Disclaimer: Right. Supposed to tell you I don't own them. Well, it's true. No one owns anyone. I am, however, borrowing them indefinitely. And no, they're not allowed to leave.
Spoilers: It's a TGITF episode tag fic, so I suppose spoilers through that episode. Ten/Rose.
Rose stood in the doorway, watching the Doctor as he folded up the piece of paper in his hands before sliding it into his inside suit coat pocket.
He strode slowly around the console, tapping out something on the keyboard and hitting a few buttons. The TARDIS shook a little, but nothing she wasn't used to.
She held onto the doorframe, watching as he shrugged out of his long tan coat and dropped it over the back of his chair before crossing his arms, rubbing his eyes with his left hand.
"What is it, Rose?"
She felt her eyes widen a bit and he turned to look at her.
"What do you need?"
"Nothing, I…I just wanted to see if you were okay." She stepped into the room a bit, one arm wrapping across her chest.
"No," he said, shortly. "I'm not. Anything else?" She wasn't sure if she was taken aback at his honesty or at his tone and didn't come any further into the room.
He must have sensed something from her and sighed, looking up at her again, an apologetic smile on his face. "I just want to be alone for a bit, all right?"
Rose studied his face. While she couldn't say he looked his age, as she'd had yet to meet another 900 year-old humanoid to do a comparison, he definitely looked older. His shoulders were weighted down; tiny lines appeared around his eyes.
They were almost pleading with her that she leave him alone. Asking her in words he could never, would never, say to let him have time to grieve.
Rose turned and left the console room, letting the door close behind her more loudly that she might have before. She stopped at her bedroom to pick up a hoodie and shrugged it on over her t-shirt, zipping it up as she headed down the corridor to her favourite room in the TARDIS.
She paused briefly at the door to the room she'd given Mickey, pressing her ear close to the crack of the doorjamb and listening. When she didn't hear any movement inside, she continued her trek down the corridor, climbing the stairs when she reached the end of the dimly lit hallway.
She stopped at the door at the head of the stairs and turned the knob, stepping inside and shutting the door behind her.
She wasn't sure what the Doctor would call this room. It wasn't a cinema, or a lounge, or anything, unless she wanted it to be. It seemed like the TARDIS picked up on her moods before she even opened the door, because the room was perfect every time.
This time it was a small garden, surrounded by evergreen trees and covered in a gray sky, snowflakes drifting down lazily, but not terribly cold. Not intolerable.
Rose pulled the zip higher on her hoodie and covered her hair with the hood, but otherwise she was comfortable as she made her way to a small concrete bench. She wiped off the snow and sat down, crossing her legs beneath her.
She didn't know what to think. She knew, on some level, the Doctor loved her. Whether it was as a daughter, or a sister, or a friend, or a lover didn't really matter. She knew he cared and that's what was important.
She loved him, deeply, more than she'd ever loved anyone or anything in her entire, short life.
But she loved him enough to accept that he would never love her that way and it was okay, it really was.
She wasn't even jealous. She wasn't a fool; she knew the Doctor…danced. And she was pretty sure he had since she'd met him and who was she to complain anyway? It wasn't like she'd been celibate. He'd just been a lot more discreet about it than she had.
He'd left her behind. But even that…as much as that hurt, as much as that stung, that wasn't even it.
What hurt her most was that, as much as she loved him, still loved him, she'd lost her trust in him.
He'd done the only thing he'd thought, at the time, he could do to fix the situation.
He'd been prepared to, as Reinette put it, walk the slow path and meet up with her again in her future.
And she knew…had known, at the time, that he would've done it, provided he'd made it 200 and some odd years without using up his regenerations.
The one fatal flaw in his plan was that he hadn't thought quickly enough. And because of that, he'd left her without a way to get home.
She didn't know how to activate Emergency Programme Any Number, she didn't know how to pilot the TARDIS, not well enough to get to the Powell Estates in 2007, and she didn't even know how long the TARDIS would be able to support her and Mickey on that abandoned space ship.
She'd spent an hour waiting for him to return. She knew he wouldn't be coming back, but she owed it to him to wait, didn't she? And just for good measure, she'd spent another hour waiting.
The third hour she'd spent trying to assess their situation. Trying to think like the Doctor and the problem in their situation was that the Doctor hadn't thought—not with his brain, anyway.
The fourth hour she'd spent with Mickey, poring over the console, trying to make heads and tails of it, but everything was in that blasted pictograph script of the Doctor's, and the one language he insisted the TARDIS didn't translate for her which conveniently made it impossible for her to save her own life.
For all she knew, one of those damned post-it notes he stuck all over the console read "Press Here to Return to Powell Estates, London" but how the hell would she ever know?
