The reasons he does not give her for why they do not leave on that enchanted December night, the snow (ash) piling up around their ankles as they stare at the stars:
1. Too much has happened.
That's an interesting blanket statement, and he's not really sure if it constitutes one reason or several. Feels like it could be elaborated on.
1a. You/I damaged the TARDIS.
Fine. Pushing buttons at random following a rather awkward and pyrotechnically-accomplished regeneration wasn't the best idea after all. But fusing with the Time Vortex was a worse idea and will require at least a month or two of A-Level jiggery-pokery.
1b. I might be slightly insane.
Probably best to determine just how insane before he's in a position to push more of those aforementioned buttons.
1c. Harriet Jones needs watching.
Power vacuums. Long-term implications. Might have to do some subtle tweaking here and there.
1d. The skies need watching.
2. You should really spend some time with Mickey and your mum.
Because she should.
2a. No, really; I mean it.
Because family is important, and relationships equally so. Also because once he gets his wonderful blue box working properly and tuned-up, they aren't coming within a thousand light-years of this bloody council estate.
3. You still don't really get that it's me in here, do you.
A blue face with stars for eyes stares into his. Black and red and white swim before him in a riot of color.
He fixes the face with his deadliest of deadly stares. He knows it is deadly because he has been practicing. He's had a good run with deadly stares, lately, barring that unfortunate period in his life when everyone thought he was just too romantic and sweet.
And then he'd blown his planet up. Well, that had shown everyone.
"Are you on the roof again?"
He is on the roof again. She huffs up next to him and now they are on the roof, again.
"What're you doing?"
It's a treacherous question and will involve him breaking eye contact with his ruthless enemy. He arches an eyebrow enigmatically to show it that he's not yet unbowed. He's very good at enigmatic eyebrow arching. Definitely better than the last run, when he just looked skeptical all the time.
It occurs to him that he doesn't really have a good reason for doing what he's doing and that an argument could be constructed for his being just a bit mad.
"Hullo," he amends, about fifteen seconds after she asked the question.
"Is there a reason you come up here an' stare at the graffiti all the time?"
Yes, he thinks. Madness is a reason.
"We were up here, once," he says, not knowing what else to say that won't sound like 'I'm trying to get this spray-painted face to blink, obviously.' But this isn't such a bad track to be on. TARDIS-mending notwithstanding, there are other things that could do with a bit of routine maintenance.
She shivers. He knows it is because of the cold; it is December. "Yeah. Yesterday. I was lookin' for you all over, and Mum said you'd gone up on the roof talkin' about living metal or somethin'."
"How is your mum?" he says brightly, aware that this is yet another topic that should be discussed in some semblance of depth.
She gives him that look. "Fine. Same as yesterday. When you saw her at tea. "
It occurs to him that if he is watching her shiver and giving him that look, then he is not watching the blue face. He's lost. Lost again.
She stares at him. "What?"
"No, not your mum," he starts to explain, and then realizes there isn't a point. "Did I miss tea?"
"Yeah." She slumps against the side of the brick wall. "It was the day the Slitheen crash-landed in the Thames, remember?"
He blinks. It occurs to him that the regeneration must've gone very wrong if his internal chronometer's this loused up. "Yesterday?"
She sighs, not quite making eye contact with him. "No, I mean the last time we were on the roof."
"No. You an' me. The . . the old Doctor. You remember."
Several different things sting him at once, which is interesting because it would seem to indicate that the bits of his brain that deal with the complex interlocking network of emotional responses are functioning on some level. "I am the Doctor."
Something else stings him. "Wait. What d'you mean, 'old'?"
Jackie tries to set up a conga line. Rose drinks too much, snogs Mickey and then yells at him for not breaking things off properly with Trisha Delaney. Mickey yells back that the two of them are still a couple, so why's it an issue? to which Rose yells back that it hadn't stopped him from coming to Cardiff, to which Mickey yells that he's tired of being a booty call for whenever her stupid alien boyfriend can't be bothered to shag her properly, to which Rose responds that Mickey wouldn't know the first thing about proper shagging himself.
