Chapter 10: Consequences
There was something to be said about shock. It had created a cocoon around her wherein no sound, no sight, no awareness could pass unless she allowed it. She knew that the King was still far too close to her, but she didn't want to deal with him or her actions of the previous few minutes. It was far more pleasant to be numb.
It soothed her not to think. Not to consider what she'd almost done. Not to think about the King's hands on her body. It was easier that way. She knew, just through what little sound and sight registered to her, that the fighting was over. The Sontarans were defeated, the King was in shackles and all that was left was dealing with the aftermath.
So she continued to sit, staring at nothing and letting the others handle the consequences of the Sontaran invasion and the King's treachery. Rose knew that this wasn't healthy, but she didn't care. She wasn't ready to face what she'd almost done and what had been done to her. She didn't want to be here. Didn't want to celebrate with the other women their hollow-seeming victory.
She wanted to run.
The feel of a hand caressing her cheek brought her attention back to what was happening around her. The Doctor's fathomless blue eyes stared intently into hers, radiating concern. This was the last thing that she'd wanted. She didn't want him to suffer more guilt, not after seeing the briefest glimpse of what he carried all the time. For him, she mustered the shadow of a smile. "We won?" she asked, surprised by the rasp of her voice.
"Yeah, you did," he replied and she blinked at the answer.
She won? "We did," she corrected.
He shook his head, gently brushing back a strand of her hair. "No, Rose. You did. You didn't give in. You never gave up. An' the King's been de-throned because of it."
"Until when?" she asked bitterly. "Sure, we might've defeated the King now. But it doesn't work that way, Doctor. Defeat 'em for a day, but tomorrow someone else – someone who might be worse – will take his place. Erana told me that it's been like this for years." It was easier to talk about the plight of the women of Yervanos than to let herself dwell on what had happened.
"They'll need to start a revolution. Get popular support. An' I've already told Erana to talk to a bloke that I met in the village. When the Ka Ra Nor was destroyed, the memory matrix should've shattered. Firin an' all the others should have their memories back. With their help, changin' society should be simple."
A revolution. Somehow she doubted it'd be as easy as he'd imagined, but there really wasn't anything that they could do about it. They never stayed. Never faced the consequences of their actions. Just swanned in, did some good, and left – never mind those hurt or killed in the process.
However, she couldn't forget what had happened in this aftermath. She couldn't chalk Yervanos up as another adventure that'd come and gone. It hadn't been an adventure. It'd been a nightmare. And now all she wanted to do was go home. She wanted to go back to the TARDIS, crawl under her duvet, and pretend the world didn't exist for several hours. That, at least, sounded heavenly. "Yeah."
He seemed to understand as he gently helped her to her feet. "Doubt anyone'll miss us if we slip out the back."
Part of her wanted to say goodbye to Izikela and Erana. Another, stronger, part of her wanted nothing more to do with them. They thought it was over. War done, the King defeated. They knew nothing.
She could still feel the King's phantom hands as they groped her and she shivered.
"All right?" the Doctor asked softly as they avoided the others. He kept close to her, but not too close. Almost as if he knew what had happened. As if he knew that she was broken.
"Jus' fine, thanks." It was a lie, of course. He knew it as well as she did. But it was a comfortable lie, something that they could use to maintain the charade. At least until they were back in the TARDIS, she conceded.
She knew that the instant he tried anything else, the instant he touched her or hugged her, she'd fall apart. She was holding on to her composure by a thread and even then she felt herself starting to fracture.
Leaving the palace was simple. Unlike her earlier escape, there were no guards, no-one to challenge them as they boldly walked out the front entrance. She didn't think she could handle another confrontation. Not now. Not after so many weeks perched on the edge of despair and panic. Not after so much time spent worried about the Doctor and herself.
She was supposed to be stronger than this.
When she finally saw the TARDIS looming ahead of them, she felt as if she could sob in relief. Tension and despair and guilt had woven their spell around her and she needed to escape. Needed to run.
She let him open the door and followed him inside, meaning to brush past him with a brief 'see you later' and hide in her room until this was over.
He wouldn't let her.
"Rose?" he asked softly, gently, almost tenderly.
She couldn't… Oh, god, she couldn't. "I…" she tried, but couldn't complete the thought. He was too close and too far away at the same time.
