He only just manages to get them back into the vortex before she’s crying again. It’s the quiet sob that alerts him at first, and he turns, about to ask if she wants to be left alone. Then he sees her eyes, screwed shut with pain, a hand over her mouth, silent tears streaming down her face and her entire body shaking with the effort.
He feels his own tears well up inside him, and that takes some doing. Instead of crying, he comforts her, sits beside her, takes her in his arms, pulls her into him and keeps her there, whispering soothing sounds into her hair. He is never usually good at this sort of thing. Usually finds it a little uncomfortable, because this isn’t what a Time Lord does.
Except with Rose, it’s different.
He is not a Time Lord in her eyes. She is not a human in his. She just needs comfort, and he can give that to her.
The shoulder of his jacket is well and truly soaked, and still she shows no sign of ceasing. It can’t be healthy for her, all this grief. Every now and then, when he thinks she has finally subsided and goes to pull away, she clings to him, so he holds her closer and rocks her gently, closing his eyes and trying to lose himself in the small sounds she is making.
She has never been this upset before. He doesn’t know what to do. She usually hides it away, gets over it in her own time, on her own. He can relate to that. But this... this is something else entirely. This isn’t just grief. This is heartbreak.
It breaks one of his, too. Rose cannot be in this much pain. It’s just not right.
The Doctor kisses the top of her head, lingering there, desperately trying to think of some way to get a smile back on her face. But she’s clinging to him and part of him likes that and hopes she will never let go. Part of him likes feeling needed this much. Loved this much — though, maybe he is making assumptions.
He has given so much for her today. And he would do it again, if he thought he could help. If he thought he could save her Dad. But some people are just meant to die.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t save him,” he whispers into her hair, giving her a tight but brief squeeze. This is one of her more lucid moments and she sits back slightly, hands resting on the outskirts of his back, puffy eyes staring at him through a rim of mascara.
He smiles gently when he sees her. “Hello.”
Then he looks in shock as she dissolves into helpless tears again, burying herself against his body, nuzzling into his neck. He strokes her hair a little awkwardly and hopes she doesn’t notice. Then he rests his cheek on the top of her head, closing his eyes and just waiting, letting her get all of it out.
Through her hiccups, he can make out her choked words against his neck. “He was my Daddy...”
The Doctor holds her closer, and, eyes closed, nods. “Yeah. He’s a good man.”
Rose disentangles herself from him, at last, and just sits and looks at him. The Doctor, by reaction, reaches up and rubs the damp, salty tears away from his skin. She laughs embarrassedly, then sniffs and brings a hand to her face.
She smiles, but he cannot tell if it is a smile of tears or joy. “Sorry about that.”
He grins. “’S all right. I can always get a new neck.” Then, as if thinking about something for the first time, he rummages in the breast pocket of his jacket and reveals a shiny metal key, gleaming silver in the lights of the TARDIS.
He presses it into her hand, meaningfully. “I believe this is yours.”
Rose stares at it, eyes wide, then up to the Doctor again.
“But... I... I thought, after what I did... I almost killed the world... I mean, Adam did the sa— ”
“Don’t you dare compare yourself to that little git,” the Doctor interrupts with so much fire, Rose stops mid sentence and can’t think of anything more to say. Gentler, softer, he smiles and takes her hand. “He was nothing. No one. A sneaky, devious little prat who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. What he did was selfish and stupid, and he didn’t even care.”
Rose laughs piteously, shaking her head. “But that’s the thing. Neither did I. My Dad was alive. I saved him. The whole world was gonna end around us, but he was alive. And, even in the thick of it all... I was happy, Doctor. Part of me didn’t care. ‘Cause my Dad was alive and it was all that mattered. I was happy, even though the world was ending.”
He can hear her voice shaking again, hear she is on the edge of tears, so he squeezes her hand reassuringly, makes his voice as tender as he can. Then he reaches to curl a strand of hair behind her ear, cupping her cheek delicately.
“Course you were,” he agrees softly. Then he gives a small smile. “He’s your Dad. You’d kill the whole world for him.”
Rose bites her lips inwards, squints away her tears but doesn’t break the Doctor’s eye contact. “And then... I lost you... and it hit me. An’ then it all felfh amarghhh...”
The rest of her sentence is drowned in a new onslaught of tears.
