Rose stared up at the ceiling. She knew she should be getting some sleep, but she couldn’t seem to get comfortable. And this wasn’t just due to the fact that the floor was hard and cold. No, she couldn’t get the story they’d just been told out of her head.
The thought of those people, snatched from their homes and either killed or taken far away. Children taken from their families, parents forced to hide their children away to protect them…children forced into hiding, not knowing if their parents were dead or alive. It was horrible…and so senseless. From what she’d gathered, the attackers from Calyx hadn’t been provoked in any way. They were motivated purely by greed, and a desire for more power. It was a situation she’d seen more times than she could count, with the Doctor, but it never ceased to infuriate and sadden her.
Why? Why was there so much senseless violence in the universe? Why was it that no matter how far from home she travelled, the same petty motivations cropped up: power, money, revenge…it was the same, wherever she went. Travelling with the Doctor, she had seen the worst of people.
Yet also the best. Everywhere they went, they encountered good, kind, brave people, among all the bad. Looking around now, realizing what these brave people had done, risking their lives and giving up any freedoms they might have had for these children. Such selfless courage…it was humbling, at best. And to not only hide out down here, but venture to the surface, knowing that discovery meant capture or death? She shook her head, marveling once again.
Movement next to her startled her, and she rolled over to see the Doctor lowering himself to the floor next to her.
“Mind if I join you?”
“No,” she said, a little surprised. “But you don’t usually sleep.”
“True,” he nodded, stretching out. “But you looked comfortable, and stone floors are so invigorating that I wanted to give it a try. Good for the spine, you know.”
“Optimist,” she mumbled.
He merely smiled and moved closer.
“Blanket,” he said, holding out a hand. “Share.”
Rolling her eyes, Rose unwrapped herself from the blanket and threw it over both of them.
Rose honestly wasn’t sure what he meant by this, but she wasn’t complaining.
For a long time, neither of them spoke. Most of the lanterns had been extinguished, and Rose studied the Doctor’s face in the dim light remaining. She knew he must have some sort of reason for joining her. However close they were, he didn't usually lie down or sleep next to her unless there was a reason, be it nightmares, loneliness, or whether he just had something on his mind that he wasn't sure how to say. She had a suspicion that this time, it was the latter. He looked lost in thought, his eyes fixed on a point somewhere past her head, and she knew his mind was a million light years away.
“What are we going to do?” she finally asked, keeping her voice low, so as not to disturb the others.
“Not sure,” the Doctor admitted quietly. He tucked his arm underneath his head, propping it up off the floor. “I’m really not sure.”
It wasn’t often that the Doctor admitted that he didn’t know what to do.
“We can’t just leave them,” Rose said.
“No,” he agreed absently. “Definitely not. But…” he died off, and she could see him shutting himself away.
“Hey,” she said, reaching out and taking his hand.
She couldn’t help but remember when they’d lain in similar positions, a few months ago, and how he’d clung to her hand like a lifeline. He’d built his shields back up, but she hadn’t forgotten that vulnerability, nor how it felt to know that he needed her.
“Don’t shut me out. You’ve got something on your mind.”
“I always have something on my mind,” he tried to laugh it off, but that only fueled her worry.
“Talk to me, Doctor,” she pleaded.
He sighed, and closed his eyes, refusing to look at her.
“Are too!” And now they sounded like squabbling five year olds. “Doctor, please.”
He sighed, opening his eyes again.
“I just…I don’t know if we should get involved in this.”
If she hadn’t been so cold, and thus unwilling to come out from under the blanket, she would have sat upright.
This wasn’t like the Doctor. True, he’d been a bit more cautious when it came to plunging into adventures for a while after their ordeal, but she’d thought he was past that.
“Doctor, what are you talking about?”
“I just don’t know if we can do anything to help.”
“We can help them! We can help care for the kids, we can look into who is attacking and why, we can find a way to stop them. That’s what we do, that’s what we always do!”
“Not always,” he said, raising himself up on his elbow. Rose matched the movement.
“So, what, you just want to leave? Just walk away?”
“No!” he protested. “But…”
“What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m just trying to keep you safe!” he said, and there was an edge to his voice that meant he was getting angry.
“What?” Rose demanded. “Doctor, we’ve been over this! I don’t want you protecting me like that!”
If he wasn’t willing to trust her at his side, then they shouldn’t be together at all. While the idea of leaving the Doctor was as abhorrent as cutting off one of her limbs, Rose also wasn’t going to stand for him sheltering her like a child.
“I know…” he said reluctantly.
“What is going on? What is it about this place in particular that makes you feel like I’m in danger?”
For a second, his eyes flashed, but then he pulled away, rolling over so that his back was to her. Rose stared at him, completely baffled. What was going on? He was always protective, but not usually like this.
