A night in hell
"Is this alright?" Ida asked as she spun the inevitable squeaky wheel to open the door.
"It's fine, Ida, really it is," Rose replied, seeing that the Doctor had zoned out again.
The problem had arisen of where Rose and the Doctor were going to spend the night on Krop Tor. The drilling was nearly finished, and the expedition to Point0 had been allocated to the next day cycle. Night cycle was invariably spent asleep, exhausted from the day's work, socialising in a Habitation zone or catching up on work. Toby in particular had been known to spend the entire cycle staring at the strange runes, frustrated at his inexplicable inability to translate them. Scooti and Ida usually chatted for a while; it didn't matter that they spent all day together; the women could always find something to talk about.
The subject had been brought up when the night cycle officially began, Ravel's Bolero emanating throughout the Sanctuary Base. Toby had already left to examine his shards of pottery in the confinement of his room, and Rose had let out a huge involuntary yawn as the lights dimmed automatically. It was a program that was meant to replicate the Earthly days and nights and help people sleep, and it was clearly working on Rose. She was already tired, being slightly out of sync with her sleeping patterns because of her travels on the TARDIS. It had been mid afternoon to her when they landed, which annoyingly corresponded with early morning for the Base. Therefore she hadn't slept for around twenty one hours and was really in need of some shut-eye.
"Sorry, been a long day. Bit tired," she said apologetically.
"Oh gosh, hadn't thought of that," Scooti said. "We've only got the one room – and bed – free, um, Zach's old room."
She glanced at Ida, who threw a loaded look back. The gossip about the exact state of Rose and the Doctor's relationship had been rushing back and forth all day in whispered conversations whenever the enigmatic couple had been out of the room. After all, they'd been on this planet for a long time. Fresh topics of conversation were hard to come by and relished for hours.
"I'm sure that'll be fine," Rose said when the Doctor was silent. He was staring at the roof that now concealed the ever-present black hole. "Won't it, Doctor?" she added.
He looked at her. "What? Oh, yeah, fine," he agreed. "I won't need that much sleep, anyway."
A brief flash of puzzlement appeared in Scooti's eyes as she ran through various implications of that statement. It went missed by the Doctor, but Rose suppressed a grimace. She stood up, suddenly keen to get away from the rumours and the silent conversations.
"Would you mind showing me where to go?" she asked Ida. The older woman had been slightly less persistent in pursuing the subject of her love life.
She deliberately left the Doctor out of her request, knowing that he really didn't need the sleep; being an alien had its perks, including the need for only eight hours sleep a week, rather than eight hours a day. It was to her surprise, therefore, when he rose along with Ida.
"Sure," she said, also looking with surprise at the Doctor. "This way."
They had made their way through various tunnels. Ida apologised for the longer route – the earlier earthquake had cut off the quickest way to the habitation areas. Rose assured her that it wasn't a problem, though she did catch the flash of pain in the Doctor's carefully controlled expression. The loss of the TARDIS was still very raw.
The room that Rose now found herself looking at was little more than a cupboard; unsurprising for a space base, she reminded herself. There really was just the one single bed, and even that was small in order to save space. A desk had been crammed into the opposite corner, with a few drawers underneath evidently providing storage space for any personal belongings and clothing. No wonder they needed extra people on the laundry list.
"Thanks, Ida," Rose said as the other woman hovered in the doorway. "See you tomorrow, yeah?"
Ida smiled. "You can find your way back alright?"
Rose nodded. She knew that even if she forgot—which was more likely than she planned to admit—the Doctor would remember. And if he wasn't around, she could wander until she hit something familiar. The numbered doors would be a help, too.
"Closing: door twenty three," the impassive female voice announced. The wheel spun as Ida flipped it with a practiced hand from the other side and then they heard her footsteps echo softer as she walked away.
There was silence for a brief moment. "I'd best get some sleep," Rose announced eventually. Whether it was to the Doctor or herself, she didn't know. "What you gonna do?" she asked him.
He sighed. "I haven't the foggiest. Not a clue. I could go and fiddle around with all their readings, but there's nothing I can test that I haven't already tested, there's no one else round to talk to and generally nothing happening."
Rose smirked slightly as she sat down on the bed. "You're not a night-time person, are you?"
"Oh, I like the night," he insisted. "Without the night it'd… well, it'd be day all the time. No, but you wouldn't have nightclubs or midnight or nightingales—well, they'd be called something else—or… well, you get the drift."
"Without the night, we'd never see the stars," Rose quoted without thinking.
