Rose sat on the floor of the TARDIS, back against the wall and her knees drawn up against her chest. She had wrapped her arms around them and the tight hold she maintained was the only thing stopping her flying apart. She rocked herself slightly, trying to keep the fear and grief at bay. The Doctor was in his room, and had been for the longest time. Acid burned Rose’s throat and a single hot tear crept down her face.
The Doctor stood at the console, leaning on it heavily. His face was grey and beaded with sweat.
“I should have taken you home before now,” he had whispered, battling obvious pain.
“No!” Rose replied. “I’m staying here. With you.”
“That’s the point Rose. I’m not going to be me much longer.”
Another tear rolled down her face. It was bad enough knowing that he was… changing. The Doctor had left her in the console room. He wouldn’t be back. Not the man she knew and loved. But knowing he was in pain… that was worse. She had wanted to go with him, be with him, but he had refused.
“Doctor, no. Don’t you think I can’t see how much this is hurting you?”
“The physical is only the beginning,” he muttered. “It’s worse that I know… that you’re… Please Rose, I can’t put you through that as well. Just stay here! Please.”
She’d agreed, God help her. She wouldn’t have, only it seemed that insisting was hurting him more. She didn’t want to hurt him, not ever. So she’d stayed behind, watching him walk away from her. Then she’d crumpled to the floor, her heart breaking.
A sob worked its way from her throat, and as if that one broke the dam, Rose began to cry.
Forever crept past, the minutes unmarked. Rose sat still, emotionally spent. She heard a movement and slowly lifted her head. Her heart flipped as she took in the lean figure that was scanning the readouts. She brushed the hair from her face. She didn’t think she’d made a sound but the figure paused suddenly.
The Doctor turned and looked at her. Rose couldn’t speak, the words like stone in her throat. He looked younger. The hair was longer and a paler shade of brown. He looked at her with regret etched on his features.
“Rose,” he said, speaking her name in a voice that was sad and soft. Even his accent had changed.
Tears blurred her eyes.
“Do you want to go home? I can, if you want. Ten seconds and everything.”
Rose blinked back the tears. Ten seconds. That’s what she’d told her mum, that she’d be back in ten seconds. He remembers, Rose thought. The pain in her chest eased, ever so slightly. She considered the question.
“Nah,” she said eventually, her voice rather scratchy. “There’s still so much to see.”
“You sure now?”
Rose nodded, not trusting her voice. Damn but she needed a drink.
“Alright then. Which way?” He was calmer, not as manic. However excitement still blazed in his eyes. Even if they were brown now.
“Forwards,” Rose said, mustering a small smile. She stared to get up.
“Nah, stay there. Save your rump,” the Doctor told her. He grinned and she had to laugh.
The TARDIS shifted and lurched. At least some things were constant.
“The Forests of Faroth,” he announced grandly.
“What’s here then?”
“Not entirely sure. Probably the usual — bad guys, lots of running around and escaping by the skin of our teeth. Wanna come?” The Doctor held out a hand.
And Rose didn’t think, just acted automatically. She only realised as their hands met, sending a jolt down her arm. The Doctor pulled her to her feet and there they were, face to face. There was a faint smile on his face and the look in his eyes was extremely knowing.
“Doctor?” Rose said, her voice tremulous.
Rose smiled. It was still him. He might not look the same or sound the same, but it was definitely him. “Nothing.”