It was the darkness that had always bothered her the most. Everything about the dark seemed to bring out the worst emotions in her, to bring out her fear. She had been in that cell for the past twenty years, and for the entire time she had been forced to sit in the ever present darkness with only her mind to occupy her attention. As the Doctor ran with her, all Rose could see was the darkness that had taken over the Torchwood facility. Walls had fallen, lights seemed to flicker at their passing, and only the grip her hand had on the Doctor kept her propelled forward, moving as quickly as possible through a newly created war zone. A shiver went up her spine, her mind unable to conceive of a world where this carnage had been created by her Doctor, not the man that she had known. Yet here she was, free while everyone one around her was suffering.
She could hear them, the people that were injured or near death scattered around the ground. She had stepped over a few of them. Buried, deep down underneath all of her pain, was a hint of regret as she looked into the eyes of those terrified people. They had hurt her, and she could even pick out a few as she and the Doctor made their mad rush for the door, but she couldn't help but feel the smallest tug of her long absent heart. The pain had been horrible, and her body had been forced to endure, while her mind hid inside of itself. Now it was starting to awaken, and something as very, desperately wrong with what was around her. She had thought about revenge for so long, but now she was stepping in the blood of the people who had tormented her, and the pain that had held her frozen in this hell started to dull against the carnage.
As the approached a door, Rose started to slow, her mind conflicted and her heart aching just the slightest bit. The Doctor had done this; he had hurt all of these people in a fit of rage. She could feel it in him, the anger that seemed to resonate through his mind. It was an anger that called for blood, and it had been sated. It was wrong, but she couldn't get past the idea that he had done this, and it was too much for her to accept. Except she could feel it, running through her mind. Just a little hum in the back of her mind, a connection with him that allowed her to see past what he was trying to show her, to what he was really feeling. That had probably been what had distinguished the difference between her Doctor, and the man who had pretended to be him for so long. He was completely and utterly gone from reality, but the anger and resentment wasn't direct at her, instead it was focused on everything around them, and inward. He was furious, but it wasn't with her, and that was not something she had experienced in a very long time.
How she knew this was still unknown to her. It had started a few after he had left her there, her ability to feel as people around her were feeling. For a while it had made it impossible to be around another person without losing herself. Those were her most cooperative years, where all she did was aim to please her captors. Eventually she had learned control, she could tell the difference between her own emotions and those around her. And the Doctor was furious. She had known what the rage had felt like that simmered in the bottom of his soul, a never-ending rage that filled him. The imposter had never lost that. It had fueled his downfall, and now as she ran with the Doctor, Rose could feel that same rage welling inside of him, and moving so much farther beyond.
Her hesitation grew, pulling her further back from the Doctor. She wasn't running next to him anymore, but instead was being almost dragged along by the hand. She couldn't take it any longer. "Doctor, please, stop."
With a startled look the Doctor slowed, turning back to look at her as the door they had come crashing through closed, his eyes that seeming to look into the very root of her doubts. She knew it wasn't possible, but she could almost feel his mind pressing against hers for a moment, like a query directed into her subconscious. "What is it, are you tired then? I'm sorry Rose, I should have known you couldn't just run off after all you've been through. Short break?"
Rose shook her head, turning to lean against the wall next to her. They stood at the bottom of an intact stairwell, and Rose was grateful for the lack of others in the enclosed space, allowing her to focus on something other than the terror of the soon to be dead. "I-I can't. Doctor, what on earth happened here? What happened?" she repeated the question more to herself, her mind finally catching up with her. Fifteen minutes, she had been free for no more than fifteen minutes and already the impossibility of it all was too much for her mind to understand.
