In the room where women come and go

talking of Michelangelo.

-o-

The room is by turns filled and emptied. After staring him down (what comment could she have made?), Rose escorts Gwyn to her quarters to rest and decide for herself what she wants to do without the input of others. Dickens goes off to check on his coachman and inform him that they'll be a while. Not wanting to appear without a more pressing task, Sneed retreats to his office, perhaps to complete the paperwork he had to leave off in lieu of this evening's activities, perhaps sensing it's best to leave the Doctor alone.

The Doctor, in the midst of people evacuating the space and holing themselves up elsewhere, stands still and surveys the lamps. As his fingers traipse down the gaslight's piping, he can't help but remember that it always comes to this: them mucking about, entering, leaving, going in circles, fretting about nothing, all the while he stays put and puts things right.

None of this following-after business, no making amends, not for him. She wanted to know, well, now she knew.

He perches on the arm of a chaise-lounge, tiring of his inspections and not much caring for the decorations in the undertaker's room for entertaining. It certainly doesn't look like it's seen many pleasant experiences, much less entertained anyone: everything is coated with a thin sheen of dust that might date back from the Renaissance. The Italian one, mind.

He knows she would have laughed at that, would have asked, "What others?" with an eyebrow raised, thinking that he has to be joking and her eyes widening when she realizes he isn't. Crossing his arms, he glares at the lights again, their dark secrets a hidden code of flickers, and sighs. Not that he wanted to tell her about the myriad other Renaissances that have happened since then, from the Beagle Renaissance (fascinating) to the Fourth Andromeda-Taurian one (decidedly less fascinating), not that he wanted to watch her face morph into laughter and wonderment, not the cool detachment he'd so recently seen. Nope.

Not even a little bit.

He tries to remember the Gelth. He doesn't recall them as a major power in the Time War, but they'd said they'd been one of the higher forms that got swept underfoot in its wake. Rubbing his arms, he shivers, feeling time sifting around him and rewriting itself in accordance with the War. He wishes he could get away from it, but nowhere seems safe, has been safe for ages; he can't name the limits of the Time War's touch, can't even say that it's over yet, because it's not. Wherever he goes, it will be there trailing after him, its dark tendrils uprooting patches of history and things to come just beyond the periphery of his vision.

No matter where he goes or who he goes there with, it will never end, never stop following him.

How could she even begin to understand that? Her life is so simple it's linear; his is criss-crossed almost an infinity of times over, curved and curled past belief. He walks the length of the small room and back to the chaise-lounge, his shoes kicking up little clouds of dust in his passing. She couldn't comprehend being hunted like this, how even time, once his greatest ally, has now developed into something much more sinister, how it haunts him with what it shares and what it doesn't.

She's too human, too innocent to see it. He's been leading himself on, he knows, he's a fool for telling himself that someone like her could understand someone like him. Because no matter how much he forgets sometimes, when they're rushing off, their footprints pressing into the snow and looking nearly identical beside each other, she is human, and that makes all the difference. She'll never see the decay welling up behind them like he does.

Which is why, even though she may despise him for it, he has to save what he can.

-o-

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes

the yellow smoke rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

-o-

Everything's turning up a foggy mess of yellow.

The cadavers in the morgue are waxen, tinged a sickly shade of pale gold, jaundiced in the lantern light. They move in slumps and jerks, stockily, and it reminds her of the shop models back in London. It's too bad there's no Consciousness (let alone conscience) controlling them this time, she thinks offhandedly as she and the Doctor are backed up against an iron grate, her breath coming faster and faster. Dickens has run off, Gwyn's become a bridge, Sneed's been grabbed and strangled by a man in a white nightshirt. Everything's tinged in odd lights, from the bodies' discoloration to the gleam that dances on the stone walls. The gas swirls so thickly about them that it's difficult not to feel light-headed, and Rose wonders which is going to get to them first: asphyxiation by gas or strangulation by...

