A/N: Hey everyone! This is the first fic I've actually worked on in over a year. I'm new to the Doctor Who fandom (I started watching the show about a month ago) and I'm about to finish the fourth season. So I decided to write some DW fic! I have always felt like there's so much that the Doctor never got to say about Rose Tyler (especially after Journey's End, GRRRRRR) and so this is my interpretation of just a little bit of what goes on in his mind. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to review :)
I wrote this after listening to the song "Sunburn" by Ed Sheeran. I felt like the song really nicely summed up some of the Doctor's feelings for Rose. I'd recommend listening to it for sure.
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the BBC series Doctor Who.
Spoilers: Season 4, I guess? Mostly up to Doomsday, but Donna's a character in this one.
What Used to Be Mine
"Ah, home sweet home," the Doctor said, strolling up the ramp with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his trousers, a goofy smile on his face. His companion followed closely behind, shutting the door behind her. The two had just returned from the planet Slaemur Ulfur in the year 8198, after a not-so-friendly encounter with a race called the Hyakk – the standard capture and escape and saving of the world the Doctor and his mates had become used to after a few trips through time and space. "Another day, another journey on the TARDIS! Where to go next…" The Doctor pulled his glasses from the inside pocket of his brown pinstriped suit and shoved them onto the bridge of his nose, already running around the console. "Past or future? We could see the Trojan War, oh yes, or Plymouth Rock when the Pilgrims arrive in America… or the 1960's, I do love the 60's. Such good music from you Brits. Or I could take you to the planet of Malabri, in the galaxy Shaa: tallest mountains in the universe, snow-capped all year round, quite beautiful. Or… oh! We absolutely have to visit my dear friends, the people of Kyndill Viður. Almost the whole planet is a great big ocean, crystal clear so you can see right to the bottom, and get this – the Viðures sing! It's absolutely gorgeous in the fall." The Doctor began to frantically press buttons and pull levers, checking a monitor and typing things whose meanings only he knew. "Well then, onwards we go to Kyndill Viður! Oh, Rose Tyler, you're gonna love it!" he exclaimed with the wide grin that came only got when he was very, very excited.
The TARDIS began to move, making a great series of the usual noises that meant it was travelling somewhere. The Doctor and his companion held on tight as the ship rocked back and forth, throwing them around as they tried to keep their footing. When they finally materialized on solid ground, the Doctor was laughing, already pulling on his long Viðurnch coat and moving towards the door. He wasn't aware of the woman behind him staring at him with great intensity. "Doctor," she said quietly, but he wasn't listening.
"Here we are! Oh," he grinned, drawing out the vowel, "this is going to be brilliant."
"Doctor," the woman repeated, much louder this time, in her brassy, commanding voice.
The Doctor had opened the door of the TARDIS, peeking out at the place where they had landed. "You're gonna want to see this! Like I said, absolutely gorgeous, the leaves are just starting to turn-"
"-just a few minutes away from the city, by the looks of it. Come on, then! Allons-y!"
"DOCTOR!" she yelled this time, cutting him off. "LOOK AT ME!" Shocked into silence, he turned to face the woman, who hadn't moved from her place at the console.
"You did it again," Donna Noble told him.
"Hmm?" He cocked his head to the side, confused as to why the redhead was yelling at him just a moment ago but now only looked hurt.
"You called me her name. Rose Tyler, you said. You… you called me Rose."
The Doctor was silent for a moment, his mouth hanging open for only a second until he seemed to regain his composure. "Ah, yes. Donna. Right. Sorry, just a slip of the tongue, happens to everyone, simple mistake, my bad…" He was talking impossibly fast, and Donna knew that he was flustered.
"No, that's the third time you've done that, and I'm getting sick of it!" She was angry now, her voice rising the way it always did when the Doctor did something wrong. "Why won't you tell me who she was? You never talk about her, but you still seem to always have her in the front of that stupid Time Lord brain of yours!" The Doctor turned away, back towards the door, hiding his face.
