A/N: Hi guys, I know I haven't updated in a million years but I started writing again recently and it was bothering me that this story was incomplete! Thanks for reading (especially if you started reading this like a year ago and see this update and keep reading haha)!
Rose's breathing was the only sound in the medical bay as the Doctor continued to analyze the results of her x-ray, looking for any detail, any pixel that could provide an insight on how to help her. He took off his glasses and scrubbed a hand over his face, looking over at her.
She looked so small as she lay there on her side. Everything about her felt different. He was more aware of her mind, too, now that she was a Time Lady. He'd felt her thoughts brush up against his more than once, but he'd resisted the temptation to look.
"Any luck, Doc?" Jack asked, entering the room and grabbing him on the shoulder.
The Doctor winced. "You scared me. And no, not yet." His entire body ached, but he knew he had to keep working. He got the most done when she was sleeping, and he was starting to realize that this wouldn't be an easy problem to solve. Normally he was up to a challenge, but normally the challenge didn't have such dire consequences.
Jack still didn't know about any of this. It wasn't fair.
"Jack, you should know… Rose's condition is worse than you think."
The man sat down on his desk, shaking his head. "What do you mean it's worse than I think? I thought you said she was getting better?"
"She is, in a way, but…"
Rose stirred, rolling onto her back and yawning. Her fingers reached up to try and brush through her tangled hair, but after a moment she appeared to give up. "Morning."
The Doctor's voice was thick. "Good morning."
"Morning, Rosie," Jack greeted. "Doctor, can I speak with you outside?"
He wasn't sure how to respond - partially because he didn't want to leave Rose and partially because he wasn't sure that her condition was his secret to share. Rose should be the one to tell him, he figured. "That's alright, Jack," he said.
Jack didn't look appeased, but he stood anyways. "We'll talk later, then?"
"Yeah, we'll talk later," the Doctor promised, though there was no weight behind his words. He figured Jack knew that.
Rose sat up, rubbing at her forehead. "Talk about what?"
There was internal conflict he'd been dealing with since he'd found out about her disease - if 'disease' was even the right word. Part of him was tempted to run away from the problem, but the other half of him continually reminded its cowardly counterpart that this was Rose Tyler. He couldn't possibly run away from Rose Tyler.
And yet she was dying in front of him. Rose coughed into her elbow and avoided his eyes, and he wondered if she could see the turmoil behind his eyes. He'd have to hide it as best as he could, for her own sake.
What he'd been doing lately was diving into the work. Instead of pondering how to escape the situation, he faced it head on, searching and testing and scanning and reading everything he could. And yet nothing had worked so far, and though it had only been a few days, it was still discouraging.
"1851 today, yeah?" she asked, offering him a smile.
This time, he couldn't even force himself to smile. He'd promised her that they'd travel today, but there was nothing he wanted to do less in the world than let her leave this medical bay. He just stared at her blankly, still wondering if she'd disappear at any moment, still wondering if she was real.
Maybe it was all a dream.
Rose cleared her throat. "Doctor?"
He rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know if today is best. I've got a lot to do."
She didn't say anything, just nodded and looked down at her lap, wringing her hands together. She hadn't even seen the TARDIS yet, he'd realized. Seen her old room, anything like that.
It was exactly the way she'd left it - he hadn't touched a thing, though he had gone in their a few times. He understood the way she felt, having been away for so long and being cooped up in the Torchwood hub instead of exploring the universe.
"Maybe a short trip," he offered, regretting the words the moment they left his lips.
Rose looked up at him, hopeful. "Yeah?"
He realized just how much her smile meant to him, just how much he'd go through to see that smile. He'd walk on broken glass. "Yeah."
"Victorian London," she mused, resting her hand on his arm. "Think there'll be danger?"
"With you around? Most likely."
Rose laughed and it was both painful and cathartic for him to hear, his mind threatening to collapse in on itself if he kept thinking about her cough, her two hearts, her sickness, his feelings for her. Her hand was still on his arm and he was hyperaware of every inch of contact. Now that she was a Time Lady, he figured maybe she was, too.
