardrobe and his own face looks impassively back at him. He looks, and feels, such a changed man now. With a small nod to himself, he confirms the decision he’s come to.

Hesitantly, the Doctor walks back to the bed. Rose lies on her side, facing him, the covers rising slightly with each of her breaths. He crouches, focusing on the beauty of her features and the slight flicker of her eyes as she dreams. Then he remembers he can’t think about her like that any more, he doesn’t have that right. When he blinks, his eyes are wet with tears.

A hand outstretches to her cheek, fingers resting on her temple. He tries to ignore the shaking in his body as he pushes everything he’s ever felt for her away.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, his voice hoarse. “I’m so sorry.”

And he is. He’s sorry for everything he’s done and not done, everything he’s said and not said, but most of all, for what he’s about to do to her now. Closing his eyes and emptying his mind, the Doctor focuses and pushes his mind into hers.

Rose twitches beneath his fingertips, but he stays with the connection, searching frantically through memory after memory. It’s like flicking through a book at high speed, but reading every word on every page as he goes by. He’s slightly overwhelmed at the spectrum of feelings Rose has felt over the past, but he doesn’t let it stall him; he merely pushes on in his search.

Finally, after a lifetime, he comes to memories more recent. Henrik’s, the TARDIS, the end of the world, the Dalek, Captain Jack, golden light, New Earth, Mickey, Cybermen, the Beast... it all comes streaming back to him, a film reel spinning at five times the original speed. It almost burns, this intensity, but he hones in on the most recent memories, of the past few hours; he works through the pain and tears and — oh, God, the burning — and, like a rubber to a pencil drawing, he erases it. He erases it all, and wipes her mind clean of the impurities he’s inflicted on her. He steadily purges every emotional attachment she’s formed to him over the past few hours, even while he’s reliving the entire, horrific experience himself.

He takes care not to change any feeling she’s had up until this point, for fear of damaging her irreversibly, but everything else he takes as if it belongs to him. In some ways, it does.

Exhausted, the Doctor pulls out of Rose’s mind, slipping his hand from her temple and dropping it to his side. Her expression is troubled, her features tightened into an uncomfortable frown, and from the back of her throat she utters a groan of suffering. The Doctor straightens and looks down at the shell of his love, his mind pounding with subdued memories. If there’s one thing he can give back to Rose, it’s her innocence. He will take back his burdens and refocus his guilt, because he is the most base, vile and venomous being alive to do what he’s just done to such a being.

The voice — that same voice — in the back of the Doctor’s mind laughs at him, its tone vindictive, as he slides his hands under Rose and lifts her into his arms. He leaves his room, reminding himself to clear away her discarded clothes, and walks like a soldier without command. The TARDIS lights seem dimmer than before, the walls less colourful, as he carries what could just as easily be a corpse through the corridors, his face empty and his eyes two dark vortexes.

He takes her to her own room, puts her in her own bed, patches across a few made-up memories into her head so that she doesn’t wake up with a blank space in her mind, and pretends that everything is all right. For a final time he casts his eyes across her body, feeling tears well up just at the sight of her, bared to him like this for the first and last time. He presses his fingers into his eyes, blocking out the thoughts of his own monstrosity, and quietly he leaves the room.

The next few hours are spent hollowly turning on the lights, clearing up the clothes, changing the bedsheets and erasing every single trace of his unforgivable actions from the physical world. By the time Rose wakes, slightly dazed, from her slumber some time later, the Doctor is waiting patiently in the control room with an artificial smile on his face and the question of where to go next dancing on the tip of his tongue.

End this Part

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Chapter 13: Interlude - In the Space of a Moment

Interlude — In the Space of a Moment

Weeks pass. It’s the sort of hectic lifestyle where one planet leads to another, leads to another, until eventually both the Doctor and Rose feel quite giddy from the intensity. On more than one occasion Rose requests some ‘time off’, to recharge, but the Doctor always brushes it off and entices her to another new, exciting adventure with a glint in his eye.

She always gives in, of course, because this is the life she loves. But over the time they spend together, she begins to notice subtle differences in their dynamic. He talks to her less and less like she’s equal to him, and more and more as though she’s a daft pet he’s decided to keep around out of pity. He barely takes her hand any more, unless it’s a situation of life or death, and even when he looks at her, it’s as though he’s looking through her. The sparkle has faded from his eyes and his smile, and it worries her.

And, over time, she’s noticed something else. What they do, the Doctor and her, has stopped being just an adventure. It’s almost turned into work. The Doctor always gets dragged into nefarious plots, and she always ends up tangled in the middle... even the rescues feel like they’re all just part of the job. It’s only down to her quick thinking that they manage to escape Morna, but the Doctor doesn’t say a word of it.