He paled and she gave herself a mental smack over the head. Great. Really, really tactful.
"Sorry," she muttered. "Stupid thing to say."
"No, don't worry about me," he said in that falsely cheery voice that he did so well. "I'll get used to it."
There was a tiny silence as they both contemplated the feasibility of that statement. Neither of them could imagine the Doctor without his TARDIS, unable to travel, to whiz from time to time, from place to place, stuck on the 'slow path' as a wise woman had once termed it.
"Okay, it'll be weird," he said, plopping down on the bed next to her. "Very weird. Like you said earlier, mortgages and carpets and things."
"I love carpets!"
"Nah, I'm not a fan of carpets," he said. "They trap dust and bugs and things like that."
"Yeah, but without carpets, you don't get to pad around barefoot with a soft surface under your feet. Wood—and metal—'s all very nice but it isn't half cold in the mornings. Come on, there must be a carpet somewhere in the TARDIS," Rose protested. She wondered if she had gone too far, but he didn't flinch this time. Good. "Then again, I've never seen one…"
The Doctor smiled. She had managed to bring up the interior of the TARDIS in the middle of an otherwise harmless conversation, in such a way that it didn't hit him quite as badly as it should have done. Rose Tyler, counsellor extraordinaire.
"Like I said, I'll get used to it. Though I'm not having the whole house carpeted!" he added.
Her eyes widened and she was momentarily stumped.
"Nope, good bit of lino'll do me," he said. "We never asked what year this is, did we? Do they still have lino?"
"No idea," she said, still a bit shaken. Thankfully, she was saved trying to maintain a careless façade by a yawn suddenly making an appearance and cracking her jaws.
"You tired?" he asked.
"Yeah," she admitted.
She unzipped her deep raspberry jacket, tugging it off to reveal a clingy pink t-shirt and pushed her trainers off using her toes. It would've been nice to have some pyjamas, or to be wearing some trousers that didn't have an uncomfortable button to lie on, but she'd had to sleep in far odder conditions over the last… however long it had been.
The Doctor hopped graciously off the bed and plonked himself in a chair that sat meekly by the desk while Rose pulled the utilitarian thin white sheet back to slip under it, and tried not to remember that this bed had been vacated because a man had died. She rolled onto her side, tucking her knees up against her chest and brushing her cheek along the paltry pillow to smooth her hair back. The familiar motions all seemed so out of place with the bare grey surroundings and the Doctor sitting there, watching her.
How had they avoided ending up in the same room for a whole night over all the time she had travelled with him? How many times had they been stranded somewhere overnight and somehow he always found somewhere else to be when she was asleep? Sometimes they had ended up visiting each other's rooms in the middle of the night in the TARDIS, usually when Rose had a bad dream and wanted some company, but they'd never spent an entire night in the same room. Rose felt distinctly odd as he watched her with just a little too much interest. At the same time, it wasn't exactly unpleasant.
For the Doctor's part, he was unduly fascinated. Sleep was a rather human thing across the galaxies. Most races didn't bother with it at all, whilst others entered a comatose state to conserve energy or plugged themselves into the mains to literally recharge. He himself didn't really sleep, as such, more shut his body down. His mind was still completely awake and aware. Of course, he had seen Rose sleep before, when she'd drifted off in his room or in the console room, but it held a certain meaning now that it had never done before.
They were stuck together now. He'd always sort of assumed that one day she'd leave him, whether by choice or against her will. But—presuming they made it off this unfeasible planet alive and well—they'd be stuck with each other for the rest of her life now.
Not true, he contradicted himself. She'd go off at some point to get married, or get a job somewhere, or go to university—well, maybe not the last one, he amended. Anyway, she would still leave him. The more things change, he reflected, the more they stay the same.
"What you thinking about?" Rose said sleepily, jerking him out of his reverie.
"The future," he answered obliquely.
"Which bit of it?" she asked, wondering what had caused his oh-so-expressive eyes to betray such a degree of sorrow so suddenly.
"Um, the next sixty years or so," he admitted.
It didn't take her long to catch up. "Oh, right." She bit her lip, not really wanting to ask what he thought of it.
Rose herself had mixed feelings for the potential future without the TARDIS. Not being able to get back to Mum was the really bad bit. She hoped her phone would start working once she was off this freaky planet so she could call and explain, but it wouldn't be the same as seeing her face to face. Nothing could be. She'd miss the travelling, too. But (and there was a great big but, staring her in the face) she couldn't deny that living a life with the Doctor at her side was hardly a disheartening idea. She knew he didn't 'do domestic' and she wasn't hoping for a sudden change of heart from him, but it'd still be nice. Especially now he'd let slip that he wouldn't mind living in the same house.
