A hand on his shoulder jerked the Doctor awake; only then did he realise he'd dozed off again. He shook his head, trying to wake himself up, and a voice spoke next to him. "Dr Tyler?"
"Yeah?" he mumbled, rubbing his eyes.
As he spoke, there was a shout of "DOCTOR!" and he was suddenly engulphed in blonde hair.
"Your companion was quite worried about you," said the first voice, its owner drawing aside to let them have a moment.
"Rose," he murmured, clutching her as close as he could.
"You idiot," she said softly, burying her face in his shoulder. "You realise I had the police out looking for you."
For a long time they just hugged, before Rose gently drew back to look at him properly.
"This was not the way I envisioned our first visit to the seaside," she said with a small laugh, brushing sand off his shoulder. Despite the humour, she looked exhausted, and he realised he must look worse. "What did you come out here for?"
"Dunno," he said. "I didn't plan it; I just sort of wandered around and ended up on the beach."
"You scared me. I thought I was losing you."
"I didn't mean to scare you. I'm sorry."
They returned to the flat more or less in silence, arriving well after midnight. Rose had just held the Doctor's hand the whole way, knowing that she couldn't do more till he decided to open up to her.
She hadn't eaten properly, and figured he probably hadn't eaten anything, so paused after exiting the bus. "Do you want to get something to eat?"
"Not hungry," he mumbled. "You get something if you want."
Rose shook her head, deciding just to have a piece of fruit or something before she went to sleep, and they headed up. She changed into her pyjamas in the bathroom, and came out to find the Doctor still fully dressed, sitting on the mattress staring into space.
"Doctor?" she said gently, placing a light hand on his shoulder.
"Rose, the TARDIS is gone." He swallowed, and she saw his eyes were wet.
"I'd been wondering when this would happen." She sat down beside him and grasped his hand in both her own, stroking the back of his hand with her thumb.
"She was always there," he continued, in a half-strangled voice. "Always, after everyone else had gone; died or left me. But now she's gone." A choked sigh. "I can still feel her. Out of reach. Not forever, without a pilot she'll just shut down eventually. She'll die alone, the last TARDIS of Gallifrey."
"I'm sorry, Doctor." There was nothing more she could say.
The Doctor turned to look at her. "Rose."
"Will you stay with me?"
She stared at him, slightly taken aback. "Of course."
"'Cause I know this isn't exactly the life you signed up for, stuck here ..."
She put a finger on his lips. "Doctor, stop. I'm staying with you, end of story."
He pulled her into a hug that was, if possible, even tighter than the one they'd shared at the police station. "I don't think I could stand being totally alone," he murmured in her ear.
"You won't be. I'm here. I'm here, Doctor." Rose rubbed his back and kissed his shoulder. "I may not be made of blue wood or be able to speak infinite languages, but you've got me anyway."
The humour worked; he managed a tiny chuckle. "Promise?"
"Promise. You couldn't get rid of me if you wanted to."
"Never," he vowed.
The time for conversation passed; they just held each other until the sky was starting to lighten. The Doctor lay down with his head cradled in Rose's arms and they both dozed lightly until the alarm went off.
"How's your companion?" Elsa asked two days later.
Rose nodded. "Better. Thanks for covering."
"It's no problem, moving planet has got to be a trying time for anyone. I understand."
Moving planet was the least of it, Rose thought, but kept it to herself and continued working. Losing the TARDIS … adopting a mundane life … it was no wonder he hadn't cracked before now. She suppressed a sigh, hoping now the inevitable outburst had occurred, the way was paved for some kind of emotional healing.
What he needed, she thought not for the first time, was a distraction. The only thing Rose could think of was finding him a job.
"Know of any jobs available, suitable for a not-very-modest genius?"