Donna Noble was not happy. In fact, she was rather cross. Insomnia was never a good thing, especially when the next day could bring about life or death situations. Tossing and turning, she eventually gave up trying to sleep at all. She got out of her bed and slipped on a robe. Her plan was to explore the TARDIS, knowing full well she hadn't seen even half of it yet. Once she was exhausted beyond all measure, maybe she could rest.
"Doctor?" she called as she popped her head into the console room to ask what she hadn't seen. However, he wasn't there. She shrugged and began her exploration anyway.
For awhile, nothing remotely new or exciting caught her attention. She had seen this part of the ship loads of times. That's why it stood out so much: a door. Sure, an ordinary door wasn't anything fantastic. Nevertheless, there was not supposed to be anything there. It had always been a solid wall in the hallway. She was sure of this. A door must lead to somewhere, a room or who knows what. Her curiosity got the better of her, and without hesitation she opened it and went inside.
"What?" she muttered in disbelief. There was another bedroom, one that had been hidden. Why didn't she know about this? It was pink and purple, and there were clothes sticking out of drawers and the wardrobe room. Either this was the room for a woman or a drag queen. She started to wonder if someone else was secretly onboard. "That'd be the Doctor. Full of surprises."
She stopped in her tracks when she heard shaky breaths behind her. Cautiously, she turned around and gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. She wasn't alone in this room. No, the Doctor was on the pink duvet, curled up on his side and gripping the pillow as if his life depended on it. His eyes were snapped shut and his breathing grew more ragged. Donna stepped towards him. "Doctor?"
He didn't stir. As she approached, she saw that his face was shimmering. His cheeks were sopping wet as if he'd been crying. His face burrowed further into the pillow and his grip tightened. She knew that he must be asleep. But, he hardly slept. And why in this secret room? She did a brief investigation, surveying the room for more clues.
When she looked around, she couldn't deduce much more than she already had. Girl's room. Kept secret. But, upon studying the slumbering Doctor, she noticed that a jean jacket was tucked against his chest. She'd seen that before. It took a second, but she remembered their first meeting. That was his friend's jacket, and this had to be her room. No wonder he looked a mess.
She padded to his side and put a hand on his shoulder. "You poor Martian."
"Not from Mars," his sleepy voice answered, making her jump. "How'd you get in?" his voice was vacant, cold. She'd only heard that voice a few times before, and it still brought shivers to her spine.
"How do most people get inside of places? There was a door, genius."
He sighed. "I forgot to turn on the perception filter."
"It makes the door go unnoticed. I had to turn it off for a bit. Reroute power to the console. Mustn't have remembered to flip the switch once I was finished."
"So…that door's always there and I just don't see it?" Donna digested that information, not really stunned by anything anymore.
Donna went around to the other side of the bed and sat beside him. He wiped his bleary, red eyes with his free hand. His other refused to let go of the pillow. She looked at him sadly. "It's her room, isn't it? Rose."
He winced at the name, absentmindedly playing with the fabric of her jacket. "Yeah."
"She left all of her things. That tells me she didn't want to go."
"She didn't," he said harshly.
Donna saw the pain in his eyes and didn't take offense. "You've kept everything the same, then?"
"Well, I moved the room. It used to be where yours is. Across from mine. I should have done what I always do. Gotten rid of the things, changed the room. People come and go on the TARDIS. It's about making space for the next person and then the next. No stopping. No holding onto the past. Moving on. It's how it is. But…" he paused, sniffing and fighting back tears. "I tried to. Emptied everything out, got ready to toss it in the bin or box it for some charity. I couldn't go through with it. I put it all back where I found it. Or tried to. She kept it a lot neater than this. Kept everything around here neater than I do, come to think of it. She was really attached to this place…" he laughed mirthlessly at the thought. "I'd catch her stroking the TARDIS and talking to it. Probably picked that habit up from me."
Donna watched him closely. "I'll bet that's not the only thing she got from you."
"Quite possibly…" he shut his eyes and clung to the bed, cursing himself for acting so human, so weak, so vulnerable. It was just a girl. It had been almost two years. In the past, he had so many companions and it never felt like this. They never made him break so severely. His theory was that this wasn't just a girl. This was Rose Tyler.
Donna patted him on the back of the hand. "Do you always sleep in here?"
"No. Well…most of the time."
"I understand that. Makes you feel closer to her. Like she's still here."
He nodded. "I don't usually dream since I don't sleep long enough to fall into REM, but."
She thought about his statement. "Are you saying that you dream when you're in here?"
He swallowed and remembered the dream he was in before Donna woke him. Rose was back on the TARDIS and they were laughing like they used to. He had her in his arms and his face was buried in her neck. He could feel her. It was so real. His gaze shifted away from Donna and she understood that the answer was yes. "Well, Doctor. Tell me why this Rose is so different. It might help."
