Becoming

"I can't let you back in."

"What're you talking about?" Rose shook her head, bewildered. Still the Doctor stood in the door of the TARDIS, arms folded, expression unreadable.

"I've done enough damage, but you're staying here now. It's not where you belong, but it's the best I can do."

"This is getting stupid," muttered Rose, half-tempted to stamp her feet.

The Doctor shook his head. "Nah. I'm the stupid one. Taking you with me...you were so...so...no, you stay here. I just felt that I should say goodbye, anyway. See you round." He stepped away, one hand on the door, but Rose rushed forward with a yell.

"No! NO! You can't just leave, not without telling me why, damn it! What have I done?" She grabbed his arm, her grip unsteady on the leather and stared into his eyes. "What have I done?" she whispered.

He blinked, and she was sure she saw surprise. He took her hands gently and pushed them away from him. "This is cruel," he hissed. But though he was looking at her, she didn't think that he was speaking to her. Rose shivered and stepped away, not afraid, but not understanding, and that was worse.

The Doctor watched her with very alien eyes.

"Clive, Raffalo, Gwenyth."

"I don't understand."

"They're all dead."

"I know that!" she cried. "I was there, Doctor! Remember?"

He nodded. "Yes, I do."

"I'm sorry, am I missing something here? Cause I feel like I am. We've just saved the world, again, and you want to throw me out of the TARDIS and you're not telling me why...like I should already know." She swallowed, tried to think. She didn't want to leave, not yet, not now. The Doctor needed her, and she needed space, needed to see what was out there. He couldn't dump her here, not when there was so much more out there, and she'd barely tasted it. He couldn't. Couldn't. "Please, Doctor," she tried. "Please, just tell me."

"You killed them." He wasn't joking.

"What?"

"You're not Rose Tyler, Rose Tyler, not much of her anyway, you just think you are."

"No, no..." She shook her head. Half-turned away, half-turned back. He wasn't smiling, wasn't admitting this was some stupid, stupid joke. "I know who I am, Doctor." She tapped her head. "I know who I am, and I am Rose, alright?"

"Sorry." He shook his head.

Humour him, she decided. Anything to stop him leaving. Even if he'd gone mad. Cause then he'd definitely need her help, wouldn't he? "Okay, so who am I then?"

"Death," he told her.

"You can't...you can't be serious..." Her voice was giving out on her. Panic rose in her throat, and she could feel hot tears pricking her eyes. Loud, hot drums thumping in her ears, and everything was starting to look very far away indeed. Any moment now, any moment and she'd be a whimpering wreck on the tarmac. If she had to convince him he was wrong, she had to do it now. "How do you know, Doctor? Death...it's not a real thing, is it?" Think, Rose, school, RE had something about this, didn't it? "It's like an abstract concept."

"Mostly," the Doctor said. "But sometimes she gets bored. Likes to come down to our level and have a little wander around. This time she chose Rose."

"But how did I...she...I didn't kill those people, alright?"

"You spoke to them alone."

"Yeah, since when's that a crime?"

"Alone with Death. They were doomed."

"What about you! We've been alone loads of times. For ages! I've spoken to you for hours. You're not dead, Doctor, are you?"

He was quiet for a moment, and his expression didn't change, but maybe the light in his eyes did, because right now, the Doctor was afraid, and she knew it. "Not yet, anyway. Takes longer with me, being a Time Lord. But it'll happen. I'm doomed, future foretold and all that. I won't last long."

He looked at her for a long moment. Her tears were burning her skin and the hands clenching, unclenching, and god, the nails digging into her palms hurt. Still she wouldn't accept it. Couldn't. Probably never. Cruel thing to do. Cruel for them both. "You'll remember eventually," he told her.

"When!" she cried.

"When you're dead," he told her firmly, finally and closed the TARDIS door behind him.

Rose pelted forward, hitting her fists against the door, before she remembered she still had a key. She scrambled around in her pockets, fingers quick despite her anxiety, but it was too late.

The TARDIS dematerialised, the Doctor inside, Rose alone.

Her legs gave way beneath her and she fell, silent for a very, very long time.