Pairing:Doctor & Rose friendship
Timeline/Spoilers:Spoilers for Dalek and The Long Game
Disclaimer:Not mine. We all know that.
A/N:Huge thanks & hugs to taraljc and kataclysmic for the beta!
She found him in the control room, fiddling around under the panels. No surprises there, then.
She stood in the doorway watching for a couple of minutes, but he said nothing. Didn't even acknowledge her presence.
Something made a loud and unpleasant gronking kind of sound, and she heard him hiss in either annoyance or frustration – or possibly both. Without taking his eyes off the bundle of wires in front on him, he reached out and began groping around on the floor, apparently aiming for a spanner-type thing that was just out of reach.
She walked over and nudged it with her foot, pushing it towards his questing fingers. He looked up, finally, then grunted and carried on working.
She sighed. He obviously wasn't ready to talk.
Which was tough, really, because she was.
She crouched down beside him, leaned over and wrested the spanner-thing from his hand. "So," she said. "Are we going to discuss this, then, or what?"
"Or what," he said, and tried to grab it back.
She held it up out of reach. "No you don't. After everything that's gone on, you can't just lie there tinkering with the TARDIS like a boy racer with nothing better to do than play with his engine. You'll be hanging up furry dice in it next."
"If I don't 'tinker', as you so technically put it, then the TARDIS doesn't go. And, more to the point, neither do we"
"And where are we going, exactly?"
He shrugged. "Somewhere other than where we were."
She rolled her eyes. "Ask a stupid question…"
He manoeuvred himself up into a sitting position, and snatched the spanner out of her hand. "Thank you."
She sighed again and he buried his head in the tangle of wires and cables once more. "I just – I think we should talk about it, okay?"
Damn, but he had avoidance off to a fine art. She hesitated. This was proving a lot harder than she'd thought it would be; she hadn't expected to hit such a brick wall. He could be a moody git, yeah, but she hadn't known him to be this distant before. How could he just lie there, not even looking at her, going 'about what?' like he didn't know what she was talking about?
About what? Well, she could think of a few things. How about the fact that he'd been tortured? That there'd been a war, that his people were dead, that she'd somehow managed to regenerate one of the things that had done that, because she'd felt sorry for it? That she was careening around in time and space and didn't really have a sodding clue what the fuck she was doing? That he'd nearly killed her? That she kept seeing all the bodies of those dead guards and wondered if it would have been better if he had?
About the fact that the dalek had said he loved her?
She closed her eyes. Now that she was here, she realised she didn't know what she really wanted, or where to start. Story of her life, really.
"About what happened down there," she finally said. Let him be the one to choose.
He poked his head out of the control panel again and looked at her. "I don't," he said.
"Think we should talk about it. I'm busy. Now pass me that hammer, will you?"
A pulse of something flared in her stomach, clenching the muscles there. She wasn't sure if it was disappointment or relief.
She gave him the hammer. "Right, right, you're busy. Of course you are. I'll just – go then, shall I?"
Her only response was a series of ringing hammer blows.
"Right," she said, and stood up. "This is me, going."
She turned around and walked out, not looking back to see if he watched her leave.
When one bloke pisses you off, go look for another to take it out on. It was a tactic that her mum swore by, although Rose had never needed to fall back on it much. Mickey was too sweet to have done any serious pissing-off. Although supporting Arsenal had come close.
She found Adam exactly where she'd left him, in the little boxy room the Doctor had allocated for his 'quarters'. He sat on the bed, staring at a screen that was showing some kind of holographic representation of the solar system. Well, a solar system, anyway. She didn't think the one she'd learned about in school had thirty planets.
"Hey," she said. "What you still doing hiding in here? Thought you would have been well into the exploring by now."
He looked up at her with a dazed expression. "I – this – I just – he –"
She patted him on the shoulder. "I know. Bit overwhelming at first, isn't it? Don't worry, you'll get used to it. You'll be forming proper sentences again in no time."
He burbled something that didn't even sound like a proper syllable, let alone a sentence. She gave him her best reassuring smile and resorted to another of her mum's tried-and-testeds. "How about a nice cup of tea, eh?"
"Tea? On a spaceship?"
