“This is Emergency Programme One. Rose, you have to listen. We’re in grave danger, and there’s no way out, so just take a couple of minutes and you’ll be... oh... sod this for a laugh.”
The Doctor sighs irritably and flicks off the recording switch on the side of the console. He shakes his head with scorn and closes his eyes, trying to clear his head. He has been planning this for weeks. Months, even. Ever since that run in with the Dalek, all that time ago. He knew then that he couldn’t stand to lose Rose. Not in any circumstances the universe will throw at him, anyway. Ever since, he has tried — and failed — to put some time away and come up with this message. But every time, the words are wrong; the emotions seem lifeless; the explanations are never enough. How can a two minute recording portray how he feels? How is he supposed to warn her about what he’s doing when he can’t even bring himself to do it? How can he say goodbye when he can’t let go?
He won’t deny that he’s been happy for an excuse to walk away and leave it for another day.
Complications from every side have stopped him doing this; but they haven’t stopped him caring about her. Far from it, in fact. His hands are so slick with sweat even at the thought of losing her, his palms almost slip on the console. He absently reaches and chucks a bolt over to the corner of the room, listens as it clangs to the floor. Then he hesitates, stalling again, as he stares to the recording device. Why is this so difficult? It’s just a warning, an explanation, and how many of those does he dish out in a day?
Except that this is more than just another explanation. This is goodbye.
Goodbye? He asks himself pityingly. Since when does ‘the Doctor’ do goodbye?
I know, answers another, less reasonable, part of himself. Since that Rose Tyler girl. I told you she was trouble, didn’t I? But did you listen to me? Nope!
Now he’s in more trouble than he could ever have asked for or dreamed of — and he loves it.
The Doctor, with another sigh, lets his hand hover over the ‘record’ switch again. In his mind he tries to sort out what he needs to tell her — what she’ll need to know if sending her home with the TARDIS ever comes about. But all he can think about is what he wants to tell her, all the words, emotions and explanations that occupy his head whenever she’s around be damned. They are none of them enough for what she deserves, anyway; but he can’t pretend he doesn’t feel things towards her that haven’t been felt by him in a very long time.
Maybe he should practise again. A trial run. It might loosen him up enough to try something more real, something with foundation.
“Rose...” he begins a little nervously, like she is in the room, watching him. He checks over his shoulder just in case, before shaking his head and starting again. “Rose. This is Emergency Programme One. If you’re watching this, it means it’s all over for me. The end. Game over. It’s not gonna be that way for you. I promised your mother I’d protect you and I get the feeling I’d burn in hell for disobeying her.” He laughs bitterly at the image in his mind before continuing. “Anyway, what I mean, Rose... The TARDIS is taking you home. I can’t even begin to explain how I feel towards this, towards losing you. Because if you’re seeing this, it means I’ve given you up. And nothing apart from the end of the universe could make me do that to you. It seems a too unfair way to do this, but I’ve got no other choice. Thinking about it now, standing here, imagining I’ll never see you again... It just — it feels... wrong.
“D’you remember when we met, Rose? All that time ago? The first time I took your hand? You were scared — so scared. But I took your fingers in mine and told you to run. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a normal life. Believe it or not, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. S’pose it’s safe to say that... you’re my taxi home. At two in the morning. You’re my street corner. Y’know,” he laughs upon reflection, completely taken with memory now, “I’ve never heard such a cack-handed attempt at an explanation as in that lift afterwards. You were so innocent. And I... Oh, Rose. You just don’t get it. Even now, when you’re asleep in your room down the corridor — after all this time... you still don’t understand.
“There’s too much at stake in this world to contemplate losing you. You’re so much better than that. You’ve shown me so much, and don’t go getting all cocky with me, I’m still the genius ‘round here. But I can’t imagine how different my life would be without you. You daft ape. I just... I wish there was a way that I could...” He lets out a drawn breath, letting the sentence go and shaking his head with contempt. “We’re so different, you and I. But you’re beautiful. And fantastic. And the best friend a bloke could ever ask for. So I s’pose it’s not completely surprising if I... if I say...”
His hearts are thumping rapidly against his ribcage, almost suffocating his quick breathing. He isn’t even on record, yet he feels like everything around him is being monitored. How can he tell her he loves her? How can he just pass off the way Rose makes him feel in a recorded message, in those simple words? How are human words supposed to convey how he feels towards her? He isn’t even sure how to explain in his own language, let alone hers. He just... loves; it’s as simple as that. He loves the universe and everything in the universe, which just happens to include Rose. You can’t live this life with someone and not end up loving them. He’s loved her since the Gelth. No, since the courage in her eyes as she watched her world burn and still took his hand. No. No, not even then.
He has loved her since she gave up her life and swung on a chain to save his. Ever since then, he has just fallen deeper, a continuous spiral in all directions.
“Oh, Rose,” the Doctor murmurs with despair, sound muffled through his palms as he buries his head in his hands. “Where do I begin? Where the hell do I begin?”
And suddenly, his head snaps up in realisation. His wide eyes blink for a moment or two and he lowers his hands. She saved his life. She has been saving him ever since. This programme is about returning the favour: nothing more. She doesn’t need to know what goes on in his mind when he thinks of letting go of her — that is for another day. She needs his support, his love, the freedom from him that she’ll deserve when the time comes. The freedom to live. It is the least he can do after everything she has done for him.
Without a second thought, he turns to the console and hits the switch. Then, with a steadying breath, he looks forward and begins to speak. There are no breaks in his voice now — he knows exactly what he needs to say.
“This is Emergency Programme One. Rose, listen to me. This is important...”
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