Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Rating: PG-13 for angst and (eventual, off-screen) violence
Genre: Drama, angst. No seriously, angst.
Characters/Pairings: Ten2/Rose, Jackie, Pete, an assortment of others
Warnings: Character death
Summary: Years after settling in on Pete's World, the Doctor must face something he thought he could escape.
Excerpt: If there was one thing she knew—while trapped in another universe or on the other side of the galaxy—it was that she believed in them. She’d thought the Doctor felt the same way.
Previously: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
As the door to their flat closed behind them, Rose’s smile faded as she got a good look at the living room. The flat looked... empty. The television was gone from the wall, leaving a mess of cables and dust in its wake. There were holes in the bookshelf like someone had come along and pulled books off the shelf at random. Pictures that had once sat on the mantel were nowhere to be found.
She took another step forward and then stopped, frowning. She sniffed the air. Was that whiskey?
She turned back to the Doctor and almost asked ‘Have we been robbed?’ before she got a good look at his expression. Her heart sank.
He’d thought she was dead.
Even now it sunk in little bits at a time. He’d spent months thinking she was dead. It was pure luck, really, that he’d seen her message, that he’d figured it out. If not, she might never have... and he might have...
“I packed your stuff,” he said abruptly. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away. “There wasn’t time to... I’m sorry.”
Moved on, she finished to herself quietly. But there was something aching and ancient about his eyes and she felt guilty for even thinking it.
“It’s all right,” she said hurriedly. She reached for his hand and squeezed his fingers. “It’s just stuff, Doctor. All that matters is that we’re together, yeah?”
He opened his mouth, hesitating for a second like he might tell her something, before he hastily shut it. “Yeah,” he finally said. The agonized look in his eyes seemed to melt away and he smiled tenderly. “Except...”
Without finishing, he released her hand and dashed off towards the bedroom. About time, Rose thought as she followed him.
“What is it?” she said with a teasing smile, turning the corner.
The Doctor was bent over the nightstand, “Aha!” he said, turning around proudly. Rose took a step closer, and then grinned.
“My wedding ring,” she said. “You kept it.”
The Doctor’s eyes looked suspiciously wet. “Of course I did,” he said softly. He held it up between his fingers. “Come on.”
She closed the distance between them, beginning to feel choked up herself. She held out her finger, but the Doctor suddenly paused, again looking like he wanted to tell her something. “Doctor? What is it?”
He swallowed, but then said, “Nothing.” He slid the ring onto her finger with trembling hands, and Rose’s heart skipped a beat. It felt right having the ring back on—a reminder that she was really home.
The same thought seemed to be going through the Doctor’s mind. He reached out and stroked her hair before pressing his forehead to hers. “I love you,” he said quietly.
“I love you, too,” Rose said.
He kissed her then, his kiss full of a desperation she’d never felt from him. Things had been intense between them before, of course—after Bad Wolf Bay (the second time) and when they both survived a close shave at the office.
But it had never really felt like this.
Some of the Doctor’s desperation seemed to bleed through to her and she found herself meeting his frantic kisses, her hands tugging inelegantly at his clothes.
A while later, Rose lay spooned in the Doctor’s arms, naked and warm and fully content. Had she only said goodbye to Celly that morning? It felt like ages ago. She felt a surge of gratitude for her alien friend—if it hadn’t been for Celly, she never would have made it home.
“Rose,” said the Doctor, in a tone of voice that told her he’d been pondering something for a while, “tell me about what happened to you?”
Rose turned to bury half her face in the pillow. “I did.”
She felt the press of his fingers on her arm, gently tracing the bruises the bounty hunter on the Trixan ship had left behind. “Not the whole story,” he said darkly. “Rose, please?”
She breathed into her pillow, feeling hot pinpricks of tears in her eyes. She swallowed hard, forcing them back. No, she wouldn’t cry. She was home now. It was done.
She turned around in his arms and stared at the ceiling, looking anywhere but at his face. “There was never gonna be a free trade agreement. They didn’t care about Great Britain—or planet Earth for that matter. They were after me the whole time.”
“They wanted to profit.”
“Yeah,” Rose said. “At least—I think so. I was really out of it at first. They had me on a whole cocktail of mood enhancers.”
“They drugged you,” the Doctor said quietly, and the anger in his voice chilled her.
“They didn’t seem to know much about humans, though, ‘cos it wore off,” Rose said. “Course, that’s when...”