He takes her to a place called the Howling Halls, a name that puts Rose off from the start. She doesn’t want to go, but the Doctor doesn’t heed, he says they have no choice — he has been summoned, and they must go. Something escapes and they end up chasing it through time and space, but not before it kills a whole load of people, humans and aliens alike, in its wake. When they finally return home after that one, and Rose tries to talk about it, the Doctor just shrugs and moves on.

Then, of course, there are the dreams. The horrific nightmares of screams and explosions and misery, the ones that plague her every other night. She’s lucky if she feels well-rested in the morning.

They’re a recent addition to her and the Doctor’s time together, but she hasn’t yet dared approach him about it. It’s not exactly something she would easily talk about anyway, but the Doctor’s recent attitude makes it that much harder. For not the first time, Rose wonders if he’s changed his mind about having her on board.

She’ll never ask him, of course, but she’s free to wonder.

“Doctor?”

“Mm?”

“You’re okay, aren’t you?”

They’ve just come back from Zenahide, a place where everything likes to be upside down. Gravity was able to work in more than one dimension, the Doctor tried to explain, which was why some things were fixed to the ceilings and some things fixed to the floor. It had been all well and good until somebody had spat in Rose’s face — apparently the custom for the planet — and she’d had a go at them before she could stop herself. Then they had been taken to the Lord Emperor for their impertinence, and the Doctor had done some very quick thinking.

They’d got out safe and sound, with only a few minor bruises from all the running they’d had to do afterwards.

He looks up, sonic screwdriver still in hand and attached to something nameless on the console of the TARDIS. His face is contentedly bland. “Of course.”

“No, but,” Rose slides out of the Captain’s chair and walks slowly towards him, “are you really okay? You’ve seemed a bit...” She doesn’t know how to phrase it, isn’t even sure why she started.

“A bit what?” he asks, still as distractedly; he’s not even looking at her now.

Rose, in an effort to make some sort of peace with him, puts a hand on his wrist. He stills. “You won’t even look at me,” she says quietly.

His head stays bowed for a moment, before he looks up at her. He slides his arm from her grip. “Yes I will. Look, I’m doing it now.” He gives a false grin that Rose doesn’t believe, and she can see in his eyes that neither does he.

Now is the moment she can drop it, she decides. Now she can lower her arm, shake her head, walk away. But, for once, something holds her here.

“Doctor... You’re not fooling me.”

The grin fades. “I know.”

As they stand staring at each other, suddenly Rose realises that something between them has changed. Not in the superficial way which might be him trying to distance himself from her, for whatever reason... but something... else. She can see it in his eyes, feel it in the air around them.

Something between them has changed, and she doesn’t like that he won’t tell her what it is.

Because he knows. She can see it.

“Doctor...” she implores again, because she doesn’t have anything else to say.

He locks his jaw together so tightly she can see the muscles in his mouth clench. She watches him swallow and listens to the dull sound the saliva makes as it slithers down his throat. The way he’s looking at her, in a silent pleading way which means he’s begging her to leave it be, is so beautiful the Rose feels taken aback.

“What’s changed?” she asks quietly.

“Rose, I...” He stops, takes in a breath. “There’s something...” He stops again, and Rose finds herself holding her own breath. He’s frowning, painfully, as though whatever he’s been hiding inside himself all this time is bursting to get out, like some sort of dark, caged creature. “I can’t...”

She offers as much compassion her voice alone will allow. “Tell me?”

-I-


To see her looking at him like this, so honest and caring and hopeful, makes this suffering almost too much to bear. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he hears a little voice that tells him she’ll accept him and forgive him no matter what he does.

But then he remembers. He remembers as the images, unbidden, flicker back into his mind. The images of Rose beneath him, around him, crying and beautifully naked. They burn, and he can’t get rid of them, and he can’t tell her. He just can’t.

He wants to tell her, oh so much; he can feel the guilt and the regret and the admittance rising up in him as though he’s about to be sick. For the past few weeks it’s felt as though someone’s been sitting on his chest, crushing the ability to breathe and think and care right out of him, until all that’s left is this consuming emptiness.

Maybe he should just tell her and get it over with.

Astoundingly, his mouth opens, and words start to come out. “I... I... — ”

He is interrupted, much to his desolation, by the obnoxious ringing of Rose’s mobile. She jumps, then looks up to him apologetically. Perhaps she means to ignore it. But then he looks down at the floor, and the moment is gone, lost forever in the whirl of time and space.