He held out his hand, meeting her gaze with an imploring look. Yet, she didn't know if she could go the distance. If she could touch him, let him touch her, and face the memory of those phantom hands. Of the King's bruising kiss. Of the weeks of hurt and worry and pain that had characterised her existence in the harem.
"Rose." He said her name again in that same gentle tone.
His voice broke her resolve and she found herself reaching out to him. He took her hand, holding it and in turn herself as if he were afraid she might shatter. Her composure was unravelling with each beat of her heart, with each breath, with each thought that battered her mind.
It started with a single tear – an expression of fear, anger, regret, and guilt. Another swiftly followed and another until she found herself crying freely.
She hadn't wanted him to see this. He shouldn't see this. She wanted to spare him, but she couldn't. God help her, she couldn't. She didn't think she could stop, though she fought against the tears. Tried to quell them.
"Don't," he said softly, pulling her into his arms. Instead of the terror that she'd feared she would experience at his touch, at being confined, she felt comforted. It was the Doctor. Her Doctor.
He wouldn't hurt her, couldn't hurt her. And she let go.
What had he done? She was so strong, his Rose. But even the strongest person had their breaking point.
Now he'd found hers.
Rassilon. If there was one thing he'd never wanted for her it was this. To find out the horrors that others were capable of. To experience so much hurt and pain without him there to protect her. He'd done his best, given her what he could, yet even that hadn't been enough to save her.
He closed his eyes, letting his head drop to just barely touch her hair. He'd hurt her. Not intentionally, but he had. She knew so much now. Knew the cruelties of life, the vagaries of existence, and true pain.
She knew what it was like to destroy a world. She knew what it was like to be motivated by revenge. It was to her immense credit that she hadn't fallen down the same path he had. She'd stayed her hand, had let the King live. In her stead, he wouldn't've been as generous.
"He tried to…to rape me." The words were whispered, barely understandable, but their meaning shot another pang of guilt through his hearts.
"Did..." He couldn't complete the question. Dreaded the answer. But if the King had, it didn't matter that he was subdued. Didn't matter if he was in jail or otherwise. The King would answer to him.
"No," she said softly. "No, he didn't. I can still feel him, Doctor. Feel his hands touching me. Feel him kissing me. Feel him tearing at my clothes. And I feel dirty. 'S not me. This isn't me. An' I don't know how to stop it. I feel like a victim." She trembled in his arms and he tightened his hold fractionally in response.
This wasn't his forte. He was best suited to dealing with Sontarans or dictators bent on global (or universal) domination. Not trying to pick up the fractured psyche of the woman he... His companion.
He moved one of his hands, letting the other keep her secure against him, to tilt her chin upwards. He wanted to see her eyes when he spoke to her, needed to see her expression. "You're not, Rose. You fought back, yeah?"
"'Course I did," she replied. "But I had to let him get to a point where he almost…so I could get close. Venusian Aikido came in handy, y'know."
Through her incomplete sentences, he could form a mental image of what she'd done. It tore his soul to realise that she'd had to go through such torture just to escape even as it humbled him to realise how strong she really was. Even in the face of possible rape, she'd fought back and eventually rescued him.
He didn't have the faintest idea of how to respond to that. On Earth, at least, she'd have the benefit of professional counsellors. Someone who knew how to handle this sort of thing. If he mucked this up, he might end up messing her up more than she already was. Maybe her mother could help. Much as he loathed seeing Jackie Tyler again, he had to admit that she was good for Rose.
"D'you," he began, almost hesitantly. "D'you want to see your Mum?"
Her reaction was immediate and almost violent. She struggled briefly in his arms, shaking her head. "No!" Rose took a deep breath and continued in a calmer tone. "No, I jus'…don't think I could handle seein' her. 'S too much."
He was at a loss. What could he do for her? He had no basis for comparison. He'd never been almost raped, but he had been tortured. Several times, in fact. It might be a bit like that, but something told him that right now wisdom and advice wasn't what she needed.
"I'm proud of you, Rose Tyler," he said after a long moment, willing her to believe it. "You fought back an' that doesn't make you a victim at all."
"No?" she asked, her voice catching slightly.
"No. It makes you a survivor." He took a bracing breath, fighting against his normal instinct to remain silent, and spoke softly. "You saved me. Even after all of that, you came to find me. And you saved me."
"You'd do the same for me," she said dismissively. It was almost as if she couldn't see how amazing she was for surviving.