"Should we go?" Rose asked, swinging her legs over the side of the bed.
He glanced back at the makeshift desk he'd set up in the corner, at the piles of papers and sticky notes and books. There were drawings, graphs, photos. His body ached with exhaustion, he wondered how long it had been since he'd first come to Torchwood. Days, weeks, centuries?
Rose slipped her hand down his arm and laced their fingers together, squeezing. Still a perfect fit. "Doctor, thank you for trying so hard. But you've gotta take a break at some point, yeah? We can't be stuck in here forever."
We could, he wanted to point out. You'd be safer, I might be able to find a cure, and then could travel the stars together. We could travel anywhere for as long as we wanted.
She rolled her eyes and tugged him down to sit beside her. Then she moved closer to him, her thigh pressing against his own. "C'mon, Victorian London. I know you - and I know you can't resist."
His mouth was dry as he glanced down at her leg pressed against his own. Perhaps they were both thinking about 'resist' in a different context. "Maybe in a few hours? Rose, if I'm being honest, I haven't had a breakthrough yet about your…" He made a vague hand gesture.
Rose seemed to understand - she had always understood him. It was something he could count on, like Earth's sun rising in the east. "You're worrying too much."
No, he wanted to argue, she was worrying far, far too little. In fact, her calmness about the entire situation shook him. What was she thinking? Did she not realize what was happening to her in this moment, in this second?
Her hand left his - he felt the absence like a bad head cold - and moved up to cup his cheek. "I've missed you, you know."
"I've missed you, too," he admitted without a thought, focused on keeping his eyes open and not letting himself succumb to her touch, to the way it made him feel.
"Do you trust me still?" Rose asked, searching his eyes.
He wasn't sure. It was an odd mixture of trust and distrust. She'd lied to him about her own condition, and yet if he had to put his own life in anybody's hands…
"Of course I trust you."
She brushed her thumb along the line of his jaw. "Then can we go to the TARDIS? I've missed her."
Every last shred of logic in his head told him to say no, to keep researching, to keep searching for a cure. And yet the power of Rose Tyler's voice seemed to completely overpower any logic, kicking it to the curb. "Okay, let's go."
Her eyes lit up. "Really?"
"She has missed you, too."
They said goodbye to the others, except for Donna and Martha, who had wanted to come with them. The Doctor had gathered his notes and shoved them into the TARDIS medical bay before he left, already thinking about what other tests he could perform in order to find results.
Jack gave him a tight hug, clapping him on the back. "Don't be a stranger, Doc."
"We'll come back," Rose promised before Jack wrapped her in a hug as well.
The Doctor watched as Jack clung to her tightly, his chin resting on top of the head. In the past, the sight may have made him uncomfortable, but now he just feels pity. Jack still didn't know. And judging by the look in Jack's eyes, the anomaly still wanted to ask, but for whatever reason he was holding back.
They step into the TARDIS and wave goodbye, shutting the doors. Rose is already heading down the hallway. "I'm gonna go see my old room."
He comes with her without a word, leaving Donna and Martha in the console room. Rose arrives at her beige door, her fingers drifting over the wood before turning the golden knob and looking around inside.
"It hasn't changed," she comments, sounding surprised.
The Doctor leaned against the doorway, watching her. "Did you think I'd rummage through it?"
She doesn't answer that, just sits down on her pink bedspread and feels the soft covers. "I've missed this so much."
Her voice is small and her eyes move up to meet his, portraying a type of fear that he's seen before, the kind that he never wants to see again. Before he can think he's sitting beside her, their knees touching.
Rose looks around. "She feels different. It's like she's in my head."
"She has always been in your head, but now it feels more prominent. It's because you're a Time Lady, technically," he says.
She places her hand on her chest, feeling her two hearts. "Still feels weird."
He takes her hand in his and moves it to his own chest. "We're matching, though."
"We are matching," Rose confirms, grinning at him now, though there's still a fragility to her features, as if she's teetering on the edge between happiness and despair.