He has to take her in his arms again as another wave strikes, and this time, he’s a little more than shocked. He knows the feeling of having the entire world ending and not caring because the people you love are alive. He has had it, countless times before.
He’s just never had it felt towards him, and that’s something new. And he knows, perhaps deep down, away in the pit of his mind — for now — that he feels exactly the same way about Rose. He’d murder to keep her alive. And the fact that he’d do it in the blink of an eye startles him, scares him, because no one out there would be able to stop him.
No one except the woman in his arms.
The Doctor rubs her back soothingly, coaxing her out of her debris so that she can sit up and sniff, hiccup a little but fight away her tears. He gives her a reassuring smile.
“I must look a right mess,” she laughs, absently feeling the strands of her hair.
“It’s not the best state I’ve seen you in, no,” the Doctor agrees with a warm smile. Still beautiful, though, murmurs a small voice in the back of his mind, a voice he has grown quite accustomed to. He agrees silently, but says nothing.
Rose gives a weak smile, then wipes at her eyes with the back of her hand. “God,” she laughs through another sob. “Bet you’ve never known a woman to cry this much.”
The Doctor grins and runs his thumb over her knuckles. “Well, once. But it wasn’t a woman so much as a planet.”
She blinks at this, taking a moment or two to make sense of it in her head. “You’re telling me planets can cry?”
“Well, not exactly. In fact — ” He gives her that grin that shows he’s up to something, that he cares about her more than the world they’re on. She smiles back, though it is nowhere near so intense.
Standing up, the Doctor bounds over to the machine and hurriedly taps in some statistics. Studying the screen for a second or two, he darts around to the other side and pulls down a lever with all his strength. Then he simultaneously holds a button and spins a dial with one hand, while firing up a pump with the other. The central column begins to buzz and pulsate, the light growing stronger.
Rose watches him with fascination. She loves it when he starts controlling the TARDIS. It makes her feel like he can do anything.
He looks up, as if he’s surprised she’s still there. Then he grins excitedly. “Rose, do me a favour. Go get changed. I’ve got somewhere to take you. No monsters or aliens, I promise. Well, unless you count this one right here.” He gives a small wave and Rose laughs through her tears. “Oh, and you’ll want something warm.”
She stands a little uncertainly, still feeling the need to cry inside her, but able to push it down. She gives him a wry smile. “What are you up to?”
He catches her eye, but doesn’t answer, instead gesturing towards the door. She laughs then obeys, going off to her room to have a wash and find a change of clothes.
The Doctor is already at her door by the time she emerges from the bathroom, thick jeans and a heavy jumper now replacing her thin jacket. She gives him a weak smile, but doesn’t quite feel it. He outstretches his arm, offering his hand and she takes it, letting herself be silently led through the TARDIS. She is surprised when they don’t head in the direction of the control room, instead into another part of the time ship.
It is the room she found him in after their run-in with the Dalek. Only this time, there aren’t stars whizzing by. It’s still, above an amethyst planet.
The atmosphere swirls in different colours of purple, rich purples and deep pinks, all swirling around each other creating a marble effect. There is a parting between them and there, right down on the planet, is a land mass.
The Doctor takes Rose right up to the window and squeezes her hand gently, smiling to her. Then he points to the mass, outlines the shape with his finger.
“Look familiar to you?” he asks quietly and Rose, finding it such a strange question, stares at it for a moment. Then she recognises the shape of a woman, bent with her head draped in her hands, like the entire thing has been carved out of a stone to create the illusion of a miserable girl.
“She’s crying...” Rose says softly, entranced by the strange magic of it.
The Doctor nods, his eyes on the continent.
“Yup. The entire planet’s name has been dedicated to that. Woman Wept. Legend goes, she and her husband were gods. Well, and goddesses I s’pose. But he made the rest of the council angry and got banished to mortality, was sent away to live with the people down there. She cried so much her sobs could be heard on the wind and in the trees; in every misery there ever was. That’s why the continent is shaped that way, because she couldn’t bear to live on without him so would rather live forever as close to him as she can get.”
“That’s... beautifully sad,” she murmurs after a while, tearing her eyes away from it and gazing up to the Doctor. He is looking at her with deep eyes, not a fleck of a smile anywhere on his face.
