The TARDIS was humming too loudly, the mattress was lumpy and Rose pulled a pillow over her face in an effort to keep from screaming with frustration.
A minute later she tossed the pillow across the room, to thump against the wall, and sat up hugging her knees with one arm and nibbling at the fingernails of her other hand, as her mind raced. The TARDIS’s hum hiccupped a little, to remind Rose that the ship didn’t appreciate having things smacked into her walls. It was disrespectful, even if it wouldn’t actually cause damage.
“Sorry,” she said out loud, without thinking about how odd it might seem to be talking to her empty room; after all, in the TARDIS no room was ever really empty.
Rose’s sleepless brain came back round to the beginning, and she went through it all again.
He’d left her, without a second thought, stranding her (and Mickey, and the TARDIS) on a psychotic, potentially homicidal spaceship in the middle of bloody nowhere. Just went crashing through that mirror to save . . . her. Reinette.
There were no words for how small, and useless, and disregarded, and yes, jealous that made her feel. Her anger and hurt were increased by the fear she’d felt, and the helplessness.
How could he?
Once she’d gotten over the dizzy relief of the Doctor’s return, and after Mickey had dragged her away from the Doctor’s obvious pain, Rose started thinking about what had happened, and that’s when she realized how upset she was, and why.
The urge to scream was back, along with the urge to go stomping through the TARDIS and find the Doctor, wherever he was holed up, and tell him he was taking her home, right now, ‘cos she was done with him, done with the TARDIS, done with every-bloody-thing.
She stopped chewing on her nails and raked her hand through her mussed-up hair. Predictably, the ragged nails caught and pulled in her hair and made her even madder.
Hadn’t he even thought about what he was doing? About what would happen?
As she reached that point in the litany, from somewhere inside her, a new voice spoke up, just barely above a whisper.
What would have happened if he hadn’t gone to save her? it asked.
Rose’s skin suddenly prickled, and she felt cold, playing the imaginary scene through in her mind for the first time.
Reinette’s skull would have been ripped open, and her brain yanked out. A young woman would have died horribly, right in front of them, right then. Rose squinched her eyes shut as if that would blot out the image, but it was in her mind, and hovered there with brutal clarity.
How could the Doctor, being who he was, have failed to stop that? He reacted as he always would in that sort of situation, stopping the horror in any way he possibly could, instantly, without hesitation or fear. That impulsive heroism of his was one of the things she loved about him — how could she expect, or even want, him to behave otherwise?
Honestly, that ridiculously glorious image of him shattering through the glass on a white horse, riding valiantly to the rescue, had the potential to melt her heart into an admiring puddle.
If only he’d been coming to rescue her. But he hadn’t been.
He’d been rescuing Reinette.
Rose groaned, and buried her face in her hands, her gut tight with a terrible stew of jealousy, guilt, and humiliation.
And why wouldn’t he want to rescue Reinette? The woman was gorgeous, brilliant, and braver than just about anyone else Rose could think of, except maybe her own Dad and the Doctor. The Doctor had every reason to like her.
To love her.
Hell, Rose thought. I liked her. Not that way, the way the Doctor did, but if things had been any different, she'd’ve been happy to have Reinette as her friend.
If things had been any different, how? If Rose hadn’t been in love with the Doctor herself? If she hadn’t thought he maybe cared about her that way in return, even a tiny bit, even if they were never going to be anything but best friends?
Did that give her the right to think she owned him?
Rose groaned again, and fell over on her side on the mattress, curling up on herself.
Another brutal realization came to her then. Am I any better, the way I’ve treated Mickey? she thought. He cares about me, and I’ve gone running off with the Doctor every chance I’ve had. Dropped Mickey like he was yesterday’s news, even when he was begging me to stay. How can I expect anyone to do what I can’t, or won’t?
She felt terrible.
And the thoughts just kept on coming, relentless and remorseless.
How do you think he feels?
Like his heart’s been ripped out and handed to him, is how. She’d seen all the bounce and fire in him when he first came back, and then she’d seen it snuffed, brutally, immediately afterwards. He’d told her and Mickey what had happened, later -- simply and plainly, without any visible emotion, his face gone to a blank mask, his voice light and unconcerned.