"Yeah, I would," he agreed. "But we're not talkin' about me, Rose. We're talking about you. And what you've done. You're fantastic, y'know. Just fantastic. Because you didn't let him beat you. You survived. You're here. An' we're together."
There it was. The glimmer of a smile as she bashfully accepted his praise. "Thank you," she replied.
"No," he corrected. "Thank you." He tightened his embrace again and gave into the urge to press a swift kiss against her forehead. A moment later, he let her go. "Go on, then. Get changed or whatever else you want to do. I know exactly where we're going next."
"Oh?" She looked a little flushed, but he wasn't certain why.
"Yeah," he said. "An' no pasta this time, either."
A real smile appeared on her face. "You still owe me dinner, y'know."
"I do. But, first, there's something you've got to see." He hoped it'd help her as much as it had him. Without waiting for her reply, he hurried to the console and began setting the coordinates.
Letting the pulsing hum of the temporal rotor overwhelm his senses, he let the memory wash over him…
He kept his eyes on the horizon – at least, what could be considered a horizon on the tiny planet of Trius Major. The planet was ovoid in shape, its strange rotational patterns and bizarre magnetic fields making it difficult for some species to withstand. But for those with a sense of adventure, the reward was worth it.
Without a moon, Trius's nights were dark and silent. Even the animal life refused to call out during the evenings, preferring to keep their sounds for the dawn. And it was coming. He could feel it in the turn of the planet beneath him, the slight tingling of his senses as he felt the magnetic field spike around him.
He closed his eyes for a moment as he thought about the girl he'd left behind on Earth such a short time ago. He'd felt the urge for company again, needing that spark of life in his empty ship, but she'd said no. So he let the darkness represent that pang of grief, the loss of Gallifrey, and all of the hurts and pains centuries of living had wrought upon him.
When he opened his eyes again, he watched as the horizon erupted in colour. Brilliant azures, golden yellows, vibrant reds, purples and all the colours in between lit up the skies as the twin suns rose over Trius.
The world was transformed and he smiled. It was always darkest before dawn, but the results were worth it.
With a grin, he turned from the sight some time later. He'd go back for the girl, perhaps mention that he could travel in time.
He looked forward to the new day.
Rose stared at herself in the mirror. Her reflection hadn't changed from her earlier examinations of herself, but she felt different. Perhaps it was the tingle that she still felt on her forehead from the memory of the Doctor's kiss. Or, perhaps, it was the realisation that he was right. She'd fought back. She was a survivor.
With a lighter heart, she returned to the console room, smiling at him when he turned at the sound of her footstep.
"Ready?" he asked. In his expression she could tell that she only had to say the word and whatever was outside those doors could wait. This was for her. And, well, if he wanted her to see it, she would.
"Always," she said without hesitation, moving to take his hand.
He smiled at her and she could see a wealth of emotion in that one expression. Affection, amusement, concern and something else warred for dominance with none proving the stronger. "Then," he replied, striding to the doors and opening them, "Welcome to Trius Major."
She wasn't certain what she was expecting when she stepped outside, but she was fairly positive that it wasn't this. The landscape seemed to be a uniform dark grey. She supposed she could blame that on the fact that it was a moonless night. However, she decided to try her best to be appreciative. "It's lovely."
The Doctor barked out a laugh. "Liar. 'S not much to look at at night. But the dawn is more than worth it." She could feel him looking at her, though she couldn't see him. "Been here before, y'know. Right after askin' you to come with me, actually."
She blinked. "Really?" He'd come here? Admittedly, it was a time machine. Years could've passed in those ten seconds.
"It's always darkest before the dawn," he told her, catching one of her shoulders with his free hand. Once he'd turned her in the proper direction, he continued, "Watch."
And the sky turned into a rainbow, turning the dreary world around her into one of vibrant colour. This, she realised, was this planet's version of dawn. "It's gorgeous," she breathed. And it was. She could see every colour she knew of and some that she was certain were truly alien on display before her.
A comfortable silence stretched between them as they enjoyed the beauty of the natural display. When the colours started to fade a little, he turned toward her. "Rose, I can't promise that it won't be dangerous or that you might not face someone like the King again."
She realised at that moment that she had his full attention. That was rare enough to send a small thrill through her. She felt as if she were the centre of the universe according to the Doctor, and for all she knew she was. "I don't want you to," she began but he cut her off.
"Nor can I promise you that I can always protect you or keep you safe," he said. "But I can promise you that I'll try to."
