They stumble into the TARDIS full of chips and mirth. The Doctor cannot remember a time he has laughed so much, or even when he has let himself do so. Rose seems to offer him no choice. She ruthlessly fights through his barricades, and all she has to do is smile, or say something particularly charming. It is her innocence he notices first. That, and her complete lack of fear of him. She is not afraid to be herself around him, not afraid for him to know she has faults, not afraid that she may well harness personality traits he would dislike in others.
He, in turn, accepts them, accepts whatever faults she has — which for the moment is few, if not none — and knows that, one day, she will not be afraid to shout at him, or to stand up to him, or to be open with him.
She has bravery and he sees it in her eyes. She even flirts with him, knowing him little more than a couple of days yet somehow slipping it in like it means nothing. He flirts back, because it feels the most natural thing to do in the world. He takes her hand. He does things for her. He opens up about his home planet. Sort of.
Then she buys him chips. His first chips in this body, first chips ever, as a matter of fact, taste like she has just given him the Earth. Which is ironic, really, when he considers what he has just taken from her. That still astounds him, too. The death of her planet — she was heart broken, as any would be. But she still grins, because she can always go back.
He knows why he took her, if he is honest with himself. One hundred years is nothing; she deserves more. But he is kidding himself if he thinks he took her ten thousand years it impress her. He will never admit it, but it was because he wanted her to understand. Understand what it feels like to watch your planet burn, for the innocent to die, for the guilty to reign, and know it has all been vain. There is no one left in his life to understand, after all. This should not be the life of a Time Lord.
The Doctor makes fast work of pushing those thoughts out of his head and notices that it is slightly easier to do so when Rose turns to him with a smile. In that smile he can see she understands, if only how it feels to watch your planet die rather than the guilt of knowing it was your fault. He finds the strength to smile back.
“Right, come with me,” he grins, his face lighting up. He strolls over towards the door to the corridors, but notices she does not follow. He turns, and she is watching him with a strange expression. “Problem?”
“No,” she answers, shaking her head. Then she takes the time to look around the console room, up to the ceiling, down to the grille floor, the walls, the corners, the railings. He wonders if this is what it’s like to be judged. He wonders why it suddenly matters.
“Like what you see?” he smirks, surprising even himself.
Rose looks back to him playfully. “Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” she answers, then gives him a side-on playful look, her tongue poking out between her teeth, her cheeks, eyes and mouth spelling ‘devil’ all over her face. The Doctor tips his head as he examines her, a mixture of a frown and a smile on his face. He supposes, if he can watch her, then she can watch him, too.
He sees curves, stale clothes, fresh skin and mind. A brave heart, a fighter. A friend.
She sees tortured eyes, rugged stance, strong arms. A teacher, a saviour. A friend.
They meet each other’s eye.
“What?” they both ask at the same time, and suddenly, this is the funniest thing in the world. They both laugh again. The Doctor places a hand on the door frame, leaning on it slightly while he watches her.
She doesn’t know why, but Rose suddenly thinks it quite suits him. She wonders if he spends a lot of his life standing in doorways, looking in on everyone else having fun while he is alone. She knows he thinks he’s alone, feels alone, and more than anything believes he is. She wants nothing more than to show him life is more than disappearing into his thoughts, as she has already seen him do.
Then she begins to feel a blush sweep her cheeks, because part of her believes she has no right to think these things. She hasn’t known him all that long, surely? It feels like they have never been apart. The-Doctor-And-Rose. She remembers what he said on the satellite, and suddenly straightens and blinks. Maybe he thinks the same way as she does. She’s my plus one. She may not be that experienced with all this time travel malarkey, but she certainly knows when she’s being paid a compliment.
At least, the with the Doctor, she does. She somehow just knows that this is rare for him, and therefore makes it mean that little bit more. He is making an effort, she realises. She smiles.
