“S’pose that’s bye bye boyfriend, then.”
They hover in the console room together, the first awkward silence that has ever come between them. Rose sits on one the settee in the corner, swinging her legs and gazing down to the floor. The Doctor leans against one of the pillars, watching her, quiet, arms folded.
She looks up and meets his eye. He nods and says nothing.
Rose mumbles a ‘sorry’, then looks down again. Her feet stop swinging.
The Doctor frowns and blinks, hauling himself away from the pillar and looking at her intently. “Don’t be sorry,” he almost orders, and his voice is so harsh she looks up in astonishment. “Not for him. Not for that stupid ape. He’s not worth it.”
She sighs, giving a small shrug. “I gave him my phone, Doctor. And the TARDIS key. And... I was the one who wanted him on board. You didn’t. I trusted him and — ”
“And he was the one who let you down,” he finishes pointedly, folding his arms again while he walks over to her. “You can’t get everyone right all the time. Sometimes you pick up a stray one. It happens.”
“Not to you,” Rose half sulks, shaking her head and staring at the floor again.
He crouches down in front of her, dips his head so he can meet her eye. Then gently, he tells her, “Yes, to me.”
“But you weren’t the one who — ”
“I let him on board, didn’t I? I trusted him because you trusted him, Rose. It was good enough for you, so good enough for me. We’re lucky he didn’t do any real damage.”
Rose stares at him disbelievingly, a frown crossing her forehead. “No real... damage...?” she breathes. “Doctor, we almost died. The whole thing.”
He grins and straightens, looking down to her fondly. “We always almost die. And for once, it wasn’t me who saved the day. It wasn’t even you. Cathica — now there was a smart girl. She’ll be good for that place, you mark my words.”
She leans back in the chair, contemplating something. The Doctor watches her for a moment or two, and is just about to turn and find something else to do when she says something strange that catches his attention.
“You didn’t ask her to come with us.”
He blinks, momentarily caught off guard. “Er, no. I didn’t.”
Rose raises her head and looks him right in the eye. “So how d’you decide then?”
“Us,” she answers, as if that explains everything. She gives the room a cursory gesture with her hand, then it settles on herself. “Me. The people you travel with. I dunno. I sort of figured whoever helped you out got to travel with you. ‘Cause they were useful.”
The Doctor bows his head slightly and smiles to himself, partly in affection, partly in humour. Oh, she has so much to learn. And then he is startled, because perhaps she doesn’t know. Perhaps she just doesn’t realise how attached he is to her. The way he feels about her. Even though he knows it’s mutual. Then he glances at her, sees her watching him expectantly, knows he’s been backed into a corner. Because he has to give an answer, some sort of response, and by that look in her eye he knows she knows how he feels.
Because she feels it, too.
“Doctor?” she prompts, and there is a playful look in her eye.
He clears his throat, hugs his arms to himself defensively. Maybe it is time for the truth. “Rose, the people who travel with me have something. They’re special. Unique. Anyone can stand up for themselves, can help me, can save the world. It takes bravery and courage, yes. But anyone can do it, if they tap it into it.”
He pauses a moment, eyes on her.
He laughs to himself. “So, it means that I don’t pick people up willy-nilly. It’s more about how they act in the face of danger, what they say, how they handle it. It’s just got to feel right. There’s got to be some sort of force there — look, I can’t really explain it. Like I’m sort of... attracted. To you.” He thinks he is finished until he re-evaluates his words in his head and adds, “Er, y’know. A link. Sort of thing.”
He feels as though he should hang his head in shame. This conversation started out to be promising, and now he is left as a mess who can’t even form coherent sentences. Reduced from a Time Lord to a stupid ape, all thanks to a Miss Rose Tyler. He smiles at her, not quite sure if smiling is what he means to do.
She finds it funny, though. She’s trying to stifle her laughter, and though she smiles back, he’s not entirely sure whether it’s with him or at him.
“Yeah, I get it,” she says with a smirk. They laugh, a little nervously, before Rose relaxes back into the chair again. “So, this ‘feeling’, attraction... whatever. You had it with Adam, then?”
