Summmary: The Doctor is worth the monsters. Rose has learnt that lesson, but has the Doctor? TGITF fic.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. None of it. Nada.
Notes: Just a little meandering piece to get me back into the fic writing mindset. I wasn't going to write Doctor Who fanfic until the season had ended, especially as the following episodes will make this highly redundant, but it wrote itself.
He kicks out, catching a low panel with his foot, his face impassive, eyes dead.
"Why don't you ever do what you're told?"
Rose stands, fidgets awkwardly, presses her fingers together, twists them back and forth. "Cut it out," she says quietly.
The Doctor pretends to ignore her as he wrenches quickly at the series of offending turntables he was having his one-man vendetta against. Rose thinks he told her once they needed fine tuning. By the way the TARDIS lurches, they probably did need a gentle touch.
Rose struggles to find her feet and grabs onto the end of a panel, and that's when it catches her – something, so indefinable, but familiar. She grabs onto it, not with her hands, but sort of with her eyes, catches it and pulls it inside. It feels like light, warm inside her, and words tumble out without her having to think.
"Cut it out!" Rose says louder, and it's only when her words echo back at her, harsh and surprised, that she realises she has screamed them.
He turns to her and his face isn't impassive, his eyes are pure fury, and Rose thinks for a second that this, this is the oncoming storm. She grips the display tighter, and Rose must looked scared because his face relaxes into some kind of an apology and he steps back from the control panels.
"You're hurting it," Rose says, somehow knowing that fact deeply, like her heart was singing it for her. The truth of it catches in her, burns her throat, and she flutters her hand over the glass (or she thinks it's glass and she doesn't want to be contradicted, didn't want to fully comprehend that this place she'd decided to call Home was so fully alien) surface of one display, careful, cautious, the touch of a lover. The glass (or whatever) seems almost to faintly flutter at her touch and it distracts her so that she doesn't realise at first that the Doctor is laughing a little.
She withdraws her hand sharply.
"Do you two want to be alone?" he says, suppressing a smile, with that air he had when he was quoting some obscure quote from a long-dead alien civilisation. His eyes are a little less flat than before, but still dead, and Rose can feel he's given up, part of him has absolutely given up.
"Shut up," she says, when a witticism won't come to mind. "As if you have the right to-" but she can't go on. Somewhere in her words she unconsciously moved to touch the TARDIS again, and it has her, somehow. She can feel it better this time, probing inside her, but it doesn't feel strange, it feels like a brighter version of it had been there before. This is a fainter version, but it's still gripping her, and she can't breathe. Her heart flutters and she gasps and then it's gone and she falls to the deck, hard, and her head swims.
"Rose?" His voice flushes with abrupt concern for her, and suddenly, childishly, she hates it – after the last couple of days how dare he pretend he still thought she was special – but then she has to concentrate on flinching back when he tries to touch her. She doesn't pull back far enough – his finger glances her forearm and it burns, a liquid burn.
She pushes back even further, looks wide-eyed up at him to where he's crouched before her, his dead eyes scanning her face.
Then she lashes out with an anger that surges up in her, bubbles to the surface, with words she can't stop, can't fight, aren't her own, "It's grieving," she says, hotly, "it's grieving and you're hurting it."
She pushes her forehead into her hands, dizzy and baffled. The Doctor puts his hand on her side, hitching up her t-shirt, but it doesn't burn so Rose doesn't move.
"What am I hurting?" he asks, so earnestly that Rose forgets he's not been himself since Madame de Pompadour. Rose shakes her head, her mind filled with an sore, disjointed, elegiac song that sounds so familiar that she aches everywhere.
"The TARDIS," she stutters out, and she isn't speaking these words now, they're falling out of her mouth like they did with Cassandra, and she worries Cassandra didn't leave for a second before discounting that, it doesn't feel quite the same, it feels secure, so she leans back and listens. "When you hurt, it hurts." She looks up at him, locks gazes. "When you grieve, it grieves."
"Rose," the Doctor says quickly, "you're not making sense."
"It makes perfect sense," says the voice that Rose knows is hers, but knows now it isn't. She can vaguely move her own body, and she twists her hand in her hair now, trying to stop her head from singing. "When people die, you're allowed to grieve."
The anger is back. "I've grieved for my people."
A warm light grazes her face – the sonic screwdriver has made its appearance. "But you haven't grieved for her," Rose says quietly. "Reinette." Her throat has to force the name out and when it comes pain lashes back at her as the Doctor suddenly pushes her away and she can feel her body impacting against the TARDIS and he's back on his feet, storming and raving.