She nodded. "Yeah. And it's proper Tetleys, as well. From Sainsbury's and everything. I brought it with me, the last time I was home. Oh, and then we can go down to the wardrobe room and pick you out some pyjamas. That's what I did when I felt a bit wobbly; curled up in a nice pair of furry pyjamas with a great big mug of sweet tea and a packet of Hob Nobs. You can't beat that for making you feel at home."
"Yeah, 'course. You can't tell me that putting your favourite pyjamas on doesn't make you feel better. Make you feel safe." She hugged herself, and smiled. "Nothing bad can happen when you're in your jammies. It's like a rule of the Universe, or something."
"Pyjamas," he repeated. "So that's your secret weapon against evil. Pyjamas." He shook his head. "Haven't you ever read 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy'?"
"The – oh, yeah. Right. Okay, I see what you mean. But I don't think we're in any danger from hyperspace bypasses, or whatever it was. So there's time for the tea, at least."
He looked unconvinced, but allowed her to drag him off the bed. In the corridor outside, she pursed her lips and looked up and down. "Okay, now where did I put the kitchen?"
She set off, checking a few doors at random. "Stuff tends to move around a bit, in here. I think it's to do with the, you know, spatial continuum or something. The whole 'bigger on the inside' thing. Oh, here's a top tip: if you see a door marked 'sanitation facility', just keep walking. There's nothing in there that you want to get involved in, believe me."
She peered around an unexpected corner and clapped as the gleaming white and chrome surfaces of the kitchen came into view. It seemed a different shape from last time and the toaster had been replaced with a large fondue set, but she didn't let it faze her. She might have just been trying to make Adam feel better, but what she'd said was still true: you really did get used to it. And chocolate fondue was just as good as beans on toast, any day.
She rummaged in the cupboard for the teabags. " I don't really understand how it all works, to be honest. You might do, though, with that big brain." She flashed him a smile, and he gave her a faltering one in return. "You should talk to the Doctor about it." She paused, and the smile faded. "Although probably not right now. He's a bit – busy."
"Rose, about what happened down there - " He stopped, and she looked back over her shoulder at him.
"Well – what did happen down there? That thing – that dalek – "
"Is dead," she said, turning her attention back to the tea. Water, teabag, milk. Stir. It was a comforting ritual, and for the first time she thought she got the point of all that Japanese faffing about. It wasn't about the actual tea, at all. It was all about your state of mind.
"There is no spoon," she said, using one to stir three sugars into her mug.
She shook herself slightly, and carried the mugs over to the table. "Nothing. Ignore me. It's just – it's been a bit of a long day."
He raised his mug. "I'll drink to that."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Rose watched Adam's hand tremble slightly as he stirred his tea.
"Hey," she said. "Are you sure you're okay? Really?"
He looked at her with something like amazement.
"What?" she said, suddenly self-conscious.
"You. You were nearly killed down there. We thought you were dead. And yet here you are, making tea and wondering if I'm okay." He shook his head. "You're pretty amazing, you know that?"
"No, I'm not. I'm very ordinary really. An ordinary girl, in an amazing world."
He reached out and put his hand over hers. "You're not ordinary. Ordinary is selfishness and greed and stepping on anyone who gets in the way."
She tensed slightly, but didn't pull her hand away. "Not everyone's like Van Statten, you know."
"More are than you'd think."
"Look – maybe it's different in the world of big brains and big money, but where I come from we look out for each other."
"Is that what you're doing, then? Looking out for me?" He paused. "For the Doctor?"
"Adam – "
"You said you were just friends."
"But the dalek. It said - "
Now she pulled away, wishing there was a spanner thing nearby that she could start fiddling with. She stirred her tea again, instead. "Yeah, I know what it said. But it was just trying to rattle us. It didn't know half as much as it thought it did."
Adam curled his hand back around his mug. "The Doctor said it was a genius to start with, and that was before it absorbed your DNA and downloaded the internet. So actually I'd say it probably did, pretty much."
She got up and went back to the cupboard. "Do you want some biscuits, or something? I'm sure I didn't eat all of those Hob Nobs."
"No. Look, Rose – I'm sorry. You don't have to talk about it. It's none of my business, anyway."
