This story is not technically part of my "Not Domestic" because of its nature, but fits into my "verse" if you will. The only other story referenced is "Perfect" but you do not need to read that one to read this. Thanks!
"NO!" The Doctor sat bolt upright with a desperate cry, abject terror shining in his wide eyes. His body was unbelievably tense and his stomach tied in a tight, binding knot. His breathing hitched and stopped as for an eternity of a moment he sat paralyzed in fear, startled and nearly swallowed by the darkness around him.
"Doctor?" His wife whispered beside him. Rose's voice seemed small, even insignificant in comparison to the deafening stillness and silence that assaulted the Doctor's mind. He instinctually glanced around the room to try and insist to his mind that it had all been a dream and that he was awake again, but his attention was still captured by the raw, unchecked panic that surged through his single heart at what he had just seen, experienced, and done – again.
At once, even as he subconsciously recognized the secure room around him and Rose by his side, the pure horror of his dream rushed back upon him so fast and so hard that he nearly choked. He was there again. He could hear them. Screaming. Wailing. Unimaginable, unforgettable, unfathomable, unbearable visions of pure horror rose in his heart and rang in his ears. The panic, revulsion, and despair caused his whole body to seize up, his stomach to turn, and bile to rise in his throat.
Without another word the Doctor forced his way out of the mess of sheets, stumbled through the door, and found the bathroom just in time to answer the nauseating punch to the gut that doubled him over.
"Doctor?!" Rose quickly followed her husband out of bed and found him in the bathroom on his knees bent over the toilet bowl. "Oh my God, Doctor, are you alright?" She was on her knees beside him in an instant with an arm wrapped protectively around his heaving, trembling shoulders. Still, nothing she did could even begin to comfort him.
Every time he closed his eyes he could see it: Fire and blood and darkness, death and screams and tears. He could hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it. He could still remember, and he could never forget. He was a part of it. It was a part of him. And he hated it: The War.
The Doctor gasped and struggled for breath, his throat unbearably tight as chocked sobs wracked his skinny frame. With each labored breath, his head nodded up and down, rocking back and forth slightly as he fought for any last shred of control. Tears flooded his eyes and poured unbidden down his face.
"Shh, you're alright…" He could feel Rose place a strong, reassuring hand on his cheek, trying to lift it towards her, but he could not look at her. Not now. Maybe not ever again. Everything he looked at died. He did not deserve to look at her. He buried his face in her hand, trying to shout to himself that she could help, and to let her. But he could not.
"No… no!" He muttered again, it was the only word he could make out as his body continued to heave violently with each breath, stuttering and moaning, slipping quickly into absolute hysteria. He continued to gasp for air as though he were drowning.
He was there again. At the Fall of Arcadia. One of the most wonderful, peaceful planets in the universe, home to over a billion innocent, kind, and beautiful souls. Utterly destroyed. Not only destroyed; devastated, defiled, desecrated. And he had been there. He had watched them fall. Worse than that - He had led the charge. He had tried – he told himself he had tried - to save them, but it was not enough. It was never enough.
"Breathe, Doctor. You're alright! I'm here, it was just a dream." Rose's voice continued to bravely pierce his waking visions, attempting to bring him back to reality. She moved both hands to hold his face firmly, inches from her own. He did not mean to fight against her, but he could not stop to gross, hysteric sobbing at shook him, nor catch his breath or speak a word.
In his dreams they were back. The Dalek, The Skaro Degradations. The Nightmare Child. The Cruciform. The Horde of Travesties. The Deadsmiths of Goth. The Could Have Been King and his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. And last, greatest, and most terrifying of all: The Time Lords. Nothing could stop them. Nothing except him.
The Doctor found that his eyes were clamped tightly shut and he struggled to open them, to force himself to see her face. He could hear her, but his body rebelled against any attempt at response. "I…I-I…" He tried to say something, anything, to convey coherent thought – to prove to himself more than to her that he was in some semblance of possession of his own mind. But he could not.
Hell. That's what the war was: Hell. Before it was over, he was sure that even Hell would be a better place than this. Even the void itself would have been less terrible. Hell was raining down across all of time, and he was its herald.
He felt her cold hands on his feverish skin as she pulled him closer, resting her forehead on his own as she continued to whisper comfort, softly and earnestly attempting to draw him back from Hell.
