Summary: Her mouth was wide open and letting out the loudest scream he'd ever heard in his life. – "No, stop! Please! Stop, she's only human!"
He hadn't meant for this to go so horribly wrong. To be honest, he never does and it always works out for the best anyway – they make it out and then there's hugging (his favourite part) and they forget about it and move on (complacency is the easiest of sins). It's their thing. But somewhere, somehow, on this planet it all goes wrong – so wrong, so very, very wrong and even he can't really fix it, not completely anyway.
Because the Zhill aren't supposed to be cruel and vicious and bloodthirsty – they're supposed to be sweet and welcoming and anti-war; but he'd missed that generation by about three thousand years – just after their war when they're just a little bit off their rockers.
Not that he could blame them; he was off his rocker for a while too after the Time War (before he got Rose, before she reached into the darkness and hauled him out, head first, into the light).
But his overshooting, his miscalculation and failure to check before gallivanting off, has gotten them in some of their worst trouble. With him shackled to a wall, sitting opposite to his guard – whom has a sneer twisted on his orange, scaly lips. Worse than that, though, is where Rose is.
Unfortunately for them the Zhill know who he is – know he's the Doctor and how powerful he is and they know Rose knows how to convince him; knows him and his weakness – and therefore have taken his Rose to a torture chamber.
And their making him watch what they're doing to her.
And he can't look away.
"Come now, child, all you have to do to make this stop is tell us what the Doctor's weakness is." The female Zhill croons as Rose crumples to the floor, bereft of strength and bones after her latest round of torture. Who ever these Zhill things are, they sure know about the human body – so far they've found every organ and given each of them a good shock, literally.
The thing around her neck still tingles from the shock delivered to her bones.
But she is Rose Marion Tyler and she'll be damned if she betrays the Doctor, so instead she spits out blood and the vicious words, "Go to hell." and she's rather proud of them.
The Zhill shakes her head like a disapproving mother and pulls the lever on the wall all the way down and then there is pain.
("No, stop! Please! Stop, she's only human!")
Shooting, arcing, down her body, making her blood sizzle underneath her burning skin, and she doesn't want to scream – wants to hold it all down in her throat, burn it with the vomit that rises with every passing moment, shackle it to the walls of her heart – but she can't. She opens her mouth and lets a scream escape – followed shortly by vomit that looks too red to be just the food in her stomach.
(back in his cell the Doctor tears at the chains, pulling desperately away from the wall.
The guard knocks him back with a flick of his hand.
That doesn't stop the Doctor from trying again.)
The Zhill lifts the lever back to the wall and the pain stops.
"Oh dear, look at the mess you've made." The Zhill puts a hand on Rose's cheek, even with the remains of her blood staining Rose's face, starts to stroke it soothingly. It would have been kind – with the Zhill's soft skin, like satin – if it weren't for the thick, bloodthirsty grin on her face.
"Tell us what we want to know, and this can end, little one, just tell us what the Doctor's weakness is."
Oh, it would be so easy to tell them about the Doctor's weak wrist, about his guilt, about his loss. But she won't because she can't; because it's a betrayal and she can't do that to the Doctor because he's the Doctor, she loves him, therefore she won't do that, won't hurt him or do anything to cause him harm (he does enough of that himself, she giggles). So she opens her mouth to hiss something vile at her torturer but she can't do that; her mouth hurts, her lungs ache, and everything is burning under her skin.
(the Doctor doesn't think she would oust him, he has too much faith in Rose.
He's not worried about her telling his secrets.
Even though she's only human and she's hurting and he would be fine even if she did because he can regenerate and –
"JUST TELL THEM!" He yells to the air but she can't hear him, he can't help her, and there's so much hopelessness he's about to suffocate)
"Seems you're having some trouble speaking, sweetheart, maybe moving this necklace would help." Her satin fingers trace Rose's cheek down to her neck and Rose flinches because it still hurts. The Zhill smirks.
Another Zhill enters the room and whispers something in her torturer's ear. Something that makes her Zhill crack another grin, one that's wide, evil, and makes Rose shiver inside, as the other Zhill steps away.
"Thank you Gransf." Her torturer tells the exiting Zhill.
"You are welcome, Jfein." So that was the wo-Zhill's name. Not a man, so not a woman, just a wo-Zhill.
But that makes it worse because now Jfein is real, now Rose's pain is real and wild and burning; now it's not just a nightmare, twisting her sleep into her own personal hell.