Rose turns away from him as she answers her phone, so he has only her back to watch.

“Okay, Mum, slow down,” he hears, and there’s agitation in her voice. Something has happened. The Doctor straightens, feels himself put up the barriers he so briefly let down. By the sound of things, Rose — or Jackie — will need him, and he refuses to let his own feelings get in the way of either of them. They’re worth more than that.

“Mum, Mum, it’s okay... Calm down... Yeah, course we’ll come... But who’s this ‘Elton’?”

End this Part

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Chapter 14: Love and Monsters

Part the Eleventh — Love and Monsters

They’re sitting in the library with two cups of tea. A fire is roaring in the grate, crackling away happily as it fills the room with cosy heat. Rose is sitting on the sofa, her feet tucked underneath her, and she holds her mug in both of her hands as she stares distractedly into the fire. The Doctor sits in an armchair just to the side, spectacles perched on his nose as he frowns down to a chessboard on the small coffee table in front of him.

It’s part of the rare down-time they share, because for once the Doctor couldn’t think of an excuse to hop off and do something else.

He remembers once trying to teach Rose how to play chess. She was good, he recalls, but they haven’t played in a while, and she declined his offer earlier tonight. Now he’s playing to teach himself how to checkmate his opponent in three moves: his father could do it, years ago, and it used to stump him every time.

“D’you reckon they’ll be okay?” Rose asks, and it takes a moment for the Doctor to respond. He picks up a knight, black, hesitates, then puts it back in the same place, considering a different tactic.

“Who?” he asks.

“Elton and Ursula. Now that she’s... well, got a good relationship with a paving slab, let’s say.”

The Doctor’s mouth twitches up slightly in a smile; he always did like the way Rose phrased things. “Oh, I imagine they’ll be all right,” he says wearily, sighing and sitting back in the chair. “They’re quite unique.”

Rose looks at him. “Are they?”

“Well, if I turned into a paving slab, would you still want to spend your whole life with me?” It’s meant as a joke, of course, but the tone that accompanies it and the raised eyebrows as he says it probably spell it differently to Rose. She sits up a little, careful not to spill tea on the plush red sofa, and looks him right in the eye. He wishes he hadn’t asked.

But then, miraculously, she seems to understand, and she laughs. It’s been a long time since he’s heard it like that; he’d forgotten what it sounded like.

“I could call you slab-face,” she jokes, and without meaning to, he lets out a small explosion of laughter in response that sounds like something mixed with a sheep and a dog. There is silence in the room for a few seconds as he abashedly tries to go back to his chessboard, but then before he knows it, they are both helpless with laughter.

“That was — the stupidest sound — I have ever — heard!” Rose pants, this time failing to protect the sofa from a splash or two of tea. The Doctor, still giggling, agrees. Picking up his tea, he decides his chess game is never going to get finished, and crosses the room to sit next to Rose. It feels like such a natural thing to do he wonders why he didn’t do it earlier.

“Been a hell of a day, hasn’t it?” he says with feigned tiredness as he collapses back into the sofa.

“Been a hell of a lifetime,” Rose quips back, then ducks her head as she takes a sip of tea. The Doctor looks at her, pondering what she means. He then looks away, into the fire, and watches as the flames hungrily lick the edges of the grate. He almost feels normal, sitting like this, as though nothing has happened. Of course, there’s the tight coil of guilt resting just above his diaphragm that he knows will never quite go away, but aside from that it almost feels like they’re companions again.

In response, he says, “Try having ten of them.”

Rose smiles. “No, thanks. I don’t think I could cope with all that... regeneration stuff. Don’t you find it weird? The whole ‘same man, new face’ thing?”

From the wistful look in her eye, he knows she is remembering him — the old him — and he can’t help but smile at that. It is good to be remembered while he’s still alive. If he tries, he can still remember the feel of that old jacket, the woollen jumpers, the close-cropped hair and the leather wristwatch. He doesn’t wear a watch now, doesn’t feel the need for the pretence. But it’s nice to remember.

It’s then that he realises Rose looking at him expectantly, waiting for an answer.

“Well...” He puffs out his cheeks, considering her question. “After the first time, it’s not so strange. I always forget what it’s like, though, the feeling of... newness. It’s exciting. There’s nothing like wanting to test yourself out, find your own limits and boundaries. It’s great fun. If you lived for hundreds of years, you’d probably get bored of yourself, too. It’s good to have a bit of variation every couple of centuries.”

