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 doesnít know what else to do.
WARNING: Lots of angst.
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 naÔve 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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