“It started to hurt,” he finished.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. He hugged her tightly, and Rose pressed her face against his shoulder. She’d been doing her best not to think about those disorienting moments after she woke up, alone, wires cutting into her arms and making her feel like her skin was on fire. Instead she had focused her attention on escaping and finding her way home.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered into her hair. “I should have stopped it. Them.”
“Wasn’t your fault,” she mumbled, eyes burning. “I wouldn’t even let you come with me, remember? I thought it was about fish and chips--the international relations of the future.”
He smiled faintly. Rose tried to smile back, but it was a losing battle and a tear slipped down her cheek. The Doctor hurriedly gathered her up closely, sitting up to lean against the headboard. He rocked her silently as she began to cry against his shoulder.
Rose took a few gasping breaths in a vain attempt to get herself back under control. It was funny, all that time that she had been fighting her way back she had never broken down—not like this. But now that she was home and safe, it was like all her bottled up anguish and fear was demanding to be released.
Finally, her tears tapered off and the Doctor rubbed her back in small circles. “But you got away,” he said, breaking the silence. “Rose, do you have any idea how amazing you are?”
She laughed, and it sounded like a high-pitched whine. “I guess I got lucky.” She paused. “After the drugs wore off, I knew what was happening. I could fight back. And they didn’t want anything happening to me.”
“No,” said the Doctor bitterly. “Not to their free power supply.”
“They’re still out there.” She paused before adding, “They sent someone after me.”
The Doctor’s hands stilled on her back. “The bruises?”
“Present from a bounty hunter,” Rose confirmed. She looked away and in a softer voice added, “I killed him.”
The Doctor’s arms instinctively tightened around her and then he released a sharp breath, “Rose—”
“I had to,” she interrupted. “He’d’ve taken me back to them. But I… I picked up a gun and I shot him, right there in front of me.”
“Rose,” he repeated, placing one hand on her cheek and turning her head around to look at him. He hesitated and then said, “I’m sorry.”
She saw a tinge of regret in his eyes, the one he got when he worried she’d become too much like him or that he’d changed her for the worse. It wasn’t that he blamed her for killing him, she knew. It was that he didn’t want her to have to live with it.
She fought the urge to cry again. “For all I know, they’re still out there,” she continued. “They could still send someone else after me.”
“They won’t get far,” said the Doctor. Rose felt a cold chill again—even though he had his arms around her, it felt like he was a million miles away. “I won’t let them.”
“Doctor,” she said quietly, though she wasn’t quite sure how to finish. She wasn’t sure now was the right time to admonish him for doing his best caveman impression.
“You’re not the only one who…” he began before trailing off. “I sent them a message after they took you.”
“How do you mean?”
“I killed them,” he said. He dragged his gaze up to hers. “The ones who stayed behind on Earth. They won’t come back here.”
She felt pinned in place from the intensity of his gaze. She didn’t know what to say—she wasn’t exactly sorry they were gone, but it broke her heart to think of the Doctor getting so vengeful on her behalf. He thought I was dead, she thought. It was so easy for her to forget. All that time she was gone—and he thought she was dead.
“Rose, that’s not all….” He hesitated and his eyes deepened with a look she hadn’t seen in years, not since he took her to see her planet burn and then told her he was the only one left.
Her mouth felt dry, like someone had stuffed it full of cotton. “What is it?”
His eyes swept over her and then he cradled her face, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Nothing,” he whispered. Then he smiled, and the sadness seemed to melt away. “Rose Tyler, do you have any idea how much I’ve missed you?”
“I think I’ve got a pretty good idea,” she said, smiling back. Without another word, she pressed her lips to his. He kissed her back with that same sort of greedy desperation that he’d shown earlier and Rose wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning into him.
Then she pulled away, wiping at her eyes. “I look disgusting.” She rubbed at her nose with the back of her hand. “I feel disgusting.”
He grabbed her hand. “You look perfect.”
“You’re so full of it,” she said with a laugh. She pulled back the covers. “I’m getting a tissue.”
He clutched at her hand. “Rose?”
He smiled faintly. “Just… don’t go anywhere.”
“I won’t,” she said. She squeezed his hand and then released it. “I promise.”
Jackie Tyler brought Tony by the next afternoon. She’d had the foresight to call ahead, but the Doctor still felt a touch of resentment. He knew they couldn’t spend the rest of their lives in bed, but a part of him felt like Rose might disappear as soon as he let go of her.