Rose snorts into her tea, then looks up to him with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. “Every couple of centuries? Does that mean you’ve got to live for four hundred years in this one, then?” She reaches out and tickles him gently in the ribs.

“Oi!” He laughs and grabs her wrist gently, trying to pry her away from him.

“To make up for the short time of the last one?” she adds, tongue dipping out from between her teeth.

He’s helpless to reply for a few moments as he tries, unsuccessfully, to push Rose’s hands away. Eventually she relents and he glares at her, mockingly. She looks back imploringly.

“I won’t live through four hundred years,” she says, as though that isn’t obvious enough. The Doctor, not wanting to dwell on thoughts like that, says nothing. “So I guess this — ” she gestures to his body with her hand “ — is all I have from now on.”

When he still doesn’t say anything, Rose just shrugs and gazes absently away from him, the moment gone. He watches her. She has a beautiful profile, he remarks to himself, especially with firelight reflecting off it.

“Look, Rose...” He shifts a bit on the sofa, closer to her, leaving his elbow draped over the back. “Recently you may have noticed me acting a bit...”

She looks at him, the movement quick. “Odd?” she supplies. “Distant?”

“Right,” he agrees quickly. He dips his head, once, in a nod. “Right, yes. ‘Odd’. And, well... I just wanted to say... sorry.”

She stares at him a moment as though what he said hasn’t quite registered. Then she shakes her head a little, waking herself up from wherever her mind took her. “Not like you to apologise, Doctor.”

“I always apologise!” he persists, only a little hurt. Rose’s eyebrows rise slightly and she give him a look as though he’s trying to cover up the truth. Quickly, he continues, before she can interrupt. “But, I mean it... I am sorry.”

He’s not going to give her any explanation, and likewise he knows that Rose doesn’t need one. He’s a bit shocked, however, when she avoids his gaze and starts to stare at the carpet.

“What’s the matter?” he asks, worried.

“It’s just...” She shakes her head, biting down her words. The Doctor suddenly feels a flitter of fear: something has been bothering her, and she hasn’t told him.

“What?” Gently, he decides, is the way to go. If he pushes too hard she might bolt like a wild animal.

“I thought... maybe... you were thinking of taking me back. To London.”

When she looks up, the Doctor feels like someone has just kicked him in the stomach. Doesn’t she know by now that no matter what happens he’s not just going to dump her ? Even if he wanted to, he’d never have the strength.

“Oh, Rose...” he responds, sympathetically, her revelation truly shocking him. “No...”

He moves towards her slightly, but she stops him, indicating the tea as a warning. He wonders if it’s an excuse.

“I’m all right,” she assures him, but he’s not sure if he believes her. “I know you’d never, really. It just... crossed my mind. That’s all.”

“Rose, I’ve told you: I’m not just going to dump you back on Earth. It’s up to you when you leave.”

The conversation seems to be over, as she bows her head and looks away. Whatever she’s thinking, the Doctor decides he probably can’t change her mind right now. He looks across the room at his unfinished game of chess, the abandoned pieces waiting patiently for his return. He’s just about to stand up when Rose speaks.

“Do you think love is really like that?” He looks back to her, a question in his eyes. “With Elton, I mean,” she clarifies.

The Doctor feels momentarily caught, like an animal in a snare. This is not a conversation he needs to be having.

“Um...” He swallows, hoping he can swallow this feeling away too. “...What do you mean?”

“Well, when Mum rang me she was really upset,” she explains, still not looking at him. “By the sound of it they’d had something of a thing going on... but he’d only been trying to get to me. Least, that’s what she said.”

“So...” the Doctor prompts. He can’t see the link.

“So.” She looks at him, shaking hair out of her face. “After everything he went through with Mum... he ended up with Ursula. He went through all that bother, trying to win her over, then sorta turned around and realised it was Ursula he wanted. Not my mum. It’s just a bit weird. You’d think he’d have seen her from the off. But it took him all that time to — ” She bites off her sentence then looks away again, shaking her head. “Sorry. It’s not important.”

A decidedly awkward silence hangs between them like a deflating helium balloon. The Doctor stares at Rose, feeling frozen to his seat. He’s watching her very much not looking at him, which he wants to change, but he’s also keenly aware that the conversation Rose is touching upon leads to very dangerous grounds. He wets his lips with his tongue, because they have suddenly become very dry.

Even by taking this moment, he knows he’s done too much to ignore it. He’s taken the time, registered what she said, and she’ll know that by now. He’ll have no excuse for getting up and leaving her alone. Best to take the bull by the horns, he decides, and he just hopes he comes out of it relatively alive.

