Rose is holding onto her faith in the Doctor desperately. She refuses to lose hope, she refuses to give up, she refuses to cry.
Her arms ache from being bound above her, suspended to the hook in the ceiling. Rose curses the prison guards for their inhumanity, for the deliberate cruelty they push on the prisoners. They are humanoid species, the Doctor had explained to her before the trip, and their biology is not too different from that of humans. That meant that the guards knew exactly how painful it was for Rose and for other unlucky prisoners to be half-standing, half-suspending with their arms up.
Sod the Doctor and his rescue mission. When Rose crawls out of the iron restraints, out of the dingy cell, she’ll make sure personally that each and every guard walks funny for at least two weeks afterwards, and the Doctor will make sure that there is nothing left of the holding facility anymore.
He does have a knack for blowing things up, after all.
Rose shifted and felt the bones of her shoulders lament loudly, painfully, with a sickening sound that did little to boost her morale. She wished silently for the Doctor to come sooner because she absolutely didn’t want her captors to see her cry, and she was nauseous because of the stale smell of the cell. Her stomach protested angrily at the stench of unwashed bodies, dried blood and unconditioned air; sweat beaded on her forehead in fat drops, falling down her nose, down her cheeks, barely escaping her eyes; her bare feet felt cold on the stone floor despite the heated air of the cell.
Rose bit down a moan when she shuffled from one foot from the other, and her muscles whined pitifully at the strain, yet she persisted being quiet, refusing to let her captors know her pain. She willed the time to flow faster, she chanted for the Doctor’s soon arrival because there was little that she could do on her own in the current situation. She had no sonic screwdriver, she didn’t know the prisoners’ language, and escaping was out of the picture for obvious reasons. There was only so long that Rose could withstand pain without showing her distress openly.
Not having any natural light in the cell bothered her as much as not having any measures to tell the passage of time. Rose suppressed another grunt as she stretched her shoulder muscles and cursed the grey-skinned humanoids for the thousandth time. Barbarous, brutal bastards. Oh! Maybe Rose could get distracted from the pulling pain in her abused shoulders, the burning in her chafed wrists. Maybe she could start thinking with words that all start with the same letter. That would surely make the time pass faster. Stinky, self-absorbed skunks. Heartless, heinous haters. Crude, cruel cu…
Rose must have drifted off or fell unconscious for some time because the next thing she was aware of was a blast that shuddered the earth beneath her, causing her legs to falter for several moments. Dizzy, disoriented and oh so thirsty, Rose lost her footing for several moments. She yelped when her knees buckled under the onslaught of the blow, and the burning pain in her arms painted her vision hot-white for long minutes.
Maybe those weren’t moments, and this time Rose was certain that blacked out. The feeling of something cool touching her cheeks brought her back from blissful oblivion. Slowly, painfully, Rose realised that the cool feeling on her face was in fact someone’s palms with long, callous fingers. The next thing that Rose’s mind registered was that the long fingers belonged to someone, and that someone was speaking frantically.
“Rose? Can you hear me, Rose? Come on, love, open your eyes for me, that’s a good girl.”
Were they speaking to her?
She tried opening her eyes and changed her mind immediately when a wave of dizziness attacked her. She thought that she heard something, some plaintive, persistent sound, until she realised with horror that it was her. Rose was the source of said sad, pitiful sound. She couldn’t place the sound, though, couldn’t understand if it was whining, sobbing or moaning, but it definitely agitated the owner of the cold fingers on her cheeks, on her neck, on her pulse point.
Did she even have a pulse still? She surely felt like she didn’t.
“Oh, Rose,” the Northern accent cooed in reply.
Rose felt genuinely surprised at such tenderness in the voice. Somehow, somewhere at the back of her mind Rose remembered that the person with the Northern didn’t coo frequently.
She arched her back, willing her legs to be longer when she felt someone messing with the cuffs on her wrists. Tears streamed down her face in scorching rivulets, her breath puffed out in an angry, torn pattern because of her clogged nose. Rose heard a sound that she recognised faintly, a gentle whirr of some instrument. For some reason she suspected that the device had a blue light at its tip, not unlike the colour of the eyes of the person near her, and it probably was sonic.
Rose whispered his name, relief washing over her, and the fear and the hopelessness that managed to crawl into her mind dissolved with the Doctor’s appearance.
