by LostinWho [Reviews - 4]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, Romance

Author's Notes:
There are so many stories about this episode, and all I can say is that it was cathartic. Most of us Rose/Ten shippers had to come up with some way to make peace it. So here's yet another. Let me know what you think! :)

Rose knew he was there, sensed him hovering in the doorway, but didn’t look up. She continued to study the fire, trying to pull some of its warmth into the cold ache that threatened to consume her heart. Several hours had passed and they were safely back in the TARDIS, adrift in the Vortex once more, but still the chill remained.

After several long minutes, the Doctor spoke. “I had to go, Rose. None of that was supposed to happen. I had to save her.” He sounded so broken and tired. She knew if she looked up that she would see the sadness lingering in his eyes. Her heart warred within her, wanting to comfort him, to soothe his pain and guilt, and yet also needing to protect herself, to salvage the shattered remains of her love and trust.

“I know.” That was all she could give him right now. She felt raw, abandoned, rejected. She knew that some of these feelings were unreasonable, but she felt them anyway. Despite the words that had gone unsaid, she had thought that they shared something special - that she was special to him, more than just another companion, that he would never leave her behind. She had assumed too much, let herself hope for something that just wasn’t there. Rose knew why he did it, accepting the truth of his words. She also recognized that pain in his eyes and loved him enough that she didn’t want to add her own to it. The pain of so much loss and death, of not being able to save everyone. The reasons he had given her so recently for keeping his distance. Yet despite the necessity of what he’d done, her heart broke with knowing that, while he cared for her, she wasn’t enough for him. Because in one day, for a woman he hardly knew, attractive, intelligent, and yet essentially a stranger, he had broken his promise never to leave her behind and broken her heart - forced to stay behind and watch as he abandoned his own rules and surrendered his heart to another.

The silence stretched on between them. When did things get so complicated? He was her best friend, one like she had never known before. They spent so much of each day together, seeking adventure, running for their lives, laughing, flirting, saving the universe... but where did this leave them? Could she endure this hurt, much less the next? She had meant to stay with him forever, but knowing now that she could never be more than just his friend, that she’d have to endure in silence as he gave to others what she yearned for so desperately... was she strong enough? Could she hide her broken heart in order to stay with this amazing alien who had shared the stars with her and made her long for a better life?

The thought that perhaps she couldn’t broke her, allowing a single traitorous tear to escape down her cheek.

* *

The Doctor stood just inside the library, feeling haunted and suddenly very afraid. He had spent the last few hours in the console room, comforted by the hum of the TARDIS, trying to come to grips with all that had happened. He had been immediately fascinated by the clockwork droids - they were truly beautiful, if perhaps slightly flawed in their logic and morality. Then there had been Reinette, the sweet, bright little girl he rescued again and again who grew up before his eyes. A small part of him had thrilled to the attentions of this brilliant, renowned woman and the welcome distraction she had provided; he had enjoyed her near reverence of him, relished playing the part of the dashing, if not-so-young knight, though it had broken him even more in the end. He had failed her, as he had so many others, but combined with the knowledge that she had hoped for more from him than he had ever intended, he now felt both sorrow and shame.

However, such was the nature of his life. So many incredible beings out there, capable of doing so much good. He yearned to introduce them to the stars and encourage that spark of curiosity and adventure. And then, so quickly, they were gone, and he, a Lord of Time, had no more to give them. He had played the hero and defeated evil, yet he was ultimately defeated by time.

And now, taking in the scene before him, he realized that that pain was nothing compared to the horrifying reality he now faced. His hearts froze and then started thundering out of control as he confronted the true, lasting consequences of his actions. Before him sat his Rose... wait, his?... his friend, his salvation, the woman he lo-... cared for more than any other being in the universe. But she looked... broken. She was always so strong, so brave, even in the face of danger and death. The only thing capable of breaking his dearest friend was... him. Leaning against the wall for support, he squeezed his eyes shut tight, trying to believe that if he couldn’t witness the heartbreak he saw before him, that it would cease to be. What had he done?

She was staring ahead, defenses up that he had never encountered with her before. Almost from the start he had been able to feel her in the back of his mind, her presence growing stronger the longer they had been together; she was so full of love, compassion, devotion, and joy that it radiated out from her unconsciously, soothing the emptiness in his mind that had once been filled by his own people. He relished that connection, depended on it... on her. Now there were walls keeping her light from reaching him, so wrong and very not-Rose, thrown up unknowingly as she attempted to deal with her own fear and hurt, alone. And now that in place in his mind, her place, he felt almost nothing but a glimmer of tremendous pain, and the loss almost knocked his feet out from under him.

He says something, tries to explain, and despite the truth of it, he knows that it’s not enough. She is retreating from him, and it’s his fault, because recently it has been him who’s been hiding, trying to keep them from growing any closer, even though he knew it was futile. He had always run headlong into adventure, but he had also been running from them, running from the admission he’d nearly made during their encounter with the Krillitane. She says that she knows, but does she really? His brilliant, brave, precious pink-and-yellow girl - she knows all too well the burden he bears, protecting the timelines and the universe, but does she know how much she means to him? He would have sworn that she does... or that she did. Before. He could see it all now the way she must see it, the betrayal and doubt and resignation, and his hearts react violently, willing her not to believe it. He had taken her trust, her faith, her friendship, and blown it all to hell.

