Authors: _thirty2flavors and goldy_dollar
Characters/Pairings: Ten2/Rose, Jackie, Pete, OCs
Summary: On Tony’s eighth birthday, the Doctor is kidnapped by a paramilitary group who will do anything to defend Earth from aliens.
Warnings: Aaaangst, violence, mentions of torture (offscreen)
Excerpt: "Were you planning that all night? Did you think, 'oh, I'll just shag her one last time and then sneak away while she's asleep so I don't have to say goodbye'?"
Previous parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six
The next morning, aside from a few bruises, Rose found she was not much worse for wear. The Doctor, too, was recovering, and although over the next few days he still moved gingerly and slept more than he ever had before, he was eating enough to reassure Rose and some colour had returned to his face.
But for all that he seemed to be bouncing back physically, Rose sensed that he was pulling away emotionally. She’d hoped his quiet spell would disappear as he got his strength back—but days passed without the Doctor regaining any of his spark. She knew something was wrong, but in typical Doctor fashion he brushed aside her concern whenever she asked and insisted that he was fine.
"Maybe he just needs some space, sweetheart," had been Jackie's advice when Rose asked her for help. "It can't be easy for him right now. Let him know you're there, but give him some time to work things out on his own."
Previous experience suggested to Rose that the very last thing she could expect was for the Doctor to deal well with emotional fallout on his own. He swallowed things down and tried to ignore them even as they ate away at him, and most often it was only with patient--and not so patient--coaching that she could even get him to admit there was a problem.
This time was different, though. This time Rose was worried she was the problem. Maybe he resented her for what she'd made him do after all.
So she tried to do what Jackie had suggested. She pretended to believe him when he said he was fine. They spent time at her parents' mansion so that Rose could talk to her family while the Doctor kept to himself. She tried to give him room, and she tried not to worry that doing so was enabling his retreat further and further into himself.
It was three days later that the Doctor offered to make Tony a cake for a substitute birthday dinner, and Rose was hesitantly optimistic. He was talkative during dinner and made sure to horrify Jackie by assuring her that Tony's new model sonic screwdriver was fully functional. By the time they'd all sat down to watch Homeward Bound together, Rose was feeling cheerier than she had since the Doctor had gone missing. When the Doctor had pressed a kiss to the side of her head and told her he'd be right back, she hadn't thought much of it.
But that had been over twenty minutes ago, and now the empty spot beside her on the sofa wasn't even warm. She sat with her legs pulled up to her chest, nibbling on her bottom lip while she tried and failed to pay attention to the movie. She didn't want to go after him. She wanted him to come back of his own accord because he wanted to, because he was better now, and because he knew how much it worried her when he went off to sulk alone.
She was fairly certain that wouldn't happen.
She sat there for a couple minutes longer, ignoring her mother's surreptitious glances and weighing her options. She could continue following her mother's advice, and watch the rest of the movie with Tony whether the Doctor kept sulking or not. That was what Tony deserved, at least. She could try to ignore it, and when the Doctor eventually returned she could choose not to say anything at all, knowing full well he'd not answer her properly even if she asked. She could go find the Doctor, wherever he was, and drag him back to watch the rest of the film like he'd said he would.
Or she could go find the Doctor and try for the millionth unsuccessful time to make him understand that relationships depend on communication and that he'd bloody well better start communicating.
Steeling herself for what she was sure would be a difficult conversation, Rose stood up. "I'll be back in a little bit," she told her family.
She finally found him on the roof.
She wasn’t surprised. If one was daring enough, the window in one of the guest rooms opened directly onto a patch of roof that was flat enough to be a reasonable sitting place. It was somewhere he went a lot, ever since they’d first arrived in this world. He always insisted that he liked it primarily because it was a great spot to hide from Jackie, but Rose suspected it had more to do with being able to see the stars. Though he rarely complained, Rose knew he missed that old life even more than she did, and she knew he must miss the TARDIS and the escape she had provided now more than ever.
“I’ve been looking all over for you,” Rose announced from inside the window. “If Mum sees you out here she’ll kill you, Tony’s big enough to climb out there now and if he sees you doing it…”
The Doctor didn’t look at her as he spoke. “I’ll lock it when I head back in. I thought Tony was watching Homeward Bound with the rest of you?”
“You know how he worships you,” she said, her frustration with the last couple days getting the best of her. “This was your idea in the first place, it’d be nice if you stuck around for the party.”