The fifth hour she'd spent consoling Mickey as he sufficiently freaked out on the idea that they were really, truly stranded on a 51st century spaceship with enough food for a year, maybe two if they rationed well and no way home.
After the fifth hour, she went back to waiting for the Doctor. Her relief at seeing him instantly turned to anger again when he went back for Reinette.
Not jealousy. She told Mickey that when he chided her and she truly didn't think she was jealous. She knew she'd never come first in the Doctor's mind, no matter what he said to the contrary.
She stood, brushing the snow from her legs and jacket and picked up the gloves that were resting innocently next to her. She looked around, making sure she was still alone and smiled when she realised the TARDIS had done it for her. She pulled the gloves on and got down onto the ground, slowly and methodically building a snowman.
She just wondered maybe if she'd stayed past her welcome. She'd had a hard smack in the face when she'd met Sarah Jane, but she'd spent time reassessing the situation and maybe the Doctor was right.
No matter how much you tried, people always changed, and not always the way you wanted. You could spend every day for years together and still grow apart—it just happened.
And maybe that's what she and the Doctor had done. He'd become someone else, quite literally, overnight. And while she loved him equally as she had done before his regeneration, there was no denying that things were different between them.
The spark was still there, the true enjoyment of his company, but…
She patted the bottom snowball into place, smoothing it down, before sitting back and peering at it.
Needed more snow, she thought decisively.
She was almost certain her mood had to do with her loss of trust in him.
What if they were in another situation, similar or not? She had, up until this point, put her entire life, literally, in his hands, trusting him to get them out of whatever situation they were in, whole and unscathed.
Maybe she'd been wrong.
Maybe it'd only worked out up until this point.
Maybe he'd thought that Mickey would fix whatever he broke.
She wasn't sure what it was, and she knew she'd never find out, but that was beside the point.
The point was, if they were in another situation where the Doctor had to make a choice like that, could she trust him to get her home safely?
And the sad truth was no, she couldn't. And, for whatever reason, he refused to teach her even rudimentary flying skills, so if he left her stranded again and really couldn't get back, she was well and truly screwed.
The Doctor was worth the monsters, yes. That hadn't changed. But was he worth her life? Worth losing her life painfully and slowly, so he could repeat what he'd done?
She just didn't know.
But, when it came down to it, could she walk away? Never mind how it would make her feel, she'd promised him she would never leave him.
That nasty little voice in the back of her head started counting down the promises he'd broken to her as she heaved more snow onto the bottom, smoothing it all together, but she ignored it, shoving it back where it belonged. She moved to the far part of the garden, slowly packing and rolling the snow to form the head of the snowman.
She'd made a commitment and she would see it through. Until it became unbearable, until they couldn't hold hands or hug anymore…
As long as it hurt less to be with him than be apart from him, then she would stay with him.
But god, how she wished she could say goodbye.
She was just pushing the TARDIS-provided carrot into the appropriate place on the head of the snowman, when she heard the throat clearing behind her.
She knew instantly, inside and from the way every muscle in her body tensed, that it was the Doctor. It was a habit, the quiet throat-clearing, one that she wasn't even sure if he knew he did.
She forced herself to turn and look at him, a falsely cheery smile on her face, one that made her cheeks ache.
He stood with his back against the wall, arms crossed defensively, legs crossed at the ankle. His eyebrows were raised at her and she opened her mouth to say something that would probably end up being asinine—
"I'm sorry." She shut her mouth with a frown at his words, dark eyebrows furrowing.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left you like that. I was wrong."
Of all the things she'd expected to hear from him, it certainly wasn't that. Not that she'd been expecting to hear anything. Usually whenever he did something they both knew was wrong, it was ignored until everyone got over themselves and they moved on, never talking about it after the fact.
In fact, she was relatively sure that he would never have brought it up. He would've waited until tomorrow morning and when she came into the console room, he would've acted like nothing untoward had happened—
"Rose?" She blinked.
"I said I was sorry." She glanced up and met his gaze before digging in her pocket for the TARDIS-provided lumps of coal and turning back to Bob. She decided the snowman's name was Bob. Or Larry.
"I know," she replied, almost as an afterthought, working the coal into the snow to form Bob/Larry's left eye.
"Don't you want to know what I'm sorry for?"
"No, not particularly." She was trying really hard to not be angry and to be the Kind and Caring Friend, but he was beginning to make it difficult. He moved to her and plucked the other lump of goal from her hand, studying it and not meeting her gaze.
"What do you mean, 'not particularly'?"
"Pretty self-explanatory, Doctor." She dug the buttons out of her pocket, since he wanted to make Bob./Larry blind in one eye, and set about forming the snowman's mouth.
"You're angry with me," he sighed. She felt his gaze on her, but didn't look at him. The tip of her tongue jutted out between her teeth in concentration as she took special care to line up the buttons.
"No, not yet. Not really"
"Which is it? Not yet or not really?"
