Title: Swear to Me
Author: Gail R. Delaney
Series: Unseen and In Between
Genre: Post-Episodic, Ship, Angst
Setting: Post Father's Day
Summary: She hurt him. She knows it. And it's killing her.
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, in any reincarnation, or any of his companions. I just like to play, and make them do what I want.
Rating: The high end of PG-13
"When we met, I said 'Travel with me in space'. You said no. Then I said time machine…"
"It wasn't some big plan. I just saw it happening and I thought… I can stop it."
"I did it again. I picked another stupid ape. I should've known. It's not about showing you the Universe — it never is. It's about the Universe doing something for you."
"No, I get it! For once, you're not the most important man in my life."
"Let's see how you get on without me, then. Give me the key. If I'm so insignificant, give it back to me."…"Well, you've got what you wanted so that's goodbye then."
"I know how sad you are. You'll be back in a minute. Or you'll hang around outside the TARDIS waitin' for me. And I'll make you wait a long time!"
Rose's chest ached, the sobs she couldn't stop ripping through her with each breath she tried to take. She stood under the steaming shower, her forehead against the cold marble as the water streamed down her back, nearly scalding her skin. But, it wasn't hot enough to purge her.
Holding her father while he died was the hardest thing she had ever done, but as much as it hurt, the pain was nothing compared to the smothering, burning guilt at knowing she had hurt him. The Doctor.
She had seen it in his eyes and even now she couldn't shake the darkness. He truly believed, if even for a little while, that Rose had done it all — escaped with him in his wonderful ship, danced across time and space with him, faced life and death with him — just for the chance to save her father.
His words had hurt. The way he had lashed out, called her a stupid ape. But, his opinion of her was nothing compared to her opinion of herself. Because she wondered… deep down… was that the real reason she had taken his hand and left with him when he asked?
Even if it had been a whisper of a thought it the back of her mind that urged her to go… it wasn't the reason she stayed.
"Can't do anything right, can I?"
"Since you asked, no. So, Don't. Touch. The baby!"
"I'm not stupid."
"You could've fooled me."
She'd looked away, hating that she agreed with him right about then. He released a breath, and immediately looked like he regretted his words. "Alright. I'm sorry."
Rose met his gaze, and the flutter of 'connection' shifted through her. It had been different, the feeling that shifted pleasantly through her whenever he looked at her or touched her, since they'd made love. This wasn't the same, but the coldness was gone.
"I wouldn't have left you on your own."
"I know," she said quickly, believing him.
Even as he told her he didn't know how he would save them, she knew he would find a way. He always did, and she honestly believed he always would. Even though she had gone to the ends of the Earth with him, fought aliens right on Downing Street, and faced down the greatest enemy of the Time Lords, this was the first moment she truly and completely understood the power he commanded. And just how stupid she had been to think she knew anything at all.
"If I'd realized…" She couldn't finish the sentence.
His blue eyes shifted to her face, and the Doctor from that morning — the Doctor who reluctantly agreed to bring her here, but did it anyway because she asked — looked at her.
"Just tell me you're sorry."
Rose blinked against the tears. "I am. I'm sorry."
In the end, he had silently taken her hand and led her home. He said nothing when she sank onto the jump seat, curling in on herself as he started the engines and took the TARDIS away. Rose knew he had looked her way a couple of times, but she couldn't bring herself to speak.
What to say? She'd apologized once, and saying it again seemed both pointless and inadequate. Finally, while he was engrossed in some reading on the monitor she had slipped out of the control room.
Any other night, she would have gone to the bedroom they now shared, but tonight it didn't seem right. Not after what she had done, whether intentional or not. She went back to her old bedroom, where a random jumper or pair of trainers littered the floor, and lost herself in the scalding shower.
And now she cried.
His hands on her shoulders startled her, and she yelped sharply, the echo carrying in the marble shower. Rose turned to face him, blinking through her tears and the water running over her face, and as she turned he slipped a chain around her neck. The TARDIS key she had given back in a fit of anger settled in the valley between her breasts.
His knuckles brushed her skin as he slid his fingers beneath the chain. His gaze shifted over her shoulders and face as he smoothed wet hair out of her eyes and laid his palms against her cheeks. Rose tried to draw a breath without a tremor shifting through her from her crying jag, but failed miserably and pressed her lips together to push down the grief.