Tentatively, she touched his shoulder.
“Leave it, Rose,” he said. He didn’t sound angry anymore. Just sad.
Lowering herself back down, Rose thought hard, trying to figure out what was causing him to react this way. There had to be a reason, he wasn’t the sort to go all needlessly protective without provocation. But what was troubling him? What had caught his attention, and was provoking a reaction like this?
Sometimes the Doctor was as easy to read as a book, but other times, he was a complete mystery, and Rose honestly couldn’t tell what was going through his mind right now. She closed her eyes, trying to think of what might be troubling him. Yes, they’d very nearly walked into danger, but that was nothing new. Her life hasn’t been actively threatened, she hadn’t had any terribly close calls, or…
A memory stirred at the back of her mind, and she caught her breath. Words spoken, terrifying words which the Doctor had dismissed as an obvious lie. Words that had only recently ceased to haunt her dreams. He’d dismissed them without a second thought, but what if…
He must have sensed something different in her voice, for he rolled back over, facing her again. Rose took a deep breath.
“Is this about what the Beast said? On Krop Tor?”
His eyes widened, and for an instant, his shields were down. She saw every emotion in his face, and she knew she’d nailed it. But he tried to hide his reaction.
“Of course not.”
“It said I would die in battle.”
“You say that, but…”
“It lied, Rose!” Now it was clear he was trying to convince himself, not her.
“This is a war,” she continued. “This is a battle.”
“That’s why you want us to leave.”
They hadn’t encountered a war since Krop Tor, so they hadn’t had occasion to run into this issue before.
He was silent for a long time, and Rose held her breath, waiting for him to speak. Then he let out a long, shuddery sigh, and all the tension went out of him. Abruptly, he pulled her into a hug, his strong arms encircling her and pulling her close. Rose could feel his hearts pounding.
“I can’t...can't lose you like that,” he whispered, and Rose’s heart nearly stopped at this rare honesty.
“You won’t,” she promised. Instantly taking up the reassurance he had been giving her only moments ago. “It was lying, Doctor, you said it yourself.”
But had it been lying? It hadn’t lied about the others, she’d seen it in their faces. It had spoken the truth to all of them…so why not to her?
“Wasn’t it?” she forced herself to ask.
“I...” he faltered, pulling back so that he could see her face. “I can’t…it must have been…”
“Must have been,” she agreed faintly.
Seeing clear glimpses his uncertainty brought back all of her own fears of those words. She didn’t want to die. She had so much life left ahead of her…there were so many things she hadn’t seen. Things she hadn’t said.
“But we can’t be sure it meant this battle,” she reminded him. “If it was telling the truth...”
“Which it wasn’t.” He’d mostly gotten his emotions back under control.
“Which it wasn’t,” she agreed. “But if it was, it might not have been this battle. We can’t even be sure we’ll be in a battle while we’re here.”
“So very soon…” the Doctor whispered, echoing the final part of the predication.
“That thing had been imprisoned for millenniums,” Rose said, trying to convince herself as much as him. “Soon to it could be years to us. Decades…”
“Yeah,” the Doctor admitted.
“And I don’t want to live my life in fear of a future that probably won’t happen. I want to help people, Doctor, the way we always do. To have adventures, with you. And I don’t want to let the words of some freaky devil-beast in a black hole ruin that.”
He nodded slowly.
“I know,” he said.
“So don’t think about them,” she told him. “Don’t think about what it said.”
“Then don’t you think about them either,” he said seriously. “I meant it when I said it was lying.”
Then why are you still worried?
“You’re very smart, Rose Tyler,” the Doctor said after a minute. “You know that?”
“I’ve been told,” she said, pleased to hear the lightness creeping back into his tone. “Though some of the sources are a bit biased.”
“Well, take it from this unbiased source. You are quite brilliant.”
She couldn’t help but smile at his words, even if she was fairly certain he wasn’t actually unbiased.
“For a stupid ape?” she inquired. He actually laughed softly.
“For an ape, maybe” he replied. Then he got serious. “But don’t let anyone ever call you stupid. Not even my former self.”
They didn’t talk about his previous incarnation that much. Oh, they discussed adventures they’d experienced, and conversations they’d had. But generally they referred to him as the same person, regardless of which incarnation he was at the time. Rose still thought of them as somewhat separate in her mind, but it was a rare occasion when the Doctor would refer to his former self as a kind of separate person.
“Will do,” she promised, and he smiled.
Rose couldn’t suppress a yawn, and his smile widened.
“You need to get some sleep, Rose,” he said. “Something tells me we’re going to have a busy day tomorrow.”
She looked at him.
“So we are staying? We’re going to help?”
In the darkness, she could see him nod. With only the barest trace of his earlier trepidation.
“Of course we are.”
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