Not So Beautiful

She doesn't think he's perfect, and she doesn't ask too many questions. It's the ideal relationship until they become too close. She becomes something approaching his everything, and his life begins to change. He doesn't dare even think the word "love," let alone say it, even to himself, because impossible means impossible. She's nineteen and he's nine hundred, give (but don't take) a few misplaced centuries or so. He's a foolish old man acting like a love-struck boy, and it's his duty to stop this before it becomes too much for his battered soul to refuse.

Because it would never be too much to bear. Oh, no. Rose…Rose he could so easily fall for. Could so easily let beyond even the darkest, strongest walls sealing off his hearts from outsiders, even into that core of his being where he's never let anyone before. Oh, so easily. Because he's never needed someone so badly, and his soul is still in tattered pieces, daily trying to find ways to prove that the Time War was worth the cost and that he did do the right thing. And she's too much of a reason to believe in himself. Her way lies forgiveness, release, and maybe even redemption.

So, perhaps he's a bit too forthcoming when she begins to ask the hard questions. Rose is confident enough in their relationship to bridge the previously unchartered depths of his grief, to make him brave the darkness of yesterday in order to earn something glorious like forever.

Except her forever is not his forever, and he's terrified of taking that last step.

So, he answers, even when he knows he shouldn't. Perhaps doing so will finally tarnish her image of him. Perhaps it will save him from being saved.

"What happened?" Rose asks quietly, sitting close to his side and providing the support he knows he needs but doesn't truly believe he deserves. "In the Time War?"

"We lost," he answers shortly, feeling almost like his old self. Oh, he's more cheerful this time, almost maniacally so, but there are times that the darkness rears up. Usually, he tries to hide it, buries the pain to protect Rose from ire she doesn't deserve. But not this time.

"You've said that much," she replies gently. "I was askin', bout, you know. The rest. But you don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

She deserves so much better than him.

"Death and destruction on a cosmic scale. Planets dying, species going extinct, being resurrected, and then being erased from all of time and space. All the universes, every universe, in peril, with paradoxes stacking on top of one another and rifts forming where there shouldn't be rifts." He doesn't look at her. "Too much wrong to set to rights, even if we'd had the people to try."

She swallows; she's so close to him that he can feel the movement. Rose's voice is barely above a whisper. "An' you fought, right? You said that, even though I know you hate it."

"Oh, yes." His smile is bitter, and he does nothing to hide it. "I fought. I fought and I killed. I erased planets—entire systems, even—from time and space. 'Worth fighting for' was what I told the others. I led the battle because no one else would. Me. The Doctor. The Doctor who hates violence and guns and wars and everything like that. Oh, yes. I fought."

There's a long pause before Rose shifts to face him, not horrified like he'd hoped, but seeing straight into his soul.

"You hated yourself for it, didn't you? You still do."

He turns to face her, finally, letting the rage and despair and—yes, it is—self-hatred boil up into his eyes, daring her to keep being so damn understanding. "Oh, a great many people hate me for what I did in the Time War, Rose. Not just me, though I'm certainly amongst them. Just—" and his voice breaks without warning "—most of them aren't still alive to hate me. Many of them never even existed, not now."

"Doctor—" She's going to say something comforting, and he cuts her off.

"Eighteen planets." His voice is cold again. He forces it to be. "Eighteen planets—that's how many I destroyed. Erased. Gone. As if they never even were, most of them, though a few just got caught up in a supernova. And oh, it was war—it was war—but I still remember. Three species, completely wiped from existence, genocide, because I didn't have a better solution. I did that. Murderer on a mass scale, me."

Rose blinked. Bless her good little heart, she had no idea.

Now is the time to show her what he really is, so she'll demand that he take her home and never come back. Because he can't, can't, tell her to leave, and it'll have to be her choice.

"I destroyed my own planet. My own people," he says harshly, daring her to tell him that everything is okay—but her eyes are finally wide with shock, and Rose is staring. "Last of the Time Lords, me, and do you know why? 'Cause I killed them, every last one of them. Our last ditch effort to save all of creation from the Daleks, my plan, and I did it. I killed them all."

He means to say something cold in conclusion, such as Never much liked them, anyway, but the words won't come around the sudden lump in his throat. And he realizes that he's never told anyone this, never let it out of his own tortured soul. The next sentence slips out without him meaning to speak.

"I never expected to live." And it's almost a wail.

Her arms wrap around him before he can think to resist, and he's crying, sobbing, wishing that she wouldn't—because how can he turn her away now, when he knows how very much he needs someone to care? His hands are clinging to her as he sobs, and the Doctor doesn't know how to deal with this bare-faced compassion, with the uncompromising acceptance of himself for who he is. Warts, demons, and all, he feels like Rose sees inside him and can somehow make the loneliness go away.

All his life, he's been lonely. The most terrifying thing about Rose is that she makes him forget that, sometimes. Even when he tries to chase her away.

The anger is gone when he's finished crying. He's drained, lying sideways on the couch with his head in her lap and knowing, knowing, that he's got to do something to change this too-close dynamic but unable to bring himself to. There's that word he doesn't dare think, but he knows she feels it for him; it's evident in every touch as she strokes his hair and lets him shake.

"I'm sorry," he whispers. "I'm so sorry."

He doesn't say for what. She doesn't ask.

"It's all right," Rose replies softly. "I forgive you."

He's just let her in, he realizes belatedly. Just let Rose beyond the centuries' old barriers inside his heart. He didn't mean to—he meant to frighten her, not cry in her arms! All he'd wanted was to let her see his demons and let them do the work for him…let them chase her away when his hearts weren't up to the task.

Except here she was, fixing him again. Little by little, she'd sewn up his old self, piecing together bits of smiles and chunks of happiness until they formed something like a coherent whole. And now—now she didn't call him a monster or a destroyer. Didn't mention the Oncoming Storm, the Bringer of Darkness. She just held him.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd let someone do that. All he knew was that he had no idea how he was ever going to make her stop.