Rose opened the front door with her key and David helped her wheel The Doctor in. It never occurred to David that a stretcher wouldn't fit into a phone box, but then again, there hadn't been a phone box in the room 2 minutes ago. When The Doctor had mentioned a time travelling ship, an antique police phonebox like the one that used to be outside the Earl's Court Tube Station wasn't what he expected! Rose crossed the TARDIS' threshold, pushing the stretcher up the ramp and securing it beside the main console. The TARDIS would know what to do.
She went back down the ramp to close the door, ensuring the Doctor's safety. David was waiting just outside. "Did you really call the police?"
"Are you having a laugh?" Rose exclaimed. "Inform the authorities that there's guy with a binary vascular system about to be cut up… Oh and by the way, he's a time travelling alien? Claire could have sold tickets!"
"I'm so sorry." He repeated. "I never meant for any of this to happen."
"S'alright." Rose shrugged. "It wasn't you, it was your girlfriend."
"Ex-girlfriend." David said succinctly. "She is so dumped." David tried to laugh it off, but Rose could see he was devastated by Claire's betrayal and her behaviour towards the Doctor.
"Don't be too hard on yourself. He had a blast telling you everything, he really did." Rose smiled. "I think he wishes he could tell everyone what he does… what he's seen. But for everyone like you and me who believe him and think what he's doing is…" she searched for the words. "Just, like, the best thing ever! There's people like her who'll try to hurt him, out of fear, or greed, or curiosity." Rose threw a contemptuous look at Claire who looked worried that she would make good on David's threat.
"Claire's lost people." David said quickly. "I know it in no way justifies what she's done, but she's not evil. She lost her Mother to cancer when she was only 10. Her Dad died from it 4 years ago..." he sighed and shook his head, still completely shocked that his girlfriend could have been so callous. "She's been so determined to find a cure. I just never thought she'd resort to something like this." He couldn't bring himself look over at Claire. "I'm not making excuses for her. She made that decision all by herself. She can live with the consequences all by herself too… Anyway, her proof is gone. If she tries to go public, she'll just look like a crank. I'm just so sorry that it came to this."
"We better get going." She was anxious to return to the Doctor and make sure he was okay.
Rose closed the front door and the Blue box faded away right in front of David's eyes. He stared at the spot where the TARDIS had stood with a look of bemusement "the Best thing ever."
The Doctor tried to sit up, but Rose was having none of it. "Stay lying down. If you faint, or fall off that thing, I can't pick you up by myself and that would mean my Mum coming to stay! Now it might be a bit of a bumpy ride, but I'm taking you into the medical bay, okay?"
The Doctor acquiesced under threat of Jackie. "Is it safe?" He asked quietly. He was so unlike himself in this condition.
"You're safe." She took his hand and held it tightly between both of hers. You're home." He silently nodded, as his eyes fluttered shut.
His eyes refused to open. It was too bright and there was a hum. I'm still there. I'm still in the hospital . His left arm was smarting from where the needle was still inserted. Rose didn't make it. She didn't rescue me… A fever dream brought on by chronic blood loss… I'm going to die, I'm going to change and it will all be for nothing... I can't go through that again. Not so soon… He struggled through his muddled thoughts trying to make sense of them. Wait. Rose was here. She tried to rescue me… But there was a fight… Oh no… No, no, no. Not Rose… Suddenly his eyes snapped open and he shot upright. "Rose? ROSE !" he yelled, frantically looking around him. Brown eyes wide, scared and bewildered.
"I'm here!" Rose scrambled to her feet from the bed beside him. She had briefly fallen asleep after hanging the last blood bag which was still transfusing into his arm. She cupped his face with her hand, relieved to feel some warmth again. "I'm here." She said softly.
Without saying a word, he pulled her towards him and held her in a tight hug. She wrapped her arms around him, holding on to him, happy that his strength was returning. She could feel him trembling and it wasn't cold or weakness, it was fear. "It's okay. You're safe." She repeated "I'm here and I'm not leaving you. Not ever." His head burrowed into her neck and she could feel his shoulders shudder. Oh God, is he crying? He can't be crying! She instinctively stroked his hair. It was something that always soothed her when she got upset as a child. He didn't make much noise, but she could feel the hitches in his breathing.
This was new territory for Rose. Yeah, Shareen had cried on her shoulder several times, but this was different. This was cathartic and she really wasn't used to dealing with that kind of emotional fallout… and certainly not from a guy. Didn't matter, though. She'd hold him tight for as long as he needed her to. Rose knew she could be strong for the Doctor the way he had been strong for her so many times… and Not just him him, but the other him too. All she could do was keep holding him close and reassuring him that he was safe and that he'd be okay.
