Ookay, I didn't know my imagination was so vivid or so morbid until I re-read the dream sequence.
Disclaimer: I own my own morbid imagination and that's pretty much it.
WARNING: This is the closest thing to an M rating I have ever done. PLEASE tell me if I should up the rating, or if it's fine where it is.
"Need to get a man in," he said, delighted, and hit the fireplace soundly. It obediently whirled around with him.
"Doctor!" shouted Reinette.
"Madame du Pompadour?" he inquired. She knelt at the other side of the fireplace. "Still wanna see those stars?"
"More than anything."
"Give us two minutes. Pack a bag."
Excitement flashed across her eyes. "Am I going somewhere?"
"Go to the window, Reinette. Pick a star. Any star." And he got up and walked away.
"Rose?" he called.
"Rose?" he repeated, nervousness tingeing his voice.
A mechanical whirring drew his attention to the eye/camera, which had focussed on him like it knew who he was. It extended outwards on a slender metal appendage to hover immediately before him.
His hearts froze.
The eye was honey-coloured, with just the faintest sparkle of Time trapped inside, glittering like gold dust.
He turned and he ran, and he collided with a clockwork robot.
"We are complete," it whirred.
"She is compatible."
Oh, no. No no no no no. Not her.
He shoved past the robot and kept on running, running, running, until he found the containment room and its tables.
One held Mickey Smith, dead, but mostly untouched.
The other held the mutilated corpse of Rose herself.
His breath, frozen in his chest, burned his lungs like acid as he forced himself to look at what his delay, his abandonment, had made of her. Both perfect eyes were gouged out, dark crimson blood decorating the empty sockets and dripping down her face in gruesome tears. Her skull had been sawn open to access her brain, more blood pooling in the cavity and running down the table. Garish rends in the pale flesh of her abdomen decorated the skin, which was sagging unnaturally as there was little left to support it; her ribcage had been torn apart and removed to get to her heart, the eerily pale flesh collapsed into the hollow the operation had created; her mouth was open in a silent mask of sheer terror. Rassilon knew how long it had taken before she died, how much she had suffered at the nonexistent mercy of unfeeling clockwork before she finally screamed her last and the pain stopped...
He stood there, unable to breathe, unable to think, unable to either move towards her to mourn her properly or run away as her blood pooled on the floor, lapping at his feet, the stench of death and terror heavy in the air, the warm, crimson, sticky tide of Rose's lifeblood getting higher and higher and he was drowning...
The Doctor woke up screaming.
It took a few seconds before it finally registered that Rose had survived, she wasn't currently acting as the central computer on some ancient hulk of a spaceship, she was safe and fine and in the TARDIS and he had just been dreaming again.
Each breath was hurting him, short and fast and harsh, scorching into him like bile in his lungs. He made a noise oddly akin to a whimper and drew his knees up to his chin as he tried desperately to erase the images his mind had created, but they remained. He could still smell the bitterly metallic stench of her blood on his skin, see her face so completely empty, streaked with tears of crimson from hollow sockets...
He shook himself, burying his face in his knees, his breath slowing now, but still hurting. He tried desperately to control herself, not to break down sobbing at the images which had been haunting him since his regeneration; no longer was the Time War monopolising his dreams. More often than not, now, his dreams of that were drastically outnumbered by increasingly gruesome images of Rose suffering, Rose dying, and him being too late.
Tears streaked down his face, burning his skin, and he gasped for breath as soon as his diaphragm stopped its spasms, barely able to get any air in his lungs before it hissed out again in another choked sob.
A tap on the door.
The Doctor jumped.
"Are you all right?" asked Rose, opening the door and slipping inside, her form silhouetted in the faint light from the TARDIS corridors.
"Fine," he said, too quickly, too loudly. "I'm fine."
"Yeah?" she inquired caustically, using a tone he'd never heard from her before, deep dark bitterness ensconced in her voice. "You suddenly scream in the middle of the night for fun, then, do you?"
He was unable to answer that in a way that wouldn't prove her right.
She sighed, her belligerent posture melting, and uncrossed her arms. "Nightmare?" she inquired softly.
