A/N: It's been a while guys. A very long while. But I'm a busy college kid so you'll have to forgive me. And you'll also have to forgive me as this is my first Doctor Who fic, which by the way I don't own. Nor do I own Florence and the Machine, or the other quote I used from something called Mexican Masks.
(warning: mentions of past self harm.)
The Tears of a Time Lord
"His face is a mask, and so is his smile."
"The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out. You've left me in the dark. No dawn, no day. I'm always in this twilight in the shadow of your heart."
The Doctor hates sleeping. He feels it is a very human function- too basic of a need. But, he can't deny himself forever. In sleep, his defenses come down. The things kept neatly stored in his mind in his waking hours come banging on the doors of his façade, battering their way through, spilling out and over.
Usually, he can handle it. He's used to the strange dreams his strange lifestyle yields. Dreams of the Time War, watching planets die, all those deaths, unable to save them, to save anyone; dreams of Jack, the Master, the Face of Boe, of times forgotten and times not yet experienced. All of these he counted as dreams, even though some were harder to swallow than others. These, he could handle.
The only nightmares he had- the only ones that truly counted as nightmares- were laden with Cybermen, punctuated with blinding flashes of light and deafening sounds, and Rose Tyler.
They were worse when he was alone in the TARDIS, when he had no one to keep occupied, no one to please, to talk to, to distract himself with. He had not only the entire empty TARDIS to fill with his thoughts, but also the entirety of time and space.
It was pathetic, really. He was a Time Lord, he had seen things that many people couldn't even dream of. He had seen horror after horror, watched the light leave so many poor beings' eyes. But no matter what he sees, he always comes back to Rose Tyler. Everything in the universe, and his nightmares are still centered around the one girl he can't forget; the one girl he can't forgive himself for losing.
But he knew the first few nights with Donna aboard would not be good. It had been a while since Martha left. Days? Weeks? Years? He wasn't sure anymore; really it didn't matter. What did matter was that he had been alone, and hadn't had anyone to work on quieting his screams for.
But it would be good to have Donna, he thought to himself, she would give him someone to put his smile on for.
He should have known that Donna Noble could see right through him.
The third night she was aboard was the night it all crashed down for the Doctor. He kept himself awake for most of the first two, but all the running that day left him completely exhausted. He hadn't meant to fall asleep, but as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out with his shoes on. Somehow, he found himself tangled in his sheets now, even though he hadn't started underneath them. And the dirt that clung to the soles and canvas of his shoes that was rubbing off on his deep blue sheets was the very last thing on his mind.
His mind was in turmoil, and his body prey. He was curled in on himself, crumpled on his side, arms crossed in front of him, his hands clenching and unclenching against his ribs, reaching for something not there. He shook with sobs that were quickly becoming less silent. Whimpering detached words.
"Rose. God, no. Rose. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. My fault. I'm sorry. All my fault. Rose…Rose."
His voice grew from a low moan to a soft scream laced with pain as he continued to speak. It was always worse when he hadn't slept in a while. Usually, he had enough sense about him to keep himself quiet, but he couldn't help himself, no matter what he tried to do.
Donna Noble was exhausted. No, exhausted was the biggest understatement of the century. Though saying that didn't even seem right anymore as she had already seen the end of this century, and the beginnings of those far before. Nonetheless, she was more tired than she could have ever remembered being.
And she couldn't fall asleep.
Her bed was comfortable, it wasn't that. This bed was much bigger and much more welcoming than her bed at home. It was softer and firmer in all the right places and was covered with purple satin sheets. She was warm enough, with many other blankets to spare should her body temperature change in the night. She even had a cool glass of water sitting on her bedside table in the event that she awoke thirsty. She wasn't exactly sure when or how the Doctor had managed to get this room prepared for her, and she half wondered if he had been just as prepared for her as she had been for him. But that didn't explain how the water was still cold.
"Time Lord magic." She thought to herself with a smile as she tried once again to settle into the bed. She knew she needed to get sleep; who knew what adventures they'd get up to tomorrow? This realization did not help her get to sleep though. Even with the steady thrumming of the TARDIS engine all around her, something inside of her still felt terribly uneasy.
She was about to roll over and chalk it up to sleeping in a new bed, when the reason for her unease filled her eardrums.
"ROSE! NO, ROSE!"
Without thinking, Donna threw the silken sheets to the ground and sprinted out of her room, leaving her door open behind her. She did not know her way around the TARDIS, but that didn't matter, she just followed the voice of her Doctor. The scratchy, tormented, pain laced yells of her Doctor.