"Don't you say his name," he says and Rose isn't sure he knows he's said it, but his hands are skipping over the controls. "May 7th, Powell Estate, 2006. I'm doing what's long overdue. The stress has hit you silly. You're going where you belong."
Rose tries to argue, but now her side is flush with the central part of the TARDIS' workings, and she can hardly breathe through the conflict rushing through her body. "Reinette," she manages, "Reinette, Reinette, Reinette-"
He shudders suddenly and can't look at Rose.
"You're allowed to grieve," she repeats stubbornly as the Doctor passes a hand over his face and turns away.
"I've been there when lots of historical figures have died," he says, matter-of-factly, "Re- Mada-" He inhales sharply. "She died like she was meant to. I saved her from an early death, saved the timeline, stopped massive paradoxes from destroying the universe… The whole of France grieved her passing. I think that's enough grief for one person."
"She loved you," Rose says, looking up at his back, straight and uncompromising. "I felt it through you, as soon as you came back near me, radiating, full, complete, anguish, hope, fluttering… Your hearts singing, singing like me."
The Doctor's back shivers, and he turns slowly, his eyebrows a little higher than usual. "What did you-" His brow furrows like it does when presented with some spectacular puzzle, like broken machines jumbled up and placed in front of him with no instructions or pictures.
He twists on his heel suddenly and places his hands flat on the panels. "Get out of her," he yells, furiously, his hands skittering over the panels, furious, fast. "Get out of her!"
"Not until you listen," says the calm voice of the TARDIS, through Rose. "I tried to talk to you, the way we always did, but you weren't listening. You were closed."
"I wasn't closed, you idiotic-" The Doctor's chest heaves with exertion, and he kicks out of the TARDIS again. "You know me. You are me. So you know what she means to me. Let her go."
"She won't remember."
The Doctor crouches down, looks at Rose intently, and her eyes are hazy with a translucent film of grey. "Then be quick. Speak your piece and then leave her be. And don't you dare, ever-"
"This situation is unusual. You are closed. You need to grieve to open."
"If that's the case, grieving takes time. Rose doesn't have time." The Doctor leans down, touches his fingers to her neck. Rose's body convulses and he pulls away. "She isn't built to take you."
"She's built to take you. She felt your pain, so physically, that I was able to form a link." The TARDIS is functional now, no pretending. "Reinette told Rose that you were worth the monsters. Rose is hurting. It's what Sarah-Jane told her, that you're worth having her heart broken. And she has learned that lesson."
The Doctor's eyes shutter slightly closed, before widening and fixing Rose's trembling body with a fierce stare. "I'm sorry Rose is hurting. Is hurting her more going to fix this—this being closed thing?"
"She doesn't mind the hurt. She understands you're worth the monsters. It's you who are lacking. I can't leave until you understand."
"Until I understand what?"
Rose stays silent. The Doctor stares at her, his mind races, a thousand miles a second, but it's not doing any good, isn't coming up with any answer, and all the while Rose is in more danger, and that's all he ever did.
"You're linked inside her, too," the Doctor says suddenly, understanding. "You're locked to Rose. You both had the same concerns, that's how you got in and that's how you're going to get out – when I salve Rose's concerns."
"Then give me a hint. What am I lacking?" The Doctor sits on the floor, cross legged, leaning in to Rose's body with worry.
"That Rose thinks I'm worth the monsters?" He shakes his head. "That Rein- Reinette thought I was worth it?"
"That Reinette died? Because I understand that." His voice is hard. "I understand that."
"But you do not comprehend."
The Doctor rolls his eyes. "Oh, you're definitely connected to Rose."
"Something linked to me not grieving. With death?"
"Is this twenty questions?"
"If you need twenty, yes."
"Is it-" swallows hard "-understanding that Reinette, that losing her, that not being able to god-damned save her or see her or show her the stars-" Rose's fluttering breaths makes him go fast, anxious, hard, ripping off an imaginary plaster "-that it all was worth it? That this feeling is worth a ridiculously extended lifetime of guilt? That meeting her, and just knowing her, for those brief minutes, was worth all of this?" He gestures widely. "Is it?"
"Worth it to know she withered and died while I was away for less than a minute?"
"Worth it to lose Rose now?"
"You still might, if you continue to insist you're all right."
"I am all right," the Doctor snaps, "or I ruddy well will be when you give her back to me." His eyes flutter shut. "If it were at all possible."
The TARDIS flutters inside Rose. "Do you mean Rose or Reinette?"
The Doctor smiles, sadly.
"It is enough," the TARDIS says, "I am satisfied."