"Oh, little flower," The pet names have been annoying, true enough, but this one sounds threatening, "we have been tracing your precious Doctor, tracing his path through history, and you poor dear – shoved aside so many times for others."
"Especially to be left for someone better."
(the Doctor stops struggling for a moment to hear this, after all, who is better than Rose? No one. That's what the Doctor says and believes.
But who could they be talking about? What poor person are they trying to compare to R—)
"Reinette Poisson, I believe her name is." Jfein whispers cruelly.
Rose recoils as if slapped.
"Reinette, the French Queen, so much better than the blonde human waiting back at the magic blue box; so much better than you." There is a laugh in her voice, biting and vicious, "He left you there didn't he, for five glisks and you waited!
"How rich! You waited for him to come back for you!"
Rose chokes back a sob and bites her tongue to prevent whimpers from escaping. The torture she could handle, the aching pain ripping inside of her was something to be remedied by escape (or death) but this; this mental agony is too much, far too much.
Too many voices inside whispering 'notgoodenough' and 'worthnothing' – things too true for her to face now, too much, too much for her to hear because they're right and she's so wrong for him that it hurts.
(The Doctor laughs, "Rose doesn't care for that anymore!"
But his laughter lacks conviction and his worst fears play out)
"But she's better than you, always better, prettier and wiser and she's seen inside his head hasn't she? She knows him now, better than you ever will." Jfein kneels in front of Rose's huddled body and whispers low enough for the Doctor to have to strain his ears.
"Doesn't he deserve better?"
"Aren't you too pathetic for him?"
Rose chokes back a sob.
"You're worthless aren't you?"
("Stop!" The Doctor screams, "ROSE! DON'T LISTEN! ROSE!)
("STOP!" He pounds on the floor.)
"You're too weak, aren't you?"
("STOP!" He rips at his shackles.)
("STOP!" He reaches out for the hologram in front of him.)
And Rose breaks, "YES!" She wails, her voice dull and fractured and full of shattered dreams and the sound of her heart breaking in her chest, "Yes." She whispers again.
(The Doctor freezes in his cell, his guard nonchalant about his little freak out.)
"I-I'm too…too hu-human." Rose stumbles over her words, "A-And Rein-Reinette is perfect."
Her voice cracks.
Jfein smiles, "Yes I thought so, now will you tell us his weakness?"
She clearly expects Rose's broken spirit to offer up weakness and worry and betrayal; but Rose is used to the pain of her body, used to the hurt in her heart when Reinette is mentioned.
"No." She hisses and all occupants of the room (and the one who isn't) are shocked.
Jfein's pleasant smile twists into a snarl and she murmurs, "Fine."
She's clearly had enough of Rose's refusals, of her loyalty. She flips the switch up.
And leaves the room.
Rose is left to scream.
Left to die.
It takes ten seconds for the Doctor to incapacitate his guard, ten seconds he doesn't remember for all the red clouding his vision, but he knows the Oncoming Storm inside of him has a slipped out a bit because he can smell the blood on the Oncoming Storm's soul.
He's very grateful for his eidetic memory, taking him only forty-six seconds to find and open Rose's room. Forty-six seconds too long in his opinion. But he's there now and he's flipping the switch down and all he knows is that Rose has stopped seizing violently on the floor and that scream has stopped echoing. He thinks that Jfein was very, very, very lucky she wasn't in the room when he got there because he would have strangled her slowly and put that damned collar around her neck – throwing the switch to the highest level – and wouldn't have stopped until she was dead.
He's sure of it.
He breaks the necklace off with his bare hands and she cries from relief; sagging against him. He knows he should get her out of there because it will only take seven minutes and twenty-three seconds for the guards to realize he's gone and she's alive. For the first time he's glad their rooms are in the secluded sector of the Zhill's chamber.
But she needs him, so he holds her close, telling her that she's beautiful and wonderful and all the things he doesn't deserve. He spends five minutes he could be using to escape to the TARDIS, trying to help Rose escape from herself.
When the Zhill get closer he gets her out of there, with minimal encounters with the Zhill on the way. The TARDIS is worried and angry when she sees Rose; but there's no time to be angry, only time to heal. So the TARDIS heals. And Rose sleeps, tucked in her dreams.
And when she wakes up the Doctor will be there for her, for now and forever.
"I will make it up to you, Rose Tyler, and you'll never be insecure again, because I love you and I'm not letting you go."
There's finality in the declaration, one that is rivaled only by Death.
It's a promise.
Thanks for reading!