The Doctor shook his head. “No.”
“Then why did you let him on?” Rose asks with a frown, sitting up.
He hesitates and takes in a breath, meeting her eye. Dare he give the answer? He wonders if she’ll get the implications of the words already forming in his mind.
Then he says them, softly, without quite meaning to. And there’s pain behind them.
“I thought you might. Have the feeling, I mean. About him.”
Realisation dawns on her face and he has to look away, knowing she has sussed him, knowing she has heard the regret in his voice and seen the pleading in his eyes. He shouldn’t have let it get this far.
“No,” she says sternly and he looks back, ever so slightly confused. She gives him a hard look. “I didn’t, Doctor. I just felt sorry for him.”
He pauses a moment and they consider each other.
“Oh,” he says at last. Always the height of eloquence. Then, for good measure, he adds, “How about we don’t go picking people up who we feel sorry for, yeah? Could get quite crowded in here.”
Rose nods and folds her arms, drifting off into thought again. “Certainly felt like it was, with him hanging around all the time. I thought I understood him, Doctor. Thought he was just like me. That he wanted to see it all. But he was just... using us.”
“I don’t think you should give him so much credit,” the Doctor advised gently. “He had no idea what to expect when we let him on this ship. You knew what you were getting yourself in for. He just thought it was a box. No surprise he wanted to help himself to something from the universe. It’s human nature.”
Rose nods a little sadly. “Yeah. Right. S’pose that includes me then, yeah?”
He hesitates. Then he walks forward and sits next to her on the couch, making it swing with his weight. Looking to the floor rather than to Rose, he says the words he’s promised he’ll never say.
“This. What we do, every day. You take it all in your stride. I’m so proud of you for that. You’ve no idea how often I have to remind myself that you’re not like me. That we haven’t always been doing this.”
He braves a glance at Rose. She watching him, still. Then she nods. “Yeah,” she agrees quietly, her voice sounding strained, like she is on the verge of tears. The Doctor stops himself from frowning. “Yeah, it’s... it’s the same here.”
He has shifted on the sofa next to her, his whole body angled towards her. His arm, leaning along the top, is brushing hers. Their knees are touching, gently, ever so slightly. He looks into her eyes.
Her body starts to move towards him. And he looks away, tensing.
“But we’re not,” he continues, as if nothing as happened. The moment passes.
Rose blinks herself back to the present. “We’re not what?”
He looks at her again, only this time, it’s with determination. “We’re not the same. We’re different in so many ways, you actually wouldn’t believe me if I told you all of them.”
The Doctor gives a casual nod followed by a smile he doesn’t feel, then climbs to his feet and ambles over to the controls. Looking up, he gives her one of his trademark grins.
“So, where to now?” he asks breezily, like the entire conversation just hasn’t happened. “There’s a rather nice moon of Boron you might enjoy. Or there’s a service station just off the hyperspace wormhole — got a gorgeous view. Or we could hang around Earth for a bit. Forwards? Backwards? Up to you.”
“Actually, Doctor. I think I’m gonna go to bed.”
It’s the little things like that keep reminding him she’s human. He looks away, down to the controls and nods.
“Yeah. All right. I s’pose.”
She laughs, giving him a playful look. “Don’t grump! I need to catch up on my beauty sleep!”
“No argument here,” he grins, and he knows that she’d whack him one were she not half way across the room. Instead she laughs and shakes her head, then shuffles off down the corridor. He lets out a loud breath and taps his finger idly on the console. A bored Time Lord in a time machine. There must be something he can do, he thinks. His entire world does not revolve around waiting for Rose.
Still, he cannot quite stop himself gazing at the empty doorway and hoping that she’ll wake up soon. Just a matter of hours. That’s nothing. So, he sets about to do exactly that.
Rose sits quietly on her bed, her mind a mess. Thoughts collide into each other like she’s driving the wrong way up a one-way street. With a frustrated groan, she lifts a hand to her head and closes her eyes. She can’t remember the last time she slept, really. She’s not even sure how many days have gone by. Days? Is it days? Is it weeks? Months? It doesn’t feel quite so long as months, but other than that, she can’t even gauge it. And she still loves it.