Tony clung to Rose tightly, seeming to easily accept her return. The Doctor almost felt jealous of him—Tony was young enough that he didn’t have a full understanding of the finality of death. In his mind, Rose’s return was natural—after all, how could a person truly be gone forever?
“Mum cried a lot,” Tony said, the side of his face pressed against Rose’s stomach. “It was horrible.”
Rose looked over at Jackie uncomfortably, and then patted Tony on the head. “I’m back now,” she said. She crouched down, her hands on Tony’s shoulders. “And I’m not going anywhere for a good long time, yeah?”
They hugged again, and then Tony launched into a story for Rose about the brand new computer Jackie had bought him and its impressive hard-drive. Rose followed the story intently and nodded in all the right places, her hands still firm on Tony’s shoulders.
She didn’t really understand it, the Doctor thought. She didn’t know—couldn’t know—how profoundly her death had affected them. Oh, she could grasp the enormity of it on an intellectual level, but she could only feel the ripples of its aftershocks. She couldn’t know how it had felt to stand at the front of a church and recite her eulogy.
Jackie came up behind him, eyes on both her children. “Never thought I’d see this again,” she said quietly.
He forced himself to nod, once again experiencing the odd feeling that Jackie Tyler was the only person in the world who knew exactly what he was thinking.
She turned and looked at him, her eyes narrowed and scrutinizing. “And how are you, then?”
The Doctor looked at her in surprise. “Me?”
Before he could stammer out a response, Jackie inclined her head in Rose’s direction and carried on, her voice low. “Twice now, this has happened. I know what it’s like. They come back, but it’s not a magic fix.”
The Doctor shifted uncomfortably. “Jackie—“
“Feels like a dream, at first,” she carried on, evidently oblivious to his objections. “You think they’ll disappear if you close your eyes.” She shrugged and turned to her children again, looking far away. “And even when they don’t, you never forget what it was like when they were gone.”
The ever-familiar feeling of guilt squirmed in his stomach. He’d put Jackie through that hell once, for an entire year. Not intentionally, of course—but he had, and then just when she’d got her daughter back he’d whisked Rose away again. Was he always that selfish?
“Jackie, I’m fine,” he said resolutely. “Better than fine. Fantastic. Brilliant. Molto bene!” And then, before Jackie could carry on, he clapped his hands together, earning the attention of Tony and Rose. “So,” he said with forced cheer. “Who’s up for a game of snakes and ladders?”
Tony stared at him like he was a spot of grime on his shoe. Fair enough, the Doctor decided. Snakes and ladders wasn’t likely that exciting to a nine-year-old who spent the majority of his free time playing adrenaline pumping computer games.
He thought for a moment and then dug out the sonic screwdriver, twirling it once in his hand. “The sonic version?” he tried.
Rose looked amused, which was a good sign, and Tony’s eyes widened with intrigue. “What’s the sonic version?” he breathed.
Before he could answer, Jackie cut in with, “Cuppa tea, that’s what we need. Rose, sweetheart, you’ll come help me in the kitchen?”
Rose looked disappointed—like she was quite eager to try out the sonic version of snakes and ladders. But the Doctor inclined his head towards Jackie, silently trying to convey that she should go spend some time with her mother.
“Sure, Mum,” Rose said, mustering a smile. “I think I saw some in a cupboard this morning...”
Once they were gone, the Doctor dug around under the sofa before finally pulling out an old and battered game of snakes and ladders. Tony lurked by the coffee table, wide-eyed and fascinated, clearly ready to reinstate the Doctor to his previous position as Coolest Grown-Up Ever. For the first time, the Doctor found he was uncomfortable with being the object of Tony’s admiration.
“What are you going to do?” Tony asked.
“Well,” began the Doctor as he pulled out the game and brushed the dust from the box. “I am going to give you the illusion that the snakes are alive. It’s more a trick of light than anything else, but...”
He pressed the sonic screwdriver against one of the snakes, and it gave a little slither, its tongue flicking out. Tony jumped and leaned back, his mouth opening slightly.
“How does it work?” asked Tony.
The Doctor blinked, taken aback. “It’s… complicated.”
Tony leaned over the board, eyes wide. “Cool,” he finally said.
While Tony busied himself with fetching the dice and playing pieces from the box, the Doctor looked over his shoulder toward the kitchen. He watched as Rose pulled down four mugs and Jackie rifled through the cupboard.