Interestingly enough, this does not stop the two of them from shagging each other.
Meanwhile down the street, the Doctor wonders if the door lever has always been red.
"Fundamentally speaking, there's no real reason to be worried. I mean, the usual rather traumatic death-and-rebirth motif that underlies virtually all religious thought pretty much guarantees some sort of miraculous ascension into paradise as the result of a life well-lived and reasonably sinless, though of course the tricky bit is determining what constitutes 'sin' proper. I mean, a lot of it just gets traced back to tribal customs and taboos, anyway. D'you know that there's this tribe in the Amazon that walks about with just a dangly piece of string in front of their unmentionables? -- You can see everything, or so I'm told, but the instant someone loses their string everyone else in the tribe goes all funny, all 'dear God think of the children!' and averts their eyes. One piece of string. Funny old thing, customs. I've never worn string around my nethers, but I expect it would be a change well anyway I think I've rather lost the thread of my original -- ooh, that was good! String? Thread? Eh? Completely unintentional. Sorry. Where was I. Oh, yes. Death. Well, never mind all that stuff about string, really, because I don't believe in gods. Not proper gods, anyway. Also, I sometimes swipe a penny from the tray even when I don't need one and once I paid for two newspapers but really took three. Oh, and I've committed genocide multiple times. So if there is a heaven, and there isn't, I'm not getting in. But my real point that I was trying to make is, don't try to fight it. Just let this old box gather dust on a corner somewhere, and time and tide will take care of the rest. And I MEAN it this time."
Jackie doesn't like him. He is relieved. It seems to indicate that some things in this madcap Universe are constant.
"There he is; d'you know I was out there poundin' on the doors for fifteen minutes?"
She brings him tea because Rose asks her to keep an eye on him during the day. Rose does not keep an eye on him because she is visiting all her old friends from school or work or whatever it is that he whisked her away from.
"And that nosy Marcia Wallis saw me; goin' to be all around the estate that Jackie Tyler's been bangin' on the doors of a police box all day like some daft old lady -- "
He is not hurt by this, not even slightly. It is a very good thing that Rose Tyler has a support network that consists of other people. Especially considering that when it's just the two of them, she tends to do stupid things like alter the fabric of time and space to save his life.
"Better things to do than trundle out here in the cold, you know."
The fact that she doesn't think she saved his life anyway seems to be a sore point.
"Do you ever clean in here? Is that what you want Rose for? Your maid?"
Jackie is not impressed by the TARDIS anymore than the TARDIS is impressed by her. He finds that oddly reassuring.
"You're mad, you know. Utterly mad."
He makes a point of smiling when she passes him his tea.
"Why are you up here?"
"Chinese New Year."
"Chinese New Year."
"Well, close enough. Near about. More or less. So and so. Yin and yang. Forewards and --"
"All right, all right."
"Yeah, I heard you; what does it mean?"
"Is this 2006?"
"Ah. Year of the Fire Pig. Are you a Pig?"
"Pig. Are you a piggy?"
"Rose Tyler, age 19. 2007 takeaway 19 is -- 1988. No, wait -- Oh. That's right. I should have remembered."
"Remembered . . ."
"1987. You were a baby, then. Remember? We went to 1987?"
"Yeah . . "
"Saw your dad . . . "
"And Mickey, and your mum, and you -- "
"Just stop it."
Later that night he returns to the TARDIS and realizes that she's tucked away in a corner of the console room, crying.
He knows he's supposed to do something, but she won't let him.
He is sent out to get the milk. He is not sure why.
After single-handedly thwarting the Drosaii invasion of the London sewers and getting the two new heads of UNIT fired -- tarnishing Harriet Jones's career that much more in the process -- he remembers he's supposed to get the milk.
He gets back to London with the milk and everyone is angry at him, and not just because it's the wrong kind.
He drinks it by himself on the roof.