Rose's body jerks slightly, but the Doctor puts a hand on her arm quickly.
"One more thing," he quickly says. "You're linked to Rose?"
"She knows I- I could tell. It radiated off her." He smiles, but it is another sad tight one. "Half an hour after I told her I couldn't- be with a human like that, and I-"
Rose smiles, and the Doctor has to remind himself that it's not her. "She was sad, but happy. Conflicting. If you're happy-" The cock of a head. "It's worth it. She knows that that's what love is about."
"Love," the Doctor scoffs, but doesn't sound so angry.
"One thing- It's inside Rose, bubbling."
"You snogged Madame de Pompadour, but when she kissed you- And she knows you weren't quite sure she'd been possessed at that point- You didn't kiss her back. Why?"
"Because-" and the Doctor squirms because now he's lost all chance to deny he wasn't sure of Rose's possession until later, but it wouldn't do him good to deny anyway as he is always telepathically linked with the TARDIS – at least, when he is emotionally stable, he is. "Because I'm not entirely sure I could have stopped." The admission is as scary as he thought it would be. "Reinette – I knew how finite her life was. I could prepare. With Rose, I have no idea. I could lose her today, or in a hundred years, and it's so scary, that I wouldn't-" He runs his hand through the back of his hair, trying to brush the admission away. "I wouldn't be able to stop." He looks up, uncertain. "She won't ever-"
"She won't remember."
"Then leave her. And if I catch you ever, ever, trying something so asinine and ridiculous again, I don't care if you're the last TARDIS in the world, I am taking an axe to you personally."
"I know," the TARDIS says, infuriatingly. "You'll be all right now. If you let them help you."
Rose's head lolls forward, and when she raises it, her eyes are clear again, and she remembers him being mad at the TARDIS, but after that, it's fuzzy. She seems to be on the ground and the Doctor is leaning close to her, his hand on her cheek, and she's bewildered but feels sad.
"What happened?" She asks.
He helps her to her feet. "You sang a little song and passed out."
"I ache all over," she says.
"The TARDIS got a little overenthusiastic and didn't believe I wasn't all right," the Doctor admits as quickly as he can. "It kinda-" He gestures awkwardly. "Possessed you?"
Rose can't believe it. Anger flushes through her, fuelled by the awkward terror of the most intimate exposure of having her mind read. "It what?" She steps forward in fury.
"It won't happen again. I've told it I'll take an axe to it if it does." The TARDIS' power gauge flushes as if it's guilty. Rose can see it, and she is somehow slightly appeased.
"It just talked," a quiet nervous voice from the side of the room said, and she turns to see Mickey standing at the doorway to the storage rooms. "With your voice. Nothing harmful."
Rose watches as Mickey walks in, hesitant, his eyes locking with the Doctor's, and something indefinable passes between them which she hates, she hates it when guys get together and have their secret codes, but then they're not guys, are they, it's Mickey and the Doctor and they have a secret.
"It was mad because I wouldn't grieve," the Doctor says, turning away from Mickey.
Rose struggles to find her voice. "Oh?"
"Apparently it only got in you because you were worried too," the Doctor says.
Rose fidgets awkwardly. "Oh."
Her head flies up. His voice is slightly unsteady and that's so weird that it catches her attention full on. Mickey stays silent but for the two of them he might as well not even be there. "For what?"
"Worrying about me. However unnecessary it is."
Rose struggles with a smile and manages one. "Any time," she says. "Did you get it sorted out with the TARDIS?"
"Look at you," the Doctor says, in wonder. "Been taken over by a hostile consciousness-"
"-the TARDIS is hardly hostile-"
He carries on like she hasn't interrupted. "-and still soldiering on."
"Guess so," she manages.
He flashes her a quick smile and turns back to the TARDIS, his hands smoothing gently over the panels, and the TARDIS starts to whir back into life, and he says what he has to say quickly so he doesn't have to look at her, doesn't have to look at anyone, internally knowing she understands.
The way he says her name makes her shine with pride, though she can't explain why, and she shines a little brighter because she can see his eyes reflected in a panel and they're still not alive, but they're not quite dead either.
"You're worth the monsters, too."
It's the way his voice catches at the phrase that makes her wonder what she said while captured by the TARDIS that makes her ask, "Are you all right?"
He shrugs. "I'm always all right," he says, and she laughs, so he pauses. "At least I'm going to be," he finally admits.
It's not the whole truth, but it's enough of the truth for Rose to relax and start asking flittering questions about the experience, which he answers as fully as he can manage. He's not all right, but he's worth the monsters, and that thought is nough for the time being.