Finally, Jackie picked out a box of tea and then directed her attention towards Rose. “How are you, sweetheart? Really.”
“I’m all right,” said Rose. Then she sighed. “It’s just... it’s weird. I mean, you all look at me like... like...”
“You died,” Jackie said, in a high-pitched nasally tone of voice the Doctor often associated with getting slapped. “Rose, there was a body and everything! We had a funeral.”
Rose looked a little shocked, but then said, “I’m sorry, Mum. I’m so sorry.”
Jackie dabbed at her eyes with a paper towel. “I know it wasn’t your fault, it’s just....” She forced a smile. “Look at you, though, you came back to us.”
The Doctor swallowed heavily and turned back around. He knew he shouldn’t listen in, but his hearing was still much better than an average human’s. It would have taken a concentrated effort not to hear it.
“Doctor?” Tony said loudly.
The Doctor blinked. “Yes! Sorry! Snakes and ladders, hmm? You roll first, Tony.”
Tony looked slightly suspicious, but took his turn regardless, moving his piece extra quickly to avoid the hissing snakes. The Doctor tuned back into the conversation in the kitchen.
“Look at how skinny you are,” Jackie fussed. “Both of you—fading away to nothing.”
“You’ll have to start coming by for dinner again,” said Jackie briskly. “I tried to get the Doctor to come by while you were gone, but...” Jackie trailed off and then sighed. “He had such a hard time, Rose.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Rose, sounding defensive. There was a pause and then she added, “It’s different now, though, Mum. He’s different. I don’t know what to do for him.”
“Things will sort themselves out, sweetheart. They always have before.”
Tony poked the Doctor in the arm and he snapped to attention, trying to ignore the sudden burning in his eyes. “My turn, is it?” he said. He rolled the dice and got a three; he hit a ladder and his piece climbed up two rows, much to Tony’s displeasure.
Tony screwed up his eyebrows, concentrating on the board like it contained all the secrets to the universe. The Doctor bit the inside of his lip to keep from frowning. He didn’t want to worry Rose. Was he really so transparent?
“Mum,” Rose continued in the kitchen, “it feels like he’s hiding something. I keep thinking that something awful must have happened.”
“You were gone for two months, sweetheart. How would you feel if that had been the Doctor?”
“I’d have been a wreck,” Rose admitted. But then she added, “Mum, what if I’m not enough for him this time? What if I can’t... fix this?”
The Doctor felt a heavy twist of guilt. Now trying desperately to ignore the conversation in the kitchen, he rolled the die. He moved quickly before saying, “Your move.”
Tony grunted in response, eyes furrowing as he calculated his chances of making it to the next ladder before being eaten.
There was silence from the kitchen and the Doctor glanced over. Jackie was hugging Rose tightly, both of them doing their best to hold back tears. Then the kettle whistled and they pulled away. Rose wiped hastily at her cheeks, picking up the mugs.
“Your father says he wants to talk to you,” said Jackie. “He’ll be working from home tomorrow.”
“I suppose I can pop in,” said Rose. “He didn’t want to come by today?”
“Said it was private,” said Jackie, with a shrug. “Urgent Torchwood business.”
The Doctor’s heart sank. He had a few good guesses as to what Pete wanted to talk to Rose about.
They picked up the mugs and the Doctor averted his gaze back to the game, trying to look like he’d been absorbed the whole time. When Rose touched him on the shoulder, he turned to look at her, smiling warmly. She smiled back and held out a mug of tea.
“Two sugars, no milk,” she said. “Just the way you like it.”
“Excellent,” he said. Then he shifted over, patting the spot next to him. “How do you feel about joining me on an exciting safari through backyard ladders as we hurry to avoid being licked by cardboard snakes?”
“I feel pretty good about it,” Rose said, settling down next to him.
He took a sip of tea (it was just the way he liked it) and resolved to make things better between them. It wasn’t fair to Rose that he had been so distant, and after all she’d been through, the last thing he wanted her to have to worry about was how he’d been.
Suddenly feeling cold, he looped his arm around her shoulders and tugged her closer. If, after talking to Pete and learning what he’d done... if she left...
Well, he certainly wouldn’t blame her.
The Doctor made her brunch the next morning.
He cooked quietly; the only noise in the kitchen was the sizzling of the eggs. Rose hunched over the Sunday morning newspaper, trying to ignore the awkward silence between them.
