Learning To Share
Summary: The Doctor needed to know what it was like to rely on someone. And, if she had to say it, it was time The Doctor realized just how much she relied on him. How much he had let her down. Post Girl in the Fireplace
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.
She watched him tinkering with this and that. She had watched him tinker for the last day or so, but he seemed not to have noticed her. Every now and then, when he thought she wasn't looking, he took a piece of parchment out of his pocket and held it in his hands close to his hearts. Parchment. Rose knew where that parchment must have come from and she tried not to let that knowledge burn her.
Mickey had tried to coax her toward the swimming pool several times in the last day but she had declined. Voicelessly and ungratefully she had left him to his own devices so that she could spend her hours staring at The Doctor and wondering hopelessly what they had become.
She could see the pain in his eyes every few minutes as his thoughts wandered toward something or other. She assumed the 'something' was Reinette Poisson, and the 'other' might have been anything from the Time War to the TARDIS's last idea of a good breakfast meal. So far she hadn't mentioned it to him. But there was only so long she could possibly wait before putting it out in the open. After all, he wasn't the only one feeling absolutely miserable.
She looked around her, behind her, for any sign of Mickey Smith. She found none and assumed he must have contented himself swimming in the pool or possibly exploring the TARDIS's extensive library. Knowing Mickey, she thought that the latter was far less likely. Still, he wasn't there with her and she supposed that was enough. That thought made her even worse. Just who was her boyfriend, after all?
Actually, come to think about it, she had no idea. Even less than she had two days ago.
"Are you ok, Doctor?" she asked, her voice bouncing off the TARDIS's walls in a soft echo. The Doctor looked up suddenly at her, not having noticed she was there and set aside his sonic screwdriver. The fact that he hadn't noticed her standing there was enough to tell her that he wasn't ok, but she had to say something, and that seemed the most appropriate. There were other things she might have said, of course. Other things that might have betrayed a little more of what she herself was feeling, but she was above that. No matter how much she might have been hurting (and she wasn't hurting at all, by the way. Not really) he was The Doctor, and when something bothered him, it bothered her by extension. That thought in itself made her feel even worse, given all the rest that she was feeling. Not that she was hurting. Because she wasn't.
"Good," said The Doctor, plastering a smile on his expressive face. It was a smile that she usually appreciated a little too much for a woman in her position, but this time it made her insides shudder to see it. The smile stretched his face, but didn't reach his eyes, which were dark and dead. It was a smile for her benefit, or at least to stop her from inquiring any further. She knew him too well for the trick to work, of course. She knew him too much and not nearly enough. "Good, fine, dandy and ready to roll," he continued, obviously not convinced that she was convinced by his act. He knew her too well too. "How about you?" he asked next, as though knowing that she wanted to talk about her feelings as little as he did. It was a slap back in her face, she knew it. It wasn't of course, it was a nicety, and a caring one at that. But it was a warning. If she could see the darkness in The Doctor's eyes, there was no doubt that he could see the darkness in hers. And his asking after her was his way of warning her not to ask unless she wanted to tell.
She did know him too well.
"I'm good," she replied, just as easily as he had done. "Fine, ready to roll…"
"You missed dandy…"
He was playing with her. And not the nice games that he usually played with her. Not the slightly suggestive, ever so flirtatious games that she had gotten so used to. Relied on, even. He was goading her. Daring her, ever so subtly to reach out to him. She wasn't intimidated. She had known him long enough now, been through enough that she deserved to know him this way. To have him tell her what he was feeling. She was his companion after all.
"Doctor," she warned and she watched as his eyes flickered away from hers for a moment.
"So, where shall we traverse to today, Rose Tyler?" he asked, his voice full of forceful exuberance again. "You know what? I'm not sure I quite like that word there…traverse. Nah, seems a little 'We Three Kings' if you ask me, and let's face it. Everyone knows they were really just merchants from Poosh."
Rose said nothing. The Doctor's voice washed over has as she stood her ground. She was his companion. She was going to do this whether he wanted her to or not. She wanted to make him feel better. She wanted to be the one that did that. Not time, not endless adventures to the beyond. For once in his life The Doctor needed to know what it was like to rely on someone. And, if she had to say it, it was time The Doctor realized just how much she relied on him. How much he had let her down.