"Honestly, Donna, it's not important, really, let's just go-"
"No!" The Doctor turned around again at her exclamation. "You're gonna waltz right back over here, mister, and you're gonna sit down and you're gonna tell me about her, and that's final!" He pondered this order for a moment before giving a small sigh. He let the door swing shut as he walked obediently back to where Donna was standing, her hand on her hip and an impatient look on her face.
He sunk down onto the floor, Donna sitting next to him. Resting his forearms on his knees, he leaned his head back against the wall of the TARDIS, closing his eyes momentarily, preparing himself for the conversation that was about to happen. Finally, he turned his head to look at her. "What do you want to know?" he asked quietly, in a tone that Donna had never heard before. He sounded so hurt, his eyes were so sad. She now felt awful for calling him out on his mistake. This was obviously not an easy subject for the Doctor, and she realized she was being very crass, even more so than usual. There was no going back now, though. She was much too curious.
"Well… I don't know! Why do you keep calling me by her name?" Donna questioned, regretting it even more with each second that it looked like he was about to cry. This was killing him.
The Doctor hung his head. "I'm so sorry, Donna Noble, I'm so sorry. I really am. You know I never meant to do that. It's just… I really haven't gotten used to it. Not having her here, I mean. We travelled together for a very long time and I guess I just grew accustomed to having her with me. It's very odd, sometimes, I'll turn around to look at you and I'll expect to see her standing there instead…" He trailed off, leaving Donna to think for a moment. Now that she heard this, she knew what he was talking about. She could recall exactly the times when he had turned to her with a brilliant smile on her face, only to watch it falter slightly, some of the brightness leaving his eyes. It wasn't particularly obvious, but after a few times she began to notice. Now she understood: that smile wasn't meant for her. It was meant for Rose.
"So you wish she was here instead of me," Donna accused him bitterly, crossing her arms. Only after the words left her tongue did she see how the Doctor's jaw dropped slightly, his forehead creasing with guilt, and she cursed her fiery temper. She saw what she was doing to him, but she couldn't stop.
"Oh, Donna. Wonderful, brilliant, magnificent Donna. You mustn't think that I don't want you here. How could I not? You're just marvelous, really. Couldn't ask for anyone better. Besides, what happened with between Rose and I cannot be changed. I find it useless to dwell on such matters. Wishing for the impossible takes up so much time that could be better spent doing much more important things." Even as the Doctor spoke, he knew he was lying right through his teeth. He spent so much of his time, much more than he would like to admit, thinking about his beloved companion. But had he really made Donna feel so unwanted?
Donna, though she had probably done enough damage already, was still confused as to how this one girl had made such an impact on the Doctor, a traveler, the last of his kind. The lonely one. The Doctor hadn't ever mentioned any of his other companions as much as he did with Rose. What made her, of all people, so special? "Who was she, Doctor?" It was silent for a moment while the Doctor sViðurtched his legs out and went to unbutton his brown jacket and pull it off, leaving him in only a blue shirt tucked into his trousers.
"She was a human, like you. From London." He smiled, recalling the memories that seemed so far away, but were so recent in relative time. "Living plastic, that's how we met. All the mannequins in the city came to life, do you remember that? The Nestenes, they were called. They lost their food supply on their home planet and came to take over Earth. She saved me, and that was when I knew she was different. Not like other humans. She was… she was so special, Donna. She trusted me so quickly, I never understood it. I was different back then—we both were, I guess. She was still young, only nineteen. Nineteen years old, and she dropped everything to come with me. Her mum, her boyfriend, her job—well that got blown up, but regardless—and just followed me. So naïve, but so brilliant. I could just feel it; I knew that she was someone who would do something incredible."
"Like I said, we travelled together for a long time. She was with me before I regenerated… oh, I haven't explained that to you yet, have I?" he asked when he saw the confused look on Donna's face. "Right, well that's a story for another day. Anyway, when I met Rose, I looked different than this. Same mind, but a different body and face, essentially." He was quiet for a second. "She looked different then, too; her hair was long back then. She cut it right after I changed. I never could decide which way I liked it better." He was lost in thought, Donna saw again, a dazed smile on his face as he remembered his lost companion.
She cleared her throat after a second, a question pulling at her mind that she had always wondered, but felt petty asking. "Was she pretty?"
