*** A Little Knowledge ***

A Little Knowledge

(Five Things Rose Tyler Might Or Might Not Learn While Travelling With The Doctor)

i.

"So what can you do, then?"

He's pushing buttons, fast, keeping up with some blinking lights on the ship's console. It's maybe not be the best time to ask - there's a crash-landing lurking round the corner, likely as not - but she's dead curious and she's got a good firm grip on a bit of the TARDIS.

She's learning.

"What do you mean, what can I do?" Fingers still moving, moving. Eyes still following the lights. "I don't like to advertise it, but I can do a pretty mean fry-up. Fancy rashers? Sausages? One time offer, this."

She swats him. "No, you git, as a Time Lord." And as the words leave her mouth, as his fingers still, she realises she's never said them before. What he is, the name of his people. She's suddenly not sure she's allowed.

And as words go these sound grand, so very, very grand, and she thinks there must be more to it all than skipping about the universe and fiddling with a screwdriver and being the swottiest swot she's ever met.

Cleverness alone won't get you to age nine hundred, for a start.

"Like, can you do a neck-pinch or a mind meld or anything?" she says lightly, skimming over the silence. Ready to turn this into a joke, but not so ready to leave it entirely.

He smiles at her, a quick bright flash, and before it's faded the buttons have been abandoned; he's in her space and all his attention, all his intensity is hers.

He can frighten her this way. She can admit it, to herself.

But it's gentle, when he takes her hands, the one by her side and the one still gripping the TARDIS, and gentle when he folds them between his. She watches the way they fit together, big and small, boy and girl, alien and human, and she looks up, and when she does -

She is falling.

So fast, so far, through blinding dark and burning cold; she is falling and there is no end, nowhere to stop, nowhere to stand. She has, for the first time, an idea of infinity.

And under it all, through it all, she can feel his hands, keeping her safe; she might even be able to see his face.

And she hears: What I can do, Rose Tyler, is promise to give you my best.

And not let go.

ii.

There are some things she can never ask.

When someone says something like 'I'm the last Time Lord,' it begs a question, doesn't it? Leaves it hanging in the air?

How'd you make it, then?

His people gone, his planet dust in space, his enemies - his terrifying, brilliant, deadly enemies - a thing of the past, extinct. She doesn't know how they fought their war, it's hard to even begin to imagine, but she knows the death of worlds takes more than bullets.

She thinks it probably takes something like genius.

Did the Doctor fall through time and space, like that Dalek? Crash-land somewhere, pull himself together, and set off to right the wrongs of the universe?

Or did he just walk away?

There are some questions she can never ask, and some answers she's not sure she wants to have.

iii.

The thing is, it never did occur to her, and she is so ashamed, so bloody, bloody ashamed of that.

Of course he would've saved his family if he could. Of course it's not that easy. Of course he didn't just lose his planet, rocks and sea and sky; he didn't just lose five billion people; he lost much more than that, and she should have known.

(Was he husband? Father? Son - would his parents still have been alive? How old would they have been? She tries to picture him in a house in the country, in a big-city flat, in a nine-to-five job, and fails, utterly.)

She doesn't push him so much to take tea with her mum, after that.

iv.

"Ta," the Doctor says from the floor, stopping work on the hyper-temporal something for the first time in, well, who knows. Hours? Days?

A moment later: "This is cold!"

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," he says, handing the cup of tea back to her. He doesn't go back to work, though, just leans back against the console - still, for once.

"Well, talk to your ship about it, then." Rose takes a sip of her own. Bleh. It is cold. Bloody phone box.

"Why, what's wrong with the TARDIS? Couldn't heat up the water?" The Doctor strokes some nearby metal worriedly.

"Oh no. It was hot enough when I left the kitchen."

He looks up at her. "Get lost, did you?"

"Well, I wouldn't if the TARDIS didn't keep moving the corridors around!"

"Between the kitchen and here? They were right where they belong, earlier."

"I'm sure they were. For you. But ever since I -" She stops, bother and annoyance slamming straight into embarrassment and something else. This is not a sentence she wants to finish.

"Since you what? Have you been slamming doors again? She doesn't like that, you know. Rattles her."

She sighs, sharply. "No. I just - I sort've thought about how it would be nice if the TARDIS stopped helping me with something. Just for a little bit. And either she didn't even understand what I was thinking about," he looks offended, and pats the nearest bit of machinery again, "or she's being right contrary, because now that's the only thing she's still doing for me."

He cocks his head. "Is this about the wardrobe room? Rose, she doesn't mean anything by it. She's got the fashions of the whole of time and space to consider, the hoodie is just a blip on her radar."

"She could stock more than two," Rose mutters, giving the console bit of a glare. And that's as good a place to leave it as any, isn't it, girls and their clothes?

But he stands up, too clever by half, always, and takes the cold tea away from her. "Not the wardrobe. So, what is it?"

Rose wishes he hadn't done that; now that her hands are free, now that he's close, she's having to fight the urge to bury her face in them and never look at him again. "I thought it would be nice if she stopped translating for me, all right? For a little bit. I wanted - I wanted to hear your language."

He makes a sound, and she can't tell whether it's a laugh or a sigh. "I speak English to you."

"Oh. Right." Rose shoves her hands in her pockets. "Reckon that's what caused the mix-up, then."

"You could've just asked me. Instead of going 'round hurting the TARDIS's feelings, making her feel surplus to requirements."

"You'd've -" looked like this, like someone'd hollowed your insides out, and it'd've been my fault "-thought I was daft, now wouldn't you?"

He gives a swift grin. "No more'n usual." And then he says something else: it's like maths, it's like equations, perfectly balanced, ridiculously complex; it's like puzzle pieces, snapping together, effortlessly building a world; it is like nothing she's ever heard, and it is in no way like words. Her mouth falls open.

"Blimey," she says eventually, "if you talked like that all the time, people'd believe you when you say how brilliant you are."

He gives her a stung look, which is nice; the hollow one is buried again. "You mean they don't already? Thanks."

Rose elbows him. "So what'd you say?"

"Oh," the Doctor says, returning to the floor and the hyper-temporal something, "this and that. Something brilliant. Maybe if you ask nicely, the TARDIS'll tell you."

"Hmph." Rose squeezes his shoulder, a silent thank you, then picks up the cold tea to take back to the kitchen.

She's never sure exactly what he said, but the next time she brings in tea, it's piping hot.

v.

There is knowledge that takes shape without words and form without sentences; Rose is nineteen, and human, and she wants that too. This is not something she admits to herself often; she likes to think that what she is doing here is bigger than that, more important. She likes to think herself noble.

(She has been sliding her hand into his since the day they met. Her body knows how well they fit together.)

Rose likes to believe he values her for the way she thinks, for the way she asks the right questions at the right times, for the way she throws herself in and does what she can to save the day, consequences be damned.

She is glad, too, to offer him companionship; she is glad to be there beside him in the quiet, sharp moments; she is so glad to make him laugh.

Rose is mind and heart and body, and too much under the impression that these are separate things. She is afraid to be without words, to leave behind the safe structure of sentences; she might find out too much. It might be all he has ever wanted from her.

Rose is nineteen, and human, and she still has so much to learn.