The thin hair on the back of his neck stood up in response to the horror the Doctor was experiencing.
Rose has thrown herself to the child’s protection.
Right underneath the collapsing structure of the half-ruined church.
The silence that followed the rumble of the ruined walls was deafening.
High-pitched sound assaulted the Doctor’s hearing. The world halted with a screeching sound, making him plant his feet on instinct under the inertia.
The world without Rose Tyler tilted off its axis and wobbled. Or maybe those were the Doctor’s legs, weak, shaky, unable to hold his weight.
The world without Rose Tyler didn’t make any sense.
The Doctor’s legs pumped up the speed that instant. He dashed to the ruins in search for his companion. He didn’t pray for her to be alive because there was no one for him to pray to but he did chant ‘let her be alive, let her be alive’ all fifteen seconds while he was running to the site.
The people rushed to the ruins after the Doctor. The medics, the rescuers and the onlookers joined him in the endless minutes of searching for Rose and the little boy she tried to save.
He stopped abruptly using his hands for balance as the force of his speed pushed him bowling forward. It would be hard to see anything before the dust settled but not for the Doctor. He heard Rose’s playful voice joking about his ‘superior biology’ in his mind as he scanned the rubble of the fallen church.
Ten seconds. Fifteen seconds. Twenty. Twenty-fi...
Three metres to his left, the Doctor noticed a bright patch of blue.
Rose’s denim jacket.
The Doctor took of that same moment. One, two, three steps. There.
There she was.
Rose was lying flat on her belly. The upper part of her body was blocking the wailing boy’s attempts to get from under her. Her legs, however, were hidden from sight below the concrete panel that lied on top of her.
If the Doctor was human, he would have surely broken in cold sweat and stopped breathing in a full-fledged panic attack. However, he wasn’t human, and his famous superior biology took care warding off the panic attack. He asked the child to stay still using his best kind, calming voice, and then he bellowed for the rescuers to bring the equipment needed to pull Rose from under the rubble.
Swallowing hard, the Doctor inched closer to Rose’s prone form and placed two gentle fingers to the pulse point on her neck. For a brief moment, he felt nothing and almost got pulled into the pitch-black darkness of despair. But then, miraculously, a weak rhythm throbbed against the pads of his fingers.
Rose’s life rhythm, echoing in his own veins.
The Doctor roared for the rescuers to come quicker even though it’s been barely a minute since he called for their help.
It seemed that forever went by before the rescue team arrived to where Rose was stranded. The medics snatched the crying child away immediately, and the Doctor listened to their surprised murmuring distractedly. The boy was absolutely fine apart from several scratches and a bruise on his hip and, well, apart from the boy being scared to no end by the ordeal. The Doctor tuned out the doctors and the boy’s conversation after that, concentrating solely on Rose.
The united attempts of the rescuers and the Doctor had Rose from under the concrete plate that had been pinning her to the ground. She still was unconscious, much to the Doctor’s dismay. He was growing more worried with passing minute, anxious to get Rose to the Tardis for a full check-up. He was afraid to imagine the extent of damage inflicted onto her body.
Barking at the medics to leave Rose alone, the Doctor came over to Rose and scanned her with the sonic to find the most prominent injuries (he hoped there was no danger to her neck and spine). His shoulders lowered a fraction when the sonic told him that her bones were okay apart from the broken left tibia.
The thoughts of Rose suffering through the pain of a broken bone and Rassilon knows what else spurred the Doctor into action. He crouched in front of her body, ignoring the hush muttering of the crowd around him. The people gave him plenty of space, afraid of his cold fury. It was partially their fault that the church construction fell down, after all.
The Doctor turned Rose onto her back to get a proper grip of her body. She moaned at the movement, face pale, hair sticking to her neck and cheeks. He pushed the stubborn locks out of her face and caressed her cheek. He then cursed loudly when he saw some bleeding on her arms and stomach, and scooped her up into his arms bridal style. One of the medics, the brave, gentle soul, settled Rose’s head onto his chest with careful movements. The Doctor smiled thinly, nodded, and stepped on the path to the Tardis.
The trip took no more than seven minutes but it felt like a lifetime to him. The frown on Rose’s pale face worried the Doctor, and he fastened his pace. Mere minutes later, they were both in the med bay, and the Doctor lowered Rose to the examination couch carefully.
He stood still for a moment, eyes unseeing, brain frozen, shocked at the events that happened in the city of Treapolle. The uprising itself wasn’t surprising, and the stupidity of the Treapolleans, too. Rose’s selfless yet reckless behaviour wasn’t out of character either but the results of said behaviour were too serious for the Doctor not to be affected about this time.