The Doctor looked at her, caught off-guard. "Well," he started, tugging nervously at his tie and looking at the wall opposite them so as not to make eye contact, "I suppose, if you're thinking in human terms, she was, yeah, she was nice-looking…" He trailed off at the look Donna gave him. "What?"
"It's a simple question, Doctor. Was she pretty?" Donna asked sternly, emphasizing each word carefully. She held his gaze for a few moments.
It was easy to see the moment his walls fell. "Oh, Donna, she was beautiful, absolutely stunning. Just magnificent. I don't think she realized how lovely she was." Donna nodded, having expected nothing else, but she was slightly surprised by his sudden change in demeanor. He had never had anyone to talk to about her, she figured, and now he did, and this was just pouring out of his system.
"She was so wonderfully human. I've always loved the human species, your kind are just so fascinating. But her, especially. She was so kind, and naïve, and pure, and just overflowing with this wonderful sense of goodness. You'd see it, too, Donna, if you ever, met her. Positively full of light. She was so brave, too, never seen anything like it. She saved my life just as many times as I saved hers, if not more. She looked into the heart of the TARDIS, for God's sake! She always somehow knew just what she needed to do… it was like it was just built in to her system. Completely incredible."
"Yeah, she sounds great and all." Donna was getting a little discouraged, as much as she hated to admit it, hearing the Doctor talk all about how great this Rose girl was. "But I still don't really understand why she's so important!" She felt awful saying it, but she was just trying to understand.
He turned to face her, leaning in slightly and lowering his voice. "You have to understand, Donna. I'm a Time Lord. I hear things, see things, feel things that no one else can. And when she was there, she made me feels things I had never felt in my life. She made me feel jealousy, and I didn't know what it was at first. She made me feel so… possessive, almost. I've never felt the need to protect someone as much as I did with Rose. I don't know what it was about her that made me feel that way, but it was so powerful. It drew me to her. She made me feel…" He paused. "Donna, I hear all these things inside my head. These voices, thousands upon thousands of them, always inside me—like the biggest headache you could possibly imagine but worse, a million times worse. But when she was here, they all got a little bit quieter. Something about her presence made them whisper instead of shout, and it was the most wonderful thing." Donna nodded.
"She really must have been something else, huh?"
The Doctor grinned again. "Oh yes. She certainly was." Then his smiled faded. "But I lost her. I had to lose her, I guess. I needed to protect her. So I sent her to a different universe."
Donna squeezed her eyes shut, trying to comprehend. All of this was a lot of information to take in. "A different universe?" she repeated incredulously.
"There was a breach. A little tear in time and space that let us through to a parallel universe. Everything was the same, but just a little bit different, you see. Her mum was there, her dad was still alive, her boyfriend had a different name. There was probably a Donna Noble in that universe, too. But Rose didn't exist. Rose Tyler was never born in that universe."
"That's awful," Donna mused.
"Well, she was rather unhappy with it, yes. Took her a while to come to terms with that fact. Well, anyway, it's quite a long story, but her dad—the one who was alive in that other universe—he found a way to travel between the two universes. The only problem was that every time they did travel back and forth, they ripped the gap open a little farther than it had been before. It was going to destroy both worlds if they kept traveling. The breach allowed aliens from that other place to travel through to Earth, our universe. The Cybermen, they were called. And the Daleks. They both travelled through the void, the place between the universes, and came here to wage war."
"I figured out how to send them back, into the void, but to do it I needed to send Rose and her family back to the parallel universe or they would all be taken back into the void as well. But Rose—she came back." Donna watched as the Doctor stumbled over his words slightly, getting a little choked up. "She told me that she had made her decision. She was going to stay with me forever, and she came back to me. We did it, too, we got all the Daleks and the Cybermen out of there, it was brilliant… and then…"
Donna was feeling uneasy, knowing exactly where this story went next. "And then what?" she asked tentatively.
"And then she slipped." The Doctor sighed, running a hand through his messy hair. "She was getting sucked in to the void and there was nothing I could do but watch. I couldn't save her. Her dad was the one who did. He came through one last time from the other place and took her back."
