Rose leaned against the control panel of the TARDIS. The Doctor was on the other side, sitting in a chair he'd dragged in from another room, reading a book. She watched, smiling, as he shook his head in exasperation at whatever was happening, but the smile faded from her face to be replaced by a frown as he set the book down. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Are you alright, Doctor?" she asked, concern creeping into her voice.
He nodded and ran his fingers through his untidy hair. "Just tired, that's all."
"Why don't you go rest?" Rose said, coiling a loose lock of her hair around her fingers. She did that when she was nervous, and right now she was definitely nervous. The Doctor had been acting oddly for three days now.
"Because I've got to fly the TARDIS, of course," he pointed out. "I'm fine, stop worrying about me."
Rose thought. "If I told you I was fine, would you stop worrying about me?"
"I didn't think so," she said quietly, smiling to herself. "So...I won't stop worrying about you, no matter how many times you say you're fine."
"What if I order you to?"
"Then not worrying would be just what the Doctor ordered," she said, grinning.
"Heh," he laughed, and a look of concern flickered over Rose's face for a fragment of a second. Then she grinned again, but her bright smile couldn't hide the worry in her eyes.
He told me he was tired, she thought. And why shouldn't he be? He'll be fine. Anyways, she scolded herself, the TARDIS would know if he wasn't well.
With that consolation, she pushed it out of her mind.
She was cheerful, forcing herself not to worry about the Doctor, until later that afternoon. He was reading his book again, in one of the brief times between having to pilot the TARDIS. Suddenly, as Rose was drifting away in her own thoughts, he started coughing.
"Don't die," said Rose, teasing, but he couldn't even answer. Her eyes widened. "Doctor! Are you alright?"
He caught his breath. "I'm fine," he managed, and started coughing again.
"Doctor!" Rose ran around the console and rocked back and forth on her toes, unsure what to do. The lights of the TARDIS flickered unhappily.
It was nearly ten minutes before the Doctor was released from the coughing fit, as quickly as he'd been seized by it. He slumped back in his seat, panting, and pushed his glasses up to rub his face with his hands.
"Doctor," Rose said severely, "go rest. Now. You're clearly not fine, and I want you to get some rest so you don't cough yourself to death."
"Fine, fine," he said, and stood. At once he swayed and waved his arms about, trying to get his balance. Rose caught him before he went over backwards.
"What's that?" she demanded. "It's certainly not fine."
"I got up and everything spun out of control," said the Doctor weakly. "I couldn't tell which way was down..." He sounded far-off and distracted.
Rose let him lean on her and helped him to his room. "TARDIS, light off, please," she called. The lights dimmed down into blackness. She pushed the Doctor backwards onto the bed and fumbled around for the lamp switch. A soft golden glow illuminated the room.
"That's better," said the Doctor.
"You just rest for a bit," said Rose. She couldn't keep her voice from shaking. "I'll be back in a minute."
She returned to the control room. "TARDIS," she said softly. "I can't fly you. I need you to end all operations except oxygen, lights, gravity, and User-TARDIS Interface. Have you got that?"
The lights flickered. The TARDIS didn't want to end all operations.
"I'm sorry," said Rose. "But I don't know how to fly you, and I don't think the Doctor's in any condition to pilot you."
The engines of the TARDIS died. Rose felt a shudder as the ship left the Vortex. She looked out a window and into endless space.
"Oh, no," she whispered. "What have I done?"
She had turned off the TARDIS. She was floating in space, far away from home, in a ship she couldn't turn on, much less fly. On top of that, she had limited food supplies, and she didn't have any idea what was wrong with the Doctor—the one person who could fly the ship.
Rose Tyler was at the end of the line. And unless the Doctor got well quickly, this would be one sticky situation she never got out of.
A/N: Hm. Short. It's only the first chapter, and that seemed like a good place to end it. I like ending with at least one question unanswered and a major threat hanging over the heads of all the characters. Or with everybody happy, oblivious to the danger approaching. What's wrong with the Doctor? How will Rose survive being lost in the TARDIS? Will she be resourceful enough to save them both? Keep reading to find out!