Actions

Work Header

all my love to long ago

Work Text:

When Rose entered the console room, the Doctor was already at his usual frantic run around the console, pressing buttons and pulling levers and hitting it with a mallet. She watched him fondly for a few minutes before stepping forward. 

"Are we going somewhere?" 

Without stopping his dance, he met her gaze with a brilliant smile, "Rose! You're up, brilliant! Can you push this button?" He pointed to a general area near where she was standing.

"This one?" Her finger hovered over one of them.

"Not unless you want to cancel the anti-gravitational force and send us hurling into the nearest planet." 

She let out a shaky laugh and immediately pulled her finger away, mentally writing off the button. She'd been getting a lot better at understanding the works of the TARDIS lately, or at least at predicting the Doctor’s next move when he was flying her. While some parts were easier to remember, like the dematerialization lever that she started recognising after a couple of days on board, others, like that lever that cleared the smoke and the magic button, as she started calling it, that after pressing it the TARDIS plays the one specific song she really wanted to hear, seemed to be on a different spot every day. Rose had to learn how to recognise them by not only colour and size but also the way they feel, smell, and according to the Doctor, sometimes also taste (not that she would ever try licking a button, she still had some limits). Of course, she was still very far from being able to fly this magnificent spaceship, so there wasn’t really that much point to her learning. But, seeing the proud look the Doctor sent her whenever she pushed the button he was going for or steadied the console room before he even had a chance to pull himself up from the floor, was definitely worth the trouble (and sent butterflies to her stomach every single time).

Her hand moved to a different button, a red big one and the Doctor gave her a manic grin and nodded. She pressed it with a small smile, images of sword fights and Christmas dinners, and a new hand holding hers dancing around her mind. 

She held tight to the console as the TARDIS shook and only just managed to stay on her feet when they stopped.

"The TARDIS got an SOS signal." The Doctor explained as he took her hand and pulled her to the door, "Not many species are strong enough to send her a message, so I wonder who it could be!" She laughed at his enthusiasm and picked up her pace to keep up with him.

"Where are we?" She asked when he opened the door and stepped outside. She moved to step after him and walked right into his lean form, "Why'd you stop?" But the Doctor ignored her questions and blocked her exit. 

"Rose, please get back inside the TARDIS." He said quietly. But Rose wasn't having any of it and tried pushing down his arm that was blocking her view. The Doctor sighed in defeat and dropped it, giving her view of the sight that seemed to have distressed him- a vast yellowing landscape, with nothing disturbing it except a tall, dark-haired man in what she easily recognised as an expensive suit, and a beautiful, blonde-haired woman standing at his side in a beautiful, floor-length, lilac dress and a matching sunhat. Both sported rather serious looks and easily looked out of place among the unkempt grass.

 

"I take it, you're his new assistant." The man said after eyeing her in a way that was somehow both amused and bored, "A little underdressed, isn't she?"

"There's no need to be rude, Irving." The lady said with fondness and a shake of her head, "You know very well we prefer the name companions."

Rose was still wary of the two strangers, and the Doctor still seemed to be in a sort of trance, so she squeezed his hand and took a small step forward. "Hi. I'm Rose, and I'm travelling with the Doctor." With her free hand, she waved at the Doctor, "Did you…? Or, well, are you travelling with the Doctor?"

The man, Irving(?) let out a short, surprised Ha! and the lady pushed past him and took a step toward them. "Ignore him." She gave Rose an apologetic smile, "Since it seems like the Doctor isn't planning on introducing us, I will have to do it. I'm Romana, the lady president of Gallifrey, and this is my husband, Irving Braxiatel. And I do apologise for his rather rude behaviour, it does seem to run in the family." She sent a meaningful look toward the Doctor, who was still silently watching them. "And to answer your question, while the two of them are more likely to snog a Dalek than travel together willingly, I did travel with the Doctor on his TARDIS many, many years ago."

Rose took a deep breath, trying to make sense of what Romana was telling her. She already knew that the Doctor had companions before her, had already met an old companion once, and had promised herself that if it happened again she would get along with them from the start. Not that it seemed like it would be too hard. Romana seemed perfectly nice (and not at all in love with the Doctor) and might even be able to tell her stories about another incarnation of his, something that she longed to know about, but opted against asking. One of the first things Rose realised when she started travelling with the Doctor, was that questions about his past were off-limits, so even though she was dying to learn about the other Doctors that came before the previous him, she never asked.