“Sorry,” he said quietly. But he made no move to get up, and Rose sighed, feeling torn between exasperation and worry. The exasperated part of her wanted to head back downstairs and finish watching Homeward Bound with her baby brother, hoping that her husband had sense enough to notice the irritation in her steps and get his scrawny arse back inside the house.
The worried part of her knew that would never happen.
"Scootch over," she instructed, hoisting herself up through the window. The Doctor shifted over with little more than a cursory glance in her direction, and Rose settled down next to him, crossing her legs under her. "It's a bit cold out here," she said, rubbing the tops of her arms. "Have you been out here this whole time?"
"Is it? I'm fine. Here." He unbuttoned his suit jacket, slipped it off and draped it over her shoulders. Finally he looked at her, one corner of his mouth lifting in a sad, wistful smile. "First day I met Donna we sat on a rooftop and I gave her my jacket."
She waited for the rest of the story but it never came. Instead the Doctor's gaze drifted back out over the lawn. He didn't put his arm around her shoulder, either; he clasped his hands together and set them in his lap. Rose bit her lip, looking down at her socks and pulling the jacket tight over her shoulders. She knew what she ought to ask but couldn't seem to bring herself to do it--she knew what the answer might be, and it scared her. But as the awkward silence between them stretched from one minute to the next, Rose finally mustered up her courage.
"Are you angry with me?"
That, at least, sparked a response in the Doctor. "What?" His brow furrowed as he turned to stare at her. "Why would I be angry with you?"
Rose fidgeted under his stare and then looked away, looking out to the sky. “I dunno. ‘Cos it’s my fault I got captured by AIF—because you had to build that thing for them.”
"That wasn't your fault."
"It wasn't your fault either.”
The Doctor didn't say anything.
There was a moment of silence as they sat there. Rose turned to face him, lump gathering in her throat. She touched his arm.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” she said. "Doctor, please. I want to help. I can't do that if you won't talk to me."
For another long moment he was silent, still looking away from her. Then, just as Rose was ready to give up and head inside, he said, "I used to be the sort of man who put the good of the universe before everything else."
He spoke with such resignation that Rose's heart sank. She heard the implication, even if he didn't say it. He used to be that sort of man--but he wasn't anymore, and he hated himself for it. What could she possibly say to that? Wasn't it because of her?
"You can't blame yourself for what they made you do," she said eventually. "No one should ever have to make that choice."
"I'd've done anything they asked," he admitted. “When they hurt you, I... I would have done anything.”
She took that in and then whispered, “Is that so bad, though?”
He frowned. That obviously wasn't the response he'd expected. “How do you mean?”
“I dunno, it’s just...” she shrugged and looked away, tears stinging her eyes. “Is it so wrong to put each other first?” She paused and then added, “I know how you feel ‘cos I felt it too—why do you think I went in after you? I couldn’t stand the thought that AIF could be torturing you or had killed you. I didn’t even stop to think about the consequences—I didn’t care. I'd've done the same as you. I’d do anything to protect you. Anything.”
At that, he reached out and took her hand, squeezing it tightly between his.
“That,” he said slowly, “is what I would describe as a fairly big weakness in our line of work.”
“Yeah, and so what?” Rose said, voice beginning to crack. “Someone told me once that I made you better. That’s not exactly a ‘weakness,’ is it?”
He squeezed her hands, looking like he wanted to protest but wasn't sure how. “Well... no.”
“I’m not saying it was right, what happened, and maybe without me you could have resisted them longer. Or maybe you would be dead.” She drew in a breath, feeling cold and shaky. “We do some amazing things together, Doctor, the pair of us. Anders took that and he used it against us, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong." She swallowed, the lump in her throat getting steadily bigger. "I keep... I keep thinking that he might have driven us apart or made you think...” her voice grew hoarser and she struggled to push on with the next words, “made you think this life together isn’t worth it.”
She looked down, waiting for him to react in breathless silence. His thumb idly swept over her knuckles, then he turned and leaned down to give her a lingering kiss.
"I love you," he murmured, but the sadness in his voice made her heart sink. With a speed she hadn't expected him to be capable of, he bounced to his feet, suddenly smiling again. "You know, if we hurry, we can still catch the last twenty minutes."
Rose gawked at him, stunned by the emotional whiplash. "Doctor..."