The Doctor's face turned cold, and a look she had never seen him use before spread across his features. It was true indifference, it was cold, and it wasn't her Doctor. She had seen similar expression before, on his previous incarnation, but she not this Doctor. He was love and fun, not the same man that had held a gun to her as a Dalek held itself up to the sun. It was a look that seemed completely alien on his face, and it broke her heart. "They hurt you Rose, and I don't mean that they said something a little nasty and might have made you cry. I mean they hurt you, they tried to break your soul. I could feel it, all of it. I took one step into your room on the TARDIS, and it was like your voice was screaming in my mind, and your heart had shattered inside of me. I should have known, of course, I should have felt it before. I should have done something, anything damn it!" At that his eyes flashed true anger, but not the insanity that he had shown only moments before when he had seen her for the first time. It softened him, because even in anger there was something in him that held back. It was a look that was fierce, but it was not the Oncoming Storm, and it left him looking as if he had aged ten years in the last few moments.
He could handle anger, but he had not been able to handle the unending wail of her inside of his mind. Every last part of his body had ached, and he knew in that moment that she was in serious danger, and it was his entire fault. He had left her, swanned off to live in the stars, and he had assumed that he knew what was best for her. He thought that he had known it all, and look at where it had brought her. Nothing but heartache and pain, and he would never really forgive himself. Not after everything that had been done to her.
His body sagged, and he sat abruptly on the steps behind him. Running his hands through his hair, he transformed. The madness retreated, and for the first time since he had walked into her room aboard the TARDIS and swept off to another universe in a fury, the Doctor was in complete control of himself. "I didn't do this." He whispered, shaking his head at her. More firmly he repeated himself, "I didn't do this, Rose. I did, I did do something terrible, and we'll talk about that I'm sure, but I did not destroy this building, and I did not hurt these people, damn it. I was, I wasn't right when I got here, and before I could do anything else I had to take care of that rage, but I didn't do this. It's a safety protocol. I tried to stop it, but the only thing I could completely save was your cell. The bastard would have buried you alive, underneath all of the dirt and rubble and bodies of the dead, to insure that you couldn't get away. I lost the last of my mind when he told me that, I think. But this," he gestured to closed door that lead back to the devastation they had just passed through, "I didn't do this."
For a moment, only one, she wasn't sure if she believed him, and he could feel it. It killed a part of him to know that she couldn't whole-heartedly trust him anymore, but he understood it. His betrayal had been twice as bad as the human version of him, because he had left her to him without looking back once. But this was Rose, and though it was difficult, she knew that he was the Doctor, so she nodded, holding her hand out to him one more time. "Then we had better get out of here Doctor, I don't think he'd take too kindly to finding me free and moving about."
A dark look crossed over the Doctors face, but Rose knew that it was no longer the time to ask. They had to leave, and the realization that she could walk out into the world for the first time in two decades was starting to sink in. She was free, and it was fantastic.
A stupid grin had spread across her face, and the Doctor smiled back at her gently as he stood and took her hand. This time, when she fit her hand into his, it was without the fear that had been gnawing at her stomach. He had changed, of course, but so had she. They would spend time figuring it out, getting to know each other again, but the important things were the same. She was Rose, and he was the Doctor, and it was time to get the hell out of this tormented place. Setting off with a little giggle, the first she'd let escape, Rose headed up the stairs and started to pull the Doctor behind her, eager to see the stars again.
The Doctor followed her, a smile still on his face, but his mind was running as quickly as it could, screaming at him that he was a fool. No, he hadn't hurt people. He had entered with fire and death in his heart, but only for one man. It was his fault that all those people were hurt, he hadn't saved them, he had unleashed a true evil on this world, but his worst crime was one he refused to say out loud, not yet. He couldn't do it, admit what he done. It was too much, and he knew that she would look at him as if he was monster, as he rightly deserved. For now, she was happy, and with him, and soon they would be away from this place. They were running, and it was really what mattered.
The stairs were long, but they lead directly outside and it was why he had chosen them. They had been created as a service tunnel to let the human bastard get to her without dealing with the rest of the Torchwood team. As they ran up the stairs Rose thought that it would never end, that she was going to be trapped in there forever, stuck in a sort of purgatory, but only until she saw the door closed snuggly at the top. With a last burst of energy Rose ran as quickly as she could, dragging a worn out Doctor behind her as she reached forward, desperately, and finally threw open the door.
