Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Characters/Pairings: Ten II/Rose
Genre: Angst, drama
Warnings: No standard warnings for this chapter, but the fic as a whole deals with themes of memory loss.
Summary: When the Doctor is injured during an alien attack, he and Rose are left struggling to cope with the aftermath.
Excerpt: He looked old, she thought, suddenly. She could see all those nine hundred years reflected back in his eyes. She felt a pang as she remembered how he’d been as John Smith—was it really better for him now to have his memories back? To have to take up the burden of the Time War again?
Previous parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
Author's note: Omg, this too so much longer than we anticipated, and I am very sorry for the delay. Who knew one single scene would take so long to write? Also, I saw some weird things going on with copy-paste from GoogleDocs, and I think I caught all the formatting glitches, but if you see any, please point them out.
It wasn’t until later, in the Torchwood medical wing, that Rose began to feel like herself again.
She had a patchy memory of the car ride to Torchwood: she vaguely remembered the Doctor calling her family, and the tinny sound of her mother yelling through the phone, first when she heard that Rose was being taken to hospital and again when she realized she was speaking to the Doctor.
She also had a foggy recollection of her arriving at Torchwood, and the doctor talking to her while the Doctor hovered nervously in the background. Afterwards, she’d slumped against the Doctor on her bed, dozing on his shoulder while he held an icepack to her head. There were dozens of questions she wanted to ask, but she was drained and woozy, so she contented herself with lolling against him, half-asleep. Next she knew he was squeezing her shoulder gently, trying to wake her up.
She peered up at him through bleary eyes, and he smiled.
“Your family’s on their way,” he went on. “They’ll be here soon. I couldn’t keep your mother at bay any longer.”
Slowly, tenderly, Rose lifted her head from his shoulder and rubbed her neck. The pain in her head had dimmed to a dull but constant throb, and the humming in her ears hadn’t quite gone away, but she felt fully aware of her surroundings again. “That’s... good.”
The Doctor’s hand crept up to the back of her neck, his fingers playing with her hair. “How do you feel?”
Rose considered the question for a moment, then shrugged. “Bit better. Not as nauseous. I’ll be okay.” She flashed him a quick smile. “Just a bump on the head.”
The Doctor frowned. “You could have been killed,” he said, his voice full of the soft admonishment she associated with him blaming himself. “You almost...” He trailed off, then shook his head, as though to rid himself of the thought.
Rose, too, found she couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran down her spine at the thought. She remembered those few, horrible seconds she’d been trapped beneath the Squadra, certain she was going to be its next victim. She might have woken up, like he had, in a hospital bed with no knowledge of how she’d got there or who she was. She could think of no fate more terrifying.
The Doctor had put himself in that position, willingly and knowingly.
“You’re one to talk,” she said, staring at her hands. Then she looked up, studying him properly for the first time. The clothes were wrong and the hair was too flat, but the way he was looking at her, the small worried frown, the concerned crease on his forehead, the love in his gaze that had been missing for months now...
She swallowed around the lump that had formed in her throat. “I missed you,” she whispered.
He put his arms around her as he said it, and Rose moved into him, wrapping her arms around him and nestling her face against the crook of his neck. She snaked her hands up under his jacket, curled her fingers around the t-shirt underneath and closed her eyes. The ache in her head, in her ears, the sheer exhaustion she felt — it all paled in comparison to the relief of having him back.
“Time Lord,” he answered, without the flippancy he usually reserved for pronouncements of biological superiority. “We’re invulnerable to Squadra. We have this... defense mechanism, a trick of evolution that allows us to lock those memories away, protect them from the Squadra. It’s a reflex, really, it just... happens. We wake up a couple hours later, same as ever.”
Rose frowned. “But you didn’t.”
“Well...” he said slowly, tugging his ear. “That shouldn’t have happened. Must be the metacrisis. Took your phone call to jog those memories, actually, I think because they—ow!” He broke off with a yelp as Rose whacked him on the chest with one hand. “What was that for?”