Comforted by the thought, her eyelids drifted shut, her heavily made up lashes brushing her cheeks as sleep overtook her.
The Doctor listened to her breathing slow and become steady, watched her as she surrendered to her dreams. A question slowly made itself evident at the forefront of his mind, following on from his melancholy train of thought earlier: would she?
Would she actually leave him to get a job? Knowing Rose, she'd find something wherever they'd settled down (he tried not to shudder at the phrase); she was resourceful like that. He'd have to work as well, after all, maybe as a teacher or a scientist. He doubted work would be enough to make her leave him, or him leave her. They'd be the only people they knew on the whole planet except the crew of Sanctuary Base Six; neither of them would want to be left entirely alone.
The other option was altogether the more frightening, but at the same time one he had more control over: would she leave him to get married?
There was absolutely no doubt in the Doctor's mind that there would be ample opportunity for Rose to get involved with someone. Everybody loved her—she could take her pick. The real query was would she want to?
The Doctor wasn't an idiot. He knew Rose loved him—in fact an idiot could have seen it anyway, and one idiot in particular had. He also knew that he loved her. But (and of course there was a but) the question was how. Some races had over a hundred different words for the concept of love; even on Earth there were civilisations who had forty two different translations for the English word (was it the Eskimos? The Inuits?). There was a completely different meaning to the word for almost any given situation. For example, just now, Rose had said she loved carpets, but she loved pork pies in a different way, and her mum in a different way, and him in a different way, and even Mickey in yet another way.
They could be happy together, he knew that. It almost didn't matter in what capacity because they'd both be happy as friends, or lovers, or even husband and wife. The domesticity loomed scarily.
But domesticity was inevitable anyway, he reminded himself. They would have to settle down, just a tiny bit; even if they carried on travelling they'd need some sort of monetary income. That involved getting a job, at least one, even if it was freelance.
He was getting off track. The original question was would she want to have a proper family, and the codicil was with him.
An exasperated sigh hissed through his clenched teeth. He really shouldn't be obsessing over this. And yet his thoughts ran away with him again. If Rose wanted to… marry him, and actually managed to admit it (she was ridiculously bad at admitting her feelings), then he doubted he would have the heart to say no. In fact, given their current situation, he wouldn't want to. Plus, she was human, and a female human at that, therefore she would have some sort of maternal instinct. She'd want to have kids at some point; that was pretty unavoidable. He, of course, had already gone down that route and really didn't mind not going there again. The loss of his children had affected him so deeply that he wasn't even sure that he wouldn't be completely opposed to the situation if it arose. Then again, it was Rose who had helped him deal with the loss of his entire race; if anyone could change his mind, she could. Nevertheless, there was still the factor of the genetics; he didn't know if they would even be biologically compatible. Human/Time Lord hybrids had happened before, as well he knew, but they had always been made possible by the Looms on Gallifrey…
He jerked himself out of that mindset. Was he really considering a physical relationship with a shop girl from a level 5 planet in 2005?
Um, yes, he admitted silently. He was.
Of course, this was all hypothetical, he reassured himself. Maybe a little less hypothetical now that they didn't have the TARDIS, but hypothetical all the same. It might end up that one or both of them died over the next however many days that they stayed on Krop Tor.
That was another thing to consider, now he thought of it. What if he regenerated? They'd got through one generation, and if anything it had strengthened their bond, but what if his next body was an absolute pain in the neck? Or severely disabled? Or ugly? Ugh, he thought with a wince. Unfortunately it was a distinct possibility.
Well then, that would be that, he decided. Rose would find someone else and go down the normal human route. He hoped the next body wouldn't find the idea quite as depressing as this one did.
Even if he didn't regenerate (and he had had bodies that had lasted far longer than a human lifetime before), there was still the inescapable fact that Rose would die, one day. Getting any closer to her would just make that harder for him. What on earth would he do after she died?
Forget that, he commanded himself. Plenty of time to consider that, no need to do it now.
As if in agreement, Rose let out a huff of air and rolled over onto her other side. It was almost as if she were trying to prove that right now she was still very much here and alive. Which naturally turned his mind back to thoughts of their life together.
Maybe domesticity wouldn't be so bad, he thought. Because if it had to be with anyone, he was glad it was with Rose.