But something still felt off. When they met Sarah Jane the Doctor was absolutely thrilled, and now he seemed more terrified than anything else. Perhaps these were future companions and he was afraid of creating a paradox? But that still didn't explain why he froze the moment he laid his eyes on them. Perhaps they parted on bad terms? The Doctor did say he was a 'no-second-chances man' this time. Or…? That name, Gallifrey, she was sure the Doctor never mentioned it, but still, it felt important. And Romana mentioned a familiar connection, to another rude individual. Could he be…? 

But that was impossible, the Doctor said his whole planet was gone. 

Although that would explain his strange reaction, and he was known to be wrong.

 

She looked up at the Doctor and quietly whispered, "So he’s your…?" 

The Doctor finally seemed to snap awake at the sound of her voice. He dropped her hand, put on one of his impossibly large, manic smiles, and quickly stepped up to Romana and pulled her into a big hug. 

“Romana! It’s wonderful seeing you!” He said after spinning and setting her down, "I would’ve loved to stay and chat, but your message seems to have missed its mark, and there's probably another me on the way and we both know that never ends well, so I should be off." He gave a short nod to Irving and turned back towards the TARDIS to leave, but stopped when he noticed Rose had closed the door behind her and was walking towards them. 

"Rose." He warned in a way that reminded her a lot of his previous self. But she didn't let him boss her around then, and she sure as hell wasn't going to let it slide now. He must have seen her resolve because his smile dropped and he stuck his hands in his pockets. 

"Rose, I'd like you to meet my brother Brax, and his lovely mate, Romana." 

In the time she's been travelling with the Doctor, the two of them had become more and more in sync. So much so that they could easily communicate information with the slightest head nod, a single squeeze of the hand, or a well-timed whisper during a quick hug. But now, the amount of knowledge she got from meeting his eyes was so overwhelming, that she might have thought he was actively using telepathy to pass the information if it wasn't for the fact that he once told her that Timelords required skin contact to practice it. This was my family before the war , his eyes told her, they don't know what's about to happen and I can't tell them or warn them in any way. I wish I could save them. Please help me leave quietly and quickly. Being here hurts. "Right." Rose shuddered. She cleared her throat, "It was nice meeting you, but as the Doctor said, we'd better go before another one of him shows up. Dealing with one is hard enough."

"Ha!" The Doctor's smile returned at that and his eyes screamed thank you , "You think two of me is hard? Imagine dealing with five."

"Five?!"

Five.” He agreed with a growing smile, "Well, we should have been five, except my fourth self never actually showed up. You see, he and Romana,” He nodded towards her with his head, “accidentally got stuck in the time vortex, while the rest of us were pulled to Gallifrey. It was a mess really, Tegan was following my first self around and refused to stay in the TARDIS with Susan and Turlough. The Brigadier was there with my second self and Sarah Jane with my third. And of course, the Master was there too only Rassilon knows why, oh and Rassilon himself made an appearance. And let’s not forget the whole Bo-..."

"Thete." Brax said, and the Doctor froze. He silently repeated that word, his name, with a hint of a smile and turned to look at his brother. Despite his obvious exasperation, and his still evident need to turn and run away, there also seemed to be a sort of giddiness to him that Rose had never seen before.

He pulled at his ear and smiled sheepishly, "Right, sorry, I have a bit of a gob this time."

"You were born with a gob, must have been a malfunctioning loom," Brax answered with a deep sigh.

"You're the one to talk." The Doctor retorted before grinning and pulling him into a tight hug. Brax seemed frozen for a moment before his eyes found Romana's who shrugged, and he raised his hands to hug him back.

"Is everything alright with you?" Romana asked and looked between the Doctor and Rose.

"Everything is great!" The Doctor answered with a forced smile and pulled away from his brother, "You, on the other hand, seem a bit lost. What are you doing here? And where's your TARDIS?"

"She's a time capsule." Brax answered, and Romana rolled her eyes in a way that told Rose she'd heard this argument many times before. 

The Doctor also seemed amused by Brax. He winked at Rose before clapping his brother on the shoulder, “Of course she is.”  He turned to Brax, “So please tell me, dear brother, where is your capsule?”

“We’ve misplaced her.”

“That’s one way to look at it.” Romana grumbled, just as the Doctor asked- “How do you misplace a capsule?”

Rose let out a short, surprised laugh, “You’re joking, right?” 

