Title: He
Author: Jinni (jinni. PG13
Disclaimer: All things Doctor Who belong to the BBC, et al.
Type: Angst, Drama

Prompt 84: He
Claim: Ninth Doctor at doctorwho100
Summary: He holds her hand and looks into her eyes each time before they step out of the door, as if asking her for forgiveness for his sins of omission.
Spoilers: Up through s1's "Dalek".
Wordcount: 921

x x x

He doesn't sleep. Not often and not for very long, anyway. Not because he doesn't want to or because he doesn't, sometimes, actually need to; but because he doesn't want to face what might come to him in his sleep. Dreams of destruction. Of lives and places he had not been able to save. Of timelines he couldn't fix. Nightmares, all of them. It began with this regeneration, from the moment he gained this form with its impressive nose and perhaps too-large ears; as if they serve as receptors to bring the nightmares to him each and every time he closes his eyes.

He dreams of an empty darkness where once all of time and space were considered a playground. Nothing – if the hollow blackness of nothing can be considered tangible – is all that exists there now. In his head, in his heart, in the empty space where once there was life.

He did it. Him. The how of it doesn't matter, because what's done is done and unlike other things throughout time – this cannot be undone. It was for the better good, he tells himself during those times when the guilt eats at him from the inside out, the loneliness in his head where once there had been something more – something greater. For the better. For the best. To end a war that had gone on for far too long and taken more lives than he wanted to think about, much less to admit.

He stares into the central column of the console, listening to Rose chatter on about where they just were – when they just were – and wonders if she has any idea at all about who he is and what he's done. No, because he hasn't given her a single reason to even question him. Hasn't given her an inkling of what lurks beneath the surface of this face. Would she pull away and go home if she knew what he'd do? Would she up and leave if she knew that, before he was this man, he was another. One that could do what had to be done when it counted most, even if it killed first one heart, then the other. Breaking, shattering. Indescribable pain.

He doesn't regret the duplicity. She's saving him, even if she doesn't know it. She takes his word when he says that his people are gone. Doesn't ask questions, delve into details that he doesn't want to give. Not his Rose. She takes what he says at face value and nothing more. Gallifrey is gone. Not once does he say that it is his fault and she doesn't think that it could be; because that's not the man that she knows.

He wants her to know. Sometimes he wants her to know and understand so bad that he can taste the words on the tip of his tongue, about to spill over into conversation and become irreversible. Still, he doesn't want her to leave him, when she is healing him with every new trip, every little smile, every excited bounce of her young body as she gets geared up to see something new, somewhere new, somewhen new. Her laughter – her very life – is contagious.

He needs it.

He worries that she'll leave after he locks her in with the dalek. Losing her, but saving the world. Does it matter? The dalek knows. Knows that he cares about her far more than he should have allowed himself. Yes, he loves her. He's loved them all, over the years. But she is different. She is special. A soulmate if ever he's had one. The light to his darkness. Not romantically. Never like that. But love always did take many, varied forms. And when he knows that she is alive and he cannot make that choice again to let her die, the Doctor knows that he is dooming everyone for the sake of one girl. But he can't just let her die because he needs her. In the end, she is safe and all is well. And she doesn't leave even when he thinks that she will. Thinks that she'll decide that living back with her mum is safer than trotting the universe with a man that could sacrifice her so easily.

He sees it that way. She doesn't and he doesn't make her change that viewpoint, either. Selfish of him, to do that. To not point out that his knee-jerk reaction was to let her die to save everyone.

He thinks sometimes that maybe she knew that anyway. That she understood the Rose Tyler, for all that she was special and irreplaceable to him, was nothing in the big picture; would mean nothing if the dalek got out into the world.

He doesn't bring it up and neither does she. Maybe that's for the best.

He holds her hand and looks into her eyes each time before they step out of the door, as if asking her for forgiveness for his sins of omission. She doesn't understand, just quirks a smile which he answers with a grin of his own – too wide, too bright. And, even knowing that it could all come tumbling down around him, he sees her as an angel sent to lead him from the ashes of what he's done. To rebuild his broken spirit, shattered heart. To give him reason to keep going. One more day. Then another and another. Until days become months become years.

He finds salvation in her friendship, even when she doesn't know she's giving it.