Old Things Made New
She cannot stand. She can barely open her eyes. Her skin is on fire, but the warmth, the beautiful golden warmth of the Vortex is gone. She's all alone again.
She remembers how to speak. "What happened?"
"You're alright, Rose, you're alright." The Doctor, not looking at her, carrying her. His face is pale, pale as the walls of the TARDIS, now a sickly green. They're somewhere new, deep in the ship where she's never explored.
"Where we going?" She tries to turn her head, but a wave of dizziness stops her and she lets her eyelids droop.
"Place to help you. You're going to be okay."
"You keep saying that," she mumbles. "Just tell me what happened."
He looks down at her, tries to smile a reassuring smile. "You died, Rose."
The pain passes from her face as he lays her down in the zero room. She's resting now. He leaves her, returns to the console room. He has no idea where to go. His hands jerk from one control to the next, nowhere appeals, nowhere makes sense.
There's a frantic rapping at the door. The Doctor frowns, unlocks it and Jack rushes in. He stares a moment, his face blank. "I thought you were dead."
Jack smiles, spread his arms. "What a welcome. See that you survived alright." The smallest pause. "Where's Rose?"
"What's wrong?" Jack is at his side, a hand on his shoulder. A comfort, rather than an invitation.
The Doctor plants his hands on the console, gripping the edge tightly enough to send his knuckles white. "Dunno. Not sure. She...she did something really stupid." He stabs at the controls, sends his ship into flight. Somewhere. Anywhere.
"She is onboard though, right?"
The Doctor narrows his eyes. "Course she is, what d'you think I am? Second left, third right, first left, third left, down the corridor and through the cloisters. Then it's fifth left, fourth right and then the first door on the right. It's called the zero room. She's in there, sleeping."
Rose isn't sleeping.
Jack knocks once, then goes inside, closes the door behind him. The room is serene, so mild, and the calm sinks through him.
She's lying on the floor, arms by her sides, eyes staring at the ceiling, unblinking. She doesn't seem to know he's there.
He kneels by her side, takes one of her hands in his. Her skin is cold. Still she doesn't move. "Rose?"
A deeper breath, as though she's waking up. "I can't see, Jack." She blinks twice.
He waves a hand over her eyes. No reaction. "The Doctor says you're going to be just fine."
"Yeah, he said that to me. A lot. Like he was trying to convince himself." Her eyes close. "I'm so tired."
"You just rest then. Try and get some sleep. I'll be back soon."
"Okay." Her voice is very quiet.
As the door clicks open, she shifts, just a little and he turns back to her. "I can stay if you want."
"No, no, I need to sleep. Just...Jack, I think I can feel two hearts beating."
"Doctor!" The door to the console room snaps back, and Jack enters in a fury. The Doctor's still here, still practically paralysed over the console. "Doctor, you've got some explaining to do."
"Yeah, that's all I'm good for, isn't it? Explaining stuff that you apes are too stupid to work out for yourselves."
"Just a minute-"
"No!" He turns round, skin ashen and eyes a storm. "No, I have put up with so much stupidity, so much idiocy and bloody minded ignorance. I try to open your eyes just the tiniest bit to all the marvels and wonders of the universe. All the possibilities. And all I get back are the consequences of narrow-minded selfish decisions."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"She-," he stabbed a finger at the inner door. "-knew damn well what was behind that panel." Another angry stab, this time at the console. "She knew how dangerous it was. D'you know what the little fool did? Yanked it off, tore a limb off my ship and looked into the Vortex."
Jacks shook his head. "I'm a little fuzzy on what happens when someone does that."
"She absorbed all the energy and power of the Vortex. For a couple of minutes, she got to play god and she destroyed the Daleks. Ended the Time War."
"Rose destroyed the Daleks?
Jack touched his chest, a sudden vivid memory of being shot forcing itself into his mind's eyes. "So she could kill...could she heal?"
"She could do anything."
"Doctor, I think she-"
"But not for long. The power burned her, killed her. Too late for me to do anything. But not this stupid ship." He gave the console a thump, and the ship seemed to rumble in response. "Rose died. I saw her die, I watched her take her last breath, but the old girl just couldn't leave well enough alone." Another thump on the console.
"Doctor, she's got two hearts."
"I know. She died, and she regenerated."
"The TARDIS made Rose a Time Lord?" he says, disbelief permeating every syllable.
"The TARDIS made Rose a Time Lord," confirms the Doctor. "This stupid, stupid ship of mine made a human into an alien. It sounds like the punch line for some awful joke."
"You've got to talk to her."
"What for?" He scowls, flicks irritably at a switch. "She should be dead."
"Why? You'd prefer it if she was?" snaps Jack.