"What? Don't be ridiculous, I never misplaced the TARDIS!" The Doctor answered indignantly, causing the three to share an amused look and the Doctor frowned, “Name one occasion when I did.”

“What about the time she was buried inside a cave on Skaro?” The Doctor opened his mouth to argue and Romana quickly continued, “Or when Adric managed to enter the TARDIS and fly her away, leaving me stranded?”

“Well--" The Doctor shuffled his foot, “That was a very long time ago, no need to dwell on that.”

Rose laughed, “Her falling into a pit wasn’t that long ago though. And just two days ago, the two of you were displaced into a drawing by a baby alien possessing a girl.”

The Doctor looked between the two women who were grinning at him triumphantly, “I don’t appreciate the two of you ganging up on me.” He grumbled and their smiles broadened. 

"Fine. Perhaps I have misplaced her once or twice. But that's only because I use her for actual interesting things."

“As a Cardinal, I use my capsule for matters you could not comprehend even if you tried.” Brax answered with an air of importance, and the Doctor rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to retort as Rose quietly moved to stand by Romana. “Are they always like this?” She whispered.

“They rarely meet, but I think they fight more than the Doctor does when meeting a different incarnation.”

“Does that really happen that often?” Rose couldn’t help but imagine her two Doctors meeting and a small smile graced her lips.

“Only on special occasions” Romana with a raised eyebrow as if reading her mind and then laughed, “But trust me, it’s really not something you’d want to get caught in between.” 

Rose shrugged, and couldn’t help but silently disagree.

“The two of you are really not as conspicuous as you think.” The Doctor called and Brax nodded in agreement, causing Rose to blush. But Romana didn’t seem phased, "I was just telling Rose how this was supposed to be a fun date, until Brax’s capsule had a tantrum and left us here."

Brax crossed his arms across his chest, "She didn't have a tantrum. We just had a mild disagreement." 

"Really? Because the last time I checked, mild disagreements don't end up with me being forcefully thrown onto an inhabitable planet."

Brax hummed but didn’t answer beyond that and Romana grinned. “Now that we settled that,” She turned to the Doctor, “would you take us back?”

“I’m afraid that it wouldn’t be possible. Wrong timeline.”

“What do you mean?” Rose asked the Doctor, but Brax was the one to answer. 

“You can’t time travel on Gallifrey. And since this one,” He pointed at the Doctor, “comes from our future, he could only take us to Gallifrey of his time, which of course isn’t where we need to go. Not to mention, where our future selves must be.” Rose glanced at the Doctor who swallowed hard but nodded his agreement. 

“Right! And if I’m not mistaken, my past self is on his way now.” He said as the unmistakable sound of the TARDIS landing engulfed them and added with a detached voice and a stoic smile that didn’t reach his eyes, “So we better be off. Goodbye.” 

He started toward his TARDIS and Rose ran up to catch him.

 

“Doctor,” She caught his hand and pulled him to a stop, “What if this is another wrong you who can’t take them? We have to stay and make sure they are alright.”

The Doctor eyed her for a moment, “This won’t be the last me if that’s what you’re hoping for.” Rose blushed but shook her head quickly, silently cursing herself for being so obvious. “I mean it, we have to make sure they are okay. Besides…” Every part of her brain screamed not to say anything, but eventually, her heart won and she added, “Well, I know it went horribly at first, but I still cherish the short amount of time I shared with my dad. This could be your last chance.” She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. The Doctor stared straight at the TARDIS, completely still and - she realised with growing panic - not even properly breathing. She rested her palm against the hand she was still holding, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Once again, the Doctor seemed to be awakened by the sound of her voice. And once again, he shook her off and put on a smile. This time, however, the smile wasn’t fake. It was sad and accepting, and maybe even held a tad of appreciation for her being there. He glanced back at the second TARDIS and the man stepping out of it and walking towards them.“You’re right.” He eventually told her, “Why don’t you wait in the TARDIS?” Rose was about to agree when the other Doctor, who reached them a few moments before, cut in.

"Nonsense." He said, "There's no need for you to wait alone, let's sit together in my TARDIS." Rose glanced at her Doctor who, although didn't seem too happy with the idea, didn't argue against it. “Rose Tyler, meet my eighth self.” He said, then gave the other Doctor a stern look, “Don’t get all you with her.”

“I’m not sure what you mean by that.” He answered with a wink in Rose’s direction, “Haven’t been this me for long.”