Then, without so much as another word, he leads her away again, from the depths of his machine to the console room. He leaves her standing for a moment, watching, while he moves gently around his controls. There is nothing frantic or hurried about this; it is handled with careful precision, as if moving too fast will break the magic.
The TARDIS gives a small shudder, but Rose manages to keep her balance. Then the Doctor looks up and gives her a small smile.
“Cheer up,” he tries, though knows it is probably futile. Rose doesn’t say anything, just follows him as he heads for the doors. Just before he opens them, he turns.
“Got your key?” he asks jokingly. “Never know when we might need it.”
She smiles, then produces a chain around her neck. His eyes widen slightly as he sees the TARDIS key dangling from it, but then he nods and smiles and ushers her out into the world beyond.
There’s no wind, but it’s still cold. Shutting the door behind them, the Doctor notices that Rose is already shivering, her breath rising and dancing into the air, twisting away into the atmosphere. The door creaks and clicks shut and he gives her a soft gaze.
“Come on,” he whispers and, almost tentatively, he slides his hand down her wrist and and tenderly into hers. Their fingers lock together the way that lovers’ do, loose and comforting with a hint of something more.
They walk together, their shoes leaving footprints in the black sand. All Rose can see for miles and miles is just nothing, outstretched darkness of the beach and, to their left, what she assumes is the sea. It’s then, when she’s looking at it properly, does she stop in her tracks and gape at it, not even caring that her mouth is open enough to let the stinging air inside.
The Doctor smiles proudly to himself, then slowly begins leading her towards the waves. He points to the single moon above them. It’s pink and huge, casting a strange light down on them that is unbelievably romantic.
He leans over to whisper quietly in her ear. “Used to be a lot more red than that. And a lot warmer. But the sun went through a sort of pre super-nova transiental atomic destabilisation period and it lost all its heat. Most of the people here died out. Some survived, and they live dotted around the land masses. But there’s no one around for miles. Thousands and thousands of miles. No buildings, people, technology. Nothing. And this beach stretches a far way too. A thousand miles twenty across, if my calculations are correct. Not a glimmer of life anywhere.” He pauses a moment, letting his eyes dance across her face. They meet hers. “Except for us.”
Rose shivers and leans into him slightly as they walk. He knows she is cold; he warned her to put something warm on. He is grateful that his biological temperature gauge works differently to hers. She shivers again, her teeth chattering, and he smiles. Then slowly, carefully, he puts an arm around her. She leans into him further. He tightens his grip, holds her there. They keep walking.
She gapes up to the sea in awe, entranced by the beautiful glint off it. The waves have frozen. Right above her, as they approach, they’re just sitting here. Translucent in the strange light, pinks and purples refracting off in different directions, as well as gentle whites of the foam. They turn and walk underneath the masses of waves, like they are walking through a crystal tunnel. It is a little warmer here, but she slides an arm around the Doctor’s waist anyway. The grip on her shoulder tightens.
“The waves...” she says quietly, astounded, and has nothing more to add than that. The Doctor gives her a sideways look, then grins.
“That’s the sun as well. Remember what I was saying about its heat? And the tide’s affected by the moon, right, so when the sun went haywire, the moon lost its control too. That, combined with the thermal decrease in the atmospheric pressure, froze the water right in the middle of a thunderstorm. The storm’s gone now, has been for years — but these waves will remain here forever. They look a bit like they’re trying to attack the land. S’pose that’s artistic culture for you. Nature has rarely been more beautiful.”
“God I love it when you talk science,” Rose practically groans from his side, and he laughs, shaking his head in humour.
“Talk science? I’m not ‘talking science’. I’m explaining the metaphysical reasoning behind the sub zero temperatures of the surface and atmosphere of this planet. Though, I s’pose we have turned up at midnight — likely to be cold.”
Rose giggles, and he likes the sound. It makes a nice change from her sobs, anyway. “Still love it,” she murmurs quietly, and his thumb rubs absently on her shoulder.
They walk on in silence for a moment or two, the only people for miles around. She leans her head on the Doctor and he sighs contentedly, gazing up at the overhead passageway of ice.
Then Rose breaks the silence in a voice so quiet, he wouldn’t have heard it were her mouth not by his ear. “Midnight?”
He’s startled slightly, his mind momentarily forgetting when and where they are. He stumbles. “What?”
“You said it was midnight here,” she explains with a smile in her voice. He relaxes a little and nods.