"Not very pleasant aliens, are they?" She notes, pressed into the Doctor's left arm as close as she can get. The mob advances, their cold hands grasping, the faces of each attacker just as dead, their expressions fixed and single-mindedly going about their course of action: kill and take over.

The Doctor nods, pulling her with him behind the grate as he hastily shuts and locks it in front of them. This doesn't stop the advance of the Gelth and their new forms, which encroach on the doorway in a slow-moving march. Glancing to her right and left, Rose sees dark tunnels leading deeper and deeper into the mortuary and sucks in a dry breath.

"D'you know there are-"

"Yes." The Doctor replies, still staring straight ahead. "More cadavers in rooms beyond and just a matter of time before the Gelth discover those, too."

Rose nods, suddenly feeling a little headache-y. "Well, s'long as you know." She responds, finishing weakly.

She has to admit, ever since Sneed sat shudderingly back up and announced that he too had joined the legions of Gelth she's felt like this was a losing battle. Next to her, the Doctor's eyes flit from one shambling body to the next, each coming closer to the grate, roping their hands through the spokes. He's got to have an idea, surely he's been in more dire scrapes than this. The Nestene Consciousness was worse then this, right? Right.

Things couldn't really be that bad.

"Can't die in the past, can we?" Rose asks, trying to brighten the mood or reassure herself, backing up against the stone wall with him, avoiding the swiping corpses. "I mean, I'm not even born 'til about a century later, so..." She trails off and feels something in her gut sink as the Doctor shakes his head.

"Time's not like that; it can curl in around itself and eat its own tail if it wants to. And it does. I should know. Long and short of it is," he replies, pressing flat against the wall next to her, his blue eyes flashing in the ghosts' luminescence, "you can be born in the future and die in the past as easily as you can the reverse." He sees the stricken look on her face and adds, "I'm sorry. I got you into this and you were right."

Rose looks away from the grasping hands and the dead fingers shaking the bars of the grate ominously to fix him with a cool but interested look. "Me, the human? Right about something?"

He rolls his eyes. "Oh, don't you start. Here I am, trying to clear my conscience before the end and you go spouting off about that."

"You mean you can die, too?" She's genuinely surprised.

"'Course I can!" He cries. "I could have died in any number of extravagant ways from the sack of Troy to intergalactic clashes raging across time and space, and where did I end up? About to be done in by stiffs in Cardiff. Absolutely miserable."

Despite herself, Rose can't help but giggle.

"And you think it's funny." The Doctor sighs, feigning hurt. "I'm baring my soul to you in my darkest hour and you laugh. Typical."

"Well, then," she says, trying to be serious but finding it difficult when he's pretending to look so hopelessly forlorn, "what was I right about? Not letting them through?"

"Seems so at the moment," he grants, seriousness again shifting back into his face, "but that's not what I meant."

She's going to ask what, but he continues, still watching the growing horde of bodies trying to force the grate. His eyes seem far off. "I've seen stars collapse in on themselves like folding chairs, quiet and discreet, like they don't want to disturb anybody on their way out. Name any time period you can think of and I can tell you all about it, ask me every name a place has had or ever will have, the proper way to greet dignitaries from every civilization on this planet- I'll tell you, easy as breathing. But," he looked at her from the corner of his eye, "I forgot something."

She's puzzled until he smiles again, illuminating the dark cellar, and then clasps her hand in his, saying:

"Better with two."

Before Dickens comes in with his brilliant scheme of turning on the gas full strength, before they realize they have a hope of escape, she smiles back at him, just as manically, and he realizes that he's not thinking about dying in a depressingly dank dungeon. Or being strangled by hostile body-snatchers, or that his final moments are about to be spent with a member of a lesser species.

He's thinking about Rose, just Rose, not Rose-the-dull-human but Rose-the-girl-who-keeps-up-when-he-runs, the one who swings down chains to come to his rescue, and who's currently grinning like there's nowhere else she'd rather be than trapped in a morgue with him. And, for some odd reason, he couldn't be more pleased.