Last night, after Tony and Mum left, she’d almost thought things were getting better. They’d started unpacking her things, getting about halfway through her wardrobe before ending back in bed together. The sex had been more like she remembered it—with both of them laughing and teasing each other instead of the desperate clinging of her first night back.
Now she was beginning to think he’d been putting it on for her sake.
Rose chanced a glance in his direction. The toast popped up, but the Doctor had no reaction. He stared intently into the eggs, prodding them slightly with a spatula, his gaze far away.
Not for the first time, she wished she knew what was going on in his head. Her heart gave a slow ache. Two months was a long time—anything could have happened while she was gone.
He snapped to attention, spatula jumping slightly in his hand before he recovered. “Right, sorry,” he mumbled. He hastily spooned the eggs and toast onto two plates before sitting down at the table, setting the plate down in front of her.
“Thanks,” said Rose. She smiled at him. “I’m starved.”
His eyes softened at her smile. “No problemo,” he said. He paused and then something seemed to occur to him, “They did feed you, right?”
“Yeah,” said Rose, digging into her eggs with gusto. “Mostly through a tube at first, but I got real food again after I escaped. The Trixans were into all that organic stuff—lots of sticks and moss and things, sometimes pasta. They were sort of... foragers. Peaceful. I reckon you would have liked them.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe I’ll see them again one day. I hope so, anyway.”
The Doctor grunted in reply and Rose found herself wondering if he’d even heard her. It was like... like he was just going through the motions of being with her, and she hated feeling like there was nothing she could do to help him.
“What does Pete want to talk to you about?” he said abruptly.
Rose blinked, forkful of egg hovering in front of her mouth. He was suddenly watching her intently. “I dunno,” said Rose. “He just said that it was urgent—that’s all. There’s probably paperwork or something that needs to be filled out now that I’m back among the living again.” She chewed and swallowed the mouthful of egg. “You were eavesdropping yesterday, weren’t you? When Mum and I were talking?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Time Lord hearing,” he said as a non-explanation. “Rose—” he began, “you do know how happy I am to have you back, don’t you?”
Rose looked away and idly pushed the egg around on her plate. “Yeah.”
“It was... difficult when you were gone. I was...” he trailed off and then bowed his head, running a hand through his hair. Seeming frustrated with himself, he said, “I was a wreck.”
Rose waited a few more moments, hoping that he might add something else. He didn’t. Still, she reckoned—it was the first time he’d talked much at all about what he’d done during their separation.
“I’m back now,” she said. For good measure, she added, “And I’m not going anywhere.”
His responding smile was tight, but he nodded. Rose wasn’t sure if she’d actually got through to him, but she stood up to clear their empty plates.
“Wait, Rose—” the Doctor sprung to his feet. He raked his fingers through his hair again and then leaned in and pressed his lips to hers, a long and lingering kiss that took her breath away. Rose instinctively closed her eyes, leaning into him.
“What was that for?” she said after he pulled away.
“I love you.” He tapped her nose. “And I’ll see you later.”
Rose suddenly felt like she didn’t want to be separated from him—not even for a minute. “You could come with me.”
He hesitated, but then he pulled back and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I’ll keep unpacking. I know how many toiletries you have, Rose Tyler.”
“Yeah,” she said, beginning to feel silly. She was just stopping by to see her parents for the afternoon—something she’d done a million times before. “Better get started then. I’ll be home before you even know it.”
After prying herself out of Jackie’s grip (and eating enough food to momentarily satisfy her), Rose knocked on the door to Pete’s home office. She waited for his “Come in!” before opening it.
Pete sat behind a wide, mahogany desk, lamp light illuminating a stack of papers held together with a metal clip. He tapped a pencil against the bottom of the papers, smiling faintly when he saw Rose.
“Good, Rose,” he said. “How are you?”
Rose closed the door behind her. “I’m fine. What’s going on? Mum said you needed to speak to me.”
He gestured in front of him. “Why don’t you take a seat?”
Rose hesitated and then took a seat in the armchair in front of his desk. Now that she was closer to him, she could see that his smile was strained and his eyes were worn and tired.
“So…” she said, keeping her voice light. “Have you got documents for me to sign? I reckon a person can’t just come to life overnight.”
She smiled, but Pete looked tense and on edge. “It’s a little more complicated than that, Rose.”
Pete sighed and then reached into his desk drawer. He pulled out a bottle of scotch and two glasses. He filled them both, handing one to her before taking a sip of his own.
“Dad?” she pressed, holding her own glass between her hands. “What’s going on? Tell me.”
