Post "New Earth", but only just.

Chapter 3 - The Truth Will Out

The Doctor was feeling good.

He had already saved earth and New Earth in the space of only a few days.

He was getting the hang of his newest regeneration, and finding he liked this one quite well. It seemed Rose did, too.

Cassandra as well, but he wasn't about to dwell on that. He was, in fact, trying very hard to figure out a way to remember Rose's kiss without thinking about who happened to have been possessing her at the time.

She'd been possessed the last time he'd kissed her, too. A very unfortunate habit she seemed to be developing -

When he heard Rose's scream, he was out of the TARDIS' console room and through her bedroom door before she'd finished the word, "Doctor!"

"Rose?" he asked, stepping into the darkened room.

"Cold," she murmured. To his relief, she appeared to only be dreaming, although it was obviously a nightmare. "It's cold," she repeated, still asleep.

The Doctor crept closer to feel her forehead. She wasn't cold, nor was she feverish. She was a bit warm, but her thrashing about was enough to explain the temperature. He brought his hands up to frame her face as he sat beside her on the bed. "It's me, Rose," he spoke softly. "It's just a dream, wake up."

"He's dead," she choked out, eyes screwed tightly shut as she shook her head away from his gentle grip. "My fault... whole world..."

"Rose," the Doctor spoke more insistently, gripping her shoulders.

Her eyes opened with a sob, and she looked around the room, disoriented for a moment. When she finally saw him, she gripped the sleeves of his suit jacket tightly. "D-Doctor?" she asked.

"I'm right here," he assured her.

She pulled herself up and latched tightly onto him in a crushing hug.

"Nightmare?" he asked, rubbing soothing circles on her back, not unlike the way she had done on the couple of occasions she had caught him sleeping... and dreaming.

She nodded wetly into the crook of his neck.

"Wanna talk about it?" he asked.

She shook her head, no.

"Sure?" he asked, and she sighed against him. She had never let him get away with not talking about his nightmares; a technique he suspected her mother had engrained in her.

He couldn't blame her. It worked.

After a few moments, Rose extricated herself from their embrace, just enough to pull an arm free and wipe at her eyes and cheeks. "Sorry," she said, sniffling.

The Doctor shook his head, his hands now on her arms. "Don't be. Just tell me what's wrong."

She closed her eyes, composing herself. After a couple of deep breaths, she spoke. "It's all weird," she began, shaking her head as she looked at him. "It's as weird as a nightmare, but it felt so real."

The Doctor nodded for her to go on, but he was on alert. It would be easy to say "it's only a dream," but there were any number of threats that could work within - or disguise themselves as - dreams.

"I think," Rose continued, "I was thinkin' 'bout my Dad, 'cause of some stuff Mum an' I were talkin' about before I came back."

"You mean," he asked," before you opened the Heart of the TARDIS and miraculously navigated your way back to the Gamestation to wipe out the Daleks and save my life?"

She sniffed again, and looked over at the box of tissues on her bedside table. The Doctor grabbed one, and handed it to her. "Thanks," she said, taking the tissue and wiping her nose. "Yeah, then," she said, sheepishly. "But, I was thinkin' 'bout bein' there when Dad was hit, and lookin' for the lady that stayed with him an' all, and how I realized it was me," another sniff. "Then it was like everythin' sorta shifted." She looked up at the Doctor. "I was still at the church, but we were all inside, and Dad was alive, and there were these -" she swallowed, "these Reapers, I thought they were called, these big, flying bat things." She looked hard at the Doctor, fresh tears in her eyes. "They killed you, and I knew, I just knew it was all my fault."

As her tears began to fall again, the Doctor pulled her tight to his chest. She wrapped her arms around him, and he felt her shaking, hiccoughing softly. Guilt rose inside him as he held her. He had thought he understood her tears when she began recounting the incident with her father. But then, to discover that it was his, the Doctor's fate that had so disturbed her...

He was used to rewritten memories like this. It came with being a Time Lord. He had to be aware of altered realities so as to avoid, well, exactly the sort of paradox he'd ended up causing. But Rose, she shouldn't know. She hadn't known, back when it first happened, he knew that. This had to be another effect of holding the Vortex. Just like her memories of the Gamestation had come back in a dream, albeit piecemeal...

She pulled back after a few minutes, wiping at her eyes again. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I know it's just a dream, but..." she trailed off as she looked at him, and the Doctor knew she could read the truth in his eyes. "It's real," she whispered.

He nodded.

"I killed you," she said, looking at him in horror. "Again."

The Doctor shook his head urgently. "No, Rose," he said. "We already covered this, remember? What happened on the Gamestation was my choice. And the Reapers were my fault, not yours." He held her hands to keep her from moving away from him.

"But how?" Rose asked. "How is it real? And what are those things, the Reapers?"

The Doctor had known this would come back to haunt him. Somehow, against all rationality, he had known.

He couldn't bring himself to shatter her precious little reality the last time she had asked about her Dad, but now that it had shattered on its own, it was up to him to help her pick up the pieces.

"Come on," he said, sliding off of her bed and pulling her gently to her feet. "I'll make the tea."

The end.