"Or it might not," he answered quickly. Any time he talked about her, his hearts broke again.
"Obviously, you love her. I don't even need you to tell me that much, spaceman. Only love could reduce you, Mr. I'm Always All Right, to this. I've only seen you look empty a few times since I've been running about the universe with you, and every time it comes back to her. Sometimes, I even wonder if you see me. Not all of the time. It's just when we're laughing about something or having a really good time. Your eyes sparkle, but it just kind of fades when you look at me. You start to look tired. Old and tired. And I start to wonder if something's wrong, but you just smile and keep going. It's just for that second, that first second when you look over. I know you're not seeing me. You're seeing Rose. You want her back."
"Donna, you're my best mate. I couldn't ask for a better partner in crime."
She giggled at that. "Oi, don't lie to yourself. You told me you just wanted a friend, remember? It was a couple of hours after I moved in here 'cause I got a bit confused about the mating thing. Anyway, bottom line is that you don't want anybody replacing Rose. And that's fine. I'm not trying to. I just want to know who she was."
His face was solemn. "She was Rose Tyler. Defender of the Earth. Fantastic, brilliant, and so human. She always knew what to say. What to do. She saved the universe and she saved me. She loved me," he choked on the last part. "And I never got to…" he stopped right there, hugging her jacket. "I remembered her. When I remembered nothing else about my life, I remembered her name. Her face. You should have seen me before I met her. Hardened by war. I'd forgotten why I'm here. She made me believe in something. In her. And we were happy. So very happy. Do you remember our first meeting?"
She cackled. "How could I forget? Not every day you're kidnapped by a spaceship during your own wedding."
"The Racnoss. What I did to her children. How I stood to watch her suffer. You got me to leave. If you hadn't, I would have stayed. I would have let myself die. I knew what would happen. It'd be too fast to regenerate. That'd be it. I'd be gone forever and I didn't care. I lost her. I wouldn't have done any of that if…"
"If she was there," Donna finished for him. She gripped his hand. "You're doing better now. You had Martha and now you've got me. We've kept you out of too much trouble. Well, not really, but we've made sure that you're still breathing. Which isn't as easy as it should be, thank you very much."
His jaw was clenched and he avoided her gaze. "I'm not supposed to be like this. I'm not supposed to…not for companions. Not for humans. I'm supposed to go on. To keep fighting. To help people."
"You do help, Doctor. You save the world, planets, universes. But, face it. You're not a robot. You have feelings. And that's okay. Everyone has to have a bad night. Everyone has to be able to say they are not all right. If you don't, you'll break down and won't help anybody…" she paused and gave him a small smile. "Take it from me. Donna Noble. Human of London, England, Earth, the Solar System. Your companion and best mate. We all have something or someone that tears us apart. For you, it's Rose Tyler. Sooner you can accept that you loved her and it's okay, the better."
He gave her a tiny grin. "Thank you, Donna."
"Don't mention it. Somebody has to talk some sense into that alien brain. I have just one more question. Are you sure there's no way she can come back?"
"Positive. The universes would collapse if fractured by—"
"Now I'm getting sleepy," she interrupted, yawning.
"Very funny," he smirked. "All I can say is that it's impossible. Absolutely impossible."
"The more I travel with you the more I doubt that 'impossible' things exist," she let the words sink in and stood up. "I'm off to bed. Goodnight, Doctor."
"Goodnight, Donna. You really are a great friend."
"I'll remind you of that the next time we get in a shouting match, sunshine!" she smiled at him and shut the door on her way out. She paused by it, feeling her heart break for him. He was such a lonely man. At least, he had her as a proper friend.
The Doctor curled into a tighter ball, snuggling into the duvet. He could still hear Rose's laughter in the distance. Donna helped ease the pain, like she always did. He was glad that he had a friend like her. She wasn't trying to replace his Rose, and he knew that no one ever would. That was Martha's downfall. They could have been good mates, but she wanted to be Rose. She wanted him to fancy her and to stare at her like she was the most brilliant thing in the whole universe. Problem was, that stare was reserved. He wished that Rose would come back to him somehow, but it wasn't possible. In a soft voice, he whispered to himself.
"Rose Tyler, I love you."
Donna could almost sense the Doctor's relief down the hallway, but she also had an eerie sense that she was right. Nothing was impossible. Rose would be coming back. Donna grinned at the thought, hoping it was true for the sake of her one and only best mate. That's what they'd always be. Best mates. To the end. No matter what happened.
On a distant world, Rose Tyler looked up at the sky and frowned. "The stars are going out…"