Rose pulled back, staring at him with raised eyebrows. “That was your big self-defense plan? Being a Time Lord?”
The Doctor’s frown turned into something that more closely resembled a pout, and he rubbed the spot she’d hit. “What’s wrong with that?”
“You’re not, that’s what’s wrong! Don’t give me that look, we both know it’s true. You can’t do everything you used to be able to do. You can’t assume that just because something used to be safe it still is. You’ll get yourself killed!”
“I have a Time Lord brain, Rose,” he protested, and she could tell from the haughty voice that she’d wounded his pride by implying he wasn’t invincible. “I—”
“Yeah, so maybe you should use it next time instead of just hoping that—”
“Sorry, which one of us just ran into a building full of Squadra without waiting for back-up?”
“At least I understood the risks! You still think you’re untouchable. It never even occurred to you that something might go wrong, did it?”
The Doctor didn’t have a chance to respond, because the Tylers chose that second to walk through the door to Torchwood’s med lab. “Rose!” called Jackie from the doorway, and the Doctor immediately moved up and off the bed, clearing a path for Jackie to swoop in and wrap Rose in a hug.
“Oh, sweetheart,” she crooned, rubbing Rose’s back. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, Mum.” Rose patted her mum’s shoulder in return, feeling the familiar guilt of knowing she had worried her mother. “Just a concussion.” She decided not to add that it had very nearly been much more than that, but from the way her father shifted uncomfortably, she guessed that he, at least, knew exactly what had happened.
Jackie pulled back and scoffed. “Oh, just a concussion, is it?” She wheeled around, looking at the Doctor. “And you!”
The Doctor looked momentarily terrified, and Rose wondered if he was expecting a slap—but instead Jackie launched herself forward to crush him in her Jackie Tyler embrace.
The Doctor flailed helplessly. “Hi, Jackie,” he squeaked.
“Oh, it’s good to have you back, Doctor,” she gushed. “It was weird, not having you yammering away all the time.” She kissed him on the cheek, to his horror, and then released him. “Love the outfit, by the way. Always thought you ought to try jeans.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened with horror, and Rose laughed; he looked as though he wanted to change on the spot. With an amused glance towards the pair of them, Pete edged towards Rose’s bed. “I’m glad you’re safe,” he told her softly. “Both of you.”
Rose knew he was biting back a lecture on a safety and protocol—a lecture she was sure she’d get in full in a few days time—and she appreciated the effort. “Thanks, Dad.”
“I’ve got to ask, though,” he said, turning towards the Doctor. “Your miraculous recovery. That’s not going to happen to any of the others, is it?”
“No.” He looked regretful, and Rose felt an immediate rush of sympathy for those who would never experience the joy she’d felt at getting him back. “Not unless they’re part Time Lord. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, thought you might say that.” Pete sighed. “Well, we need to figure out what we’re going to tell people.”
Rose frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean we’re going to need an explanation for why the Doctor is magically all better but Torchwood can’t help any of the other Squadra victims.”
She raised her eyebrows. “We can’t go around telling people he’s an alien.”
“No, but we also can’t have people thinking we’re hiding some kind of cure. It’ll be a PR disaster.”
“A PR disaster?” repeated Rose incredulously. “We get the Doctor back and you’re upset about bad PR?”
Pete blanched but held his ground. “I’m not saying I’m not happy to have him back, of course I am, but it’s going to look bad, one of our own having this miraculous, inexplicable recovery while we tell everyone else not to adjust to their new lives.”
“Don’t say that like it’s his fault!”
“Why don’t you talk about this later?” said Jackie loudly, with a cheery tone that belied the stern warning. “Once you two are a bit more settled.”
Pete looked as though he might argue, but Jackie sent him a look and he nodded without a word. Rose reached out to grab the Doctor’s hand, tugging him closer to her bed, and he looped an arm over her shoulders.