After a few minutes, the Doctor loosened the bear hug he had on her. "Oh, I'm sorry." He bowed his head, determined to look anywhere but at her. He quickly wiped his tear-stained face.
"S'okay. You've nothing to be sorry for." Rose shrugged. "Tell you what, I'll go get you something to eat… Make soup, or something."
"No." he caught a hold of her hand before she could turn to go. "Don't leave, not just yet… just stay with me." He finally looked at her. His eyes were red and tired. "Please."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Rose noticed his reluctance to release his hold on her hand. For a moment, it looked like he wasn't going to say anything. Just shrug it off with another snappy remark, which didn't really surprise Rose. The Doctor had a way of covering up his true feelings. Switching the subject when it threatened to get too personal. He could talk about his amazing adventures all day and listen to other people pour their hearts out for hours, but was an expert at changing the subject when the subject turned out to be him. Then again, he had just cried on her shoulder. You don't get more emotionally open than that.
"I…" The Doctor faltered, like he was struggling to find the right words. "I thought I was dead. I mean, I've died before – you've even seen it happen – but this time, I honestly believed this was the end for me. I knew Claire was going to kill me to force a regeneration. But If I changed, I was still going to be her prisoner. It's not like the restraints were going to magically disappear in the meantime!" He took a deep breath, like he was trying to stop himself breaking down again. "I have the potential to go on forever, if I'm careful." The Doctor rolled his eyes at the word. "But there's also a slight problem, in that I can only regenerate so many times before… well before I'm dead for good. All I could think was that Claire wasn't going to let me live any longer than necessary and that my long, brilliant life was going to end in that horrible, white room." He shivered at the thought of it. "And not even for saving a planet or just another life. It would have been for nothing… Just a pointless waste… And I'm not ready, Rose. I'm not ready to lose all of this… or, or to lose you."
Rose smiled broadly at him. "You couldn't lose me if you tried. Hey, you did try, so you really should know better by now. You could dump me on Raxacoricafallapatorius in the year 5000 and I would still find you." Finally, she got a smile out of him. "The only thing you lost in there was a load of blood… And, oh my God, how disgusting is it that I have to watch it all going back in again." She scrunched her face up.
"Well, I'll make sure I don't get kidnapped by any crazy Doctors who want to bleed me dry to avoid upsetting your delicate sensibilities!" He let go of her hand to pat her gently on the shoulder. Rose took that as her cue to settle him back on the stretcher and replace the blanket that had been kicked off in the panic. While he would have preferred to be in his own room, the Doctor wasn't going to resist. Despite the welcome banter, he still felt physically and emotionally drained, but so relieved to have been allowed the opportunity to get it out of his system.
"When you're taking that needle thing out of your arm, please don't do it in front of me, or I swear, you'll be scraping me off the floor."
"Rose Tyler! You've seen a Time Lord regenerate, a werewolf transform, zombies walking and the inside of a Dalek and you're telling me a little old needle makes you squeamish?"
"Yeah!" She said with great conviction. "Completely squicks me out!"
"Blouse!" The Doctor muttered.
"Oh absolutely!" She retorted. "Complete with frills and a really nice bow!"
Her attempt at humour was met with a huge grin from the Doctor which softened into a warm smile. "Thanks, by the way."
"Oh, you know, saving my life." He shrugged.
"Cos you've never done that for me!" She rolled her eyes. "Look, you should get more rest." She put a hand on his shoulder and lightly kissed the top of his head. "I'll go to the kitchen. You go to sleep."
"Blood transfusions and minestrone soup..." The Doctor sighed as Rose left the medical bay. "Yup… Life is good." He rolled onto his side and drifted back to sleep, this time knowing he was safe. He was home.
A couple of weeks later
Claire adjusted the focus on her microscope, analysing samples. Just normal human samples. All evidence of The Doctor ever having been there was gone... All evidence of her ever having a loving relationship with David was gone too. He had completely moved out and wanted no contact with her. And in hindsight, who could blame him. One day she'd ask David for his forgiveness... But that day was still a long way off.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the phone. She answered after a couple of rings. "Claire Bailey."
"Doctor Bailey, my name is Yvonne Hartman. We should talk..."
Thank you so much to everyone for their comments and encouragement. I really appreciate it. All feedback gratefully received!