She felt his hand come up and slide over her shoulder, but she stepped to the side a little.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Doctor."
"Tell me what I can do to fix it." She didn't reply and she heard him suck in a breath as she was finishing the buttons. "Please. Rose, please tell me."
"There is nothing to fix, Doctor. Everything's fine." She flicked her glance over his as she plucked the coal from his hand and pushed it into its proper place.
"If everything's fine, why won't you let me hold you?" Rose tugged the scarf from her pocket and felt herself relax when he moved a few steps away.
"I see that, building a snowman. But our friendship is in jeopardy and I'm trying to fix it and all you care about is your damned snowman." Rose was mildly surprised. He didn't swear on a regular basis, generally only when he was truly upset about something.
"You left me, Doctor." She stopped what she was doing and looked straight at him. He wouldn't meet her eyes. "You, quite literally, left me to die. How can I believe you won't do it again?"
"I left you behind to survive, Rose." He looked up at her, something sparking in the depths of those dark eyes, but she couldn't discern it. "You weren't in any danger."
"No danger? Mickey and I would've survived a year, maybe two. You were responsible for us, Doctor, and you failed." He didn't respond and she sighed. "You've always said one day it'll be me or the universe. I guess I never really understood that, before. Silly me. Before, when you've had to make that decision, you've always been able to do both, to save both."
"I couldn't this time."
"No, Doctor. You chose not to." He opened his mouth to protest, but she held up a hand. "You chose not to, and that's fine. I wouldn't have expected anything else from you. But I can't trust you anymore. And I'm sorry for that."
She watched as he heaved a huge sigh and rubbed his hands over his face before looking up at her again, fingers entwined and gripping the back of his neck.
"I was apologising for leaving you behind. I thought I was doing the right thing, I really did. As soon as I got there and saw the mirror closed and realised I really couldn't get back…I was upset, Rose. I do care." She nodded, turning back to the snowman and adjusting the scarf unnecessarily.
"I know you do, Doctor."
"The problem is, I care too much. Not about you," he said, quickly. "You're my best mate; I couldn't ever care too much about you. But about everyone else. About people who…don't matter."
"If you cared about Reinette, care about her, then she matters, Doctor."
"I don't know what I feel about her. She'd died. You know how the time windows kept jumping; we couldn't pinpoint the times accurately?" She felt his eyes on her again and nodded again. "I went back through the fireplace—I wasn't thinking right, asking her to come with us—and she had died."
Rose looked up at the despondency in his voice. His hands were stuffed into his trouser pockets, he was looking down at the snow, scuffing it with the toe of his trainer. She placed a light hand on his chest between his hearts.
"I'm sorry, Doctor." One of his hands came up and covered hers, a brief smile flitting over his lips.
"You loved her. You watched her grow up. I would expect you to be upset. I'm not upset over that, Doctor."
"I think," he started slowly, moving her fingers so their hands hung between them, loosely entwined, "that I'm upset because of you." She looked at him sharply, but he wouldn't meet her gaze again.
"Because of me? What did I do?"
"She reminded me of you, Rose. She's you, only…grown up."
"No, listen. She was accomplished, mature, sure of herself and of her place…knew what to do to get things done…was able to make the right decision whether she liked it or not." Rose pulled a face, but he didn't notice.
"But don't you see?" He went on, not waiting for her to answer, tightening his fingers on hers. "She was you, only…to use a borrowed term…completed. That's why I loved her."
Rose blinked at his admission. She was quite sure that was the only declaration of love she'd ever get from him.
"I told you, the night you met Sarah Jane, that I have to watch all of you leave me. It was like that. Her entire lifetime, in a matter of a day and she was taken away from me. It's like what I'll have to go through with you, with all of you." He leaned over, his normally cool lips brushing warmly against her cold cheek, before he wrapped his arms around her, tugging her close.
"I'm so proud of you, Rose, of everything you've become since I met you. And if I damaged that, if I ruined our friendship, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry; I never wanted to. But I understand." He pulled back, looking down at her, brushing the backs of his fingers over her cheek.
"You didn't ruin anything, Doctor. I just expected too much of you. More than you could give." She saw the pain flicker through his eyes, but she didn't regret her words. She couldn't help if she hurt him; she wasn't going to lie about how she felt.
"Are we okay?"
Were they? She still loved him, madly. She was pretty sure he knew that. She was also pretty sure that he'd never make her say it and that she never would. Still. He was her best friend.
And trust was something that could be earned, learned again.
And then she realised she'd grown up, realised now that she had to rely on herself to get herself out of a tough situation, rather than someone else. She'd been leaning on him far too much.
She would stay with him until it was too painful to do anything but leave.
She couldn't say goodbye.
She looked up at him, watched the smile slowly cross his face as her eyes met his.