“I can talk to them,” he offered quietly. “I’ll think of something.”
“We can work it out later,” said Jackie, with a misplaced but nevertheless unquestionable air of authority. Then she frowned a little. “Now, what’s all this about a stolen car?”
The flat was more or less how she remembered it. The pictures were gone from the wall and the mantle, still sitting in Rose’s room at the mansion, but the furniture, the layout was the same. Somehow she’d expected it to be different, had imagined a different flat to match the different person who’d been living there. Picturing a new man living in the home she’d made with the Doctor had been too much. Now, though, after months of feeling lost, the familiarity was refreshing.
She stood in the hallway, taking in the flat with a deep breath and a smile. “I’m glad to be home,” she announced.
She heard the Doctor shut the door behind them, then felt his arm snake around her waist. “Me too,” he agreed quietly, kissing the side of her head. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on some proper clothes.”
Rose laughed, turning towards him with a grin. “You sure? Shame, I was just starting to like the jeans. ”
The Doctor smirked. “Ha ha.” He kissed her on the forehead and then stepped back, moving down the hall. “I’ll be right back.”
Rose grinned as she watched him go, getting a last look at his unusual ensemble. While he disappeared into the bedroom, she stepped deeper into the flat. She smiled at the coffee table in the living room, cluttered with alien gadgets. So he’d found them, after all. It was almost like nothing had ever changed. If she tried, she might be able to pretend the past few months had never happened. It was definitely an appealing prospect.
The light on the answering machine blinked insistently, and she reached over to press “play” as a reflex. The first message was from Trudy at Torchwood, telling “John” they’d missed him at the last few meetings and asking if he would please call them so that they knew he was alright. Rose frowned at the phone while she took off her jacket. When had he stopped attending the meetings? They were worried about him? Why hadn’t anyone told her?
She was still musing on that as she hung up her jacket when the second message started to play. She froze as she heard her own voice, thick with suppressed tears. She sounded terrible. A chill went down her spine and she wondered suddenly what would have happened if the Doctor hadn’t arrived in time, or if he hadn’t got her message at all. How terrible would that have been, if he’d come back to himself too late?
“By the way,” she heard the Doctor call, over top of the recording, “we may need to buy a new televis... oh.”
Rose stayed still where she was, while the recording played on. “No one deserves happiness more than you do,” it was saying, and Rose could feel a lump forming in her throat.
The Doctor breezed past her, jabbing the ‘delete’ button on the machine with his thumb. The recording broke off with a shrill beep, and Rose took one deep breath, and then another, still staring at the floor. She could feel the Doctor’s eyes on her as he asked, “Are you all right?”
Rose nodded, her eyes squeezed shut, her throat too tight to speak.
“That message saved your life,” he went on. “And mine. Although...” He rubbed one hand down her arm, coming to rest at her elbow. “I’d really prefer it if we didn’t try that again.”
He slipped his hand into hers and gave her fingers a squeeze, and Rose opened her eyes to find the Doctor’s face inches from hers. When his face broke into a smile as she looked at him, she couldn’t help but smile back. She looked down and smiled even wider; he’d changed into a full suit, complete with tie.
“All right,” she said, “I lied. I missed the suits.”
“Of course you did, the jeans were rubbish.”
“Mum liked them.”
“All the more reason to burn them,” he reasoned.
Chuckling, Rose pressed her face into the crook of his neck and looped her arms around his waist. He held her gently while Rose leaned against him, content to breathe him in. It was as though the last few months of stress and exhaustion had melted away, leaving behind a feeling of peace and relaxation she hadn’t imagined she’d feel ever again.
“You know,” Rose said, “as nice as this is, I was hoping for a little more action when you brought me back to your place.”
There was a “humph” and then a faint chuckle. “Rose, you have a concussion.”