He can certainly relate to that feeling. She laces their fingers, her thumb brushing against his. It's an all too familiar action and he wonders about her. Wonders about everything. "Rose, you've hardly told me anything about Pete's World," he points out.
Rose smiles. "I've got a little brother, now. Tony Tyler."
"Tony Tyler," he repeats. "What's he like?"
"He's brilliant. Energetic and talkative and always running all over the place… Reminds me of you, actually."
The Doctor isn't sure what to say to that - he remembers that she probably won't see Tony again. Everything feels different with her, he wishes things could just go back to the way things had been, smoother, easier. But now she's sick and he's stressed out of his mind and Donna and Martha are still waiting in the console room for them, probably wondering what's happening by now…
He searches her eyes for answers, but they offer none.
Her hand is still on top of his and she squeezes his fingers, trying to get his attention. "Are you alright?"
He's really not. No, scratch that, he's absolutely not, because she's dying and yet here they are, about to go travel around Victorian London because she's acting like everything's fine and he doesn't know what is going through that head of hers. What he would give to just read her thoughts, to figure out how best to help her, how best to make her happy. All he has ever wanted was her happiness.
"I'm always alright," he answers.
Then she cups his cheek again, and it takes all of his willpower not to shut his eyes, not to lean into her touch and let her comfort him in the way that only she knew how. "We both know that's not true."
Instead, he shifts away from her touch, his heart breaking as the light leaves her eyes, as she brings her hand back down to her lap. "I just don't know about…" He makes a gesture for the room, the TARDIS, the situation, everything, "this."
Rose lets out a sigh, falling backwards on the bed so that she's facing the ceiling, her legs stretched out. His mind is taken back to lazy Sunday mornings, him dragging her out of bed for a day of movies, a day of console repairs. Sometimes it was the little things he had missed the most, not just the grand adventures. "I know - I'm sorry."
"None of this is your fault," he promises.
"I'm the one who met Rassilon, I'm the one who came here even though I knew…" Her voice trails off and he wishes she'd finish her sentence, wishes she'd talk to him, give him any sort of insight.
He wonders how to make her feel better, it's far more difficult to do when he doesn't feel great himself. Normally it's chips or a long hug, but this can't seem to be fixed. "You didn't know," he points out. "That you'd meet Rassilon. And I'm glad you came here."
Rose is looking at him, blonde hair spread out underneath her. "Travel will help both of us, yeah? Should we get going?"
He agrees grudgingly, taking her hand and leading her to the console room, where Donna and Martha were still waiting, talking about something. "Well if it isn't the two lovebirds," Donna jokes, grinning at them.
The Doctor felt sick. He wanted… He wasn't sure what he wanted. Something. "So, London 1851? That's when and where the first international chess tournament took place, you know. If it wasn't for the sake of the timeline, I'd participate." He grins at them, but there's no meaning behind it.
He wonders if they can tell. Martha smiles back at him. "Should we get dressed for the occasion?"
Donna and Rose agree, and the three women walk towards the TARDIS's wardrobe. He follows, hands shoved in his pockets. Rose raises an eyebrow at him. "You gonna watch us get dressed, Doctor?"
He freezes in place and his cheeks flush. "No, I was going to - er - no. That was not… I'm not…" He imagines watching Rose get dressed, watching her pull her shirt over her head to reveal a lacy bra, giving him that tongue-in-teeth smile that drove him mad without failure.
The women just laugh at him, leaving him standing in the hallway, waiting awkwardly. He supposes his pinstriped suit will just have to do. It takes him a moment to realize that Rose had purely been teasing him and that he'd given her the exact reaction that she'd wanted.
A while later, they return from the wardrobe, all dressed in formal gowns. They're all of a similar style, the ends of the dresses wide and circular, the middle a tight corset. Martha's is forest green, Donna's is orange, and Rose's is…
He tries not to gape, tries to turn his eyes away, but there's no point. It's a crimson red, her lipstick matching, and she's wearing black gloves that reveal just a small strip of her forearm. There's a small, golden necklace with an intricate design around her neck and black high heels that are just hardly visible under the dress. He's surprised by the amount of cleavage that the dress shows, and he suddenly realizes that he has been staring.