"The whole point of the matter is that bad things happen all the time and you just have to fight them. Unless you're not supposed to fight them. Because it gets a bit tricky, sometimes, and even I don't always know what I'm doing. I thought I knew what I was doing two lives ago. Three lives ago. Blew up their homeworld. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Bit appalled by it now, really. I mean, I tricked them into doing it themselves, so it wasn't really my hand on the button. I just set it up. They blundered into it. They did that all the time, back then. Vicious and stupid. Then they got better at being vicious and it gave their stupid a real edge. Edgy stupid. So dull, they're sharp. Ought to be a tagline, don't you think? No? No. That's not what I meant to say. My point is -- my point is you just shouldn't take things lying down, except for death because it usually gets you lying down. Which is not to say you should try to die or anything. But if I die, and for real this time, just leave. Just leave.
Except you're leaving me now, aren't you Rose?"
The Kandyman and Sarah's robot hit each other until one knocks the other's head off. What this achieves he's not sure, but just about then there are a loud series of bangs and he lifts his head out of the grating and stumbles blearily to the door.
Outside it is morning, and Jackie Tyler is there. Both these things are strange.
She glares at him. "You been sleeping on the floor again?"
He realizes that there is a waffle-pattern on the side of his cheek. "No."
She rolls her eyes. "Pancakes at the flat. Mean a lot to some of us if you showed up for once."
He tries to remember the last time he was invited to the flat, much less invited by Jackie Tyler.
He makes a point of smiling when she passes him the syrup.
The doors of the TARDIS open after the familiar sound of scrabbling at the lock.
He's on the catwalk, not walking like a cat but standing like a Time Lord, which is ironically somewhat catlike. She, on the other hand, is shuffling in like a truant child.
She's done up in something red and sequiny that's a bit trashy but shows off her classy parts to good effect. The end result is actually rather nice.
She's had her hair cut, too.
"All dressed up?"
"Yeah. Mickey an' me were gonna go dancin'."
She looks away, slightly. Loaded conversations from the good old bad old good old days spring readily to mind, and he feels himself taking a new interest in this diode sticking out of the wall.
"Well, he tries."
"Yeah, I guess."
This is the first time they've had a proper conversation in weeks. As conversations go, he's had better with the blue face on the roof.
He should tell her that his new body is good for dancing. He knows it is. It's limber and lithe and can move like acid on panthers. Or maybe panthers on acid. Point is, he can tear ever-loving blue hell out on the dance floor.
If he goes down there and strikes up the Glenn Miller, she will leave.
"What happened to Jack?"
He drops the screwdriver. He has to bend to pick it up, taking his time, stalling for answers. There really is no good way of saying "he's technically dead, but according to history he survives to do furtive and covert things underpinning your very existence right here right now" so he bends over a little more to grab the screwdriver and falls off the catwalk.
He does not land like a cat.
Feb. 14 (later)
He's really getting into a bad habit of waking up in Jackie Tyler's bed.
Rose keeps a cold compress on his head and cries only a little.
Mickey can dance, it seems, but not with any enthusiasm. She mutters to herself that he's not worth it, that he's got no business making her feel guilty all the time.
He finds this ironic but does not say so. He ends up getting out of the bed and making her the tea, and refrains from talking for the better part of the evening , forcing himself to be a Good and Kind Person who listens to other people's problems instead of the Oncoming Storm, Time's Champion, Merlin, the Ka Faraq Gatri, ex-President of Gallifrey.
He's reasonably sure some of that wasn't him, anyway. Only normal people get canonical histories.
"God, I don't know why I bother," she sighs, and he agrees on many levels.
"People will do that to you," he says quietly, watching the tea grounds settle in the bottom of his cup and thinking idly about Brownian motion and dancing and fusion reactions and toast with jam and the feeling of having all of Time and Space roaring though your veins.
"For . . . "
They just don't say anything for a bit. Mickey comes to the door but they stay at the table while the buzzer rings and he tells her about Jack and about what really happened on Satellite Five.
He lies about some of it, of course, and well. He isn't sure if he lies because he's a Good Person or because he's the Oncoming Storm.
He was someone's grandfather, once.
"So what's all this, then?"