“A mild one—”
“Not that mild—”
“And don’t think I didn’t see you waving the sonic screwdriver at me,” she interjected. “Whatever medical treatment you did will be miles ahead of what even Torchwood’s got.” She curved her lips into something approaching a pout. “Listen, it’s been months since we’ve been together and I miss you so much and I just... I want...”
She trailed off, her fingers beginning to pull at his tie. The Doctor looked down to watch her hands, his mouth twisting into a grin. “Well... I suppose I could go easy on you.”
Rose raised one eyebrow, untying the knot of his tie. “Not that easy.”
He leaned forward to kiss her forehead, the tip of her nose, and finally he pressed his mouth to hers. Rose sighed into the kiss, her arms coming up to wind around her neck.
He pulled away, eyes soft with something that looked like contentment. Then he reached down and took her hand in his. “Come on.”
She thought about making a crack about his suit—about how it was shame to get him back into it only to get him out of it again—but she felt giddy and maybe even a little bit nervous. So she squeezed his hand and he turned around to kiss her again. The kiss was a little more forceful, leaving Rose feeling breathless.
She practically dragged him the rest of the way.
Rose felt more relaxed than she had in months.
She was sprawled out on their bed in a big fluffy robe, cuddled up against the Doctor, who was only wearing a dress shirt, his tie and trousers long gone. After they’d had sex, they’d taken a long bath, and then had sex again. At the moment, Rose felt perfectly happy to spend the rest of her life wearing this very robe, curled into the Doctor’s side in their flat.
But the initial thrill of their reunion had faded. She knew the feeling of peace couldn’t last, that eventually they would have to part and go about picking up the pieces of their lives again. Too much had happened for them to just paint over it.
She rolled back to look at him and he gave her a wan smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He looked old, she thought, suddenly. She could see all those nine hundred years reflected back in his eyes. She felt a pang as she remembered how he’d been as John Smith—was it really better for him now to have his memories back? To have to take up the burden of the Time War again?
She forced herself to crack a smile and said, “It’s been a rubbish couple of months, hasn’t it? For both of us.”
The Doctor inclined his head and then tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “Yeah.”
Though his touch was gentle, there was something detached about it. But he didn’t say anything else. Instead he pulled away and then sat up, leaning against the headboard, his arms resting on his knees.
Silence ticked by between them. Finally, when Rose couldn’t take it anymore, she said, “Doctor, what’s wrong? Talk to me, please.”
He closed his eyes and drew in a sharp breath. “I had nothing,” he said, in a voice that twisted her stomach into knots. “Nothing. And you just... you walked away.”
Rose felt like someone had knocked the wind out of her. “It wasn’t like that,” she found herself saying. “I thought... I thought it was for the best. You....” hated me, she finished quietly to herself, but didn’t say.
Wasn’t that the crux of it, though? Even at the time, even after she moved back in with Jackie—she hadn’t been sure if she was doing what was best for the Doctor or what was best for herself.
“I know that,” he said, but his voice was rising. It was like a dam had broken. “But I had no one else. Rose, do you have any idea how disorienting it was—to just.... just wake up in someone else’s life, in someone else’s body? One morning I picked up a book and read it cover-to-cover in ten seconds. Do you know how terrifying that was? How alone I felt? I didn’t have the first clue what was going on.”
Each word felt like a jab to her heart and Rose found herself shaking her head, a lump forming in her throat. “I didn’t know,” she whispered. “The tabloids—you said you met someone, I didn’t know...”
“The tabloids?” he repeated incredulously.
Rose swallowed. “There was a photo, I saw...”
“We went to dinner. Once. That’s all. Rose, I couldn’t even remember my own name. How on earth would I be capable of starting a relationship with someone?”
She bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m sorry.”
She thought back to what her mum had tried to tell her—about how she had left the Doctor on his own. Looking at him now, Rose could see how the weeks of amnesia had affected him. He looked even skinnier than usual, his shoulders narrow and bony. Had Jackie seen something that Rose had missed? Had she understood the Doctor’s loneliness better than Rose had?