He could not escape it: The Moment. The Moment he was made for, the Moment that he himself created. The greatest, most terrible thing he had ever done. His greatest achievement, and his greatest regret. It was the last moment of the Last Great Time War. In that one moment, he – the Oncoming Storm, the Destroyer of Worlds - became Victorious. And he became alone. In one moment, he brought an end to the Dalek, to the Time Lords, to Gallifrey, to all of them. Forever. He turned the key, pulled the trigger, and killed them. All of them. In one Moment. One instant. The blink of an eye. And then they were gone. The Moment was over. Silence followed; the abhorrent, gruesome silence of a world and a time that should never have been. He would never see or hear them again, and he could never go home. And it was all his fault.
"I'm sorry…" He muttered "I'm sorry, I-I'm so sorry, I'm…I'm sorry!" Over and over again. He collapsed fully into Rose's arms, sobbing loudly against her shoulder and continuing to mumble his apologizes – to her, to them, and to the universe.
How many had died by his hand? How many races and planets had he wiped out, destroyed forever? How many were there to whom he could only say 'I'm sorry' and 'I tried'? Billions? More? His own people the worst off of all. But it did not stop there: Not even with the end of the Time Lords had the Destroyer of Worlds been satisfied. Even afterward, how many had he killed? How many had he let die? How many more must suffer his terrible rage? How many peaceful realms still rightly and regrettably feared his name?
"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…" Was the only thing he could say. Somehow, he felt as if it would be the only thing he could ever say. Perhaps the only thing he had ever said since that moment. It had been so long now, but he had never found an answer to his plea. No one was left to hear his vain apologies anymore; he had made quite sure of that, time and again. Instead he was answered only by the silence left behind from a world he had utterly destroyed.
"Shh, Doctor," The silence was broken. And then, amid his hopeless cries, the Doctor finally heard a confident, gentle, but strong whisper in reply. "It's alright." He heard. "No matter what, it's alright." He knew her voice at once: His Rose. He could feel her, holding him, rocking him, even crying with him, and laying soft kisses against his trembling, miserable form. She ran her fingers through his hair, trying to give him something else to focus on, something to save him.
His mind immediately protested. No. It was not alright. It could never be alright. How could it possibly be alright? He did not deserve alright. But she kept on insisting and holding him tight in her arms, whispering "Shh, It's alright." over and over again, enough to match every one of his apologies, and every one of his fears. As the words came to him again and again, his weary mind grew tired of resisting as his eyes grew dry of tears, and his mind settled just enough for him to actually listen to her at last.
"It's gonna be alright Doctor." She said again, and this time, he listened. He knew that voice: that conviction. It emanated absolute, unequivocal truth. She spoke not out of pure sympathy or even panic, but in authority. And in an instant, it made him do something – and want to do something – that he never thought he could. He believed her. It would be alright.
And for one blessed moment, everything was still. The questions had not disappeared, they still loomed as they ever did in his heart. No answers could be found, perhaps they would never be found. And what he had done could never be undone. But in this one moment, none of that mattered. Because it would be alright. He did not know how, and he did not know why, but for once he did not have to know. He just knew it would. She knew it would.
The Doctor's sobbing calmed as he lay still, curled in his wife's arms, leaning against her chest. Her shirt was wet from his tears. Her hair smelled of strawberries. He felt her gentle fingers running light, aimless designs in his ruffled hair and rubbing large circles over his still tense back. He felt her own tear-streaked face resting against his, her soft lips pressed to his brow. He felt her breathing and listened to the slow, steady beat of her heart as his slowly calmed to match her own. Rose simple held him and whispered, "It's gonna be alright".
For a moment they simply sat there. Not asking questions. Not saying a word. Simply holding each other, and being held. At length, the Doctor shifted just enough to look up and see her face.
"I'm sorry." He whispered one more time. Perhaps for crying, for waking her up, perhaps for everything. It did not matter. There was only one answer, and somehow, it took his breath away.
"You're forgiven." She told him, with a tiny smile. Raising his face in her hands and bending down Rose pressed a loving kiss to his trembling lips. "Always and forever, Doctor."
The Doctor closed his eyes as her lips graced his, and for a moment he was scared to open them: Scared that if he did, it might have all been a dream. It was easy to believe in the Hell that he had damned himself to – easy to believe in a world of hatred and fear, the world he deserved. What he could not believe was this: That someone would dare to hold him, and love him, and forgive him, after what he had done. He held his breath for a terrifying moment, before sneaking his eyes open once more.
