For just a moment he thought the cell was empty. The only light in the room came from the small buzzing light high up on the wall, illuminating almost nothing in the grey box-like room. Without proper lighting it was difficult to recognize the huddled shadow in the darkest corner of the cage as a human being, the shaking of the darkest shadow being the only thing that truly gave it away. The longer his eyes had to adjust to the darkness the more clearly he could make out the trembling figure. She was pressed as closely to the wall as she possibly could be, her knees curled up protectively against her chest. Her head rested gently on her arms, her hair flared out over her shoulders and down her back like a blanket. Her skin, once rosy with health, now seemed to almost match the grey trap that surrounded her. Her body was completely exposed to the brutal conditions of the room, the metal walls and cement floor unyielding and cold against her bare skin.
He wasn't sure how she had survived this long. The cage seemed to have been designed to cause pain through neglect, slowly allowing her body to absorb the cold until it settled into her bones. The only exit was through the viewing station installed in the ceiling, where he currently stood, watching her. He was certain she couldn't see him, the viewing screen only allowing those outside of the room to spy on the poor creature within. What would she do if she knew he was there? Would she scream? Cry? Did it matter that he was here, after leaving her here like this? He deserved it if she hated him. A part of him had done this to her after all.
A small noise from the cell drew his attention back to her. She was moving, slowly shifting her body until she was crouched on her knees, her weight resting on her outstretched hands. He could almost count all of her ribs, their curved outline stark against her starved body. She was flesh and bone, but that wasn't what drew his undivided attention. It was her eyes. She had craned her neck up, staring straight at him as if she could see through the material that shielded his presence. He had expected her to seem defeated, her mind completely broken from years of abuse. He had no idea how long she had been here, but he was certain that it was for far too long for her soul to have survived the pain and degradation completely intact. And yet, here she was, looking defiantly straight up at him with unbelievable passion. Her body was wasting away, but her mind remained unblemished. A small, almost unnoticeable flutter of hope drifted through is hearts, but it was quickly quashed when she drew in a breath, speaking the first words he'd heard from her in what seemed to be a lifetime.
"Is that you Doctor? Are you watching me? Enjoying the show you bastard?" Rose snarled.
The Doctor froze, unsure what to do. She knew that he was here, and she was furious. He knew that she would hate him, but seeing it in her face while she seemed to look him in the eyes was a completely different matter. What would she say when she saw what he had done to free her? Would she believe that he wouldn't hurt her, or had she been hurt too much to accept help from him?
When he'd arrived he hadn't been himself, exactly. The knowledge that he had done this to her in a way, that leaving her to his other self had caused this, sent him into a spiral. He had gone a little insane, coming into this universe in a state of mind that he hadn't experienced since the last time that he had lost her. The TARDIS, brave creature that she was, had brought him where he was needed, as she has always done, but it hadn't been when he'd expected, or even where. He'd expected to get there in time to save her the pain that he had seen in her future, but he had come too late. The level of security was far too advanced to have been from the same time frame that he had left her, and now she was taken by those who would hurt her the most for her secrets. Torchwood had somehow recreated itself in this universe, forcing a foothold in the world once more. It was smaller than it had been in the Doctor's universe, but he hadn't taken any of that into account as he approached their unremarkable building. No, all that mattered was that they were powerful enough to hurt Rose, and heartless enough not to care.
The madness had completely overtaken him by this point, a fury powerful enough that this universe had never experience anything quite like it, was overtaking him as he attacked the bastards who had hurt her. He couldn't remember at this moment exactly what it was that he had done. He knew that people were dead, that he had killed with a passion that he hadn't possessed since the height of the Time War itself. He had done whatever was necessary to get her back, and a part of him was screaming through the madness to stop, waves of regret being held back only by the sight of her huddled body assaulting him. His mind would catch up with him later, when they were safe and he had time to reflect on exactly how far he had fallen, but now wasn't the time. No, he might regret it later, but at this moment the dark truth was that it was all worth it. he would tell himself otherwise, but this was the moment when he was the most honest, the most clear. Her life had taken precedence over theirs, and he wouldn't take it back if he could. He had to save her, therefore they had to die. He had to kill, and the other version of himself, the sick twisted old bastard, had had to die.
The look in her eyes, the quick thinking of a whole and complete mind, made her rescue all that more important. He couldn't save her the pain that she had already experienced, but he could save her from being broken. He could save her mind and nourish her body back to health later. She would never forgive him, he was almost certain, but she would be saved.
"I can feel you out there, Doctor." She whispered, her eyes unwavering as the watched him, like a mouse too afraid to look away from the cat. Underneath the bravado he could see the fear in her eyes. "Does it kill you, seeing me like this? Does it drive you mad?" A loud bang echoed through the room as she pounded her fists against her metal cage. "You can't have it Doctor, you can't steal this! You can't take this from me you fucking bastard! You are going to die and I am going to still be here, and that just fucking kills you doesn't it?"