The Doctor grins back, giving her the sort of smile that reminds her of cheeky little schoolboys who want to go build houses out of mud. He beckons to her and, having had a good look at the console room with all its bits and bobs, sidles up to him and walks with him deeper into his ship. She finds it a little strange at first, through that door. She had assumed it was only the console room, and that was shocking enough. Then she had learned that the Doctor didn’t have a planet, didn’t have a home, and she feels so sorry that part of her wishes he could share hers.
Of course, another part of her tells her — quite rightly — that he probably wouldn’t want to. Which does not surprise her, because she expects nothing less or more of him.
Even so, the thought that the TARDIS is where he lives, is his home, gets her thinking. She wonders if it’s a bit like having to live in a camper van when your house has burned down in a fire. Then again, that idea is quelled fairly soon, too, when it becomes blindingly obvious that it houses a huge amount of space and can tailor to all his needs.
He stops when they reach a flight of stairs, and looks around like he’s lost something. He cranes his head up the spiralled staircase, then down again, then back the way they’ve just come, a corridor that has branched off from at least two others.
Rose giggles. “You lost?” she teases.
He instantly looks to her with his eyebrow arched and his face unamused. Still, somehow, she knows he is. “No, I am not ‘lost’. I’m contemplating.”
“Oh, I see,” she answers, nodding exaggeratedly and feigning absolute sincerity. “‘Contemplating’, is it? Contemplating what, Doctor?”
His second eyebrow meets his first and then he grins. He doesn’t answer, instead reaches for her hand and hurriedly yanks her up the stairs behind him. They are narrow and steep, the sort of stairs she would expect to find in a fire escape. He somehow manages to look in front of him, where he’s going, and down below him to Rose, smiling whenever she meets his eye.
They reach the next floor and the Doctor steps around the room, wondering which of the many doors he should take her down now. Rose takes the opportunity to sit in the sofa that runs the perimeter of the round room, watching him amusedly. He has just stopped squinting at the second door to the left when he hears stifled laughter.
“What?” he asks indignantly, turning to her.
“No, it’s nothing,” she smirks, waving a hand to him. “You carry on as you are.”
The Doctor rolls his eyes, then turns back to the doors. Deciding on one of his many options, he moves around the room, opening one, then another, then another, until all of them are open. Then he stands, in the middle of the room, looking at Rose.
“What are you up to?” she asks almost suspiciously, and he is glad she has asked, because now he gets to tell her and she can’t accuse him of boring her.
“I need you to pick one,” he shrugs, glancing to the floor and passing the comment off.
“Pick a what? A door?”
“No, I — ” He pauses for a moment, then frowns. “Well, yeah actually, you’ll need to pick a door eventually, I s’pose. But no, I meant pick a room. You live here now, and I’ll not have you sleeping on the floor. So, what kind of room do you want?”
Rose stares at him a moment, not quite sure if she should take him seriously or not. Did... did he just tell her she lives here? In this place with infinite corridors, that smells like no one’s hoovered in a hundred years? She wants to sneeze just thinking about it, and wonders how much dust the puce carpet has picked up.
He stands there with his hands in his pockets, waiting expectantly and watching her with the type of look she always remembers from teachers when they’re expecting an answer to a question in class and they know you haven’t been listening.
She clears her throat. “Um... We’re talking somewhere to sleep, yeah?” she asks a little uncertainly, sure she’s got it wrong. He’s an alien, after all (or so he says). Maybe he has some weird culture thing to do with rooms and sleeping.
But no, he seems to be just fine. A little excited, but fine.
“Yup” he confirms, dipping his head into a nod. “Anything you want. Pick it somewhere, anywhere, and the TARDIS will do the rest. D’you want a bathroom? Wardrobe? Dresser? What kind of bed? Double, single, King Size, Queen Size? ...Anything you want, Rose, just say the word and it’ll be right there waiting for you.”
She blinks at him. “You’re kidding.”
“I am not,” he smiles.
He ambles over and reaches to pat the wall of the ship, covered with plush wallpaper for the time being, but he knows she can feel it. “She’s a fantastic ship, my TARDIS.”
Rose doesn’t doubt it. She still feels a little weird about having it in her mind, translating things, but thinking about it now, it really isn’t that bad. Maybe that’s the way it can make her room, then, if she’s linked to it, like the Doctor said.