He had taken off his jumper and boots, standing in the water stream dressed only in his jeans, and didn't seem the least bit bothered by the quick saturation of the heavy fabric. His thumb stroked her skin and Rose curled her fingers around the key, clinging to it.
"You forgot that," he said softly.
Rose drew a shaky breath. "I wasn't sure you'd want me to have it back."
"Of course I do, don't be —" he stopped short when she looked up. He smiled, but it was a conciliatory smile and not one that quite reached his eyes. He cupped her shoulders with his large hands, and bent his knees so they were near eye level. "I do."
Thoughts jumbled in her head, vying for enough control to let her speak — to say something other than another "I'm sorry". But, nothing won out and she only managed to stand there, under the warm stream, and stare into his eyes.
She finally swallowed against the hot tears, wondering if he could see them through the water and the steam. Rose looked down at the key in her hand, rubbing her thumb over the grooves.
"I thought you might take me home." Her voice was rough, her throat raw from crying.
"Only if you want me to."
Rose looked up. "I don't, but—"
He laid a finger against her lips. "I want you to stay."
The Doctor kissed her gently, his lips slicked over her wet mouth, and his tongue skimming the inside of her lips, drawing a tremble from her despite the heat of the shower. She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her hands against his back. Each separate heart thumped in rhythm beneath her palm, and her own heart jumped in response to the contact.
His hands held each side of her head, changing the angle to kiss her deeper, slowly drawing the pain away with each brush of his tongue against hers. The long kiss turned into shorter kisses, until he stopped to rest his forehead against hers. Rose wrapped her fingers around his arms, his skin hot and wet from the shower.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that," he said in the space between them. "I should have said no. I should have saved you from the pain. I should have seen —"
It was Rose's turn to stop him, covering his lips with her fingers. "I shouldn't have asked. Doctor…" She leaned back enough to look into his face, finding strength again in the contact between them. "Doctor, I'll stay. But… I need you to swear something to me."
"Just listen." She held his face in her hands, and looked directly in his eyes. "I swear to you, Doctor, I swear that I didn't mean to do what I did. I never meant to hurt you like that. And I did not come with you just to save my dad."
"It doesn't matter."
"Yes¸ it does. Look me in the eyes and swear to me you believe me."
He said nothing, his eyes shifting slightly as he held her gaze, and her lungs burned from holding her breath, waiting for him to say what she needed to hear. Rose kissed him, putting everything she had into the contact. When she pulled back, his gaze immediately connected with hers again.
"I am here because I want to be. I came with you because I knew you would show me everything I never dared imagine. I stayed with you because to you I wasn't just some stupid shop girl who never went on to her A-Levels. Because even though you doubt I'll understand, you explain anyway because I ask. Because…"
She blinked against the water running in her eyes, trying to categorize all the reasons she wanted to be with him, all the reasons she needed to be with him, and she realized she was no longer crying. She was determined, determined to make sure he understood. Rose couldn't stand the thought that he might think…
"I believe you."
Her shoulders dropped and some of the weight in her chest eased at the three words, but it wasn't enough. "Swear to me," she ordered. "Swear to me that you believe me."
"I swear to you, Rose. I believe you."
This time, when they kissed, there was no comfort being offered and no strength being drawn. There was nothing but the feel of each other. Rose circled her arms behind his neck, and he held her in a firm embrace, stepping her back until her shoulders bumped the marble tile. Reaching out blindly, their hands found the water valve, and with tangling fingers, they turned off the hot stream.
Even in her sleep, the Doctor felt the tension and sorrow that held her muscles tense and her spine taut like the string of a bow. He nestled against her, his chest to her back, his arm making a pillow for her head. Her damp hair left his skin cool, but the rest of her body was warm, radiating heat against him.
Beneath the heavy duvet, he let his hands wander over her, trying to sooth her in her sleep without waking her. She needed to rest, and to recuperate, and he needed to be near her, so lying in the stillness with her was the only place he wanted to be.
He laid his hand on her shoulder, and ran his palm down her arm and along her side, pausing at the indent of her waist before traveling back up the curve of her hips. His fingertips brushed her thighs until he could reach no further without shifting, and he returned his hand to her shoulder again, repeating the path.