"You know damn well that's not-"
"No, I don't. All I know is that something happened and instead of you and me being dead and Rose stranded back in the twentieth century, we're all very much alive and in the same place and time. I know that there is a young woman back there who's terrified because something's happened to her that she didn't ask for and that she doesn't understand."
The Doctor looks away. "I sent her back, I sent her away so she'd be safe."
"But you never asked her what she wanted."
"Stupid ape wouldn't know what's good for her," he mutters.
"And the stupid ape certainly doesn't know what's going on now. Talk to her, Doctor."
"What about?" He's cold now, as cold and alien as he's ever been.
"She can't see, she can feel two hearts beating in her chest and if she walks out of that tiny little room, she collapses."
"Well, there's gratitude for you. I had to rebuild the zero room all by myself with virtually no spare parts."
"That's not the point."
The Doctor takes a deep breath, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. When he looks at Jack again, the sharp edges are gone. "What am I going to do?"
Jack grins, gives a shrug. "Hey, relax, she gets a long and healthy life if the legends are true."
"Sometimes, Captain, you can say the most astonishing things."
"That wasn't a compliment. Don't you understand? If she...if the TARDIS really did change her, then she's been made a stranger to everything she ever knew before she came with me. She can't go home, Jack, she can never go home."
"I don't think she wants to."
"Not now. Not for months, maybe years. But they all go eventually, they all find somewhere new, or something more than what they thought they had. And they leave. They go find their roots, or their family or their stability and they live out their lives. But now if Rose goes home, she's going to be different, and it won't just be knowledge and experience, it'll be something indefinable that no-one around her will quite be able to understand - she'll be an outsider on her own planet. What's her government going to think? What about if she gets ill? Or when she regenerates again? She won't always have the TARDIS around to guide her through rephrasing her physical appearance." He takes a step closer. "And best of all, when she goes home she'll get to watch every single one of her friends and family grow old and die while she stays young. Then every time she meets someone new she knows that if they stay, she'll eventually get to watch them die too." His eyes are chips of grey ice, and Jack can't look away. "What sort of a life is that?"
Jack speaks before he realises what he's saying. "That's your life."
"Yeah, and look how I messed it up. Ending up old and alone and drifting about the universe in a ship that's falling to pieces. I've got no planet, no past, no people. My family are dead and I should be too." His mouth twisted into a smile. "But the universe just isn't that kind."
"You thinking about Rose here, or yourself?"
The Doctor turned and slammed his fists into the console. "Haven't you been listening! My race is dead! You humanoids, you all live out your lives in the blink of an eye, except for us and we're gone. And now there's...what? This stupid, little crumb that's been thrown at me? This possibility that I don't have to be alone? That I don't have to be the last? What kind of a sick, messed up hope is that to offer me?"
He sinks to the floor, draws his knees up to his chest. "What am I going to tell her?" He looks up at Jack, appealing.
"I just know legends, Doctor. You're the real thing."
"Yeah, it's just...there's more to being a Time Lord than having the right DNA. We've got...we had special responsibilities. Things that we couldn't get away from even if we did turn renegade. And she's got senses that you don't interpret instinctively, you have to know what to do, how they work. She's not even got her A-Levels and I spent decades at the Academy studying science humanity won't even begin to grasp for millennia...she's human, Jack, a human with all this stuff in her that shouldn't be there."
Jack moves to sit by the Doctor. Close enough that their bodies are touching. He lifts one arm tentatively, puts his hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "You like humans, don't you?"
The Doctor turns and stares at him, checking it isn't a come-on. He doesn't think Jack's quite tactless enough to pick a moment like this, but old habits die hard, so humans say. "Sometimes I don't know why."
"Because there are a lot of planets out there, lots of different species. Yet you keep coming back to our little blue speck."
"Why's that then?" The Doctor shrugs, but Jack persists. "Come on, humour me. What is it you like about humans so much."
The Doctor sighs, leans his head back against the console. "This is just going to give you a big head, y'know."
"I'll cope. Go on."
He waits; the Doctor relents. "Flood, famine, plague." He waves a hand vaguely. "Intergalactic wars and holocausts. And you survive it all. No matter what the universe throws at you go keep going, you keep fighting and you survive. There's no ivory tower for you, no great power to protect you, and you survive. Growing and changing and evolving and reaching out into the stars, struggling every step of the way."
"That's very poetic."
"But it pretty much makes my point."
"I buried a lot of this stuff. Didn't ever want to think about it again."
"Well, that's up to you, Doctor." Jack stands up, offers a hand and helps the Doctor to his feet. "But she does need you now."
"You've got a smooth tongue on you, Captain."
"And don't I know it?" He grins; the Doctor rolls his eyes.
"Go make us a cup of tea," he says. "You know where to find me." And the door closes behind him with a soft click.