"I had to close the breach," he whispered, tears in his eyes. "One more journey through and both of the worlds would have collapsed. So she was stuck there, and I was stuck here… and that was it. That was the end."
Donna knew now. She understood completely why this one companion could not leave the Doctor's mind for a second. "That's why you still think about her so much." He looked at Donna, surprised. "That's why you can't get her out of your head. You're the Doctor. And what do doctors do? They save people. She saved you so many times, but in the end, you couldn't do the same for her." She looked away from his dark eyes, which were suffocating her with the endless pain she saw in them. "Rose Tyler, the girl who couldn't be saved."
The Doctor covered his face with his hands, breathing heavily, and Donna knew that she was right. But that wasn't all. She felt that there was more that the Doctor was too afraid to admit.
"You loved her, didn't you?" Donna asked softly. The Doctor raised his head slowly to look at Donna, his eyes wide, almost looking guilty and stunned at being found out. "Oh, come on, don't be daft. It's not hard to tell that you had feelings for her!"
He ran his tongue over his lips, searching for the right words. This was terrible for him. His words had never failed him in the past. That was how he fought, that was how he made people trust him. His words were his weapon, and he knew the power that they had. But now, finding himself speechless, this was new. This was scary. Being confronted about his situation with Rose was more terrifying than any Dalek, because he had no idea how to tell someone about his emotions. How could he describe such depth, the intensity with which he felt everything? It seemed so impossible.
It had been quiet for nearly a minute when she broke the silence, knowing she had approached an untouchable topic, and it was her responsibility to change it. "Sorry. That was uncalled for. So you never saw her again, huh?" To Donna's surprise, he shook his head.
"I visited her one last time, as a hologram. There was just enough of a gap between our two worlds that I could come back for a little while, but not in person. I couldn't touch her, but I could see her and hear her voice. It was only for a short time—limited power source, you see. I was harnessing the energy of a supernova that was about to burn out, and it only gave me a few minutes to see her, never enough time to say all the things that needed to be said… but she showed up, regardless, her whole family did. Jackie, Pete, Mickey, they all came to see me one last time."
"She had a life, Donna. She had her parents and her friends, her mum had a baby on the way. She had so much to look forward to, so much to live for. It was so beautiful, this life she had. I could have never given her that." One tiny little teardrop spilled down the Doctor's cheek, and neither of them moved to wipe it away. There was a tension in the air, something more that he needed to say, and Donna was determined to wait until he decided it was time.
The Doctor drew up his knees again, his head resting back against the wall in his original position. His whisper was barely audible in the large room, quiet enough that Donna had to strain to hear him. "The last words she said to me, Donna…" He sniffed, biting back a flood of tears. "The very last thing I ever heard her say was 'I love you.'"
Donna was expecting that. "Well… you said it back, didn't you?" The Doctor squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. "WHAT?" Donna exclaimed loudly, making him jump slightly. "Well, why the hell not? You knew that you were never gonna see her again!"
"I ran out of time. You have no idea how much I wanted to say it, Donna." His voice, quiet but intense, was a wild contrast to Donna's yell, and he was looking right at her with those eyes, so full of despair. "The gap closed just as I was about to tell her, the words were on the tip of my tongue. And then I was back in the TARDIS, and she was gone. Forever."
Now it was Donna's turn to be shocked. "Oh," she said finally, "oh. Doctor, I'm… I'm so sorry…"
The Doctor's face was screwed up in his effort not to break down, but she knew it was coming when his shoulders and his head finally fell and the first sob ripped from his throat. "I-I-I loved h-her, Donna," he stuttered, his cheek stained with a steady flow of tears. "I love her! I LOVE HER!"
Donna scooted close to him and pulled his body into her arms, where he curled up against her shoulder and cried. She felt her own face becoming wet with tears. This poor, poor man. It had been a long time since he had lost Rose, she realized; he had travelled with that girl named Martha before Donna had found him again, and she had been with him for a while now. This whole time, all of this had been bottled up inside him, and no one had ever bothered to listen. She held him as his body shook, his sobs muffled against her chest.