Rose’s quiet moan startled his out of the anxiety-induced stupor and geared the Doctor into action. He scanned her body extensively, and the computer listed out smaller and less-obvious traumas to her body. The biggest one, naturally, was the broken leg, and the Doctor lost no time to start the IV with painkillers after washing his hands and forearms thoroughly with a disinfectant. He weighed the pros and cons of adding a sedative to keep Rose calm while he mended the bone in her leg under the regenerator. It would take four sessions under the bone-mending machine from the 25th century, one every 4 hours, and she’d be alert and calm to lie still through the last two of them. If she moved now, however, she’d ruin the effects of the treatment, and they’d have to start over again, and it would be pain that he could save Rose from.
The Doctor sighed, took off his jacket and injected the sedative to the IV bag on the pole. The frown line between Rose’s eyebrows relaxed, leaving her face smooth, peaceful even, after several minutes.
The Doctor took Rose’s hand between his palms. He revelled in the feeling of her palm even if it was slightly colder because of the strain her body was under. The gentle, stronger pulsation of her heartbeat brought some respite to his soul, and the Doctor felt his body relax in relief.
He couldn’t stay idle, though. He squeezed Rose’s palm tenderly and went on about healing her broken leg. The machine whirred to life with a steady purring, and the Doctor placed it over Rose’s left leg, right above the broken bone.
Forty-three minutes later, the Doctor switched off the machine after ensuring that there was improvement in the bone structure. He placed a thin yet sturdy cast over the damaged leg for Rose not to disturb it in her sleep and later.
He decided to let Rose rest then - he’d heal the smaller cuts and bruises when she would be awake. The bigger cuts were already taken care off where he could reach them without undressing her. There was absolutely no need for him to invade her privacy without urgency when she was unable to give him her full consent. The painkillers would take care of the pain, and the sedative will get out of her system soon enough. The Doctor will ask her if anything bothers her after that.
Before that, however, Rose needed her rest.
The Doctor huffed loudly and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. Rose would sleep for solid six hours at least, and she would be none the wiser if he left her for a quick wash up and for piloting the Tardis off the planet where Rose was injured.
His hearts squeezed painfully, however, when he imagined leaving her side. Rose was sleeping soundly, ignorant of his tumultuous emotions. What if she woke up despite the medication? What if she hurt, and he was not there? What if she didn’t remember the events of the day, what if she worried about her short-term amnesia?
No, decided the Doctor resolutely. Shower could wait. Piloting the Tardis could wait (the Tardis murmured in his mind, agreeing, assuring him that they all were safe). Rose, however, could not. Jeopardy friendly, she was. If anyone could find trouble while sleeping, it would be Rose.
The Doctor nodded to himself and settled to the chair next to where Rose was sleeping. He stretched slowly and heard bones crack and click where his body was tense the most. He then reached for his cast off jacket and pulled out a coil of silver wire, his sonic screwdriver and a handful of fifty-first century transmitters. The Tardis preferred it when the cables and wires he used were silver, so he spend many an hour to spin the perfect combination of cables to power the time ship.
The Tardis lowered the lights in the med bay but the Doctor didn’t mind. His eyesight was designed to overcome the obstacle of the absence of lighting, and it wasn’t necessary to even strain his eyes to see the woven wires in his hands.
Time went on.
“Ow,” was the first word that Rose said with a low groan.
“Rose!” she heard the Doctor’s voice exclaim excitedly. She heard the loud, sudden scraping of the chair’s legs on the floor and cringes. Even through the fog in her head the sound grated on her nerves.
The Doctor’s face appeared above her. Was she laying? Why was she laying and what happened to her room? And why was it that the Doctor looked so...worn out? Nervous, even, if she dared to assume so.
The light blue of the sonic’s beam appeared in her line of vision, and Rose tried her best not to swat at it. The Doctor was worried, and he was checking for something, obviously, and he was already aggravated enough without her interfering. The whirring of the sonic irritated her sensitive ears and the light made her want to squeeze her eyes shut but she held on, unwilling to mess with the Doctor’s actions.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the sonic was switched off. The change in the Doctor’s demeanour was evident: the skin around his eyes was smoother, the wrinkles less deep, and the pinched expression was gone from his face.
He looked torn, really.
The Doctor couldn’t decide if he should yell at Rose or hug her. He felt the need to scream, to rage, to lecture her about the dangers of her heroic behaviour; to put his hands onto her shoulders and to shake her until that thick human brain of hers rattled in her head, until she understood that she couldn’t do that to him, she couldn’t get into danger like that because he wouldn’t survive it.