“What about where it’ll be?” the Doctor continues, only half aware that Rose isn’t really listening. “Next to the kitchen? Close to the gym? Opposite the library? So many options, Rose. And it doesn’t really matter what you pick, because you can always change your mind.”
The Doctor tries to remember if anyone else got so much choice in the matter.
“Wait,” she requests, holding a hand out and looking up to him with wide eyes. “You have a library in here? And a... a kitchen?”
“Course,” he shrugs, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. “I have to eat, don’t I?”
“Well... yeah, I guess. But that’s not what I mean.”
He nods, then gives her a gentle smile. “Rose, this ship has enough on it to live for centuries. TARDISes, they sort of have to.”
“TARDISes?” she breathes, standing now. “There’s more than one?”
The Doctor hesitates and looks away, not quite sure how to answer. He is surprised — really and truly — when Rose beats him to it.
“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I... I didn’t mean to... I mean, course there must’ve been...”
She trails off, feeling more and more embarrassed. Here he is, letting her into his life, his home (so it seems), and she’s just gone and put her foot in it by reminding him of what he’s lost. He has only told her today, and already she is mucking things up.
“It’s all right, Rose,” he says softly, watching her carefully. “Yes. There were more TARDISes. Once upon a time. And just ‘cause there’s only one left doesn’t mean it’s any worse than the other, so don’t you go thinking you’ve been ripped off, all right?”
He grins and she relaxes, nodding and offering a smile. She wanders around the doors, peering down them but seeing just more corridors. She wonders something and frowns, turning back to the Doctor with a question on her face.
“Doctor, where’s your room?”
“You’re not sleeping there,” he smirks, wondering if he dares push it further. He gives her a look that tells him he can. “You’d keep me up all night.”
There are two ways this can go, he reckons. One, she can think him a pervert and run away terrified. Two, she can —
“You don’t know the half of it,” Rose winks, smirking right back at him.
Oh. Or she can... do that. Obviously, she’s one to rise to a challenge.
He grins a disarming smile, figuring if nothing else, he can enjoy her company. “Actually, I don’t sleep half as much as you do. Barely at all. Last time I went in my room... oh, I don’t know. Month or so ago? And that was only ‘cause I needed a temporal destabilisation transmitter from under the bed.”
“A temporal... from under the...” Rose takes a breath, then nods, more to herself than the Doctor. She wonders why he even has a temporal whatsit under his bed, but then decides she probably doesn’t want to know. “Right,” she says at last, lengthening the ‘i’.
She chooses a door eventually, and he takes her down to somewhere she feels drawn to. He smiles, then points to the next door along, telling her that that’s the garden. She looks at him sceptically, so he sighs and proves it to her. One thing leads to another, and he soon ends up showing him the better part of his entire ship. Five floors, one hundred and twelve corridors, more rooms than he can count. He doesn’t show them all, of course, because there is only so much one can do in a TARDIS and not get bored.
They wind up in the console room eventually, after Rose has grabbed a quick snack in the kitchen (and consequently tried to use his toaster as a microwave. Honestly, humans) and the Doctor has popped off to switch his jumper. He is a little surprised at how easy he finds it to leave her alone in his ship, trusting that she will be safe and happy.
She even manages to find him in the console room. He made his way there out of habit to start reading the latest diagnostics, and the next thing he knew, there Rose was, brandishing a small tube at him. He blinks and smiles at her, then notices she isn’t smiling.
“There a problem?”
“This, right — ” she waves it under his nose, and he focuses on it so closely it makes his crossed eyes hurt. “ — is the same shape as a hole in a drawer that won’t open, but, it doesn’t... work. Can’t open it, and I’m pretty sure it’s there you keep the cutlery. So what is this, some kind of weird key? How’s it work?”
His eyes flick back to hers and he hovers his finger above the cylindrical tube. He has to fight back the temptation to laugh, because she is just so innocent, so curious, and he enjoys having things to explain and someone to explain them to. And the fact that she has got it so beautifully wrong is a bonus he enjoys, too.