“Took you less than a day if I remember correctly,” The Doctor muttered under his breath, but then smiled softly at Rose, “Give me 20 minutes.” She pulled him for a quick hug and then turned to the other Doctor. "Brilliant, come along then." He offered her his arm and the two started walking together to his TARDIS. 

"Why thank you,” She should be embarrassed at how quickly she started flirting, “that's very Victorian of you." 

"Victorian? Is that how I look this time around?" He asked and pulled out a full-length mirror from his pocket and held it out for her. After she grabbed it, he looked at himself from a few different directions. "Hm. I suppose that's an apt description." He agreed before pushing the mirror back into his pocket and continuing walking.

"How do you not know what you look like?" Rose called and ran to catch him.

“As I mentioned before, I haven’t had this face for long. Only just regenerated a few days ago, haven’t really gotten a chance to look too closely at a mirror just yet."

After a few moments of silence, when they were out of earshot of the others, he dropped her arm and stopped walking, "Something has happened, hasn’t it?" Rose glanced back at her Doctor and bit into her lip.

"Rose, you could tell me. I'm going to have to make myself forget this whole meeting regardless so there is really no need to hide anything."

"Even if it's something about your future?" She whispered and met his eyes, "Something terrible that you won't be able to change?"

He smiled softly and continued walking, "I'm a time traveller, I've seen in my life countless beginnings that I knew would have horrible outcomes, and I know when I'm not allowed to interfere and know when to walk away."

"But why choose to know? I mean, imagine meeting a young Hitler. You know his future is a fixed point you can't change, so you have to live with the knowledge you could have done something to change it but chose not to. Wouldn't it have been better not knowing in the first place?"

He stopped walking again and stared at her for a few moments, "I can see why he likes you." He smiled and when he noticed Rose blushed, his smile broadened. "Come on then," he took her hand, "I don't usually host strangers on the TARDIS, so you'll have to teach me the proper etiquette." 

"Aren't all your companions strangers at first?" After getting over the initial shock of the Doctor taking her hand, she was becoming comfortable enough and swung their hands between them as she walked (and how was it that this hand felt just as right in hers as the other two?)

"Most come after a shared adventure.” He shrugged, “After saving someone's life, or being saved by someone, they hardly feel like strangers, don't you think?"

"I suppose." Rose smiled, "How about tea, then? Seems like the proper way to get to know someone."

“Tea is a brilliant idea, Rose Tyler!” He hurried up and pulled her with him. When they reached the TARDIS, he pulled a key from his coat pocket and gallantly opened the door, letting her step in first. 

She still remembered how she felt when she entered the TARDIS for the first time - scared of the headless-plastic Mickey chasing them, embarrassed that she didn’t realise earlier something was wrong, excited at seeing the Doctor again and having a break from the mundane life she was living, and of course an absolute shock at the size and look of it. It’s alien , she told the Doctor who agreed. Are you alien? And she’d accepted a long time ago just how alien he was, with his lack of sleep, and his dislike of domestics, not to mention him bursting into flames and turning into a completely different man right in front of her. But through all of that, there was a constant she could rely on, the one companion she knew he always had. Except apparently, just like her owner, the TARDIS wasn’t as perpetual as she first imagined. It was still the same console room she knew, and the same welcoming hum she felt whenever she walked through the doors, but it looked so different, so home-y, and she realised with horror that the Doctor wasn’t the only one who was left broken at the end of the war.

“I take it she’s changed the desktop again, then?” The Doctor closed the door behind her and Rose jumped. "Sorry." He apologised with a smile, "Didn't mean to scare you."

Rose laughed nervously, "You didn't. I just, I didn't know she could do that."

With a gentle hand against her lower back, the Doctor led her to a little sofa near the console, and once again Rose was in awe of not only the sheer size of it, but also the beautifully detailed, Victorian-like library surrounding the console. “She’s beautiful.” She told the Doctor and ran her hand on one of the metallic pillars and the TARDIS hummed in response.

The Doctor watched her with interest and when the two sat down and Rose realised he was staring and was momentarily glad this console room didn’t have any natural light to showcase her blush. “What?” She asked him dumbly.

“She likes you.” He smiled softly, “Only a moment ago this was an armchair, but she changed it for your sake."

Rose sent a silent thanks to the TARDIS and thoughtfully played with her earring, "Can I ask you a question?"