Had he pushed her so far, shaken her faith so badly that she couldn’t forgive him, couldn’t continue traveling with him, that she would... leave? His hearts faltered at just the thought, threatening to shatter at the mere possibility. She sat so still, struggling in silence, and he Doctor felt paralyzed by his fear, unable to move or speak, waiting for the death knoll, for the words that would quickly and efficiently kill him. For that was the truth of it, that when Rose Tyler left, the hope and joy and peace that she had brought back into his life would go with her. He would again be that broken, battered soldier, except now he would also have driven away his one hope of salvation.

And then a lonely tear ran down her cheek and released him, and in three swift steps he was beside her, reaching for her hand, his lifeline since that first fateful meeting in the basement of a shop in London. She flinched slightly and tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t release her hand. He clung to its warmth desperately, to the fact of her, still with him, and she relented.

“Rose.” His voice was soft, gentle, pleading. “Rose, please... just look at me.” He watched her carefully as she took a deep breath, then another, seeming to gather the strength to face him. Finally she lifted those lovely brown eyes to meet his, and the anguish reflected in their depths robbed him of breath. Her eyes always spoke so clearly, concealing nothing, and he searched them urgently for just a hint of the love and joy that lived there. Tenderly he reached up, brushing the tear from her cheek with his thumb, leaving his hand to linger on her cheek in a gentle caress, encouraged when she didn’t move away.

“Doctor, I...” Rose started and then faltered, struggling to find the words. “You left us. You left me. An’ I know, I understand... you couldn’t leave those things there to kill her. I know. But...” she paused, taking another deep breath, her voice trembling with emotion, “I could have come with you. S’where I’m supposed to be, you know?” Tears started to spill over now, no longer under her control, but she didn’t care. “You’re my best friend, Doctor. And I understand now, I do, and me and Mickey, we woulda stayed out of the way. She was really somethin’, Doctor, really special - I can see why you fell in love with her. And I’m so sorry you lost her.”

As she spoke the Doctor’s face grew pale, his eyes wide with shock, his hand clenching hers almost painfully. “No, Rose... please don’t... don’t think that...” he gasped, stumbling over the words that he was frantic to get out. “You were safe, here, with the TARDIS, you and Mickey... she would’ve taken you home. Don’t you see?? I wanted you to be safe, needed you to be safe. And I would have found a way back to you.” He paused for a breath, and his next words were full of fire and conviction. “I would have made a way back to you.”

In the back of his mind, he felt her light flicker to life tentatively. Hope surged through him, and he lifted his hands to cup her face, pouring all that he felt for her into his words. “Rose, I always want you with me. Forever. I am so, so sorry for hurting you, and I know I don’t deserve you, but please, listen and believe me. If I had been stuck there, without you,” he paused, taking a shuddering breath, “I don’t know how I would have survived. Stranded on the slow path... only you could make that bearable, who knows, maybe even enjoyable. Stuck with you...” he paused, remembering, hoping. “That’s not so bad,” she finished, her mouth turning up in the slightest hint of a smile. The Doctor impulsively leaned in and pressed his lips to the corner of her mouth, so quick and soft that Rose wasn’t sure she hadn’t dreamed it.

“I didn’t fall for Reinette,” he said softly, anticipating the hurt that flashed over her face at the name. “I was charmed and intrigued, yes, but she... read more into things than there was. And I let her,” he admits, dropping his gaze for a moment in shame. But when he looked back up, his eyes blazed into hers with intensity and something else, something she had caught brief glimpses of when he thought she wasn’t paying attention. Something that surprised and thrilled her, whether the eyes were an icy blue or a warm brown, so fleeting that she dismissed it as fancy, but hidden no longer - longing.

“I was afraid, Rose - still am, really, and I was running, well not literally, but emotionally, running away from you, from us, from this. I’m frightened by how much I need you, Rose, not just want you with me, but need you with me. You’re in my head, Rose, without even trying,” he confessed with wonder in his voice. He registered the shock on Rose’s face but forged ahead, his voice earnest and passionate, holding nothing back. “You are my best friend, Rose, but... you mean so much more to me than that. You know me better than anyone ever has. You have saved me so many times, often from myself. You did the impossible for me,” he said, smiling, a tear streaming down his face. “The words will never be enough, but if you’ll let me I’ll spend as long as we have together showing you, Rose, how very much I love you.”

Rose lifted a trembling hand to caress the face of the man she loved, whom she was allowed to love, hardly able to believe that this wasn’t a dream, held captive by the love and hope shining out at her from those ancient, beloved eyes. “I love you, too, my Doctor.” The words spilled out almost like laughter as joy and adoration replaced pain and doubt. He caught his breath as the radiant smile that he loved lit her face, and his own felt like it might split with the joy of his answering grin. He felt her walls crumble as the warmth of her presence rushed back into his mind, claiming his mind and hearts, making him yearn for a deeper connection, one that would bond their minds forever. Perhaps one day, when they had had time to strengthen and grow comfortable and secure in this love, he might see if Rose would allow him that privilege, a dream he had never hoped to have. Right now, though, he committed fully himself to the woman standing before him. Drawing her into his arms, he brought his lips down to brush hers ever so softly, growing gradually more insistent as they finally succumbed to the desire that had been held back for so long. Rose threaded her fingers through his hair, and he moved his hands to draw her even closer, one cradling her head and the other possessively splaying across the small of her back. The kiss surpassed their dreams and seemed to last forever. When at last they separated, the Doctor pulled her into his arms, where she would always belong, defying anyone or anything that dared to come between them, allowing himself for just one moment to dream of a future full of adventure, love, and promise.