But the Doctor wasn't listening. He was already shoving the window open. "The reunion's the best bit," he was saying, his tone deceptively light. "That moment when Shadow comes over the hill? Brilliant."
"Doctor," said Rose again, this time with more urgency. Her heart was still pounding, and the shaky, cold feeling had only got worse.
The Doctor hopped through the window, landing in the guest room and holding out his hand to help her through. "Come on! Allons-y!"
Rose thought about arguing. She thought about pointing out that she could tell when he was running away, and that she knew he was doing it now. She thought about pointing out that when she'd expressed her fear, he hadn't denied it.
But nerves clogged her throat, and she climbed through the window quietly, clutching his hand and feeling worse than she had before.
The Doctor’s good mood continued through the rest of the movie and during the cab ride home. Rose felt jittery and uneasy throughout the movie, but as they left, she allowed herself to hope that maybe the Doctor was beginning to put AIF behind him. Maybe something she had said on the roof had got through to him.
Back in their flat, Rose had barely shut the door when the Doctor took her by the hand and caught her eye. With raised eyebrows, he tilted his head in the direction of their bedroom.
Immediately, Rose felt her cheeks warm. They hadn’t had sex in weeks—not since before the Doctor had been kidnapped by AIF. He’d still been too injured after they got home and then, after that, he had put up so many emotional walls that she hadn’t even considered suggesting it.
She bit down on her lip, eyes meeting his hopefully. “Yeah?”
His fingers tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, lingering on the shell of her ear. Her heart rate immediately accelerated and they held each other’s gaze for a few seconds longer before the Doctor leaned in to kiss her. She leaned eagerly into the kiss, her arms wrapping around his neck and clinging to him.
His arms wrapped around her waist and he gave her a light squeeze before he broke the kiss to press his forehead to hers. “Come on,” he said softly, releasing her and jerking his head towards the bedroom.
There was something sad and resigned in his voice. Rose's heart sank as her hopes of him getting better and moving on were dashed. For a second, she couldn’t move or speak, suddenly terrified that she might lose him forever.
Then she pressed her lips to his, kissing him desperately. “I love you,” she murmured. “I love you so much.”
He caught her face in his hands, thumbs smoothing over her cheeks. “I know, Rose, I’m so sorry that I can’t....”
He trailed off helplessly, and she shook her head. “It’s okay,” she said, trying not to cry. “Whatever it is, it’s okay, yeah?”
He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. “Yeah.”
She pressed her lips to his, soft and gentle. When she pulled away, she met his eyes, trying for a smile. “If it’s too soon...?”
He shook his head, but he didn’t smile back. “No, I... it’s not that.”
But he didn’t add anything else. Instead he pressed his hand to hers, threading their fingers together, and led her down the hall to their bedroom.
They undressed each other slowly, saying little. They knew each other well after the last few years, but Rose still felt awkward with the silence, like a third unspoken presence in the bedroom.
His kisses were long and desperate and even as she relaxed in his arms, Rose felt like each touch and whisper of love was a silent apology. She kissed him back just as desperately as if she could show him about how much she loved him. She covered the growing lump in her throat with moans and gasps.
Finally, they collapsed against each other, tired and spent. The Doctor’s whispered “I love you” in her ear was hot and sweaty and nearly made her start to cry.
She cuddled into his side—like always—and as his arm draped heavily over her waist she tried to pretend like that hadn’t just felt like a goodbye.
When Rose woke up a couple of hours later, the first thing she noticed was that she was cold. Instinctively, she patted the spot next to her in confusion until it dawned on her that it was empty. The bottom of her stomach seemed to disappear entirely, and she froze, staring at the Doctor's unused pillow, her fingers slowly curling around the sheets. She wasn't sure how long she lay there, too scared to move and confirm what she was dreading.
The Doctor was gone.
Finally, she worked up the courage to sit up. Feeling hollow, she pulled on a bathrobe and stumbled to the door, her heartbeat echoing in her ears. Maybe he just went to get a drink, she reasoned, although she was sure that wasn't true. She moved into the hallway and walked toward the kitchen in a daze, and then froze, staring in surprise.
There at the table sat the Doctor, fully dressed and nursing a cup of tea. He looked up as she stepped into view, the corners of his mouth twitching in an almost-smile. "Hi," he said softly.
