It was night, or at least the TARDIS' equivalent of night, and Rose had gone to bed, looking tired and drawn after the emotional upheaval of the day.
The Doctor knew she was upset, could see the tears welling up again as she’d stood there in the control room staring at one of the coral struts, but he hadn't known what to say to her. Instead he'd given her a quick hug and told her to go get some rest, then walked out of the room. He’d heard her footsteps behind him moments later, and paused to listen by the door to the library as she turned towards her bedroom, rather than follow him.
He was a little ashamed of himself though, because he was actually relieved when she didn’t follow him. He could tell the TARDIS wasn’t too happy with him either, as her hum shifted to a lower pitch for a moment. “Yes, I’m a coward,” he said in response. He was concerned about Rose of course, but he’d never been very good at saying the right thing at times like this, plus seeing her cry earlier had already affected him far more than he cared to admit.
So instead, he’d sat down in one of the library's overstuffed chairs by the fire, and tried to read a book on Temporal Displacement Within A Gravity Well, but failed miserably. Because despite his best efforts, his mind just kept drifting back to thoughts of Rose, which had been happening a lot lately, he realised.
He wasn't sure exactly when it had started, although if he was honest with himself, something he rarely was even in his own head, he thought it was probably somewhere around, "Run!" There was just something about her, even then.
She’d been scared yes, confused too, but not as scared or confused as most would have been in the same situation. She’d questioned him too, and they’d been sensible questions. So yes, he thought, she was intelligent, quick thinking, observant too, more so than him at times. That was why he asked her to come with him, he reasoned.
Even in his own head though, he knew that was a half truth at best. He'd never asked anyone twice before, never, and that fact alone told him there was more to it. "Maybe I was lonely?" he mused, and then laughed at himself for even thinking such a thing. He'd been alone many times over the years, deliberately so since the war, and it hadn't bothered him. He'd preferred it that way in fact. Hadn't wanted anyone around to get in the way of his grief, his guilt.
But then she'd smiled at him.....
"Is that all it takes these days?" he said out loud. "Must be getting old if I only need to see a pretty smile and I'm hooked."
“Am I hooked?" he wondered. He heard the TARDIS’ hum shift pitch again and realised she was laughing at him. “And you can stay out of it!”
Trying to be rational, he ran through the days events again in his head. It had been a terrible idea, and he’d known it, even as he'd agreed. He knew all the possibilities, the chaos that could result if things went wrong, as they invariably did around him, and still he'd agreed to take her to see her father. All she'd had to do was ask, and give him that smile, and he was setting the co-ordinates without a second thought. And then he’d taken her back again. “Not that rational then?” he thought.
He'd been showing off, he realised. “I can do anything, me.” In fact he’d been doing that a lot since she came on board. And even though he was loath to admit it, he realised that perhaps he was at least a little attracted to her, and that thought worried him. He’d always been a rebel when it came to all those stuffy rules his people had tried to get him to follow, but there was one rule he did adhere to; never get too involved, never get too attached, never fall in...
"I'm not attached," he said, and heard the TARDIS’ chuckling hum in response, but this time he ignored her. As he thought about it further though, he knew that wasn’t entirely true either, not anymore. Somehow she'd managed to sneak past all those defences he'd spent years building and found herself a small place in his hearts, without him even noticing it was happening.
"Even if I were to get attached to her, what then?" he thought. "She's barely more than a child. She'll tag along for a few months maybe, then she'll get bored and be off back to her life, find herself a pretty boy and settle down."
“Maybe I should take her home?” he wondered. Just for a while, put some distance between them, give him time to work on better defences. He wouldn’t take her home for good of course; he didn’t think he could handle that, despite his conviction that he was not attached. The problem was he was also sure he didn’t know how to handle this either, whatever it was. “Yeah, tomorrow I’ll take her home for a visit,” he decided.
And then he heard it, a small whimpering sound that he knew the TARDIS had amplified for his benefit, coming from the direction of her room. A nightmare he realised, as he dropped the forgotten book to the floor, stood up, and headed towards the sound. He'd expected something like this after all that had happened that day. As he approached her bedroom door he heard another cry, much louder this time.
He didn’t knock, just opened the door and stepped inside. Rose was sitting upright in the centre of the bed, looking around her in a slightly dazed and panicked fashion, clearly not yet fully awake, and with tears streaming down her face. As he rushed to her side though, she realised he was there and reached out to him. He sat beside her and wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, while she sobbed against his chest. He didn’t speak; he still didn’t know what to say, so instead he just held her and gently stroked her back until her sobs become less violent, then slowly seemed to come to an end.