"You're just gonna wear your suit?" Donna asked, before glancing up and noticing his gaze. "Oh."
Rose didn't seem to notice, her hands focused on smoothing down the sides of the dress and adjusting the corset. "This thing is kinda tight," she notes.
He clears his throat and looks away, knowing that Martha and Donna had caught him ogling. He rubs the back of his neck, trying to seem nonchalant. "I think I'll fit in just fine. Most men back then wore hats, but I'm not much for hats, personally."
"Loves his hair too much," Rose pointed out, grinning.
Her red lipstick contrasted with her white teeth, her eyes glimmering in the light. He feels his hearts stop in his chest and wonders how he's lived without her so long. A small voice in his head reminds him that he may have to live without her in the future.
Martha is giving him a knowing smile and he winces. He'd been staring again, hadn't he?
Then he remembers that Rose had spoken. "Don't pretend you don't love my hair, Rose Tyler," he teases.
She ruffles his hair, standing on her tippy toes to reach. "Can't deny that."
He feels himself grinning and doesn't care if Donna sees, despite the jokes he knows that she'll make later. And it's a bad idea, letting Rose go out into Victorian London, but he had a list of reasons why it was a bad idea and as he watches her in that red dress it's hard to remember even one of them…
"You coming, spaceman?" Donna asks.
The Doctor clears his throat and catches up to them. "So in London around 1851, we have the Great Exhibit, which was an industrial exposition of all the nations' technology. Then we also have the first international chess tournament, won by Adolf Anderssen of Germany."
"Think you could beat him?" Martha asks.
"No - I know I could."
Rose turns and rolls her eyes at him, and he's grinning as they enter the console room, his hands moving to the levers and buttons and directing them towards their intended time and place. "Gonna go show off your chess moves?"
There's a million retorts he'd give her if they were alone, but with Martha and Donna here, none of them quite feel appropriate. "Of course," he answers instead.
When they finally land, Rose runs over to the door and swings it open, taking in a breath of fresh air. Martha and Donna follow quickly behind her, gazing at the streets. There are so many colors, so much life that isn't portrayed in the photographs of the time. Horses and buggies fill the roads, people are milling about the streets, and the women blend right in in their dresses.
The Doctor shoves his hands in his pockets as they walk out, a couple of people giving the police box funny looks before moving on with their lives. "What do you think?" he asks.
"It's beautiful," Donna answers, spotting a shop across the street. "Oh, we've got to check out that boutique."
Martha glances at the Doctor, then Rose, then grabs Donna's arm. "I'll go with you!"
Rose is blushing, but he can't quite tell why. He rubs the back of his neck, glancing at the two women who have already crossed the street, entering the boutique and fawning over every item. "I guess it's just us, then," she says, and there's something to her tone…
"Yep," he responds, popping the 'p'. "Where to, Rose Tyler?"
She places her gloved hand in his bare one, and as beautiful as she looks, he wishes that she wasn't wearing a glove, that it was his fingers brushing against her own. "I dunno, I just wanna explore another time. I've missed this so much."
They begin walking down the street. She ends up deciding to lace her arm with his instead, matching the other couples they walk past.
Eventually, they arrive at a small crowd surrounding a building. "It's the chess tournament," he informs her, grinning.
"All of these people are here for the chess tournament?"
"A lot of upper class citizens were interested in chess around this time," he informs her, pulling his psychic paper out of his pocket. "Ready to see me compete?"
Rose rolls her eyes. "Won't you mess up history when you win the first international chess tournament?"
He hums. "That's a good point. Maybe I'll lose in the semifinals."
Of course, the moment they enter the building he becomes interested in a particular chess table—"I've seen this chess table before, it's famous, Rose!"—and they're promptly thrown into a prison.
"I'll be honest, I've missed this part, too," Rose tells him as they sit beside each other in a small holding cell. "Very typical."
He stretches out his legs, placing his hands behind his head. "I was just curious," he complains, though she's smiling, and he finds himself returning the look. "It's alright, Donna and Martha will have us out of here in no time."