The Doctor took a step back from the look of anger on her face, and the absolute anguish in her voice. It was an ugliness that he had never seen before, a twist of the mouth that mocked the smile that she had once given away freely to strangers without a thought. No, she had been scarred here, maybe more than he had originally thought. She needed to leave this place, and never come back. The desperation in her voice was enough to push him past his hesitation, drawing him forward to pull open the hatch that had closed her into hell.
For one single moment she seemed completely shocked, her mouth falling open in surprise that the doorway was open for the first time in far too long, but it didn't last long. Her expression turned wary, unsure what kind of trick this was supposed to be. She'd yelled, mocked the smug bastard, called him every name she could think of, but nothing had made him open the door before now. He never responded. Why would he? They both knew he could hold her here for as long as he wanted. She was trapped. For the first few years she had held out, sure that her Doctor would realize what had happened to her, and he would come and rescue her. As the years had gone by, however, her faith had dwindled. The next years had been terrible, her strength wavering under the assault of pain and torture that they had put her through. She would have done anything to make it stop. She had wanted to die more than she'd wanted to live at times, but that wasn't possible.
It had taken her years to build up the anger and resentment to a level that would allow her fight. Slowly she had filled herself in with the anger, and she started to take in what was going on around her. It was hard, looking at his face and knowing that the true man that had originally worn that form would never hurt her like this. It was almost impossible to watch him and not feel that slight pull to trust him, to think that maybe he wasn't going to hurt her anymore. Or worse, that this was her Doctor, and he had come to save her. But it had become clear, as soon as she started to truly look at him again, that this man was a completely different creature from her Doctor.
That was when she first noticed the changes. He had gotten older, his hair turning slightly grey around the temples, wrinkles forming around the corner of his eyes. She had looked at him, taken in everything that he was becoming, and she had smiled. He was getting older, slowly dying, and soon he would be out of time. It had infuriated him. He had had her punished for her insolent behavior, but it had been worth it to see that look of outrage on his twisted face. He had stormed out of the room, leaving her to be beaten, again, but the Torchwood members he had recruited, and he had never stepped into the cage again, always holding himself back in the observation room. He wouldn't talk to her, or even interact with her at all, he just watched her, but she always knew when he was there. She had gained back the power they had taken from her, and it had kept her sane. She would taunt him, unable to stop herself as soon as she would feel the pressure of those damned eyes on her.
Yet nothing had ever forced him to open the door. In almost fifteen years of playing with his mind, of teasing him with his failures, he had never opened the door. Now, after almost no provocation, he had opened the door. Uncertainty filled her, and slowly Rose backed into a still dimly lit corner. The light coming from the room beyond her cage was too bright for her to see anything but a shadowy outline of him, but she could feel him watching her. Wrapping herself in an illusion of safety, Rose looked up at the figure and gathered the last of her courage.
"What now, Doctor?"
She had to have imagined it of course, the response that had floated down from the doorway. Just a soft breath of air that seemed to echo out her name, as if she wasn't in a cage and the world hadn't been passing her by for the last twenty years. Somewhere buried too deeply for her to understand right away, she felt it. The man up there had said her name, and somehow she knew that it was exactly who she had been waiting for. Just one whisper of her name, and her body felt as if it had been given new life, her skin flushing with the rush of adrenaline suddenly being pumped throughout her body.
"Doctor?" she whispered, her voice quickly rising with excitement and desperation, "Oh God, Doctor? It is you, isn't it? Doctor?"
A jacket, flecked with spots of blood, fluttered to the ground next to her. Rose didn't hesitate, picking it up and jerking her arms into the sleeves of the familiar trench coat. Not even putting on her first stitch of clothing in twenty years could distract her from the man still hovering about her. As she watched he shifted, two arms stretching out towards her. Cautiously Rose reached out her arms, clasping her hands into his. With a strangled noise the Doctor lifted her out of the hole, gently placing her on her feet next to him.
Rose took a gentle step towards him, not letting her hands leave his as she took in the carnage that surrounded her. Walls, which at one point must have stood firmly, were toppled to the ground. Men and women lay scattered across the ground, and she wasn't sure if they had been killed or knocked unconscious, but she couldn't bring herself to care. Either way they were no longer her problem, and he had made sure they wouldn't hurt her anymore. Her Doctor had come, and underneath the blood and dust she could see that it was in fact him. It wasn't a scenario that she had ever considered, that he would ever go so far as to hurt people, but despite that she could still see him in the way he had always looked at her. He was here to save her, and that look in his eyes was enough to cling to, it was enough to trust the man in front of her. It had been so long since she had trusted someone, that she wasn't sure that she could anymore, but for him? She would do anything.
Releasing her hand the Doctor reached up and cupped her cheek, cradling her face against his palm. His eyes looked into her and it was like he was reading her soul, and there was nothing but acceptance echoing through his eyes back to her. No matter what they had been through, he was here, and it was going to be ok.
"Rose," he whispered, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth, "run."