"Sorry," she mumbled into his chest, "bad dream."
"Yeah, I sorta guessed," he replied, as he rummaged in his pocket for a handkerchief and then handed it to her.
She snuffled into the handkerchief for a while, and then lifted her face slightly to look up at him through her lashes, "I dreamed about the church, seeing you die, I....I couldn't bear to lose you....I...." She blushed, and then buried her face in his chest again.
Yet again he didn’t know what to say. He'd assumed she'd dreamt of her father's death. It had never occurred to him that it was losing him that had distressed her so much. So again he didn’t speak, just continued to hold her until she finally calmed and began to shift away from him. He moved back then and began to stand, ready to leave her to rest.
As she settled back against the pillows though, she looked up at him again, "Doctor...stay with me....please?"
"That's not a good idea," he managed, his voice a little thicker than usual.
"Please? I...I don't want to be alone," she said, and the pleading look in her eyes almost broke his hearts.
He knew he shouldn't, knew it was probably the worst idea he’d ever had, but he also knew he couldn’t say no to her this time either, couldn’t walk away from that pained look in her eyes.
So he removed his jacket, hung it on the chair by her dressing table, and kicked off his boots. "Scoot up then," he said, and waited for her to move over a little, before settling on the bed beside her with his hands behind his head. He stared at the ceiling for a while, knowing she was watching him. When she said nothing, he finally looked across at her.
"I...." she looked up at him, a plea in her eyes.
"Oh, come ‘ere." He reached out his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders to pull her a little closer so she could settle beside him. She draped an arm over his chest, rested her head on his shoulder and sighed softly.
"Sweet dreams Rose," he said, then before he could think about it too hard, he dropped a soft kiss to her forehead. A mumbled, "hmm," was all he got in return, and before long her breathing had slowed and he realised she'd fallen back to sleep. He watched her for a while, waiting for any sign that the dream had returned. Seeing nothing though, he eventually closed his own eyes and drifted off to sleep.
When he woke a couple of hours later she still slept peacefully. She'd shifted a little though, and was far closer than before. Now, she was pressed close to his side with her head on his chest, one leg lay across his own, and her arm was wrapped around his waist holding on to him, almost as if she were afraid he'd try to leave.
"Doesn't she know I'd never leave her?" he thought, then realised what that thought actually meant. He looked down at her again then, at her blonde hair spread across his chest, her small hand clutching at his jumper so tightly, and thought that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to be just a little attached.
Just as he mentally shook himself, and told himself yet again that it was really not a good idea to think that way, she started to stir.
She opened her eyes and looked up at him, looking a little confused for a moment until memories of the night before flooded back. He could see the exact moment she fully realised he was there, in her bed, and she was wrapped tightly around him. She started to move away, mumbling something he couldn’t quite hear all of, although what he did catch sounded like, "sorry, I shouldn't...."
He kept his arm around her shoulders for a moment to keep her from pulling away completely, and reached down with his free hand to gently lift her chin, forcing her to look up at him. "I can't hear you if you mumble into my jumper like that you know, but if you want to be away from me so badly...." He let the sentence drop and began to pull away from her, ready to leave.
"No!" It was almost a shout. Then, much softer, "I'm sorry, that's not what I meant, I...."
He settled back against the pillows, looked down at her, and waited a while for her to continue. Although it was obvious she had something else to say, it soon became clear she wouldn’t continue, so he simply said, "come on then, out with it."
She swallowed hard, clearly trying for a little more control, "I just didn't want to make you....uncomfortable. I mean....being in my bed like this....” she waved a hand as if to explain, “I....I know you don't feel...." She blushed again, and tried to bury her face in his jumper yet again.
He stared down at her then and realised that, despite all his earlier attempts at convincing himself otherwise, he did feel, and he could see that she did too. He’d seen it in her eyes when she’d looked up at him a moment ago. He’d seen fear there too though, fear he knew meant she was now waiting for him to pull away from her, to tell her how bad an idea this all was. And once again, it was the look in her eyes that made him act.
He did the only thing he could think of in that moment, he reached out again and gently lifted her face towards him, "Oh but you're wrong Rose,” he whispered, "I do feel," before lowering his lips to hers.