“You should have called,” she said meekly. “I told you to call if—”
“I thought about it,” his voice still tense and closed-off. “I almost did. But you chose to leave, Rose. You’d given me your flat, your furniture, you were paying my bills. I couldn’t ask you to stay with me when you didn’t want to.”
“I just wanted you to have a normal life,” she said, voice faltering. “I thought—I thought if you didn’t remember the Time War or the TARDIS or your old life... maybe you could be happy.”
The Doctor looked away. “That’s who I am, Rose.” He sounded exhausted. “Without those memories, I’m just...”
“Human?” Rose offered.
He swallowed heavily and then nodded. That was it, Rose realized. The Doctor might have a part-human body and live and work with humans, but the thought of losing himself, of becoming nothing but a human man... that terrified him.
And she’d kept that from him. She’d let him think he was nothing more than John Smith. She’d been prepared to let him spend the rest of his life never knowing that he had a TARDIS or that he’d once travelled the stars.
“I thought you were gone forever,” she finally whispered.
“I know,” he said and he no longer sounded angry, just resigned. Somehow that felt worse.
“What if it had been me?” Rose said a little desperately. “What would you have done, Doctor?”
“I would have found a way to get you back,” he said simply, his tone making it clear that for him there was no other option. She could picture it all too easily, the Doctor dedicating his life to looking for a cure even if he knew one couldn’t exist.
“Oh,” Rose said. Blinking back tears, she pulled her legs in close to her body, looking up at the ceiling—anywhere but at him. “Yeah, but you’re.... you.”
She heard the sheets rustle and then felt his hands on her knees. “Hey,” he said, suddenly gentle. “Rose.”
Something inside of her seemed to snap. “All you said was that you had some sort of Time Lord trick,” she burst out. “How was I supposed to know what it was? I thought you were gone.”
“I know, I know, Rose. I didn’t mean—”
“It felt like you died,” she said, the words seeming to burst from her chest. Or maybe it was a sob? But then the Doctor was pulling her into his arms and she was clinging to him, pressing her nose against his neck, breathing him in. His arms around her waist were tight—almost too tight, but she didn’t want him to let go. Not even a little bit.
“Are you hungry?” the Doctor called from the kitchen. “I’ve got... three pieces of bread and an egg.”
Rose sat down on the sofa, one leg curled under her, and leaned forward to inspect the gadgets cluttered on the coffee table. “A bit overdue for a trip to the shops, then?”
The Doctor scratched the back of his neck. “Something like that.”
Rose bit her lip, trying not to think too deeply about how the Doctor had been living these past few months. Instead she closed her eyes, relaxing back against the sofa and listening to the Doctor tinker in the kitchen. She’d slept well the previous night, back in her own bed with the Doctor by her side, but still she felt tired.
Whether it was remnants of her concussion or left-over emotional exhaustion, she couldn’t be sure, but she suspected it was the latter. They’d held each other for some time the previous night, then eventually settled down to sleep. When they’d woken this morning, the Doctor no longer seemed angry with her, but Rose worried that the damage was done. She’d let him down, and while she suspected he’d never bring it up again, she knew he wouldn’t forget it, either. She’d put a dent in his incredible faith in her. All those times she’d sworn she’d never leave him, and now she was one of the many who had.
She wasn’t sure how to fix that.
Something poked her arm, and she opened her eyes to see the Doctor smiling at her, holding a plate of three pieces of French toast. “Breakfast!” he announced, clamouring over her to plop down next to her on the sofa. “A rather meagre one, mind you.” He set the plate down between them and pulled his legs up, looking rather like a praying mantis as he reached down to slather his toast in marmalade. “You all right? How’s your head?”
“I’m fine, yeah. It’s fine,” she said quietly, ripping some toast in half. “What happened to the telly?”