She nods and he plucks it from her, holding it loosely in his hand. He brings it up in front of her face, so that she can see exactly what he is doing. Then he reaches his second hand up and pops the top open, just like that.
Rose blinks. “That’s a — ”
“Travel toothbrush, yup,” he shrugs, chucking it back to her. Rose eyes it suspiciously, obviously surprised. It looks like the things she could get from the local co-op. Only... on a spaceship... she just hadn’t thought about it. Why would an alien have a travel toothbrush, anyway? Suppose he is travelling, she muses then, with a smile.
He turns back to his diagnostics for a moment then spots something and continues his work. “That drawer in the kitchen,” he explains idly, eyes on what he’s doing, “is a bit tough. Need to jiggle it just about right. I usually don’t bother.”
“Oh.” She frowns, fiddling with the toothbrush in her fingers. “What’s in there?”
“A rather large collection of tin openers.” The Doctor feels her eyes on him and, sure enough, she’s looking at him like he’s just produced a rubber chicken. He shrugs half heartedly. “It was a phase.”
Silence grows between them and Rose wanders over to the settee while the Doctor works. He feels a little uncomfortable at first, and a little subconscious — it has been a long time since anyone has watched him while he works. But he soon decides he rather likes it and, now and again, check up to see if Rose is looking. She almost always is.
He thinks it is strange how easy it somehow feels with her here. She makes noise, and he likes that. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say she has noise — the sort of noise that static is, or that old tape cassettes eventually pick up, or that grains old videos when they’ve been left on the shelf too long. She has a type of noise that both keeps his silence at bay and keeps the space around him simple and quiet, just perfect enough to think in.
It is nice, he finds, to have someone to explain things to again. Someone with so much naivety that he is scared he will taint it, because there is nothing more beautiful than curiosity without an agenda. The Doctor glances up, looking around the central column to check he has not — through some inexplicable means — imagined her. He hasn’t and she is sitting there, staring into space with a smile and a frown on her face at once, like she’s just been given a maths problem and a joke at once.
“So, how’s it feel?” he finds himself asking, and he’s not the only one who is surprised. Rose jumps and blinks, turns to him, and then all that’s left is the smile, all for him.
“What’s what feel?”
He grins and gestures absently to the corridor, his hand still around his sonic screwdriver. “Room of your own.”
“Oh. I dunno. It sort of... hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”
“What, that you live here, y’mean?” he asks, saying it yet again with a wolfish grin and folding his arms. Somehow, those words are both wrong and right at the same time. Wrong because he doesn’t really live here, as such, only when he’s ill, tired, or has nothing better to do — generally he lives in the universe, lives on planets and with people that aren’t trapped in his dimension. Maybe with Rose it will change. Yet he can’t help but smile when he says the words, because it somehow feels right that he is not on his own, that there is another he has to think about now and has to take care of. He thought this would be a challenge, but it’s easier than he thought.
“Sort of, yeah,” she shrugs, rattling the toothbrush again. “I mean, you’ve just taken me forward to see something I never even thought or dreamed of. When you asked me to come with you, I sort of thought...” Rose trails off with the smallest of sighs, giving up.
The Doctor, who before may have let her get on with it, tightens his arms and shifts his balance, not wanting to let this go. There is something in her tone of voice that intrigues him.
“Sort of what?” he asks quietly, because she needs a prompt but he doesn’t want to break the silence of her noise.
Rose looks up, meets his eye, and something in her chestnut gaze wants to make him turn and bolt down the corridor very, very fast and lock himself in the library. Literature is, after all, always perfect for hiding in.
“I thought you’d... y’know...” She waves a hand towards the front doors, fingers in the air curling them around empty space. “Thought I’d get just the once, a preview, then back at home again to carry on with life.”
“This is your life now,” he counters in a tone so soft it makes the air around them shiver. He holds her gaze. “If you want it, it’s yours. I can take you anywhere you want to go; and it’s not just once. I don’t ask for once — I ask for life.” He pauses then, hovers his answer in the air and only continues because she seems not to be able to. “Is that all right?”