“Yeah. Best time to see the waves, ‘cause the moonlight reflects off them just perfectly.” He turns a little, points across her body to the dark beach to their right. “See?”
Rose follows the line of his finger, more to humour him than anything else. Until she sees lights shimmering on the shore, hazy mixtures of purples and pinks, glittering like the northern lights. She gasps audibly and doesn’t care. Then there’s breath by her ear, hot but subtle, and her own catches in her chest. She freezes in his arms and doesn’t turn her head, doesn’t dare to.
“Not many people get to see that,” he whispers slowly, his voice sending its own shiver all the way down Rose’s spine. The tiny hairs at the back of her neck prickle and, not being able to bear it any more, she turns her head to look at him —
— and finds him right there, about a centimetre away from her, looking just as shocked as her that she’s turned around. His breath tickles her face and their eyes search each other for a desperate answer that neither of them can give. It’s the sort of moment that could go either way, any way, any where.
But then he nods and straightens, grinning at her like the best friend that he is.
There isn’t much Rose wishes to change about the Doctor, but his reaction towards this sort of situation would definitely be one of them. This has only happened once or twice, but she is beginning to wonder if he actually realises what he’s doing when he takes her to these places, or when he looks at her like that, or when he says those words in that particular way.
These days, she guesses not, because if she were him, she would definitely have made her move by now. She has been throwing out signals all over the place. And as far as she knows, she’s been getting them back... until he goes and does something which completely defies her rules of ‘this sort of thing’ and she’s thrown right back to square one. Maybe she just has to get used to the fact that he doesn’t ‘do’ this sort of thing. He is an alien, after all. Maybe they don’t have romance where he comes from.
Deciding to test her new theory, Rose casually twirls her finger underneath his jumper, just about reaching a small sliver of skin she finds above his belt line. She chances a look up to the Doctor who smiles down to her, but other than that, she gains no reaction. No sudden gasp, no change in his walk, no tightening of his grip around her shoulder. Nothing.
She gives up, slumping against him as tiredness begins to creep up on her.
But then, just to throw her completely off balance again, he strokes her arm gently with his knuckles and sighs into her.
“Rose. Tell me about your Dad?” he asks quietly, and she’s so touched she almost bursts into tears again. Except the pain of that encounter is ebbing away, slowly, and though she’s not growing numb to it — not in the slightest — the Doctor’s input is helping her to do more than just cope, but accept.
So, leaving her hand on his waist, she lets stories unfold about her father that have been entwining within her from the moment she was old enough to think about him. Wishes, dreams, stories. All sorts. He listens quietly, holding her closer when it gets a bit too much for her, never pushing her to say things she doesn’t want to. She tells him everything. He notices.
By the time they have turned and started walking back across the beach, the tip of the sun is tickling the horizon and brighter colours are bruising the sky. Hand in hand, shoulders touching, smiles on their flushed faces, the pair of them walk with happiness in their hearts.
They finally reach the TARDIS again and, after the Doctor has slipped his key into the lock and pushed open the door, he looks at Rose for a moment or two. For a second, he raises his hand, touches his fingertips to her cheek and caresses the skin. She’s freezing, but for once, he doesn’t feel guilty.
“Feel better?” he murmurs with a smile.
Rose blinks slowly and nods, echoing his smile with a grin of her own. “Yeah. I do.” He drops his hand but stays still, looking at her.
Using all the courage this visit has given her, Rose stands on tiptoe and turns her head to the Doctor, pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek for as long as she dares. He doesn’t retaliate, but out of the corner of her eye, she can see his eyes drift shut. If she’s quiet, she might be able to hear him take a breath and hold it.
She lingers for what feels like hours, but all too soon, she stands back again and grins up at him cheekily. It then turns into a gentle smile and she meets his gaze.
“Thank you, Doctor.”
Holding his eye contact, she disappears into the warmth of the TARDIS. The Doctor slowly lets out his breath and smiles, raising a hand to his cheek. He holds a smile to himself, gazing into nothing for a moment or two as he relishes the memories that will stay with him for years to come. Then he turns, follows her inside, and shuts the door.
A great groan of ancient engines start up not long afterwards and, after a moment or two, the TARDIS fades out of existence and back into the time vortex.
The only clue that anyone has even been there are the footprints that lie in the shallow sand.
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