As the Doctor watched Rose disappear down the TARDIS corridor with Adam in tow, he sunk down onto the jump seat and let out a sigh. Half of him wanted to set the coordinates to random, grab Rose by the hand, and find the biggest, baddest trouble around. (Preferably, the sort that might involve Adam dangling over a pit, and wasn't that a pretty thought?) The other half wanted to hole up in the Vortex for days and bury himself in TARDIS repair. He nudged the console with his foot, moodily.
Feeling morbid, he wondered whether there were any other Daleks hiding in tiny corners of the universe, waiting to surprise him. With his luck, there'd probably be one popping out of his next birthday cake. He thought he'd just add that to the list of reasons why he never celebrated them anymore.
What he really wanted, the Doctor realized, was for Rose to come back and make it all better, and wasn't that a kick in the teeth? Nine hundred years of time and space, and he wanted a 19 year old girl to come pat his head. Or maybe be his little human therapist. Pathetic.
Of course, where was Rose when he needed her? Off showing her new boyf around the place. The Doctor groaned. Why, oh, why is Adam on my ship again? The Doctor thought to himself. Oh right, because Rose asked.
Putting aside the worrying conclusion that he was incapable of denying Rose anything she wanted, he focused on the equally worrying thought that he was growing entirely too dependent on her and the comfort she provided. She gave him what he needed so effortlessly that he had gotten accustomed to it.
And now she's distracted by a shiny new toy, the Doctor thought sarcastically. Typical. He continued grousing to himself as he knelt down to find something to tinker with on his ship.
The Doctor was on his back, half way under the paneling when he heard Rose returning to the control room. She smelled like hot water and the rose-scented soap the TARDIS kept providing her. (He half-thought his ship was enjoying the cliché, or maybe she was just trying to drive him crazy. Though a Rose by any other soap, he thought with a roll of his eyes, would probably smell as sweet.)
"So how's Adam, then?" he asked, darkly wondering what they had been getting up to for the last hour.
"Dunno," she answered casually, sitting down on the edge of the paneling and swinging her feet over the side. She set down her grey hoodie, all rolled up in a bundle, next to her.
The Doctor shifted himself so that he could sit up. He raised an eyebrow at her.
"I found him a room, and it had some books it in from the library," she added, finger-combing her wet hair. "Last I saw of him, he was studying this alien text book with all his might and main."
"Rose," he said, frowning, "we have to be careful what he reads. Can't have him learning the secrets of late twenty-first century cybernetics or something." He wondered if she had noticed that he placed no such restrictions on her.
He wondered if she understood what that meant.
"Yeah, I think the TARDIS is way ahead of you on that one," said Rose, amused. "The book he's reading is classic literature from Raxi…Raxiko…"
"Yeah, that's the one!" she said with a smile.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "You keep working on that." He started to shift himself back under the paneling.
"Wait," said Rose. "There's something I wanted to tell you." She suddenly looked nervous and…was that guilt? He watched her, waiting.
She began to toy with the pile of fabric sitting next to her. "Now I know you might not approve of this…" she started, and the Doctor groaned inwardly. This was going to be about Adam, about her and Adam, about her and Adam together, which was possibly the last thing he wanted to think about, ever.
"Whatever it is, just tell me, Rose," he said with a sigh.
She flushed a little. "I promise I won't make a habit of it or anything," she said, and he raised his eyebrow at her again. "And I know it's wrong. Probably messes with timelines or something."
"I, uh," she bit her lip. "I got you something. Stole something, really," she added, looking even guiltier than before, "from Van Statten's museum." She lifted up her bundled hoodie, and for one wild moment, the Doctor wondered if she was going to hand him a piece of the cyberman's head. Then she held it out to him.
It was the musical instrument that the Doctor had played in Van Statten's office.
"Where did you get that?" he asked, thunderstruck.
"I nicked it," she said with a sudden grin, her tongue curling over her teeth playfully. She waved the little harp at him, trying to get him to take it.
"What? How'd you do that?" he said, bewildered. "When did you do that?" The Doctor couldn't quite figure it out; the last he'd seen the little thing, it was lying on the floor in the corner of Van Statten's office. After the Dalek was gone, he had wanted to get out of the bunker as fast as possible; he and Rose definitely hadn't made any detours on their way back to the TARDIS.
Rose stopped trying to hand it to him. "Sorry," she faltered, as her smile died. He realized that she was mistaking his surprise for disapproval. "I shouldn't have done it."
The Doctor climbed out from under the paneling and sat down next to her. "Generally speaking, it's a no-no," he said. "But in this case, I think we can make an exception, what with the oncoming concrete and all." He watched as her smile crept back into place. "I still don't understand how you did it, though. When did you get it? Did Adam…"
"No," she said quickly, glancing backwards toward the empty hallway. He realized that she was checking to make sure Adam wasn't there, and something tight in his chest loosened. "After you left Van Statten's office, there was just me and Adam and a guard there. Adam was telling him how he was going to go show me where he worked and all, when I 'accidentally' knocked over a pile of papers on the desk." Rose grinned. "You'd have been impressed – I was very smooth. 'Oh dear, clumsy me!' and all that. And while they were picking up the mess, I grabbed it. Stuck it in my pocket. Then on our way out, when we passed by the museum, I distracted Adam with some question about some alien bit and hid it in a corner."
The Doctor's eyebrows went up. "So you'd decided to nick it before the threat of concrete, eh?" He reached out a hand to take it from her.
"Well, Van Statten didn't deserve it," said Rose hotly. "You played it, and it was so beautiful…" she paused briefly, blushing just a bit. "And he just went and threw it on the floor!" She handed it over to him. "Besides, I figured that if it turned out he wasn't such a git as he first seemed, I'd just leave it there. Wouldn't be too hard for them to find. Anyway, he was an even bigger git, so on our way out, I just scooped it up."
The Doctor turned it over in his hand. Rose bit her lip, waiting for the judgment.
"Fantastic," he said suddenly, with a broad grin. "But we probably shouldn't tell Adam. Wouldn't want him to get the idea that you're a hardened criminal."
"It can just be our little secret," she said, grinning.
"Just ours," he agreed, liking those words and thinking that they sounded like a lovely concept—one which he would very much like to apply to number of broader categories.
"So go on, give us a lesson," she said, scooting closer and nudging his arm with her elbow. "What's it called, where's it from, and all that." Rose's brown eyes were alight with curiosity.
The Doctor just looked at her in silence for a moment as she sat next to him, eager to learn. How did she do it? How was it that this one girl fixed his world into place with nothing but a few words and a smile? Had she known how badly he needed this, to feel like a man who could impress her with knowledge, with music, with beauty? To be, once more, the man who would never, ever pick up a gun…
Is it conscious empathy or an unconscious grace? he wondered. Doesn't matter. I'll never let her go. Not ever. I'll take her anywhere she wants, give her anything she wants. Hell, I'll even help her impress her new pretty boy...
"Well?" she asked, interrupting his thoughts. "Wotcha staring for?"
"Sorry," said the Doctor, and he ran his fingers over the little harp gently, eliciting a soft hum. "So," he began, "this is called a Raleian Harp…"
And he gave her everything he knew.
There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
Or night-dews on still waters between walls
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
Here are cool mosses deep,
And thro' the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.
- from The Lotos-Eaters by Lord Alfred Tennyson