She closed the cupboard door and rested her forehead against its cool surface. "I meant what I said. We are friends. Anything other than that… honestly, I don't know. I don't know if I know how to do anything other than that. There was this guy, before I came here. Mickey. He was nice, we got on, it was great, but - but it wasn't what I'd dreamed of, you know? Sunday roasts and watching Corrie on the telly and going to the pub on a Saturday night. I just thought there should be more. And then there was the Doctor, and – " she stopped, and took a deep breath. "And you don't want to hear about all this. Forget I said any of that, okay? Here, I found the Hob Nobs."
She pushed the packet towards him. He took a biscuit, and dunked it into his tea. "I do know."
"What you said. That it was good, but it wasn't what you'd dreamed of. I know what that's like. I had a good life, really. My mum and dad are good people. But it was never enough. I always got bored."
She nodded, reached out and took the last biscuit out of the packet. "Well, I don't think you're in much danger of that happening any more."
The sudden shriek of a wailing, high-pitched alarm blasted out from hidden speakers, and she dropped the biscuit into her tea with a splash. "Bollocks," she said forlornly, watching it sink.
Adam jumped up and began looking about wildly. "What's that? What's going on?"
She sighed, and pushed the mug away. "Something not boring, no doubt. Stay there, I'll go find out."
Blue and orange lights raked the walls of the corridor outside, and the alarm kept up its discordant squalling. Rose ran with her hands clamped over her ears, wincing against the din. She dashed into the control room and looked around for the Doctor. He was studying one of the display panels and looking decidedly unconcerned by all the fuss.
"What's happening?" she yelled, breathing hard. "What's wrong?"
"Huh? Oh, it's you. Been having fun with your new little friend?"
She stared at him. "What? Oh, yes thanks. Adam and I have had a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, and then I thought I'd just take a little stroll. You know, maybe see what the hell all this sodding noise is about?"
He grinned, and pushed a button on the console. The siren died with a final, rather pathetic-sounding squeak. "Yeah, it is a bit loud, isn't it? I thought it was quite musical though, didn't you think? The Aregenti people of Balathus 5 would dance all night to something like - "
He fiddled with something else on the console and the lights clicked off too. "Hmm? Yes?"
"What," she said, biting off each word, "is going on?"
"Nothing much. I fixed that problem with the navigation co-ordinates register. Been bothering me for ages, that."
She glanced at the TARDIS door, but no hordes of screaming aliens barrelled through it. "So what's the emergency?"
"The emergency," she said, gathering the shreds of her patience together. "The alarm?" she prompted, when he looked blank. "Flashing lights, woo woo noises? The whole red alert thing we just had going?"
"Oh, that. No, that was just my new, er, proximity confirmation system. It lets us know we've arrived. I didn't want you to get, you know, so wrapped up in –" he paused, and shrugged, "-other stuff that you missed it. We don't want you getting too distracted now, do we?"
She whacked him lightly on the arm. "I was actually quite happy getting distracted by tea and biscuits. You made me waste my last Hob Nob, you git. You owe me another packet, so wherever the hell we've arrived, it'd better be somewhere that's got a decent supermarket."
He beamed, and led her over to the door. "Oh, you won't go wrong for good food here, I promise you. Better than chocolate biscuits."
She kept the scowl in place for a while longer, then allowed a grudging smile to take its place. "You're dreaming. There's nothing better than a good Hob Nob. So – where exactly are we, anyway?"
"Come on," he said, opening the door and guiding her outside. "I'll show you, and then you go get our little stowaway and introduce him to the delights of real alien artefacts. Make him even more impressed with you than he already is."
She snorted. "I've never been that bothered about showing off, least of all to little boys."
He looked at her, and for a second his face was serious. "No?"
"No," she said firmly. "No matter how pretty they are. Look, Doctor – "
"We're in the year 200,000," he said, cutting her off. "And this is going to be fun. Now, see that gate over there…?"
In the end, it hadn't been as much fun as she'd hoped. They'd beaten the bad guys, sure - but people had still died. And demonstrating her status as The Experienced One to Adam hadn't really worked out that well, either. Instead of being suitably impressed by her superior wisdom, he'd ditched her to go and get a little of his own.
