Title: Through the Night
Authors: Gillian Taylor
Rating: PG
Characters: Rose Tyler, Tenth Doctor
Summary: He wants to know that he's still awake and that this isn't a dream.
Spoilers: N/A
Disclaimer: Don't own them. I just like playing with them...a lot.
Archive: Sure, just let me know.

A/N: Thanks, as always, to my lovely betas NNWest, Ponygirl, & WMR.

Through the Night
by Gillian Taylor

It starts with a look. A single glance, full of torment and remembered anguish, the fear of losing something only just regained. She knows it as well as he does.

Just a short time ago, she was gone. Oh, not literally. She was still alive, of course. Just separated from him by several metres of thick stone walls and at least half of the citadel's guard. She was told that he was dead (though she'd know, wouldn't she? In her heart, something would stop, if he died.). Forbidden to find the TARDIS, forbidden to leave. She was stuck trying to live a life without him and still survive the dictator's machinations.

It had been only two weeks, but to her they were an eternity. Not knowing if he was alive and searching for her. Not knowing if he was dead or regenerating, sick because no-one could or would take care of him. She tried escaping at least three times, and each time she was beaten for her troubles. The fourth time she tried to escape, she succeeded. Only, she thinks, because of him.

There was a hug, a frantic check that the other was all right, and then they were off again. Saving the world, starting a revolution and, finally, returning home.

Now that she's back, now that she's here, she finds it hard to let him out of her sight. Even for the necessities of sleep. She knows she'll wake in the middle of the night convinced that the last few hours were nothing more than a dream. That she hasn't escaped, that she hasn't found him again.

Something in his eyes, in his gaze, tells her that he feels the same. She could find her room in the TARDIS, let the hum of the ship soothe her, but she knows that it won't do. Not at the moment. Not right now. Perhaps not ever.

However, there's still a gulf between them. Despite his words, despite hers, it's there. The elephant in the room that no-one wants to acknowledge. She should just tell him what she wants, what she needs, but she doesn't know how.

A yawn escapes her control and she quickly hides it behind her hand, smiling faintly at his amused look. "Well, I should..." She gestures in the vague direction of the interior of the TARDIS.

"Yeah," he agrees, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers. "I'll… see you in the morning?"

She nods. "See you later, then." And she turns, fighting back disappointment as she walks to her room.

She knows what's going to happen tonight, but maybe it won't. She's here, as is he. This is the TARDIS. She's home now.

The dreams don't have to come.

That doesn't mean they won't.

He finds himself staring at the centre console some minutes after her departure, suddenly convinced that she's still gone. That everything that's happened – the desperate push towards consciousness, the discovery that he was alone, the terrible fear that she was dead, finding out the truth, their reunion, and her return – has been nothing more than another dream. Another desperate wish for happier days, when she was with him.

He should let her rest. He knows that she's here. He knows that he just talked to her, that she's only sleeping. Humans need their sleep, he rationalises, but that doesn't mean he can't look in on her. Just because...

He needs to see her.

A heavy sigh escapes him as he makes his decision. Let her yell at him for disturbing her. He just needs to reassure himself that she's within touching distance. That he can hold her hand, brush her cheek with his fingers, see her smile and her excitement when she sees something new.

He wants to know that he's still awake and that this isn't a dream.

The distance between the console room and her room is normally a good five to ten minute walk, depending on the random movements of the corridors, of course. He finds that the distance has been shortened considerably and he pauses for a brief moment to touch one of the walls in thanks.

The door to her room looks as it always has (though shouldn't it be brighter? Happier? She's home, after all). It's a little chipped in the bottom right corner thanks to an unfortunate encounter with a ball (he blames Jack for that; the TARDIS's halls aren't meant for football).

It's only when his hand is inches from touching the handle that he realises the door's slightly ajar. He can hear her moving about inside, but he can't force himself to announce his presence. Not yet, at least. Feeling somewhat voyeuristic, he listens to her prepare for bed. There's the soft whisper of the bedclothes as she slides them down her bed. The click of the light next to her bed as she shuts it off. Then the sound of movement as she tries to get comfortable.

He's about to leave, deciding that this truly is a rubbish plan, when he hears it. It's so quiet, he almost thinks it his imagination. However, when he hears it again, he recognises it for what it is – the sound of a strangled sob.

He's inside her room before he even realises that he moved, striding quickly across the floor to the side of her bed. In the faint light reflected from the hallway, Rose is merely a misshapen lump of duvet and human.

"Rose?" he asks tentatively. He lets his hand hover a mere hairsbreadth above her head, wanting to touch but not daring.

She sobs again and he throws caution to the wind, sinking onto the bed beside her and pulling her unresisting form into his arms. She clutches at him, burying her face in his chest. She's fighting against it, though. Trying to force back her tears and cries.

"Let it go," he whispers to her. "I'm here."

If possible, she holds him tighter as she releases the cumulative sorrow, worry and fear of the past two weeks. "I lost you," she whispers between her choked cries. "They told me you were dead."

His hearts clench at her words and he presses a kiss against her hair. It's tempting, so tempting to try to lighten the air, but he knows he shouldn't. He can't. That's not what she needs. Not right now.

Nor is it what he needs. He needs… He closes his eyes, burying his face into her hair, letting the familiar smell and feel of her wrap around him in a faint echo of their embrace. She's alive. His hearts sing with it now. She's here, in his arms and purely, magnificently alive.