The other part of the Doctor’s personality wished for nothing more but to gather Rose into his embrace and squeeze her until there were no atoms left between their bodies; until her mind and his were melded entirely, until there was no ‘Rose’ and ‘The Doctor’, until they were united, inseparable, into a single being.
The softer, kinder part of his personality prevailed when he saw how lost and uncertain she looked, and how pale her skin seemed under the harsh lights of the med bay.
“How’re you feeling, Rose?” he asked as he moved closer and leaned to her face. “Anything hurts?”
She blinked slowly, still sluggish from the long sleep. Licking her lips (blimey, where was her chapstick when she desperately needed one?), she replied.
“Um...,” words were hard to come by all of a sudden. Rose wondered if it was the result of what happened before she landed herself in the infirmary or if it was caused by the omnipotent presence of the Doctor by her side.
It was hard to think.
The Doctor frowned. His eyes darkened noticeably, changing from the light blue she favoured so much to the more intense shade of sapphire. Uh oh.
“I think...I think I’ve a headache, and I my leg feels numb,” Rose replied hastily and pointed to the offended limb. The Doctor nodded, though the skin around his eyes was still tight, and pulled up the thin duvet that covered her body where her injured leg was.
“You’ve a nasty break, you have,” he explained while examining her leg carefully. Rose furrowed her brow when she noticed a thin cast on her left leg. It went a bit above her knee, making it impossible to bend her leg at all. Now, that was not fun. And certainly not easy to walk with. Ugh.
A part of her that always believed in the best and hoped for things to end happy wondered if the Doctor had a magic machine that would fix her up and have her running around the world as usual in no time.
Well, maybe not this time.
Rose decided to find out.
“So, Doctor,” she cleared her throat and wished for a glass of water, “what’s the verdict, then?”
She attempted a smile but her lips were too dry to stretch painlessly. Rose could tell that the Doctor didn’t buy her nonchalance. He was giving her that look. The ‘you can’t fool me, you stupid ape’ look.
Rose rolled her eyes and flopped her head back on the pillow. It was a surprisingly comfortable one, she mused, surprised, and wondered if she could ask the Tardis for one for her bedroom.
She closed her eyes and tried to ward off the headache that crowded her mind. Suddenly, the warm-red of her eyelids were painted darker brown, and Rose opened one eye to peek if the Doctor came closer and blocked the lights.
And he was offering her a glass of water.
Rose struggled to sit up. The Doctor sighed impatiently, but not unkindly, and offered his help. All too soon, his hands were gone from around her body, and she felt chilled immediately. Rose blushed when she caught herself fantasising about the Doctor’s embrace almost out loud – she knew that the Tardis could tell – and she busied herself with the glass in her hands.
Her fingers were trembling delicately, however, and the simple task of holding the glass upright while being studied by the Doctor’s hawk-like eyes seemed impossible for a moment. Rose exhaled loudly and gripped the glass tighter, avoiding the Doctor’s calculating stare.
He sighed, exasperated, and put one of his hands around her fingers on the glass, holding it steady. Rose’s breath hitched while her heart stumbled, stuttered and reeled in joy.
God. How pathetic she was, getting euphoric simply from feeling the Doctor’s hand around hers.
It’s probably been some time, she chuckled to herself darkly. Probably since ‘I’m so glad I met you’ and ‘Me too.’
She finished the water and murmured a ‘thank you’ to the Doctor. She was sure she was blushing an awful lot from being under the Doctor’s scrutiny.
He tsked, shook his head and smiled ruefully. “A broken leg, soft tissue bruising and a minor concussion,” he dragged his palm over his face and his shoulders slagged slightly, as if he was giving up on her. Something cold twitched in Rose’s stomach. She didn’t like to see the Doctor so...defeated. Defeated and disappointed in her.
She frowned, anxious, ashamed.
The Doctor chuckled self-deprecatingly.
“Rose, you...you nearly died, don’t you understand?” he paced near the couch where she was laying, the motion making her dizzy. She lowered her eyelids, overwhelmed by the uneasiness coiling in her, by the harsh lights and the Doctor’s displeased disposition.
Her behaviour worried the Doctor. He appeared at her side immediately, fingers over her wrist, checking her pulse no doubt.
“I’m sorry,” Rose whispered, unable to face him properly, eyes still closed. “I’m sorry for getting into trouble, again,” she whimpered and screwed her eyes shut, unable to contain the anger at her own decisions.
“No! Rose, no,” she heard the Doctor exclaim. He sounded like he was protesting. Rose groaned. Was he trying to spare her feelings? To make her less worried? To stop the stress that was too much for her body? Damn it, damn her and her constant searching for trouble!