She skidded to a stop in front of a closed door. She was almost sure this was his room. He had gone quiet now, and she stood there barely daring to breathe in case she missed something. For a fleeting moment she was afraid that someone had gotten inside and found him. She dismissed that as ridiculous almost as quickly as it had come into her head. She lifted her hand, poised to knock, as another anguished yell broke through the door.
Forget knocking. She threw the door open and was taken aback by the sight she was greeted with.
She had never seen the inside of the Doctor's room. It was spacious but plain. He had a large ornate wardrobe in one corner, mahogany with gold trim. He also had a desk that was littered with a few books that looked older than her grandfather and were written in a language that she had never seen before. There were also wrinkled pieces of paper with that same writing on them, and two or three with drawings of trees on them. As captivating as the scenery was, none of it held her attention. She stayed focused on one thing, the Doctor dwarfed by his giant bed, looking younger than he ever had writhing in his bed.
She took a few tentative steps forward, not wanting to wake him and upset him further, but needing to help. He looked so helpless. His hair, usually full of life, was fallen and plastered in clumps to his sweating forehead. He had fallen asleep in his suit, the coat seemed to be suffocating him, and his shoes were still on, kicking out of the sheet every so often. He was visibly shaking and Donna did not know what to do. Bursting into his room uninvited was already the biggest breach of privacy she could think of. But she couldn't just leave him like this. Her mind was made up as a sob escaped his lips and he moaned, lips trembling. She had to help him. Donna extended her hand and barely ghosted it against his shoulder. The Doctor jolted awake.
"What? What is it? Has something gone wrong? Are you alright?" He sniffed and tried to hide the dried tear tracks that clung to his face.
"Doctor, what's the matter?"
"What? Nothing." He'd sprung into a sitting position and became preoccupied with trying to unlace his shoes.
"Doctor." Donna put her hands on her hips and walked the rest of the way to his bed. "You know, for a big space man you are not very good at lying to me."
"I'm not lying, Donna." His hands were shaking too much to undo his Converse. Donna moved to help him and she heard his breathing hitch.
"You're not convincing, Time Boy." She continued to unlace and remove his shoes, slowly but deliberately. She noted the way he was trying to stop himself from rocking back and forth like a terrified child in a thunderstorm without his teddy bear. She turned to look him in the eyes, but his were clamped shut and Donna could tell he was trying to school himself back into breathing normally. He was still sweating, and his left hand was wringing around his right forearm compulsively. "Here, why don't we take your coat off so you're not so hot? Then I'll get you some water and we-"
"No." The Doctor scampered away from her.
"You're burning up. Doctor, come on just let me help you." She reached out and caught one of his sleeves as he tried to move in the other direction. His sleeve pulled up and he froze. He wasn't breathing, wasn't moving, but Donna could tell his mind was moving in overdrive.
Their eyes were locked. Slowly, she tore her eyes away and scanned them down to his naked arm. What she saw there made her stop breathing as well.
Tracing up his forearm crisscrossing every which way were thin white lines. Some thicker than others, some in clusters, and some more on the pink side. But in the middle of the tapestry that was his arm hung the words BAD WOLF written in the same scrawling white. The letters were jagged and faded, but they screamed to Donna all the same.
And she understood.
"Donna I'm sorry. I-I never meant for you to see this. I-"
"Hush, Doctor." Donna cooed and gently pulled his coat off. His undershirt still stuck to his skin, but Donna left it alone. She turned so her legs were on the bed and he was in her arms. She traced her thumb along his forearm lightly, barely touching it at all. The Doctor tensed against her but did not move away. "You're not alone anymore."
"Shh, it's okay."
"Don't be daft. There's nothing to be sorry about. Nothing at all." She situated herself so she was looking into his eyes. They seemed so distant. He looked so old and yet so young at the same time. "Are you alright?"
"No." He fell into her and let his sobs come, full force. He stayed there, with his companion rubbing circles into his back and whispering reassuring and calming words into his ear while he wept into her shoulder. He wept like a child, for what Donna thought must have been the first time in his life. He was a messy crier, his sobs deep and throaty and ached with pent up pain. He clutched her shirt, craving her contact and pleading her not to ever leave him. Donna buried her face in the top of his head, thinking sadly to herself about all the emotional torment this man has had to endure and carry on his own, how much he kept hidden even from himself. Once his sobs quieted a little, and he was able to breathe more than a few shaky gasps at a time, he ventured a tiny whisper. "I loved her, Donna. I really loved her."