"They were wrong," he tells her.

"Thank god," she murmurs. After what might be an eternity, though probably only a few minutes, her sobs quiet to the occasional sniffle. Neither of them makes the first move to separate. Instead, he shifts them both – after a momentary pause to toe off his Chucks so they won't dirty the duvet.

She's lying next to him now, her arms still around him and his still around her. He's reluctant to let her go, content to listen to her breathing. However, his mind refuses to rest, to relax. Instead it churns, replaying the events of the past few weeks in vivid Technicolor. He relives those first few frantic hours of consciousness, discovering her blood and the broken trail that led to a steep cliff. A head injury of any sort could easily disorientate her, causing her to lose her way…and to fall.

He curses himself now. Especially since she had to experience what life was like in the citadel, a pawn to the whims of a dictator. If only… No. Down that path is madness. He's been there before, just after the War. It's frightening to realise just how close he was to losing someone he…

He doesn't complete that thought.

"I'm sorry," he says, his voice rumbling free. "I didn't…"

"Stop," she orders him, pressing one of her fingers to his lips to echo her command. "It wasn't your fault, yeah? Not your fault those guards got a jump on us. And definitely not your fault that I got captured. I don't blame you."

"But you should," he replies, speaking around her finger. "I practically abandoned-"

Rose moves so she's able to rest her chin against his chest, staring into his eyes. "Never. Oh, for a bit I was on my own, yeah, but I made it. Rescued myself, after all. An' then we got out." She drops her finger away from his lips, only the phantom-like memory of her warmth lingering against his skin.

He just wishes there was something he could've done differently. She won't accept his apology, he knows, even though she deserves that and so much more. He lets silence stretch between them, his thoughts dwelling upon everything he did wrong while she was gone. "But you shouldn't've had to," he finally says. "It never should've happened."

"It did. Doesn't matter, though. It's over, yeah? Everything's sorted and we're home. Besides, I shouldn't've cried all over you like that." She touches the spot that's still damp from her earlier tears.

"No," he says, cutting her off. "You're-"

"Only human," she replies.

Oh, sometimes he really wishes his past regeneration wasn't so daft. "Not what I was going to say. It wasn't!" he says in response to her look. "What I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted-" He pauses, giving her a chance to interrupt again. When she doesn't, he grins. "-that's what friends are for. Any time you need a shoulder, you just have to ask."

She moves slightly beside him and he thinks that she's indicating that she wants him to go. He should, he supposes, let her rest, but he finds it difficult to move. He craves her company. Her warmth. He knows that dreams will come tonight when he closes his eyes. Nightmares, even, that she's still gone.

He finds himself meeting her gaze when she lifts herself up, balancing on her elbow. "What about you?" she asks. "When you need a hug or a friend? Seems a bit one-sided if I'm the one always taking, y'know. This friendship thing goes both ways."

That stings. Then again, it is the truth. He's offered himself as her shoulder, but can he truly let her do the same for him? He doesn't want to burden her with his thoughts, his worries, his fears or his tears. He just wants to protect her (but he hasn't, has he?). Save her (but she saved herself this last time).

He lets out a sigh, leaning back against the headboard. "I'll… You're right. No, wait, you are. Bit daft, really. I'm just, well…" Bloody hell, he can't even get the words out. He has the gift of prattle this regeneration and it's abandoned him when he needs it the most.

"A git?" she offers with a cheeky smile.

"Oi!" He does his best to appear offended, but he knows it isn't working. "I'll try," he finally says. It's the best he can offer. Nine hundred years on (and then some) and he has got rather set in his ways. Except for this. He never would've done this before, he knows. Craving the comfort of human warmth. Craving her.

He doesn't have time to censor his words when he finally blurts out what he's thinking. "Rose, can I stay here tonight?" he asks.

She blinks at him, wide-eyed, and he realises how it sounds. "It doesn't have to be – I mean, I just need to hold you. It's been…hard. Thinking about you, dreaming about you and waking up and realising that you were gone. Though not that I… I mean, if you… Blimey, your mum'd regenerate me if she knew I was even hinting…" He's blushing. He knows he is. That's the only explanation for the warmth on his face and he fights the urge to duck his head, to look away.

He wants to stay. Here. With her. Her head is reeling, though she knows he didn't mean to imply, well, that. They're not like that, him and her. Much as sometimes she wishes they were. They're more than that, really. Can she truly fault him for wanting to stay, when she was already thinking of asking him the same?

"Long as you don't hog all the sheets," she replies, offering him a smile. He seems almost faint with relief.

"Don't need all this, actually," he says, poking at her duvet with a finger. "It's not very likely I'd steal them during the night."

"All right, then," she says, smiling as she curls her body closer to his, resting her head against his chest. She can hear his hearts beating in a soothing rhythm and she lets the sound lull her into a state of almost-sleep.

She feels him shift into a more comfortable position, his arms tightening around her, and she smiles. It's soothing to have him here, to know that he's alive, to feel him next to her. Now, she thinks, the dreams won't come. How can they?

In this timeless moment, there's nothing but him and her. Two friends – and, perhaps, something more – drawing and giving comfort to each other. She turns her head so she can meet his gaze, echoing his gentle smile. When he leans forward just enough to brush a soft kiss against her lips, she thinks that this is a promise. This is the start of that something more. And, as sleep rushes in to claim her, her smile doesn't fade.

When next she wakes, after a thankfully dreamless sleep, he's still there.