Rose smiled sweetly over him and steadily met his gaze. She gripped him tighter and pulled him up to kiss him again. The Doctor sat dumbfounded. As she pulled away he finally found the presence of mind to whisper, "…How?"
"How what?" she gently pushed his sweat soaked hair from his brow, ruffing his unruly locks.
He didn't even know. Just… How? How could she forgive him? She shouldn't. She couldn't. No one could. "How can you…N-No. You can't. Y-You…" The Doctor had lost all power of words once more.
"I can, Doctor, and I have." Rose said firmly.
The Doctor's confusion, and hence his frustration, was growing now as his emotion-clouded mind fought to make sense of his beloved's words. "You can't!" He practically shouted, looking away and blinking quickly, trying in vain to keep a second wave of tears at bay. "You don't know, Rose, I've… I've done so much wrong." The Doctor struggled to keep the vivid memories and overwhelming guilt at bay.
"We all have." Rose seemed completely unfazed. "Including me. No one's perfect, Doctor-"
"No, but…" The Doctor was growing irritated now. How could she not understand? Sure everyone had their sins, but his were… worse. They must have been. After all, when had she last destroyed whole races, planets, histories, and families in a single moment? When had she committed genocide? He had done so much wrong. How could she not see that?
"Show me." Rose replied simply, and the Doctor's eyes shot back to her own and grew wide.
"Wh-What?" As he stared at her, Rose push him back into a sitting position, so that they were facing each other, still sitting rather closely on the dark bathroom floor.
"Your nightmare. It was the war, wasn't it?" She asked calmly. "You can show me, if it would help." Rose brought her fingers to the Doctor's temples. He had shown her once before, on their wedding night. He had invited her into his very soul, and shared with her his heart and mind. Among his memories she had seen the war then, and seen its effects. But she knew he had not shown her the worst of it. He did not want her to suffer the same nightmares that he faced.
The Doctor found his hands drifting up towards her face, his mouth still open in wonder, his eyes still full of tears. Yes, he thought. Rose would make everything alright. He remembered how her mental presence felt, how nothing else seemed to have mattered. How perfect it felt to be with her. But then he remembered more. He remembered the pure, dreadful fear of the war. He remembered his horrible nightmares, and the terrors he had seen. No, he could not do this to her. Because he of all people knew that such things could never be unseen.
He stopped, and drew his hand back. "I'm sorry…" He said again softly, the most natural words to his soul. "I can't." Rose shook her head and took his hand in hers.
"I understand." She nodded, "If it's too hard, then…"
"No." He cut her off with a whisper, no longer meeting her eyes. "It's just…" He was trying to convince himself that it was for her sake that he hesitated, but he knew deep down that this was not the case. "I'm afraid." He whispered. He was afraid of so much. He did not know if he could stand to be immersed in his own memories again. They had already defeated him once this night, and the very thought of showing her now sent shivers down his spine.
Rose bit her lip and brought him back into another hug. "I know, Doctor, I know. I'm… Just know that I'm here to help." Rose pressed soft kisses behind her husband's ear. She felt him nod against the crook of her neck. "I'm here to hold your hand, Doctor, you don't have to be alone. And you don't have to be afraid." She stroked his hair gently and rubbed his still tense shoulders. "Not of the Dalek, not of the war…"
"I think I'm… afraid of me." The Doctor confessed against her shoulder. There was another reason he was afraid. He was afraid that if she saw, she would never look at him the same way again.
Rose stopped for a moment and simply nodded against him. "I know you don't believe me, Doctor, but…maybe I can help with that too."
The Doctor bit his lip at her words. He wanted to believe her, he did believe her. Why was this so difficult?
"Just let me in." Rose continued. "I can take it. We can take it. Together." Rose was mentally steeling herself for his nightmare.
The Doctor shook his head against her fingers. This was not right. This was not her burden to bear. She did not deserve this. No one did. Save, perhaps, for him.
Rose's next words made the Doctor wonder if she could already read into his mind. "I'm your wife, Doctor." She asserted strongly. "For better or worse." Her sharp tone stood in sharp contrast to her soft touch. "I promised to hold your hand through anything. What makes you think I'm going to give up now? Let me help you." She ran her fingers through his hair.