The sunlight was blinding. Her eyes, unused to seeing in the natural lighting, watered and closed, unable to bear the pain. She let out a small cry, but refused to be stopped. She ran forward a few steps, collapsing into the grass that surrounded the building. The Doctor let her fall, crouching next to her and gently rubbing her back. Rose made a small sound in the back of her throat, a frightened whine that warned him that now wasn't the time for touch. She was vulnerable for the first time since she walked out of her cage, and it left her breathless. Minutes passed as she sat there, trembling, her hands fisted in the grass and dirt. Slowly the stabbing pain from the light started to ebb away, and cautiously Rose Tyler took her first look at the world.
It had to be midday, she realized, the sun glaring down from directly above their heads. A breeze had kicked up, and the soft sway of the grass and trees seemed to sing to her. She could hear sirens off in the distance, probably coming to investigate the horrible destruction behind her. She knew it was there, but Rose refused to look at it. She had seen enough destruction, and all she wanted to see was the beauty of the day in front of her. She thought it had to be spring, with the birds singing so loudly, but she wasn't sure. It didn't matter, not really. Slowly she realized that her eyes might not be watering from pain, but they were crying.
She was free, really and truly free. With a laugh that seemed out of place in the destruction zone of Torchwood, she laughed her first real, full throated laugh. She wrapped her arms around her stomach, trying to contain herself, but not able to hold it in. An electric current was running through her, and it was amazing.
"Rose," the Doctor called, pulling her joyful attention back in his direction, "we should get going. Not really the time to be answering questions, and well…" the Doctor gave her a pointed look, and Rose glanced down at herself. Her skin seemed to be almost translucent, glowing white in the direct sunlight, and stretched tight over her bones. Her only clothing was a torn up bloody trench, and she was sure that any cop that saw her would think of her as a victim, dragging her to a hospital. Or worse, the other Doctor could have alerted the authorities, and she was their intended target, taking her back into custody.
A small panic started to slip in through the joy, and she nodded at the Doctor. "Course, we should go. Where did you park the-", she started to ask but she soon found exactly what she was looking for. Sitting, nestled in among the trees edging the courtyard, stood the TARDIS.
Rose lurched forward onto her feet and walked slowly towards the TARDIS, finally becoming completely overtaken by emotion. It had been too much, the entire day. She had been fighting so hard just to keep herself moving forward, she had only wanted to get free, but here she was with the Doctor, walking toward the TARDIS. She was going home, and it was real. The Doctor could have been a lot of things, he could have been something that bastard had created to screw with her, to finally break her down, but he couldn't create the TARDIS, and he couldn't fake her being in this world. A small tingle of warmth spread deep down in her soul, a feeling of connection to a world that she never thought she'd see again seeping into her. For a moment she was connected again, the heart of the TARDIS filling her soul with the pieces that she had been missing, and it was more than coming home. It was so much more.
"Do-Doctor? " Rose whispered, looking over her shoulder at him as he followed her, "You're actually here, properly here. You both come back for me." The last she murmured as she ran her hand down the side of the TARDIS, a shiver making its way up her spine.
"Yes," the Doctor started, but had to pause to clear his throat, "I really am here. The key, front pocket. Open her up for me, will you?" He asked, and smiled when she gave him a wicked grin over her shoulder.
A part of him relaxed at that, the small voice in the back of his mind that had been screaming at him for the last few hours finally silenced. This is exactly the look that he had been waiting for, a look that completely screamed of Rose. Something in her had relaxed when she'd seen the TARDIS, and he realized that he hadn't even noticed how very back and forth she had been emotionally until something calmed inside of her. Nothing in this world could impersonate his TARDIS, he would know, and she had finally accepted the truth.
With a shaky breath Rose pulled the TARDIS key out of the trench pocket, and slid it into the lock. With a small click she turned the key, and pushed the door inward.