"The fast-return switch. Good for quick little trips, that one."
"And this bit here?"
"What, the cables? Internal power relays. Giving me a bit of trouble; good thing I'm clever . . "
She snorts. "And that thing there is -- "
"That's the real-time interface. Keeps the innards of the 'ol TARDIS synched up with the outsides."
"Looks like a bloody toaster to me."
"What? Oh. No, that is a toaster."
"Why d'you have a toaster, then?"
"I wanted toast."
Jackie gives him a long look. "So you just went out and got a toaster instead of coming up and using ours?"
He blinks. "It was four in the morning. I thought you'd be a bit put out if I started banging on the door for toast."
She rolls her eyes.
He gets a key the next morning. It is a gesture of good faith made by someone who doesn't know he's broken into the flat seventeen times already with the sonic screwdriver.
He makes a point of smiling when he butters his toast.
She finds him on the roof, glaring down the blue face. "Oi. Doctor."
He blinks. The TARDIS translates all languages automatically, but it's a sad day when he doesn't recognize an umlaut. "Wie geht's?"
She smiles a bit ruefully. "Sorry. That's all I've got."
"German, I thought."
"German language, Austrian greeting. Lots of little nuances. All the difference between British English and whatever it is that Americans are always mangling." He realizes that if he's looking at her rueful smile he's lost the staring contest with the wall again. "Blast!"
"Nothing. Why the interest in a second language all of a sudden?"
She shrugs. "There was one of those chip containers with all the 'hellos' in foreign languages on it blowin' around in the lot. Gave it a once-over."
"It's good to expand your horizons."
She smiles, quietly. "Yeah."
He does not broach the subject because there are some things she still hasn't grasped, some truths haven't sunk in even now. He could tell her that it's still him and he remembers everything and every stupid and deliriously strange and lovely moment of it all and that nothing's changed except the piddling little things like height and how he takes his tea and brain chemistry, but it won't mean anything.
Yet. But at least there's still a chance that she'll be around to understand it eventually.
One day, they'll probably have to go out for chips again.
"All right, now obviously you know the drill and how it all goes, or how it's all supposed to go. And knowing you, you're moaning and fussing all over again, which is so typical of you, really. And knowing me knowing you, there is nothing we can do, so we just have to face that this time we're -- no, hang on. Sorry. That's ABBA. Either way, you're probably about to do something stupid like opening up the TARDIS. Well, don't. I never told you all of what happened on Satellite Five. I know I told you that I did, but I lied. I do that. Sorry. I know. I wanted to protect you from it all. Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe you should know what it's like to have so much blood on your hands. Except if you can't even remember why, what's the point?
You saved me. That's still true. But don't do it again. I might not always be able to save you back, and that's really what matters. That and the fact you nearly destroyed the Universe. Actually, mostly that last one. Though I still lov -- oh bugger where's the button for thi -- "
Harriet Jones is on the television looking very sick and that is his fault.
Jackie Tyler is sitting across from him, looking somewhat sick and that is also his fault.
"So, repairs almost done, then?"
He sips his tea very carefully. He is not quite sure exactly how or when he started coming to the flat for his tea. It doesn't seem as though he was invited, but Jackie always seems to expect him there.
That's the sort of thing that makes him want to stay.
That's the sort of thing that makes him want to leave.
Rose is off somewhere with Mickey. Whatever patches were made in their relationship -- whatever that is at the moment -- Rose isn't stringing him along any further. She's tired of pity fucks and paranoia and -- even after their worlds have been turned on their heads and the Universe spread wide -- still going down the pub every Saturday night without fail. They are still shagging, of course, but it wasn't as though she'd be getting much of that if she came back to the blue box, so . . .
"Not quite yet. Want to give it a test run first. Tighten a few screws, fiddle with the wiring. April's a good month for going, anyway."
April is, after all, the cruellest month.
On the screen, Harriet Jones wipes a tear from the corner of her eye.
Dec. 21 (relative time)
He stands on the alien plains and watches the binary sunset, reveling in the sheer, unadulterated and savage joy of breaking out of the tedium of linear events and the confines of that small, small place with so many human concerns.