“I sort of, ah... sonicked it,” he told her through a mouthful of bread and marmalade. “By accident.” He grinned sheepishly. “Sorry.”
Rose raised her eyebrows. “‘Course you did.” She nudged one of the gadgets on the table with her toe. “What about all this stuff?”
The Doctor waved one hand. “Oh, found it lying around, started tinkering with it. That—” he pointed at a gray oblong hunk of metal “—is almost done, actually.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a musical instrument on the seventh moon of Vanna.” He sucked some marmalade off his thumb. “On Earth? Makes a good dog whistle.”
Rose chuckled. “Super useful to us, then.” But then she frowned, staring at the items on the table. “I’m surprised you remembered how to do all that.”
The Doctor shrugged, staring down at the plate of toast. “Just in the last few weeks. Things were starting to bleed through.”
Rose set down the last bit of her toast as a sudden weight settling in her stomach. “You mean you were starting to remember,” she said softly.
The Doctor nodded. “Yes.”
Rose swallowed and brushed the crumbs off her fingers, still looking down rather than at the Doctor. “If I hadn’t... I mean, would you have remembered, eventually, on your own?”
Rose closed her eyes and exhaled, nodding slowly. The lump in her stomach seemed to grow heavier. There it was, then: if she’d just been patient, if she’d just waited...
“I shouldn’t have left,” she admitted softly, forcing herself to meet his eyes. “Doctor, I am so sorry.”
“I know.” He smiled gently. “It’s okay.”
“It won’t happen again. I swear.”
“I thought it was the right thing,” she went on, desperate for him to understand, “I really did. I just... I wanted you to be happy.”
“I know,” he repeated. “But I am happy. Like this. With you.”
He smiled wider, and Rose found herself smiling back. She reached down and took his hand—still sticky with marmalade—in hers. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” he said with a definitive nod. He gave her hand an affectionate squeeze and then looked down at their fingers, his smile giving way to a pensive frown. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter. “That’s not what you want, is it? John Smith?”
Rose’s brow furrowed in surprise and confusion. How could he even think that? “Of course not,” she said firmly. “Why would...?”
The Doctor shrugged, adopting a casualness that seemed disingenuous. “I know sometimes I can be a bit...” He trailed off, gesturing vaguely with his hand. “Martha said I was rubbish as a human.”
“Well, she’s right,” said Rose. She could see the expression on his face turn to one of hurt, but she smiled, brushing her thumb with his. “As a human-Time Lord metacrisis, though? Perfect.” He smiled, and with a teasing grin she added, “Besides, having the same television for more than six months? Now that would be rubbish.”
The Doctor laughed, lifting his head to look at her again. She leaned over to kiss him, and when she pulled back his eyes were still closed.
“Love you,” she said.
He opened his eyes and grinned. “Love you, too.” Then he stood up, towering over her on the sofa. “Still hungry, though.” He climbed over the back of the sofa and headed towards the door. “Busy day! Job to quit, PR crisis to avert. D’you think your mother would mind us pillaging through her kitchen at half eight in the morning?”
Rose picked up their empty plate and followed after him, beaming. “Nah, I reckon you’ve got another three days of sympathy built up before she starts yelling at you again.”
“Brilliant!” said the Doctor, sweeping into the kitchen and pulling a familiar-looking casserole dish from the cupboard. Before Rose could ask, he went on, “I will treasure and exploit these three days to the best of my ability.” He grabbed the plate from her and set it in the sink, then took her hand and tugged her towards the door, waggling his eyebrows. “Besides, what’s family for, if not shamelessly stealing each other’s food?”
Rose laughed as she slipped on her shoes and pulled the door shut behind them. She was immensely glad to have her family whole again—and she was confident that the Doctor was, too, with or without the free food. “Call my mum ‘family’ where she can hear you,” she said, “and you might even stretch it to four days.”
The Doctor scrunched up his nose. “Well, let’s not be ridiculous.”