"No." She shook her head and faced him, lifting her hand to touch his face. "I'm not the only one that needs protecting, or do I need to remind you about the Sontarans?" He looked as if he were about to protest, but she placed a finger against his lips. It might've just been her imagination, but she thought she felt a small amount of additional pressure – an almost-kiss.
"We protect each other, yeah? An' I don't care if it's dangerous or even if I might face another bloke like the King." She didn't, she realised. Not one bit.
"Why?" He looked astonished as he spoke around her finger.
"Because of this," she said, nodding toward the sunrise. "Because of you. Because of the good we can do. 'S worth it."
"Rose," he started, before apparently deciding that words weren't enough. He gently moved her hand away from his mouth, but not before brushing her knuckles lightly with his lips.
She shivered slightly in reaction, watching him intently. She knew him now, knew how he'd be likely to react in any given situation. This was something new for him, something different. And, behind the confident mask that he projected, she knew he was anything but.
It'd be up to her to take the next step, if there was to be a next step. As much because of the experience she'd just been through as because this, she knew, was something he didn't do as a rule. Wouldn't have done with her before, too. Before she'd held his memories; before she'd truly understood him in a way he could never, would never have explained to her.
The experience she'd just been through... yes, it was horrible and terrifying and earlier she'd fallen apart because of it. But he was right. She was strong. She'd saved herself - and then gone on to save him. The king might've hurt her physically, but he hadn't violated her. He'd just touched her body. That didn't matter. That could heal. What mattered was that he hadn't touched her soul, not where it counted. He hadn't broken her.
He was nothing. He was in her past.
This was the Doctor - a man she knew would never hurt her. He might bring her into danger, might even be responsible for her being hurt. But he would never hurt her himself.
That was it, then. It was time to move on. To prove to herself that her past – and Yervanos was just that, the past – couldn't and wouldn't have a hold over her. That she was strong and in complete control of her body and her reactions - and that she could, if she wanted, show a man that she was attracted to him. Show him affection, even without any sexual element to it.
Still keeping her gaze locked on his, she drew his hand toward her lips, repeating his earlier gesture. The soft sigh that he released was enough to encourage her in her actions. The look in his eyes was more than enough to make her want to drop his hand and kiss him properly.
Yes. She was fine. Unbroken and in control. She wasn't scared of intimacy. And that was such a relief.
He was watching her now, as if he could tell what was going through her mind, as if he understood her struggle and her fear that she might not have been able to consider any kind of closeness with a man again.
"All right?" he murmured, the words soft, little more than a whisper.
"More than all right." She smiled up at him, still holding his hand.
His gaze dropped to her lips and, with a slow, deliberate movement, giving her plenty of time to back away or stop him if she wanted, he lowered his head. His lips touched hers lightly, delicately, almost a butterfly-caress, gentler than she ever imagined he was capable of. And then he pulled back, just a few inches, staying close but not touching her.
She knew what he was doing. It was her choice. He'd left it in her hands. If she was okay with this - if she wanted it, if she felt comfortable - she could touch him. Kiss him. If she wasn't, it'd be okay too. Nothing had changed, not really. Well, other than they understood each other better than ever before, but that'd already happened with her holding his memories.
So she leaned up to him. Touched her lips to his. And he remained perfectly still, letting her take charge. Be in control.
It wasn't a snog. It really wasn't much beyond chaste - she wasn't ready for that yet, not so soon after Yervanos, and she suspected he wasn't entirely ready for their relationship to move to that point either. He was doing this, she somehow knew, to help her feel better about herself.
So she just kissed him, more or less as she would if she was kissing his cheek, only it was on his lips. And then he returned the kiss, bringing his arms around her then in a hug, one hand sliding up her back to tangle in her hair. It was just like the dozens of other hugs they'd shared, and yet it wasn't. It was subtly different. More.
And when the kiss ended, he smiled slowly at her, letting his hand drop from her hair after one last caress to once again re-claim her hand. "'S a beautiful day," he told her and something in his words indicated that it was all that and more because she was with him.
She smiled, catching her tongue between her teeth. "Yeah, yeah it is."
Sharing one last look, they headed back to the TARDIS. No, she corrected herself as she stole a glance at the beauty around her, she wasn't just going back to the ship. It meant more than that to her, just as the Doctor did.
She wasn't just going back to the TARDIS.
She was going home.
Thank you to everyone who's reviewed. I'm glad you've enjoyed this:)