The first time the Doctor saw Rose, she was about to get pulverized by a walking dummy.
He didn’t know who she was, or where she came from. And he had become calloused, body and soul, as wounds from the immense destruction wrought by the Time War closed over without healing.
But he still couldn’t turn away when there was somebody to save.
So he grabbed her hand and told her to run.
It was when he pushed her out the door and went back to blow the place up that he realized, for the first time in a long while, that he was enjoying himself. At least a little. Because it wasn’t just him. Because there was someone else to…well…to talk to. He wasn’t simply saving nameless faces.
It felt good.
So he opened the door again, after he had slammed it on her face, and introduced himself.
“I’m the Doctor by the way. What’s your name?”
The second time the Doctor saw Rose, she was peeking at him through a door flap.
The sight of her face shocked him. He had already erased her from his mind. Easier that way. Because when the people you are attached to fall…they take you with them.
But there she was again.
It unnerved him. So he did what he had always done when faced with uncertain circumstances- he ran. Or tried to.
But she wouldn’t let him go.
And in her flat he found himself looking in a mirror for the first time since…well….
He had avoided mirrors. Because he was afraid if he looked in one, the image staring back at him would be a shadowy ghost, the phantom remains of a dead world.
But in that flat, with the air reeking of domestic, it suddenly seemed okay. Because Rose, she somehow made him feel comfortable. Reminded him of…normal times. And all of a sudden he felt rather like a shy little kid wanting someone desperately to like him.
So he attempted to run away again. And even while he was going down the stairs at break-neck pace he wondered what it was he was trying so hard to get away from.
And somehow Rose was still there and she kept digging and badgering him and she just wouldn’t...let him...go. And then she asked him,
“What, you’re on your own?”
And he actually paused for a second, staggered, because he had managed so completely to avoid thinking about that for ever so long. And it started to crack the calluses he had painstakingly formed to protect himself. So he decided to tell her exactly who he was. See how eager she’d be then! Because he knew if he could make her understand…make her see how dangerous and frightening he was, even to himself…
Well, he doubted she’d stick around.
So he told her. And then he said,
“Now forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home.”
And walked away. But when he got back inside the TARDIS it suddenly seemed… empty.
The third time the Doctor saw Rose, he had just rescued her from her plastic boyfriend.
He didn’t know why he went back. She was just another bloody stupid ape.
Except she wasn’t. And deep down inside, in a part that he thought had been long buried in the wreckage of the Time War, he knew she wasn’t.
So he rescued her and brought her into the TARDIS. And though he tried to suppress it, tried to ignore it, he felt the tightening sensation of nervousness in his throat. Because she was the first human since…well, a very long time. And what would she think?
So when she started to cry the calloused part of him told him, Good. Because it meant that she was just like everybody else.
But then she revealed she was crying about Mickey.
And it stopped him in his tracks for a second. Because he wondered, When did I become so hard? And why was it that Rose was the only one who made him realize it? But then the person he became to escape the pain reasserted control and he brushed her disapproval aside.
But once they had lost the signal of the Nestene Consciousness and stepped out the TARDIS, she started back up.
“You just went and forgot him, again!”
And somehow she’d managed to get under the shell that he’d worked so hard to build up, to make impenetrable, and he found himself wanting to explain to her. That he made himself this way to survive. That he has to forget.
But his other self was still inside and screaming warnings in his head so the best he could do was say,
“It's because I'm trying to save the life of every stupid ape blundering on top of this planet, alright?”
He’s started to wish he could let his defenses down. At least around her.
The fourth time the Doctor saw Rose, the Nestene Consciousness was doing its utmost best to destroy everything.
Mickey was alive. He honestly hadn’t expected that. But he had spouted something about ‘copies’ to Rose because ignorance was weakness, and he couldn’t be weak.
Not that Mickey had been much help when things went south. Blubbering and talking about dying.
As the Doctor struggled against the Auton’s grip his cynical self told him all humans were like that. You couldn’t trust ‘em, couldn’t count on them.
Couldn’t believe in them.
But as the Doctor failed miserably in his struggles to break free and Rose and Mickey cowered in front of the TARDIS and the Nestene Consciousness pulsed its signal of domination out into the world; at that moment his inner self, his hidden self, the part which he thought had been completely suppressed after the Time War, beaten and broken and crushed…
At that moment it chose to resurface. And fight against the hardened husk of survival he had become.
So he looked to Rose.
And as he looked into her eyes, it was as if everything around him faded away. And all he saw was her.
She wasn’t panicking. Wasn’t blubbering like Mickey. No, the look in her eyes was one of someone who had made of her mind.
Made up her mind to save him.
And it was then, when he caught that first glimpse of what Rose Tyler was capable of, that he felt something break.
And realized it was the shell that had been holding him hostage.
She kicked the anti-plastic into the Nestene Consciousness and he shrugged off the remaining Auton holding him and then he caught her and smiled.
A true smile.
The first one in a very long time.
Not one to misdirect. Not one to cover his pain.
But a true smile.
And she smiled back.
The fifth time the Doctor saw Rose she was standing in an alleyway.
And she told him, teasing yet slightly proud,
“You were useless in there. You’d be dead if it weren’t for me.”
He responded, his voice not quite hiding the emotion he felt,
“Yes, I would. Thank you.”
Because he would be dead. Was dead. The worst kind of dead because he had thought he was still alive.
And with that thought he mustered up all the courage in his two hearts (and why was this so hard to do?) and suggested to Rose that she come with him. Anywhere.
He hated the begging he heard in his voice but knew that if she rejected him…
That would be it. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men…
So for once he was serious.
“What do you think?”
He didn’t sugarcoat anything. Couldn’t sugarcoat it. Because unless she knew what she was getting into, he would only be prolonging the inevitable. He didn’t want a flunky. He wanted a friend.
She said no.
And it felt as though he had just crumpled up and died inside but somehow he managed to turn his mouth upwards in a mockery of a smile and then shut the door.
And alone in the TARDIS all he could think of was to Run, run, and keep running, and never ever stop, and never slow down because then no one can touch me again, hurt me again…
But his newly rediscovered self, hearts still tender and raw from rebirth, somehow made him stop.
Because hope could rise even from ashes.
So he went back.
One last gasp. One last hurrah.
And something deep inside him forced him to play out his last card.
“Did I mention it also travels in time?”
And then he went back to wait in the TARDIS, to wait and see if the tiny spark of life kindled in him would be extinguished again, this time forever, and all he felt was…numb.
As if he had already died.
The door opened wider. And he suddenly felt as though his whole body was freezing and burning, and he couldn't seem to breathe.
But when the Doctor saw Rose Tyler the tiny spark inside him leapt up into a roaring flame.
And he was alive once again.