Rose was successful at holding the tears at bay but barely so. The Doctor’s fingers stroked the inside of her wrist gently, and his other hand was holding the back of her head.
She had no power to avoid his eyes.
There was a smile on the Doctor’s face, however, instead of a stern expression that Rose was anticipating.
“Rose Tyler,” he sang in a low voice, his tongue caressing the consonants of her name, “how can you say sorry for saving a person’s life? Hm?” the Doctor’s eyes widened while he was trying to convey the message.
He needed her to know that he wasn’t angry with her.
The boy! There was a boy. Glievenn, that was his name. Was he okay, then? Was he...
A swarm of troubled thoughts was occupying her mind when she heard the Doctor continue.
“Rose, you saved that boy. He got away with a couple of bruises and scratches only because you were there to push him away from under the rubble,” she is breathing slowly, silently, entranced by the urgency in the light blue of his eyes, “I’m so sad that you got hurt, Rose, but I’m not angry,” he admitted and cupped her left cheek tenderly, carefully, as if he was touching a butterfly’s wing and was too scared of crushing it. “I’m not angry with you, Rose, because it would be stupid. You are who you are, and your true colours showed again in the time of need – and how beautiful those colours are, Rose,” he confessed silently but firmly, trailing a finger down her cheek. “Your true colours are all kindness, and selflessness, and compassion, – how in the world could I be angry at who you really are?”
Rose couldn’t take it. She cried. It was a soft, quiet kind of crying that one does in the privacy of their own company, unwilling to share their sadness with anyone else. Rose couldn’t decide if she minded the Doctor witnessing her meltdown or if she was relieved that he was there to offer his quiet, solid consolation. It felt a bit like she was the one confessing her fears and feelings instead of accepting his, and she felt her own soul poring out in reply to the Doctor’s admittance.
“I’m sorry for being too much trouble, Doctor,” she blurted out in-between struggled breaths, “I’m sorry for being...being so...,” she sniffed and wished for a tissue, “for being jeopardy-friendly.”
The Doctor’s lips thinned, and his expression locked, hiding any emotions. Rose’s heart jump-started its wild beating, again, in reply to the fear of finally overstepping the last line she wasn’t supposed to overstep.
And then, surprisingly, the Doctor chortled. He threw his head back and laughed heartily, still holding her wrist, his other hand on her neck now.
Rose’s mouth fell open, and her eyes were glued to the Doctor. She was gob-smacked by the shift in the Doctor’s mercurial mood, sure, but a part of her was delighted to see him so happy.
She knew it was a good kind of laugh, not the forced or sarcastic one, and she revelled in the fact that he could laugh that way still.
Uncharacteristically, the Doctor pinched Rose’s cheek softly and gave her a wide, mischievous smile. “Ah,” he drawled, his fingers tracing her cheek up and down, making her insides twirl in excitement, causing her skin fizzle where his fingers were. “That’s exactly why I travel with you, Rose, you see,” he explained. The Doctor’s eyes twinkled happily, and Rose found herself mirroring his glee.
“Really?” she asked, not believing completely.
“Really,” the Doctor assured. “It’s all according to the list: jeopardy-friendly, brave, stubborn, smart, kind...,” he counted, using his fingers.
“Oh, come off it!” giggled Rose and pushed the Doctor’s shoulder lightly. She’d have thumped him if she had all of her strength.
Instantaneously, the Doctor’s demeanour changed from playful to serious. Rose’s thoughts emergency-stopped and she felt like she was hanging head down on a roller coaster.
“Rose, you saved that boy’s life today,” he stated in wonder and widened his eyes to emphasise his point, “do you regret that?”
Rose sputtered and shook her head vigorously. “No!” How could he ask her that?
The lines on the Doctor’s face softened as he squeezed her fingers with his other hand. “There you are, then. Rose Tyler, too good to be true. Who am I to tell you ‘no?’ to saving a person’s life?” He pulled his hands from her and hid his face in his palms, head shaking. “I just wish you didn’t have to risk your life or get hurt every time that happens,” he murmured quietly in his palms.
Rose struggled to sit a bit straighter and stretched an arm to the Doctor’s hair. Her heart welled up with joy when he didn’t flinch or shied away from her touch.
“Hey, ‘m sorry, Doctor. I’ll try to be careful and wander off less, I promise,” she joked a little in hopes of brightening his mood.