Rose shivered. To a girl who was freaked out by the idea of any kind of surgery – even a nose job – what Adam had done to himself was almost unthinkable. And now he was stuck with it. It was horrible and stupid and yes, it had nearly got them killed, but still. He was only human.
She stared pensively at the floor. "Should we have done that? I don't think we should have done that."
The Doctor slammed a final lever into place and the TARDIS stopped lurching. "Done what?"
She flapped her hands. "Just left him there, like that. I mean, I know he was wrong, but – to just leave him there. In his mum's living room. When he's seen all this, when he knows there's so much more – "
The Doctor shrugged and carried on fiddling with the controls. "He had his opportunity, just like you did. He blew it. I don't do second chances."
"Yes you do."
"You came back for me. That first night, you came back. We could go back for Adam, couldn't we? Just slot back in where—when—we were, and pick him up again."
He went very still, and didn't look at her. "Is that what you want to do?"
She sighed. "I don't know. He was a bit – maybe you're right, maybe he's not up to it. But to just abandon him like that seems so mean."
The Doctor stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder. "If that information he tried to download had got into the wrong hands – it could have been catastrophic. It could have done a lot of damage, Rose."
"I know, I know. But – he's still got that thing in his head. That's information, isn't it? About the future? Isn't that still going to cause damage?"
The hand squeezed briefly, then dropped. "We'll just have to see, won't we?"
"But Doctor – " she broke off as a low-pitched burr filled the room. "What's that? Another proximity warning, or whatever it was?"
"No." He nodded towards the far side of the central console. "It's your phone."
"Your mobile's ringing. Go on, go and get it then."
She stared at it. "How can my mobile be ringing? How can anyone be phoning me here?"
He folded his arms. "You won't know unless you answer it, will you?"
Shaking her head, she moved around him and picked up the phone. "Hello?" she said tentatively.
She was rewarded by a burst of static that made her jerk back. She rubbed her ear, glancing at the Doctor resentfully. "There's nobody there. It's just – "
" – lo? Rose?"
She blinked, and moved the phone back to her ear. "Hello? This is Rose. Who's that?"
Another burst of static, then a pause. Then: "-dam. This is Adam Mitchell. Rose, is that you? Can you hear me?"
She shook her head, trying to clear the buzzing in her ears. The voice sounded tinny and faint. And not like the Adam she remembered. It sounded weak – and old.
"Adam? It's me. I can hear you. Where are you?"
There was a short silence, then a soft chuckle. "I'm at home. Where else would I be?"
She grimaced at another burst of crackles and hisses. " -believe I finally made it work. Rose, I – I know I don't have any right to ask this but – I'd like to see you. For old times' sake, you know?"
"Adam – when are you?"
"What? Oh, right. It's 2048, here. Look, I understand if you're busy. But I just wanted to tell you – well, I don't really know. All these years trying to reach you and now I don't know what to say. Funny, that, isn't it?" Another chuckle turned into a long, rattling cough. "Maybe I just wanted to say…sorry?"
She looked over at the Doctor. He nodded, his expression unreadable.
"Hold on," she said. "We're on our way."
They left the TARDIS under the shelter of what looked like some kind of bus station – if buses were bright green these days, with caterpillar tracks instead of wheels.
Most of the houses on the street were dark, but one blazed with lights. She nodded towards it. "Is that - ?"
"Adam's house? Yes."
"It looks just like his parents' place."
"It would do, because it is. He stayed on there, after they died."
"He never moved? In all that time?" She stopped, calculating. "In forty-odd years?"
"More than that. He never left that house again."
She ran to catch up with him as he walked through the front gate. "You mean after we left him there? He never went outside again?"
The street door was unlocked. The Doctor pushed it open, then stood aside for her. "Hold on," she said as she stepped into the hallway, "how do you know that?"
He said nothing, just ushered her into the living room. Immediately, a hand grabbed hers and she found herself on the receiving end of a swift, professional handshake. "Thank you so much for coming," a harrassed-sounding female voice said. "I'm Natalia Finch, I'm Dr Mitchell's assistant. We probably spoke on the phone."
Rose looked up to see that the owner of the handshake was a tall brunette in a smart black suit. "Uh – yeah," she said, looking around the room in confusion. "I – we – came to see Adam."
