Summary: There were so many stupid things. Stupid hearts. Stupid Time Lord emotions. Stupid age limits and impossible things. Stupid, stupid, stupid Doctor. / Saying that he loved her was more than spitting out a few words. It meant a short time of joy with her, and the rest of his life in misery. At least, that was what he feared. / Ten/Rose angst.
He was stupid.
He practically slammed down on the TARDIS console, felt it mildly protest under his rough punches, but shut the machine's discomfort out of his head. He was too busy being angry at himself.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, he scolded himself mentally as he programmed the TARDIS angrily, pausing and rubbing his face in utter exasperation.
Stupid hearts. Stupid Time Lord emotions. Stupid age limits and impossible things. Stupid, stupid, stupid Doctor.
Just tell her. Just tell her. Just be a man and spit it out and tell her, he told himself every day, every time he looked at her, every time he felt that familiar surge of hotness and shyness like his chest just got hollowed out, he repeated to himself - tellhertellhertellhertellher tellher.
And then he smiled and opened his mouth.
And then he started rambling about some stupid alien or technology or something, and they went along, leaving him hating himself the more he couldn't spit out those three little words.
But that's just the thing. And even when thinking to himself, he couldn't bring himself to say those words he had shunned so carefully forever.
You can tell her. You know that you - he paused - care so much about her. Feel so strongly for her.
Never could say it. Or even think it. Ever.
Because it was more than a word. It was more than an emotion. It was giving in. It was an admittance. It was a resignation.
Because he couldn't. He couldn't feel this way about her. He knew he did, and that was bad enough, but his greatest fear was admitting it, and then she would die - she would wither, and die, and grow old and - die, and he would be on his own, knowing. Having said it. Knowing that he had - loved her. And feeling that emptiness, that hollowness, like someone just took a big scoop right out of him. He knew he could never get that back.
Saying that he loved her was more than spitting out a few words. It meant a short time of joy with her, and the rest of his life in misery. At least, that was what he feared.
Another perfect opportunity had arisen that night, and again - tellhertellhertellhertellher - and then - "Have a good night's rest, then!"
She was off, and he slumped against the railing, knocking his head against the wall at his utter stupidity.
Now he was pounding the TARDIS into submission, taking out his anger at his own stupid Time Lord self on this stupid Time Lord machine. It protested a bit more sharply in his mind, and again he shoved it out.
"Doctor?" came an unexpected voice. The Doctor almost fell over himself. He looked up and saw Rose, standing in her pajamas in the corridor, looking sleepy and disheveled, but concerned.
"Oh," he said in surprise, straightening up, looking off-guard.
"Are... you okay?" she asked, blinking at him.
"Of course I am!" he said, grinning fakely. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Um, well, for one thing," she said, "You were kinda beating up your oh-so-precious machine there."
"Oh... right," the Doctor said lamely, scratching at his head awkwardly.
"For another, you seemed really distracted when we got back on the TARDIS, and you've been acting weirdly a lot lately, and I just wanted to make sure that you're okay." Rose joined him next to the console, placing her hand dangerously close next to his, and he suppressed a shiver.
If there was ever a perfect time to tell her, it was now.
"Nothing's the matter," he said, forcing his tone to be lighthearted as he fiddled with something on the TARDIS controls. "I'm perfectly okay!" He grinned at her, and she smiled slightly back. He went back, pretending to be very preoccupied with the keyboard on the TARDIS that, in reality, did nothing but give his hands something to do.
There was a small pause, then Rose said quietly, "Is it me?"
He looked at her sharply. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Rose was looking at him sorrowfully. She shifted. "I mean, are you getting... tired of me?"
He was so stunned that he didn't even say anything. His mouth was left half-opened in utter shock, and he tried to force it to make something intelligible come out, but he was left with silence. She seemed to take this as affirmation.
"I get it, I mean," she said, trying to be nonchalant but her eyes dulling as she looked down and some hair fell in front of her face, "You're so busy and Time-Lord-y and - and so you... and I'm slow, and human, and I sleep a lot, and keep getting in trouble - I'm way too much trouble," she added with a laugh, now looking completely away from him, "And I mean, if you wanted to drop me off - I'd get it."
Now energy surged through him, angry, guilty energy. He took her shoulders gently and turned her body so that she was forced to look up at him. Her eyes shone brightly with forced-back tears. "Rose," he said softly.
"No, it's okay, I get it," she started, but he shushed her.
"Rose," he repeated firmly but gently, "I never, ever, ever, ever want to hear you say that again."
She looked surprised, and he continued. "I could never get tired of you, Rose, ever. If you interpreted my weirdness that way -" he laughed a little "-I'm very, very sorry. I'm not bored of you. I could never dislike or get tired of your company. It's quite the polar opposite, actually."
Now she stared at him inquiringly. "...quite the opposite?"
He realized he might have said just a bit too much.
"What does that-?" she started, but he rushed on. "I mean, it gets lonely around here, right? I'd go crazy, probably. Start talking to myself. And you, Rose Tyler, are one brilliant human!" he grinned, trying to lighten the mood. He let go of her shoulders, still smiling at her. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
He said the last sentence light-heartedly. Jovially, almost. What he wanted more than anything was to say them seriously. Quietly. Coupled with another few choice words.
You idiot. You idiot, you idiot. If you're ever going to tell her, it's now. It's here. Just do it!
"Thanks, Doctor," she murmured, taking his hand carefully. "I was... I dunno. Worried about that."
"Never be. Never be worried," he said, holding her hand more firmly, "about what I think of you. Never doubt how I feel about you."
Oops. Another slip of the tongue. Rose looked at him hopefully. "Which would be..."
He looked at her, and knew that this was it.
He opened his mouth.
"You're my very best friend, Rose. The only person to stick by me. I could never let you go," he said with a smile.
And he left it at that.
When she went back to her room, he slumped against the TARDIS console, pressed his forehead against the cool screen, and fought back tears.
He would never be able to tell her.
Stupid, stupid, stupid Doctor.