"Let me in," was all she said. "Just this once, let me in."
And he did.
She wasn't sure whether it was the bared, open look she was giving him or whether he was as full of pent up emotion as she was, but he acquiesced. He sighed the sigh of 900 years of grief, picked up his sonic screwdriver and spoke.
"I'm tired," he said, his old eyes proving his words, "I'm tired of making promises that I can never keep." He whirled the screwdriver around his hand slowly, before tapping the console with it. Rose noticed it, but her eyes never strayed from the Doctor's.
"Go on," she said, taking the smallest step closer. She didn't want to crowd him.
"I told her I'd go back for her," he said. "Reinette. I promised her…" he trailed off. He tapped the console again, looking anywhere but at Rose. "She was dead by the time I got back." He scuffed the floor with his Converse shoe and leaned against the railings, sighing again.
"You saved her life," Rose said obstinately but softly. She took another step toward him. "Surely that counts for something." She was soothing him. She didn't believe herself sometimes. She wanted to scold him. She wanted to shake him, to make him understand what he had done to her, but all she could do was try and make him feel better. She didn't even want to ask herself why she was doing it. She was afraid that if her heart yelled the answer she knew it would, that she would never be able to rid herself of this situation, and would always be the one thing to The Doctor that she promised herself she never would. Dispensible.
"A great life it was too," The Doctor agreed. He seemed to be warming up to the conversation. "Not nearly long enough, but full. So important…" he trailed off again and Rose could feel a dull ache in her chest at the way he looked up in the air when he thought of his French lady. There was an anchored jealousy somewhere above her navel that she could not reason away. She looked away from him and took a deep breath. There was no need to feel this way.
"And you were a part of it," she said, offering him a smile. Whether or not he lived with her till the end as he had wanted to, he was a part of her. Just like he was a part of her, Rose Tyler. Whether he saw her end or not.
"Yeah…" The Doctor said, his wistful gaze returning to Rose, sharper and slightly happier. "Yeah I was." He slid through the railings and came down to meet her properly. "Rose Tyler. Putting my life into perspective." He grinned at her and kissed her temple. It was short, and meaningless, except in the way an old friend might kiss another. Hardly meaningless at all, really. But it stung her, nonetheless. The meaningful and meaninglessness of it all. "Now where to?" He started to race back toward the console. He stopped, mid-step and whirled around to face her again. "Or is it your turn now?"
Rose said nothing. The Doctor met her nothingness with a look of concentration and finally, understanding. "Rose, what's wrong?"
She grit her teeth and took a deep breath. For all his feinting earlier he really did have no idea what he had done to her. To them. To her.
"It's nothing," she replied, embarrassed that he had given the whole situation so little thought that the repercussions of his actions were completely unknown to him.
"It's not nothing," The Doctor shot back. "You made me spill it, Rose Tyler, the least you could do it return the favour."
He thought he was being clever.
"The least I could do?" she asked incredulously, before she could bite the words back. She reeled herself back in as soon as she had said them. "Doctor," she said, with measure and all the composure she could muster, "I just got re-used to the idea that we were in this for good," she said. "I know I got a little jealous with the whole Sarah Jane thing, but you said it wouldn't be like that for me. That you would never abandon me. And I believed you because you're you. But what happened yesterday – "she took another deep breath to keep her focus, "you proved me right. You dump us the second something better comes around."
He was obviously not expecting this. His mouth hung open and he took a large step back toward her. "You think I chose her over you?"
"Rose!" The Doctor ran a hand furiously through his hair. "I had to save her. Surely you understand that. This isn't some game to me. She was going to die."
"And you saved her."
"Yeah, I did." Rose could tell he was getting angry. Did he really still not understand? "Would you rather I let her die so I could take you out for Apple Grass?"
"No, of course not!" She flashed an angry look back at him.
"You and Mickey, I might add," he continued.
"Mickey has nothing to do with this," Rose snapped back.