Rose was determined to do this, and in his nearly broken state, the Doctor was unsure he could refuse. He wanted this too, but it was simply too much to hope for. Too much to ask for.
"Please." Rose finished quietly.
The Doctor gave up. "Are you sure?" He pulled back and looked her in the eye, searching for any sign of fear. He found none. She should be scared. Anyone in their right mind would be scared. Heck, anybody, sane or not, should be scared of what he was about to show her, bring her through, lay bare to her. Slight panic rose in his own still over-worked heart at the very thought of re-entering his dreams.
Rose nodded, the Doctor took a deep, terrified breath, bit his lip, closed his eyes, and did the thing he had practically sworn not to do. His fingers found their way to Rose's temple, and he brought her straight to the most tortured, monstrous part of his mind. Without waiting for him to pull himself back and second guess himself again, Rose closed her eyes and opened the door to the Doctor's personal Hell.
No words could describe what she found there. It was so much worse than she could ever have imagined. The travesty. The degradation. The hatred, and the death. The hopelessness. It all but overwhelmed her. Here in his mind's eye, she witnessed the darkest Moment in history, and he its creator. In the Time War it was hard to say what was worse: What he had done to advance his own race's plight, or what he had done to end it. But there was so much more than that in his nightmares: She watched as his mind mercilessly played back every time he had taken a life. Some recklessly, some intentionally, some just because he had not stopped to see or even care. They haunted him, along with so much else. He saw him, even in this very body, completely destroy the Dalek race, again. Outright genocide, that's what it was. Slaughter. In his dreams, reminders rang over and over in his head. How he had killed them. How he had run away. How he would make such a very good Dalek. How he had turned so many innocents into weapons of war.
Through all of it, Rose held fast to her Doctor, and soon she found herself in her own mind and in his arms once more. She could feel his tense arms holding her and feel his face pressed to her temple as he held her, shaking, unable even to cry any more. But she was the one crying now, uncontrollably, unashamedly weeping in reaction to what she had just seen.
The new-old wave of fear that had washed over the Doctor surfaced again as he relived his own memories a second time this night. But this time he was able to calm himself down, focusing rather on what he knew Rose's reaction would be. He needed to know she was alright. Images like that, so vivid, real, and unimaginably horrifying, could break a person. And she was only a human being. Then again, in a way, so was he.
And even if she recovered, she would hate him now. She had every reason to. Why had he ever shown her? How stupid could he be? Rose had still said nothing. He was sure that the pure shock of seeing such horrors must have held her tongue. He held her, trying to offer what comfort he could against the brutal attack of his memories on her mind.
For several minutes they sat without saying a word. Rose's sobs quieted as she embraced her husband tightly, staring straight ahead of her, trying to wrap her mind around what she had just seen. These were his nightmares. This is what plagued him every night when he had woken with a scream. This was the Time War. This was what haunted him every moment of his life. She had seen all of it: The Daleks and all their monstrous inventions of war. The Time Lords in all their terrible, unstoppable fury. And her Doctor, unlike she had ever seen him before, but the same man she knew. He was a killer, there was no denying it. He had saved the world, but at a cost. And that cost was dear. But she would not let it consume his soul.
When he had somewhat recovered, the Doctor at last whispered what he was sure they both already knew. "No one can forgive me Rose. Not after what I've done. You… You know now. And I'm… I'm so sorry that you had to see that." The Doctor's voice quivered and he only prayed, selfishly, that she would not leave him. That he would not be left alone.
There followed a long, terrible silence. The Doctor was still waiting, practically holding his breath for his wife's response. He knew what was coming. He would not blame her if she never wanted to see him again, or if she never recovered from what she had seen. How could he be such an idiot, forcing such images upon her mind? Even if she had asked. He was a fool, and he deserved this. He deserved Hell. And it grieved him that he had brought her down too. She should hate him. Anyone in their right mind should. But then again, Rose was not just anyone.
"I love you." She whispered against him at last.
The Doctor thought for a moment that his heart had stopped. "W-What?" He stuttered. He did not know what he had expected, but this – this was simply unreasonable. It didn't make any sense.
"I love you, Doctor." Rose repeated confidently, even happily, nuzzling her tear-streaked face into his neck. She could feel how shocked he was. Of course he would be, that daft alien. Even after all this time. "Thank you for showing me." She murmured against him, hugged him tighter and then finally pulled back, still holding his head in her hands. She had to make sure he understood this next part, and had to make sure he believed her. "I need you to know, Doctor" She caught his dumbfounded gaze in her own. "That I forgive you."