He spoke slowly. “The Doctor didn’t... handle your disappearance well.”
“Yeah,” said Rose. “He told me. He thought I was dead.”
Pete watched her with sad eyes. “Did he tell you anything else?”
“How do you mean?”
“A lot can happen in two months.”
Rose took a sip of scotch, delaying her answer. She winced as it burned down her throat. “He said… he said he killed the people who took me.”
Pete nodded absently, gazing off into space. “It wasn’t just them. Rose, I’ve never see him like that. He was crazed, bordering on insane at times.” He paused and then added, “He worked for Torchwood.”
“He wouldn’t,” said Rose immediately. “You’re joking. He hates Torchwood.”
Pete smiled thinly. “I don’t think he quite knew what else to do with himself.”
“Oh,” Rose said. She peered down into her scotch glass and tried to imagine what it would be like to find the Doctor’s dead body. Wouldn’t she be the same way? Crazed and out of her mind with grief?
She shivered and took another sip of scotch. Being separated from him on the other side of the galaxy had been bad enough.
“That’s not all,” said Pete. “He was furious—I think a part of him wanted to get back at the universe for taking you away.”
Rose nodded mechanically. Her thoughts strayed to the Doctor after the Time War. He could be so cold back then, even cruel, somehow desperate for forgiveness yet resentful of it. He’d worn that battered leather coat like it was a shield, a message to the world.
“Sounds like him,” Rose finally said, smiling faintly.
“He killed eighty innocent people,” Pete said softly. Rose looked up, wide-eyed gaze falling on Pete’s face. “He thought they were invading, and he killed them. No warning, no chances, nothing.”
Rose sat in stunned silence, scotch glass frozen in her hands. Finally, she shook her head. “He wouldn’t do that.”
Pete stood up, pacing his study before his eyes fell on a framed photograph of him and the other Jackie—the one who had been killed by Cybermen. He stilled.
“I covered for him,” Pete said. “God knows what would have happened to him if it got out.”
Rose swallowed past a lump in her throat, denials dying on her lips. Deep down, she knew that Pete wouldn’t lie about something like this. She thought about how the Doctor had said goodbye that morning—with that lingering kiss and his whispered “I love you.” He’d known, Rose thought suddenly. He knew exactly why Pete wanted to talk to her.
He’d... oh—he’d... oh. Tears burned her eyes as she realized he thought it would be the end. It explained his shaking fingers as he slid her wedding ring back on her finger and the desperate way they’d been having sex. She’d thought it was because of their separation, but it was more than that.
It was eighty innocent people.
“It wasn’t his fault,” Rose burst out. “It’s like you said—he thought it was an invasion.”
“Rose,” Pete said heavily. “He should have waited. He didn’t.”
“I don’t care,” Rose said, suddenly furious with Pete. How could he stand there so calmly and say those things about the Doctor? “I’m not gonna just… just… leave him or anything. No way.”
“I know,” Pete said firmly. “I just thought you should know. I imagine this is going to haunt him for some time.”
Rose looked away, feeling guilty for her outburst. “Sorry.”
“I wired money into your account,” Pete continued. “Take him... I don’t know where. Just take him... away.”
Rose felt a flash of anger again. “We have our own money. Dad.”
“Think of it as a compensation package from Torchwood, then.” He paused and in a gentler voice added, “I’m trying to do the right thing here.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t some wayward employee—it’s the Doctor.”
“I know that,” Pete said sharply. “Blimey, Rose... if this was anyone else...” he sighed and sat back down at his desk. “I’ve tried to do my best with him, but there’s no question it’s called my abilities to do this job into question. I should resign.”
He looked so forlorn that Rose felt her defensiveness melt away. “No, Dad—don’t talk like that. Torchwood needs you. You’re the best.”
She gave him a weak smile and he hesitated before returning it. “Thanks,” he said absently.
Rose searched around for something to say. “So a vacation,” she said brightly. “Exactly how long are we talking?”
“Six months? A year? Two years?” Pete said with a smile. “Think of it as a second honeymoon. Travel the world. Just... remember to phone your mother every week, will you?”
“Got it,” said Rose. She set down her scotch glass and then stood up, glancing towards the door hesitantly. She felt like she should say something else. She finally settled on, “The Doctor does love travelling.”
Pete didn’t smile. “Talk to him, Rose,” he said, fixing her with an urgent stare. “Help him face up to what he’s done. Guilt like that... it will eat away at him.”