Here the wind whips under him and through him, spreading his coat wide like the wings of a massive bird, and he bares his teeth against the gale and leans into it and laughs as though his madness would eat him from the insides out if he did anything less.
He's never felt so raw, so strong, so powerful in this lifetime.
He's never felt so alone, either.
He braces himself for the anger and the yelling and the cold indifference when he shows up after a few days. The TARDIS is working much better than she was, but there are still one or two or twenty bugs in the system.
At least, he intends to protest, at least it wasn't a year this time.
Rose just holds him. Not quite desperately, but not quite not desperately.
"You're buying this time."
"Right. Now. Rose. I've been trying to update this, but there really doesn't seem to be much of a point because I said everything right the first time around. And meant it. And I still do. So listen to this again, and take it to heart this time, all right? All right.
This is Emergency Program One. Now, Rose . . ."
He's on the roof again.
She's here, too. Usually that makes the business of staring down the face that much harder, but today is a good day to be him and a bad day to be paint.
"So I read up about phoenixes."
"Chinese New Year. You were on the roof, remember?"
"Oh. Yeah. Chinese New Year."
"Why were you on the roof, anyway?"
"I was hoping for fireworks."
"Hope springs eternal."
The blue face is close to breaking, now. He can taste its fear.
"So, I knew they were supposed to be birds, or fire birds or whatever, but no one told me about them burnin' themselves like that."
"Pyromaniac birds must have a horrible time with nest-building."
"Bet they don't have to fly south for winter, though."
He's burned his home and he flies everywhere. "And?"
"An' I kind of get what you were tryin' to say."
He almost falters, barely avoids awarding yet another victory to that smug blue mug. Luckily for him, he spent extra time on the expressionless stare this morning. He's always had a good run with that one. Empires have crumbled thanks to that look.
"About how it's still . . . you in there, just all . . different."
Hell. He had to look over. "Bad different?"
She bites her lower lip. "Different like . . . like German German versus Austrian German. Same basic idea, but, you know . . "
"Yeah, I guess."
"But nothing really gets lost in translation."
She smiles. "No."
"Oh. Well. All right then."
She smiles even wider and goes downstairs to pack.
"Blimey," he says to the face, "I thought she'd never catch on."
"You good for another round?" the face asks.
He leaves the key on the kitchen table when he returns the final box full of tea mugs from the TARDIS console room. Jackie stops him at the door.
She doesn't look pleased, but she tucks it back into his hand. "In case Rose loses hers, you understand."
He makes a point of smiling when she passes it back.
The TARDIS thrums with barely-contained glee that he doesn't bother suppressing himself. Outside is the estate and humans and the whole complicated ball of string; in here it's just him and his lovely, lovely machine.
And Rose, soon.
He lets her make her long farewells. She's been doing that all week and for the past four months. It's time, yes, but they have time. All the time in the world. Maybe even a little extra.
You can pack a lot of living into four months, after all.
She might look sad when she gets in through the door, and then he'd have to power down and say a proper goodbye himself. But when she stumbles in, loaded with bags, she's grinning like she's quite happily mad and that sets him off.
"Right, that's everything."
"Yup. Said goodbye to everybody; got all my stuff in order." It is really quite a lovely grin and he has missed it. "Just you an' me from now on. Tyler and Time Lord."
"Ooh, we should set up a detective agency."
"Thought we had?"
"No, a proper one. Get the name written across the front of the doors and everything. You could be the hard-boiled slightly psychic drink-mixing local reporter and heavy with a heart of gold, and I can be the little old lady who talks to cats and knows all about tea-leaf reading and particle physics -- "
"Not much change from your usual stuff, then."
"I resent that. As if i would know about particle physics."
"Oh, you're mad."
He's really, really, really missed that grin. "Possibly. You and me from now on. Gonna take your chances with a mad Doctor?"
He is grinning quite madly himself now as he starts pressing buttons.
4. I have my reasons.
Really, he does.