"Who?" She murmured.
"Rose." His voice broke and he hated himself for it. Donna just rubbed his back again, one hand lacing into his hair.
"I know you did. And I might venture to say she loved you back, the way you talk about her."
She could have sworn she felt the Doctor smile into her shoulder before it became wet again with the tears of a Time Lord. Donna waited another ten minutes before she felt her Doctor go slack against her, completely spent.
"Doctor, are you alright?"
"My head hurts now." He said, and she could hear the embarrassment and hatred in his voice.
"I bet it does. What about we lay down? I'll stay here. That way I'll be here if you wake up again. And, Doctor," She faced him again as they both relocated in his big bed. "I will always be here for you. You don't need to be embarrassed. Who have I got to tell?"
He smiled faintly and snuggled into her warmth a bit. "Thank you." He breathed.
Donna frowned. "You don't need to thank me, Spaceman. That's what I'm here for. To take care of you. Now shut your eyes and get to sleep so I can. You won't want to deal with me when I get less than six hours of sleep." She put her hands behind her head and closed her eyes.
The Doctor settled against her, feeling more at peace than he could ever remember feeling. He laughed. "Goodnight, Donna."
"Goodnight, Doctor. Sweet dreams."
The Doctor twitched against her, beginning to struggle with the sheets. Donna opened her eyes slowly and as they adjusted to the dimly lit room, she could see the Doctor's features twisted up in anguish again. She shook him gently, whispering his name.
He yelped as he awoke and sat straight up. He held his hands against his chest and took a few shallow breaths before turning back to her.
"You're alright, Doctor."
"Donna. I thought you were…"
She smiled humorlessly. "Sorry, no supermodel in your bed tonight, Spaceman. Just good old Donna, companion extraordinaire. "
He hummed and slowly settled back down. Donna ran her thumb over his shoulder and they lay in silence for a few minutes. Donna thought the Doctor had fallen back asleep when he spoke up again.
"I'm glad you're here."
"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, love."
He was silent a moment or two more. Donna both heard and felt him take a deep breath. "She didn't see me, you know."
"Who didn't?" She asked tentatively. The Doctor's voice was laden with sleep and hoarse still from all the crying he'd done earlier.
"Martha. Oh, she saw me. But not in the way I needed her to. She saw me as a challenge, I think. She wanted to get me over Rose so she could have me. I didn't want her in that way. Countless times I told her that, but she didn't care. She kept trying. I admire her dedication." He paused for a moment, and Donna didn't speak, sensing he was about to continue. "I needed her to be something she wasn't, and she didn't need me. But oh, I needed someone." He was wringing his arm again, but much less aggressively this time.
"When Martha was here," Donna ventured. "Was that when…"
"Things got bad? Yes. And she never noticed. You think that's something someone who was around you constantly would, and a doctor no less. She never noticed when I'd flinch away if she got too close, the way I'd tug my sleeves, how sometimes I would spend hours on end locked in my room." He prattled on, listing things and talking as though Donna wasn't there. She sort of felt like she was intruding. If he had been more awake and aware of himself, he wouldn't be saying these things to her, would he? "She couldn't see me like I needed her to."
He kept going back to that. "I see you, Doctor."
"She never came into my room, you know. Most companions don't."
"I must be special."
"Oi, watch it Time Boy."
"You did invite yourself in!" She could hear his smile in the dark. He wriggled closer and they fell silent again. She felt him yawn against her, ending with a small squeak that she wouldn't have heard if he wasn't so close to her.
"I need you, Donna." He said sleepily. "Sometimes I want to give up. Go back to that. Sometimes I want to so badly. I know I can't. I don't want to. But sometimes it's so hard. It would be so much easier to just pick that blade back up and…" His words were running together. Donna tightened her grip around him. "I need you."
"And I am always going to be here for you, Doctor. You never have to worry about that, I promise. I see you. I always have. And I always will, Doctor. You can come to me with anything. You don't need to be embarrassed or scared or anything. I'll listen, I'll help. That's what I'm here for. And to save you from the occasional alien overlord too, I suppose." Her voice was quiet, and he was falling asleep. She could hear it in his breathing. "Close your eyes, Doctor. I'm right here. And I'll always be right here, whatever need me for. I'll be there. I'll be right there. You don't ever have to hurt yourself again."
Donna yawned herself, and snuggled down into the Doctor's bed. She listened to him breathe evenly, lulled to sleep by the steady beating of both his hearts. They slept entangled in each other until early the next afternoon and the Doctor didn't wake up a single time.
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