“Shh, Rose, wait just a moment. You’re always impatient, you are. I know it hurts, love, but wait just a moment, don’t wriggle,” the Doctor soothed while continuing working on her hands. Then his words caught up with him, and Rose imagined that he smirked, “You don’t hear such words from me often, mind you.”
Rose wanted to smile, to joke, to assure him somehow that she was okay, however, she wasn’t. Her skin felt hot and clammy, her face surely must have looked a fright: pale, maybe even grey-tinted, like that one time that she got alcohol poisoning at 17; sweat was covering her face, soaking the collar of her shirt; and she whimpered involuntarily every time the Doctor moved her hands slightly while freeing them.
“A moment, Rose, I promise. I’m sorry, I’ll try to be careful. Just another moment.”
Rose wanted to cry at how devastated the Doctor sounded.
After several painful moments of trying not to move and not to show her distress further, Rose felt the iron cuffs fall from her wrists and to the floor with a deafening clang. Her body moved without Rose’s will, it slouched ungracefully, ready to fall. Only the Doctor was there, beside her, and he broke her fall immediately.
Rose’s arms dropped on the Doctor’s shoulders when her knees refused to support her body’s weight. He caught her with a muffled ‘oof’, unprepared of her dead weight so suddenly.
Rose can’t remember how she came to be sitting on the floor. Her arms are wounded around the Doctor’s neck, and he’s talking to her, asking her questions she can’t answer, and doesn't want to answer. He adjusts his hold on her body carefully so that they are face to face, so that their foreheads touch. Rose stares at his eyes, blue, so impossibly blue, and Rose almost asks if the blue is the alien in him for she had never seen such a colour in any human’s eyes. The Doctor presses his forehead to her sticky forehead, and Rose lets her eyes fall close again, much to the Doctor’s anguish.
“Rose? Can you hear me? Come on, don’t do this, don't be quiet, talk to me, you love talking so much, Rose, I know,” he begs, and Rose hates that he’s begging; he’s the Doctor, the last of the Time Lords, the greatest of them all. To think that he is diminished to this? To kneeling on the filthy floor in the underground prison, holding her unresponsive body close, begging her to reply to his frantic questions?
The Doctor’s breath cools her heated face, a blessing to her sweat-drenched skin, and Rose makes an effort to open her eyes just to allay his anguish. Her eyelids are heavy, so heavy, as if filled with lead, and she fights valiantly to look up and meet his stare.
She almost stops breathing when she looks into his eyes. She has never seen him this scared. His gaze is focused on her entirely, like she’s the only object that exists in this world, in this Universe, and Rose’s focus sharpens in reply to the Doctor’s distress. She mimics his anxiety, she thinks, the desperation in his stare, the tension that passes over to her, and just when Rose thinks that she will certainly combust from feeling too much and nothing at all at the same moment, the Doctor lifts his face and presses a kiss to her forehead urgently.
The kiss lasts longer than Rose expects. Still, the gentle touch of the Doctor’s cool lips to her skin ends too fast for Rose to enjoy it fully, to savour each precious moment of sweet intimacy that has blanketed the two of them. It hardly matters that they are on the stone floor of a dusty dungeon; that she is slouched all over his body, feeling so weak that she can hardly sit, let alone stand; that he has never been this openly affectionate with her; that there was a threat of them being smothered by the half-ruined prison building, shaken by the blow.
“You just couldn’t resist blowing another place up, could you?” Rose rasps out slowly, trying to find her voice.
The Doctor’s chest rumbles with laughter, and she can feel him unwinding a little, like a clocked toy slows down after performing for some time.
“Wanted to recreate our first meeting, me,” he replies, smiling smugly, and Rose craves to kiss away the nervous tension in the corners of his lips. He needn’t worry. She’s fine.
She tells him so.
“‘Course you’re fine, Rose,” the Doctor parries, “you may be battered and bruised but you’re fine, and you'll always be fine when I’m around, don’t you doubt.”
Each word of his is laced with steel determination as well as the newly-found desperation, and just like moments ago, Rose wished that the Doctor weren’t in despair because of her.
Another minute or maybe ten flow by while they are lounging on the floor, him stroking her back, her trying to breathe quietly into the crook of his neck, loathe to show the ache that settled persistently into her body, and then the Doctor pats her shoulder blades and announces that they are going.
