The last thing he remembered before all hell broke loose was her screaming his name.
Time. Complicated and dangerous, it embodied him in a way that nothing else could. The steady and yet unpredictable pulse of its lifeblood flowed freely through his veins and gave him a knowledge and wisdom that most beings in the universe could never hope to grasp. Everything, anything, and nothing – these were merely impressions subject to manipulation at a whim. Yet even with this intrinsic capacity for a consciousness that most could never experience, Time sometimes denied even the Time Lord an answer to the most ancient question in the universe: why?
He did not know what happened.
Consciousness returned to him slowly, pain shooting through his skull as he opened his eyes and tried to make sense of the scene that blearily started to materialize before him. Specks of light darted about his visual plane for a few moments, and he grimaced. Whatever he had struck got its licks in more than adequately. More than likely there would be after effects and none of them too pleasant. Propping himself on an elbow, he reached up felt the knot forming on the back of his head, and his fingers detected something warm and sticky. The metallic scent assaulting his olfactory system told him enough.
As his sight began to clear, he noticed first the darkness. The familiar, warm lighting in the TARDIS had dimmed almost completely. His eyes widened, sudden alarm coursing through his body as he registered the drop in temperature that accompanied the shadows. But the feeling subsided enough when he registered the characteristic hum of his ship resonating through the black. She was alive. If the TARDIS lived, they lived – at least for the time being.
Too quickly for one who had received a decent smack on the head, he shot upright and mentally cursed the impulsiveness as his head swam and his vision darkened, obscuring even more the shapes he hoped to make out. For a moment he stilled and made himself take a few deep breaths, willing his eyes and head to cooperate. The dizziness subsided, and he began to detect the dark but familiar shapes in the ship.
"Rose?" he called out sharply. It was pointless to try and mask the concern – almost panic – in his voice. His hands began groping along the floor grates in hope that he would find her close.
A few moments later he heard the sound of a body shifting and an irritated grumble. He smiled to himself, relieved. Grumbling was good.
"Rose, where are you?"
"Over here," she groused. "By the console." Her voice was rough, gravelly.
The lack of lighting made it difficult to make out the console in the center of the ship, but he groped along the grates toward the sound of her voice, hesitant to stand and cause another wave of vertigo. Between his aching body and swimming vision, it was going to be no small feat to find her in the darkness. He found himself almost amused by the uncommon event of his incapacitation, though certainly the novelty would wear off soon enough as the injury settled in.
"Keep talking, Rose, so I can find you."
She snorted in the dark. "Fancy a game of hide-and-seek?"
He grinned in the darkness. If her humor was any indication, Rose would be just fine. And by the sound of things, he was not far from her. "Rose Tyler, you're thinking of games at a time like this? TARDIS stops with no explanation in the middle of the vortex, and you want to revert back to primary school?"
"Got to take the advantage while I have it, Doctor." She paused for a moment, her voice giving away her nervousness. "It's getting quite dark."
Later, after making sure she really was alright and seeing to his own needs, he would have time to figure out what had happened. The sudden halt in the middle of the time vortex was at the very least worrying, crossing ever so steadily into troubling as he noticed the temperature dipping a bit more and the shadows disappearing into nothing but dark. The same steady hum his ship always had was the only assurance that they may not quite yet be out of luck.
"Isn't that cheating?" he ground out as he pulled himself toward her, doing his best to tease her though his head was splitting and body protesting every movement.
Rose did not respond right away, and he frowned.
"Doctor, you alright?"
Concern. Fear. He scowled in the blackness, mentally criticizing his failed efforts to conceal that he had been injured.
"I'm fine, Rose."
Her silence followed for a few moments, and he knew that she did not believe him. But neither did she push it, instead continuing the banter that she knew he preferred.
"Figure I've a bit of a head start on this one."
In the next moment she felt a hand on her arm. She startled, the dark having allowed him to sneak up quite well, but then breathed a sigh of relief. "Or not."
"Or not," he repeated, pulling her to him. "Are you all right?"
She could have laughed, the hug turning quickly into a quest for scrapes and bruises. He groped along in the dark, his hands finding their way into her hair to feel her skull before sliding down to cup her face as his fingers and thumbs brushed over its surface seeking out any injury. Sure and deft, they traced down her neck to her shoulders and then the length of her arms and along her back. Her breath caught for a moment when he swept over her stomach, but she grasped his wrists gently and lowered his hands before his fervor to make sure she was uninjured took the place of appreciation for personal boundaries.