Rose let go of a breath she didn't know she was holding and sagged against the wall. "Hi." She ran a hand over her face, waiting for her heart to return to its regular pace. "You scared me half to death," she said after a minute. "I thought... I thought you left."
At her words, he looked down, guilt written all over his face. Rose's stomach bottomed out again.
She could barely get the words out. "Are you leaving?"
"No," he said, and Rose exhaled. "Well..." He hesitated, and ran his thumb over the rim of his cup. "Not unless you want me to."
"Don't be stupid." She pushed herself away from the wall, walking over to the table slowly, still feeling like she needed to be cautious, like if she moved too quickly he would bolt. "Why would I want that?"
The Doctor didn't look up from his tea. He swallowed, and Rose noticed that he looked very nervous indeed. "Because I was going to," he said finally.
Rose sank into a chair across from him, taking in his words and mulling them over. So she'd been right after all. She propped her elbows up on the table and rubbed at her eyes. It occurred to her that she ought to feel worried or angry or sad; instead she felt exhausted.
"Why?" was all she asked.
It was a minute before the Doctor answered. He swirled what was left of his tea around in his cup, looking like he wasn't sure what to say. Finally he shrugged, and when he spoke, his voice was quiet. "Because I hate the idea that people will hurt you to get to me. And..." He hesitated, then took a deep breath. "And because it scares me how far I will go to keep you safe."
It was the answer Rose had been expecting, but that didn't make it any easier to hear. She sat up, straightened her shoulders and did her best to keep her face impassive. "Were you planning that all night? Did you think, 'oh, I'll just shag her one last time and then sneak away while she's asleep so I don't have to say goodbye'?"
The Doctor studied his tea and said nothing. Rose figured that was as good as a confession.
She chuckled, but it came out sounding on verge of hysterics. "Guess you are the same man," she said, and he bowed his head even lower. She allowed a moment to tick by in awkward silence, and then asked, "So why did you stay?"
"Oh, so many reasons. Because I couldn't hurt you like that." He looked up at her suddenly, his face softening. "Because I don't want to, not really." He managed a small smile. "I got... ooh, all the way to the living room? There's that picture of us on the mantel - you know the one, shot right after we took down that Weevil in the Underground about three hours after we got married.... we look so happy. And then I thought - I really thought about what it would mean to live in a world where you weren't there in the morning when I woke up. And I couldn't go any further." He paused. "So then I made tea and sat down here."
Rose felt some of her resolve melt away when he looked at her like that. There was something almost pathetic about him - his great escape plans holding up all the way to the living room.
But she wasn't quite ready to give in.
"You could have just talked to me," she said, "you know, like a normal person. God knows I tried."
She heard him sigh and it was a heavy, rattling noise. "I know, I'm sorry." He paused. "Old habits die hard."
"And what about this habit of yours, Doctor? Running off?" she paused, feeling a lump gather in her throat. "My whole life, it feels like I'm always waiting for you to turn around and leave me."
She could tell that stung him. He swallowed. "I won't."
"How am I supposed to believe that?" she whispered. "Tonight just proves it." She folded her arms over her chest, feeling chilly and worn down. "What about the next time things get a bit rough for us, then? Bound to in our line of work. Am I going to catch you sneaking away in the dead of night again?"
He squeezed his eyes shut. "No."
"But how can I know that?" she said a little desperately. She wiped at her face, not wanting to cry. If she cried, he would come around to comfort her and she knew she would let him. Things would just go unsaid and unresolved. "I can't live like that."
Even as the words left her mouth, a part of her wished she could take them back. The Doctor visibly flinched and she hastily glanced away, trying to look anywhere but at him.
"I don't want to be anywhere else," he finally whispered, "but if I can't make you believe that..."
Rose pushed herself to her feet. She was shaking all over. Still not looking at him, she said, "I think I'm gonna go stay with Mum for a few days."
She allowed herself a glance in his direction and he looked stricken. She stared at him, hoping he'd protest, hoping he'd ask her to stay. Just... something.
Instead he said, "If that's what you need to do."
She had never heard him sound so defeated. With his slumping shoulders and sad eyes, it was all she could do not to go over and put her arms around him.
She forced herself to look away. "Well... I guess I'll go pack then."
Her movements back to the bedroom were jerky and uncoordinated. She tugged a dusty suitcase out of the vestibule, unzipping it on the bed in a daze. Working on auto-pilot, she pulled open her drawers at random, choosing clothes without much thought--two pairs of socks, three knickers, one pair of trousers, and six t-shirts. She stuffed them in the suitcase with shaking hands, her body still trembling all over.