“I will,” Rose said, and her voice didn’t waiver. Then, because it needed to be said, she added, “You’re going to keep this quiet, yeah? Forever?”
“I give you my word.”
“Okay. Good.” She moved to the door, and then said, “Thanks, Dad. For everything.”
Without waiting for a reply, she opened the office door and stepped through it.
It was dark by the time Rose returned to the flat.
“Doctor?” she called, closing the door behind her. She breathed into the stillness of the hallway and for one panicked second found herself thinking that he was gone.
Then he called, “Here!”
Rose slumped against the door in relief. Then, tossing her keys onto the side table, she followed the voice to the living room. She waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness and could just make out his shape on the sofa.
She swallowed hard. “How come you’re sitting in the dark?”
He didn’t reply and Rose felt her way forward. She banged her leg against the coffee table, and then gingerly sat down on the opposite edge of the sofa. There, she folded her hands in her lap, turning to face him. She still couldn’t see him very well and he didn’t look in her direction.
She decided to jump right in. “Dad told me about what happened.”
There was a heavy silence and the Doctor shifted slightly, resting his elbows on his knees. “Oh?” he said.
“I don’t care,” Rose blurted. She sensed more than saw him turning to look at her. “No, that didn’t come out right. I just... I wish I had been there for you.”
“Rose,” he said, and there was a heaviness and despair in him she hadn’t seen for years—not since he regenerated. She remembered with sudden, perfect clarity what he had been like back then. She could see the way his shoulders would stiffen and he would pierce her with that steady unflinching state. That stare meant he might threaten to take her back home.
But she wasn’t nineteen and he wasn’t that man anymore.
“Tell me about what happened,” she said.
He sprung up from the sofa, blending into the shadows of their living room. “Rose, don’t,” he said, with an unspoken warning.
“Tell me,” Rose demanded. “It doesn’t matter what you did, but just... just tell me.”
He moved to the window, pulling back the drapes to look out at the city below them. “There were ships all over the night sky,” he said. “They wouldn’t respond to our communications.” He paused. “I thought it was an invasion.”
He fell silent, still staring out the window. Rose’s heartbeat rung in her ears, but she pushed on. “It’s a bit rash, though, shooting them down,” she said. “It doesn’t sound like you.”
“No. I wasn’t myself.” He turned around and she could just make out the pale silhouette of his face from the lights streaming in through the window. “I was... I was furious—at you, at the universe, but mostly at myself. I should have known, Rose. Nine-hundred years of alien knowledge and for what? They killed you and I did nothing. I didn’t even know.” He paused. “And then... then they invaded. So I killed them.”
He fell silent. Without another word, Rose moved up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing her face into his back. She felt him shudder and then he turned around, burying his face in her shoulder and hugging her tightly.
“You should have told me,” Rose said. “You should have.”
“I couldn’t,” he whispered. “I just... I couldn’t.”
She wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. She was his wife. That’s what married people did—they told each other the important things no matter how bad or unpleasant they were.
Instead she held him and said, “We’re gonna make it through this. I promise.”
He didn’t respond right away and it frightened her. If there was one thing she knew—while trapped in another universe or on the other side of the galaxy—it was that she believed in them. She’d thought the Doctor felt the same way.
Finally, he said, “What if it happens again?”
She pulled away, feeling panic twist inside of her again. Swallowing it down, she went to flick on the lights, buying herself time to think. Squinting under the bright glare of the overhead lamp, she turned back to the Doctor. “How do you mean?”
He gestured vaguely at the air and then shoved his hands in his pockets, focusing on the wall behind her shoulder. “What if I lost you, Rose? For good? I don't know if you've noticed, but my coping mechanisms leave something to be desired.”
“You're not going to.”
The Doctor looked frustrated. “You can’t make that promise.”
“I know, but...” Rose searched for something to say, beginning to feel desperate. “Isn’t it worth it, Doctor? What we have?” She swallowed. “Isn’t it?”
He met her gaze, silent. He hesitated for what seemed to Rose to be an eternity, and then said, “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”
Rose breathed out in relief. “Okay. Good.”
A heavy silence fell and Rose shifted awkwardly. She didn’t know what else to say. Finally, she summoned up a smile and said, “Is there anything else I should know?”
“No, I don’t think...” the Doctor glanced around, eyes falling on the abandoned cable line in the corner. “I did destroy the television set.”