He nodded, scowling ever-so-slightly.
She closed the door behind her with a click and sat cross-legged before him in a way which disturbed him as much as her earlier venom. She used to sit beside him. She used to embrace him awkwardly and tell him that it would be okay. She didn't sit a solid three inches in front of him, hands folded in her lap, eyes dark with a resentment she couldn't quite hold back.
One thing hadn't changed, though.
"Tell me about it?"
So he did. Tremblingly, at first. Quietly. All emotions under control, mostly. But then the words came tumbling out, faster, faster, strung together in barely comprehensible phrases which brought back too much of the dream too quickly and he unravelled all at once like an unfinished scarf the knitter had decided to destroy so they could use the yarn for something else. He was unable to keep the tears from coming, and as ashamed as it made him to break down in front of Rose, he couldn't stop. Couldn't stop the tears, couldn't stop the pain, couldn't stop the words.
In the dim light and his inner torment, he didn't notice Rose's expression change from reluctantly open to quietly mournful. He barely noticed she was even there until she scooted forwards to enclose him in an ungainly hug.
He clung to her, unspeakably relieved that she had forgiven him enough to do that much, still needing proof that she was there before him and not lost and mutilated on some spaceship Rassilon-knew-where.
"It's all right," she murmured. "I'm here, I'm alive, you don't have to think about it any more."
He managed to choke out her name and hid his face in her shoulder, still unable to control the rasping sobs which shook his entire frame.
It took several minutes, during which Rose neither moved nor spoke, before the force of his inner torment exhausted him and he started to slip into an uneasy sleep again.
She disentangled herself and made to get up, but he kept a hold of her arm.
"Please," he whispered. "I don't... I can't go through that again." And she always used to stay with him when his dreams kept him from sleep, until he could hardly close his eyes without her there. He needed her there with him like a child needed his favourite stuffed animal, to protect him from the darkness. It would have embarrassed the Doctor— really, the last of the Time Lords, dependant on a human girl just to be able to sleep at night!— and often did, when the artificial night ended and the dreams faded away, but right now, with those horrible images still fresh in his mind, he didn't care. He needed her.
Her eyes softened a little more. "Okay."
He uncurled himself awkwardly, laying his head back on his pillow, and she manoeuvred beside him and he held her, clutching her feverishly to him until the last vestiges of the nightmare let go of him and he slipped into a dreamless sleep.
He awakened warm.
That in itself startled him enough for him to properly shake off any remnant of slumber which tried to pull him down.
He should be cold. He was always cold. He was Loomed cold. It was all that bloody Other's fault, giving him human DNA; he was Gallifreyan enough to have a natural Gallifreyan temperature, human enough to feel it, every second of every minute of every hour. No matter where he went, he couldn't escape the chill permeating his blood.
Except, apparently, now.
He smiled softly at the reason for this alien sensation of not-coldness, who was asleep, looking almost completely not-quite content, but more content than he'd seen her since... well. Since before his regeneration, actually. He cursed his previous self, not for the first time, for being too addled to properly verbalise what was going to happen. His previous self snapped back with something incredibly rude and very Reinette-related and promptly began to sulk.
He didn't bother fighting back because he knew Nine was right. Nine may not have been able to warn her of regeneration, but at least he hadn't abandoned her on a strange ship with no-one but Mickey, the TARDIS and a broken window for company.
At least she wasn't leaving. At least she was giving him another chance. If only because he was the only man in the Universe with a TARDIS.
He wouldn't let her regret her decision. With a tenderness he would never have shown her had she not been dead to the world, he gently pressed his lips to her temple. Her lips barely curved in a smile, the slight frown etched between her eyes vanishing slowly.
He stroked her hair lightly and crawled gingerly out of the bed so as not to awaken her.
He'd make it up to her. Somehow.
He had to, or none of him would ever forgive himself.
I feel... -gasp- inadequate... so few reviews... arrrrgh -falls into coma from review deprivation-
Kathryn II: Now, look what you've done to poor Kathryn III! How hard can it be to press a button??