Rose barely holds in a whine of protest. She’s barely up sitting, there’s no way in hell she’ll be able to walk out of the facility. However, she steels herself for a tiring, lengthy journey, attempting to hide her pain. She doesn’t need to fall apart any more than she already has, not in front of the Doctor anyway - he has enough things to feel guilty about on his plate, why add her short-termed distress to it now?
Rose moves slightly and intends to get up from the nearly prone position she’s in when she feels the Doctor’s arms tighten around her slightly.
“Rose? Did I hurt you?”
She’s thanking the stars that he’s not able to see her face now, not when she’s hiding it in the collar of his jacket. Rose came to associate the sensation of leather with the total safety that washes over her whenever the Doctor’s around, and she’s trying to gather the courage and strength before getting out of the prison.
“No, no. I’m getting up. You said so yourself, we need to go.”
Rose braces herself to look into his eyes. What she sees there, however, astonishes her.
The Doctor looks so surprised. She’d say that he looks insulted, also, but Rose’s not quite sure that it isn’t a trick of her exhausted mind.
“What? Rose, you aren’t to move an inch! I still don’t know the whole extent of damage they’ve inflicted onto you, and there’s no chance of you having strength to walk on your own,” there was an edge to his voice, a dark promise to deal with her captors should they appear in his way again, a vengeful tinge that Rose rarely heard in the Doctor’s words.
Rose ponders for a moment if she should argue, if she should stand her ground and insist on being fine, but dismisses it after some thought. The Doctor’s offering her an easy way out, urging her to tell the truth about how she’s feeling, and Rose doesn’t want to fight anymore. Not after today. Not when her body’s wired with the pain of being motionless for hours.
She exhales loudly and drops her head back to his leather-covered shoulder.
“How do we do it, then?”
Rose looks up at the Doctor’s face and notices the pinched expression on his face. Then, as if by the flick of the switch, a mask of cheeriness falls into place, and he cups her face in his bigger palms.
“You don’t have to do anything, Rose Tyler. I’ll do all the hard work,” Rose can’t fight the infatuated smile that blooms on her face when her name rolls off the Doctor’s tongue lovingly.
He slackens his hold on her and helps her to her feet, asking her to try and stand for a minute. He turns around and instructs her to get on his back.
Rose falters for a second. “Are you offering me a piggyback ride, Doctor?”
She is certain that he’s rolling his eyes. “Mention it to anyone else, and I’ll take my revenge.”
Rose squeezes out a weak laugh. “Yes, sir!”
The Doctor turns to her momentarily, and her heart melts at the goofy expression on his face. The worry still swishes in the blue of his eyes, but it’s clear that he doesn’t want her to see it.
Rose accepts the game of pretend and gives the Doctor her best tongue-touched smile.
Some tension chips off the Doctor’s composure, and he helps her to arrange her abused arms around his neck. He stands up from a crouching position, trying not to jostle her too much.
Rose snuggles into his neck openly, too spent to care about the propriety for such a gesture and what it would mean for her and the Doctor’s relationship, which is tricky and vague at its best. Well, no, Rose shouldn’t say so. There’s a lot of certainty to their relationship, there’s a sea of respect and gentle fondness they feel for each other, and there sure is loads and loads of romantic (and sexual, from Rose’s side, at least) tension between them.
Still, she cares little about the lines in the sand that define their relationship at the moment, and she closes her eyes, squeezes her arms tighter around the Doctor’s neck and tries to not squirm around too much. The Doctor’s posture is sturdy, yet Rose is still afraid of being too heavy for him to carry her for as far as it takes to get to the Tardis. The Doctor fools around, commenting about the strain on his body because of her love for chips, and threatens to stop the chips-eating for them both. Rose knows that he’s joking to lighten the strained atmosphere that surrounds them. She indulges his quirks and gives a perfunctory laugh to soothe his worrying.
The pace that the Doctor settles is a mild one, and Rose doesn’t get joggled too much because of his careful gait. It seems that she falls asleep once again, lulled by the mellow rocking of the travel, when she realises that the Doctor whispers something to her while stepping into the Tardis.
“I’ll buy you all the chips in the world, Rose, just please don’t get hurt again.”
She exhales dreamily and presses her heated cheek to his cool one.