The Doctor chuckled and put his hands away from his face. “I’d like to see you try,” he took her hand again and changed the topic abruptly. “Now, what would you say to a cup of tea? I’ll even bring it to you here, I will. You’re not to disturb that leg unnecessarily, Rose, I mean it. You still need two mending sessions, and it’ll still be awhile before another dose of painkillers.”
Rose smiled and nodded. Tea sounded amazing. But there was something she needed help with.
“Um,” she stuttered, feeling the blush covering her cheeks and neck. The Doctor stood in the place, waiting patiently for her to finish. “I need, ah, to use the loo,” Rose murmured almost unintelligibly.
The business-like expression on the Doctor’s face didn’t falter even though the tips of his ears pinkened. Rose would have found the picture adorable if she wasn’t mortified about what she asked just a moment ago.
The Doctor stood up and helped her shift the blanket off before lifting her up effortlessly. Rose muffled a squeal of excitement and slight embarrassment. The embarrassment, however, was quickly overshadowed by the pleasure of feeling the Doctor’s arms wrapped around her body.
Rose held herself from doing some cliched gestures she’d seen time and time again in the romance movies like nuzzling into his neck or putting her head on his shoulder lightly. Surely, the Doctor wouldn’t appreciate such...silliness. Domesticity. Fantasies. Romance.
He carried her to the nearest ‘guest’ loo (her room had an adjacent bathroom, thank you very much, but it was too far away now) and deposited her next to the commode. Rose rolled her eyes and shoved him out of the door when he asked if she needed help with anything else – she still was a bit miffed that he had ruined her favourite pair of jeans by cutting them until they resembled shorts, and went on with her business.
It was a long and awkward affair because she couldn’t bend her leg at all, and she was still wobbly and weak from the whole ordeal. That’s why she called for the Doctor after washing her hands, face and brushing her teeth thoroughly. She didn’t think she had enough strength to stand without gripping the sink for support.
The Doctor knocked even though she called for him, and Rose’s soul warmed because of his thoughtfulness. For all his impatience at the human’s privacy quirks, he was surprisingly careful and respectful of those.
Rose must have looked miserable because he muttered ‘aw, Rose,’ and went to scoop her up bridal-style again. This time, she placed her head on the Doctor’s shoulder because the trip exhausted her, and she felt shaky and slightly nauseous from all the movement.
She closed her eyes because the fast (although careful) stride upset her stomach, and she only opened her eyes again when she felt herself being laid on the couch in the med bay, again. Rose smiled and muttered ‘thanks’ when the Doctor put the blanket over her. Rose nearly wept again when his fingers pushed the hair strands that stuck to her sweat-slicked forehead away from her face, such gentle and intimate was the simple gesture. The Doctor asked her if she was in pain but she shook her head and told him that she was a little tired. She was tired a lot but she didn’t want to worry him. As long as she stayed horizontal, she’d be fine. The Doctor must have seen through her lies but let it slide. He grinned, bent down a placed a soft, just a tad longer than a friend’s kiss, to her forehead, and left the med bay with a promise of tea.
Rose closed her eyes and relished in the sweet tingling that the Doctor’s lips left on her skin. She was grateful that she wasn’t clipped to a heart monitor – now that would be telling. Her heart beat would tell the Doctor the exact depth of Rose’s crush for him.
A crush which wasn’t a crush anymore, Rose mused. She was pretty sure that she loved the Doctor, and there was nothing she could do to stop the free-fall of loving the Doctor with all that she was.
Smiling ruefully, Rose kept her eyes closed and begged the Tardis not to let the Doctor know. The Tardis’s hum changed in pitch from energetic to soothing, and Rose found herself unable to fight the pull of sleep any longer.
The Doctor had to make a second trip to the galley after Rose was awake and after another bone-mending procedure took place. A quick nap did Rose the world of good, and she was much cheerier and a bit stronger later.
Rose thoroughly enjoyed the days that followed the incident. The Doctor read to her in a library, and he didn’t lament (too much) about her movie choices in the media room. He spoiled Rose with his cooking skills in the evening and made sure she didn’t move around the Tardis too much (breakfast in bed! From the Doctor! How cool was that?)
He was supportive and patient during the physical therapy sessions, and even landed them at the spa-resort for two days after her leg was almost better without commenting on human’s affinity for laziness and pleasure planets.
Time went by, and Rose healed. The adventures began again.
Rose’s secret was hidden safely in the heart of her hearts. The Tardis was great at keeping the secrets, and the Doctor was clueless to the growing love for him in Rose’s soul because he was fighting the growing feelings for Rose himself.
Things stayed the same yet they changed a little. They only needed a catalyst to jump start their blooming romance.
They would find it in London, 1941.