She looked up and almost shrieked in surprise when she found the Doctor standing in the bedroom doorway, watching her silently. His eyes briefly met hers and then he looked away again.
"You should...." he mumbled, "you're cold."
He moved into the bedroom and bent down, rooting through the dresser until he tugged out a huge, fleecy sweatshirt, holding it out for her. Jackie had bought it for the Doctor originally but he had never worn it, adhering stubbornly to his uniform of suits. Rose had adopted it for herself even though the sweatshirt came down to her knees and fit tightly across the chest. She loved being able to snuggle into it on a cold and rainy day and even though the Doctor had never worn it, in a strange way it made her feel like he was close to her.
Swallowing hard, she shrugged off the bathrobe and then tugged the sweatshirt on over her head. A second later she felt much warmer and she gave the Doctor a tight smile. "Thanks."
He didn't smile back--in fact he looked like he was trying not to cry. Rose's heart tugged painfully. Hurriedly, he made a show of looking into her suitcase before frowning.
"You'll need more than that," he said, after a pause. "Toothbrush--"
He disappeared into the bathroom and Rose heard him rooting around in the cabinet. She stood still in the middle of the bedroom, next to the half-packed suitcase, her bare legs sticking out from underneath the giant sweater.
Finally the Doctor came back with her toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste and her favourite shampoo. Suddenly, the reality of the situation seemed to smack her in the face. He was helping her pack. He was helping her pack a suitcase so that she could walk out on him--he was helping her do the very thing that he'd been about to do to her.
And it was killing him.
She could see it so plainly all over his face--it would devastate him if she walked out on him now, but he couldn't find the right words to make her stay. So instead he was helping her go.
For a second, she wanted to laugh at them both. After all the years they had spent together, how could they still be so thick about what was so obvious?
The Doctor was still holding out the toiletries, looking more and more concerned. "Rose?" he finally ventured.
Suddenly calmer than she'd been all night, Rose took the toiletries out of his hands and dumped them on the bed. Then she placed both her hands in his and took a step closer to him. He watched her closely, barely breathing. Then she closed the distance between them, pressing her cheek against his shoulder, her head just under his neck, and waited for him to hug her back. She didn't have to wait long--his arms came around her immediately, holding her in close.
He shuddered once and then relaxed, pressing his cheek down on the top of her head. "Rose," he whispered, "please don't go."
"I won't. I can't--" she managed a chuckle. "I sort of see what you mean now."
His responding laugh seemed to be mostly a noise of relief. Rose leaned up and kissed him lightly. His fingers twined in her hair as he kissed her back, but it didn't progress any further.
When she pulled away, he nuzzled his forehead against hers, holding her quietly. Rose unconsciously sucked in a breath, unwilling to break the silence that had fallen between them. But as the seconds ticked on, her mind began to wander. They were both still sleep deprived, but Rose doubted either one of them would be able to relax enough to get back to sleep. On the other hand, it was still early enough that starting their normal morning routine would be pointless.
"Doctor--" She released him and then pushed her suitcase off the bed. It fell with a thump onto the floor. She turned back to him and took his hand, nodding her head towards the bed. He followed her cue and they both lay back down. Her eyes instinctively closed when her head landed on her pillow. Maybe she was more tired than she'd thought.
The Doctor stretched out next to her, one arm curling around her waist and pulling her into him. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and she found one of his hands, playing with his fingers as she mulled over her next words.
Finally she said, "Will you tell me what happened to you? In AIF? Please?"
He hesitated and she could read the reluctance all over his face. One thing that certainly hadn't changed with the Doctor was his tendency to avoid talking about difficult topics. Though in this instance, she reckoned it was as much about protecting her from what he thought were unpleasant details as it was about his need to be secretive.
"The step-by-step guide?" he asked after a moment.
His fingers suddenly gripped hers tightly, but he only said, "What about you? What happened when... you said that Anders came to see you?"
As much as she hated his tendency to immediately deflect the topic, she could read the concern in his eyes. He'd obviously had plenty of time to imagine all the worst outcomes and she felt a pang of regret--why hadn't she done more to force them to talk things through days ago?
Besides, maybe if she started with herself, it would make the Doctor more willing to open up.
Rose took a deep breath and started talking.