She whimpered softly in her sleep, and her body gave a tiny jerk, as if something in her dreams frightened her. The Doctor draped his arm across her body and pressed his hand into her stomach, pulling her tighter against him. He nudged her hair aside with his chin and pressed his lips to the curve of her ear.
"Shush, Rose," he whispered softly in her ear, hoping to slip her mind away from the dream. He hated himself for being so blinkered. There was no way anything good could have come from taking Rose to 1987, even if it hadn't gone down the way it did. He had replaced her mother's stories with the cold reality of watching someone she loved die in her arms. She would never be able to forget that pain.
Rose whimpered again, and a tear escaped her closed eyes. The Doctor stroked her hair away from her cheek, and brushed her temple with his fingertips. He could slip into her dream, and force it to bury itself deeper into her mind where she wouldn't relive the pain, but he didn't have permission to touch her thoughts. Intimacy of the body and intimacy of the mind were two different things, and he wouldn't break her trust by breaching the boundaries.
"Rose," he said softly again. "It's a'right."
She suddenly jerked violently in his embrace, her arms flailing. "Doctor!" she screamed, his name almost lost in the sob that ripped through her. "Doctor!"
"Rose," he said firmly, but loud enough for her to hear over her screams, sitting up with her as she struggled wildly to be free of the blankets. "Rose, stop. I'm here."
She twisted around at the sound of his voice, her cheeks once again wet with her tears, her chest heaving with each ragged breath. Rose stared at him with wide eyes, her body trembling. "Doctor?"
He reached out and laid his hand against her cheek. "Yeah. It's just a dream."
Another sob shook her as she threw her arms around him, and they both collapsed on the bed again. Rose buried her face against his chest, her tears wetting his skin. The Doctor cupped the back of her head, kissing her hair as he smoothed it down. "What is it?"
"I was seeing it all over again, again and again and again."
He bit down until his jaw hurt, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry, Rose. I shouldn't have let you see your father die. I wanted to fix it, to change it for you."
Rose shook her head against his chest, her soft voice almost lost against his skin. "No. You."
"What?" She slipped away from him enough that he could look into her face, and he shifted down the bed so they were lying facing each other. "What do you mean, Rose?"
"I kept seeing you… dying… being eaten by that thing. The Reaper. I kept screaming your name, and you were gone." Once again, she curled herself against him as close as she could get, her cheek against his chest. "I knew I'd killed you."
The Doctor drew a slow breath as he held her close, stroking her hair to comfort her. "You're not gettin' rid of me that easy, Rose Tyler."
"Promise?" Her breath was warm on his skin, and he felt the flutter of her eyelashes as she blinked back the last of her tears. "Swear to me you won't die on me?"
"Not a chance. I'm nine-hundred years old, haven't even reached middle age yet."
She laughed softly, and he felt some of the tension ease from her body, but she stayed close to him. For that, he was thankful. If she looked him in the eyes, she might see the truth. He hadn't lied… he swore to her he wouldn't lie to her… but what he said wasn't the whole truth.
Coming back had been hard. It wasn't like everyone else who just popped back into existence as if nothing had happened. He wasn't of Earth, and Earth didn't want him back. Not long ago, it would have been easier for him, barely a strain, but he'd given of himself to save Rose after their battle with the Slitheen, and that left him vulnerable.
He rolled from his side to his back, and Rose shifted with him. She draped one leg across his hips and kept her cheek on his chest, her arm across his body. He knew what she was doing, listening to the synchronized beat of his hearts, she'd told him before how it helped her sleep. Within minutes, her breathing steadied and deepened and her limbs relaxed. She was again asleep.
The Doctor stared up at the starscape ceiling, running the tips of his fingers through her hair. On the edge of his consciousness lurked the possibility of destruction — he didn't know what yet, or how, only that the possibility of it was there. Many timelines, many possibilities, were converging… if the right path was taken, they would never face the looming darkness. But the path wasn't clear yet. All that that is, or was, or could be stared at him in a jumbled mass of confusion.
He only hoped he would be strong enough to face the fight when the time came.
He wouldn't want his omission of truth to become a lie.