He’d had someone he cared about deeply taken away from him in a heartbeat — just the same way she’d lost her Dad. She knew how he felt, no doubt about it. He was hurting, hurting like nobody’s business, while she lay curled up here in her bed pretending to sleep. When Pete had died, he’d hugged her and held her and made her feel better, and now when he was hurting like that, he had nobody at all.
Rose pulled herself into a tight, shivering knot, then exploded out of bed and onto her feet. She grabbed her robe and pulled it on over her pajamas and headed for the door.
She set out looking for the Doctor, and it was a sign of her long familiarity with the TARDIS that she expected to find him for no other reason than she was looking. She walked down the corridor, up and down stairs, one hand trailing unconsciously along the wall as she went, the way the Doctor would often walk through the TARDIS, lost in thought.
The library suddenly seemed like a very good bet, so that was where she went.
He was sitting in the big, red velvet wingback chair, his usual spot, feet up on a hassock. A closed book lay on his lap, his hands dangling off the ends of the armrests. His reading glasses dangled carelessly from one hand. His head was tilted back, eyes closed, when she entered, but he opened his eyes and lowered his head to face her.
His face was still that perfect, blank mask, and he said nothing, merely waited on whatever she would do or say.
Rose’s stomach seemed to shrivel up inside her. She didn’t exactly deserve a warm welcome. She hadn’t behaved very well, earlier, when he’d been explaining about Reinette and what had happened. But she took a deep breath, crossed her arms, and leaned her hip against the big main library table (which was stacked, as usual, with all kinds of books, papers, and academic detritus).
“I’m sorry,” said, going for the blunt essentials first. “I shouldn’t’ve reacted the way I did, earlier. I was scared and hurt you left us like that, but I didn’t stop to think about it. You had to save Reinette, she was gonna die right then, and me’n’Mickey, we were all right. You’d’ve come back somehow, just like you did.”
He did not move, nor react, but she hadn’t expected him to.
Now the harder part. She looked down at the Oriental carpet, focusing on the abstract geometric patterns while she forced herself to keep talking.
“And yeah, I was jealous of Reinette — I mean, who wouldn’t be? She was fabulous, made me look like nothing much, but that wasn’t her fault. I was hurt you’d run to her so fast, not even look at me in passing, but I’ve no right to feel like that. Gotta tell you, it still hurts, and I’m still kinda jealous, even though I’m trying not to be, and I know that makes me a bad person, but I’m not gonna lie to you.”
She ran out of breath, and stopped momentarily. She heard him shift, but didn’t look up — didn’t dare to see what might be on his face. She kept talking, as fast as she could, so she could get the words out before she lost her nerve.
“I know that’s some pretty bitchy stuff to own up to,” she went on, “and if you wanted to drop me off back at the Powell Estates right now, I wouldn’t blame you. But I also know how much it hurts to lose someone like that — even someone you just met, like me and Dad. And I . . . care about you, and if I can help, I want to, whatever you want.”
She blew out the last of her breath in a sigh, took another breath, and shifted her attention from the carpet to the Doctor.
He wasn’t looking at her. He’d dropped his feet to the floor, and was sitting bent forward with his face in his hands, his elbows propped on his knees.
Uncertain, Rose frowned not sure what to do or say next . . . and then the Doctor exhaled, and his shoulders shook, and she realized he was crying.
She didn’t even think — just the next thing she knew, she was sitting in front of him on the hassock, pulling him forward into a hug. He let her do it, and buried his face in her shoulder, his arms reaching blindly around her.
He cried soundlessly, in great, wracking spasms, while she rocked him, and stroked his hair. “I’m sorry,” she whispered over and over, meaning for Reinette, for her own weaknesses, and for all the times he’d hurt like this and been alone. She knew, with a gut-sure understanding, that had been the case far too many times.
She didn’t lie to him and tell him it was all okay. That would have been the worst thing she could have said, and she knew it. When she'd cried for Pete, he’d comforted her but he hadn’t lied to her, and she’d loved him even more for that.
His breathing evened out, and he started to pull away from her — but then a fresh wave of grief took him, and he grabbed onto her again, more tightly than before. Without knowing how she knew, she understood that now he was crying out many long years of pain, not just for Reinette, but for everything he’d had to suffer alone, without release. It broke her heart, and tears began to seep from under her own closed eyelids.
“Shhhhh,” she told him, “I’m here, I’m not goin’ anywhere.”
Not ever she vowed, her feelings crystallizing in that moment, Not if I can help it.