Rose pressed a finger to his lips as he began to protest. "I'm not excusing you, Doctor, and I'm not denying anything. I would like you to know, for one, that I'm glad you stopped the Time War. And I know deep down that if you had to make the choice again that you would do the same. But that's not the point, Doctor, because I know that that's not all." Rose took a deep breath to prepare her for what she was about to say, and confirm to herself the truth of it all, from beginning to end. "You've killed people, Doctor. I know that. You've committed genocide, single handed." Pure fear returned to the Doctor's eyes in that moment. "I know that. And there's no excuse. There's no denying it, or justifying it. You've done terrible things, Doctor. I know."
The Doctor felt his heart fall into his stomach, and his stomach drop far below him like a chasm. His breath hitched in his throat, as if he were about to simply give up breathing and let himself die. He opened his mouth as if to speak or protest, but he could not.
"But Doctor…" Rose then placed a hand gently on his cheek and had the utter audacity to - he could not believe it at first, and had to convince himself of the fact. She was smiling. "That doesn't change a thing." She pressed a kiss to his speechless lips. "Excuses and forgiveness, my love, are never the same thing. I forgive you, Doctor. Always and forever." She kissed him again, still gaining little response.
"Wha-…?" The Doctor could still barely respond once he had kissed her. No word could describe the amount of gratitude, utter amazement, and astounding love that he felt right now. And nothing could express his utter spellbound relief. "Why?"
"Why?" Rose laughed out loud at his reaction. It startled him, after so much, to hear a laugh. To remember that there was another side to life, where joy was still found. "Because you're worth it, Doctor!" Rose laughed still, and shook her head at him. She really could not see. "Because you're you and I'm me, and... I love you, Doctor. You know that, don't you?" Concern returned to her voice.
"Of course I do, but…" She could practically hear the gears moving in his head. It was funny, for such a brilliant mind, he had trouble wrapping his head around the simplest, most human things.
"Nothing is unforgivable, Doctor. Not even you." She kissed him again, this time slowly and deeply, with a hand on the back of his head, to wake him up to the truth. This time, he reciprocated the action, losing himself again in emotion, but this time to her kiss.
"I love you…" The Doctor said breathlessly as she pulled away.
Rose was still smiling, almost laughing with the joy that only honest forgiveness could bring. "Do you know who taught me that?" She asked almost mischievously. Before he could answer she placed a quick kiss to the tip of his nose. "You."
For the first time that night, the Doctor truly, honestly smiled. He could not help it. He could still only utter two words, but she had changed them from 'I'm sorry' to 'Thank you.' "Thank you." He whispered, leaning forward to give his wife another long kiss. "Thank you Rose. My sweet, unbelievable, amazing Rose." He emphasized each word with another press of his lips to hers, delighting to feel her smile on his own, both still wet from tears. He had seen nearly every corner of the universe – two universes, even, but he could never, ever have expected this. But he could not deny it. It all sounded so wrong – to forgive him of all people – but it all felt so amazingly right. He sat with his forehead pressed to hers once more. And for the first time that night, he smiled. "Thank you for loving me. I love you."
"Of course, Doctor. Just remember that, next time you have a bad dream. I'll still be there, and no matter what it is, I won't leave you." They were embracing again, and Rose began pressing kisses to his forehead, his cheek, his ear, his neck in between words. "I'll sit with you until morning and rock you back to sleep, if that's what it takes, and whisper you a love song and mean every word. I love you, Doctor, and you amaze me too."
"Where would I be without you, Rose?" The Doctor simply relaxed into her arms, and kissed her back. "I don't know how you do it, but… Just… Thank you."
They sat that way for a while longer, before the Doctor finally opened his tired, puffy, red eyes.
"Oh look," He commented, "It's morning." Rose opened her eyes to see the first shafts of dawn breaking their way through the distorted glass of the bathroom window, playing over the blue tiles in the shower and lighting up the room in a warm glow.
"Yeah." Rose commented, and yawned. She pressed one last kiss to her husband's jawline before standing to her feet, bringing him up with her. "No more nightmares." She took his hand in her own and gave it a little squeeze. "Now let's get back to bed."