Adam didn’t. He hated it. He as good as told her, and yet she still ignored him, deciding that he would get over it eventually. Instead he lied, stole, and did it all for himself. He hurt the Doctor. He hurt her. He hurt the world he lived in, and he didn’t care.
He deserved to be left behind.
She keeps having to remind herself that, so as not to feel guilty. Somehow, chucking him out like that, on the spur of the moment — it’s cruel. He has a hole in his head, for pity’s sake. No one can just ignore that. If anyone finds him, the Doctor’s right: he’ll get dissected. Alright, so he did a pretty bad thing. But nothing is worth that. He’s a genius, she remembers him saying. Not bad looking. Clever. Funny. A bit up himself, but he might lose that considering the circumstances.
Rose lets out a gasp. He’s never going to do anything with his life. He’ll be terrified of going out, even. Trying to turn the tables, to think like him, to put herself in his shoes... She’d go mad. Not only being left behind after all that, but to have to live in silence. How many people click their fingers? Not many she can think of, but still, risking it wouldn’t be worth it.
Clever and confined to living a life like an ordinary person. The Doctor sure knows how to dish out his punishments.
Not that she can blame him.
Even thinking about Adam now sends a chilled spike of anger through her — she just can’t understand how anyone can be that selfish, that stupid. She doesn’t hate him — hate is a strong word. But is it possible to dislike someone that much and still feel sorry for them? Wish them well?
Rose collapses back onto the bed and stares up to the ceiling with a face much like the Doctor’s when he’s hiding things. She can’t stop the thoughts in her head, can’t sleep, can’t really do anything other than think about the past day and how much of it could be avoided.
Then there is a knock at her door and she jumps, sits up, blinks. He’s never come to her room before.
“Yeah?” she calls a little nervously, because you never know — something might have sneaked into the TARDIS. Some horrible man-eating monster with a taste for hunting, and googly eyes and bandy legs and slimy skin.
That knocks. Maybe not.
“It’s me,” answers the soft northern voice and she smiles. You never know.
“You can come in if you want. I’m decent.”
He opens the door, but makes no effort to come in. He stands, silhouetted, and looks at her. Rose shifts, slightly uncomfortable.
After a moment, she asks carefully, “Want something?”
She hears him take a breath, but just waits patiently. He’s obviously got something he wants to say to her.
When he finally does speak, it’s hurried, like he’s been rehearsing it but can’t quite remember what he wants to say, so is filling in the blanks.
“I just wanted to say. All this stuff, with Adam — it’s been a nightmare. He was an idiot, and I don’t want you to think that any of that has rubbed off on you, ‘cause you’re not an idiot and he was just a stupid ape anyway. Probably something to do with Van Statten feeding him that big head. And you should know — just ‘cause he said he was a ‘genius’, it doesn’t make him a better person, or anything. He has A levels. You have courage. I know what I’d choose, any day.”
He stops rather abruptly like there’s more to say but he doesn’t know how to say it. Rose smiles and gives a quiet laugh.
“Thanks Doctor. Means a lot.”
“Right.” He sniffs, holding a hand out to the door frame. Rose looks back at him with innocence and humour, making him feel all the more foolish. He hadn’t meant to come here. His feet just went for a wander, ended up here. Bloody ship and her telepathy — he’ll show her. “Er... Come find me when you’re ready to go somewhere else. Okay?”
Rose laughs, shaking her head with amusement. “Yeah. Course.”
He turns to go, then suddenly turns back. “You’re all right, aren’t you?” he asks quickly.
“I am now.” She smiles, then yawns pointedly. The Doctor gets the message, nods, and then he’s gone, closing the door behind him.
Rose frowns to herself with a faint grin, because there are some things about that man that she just can’t understand.
As she sinks into the bed a few minutes later, she slips into a dream world that shows her many things. One of them is her father. And she wakes up in tears.
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