"Oh really?" The Doctor asked. "So it's perfectly ok for you to bring your boyfriend along for a little joyride, but god forbid I leave your sweet side to save someone else's life?"
Rose nearly growled at him. "And what did you think Mickey and I were going to do, Doctor, when you were living your little 18th century French life? Live on rations till the TARDIS supply ran out? Then what?" She took another couple of angry steps toward him. "It wasn't just you that you trapped when you went galloping in there with your white knight act. You trapped us too!" She was nearly yelling now but she couldn't stop herself. "And you didn't even give us a second thought."
There was a moment of silence. "What?" The question was repeated, but slower and softer, as though he were asking himself.
"You didn't even think about what would happen to us, did you Doctor?"
He continued to stare at her, dumbfounded. "Well, I assumed you'd turn on the emergency protocols…"
"What?" Now it was Rose's turn to look dumbfounded.
"The emergency protocols. You've seen them before. If the TARDIS registers a companion's testimony that her Time Lord is either dead or unable to return to her, she activates the emergency protocols, sending any survivors to their home planets."
"You could have told me that!"
"I'm sure I've told you, dozens of times." The Doctor looked toward the ceiling, trying to recollect one of those times. "Well, I'm sure I've told you once…"
Rose shook her head.
"Oh Rose," he said, shaking his head. "No no, Rose, I didn't leave you there to die! Is that what you thought? No, of course not, I'd never…" he took another step toward her. His face was less than a foot away from hers now, and it was filled with disbelief and desperation and a lot of other D words that Rose wasn't really able to process. Not with his face that close to hers, anyhow. "How could you even think that?"
Rose shrugged, embarrassed. "You left Sarah Jane."
The Doctor clenched his teeth. "Yes. I did. But I had to then. And I had to yesterday. But I never…not if I thought you were in danger…" He brought a hand to her hair, to her shoulder and then to her hip, in quick succession. Not knowing what to do with it next, he entangled it in Rose's own hand. "I thought you knew that by now. I could save the universe but lose you, and if it were up to me, just up to me, I would choose you every time."
She took in a sharp breath, and her fingers were buzzing. There was energy in her and around her and in him and it was pulling them together. Her fingers danced in his and she brushed them away in frustration, tracing her fingers up and down his arm before pulling away.
"But you can't," she said, her voice no louder than a whisper. She looked away from him again, not altogether sure what might happen if she looked back into his face, and unsure of why she was afraid of whatever that was. Mickey's presence somewhere in the ship probably had something to do with it, but she hoped that she was not that base. Not that hormonal and certainly not that cruel.
"No, I can't," the Doctor agreed, his voice all gravel and silk. She could feel his eyes on her, boring into her head and when she couldn't bare it any longer, she looked back at him. There were worlds and universes in his eyes, and a deeper grief than she knew existed. It hurt her to look into those eyes, but at the same time it warmed her. They were so old and tired, but vulnerable like a small child. She wanted to hold him then, and brush back his hair and tell him that it would all be ok. She chastised herself as soon as she thought of it. Who was she to presume she could make the Lord of Time feel better. He had seen the deaths of races, the birth of new planets and the whole of time, and she, Rose Tyler, thought that she could make him better. A nothing of a shop girl, thrown into his life purely by chance.
But she could. Looking at him like that, she knew that she could. She was the one to make him better. He had let her in today, and maybe that was the first. Maybe she could make him better every day and he might just understand that she was better for it too. She felt the electricity in the air deepen and warm and she didn't bother about Mickey in the other room anymore. This was nothing she should be ashamed for, even if it was something she would have to reassess later. She loved her Doctor and regardless of whether it was the love of a family, or a man and a woman or something new and different entirely, she felt it. She felt it with every tingling part of her body and every part of her mind and heart, which were reaching out to touch him.
So she did just that.
She grabbed him by the jacket and pulled him close. Her hands were in his hair and her face was on his neck. He was still, startled for a moment, but need won out and his hands were mobile too, on her face, in her hair, on her shoulders, her arms and her waist. All the frustration, all the hurt she had felt about Madame de Pompadour was being released into him, into his body, and finally when the need had ebbed, she just rested her head on his chest and listened to the sound of his two hearts. He held her head against him and stroked her hair, ever so softly. They stood there for a moment, swaying slightly in their seclusion. Rose's arms wound themselves around The Doctor's neck and he held her in place, swaying to the sound of their own breathing.