Rose managed a shaky laugh. “Right. Grounds for divorce, that is.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Rose wished she could take them back. His gaze snapped back to hers, entire body tensing.
“I didn’t mean...” she began.
“Yeah, I know,” said the Doctor. “It’s fine.”
It didn’t sound like it was fine. Rose stared at him in indecision, biting down on her lip. She wished there was some way she could make it better for him.
“I’d understand if you wanted to leave,” he said abruptly. “I’m not even sure I want to be around me anymore.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Rose said, trying to be brisk but her voice sounded thick. “I didn’t fight my way across the galaxy just to turn around and leave. I promised forever, yeah?”
The Doctor still seemed doubtful. “Yeah.”
Rose took a step closer to him and took his hand. “Listen, I’m not saying that it was right what happened—but it did, and I’m sorry that you had to go through that. Doesn’t change what I feel for you, though, yeah? Nothing could.”
He took that in quietly. “Yeah—thanks,” he said. Then, like it was a tremendous effort to do so, he continued, “I see them, Rose. Every day. Oh, not specifically them—I don’t even know where they were from or what species they were. But I still see them. Eighty people crying out, all of them with families who will never see them again... who will always wonder. And I destroyed them.” He closed his eyes and shook his head, and when he spoke again it was a whisper. "Innocent people, and they weren't even..." He trailed off, letting out a shaky breath. "I've never killed like that before, not innocent people, not for no reason other than my own..." With a frustrated sigh, he scrubbed as at his face with his hands. He was silent for a moment, face hidden, and then he dropped his arms to his sides and looked at her miserably. "Nine hundred years, Rose, and this -- this is the most unforgivable thing I've ever done."
Rose didn’t know what to say. For the first time, she had a sense of the immense anguish the Doctor must have been carrying around with him. How had he stood it, day after day?
"I'm sorry," she said and it felt like the most useless phrase she'd ever uttered. "Doctor, I am so sorry."
He scrubbed his hands over his face again and then sat back down on the sofa, hunched over the coffee table. He didn't say anything--he barely moved. He just sat there, body tense, staring somewhere far away.
Rose fought the urge to break down into hysterics. He needed her. He'd been there for her when she needed him--now it was her turn.
Without uttering anything else (what could she say?), she sat down next to him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. To her relief, he moved into her arms almost immediately, pressing his face against her neck. She rubbed his back in slow circles, occasionally whispering soothing platitudes. ("It's going to be okay, I promise.")
She held him for a very long time.
It was a few hours later that she brought up Pete's suggestion that they go travelling. She and the Doctor were sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, each of them nursing a cup of tea. Even though the dark circles under his eyes belied his exhaustion, Rose felt like she had his full attention for the first time in days.
She knew that she couldn't make things better overnight, but she felt a flare of hope. He'd talked to her--for the Doctor, that was a huge first step. If he needed a shove in the right direction, so be it.
"I've been thinking," she said abruptly, thumbing the rim of her cup, "and it looks to me like you've got two options. One, you can lock yourself away from everyone and hide from the world so you can't harm anyone else but you'll never do any good for anyone, either." She took a deep breath and lifted her eyes to meet his. "Or two, you accept that you made a terrible mistake and do everything in your power to make up for it. What do you think?"
The Doctor watched her with his mouth open but didn't make a sound.
“We can’t bring them back," she went on, "but we can do other things. Help other people. And maybe one day it won’t hurt so much. You just need...”
“Time?” the Doctor suggested bitterly.
“That’s how we humans cope," Rose said simply. She shrugged. "It's up to you."
The Doctor nodded like he accepted that and then took a sip of tea. "What do you have in mind?"
"Pete gave me some money."
The Doctor snorted. "Good old Pete. Looking out for his daughter."
Rose ignored him. "I thought I might go travel the world."
He sounded intrigued. "Travel the world?"
"Yeah," she said. She gave him a real smile and leaned forward across the table. "Might get lonely, though. I could use a companion. Are you busy?"
"Am I..." he started before sobering. "Rose Tyler, I'd love nothing more than travelling the world with you."
The way he was looking at her made her heart flutter. “No TARDIS, so we’ll be stuck going the human way. But we’ve got to start somewhere. What d’you think?”
“I think it sounds like just the thing we need. Have you got a plan?”
“Nope,” she said, taking a sip of tea. Beneath the table, she nudged his foot with hers. “I reckon this is something we’re going to have to figure out as we go along.”