The handshake became a gentle squeeze. "I understand. A lot of people still like to pay their respects that way. But the body isn't being kept at the house – hygiene regulations, you know how it is. I think it's probably too late now, but I could call and get you an appointment for the morning?"
Rose stared at her. "The – the body-?"
The Doctor leaned in. "Thank you," he said to Natalia. "But that won't be necessary"
She nodded and gave Rose's hand a final pat. "Okay, no problem. You guys take it easy, okay? Refreshments are in the kitchen, the books and papers that he specified are in the lab at the back - you can take whatever you want." She paused, and looked them up and down. "You were –students of his?"
Rose just carried on staring. "Old patient," said the Doctor, taking her arm.
Natalia nodded. "Oh. I see." She turned the sympathetic smile back on Rose. "Feel free to express yourself any way you like, honey. No-one will judge you here. Dr Mitchell was a wonderful man, and we all feel his loss."
She walked away, leaving Rose to gape at the Doctor.
"What the hell just happened?"
He looked away. "I'm sorry. I thought – I must have overshot slightly. I thought we'd be here earlier. Before."
"Before he died, you mean."
She shook her head. "I can't believe it. I mean, we just dropped him off five minutes ago. And he was fine. He was, like, twenty years old. And now he's dead."
"Uh, Rose? You do understand the concept of time travel, don't you?"
She swatted at his arm. "Yes, of course I do. I suppose it just – never seemed this real, before." She suddenly looked down at herself. "And I'm not dressed for a funeral, or a wake, or whatever this is. I should be in black. It looks disrespectful."
"Don't worry about it. They think you're one of his patients, that'll give you a lot of leeway."
"Patients – you said that before. What kind of patients?"
Instead of answering, he picked up a hardback book from a shelf and handed it to her. A serious, unsmiling Adam looked out at her from the back cover. She ran her finger over it, wonderingly, then leafed through some of the pages.
"I don't understand a word of this," she said. "What the hell is Anoxic Enceph – Encephalo –"
"Anoxic Encephalopathy," said Natalia, walking back with two glasses of wine in her hands. She offered one to the Doctor, who shook his head. "In English, brain damage caused by lack of oxygen."
She put the wineglasses down on a nearby table and nodded towards the book. "That was his first book, and it absolutely revolutionised the field. It was published in 2016, and it's never been out of print since."
Rose stared at her. "Adam was a brain surgeon?"
Natalia laughed. "That's a rather simplistic way to put it. Dr Mitchell was one of the pioneers of modern neurocognitive rehabilitation technology. Brain damage, Alzheimers, autism – " She paused, and smiled indulgently at Rose. "He helped a lot of people live normal lives who wouldn't have done otherwise. Doctors came from all over the world to study with him."
Rose turned the book over in her hands. "Wow," she said. "I never would have seen that coming. Little Adam, a big brain doctor."
Natalia frowned for a second, then her face cleared. She patted Rose's arm, then leaned in to the Doctor. "I assume your daughter didn't get to finish her treatment," she whispered. "I'm sorry. We tried to do what we could, but he faded quite fast, at the end."
Rose looked up sharply, but the Doctor grabbed her by the shoulders and swung her towards him. He gave Natalia a non-committal smile, and she drifted away again.
Rose punched him.
"Hey! What was that for?"
"For letting her think I was brain-damaged! And your daughter." She shuddered. "And because you knew all this. You knew what would happen to him. That's why you let him do it, and why you brought him back here. You knew."
He shrugged. "Sometimes things just come together."
"Was he happy?"
"That, I don't know. History only tells us so much."
She was silent for a minute, looking at Adam's photo. "But… how could he have done all of this, for you to know about it, if it couldn't have happened without you going back to set it off in the first place?"
The Doctor grinned. "Do you actually want me to answer that? I can, although we'll be here a while. You'll probably want to go and get some of those nibbles she mentioned."
She sighed. "I think time travel is going to give me brain damage."
He laughed and raised his hands to his forehead, miming an opening. "There are cures for that, these days."
She shuddered. "I think I'll stick with Neurofen, if it's all the same to you."
"Then you'd probably better stock up." He turned towards the door, and held out his hand to her. "Ready to go and do the impossible all over again?"
She tucked the book under one arm and finally reached out to take his hand. "Yeah," she said. "Ready."