There is another pause, longer, thicker, but this one he cannot fill. He can only watch, see the thought on her face as her frown relaxes, see the temptation lure her in. He hopes she will not thwart his request a second time.
It is finally broken when she looks to him again, slightly unnerved that he has not taken his eyes off her and has been on the receiving end of a rather intense stare.
“I dunno. It’s a big decision.”
The Doctor nods, trying to understand. He will not push, instead smiles and leaves her to her thoughts. He will ask again in a few days’ time, because the last thing he wants is to coax her out of a life that will make her happy. Even if she is valiant enough to be a warrior.
He slips into his thoughts again as he works, only noticing the deafening silence when her noise seems to have dissipated. He looks up, knowing there has been quiet for for seven minutes and thirty seven seconds, and it makes him wonder, makes him wish she would say something just so he could hear sanctuary.
He blinks in shock at this thought. He has been alone too long.
Then his hands still on the intricate wires and settings he has been working with — Rose has fallen asleep. He’s both touched that she feels safe enough to fall asleep with him in the room and troubled that she trusts him so much. Mind, he saved her life today. The thought gives him a fleeting smile that holds in his mind. At least now they are even.
The Doctor crosses the room and squats beside her, fearful of waking her up. She cannot sleep in the control room, and yet there is something holding him back. He hesitates, a hand hovering over her cheek. He withdraws it in a moment, instead murmurs her name in little more than a whisper, part of him hoping she’ll stay asleep.
She jumps, her eyes open and alert, and raises a hand to wipe her dreams away.
“Doctor, wassamatta; where’re we goin’...” she mutters sleepily. Her mind is filled with the remnants of dreams like dregs in a teacup. There is a blinding heat, explosions, action and fears like she never experienced before. But at the back of it all, behind her web of intricacies, there’s a glimmer of comfort, and she has never felt quite so safe as this.
He grins, pushing back on his haunches and standing. She is not even ashamed she has fallen asleep, as some might be, and he likes that, too. “I’m staying here. You’re going off to bed,” he says very matter-of-factly.
Rose pulls herself into a sitting position and shakes her head. “No, I’m fine, just tell me where we’re — ”
“Nonsense,” he beams, not caring that he’s cut her off. “Rose, I can’t have you tired when we go off somewhere. You might fall asleep and then I’d have to carry you back here. And my back can do without that sort of strain, thank you very much.”
“Yeah, all right granddad,” she laughs in response, reaching her arms up to stretch in a somewhat feline-esque way. “Point made.”
He chuckles, then wanders back to his work as Rose shuffles to the door. She is still a little uncertain, but is pretty sure she can remember where the room she picked is. Still, some directions might be ni—
“Fourth corridor on the right,” the Doctor says without looking up. “Up the stairs, second door on the left then right at the fork. I’ll have the TARDIS direct you if you get lost.”
She turns sheepishly and thanks him. He hears a blush in her voice, but lets it go. It is strange for him, he will admit, but it must be stranger for her. He thinks her gone when there is silence, but then she startles him, again.
He starts, partly by her voice, partly by her words. He looks up and meets her eye, smiles as gently as he dares. It has been a long time since anyone has said those words to him.
“Good night, Rose,” he nods, his voice soft. She returns his smile then turns and pads away down the corridor.
He goes back to his work, keeping his mind busy, because this time he is fairly sure that the emptiness is better than thoughts. Mostly because it doesn’t feel quite so empty as it once did. And even then, when a few stray thoughts do break through and drift through his mind, only one of them is about Gallifrey. And about how Rose will never get to see it.
The rest serve as a warming reminder that there is someone who does not hate him, someone who smiles when she sees him, someone who trusts him with her life. And someone who he trusts with his.
He pauses from the controls again, suddenly staring into space. His face, usually animated and full of life, is oddly insipid. His trust, the thing that most would die for but never deign to accept, lies in the palm of a nineteen-year-old’s hand — and he hadn’t even noticed.
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