"And now we're dancing," he said, surprised and pleased, his voice still husky and low.
Rose giggled lightly and she felt his heartbeats quicken a little at the sound of her laughter. She lifted her head from his chest and shoulder and looked into his eyes, this time unafraid of what she would find there. She was tickled to find them full and heavy with something akin to adoration. Something just above her navel twisted in delight.
"You know," The Doctor started, "I thought maybe you were just jealous."
Rose lifted an eyebrow. "I was," she confessed. "But not like you think."
The Doctor smiled and rested his nose on her hair for a second. He then nodded at her to continue.
"She said that she and I both knew you were worth the monsters," she said, drawing patterns on his neck with her fingernails. "She was right," she added, watching his face lower in embarrassment and humility. "And in that moment, I knew that –" she stopped. "Don't you ever tell my mum this, but I knew that if I had to share you, I would."
And it was true. She would have shared him with Sarah Jane, she had realized that after the school incident. And she had shared him before, with Captain Jack Harkness, but that in itself had been something different entirely. She would have shared him with Reinette, shared him in every way because she could not imagine her life without him any more, and she would do whatever it took to keep him with her, beside her. She wasn't quite sure what that made her, and wasn't sure whether or not to feel bad about it.
The Doctor chuckled into her hair. "Rose Tyler, sharing," he said, with humour.
"I don't mean it like – " she stopped, unsure of what exactly she would be arguing. They were, after all, nothing but companions. Not that that meant anything of course, there was no 'nothing but' about it. They were sharing their lives, sharing their time, sharing their hearts and their souls, and though they had never shared their bodies as such, they may as well have, for all the rest they had shared.
"I suppose you never thought that I'm already sharing you," he said, with a hint of a smile.
"What?" Rose asked.
"Mickey Smith," he reminded her. "Right at this moment…" his eyes glazed over for a second, "wandering through the library."
There you go. So he did know what a book was, after all. "I'm not sure that counts as sharing, Doctor," Rose said. It was completely different. Mickey Smith, compared to Madame de Pompadour.
"No?" asked The Doctor. "He makes you tea in the morning and holds your hand. He wanders spaceships with you and laughs and loves and…"
"Are you jealous, Doctor?" Rose asked, her tongue sticking out of her lips.
"Jealous?" he asked. "No. Not at all. That's a human thing, jealousy. I just…I miss you."
Rose smiled. "You're not going to lost me," she said, her hands coming to rest on his neck, just below his ears. Hearing herself say those words sent a buzzing feeling from her toes into her hands.
"Nor you me, Rose Tyler," he said, and she knew that his words marked a promise. They were a promise and an apology. No jealousy, no second guessing, and no more secrets if they could help it. Rose's eyes felt heavy with a warmth emanating from her chest and she put her head on The Doctor's shoulder again. He hummed into her hair, his voice vibrating against her temple. He didn't hum anything in particular, but the vibration was like a lullaby, safe and deep. They started to sway again and The Doctor's humming took a melody.
Rose giggled and again felt the quickening of his heartbeats. "And we're dancing again?"
"So it would seem," he chuckled into her hair and began to hum something Glen Miller-esque. Before they knew it, they were laughing together and dancing, like they had once before. Rose noted that this time, The Doctor was a more fluid dancer, and she chuckled into his cheek after he twirled her around. She clasped her hand in his and they jived to rhythm of their own laughter.
"I will never get used to this," Rose said with a wide smile, as The Doctor dipped her.
"Well, you'd better," he replied. "Because there's plenty more dancing to come." His eyes smiled into hers and she knew his words were laced with another promise. She kissed him full on the mouth without a thought and laughed into his surprised lips. There would be more to come. And nothing, not Madame DePompadour, not Mickey Smith, not Daleks or Slitheen or even their own feelings were ever going to break them apart.