They sat together, the red cotton of Donna's blouse staining with tears where his face was pressed against her neck, for quite some time. After a few minutes of trying to comfort him, she grabbed his jacket where it lay on the floor next to them and draped it over his shoulders. She rubbed his back in a feeble attempt to soothe him. When he finally sat up, eyes bloodshot and cheeks red, Donna reached out and wiped away the water running thick down his face. He just stared at her with deep, imploring eyes. "I didn't know, Donna," he murmured, his voice rough from crying. "I didn't know what it was. I felt it, I loved her, but I didn't know what it was. I just… I just tried to shove it away to the back of my mind. I tried to ignore it, and by the time I figured it out it was t-too late." He hiccupped slightly, attempting to keep his composure, but he was feeling more and more lost by the minute. He had hoped talking about Rose with someone else would help him come to terms with her being gone, but he just felt ridiculous now. The Doctor was the master of moving on, picking up travelers and then leaving them when it was time, never looking back and never getting too attached. But it seemed that everywhere he turned there was something there to remind him of Rose Tyler. No matter what, she would not leave him alone. He feared that he would forever remain in a constant state of searching, waiting for her return when he knew it would never come.
Donna had no idea what to say anymore. It seemed to her that she only made him feel worse every time she spoke. "I'm sure you'll see her again someday, Doctor."
He shook his head sadly, and Donna could feel the finality of his reply resonate in both of them. "I can't. It's impossible." She stood up silently, no longer trusting her own words, and reached down to offer the Doctor her hand. He pulled himself up, meeting her gaze longingly for a moment before pulling her into a tight hug. "Thank you so much, Donna." She hugged him back, even though she felt as if she had hurt him more than she had helped.
"That's when I met you," he said softly as they released their embrace. Donna pulled back to look at him, raising an eyebrow. "Right after the last time I saw Rose, that's when you appeared on my ship." He wiped at his nose with the back of his hand, smiling slightly. "Remember, you were in your wedding dress and you started yelling at me?"
Donna remembered, of course. "Right, because all of the sudden I wasn't at my wedding, but here with you on your bloody spaceship, of course I yelled at you! I was scared to death! And you looked a right mess, too," she added. She was pleasantly surprised when the Doctor chuckled.
"I'll bet I did, huh?" he agreed. Donna smiled lovingly at him and hugged him again, both of them laughing a little bit.
The Doctor pulled away and smiled brightly at her, an abrupt change in his demeanor. As he pulled his arms into the sleeves of his pinstripe coat, he spoke in a very different tone than the one he had been using. "Well, that's quite enough of that! Come on, we've got a date with Kyndill Viður! Smack dab in the middle of autumn, just like I promised…" There he was, Donna thought. There was the good old Doctor, never looking back, never letting the past get to him. How good he was at hiding it from the world.
"Donna!" he shouted, pulling her away from her thoughts. "Are you coming?" She walked to meet him where he was standing near the door. He reached out a hand and she took it. Her hand was a little too big for his slender fingers, but nevertheless his grip was firm and his skin was warm, just as always. The familiar gesture of their partnership, however platonic, was comforting, although in the back of her mind she registered the fact that Rose had held this exact same hand not too long ago. And that had meant so much more to him then Donna ever could. Had Rose's hand fit perfectly into his the way Donna's did not? There were a million thoughts running through Donna's head. She could not help grinning back at the Doctor, though, when he looked down the bridge of his crooked nose to smile at her. "Ready for another adventure?" She nodded.
"Let's go, spaceman, you've only been going on about it all day."
"Right then," he chuckled happily, opening the door of the TARDIS and stepping outside. "Allons-y!"
Neither of them noticed the monitor on the console blinking to life, the fuzzy image of a young, blonde girl coming into focus. Neither of them saw the inaudible but clear word on her lips, screaming silently again and again until the picture turned to black.
Well, there you go! Hope you enjoyed. Feel free to review and let me know what you think!
By the way, I threw in a couple little fun things for you guys to figure out :) the names of the places they visit are actually in Icelandic. If you figure out what they mean and tell me in a review I'll give you a shoutout in my next fic (and on Tumblr if you have one)! The two to look for are Slaemur Ulfur and Kyndill Viður. Good luck!