“Well...” he begins, taking his opportunity to look elsewhere, at the wall for example, and keep his gaze fixed there. “That’s often the way of it, as far as I can tell. Humans often don’t see what’s right in front of them. It’s part of what makes them so... human. And then it makes it so much better when you do realise, because you can spend all that time fawning over the times you didn’t realise in the first place.”

He becomes increasingly aware that Rose is looking at him: he can practically feel her eyes burning into the side of his neck. Sure enough, when he turns and looks at her — and offers her a small, cursory smile — she’s staring at him like he’s just sprouted an extra head.

“What?” he asks innocently.

She blinks. “Nothing.”

“Oh, don’t give me that,” he says, chuckling. “You don’t get to use that one, I’m afraid. What is it?”

She’s still staring at him like she can’t quite fathom his existence. “Just... you. I’ve been with you... I dunno, months. Months and months and months.”

The Doctor smiles subtly. “Two years, three months and eight days, actually.”

She holds his gaze, her surprise getting more intense in her eyes. “Okay...” she continues slowly. “Two years, three months and eight days, then. And, in all that time, you still surprise me. Every time I think I’ve got you figured out, you change.”

“But that’s half the fun, isn’t it?” he asks, winking at her. He feels some of the threatening tension diffuse. He relaxes into the sofa again, shifting ever so slightly closer to Rose. He can’t help it; there’s just something about her warmth tonight that he wants to be close to.

She laughs, apparently unaware that he’s getting closer and closer to her. Their knees are touching, now. “I guess.”

“If you had to wake up next to this face every morning,” the Doctor continues before his brain can command his mouth to stop, “I dare say you’d get a bit bored of it. Surprising you in other ways just keeps things... interesting.”

Rose looks at him, and her eyes are calculating. She’s trying to figure something out about him and the Doctor just can’t help but smile at that thought. There’s something... comfortable about her looking at him in that way.

He watches as she hesitates, on the edge of words. He just looks back, patiently.

“Don’t... don’t change,” Rose says quietly. Before he’s aware of what’s happening, her hand is on his cheek, her nails just touching his skin. He becomes acutely aware of the stubble there and wonders what it must feel like to her.

He doesn’t move, either into the touch or away from it — he just sits on the sofa, looking at Rose, and concentrates very hard on pushing sentences with the word beginning with 'l' out of his mind.

She frowns, slightly, then swallows, and the tension in the room rockets into a different direction than before.

“Don’t change,” she whispers again, and she wears a look suspiciously of a woman who’s close to beginning to cry.

He wants to promise her that he won’t — but what does he know? He wants to tell her that they’ll always be like this, happy and content, but he knows from his own past that it won’t be the case. It can’t be the case. That’s not the way the universe works.

Slowly, he reaches up and takes her hand. He lowers it from his face then clasps it warmly between his.

“Rose...” he starts, but isn’t sure where to go from there. Looking at her becomes too much, so he glances to the floor instead. “Rose. We’re... I can’t...”

She squeezes his hand and it makes him look at her. The firelight makes shadows dance across her face and she looks so achingly beautiful that he wants to remain like this, forever, just looking at a wondrous beauty who, once upon a long time ago, was just an ordinary shop girl. Now, she’s more than that: now, she’s his. His.

“I know,” she says quietly, and she nods with it. “It’s okay, Doctor. No promises. It’s okay.”

Why does it feel like she’s just forgiven him for something she shouldn’t even know about?

With a shake of his head, the Doctor lets go of her hand. He wants to tell her that she’s fantastic and one of the most incredible people he’s met in his whole life. But the words won’t come. If he’s honest with himself, he feels a little overwhelmed.

“I think...” he says, after clearing his throat with a cough. “I think I’m going to head to bed.”

Rose frowns amusedly. “Going to sleep are you, Doctor?”

“Ah, but I didn’t say sleep, did I? There’s something... I need to do.”

Where, once, Rose may have stopped him, this time she doesn’t. He rises freely off the sofa and bids her a happy goodnight, before sliding his hands into his pockets and walking slowly towards his room.

He won’t sleep tonight, he knows that, despite the fact he can feel the rare ache of tiredness pulling at his consciousness. There are things he needs to do that are better done without Rose.

He lies for hours in his room, with the light on, and stares into the mirror on the other side of his room. He’s thinking, remembering, forcing himself to think about things he’d rather not in ways he never thought he would. He spends all night staring into his own deep, dark eyes, the eyes of a man who — through past actions — he should probably hate. But he doesn’t. By the end of the night, something changes. And finally, for the first time in weeks... he smiles.

End this Part

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