"I'm okay, Doctor. Really."
"Can you move your legs?" he asked, concern still evident in his voice.
She nodded, though he probably could not see the acknowledgement in the dark. "Painlessly."
All light suddenly went out, but the gentle vibrations of the TARDIS remained.
He grit his teeth and pushed down the unease brought by the loss of what little light they had. "Blood? How hard did you hit your head?"
Before she could respond, he had pulled her to him again, his face in her hair as he inhaled, clearly checking that she had indeed not cut herself. And then it was her turn to be concerned. While she may have had a few scrapes and bruises, there was no mistaking the scent of blood that rolled off of him. "I think I'm in better shape than you are."
Rose felt him exhale and release his grip on her. The rustle of clothes and sound of settling on the grate alerted her to the fact that he had lain down.
"That you are, Rose. At least I think." He paused, his hands coming up to rub his aching temples. "Well, we're in a right mess."
"Us? No…" He could hear grin though he could not see it, her humor and wry sarcasm welcome in the circumstances.
He sat up again, slowly, and begrudgingly had to admit that he needed help when the small specks of light flashed back into his vision. "We need to get to the library." He exhaled and winced as he eased himself up more. "But I am going to need your help to get there."
He heard rather than saw her stand in the darkness and felt her reach out and grasp his arms. Slowly, he allowed her to help him up, fighting through the wave of dizziness until he was up on his feet with an arm over her shoulder for support.
"Alright," Rose said, wrapping an arm about his waist, "How are we going to find the library with no light? Can't see anything, and it doesn't sound like you need to take another tumble."
"Right pocket," he winced, and she moved the hand around his waist down, reached in the pocket, and pulled out the sonic. She let go of supporting him long enough to place it directly in his hand, quickly tucking herself back under his frame. Even in that short time he could not hide his unsteadiness on his feet.
The little blue light whirred to life, its eerie little glow weakly illuminating the disaster that was now the console room. Parts and wires hung loose, having been ripped up by the impact of the sudden stop. The Doctor was going to have a time of fixing it all. Rose realized she had lucked out. She was only a few feet from where she had been standing. The Doctor, however, had been thrown quite a distance; he had been next to her.
"Right. Let's go then," she forced cheerily.
They went slowly, the Doctor suffering wave after wave of lightheadedness and Rose struggling to support his significantly taller frame. A couple of times the sonic went out as his grip weakened and slipped. Rose would freeze, hesitant to take another step until the dim light came back on for fear of losing her footing and taking them both down, more worried about what another fall would do to the Doctor than her own well-being. One time he lost consciousness. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to lose the sonic in the pitch-black as his grip gave way and send Rose into a panic as she tried to suddenly ease him safely to the floor, not knowing where exactly she was placing him.
Once she got him down, she began crawling about on her hands and knees, blindly fumbling about in hopes that she would find their only hope for light. Luck was on her side and it had landed without rolling much. She found it just a few feet from the Doctor and quickly slipped it back into his hand, pulling him up as quickly as she safely could. He leaned on her more now.
Despite their mishaps along the way, they managed to make it to the library without too much more trouble. The screwdriver flickered a bit as his grip again weakened. Rose tripped once, crying out. But she somehow managed to keep them both on their feet when she did, catching herself with one hand against a doorframe while her body cushioned his loss of balance against her. Her fingers gripped wood and she breathed a sigh of relief. The library.
At least the timing was good if she were going to trip.
"Library," she muttered, righting them both. "What now?"
"Leave me here," he whispered, disentangling himself from her support. He leaned and grasped the frame, easing his body against it as Rose moved out of the way. "There's wood in the fireplace. Matches above on the mantle. Need to start—" he paused for a moment and grit his teeth as the hand holding the sonic came to push against his left temple.
Even in the faint light Rose could see the pain etched on his face. She knew he was not in the best of shape, but it was worse than she had previously realized.
"I'm fine." His voice was quiet, shaky. "I'm fine, Rose."
But in that next moment searing pain shot again through his head as his vision darkened. Nausea and dizziness washed over him, and for the second time that day the last thing he remembered was Rose screaming his name.
A/N: It really does make my day when you leave a review!