"You may, and I will do my best to answer." 

She could feel her heart beating. This was a big one, a question she would have never dared ask her Doctor and here she was, asking a near-stranger who held all his secrets. She considered dropping the question, but before she knew it she was blurting out, “Thete.” 

The Doctor stared at her waiting, and after a deep breath, she added, "Brax, he called my Doctor Thete. Is that your real name?" 

He didn’t answer straight away, and for a moment Rose worried she crossed the line but eventually he shook his head and turned his body toward her, “Theta Sigma was the name given to me in the Academy and Thete was a nickname that no one but my brother really uses anymore. When I left the academy, I chose the name Doctor and that has been the only name I have used since.” Rose nodded, willing to accept she won’t get an answer about the Doctor’s true name when he suddenly added, “My real name though, the one that was given to me when I was loomed, I have to keep hidden.”

“Have to?”

“My name is the key to my timeline.” He answered, and probably noticed her confusion because he immediately continued, “I’m a Timelord. I can travel anywhere in time and space and, as you probably noticed, I interfere.”

“A lot.” Rose piped in with a grin with her tongue poking out. The Doctor grinned back.

“Can’t argue with that. But consequently, messing with my timeline would probably cause a universe-sized catastrophe. For that exact reason my timeline is locked, and the only way to enter it is if you know my name.”

“So really no one knows it besides you?”

“My parents did, and my brother does. And if I ever get married, my future spouse will learn it as a part of the bonding ceremony.”

Bonding , yet another word to add to the list of words she heard today and wished she could ask her Doctor about, along with Academy , Looms, and Time Capsule . Before she could reply, the Doctor was already on his feet claiming he’d come right back. 

Rose took a moment to look around the console room again, now that her eyes accumulated to the darkness. Eventually, her eyes settled on the coffee table where a book had been laid. Absently picking it up, and almost dropping it when she read the cover that said ‘900 Year Diary’. She quickly put it back on the table just as the Doctor re-entered the console room with a tray of tea and scones.

“Were you reading my diary?” He asked with a gleam in his eyes. Rose quickly shook her head, “No! I didn’t! I just accidentally picked it up and…”

“Rose! It’s alright, I believe you.” He laughed and poured two mugs, passing her one. Rose held it tightly against her chest and turned her body so she was sitting crossed-legged, facing him. The Doctor mirrored her and took a sip, his eyes not leaving hers.

“You’re 900 years old.” She eventually said.

“I was when I wrote that, that’s correct.” 

“My Doctor told me he was 900 when we first met.” She looked straight at him, gauging his reaction, but he didn’t seem to be surprised by that.

“If you want to hear my, rather educated guess- I would say he either lost count, restarted it at some point, decided to only count the years he was fond of, or just lied. Either way, I can assure you I passed 900 long ago.”

"So how old is he really?"

"You'll have to ask him yourself, but at the very least well into the late one thousand." 

"Talk about an age difference." Rose mumbled and the Doctor laughed, taking her hand and intertwining their fingers.

“Tell me about you, Rose Tyler.” He put down his mug and rested his chin against his other palm. “I know you are from Earth, around 20 years old, probably from the 21st century- judging by your clothes. I can also assume you already know about regeneration, and might even have seen one yourself since you took this me with such stride. Am I hitting close?”

Rose really wished her Doctor was there to tell her what she could and couldn’t say. But this Doctor said he would have to forget everything, and her Doctor didn’t warn her not to say anything, so she nodded.

“Ha! I am brilliant!” He scooted a little closer to her, “How long have you been travelling with me?”

Rose thought about it for a moment, not exactly sure herself, “I think around 3 years, but I haven’t exactly kept track.” 

He stared at her for a few moments in thought and suddenly grinned brightly and stood up, pulling her with him. “You know,” He said, as he led her to the door, and Rose realised their time must be up, “I don’t think any of this was a coincidence. I think Brax’s TARDIS, my TARDIS, and your TARDIS knew exactly what they were doing bringing us all together.”

“What do you mean?”

“And I think,” He ignored her question, “If we all used this time advantageously, we might be able to save more than one life.” He gave her a meaningful look, one she did not understand but didn’t elaborate further. 

"Well, Rose Tyler, until we meet again." He raised her hand and softly kissed her knuckles.

Rose blushed, "Yeah, it was lovely meeting you, and, well, I know you won't remember this, but for what it's worth, I'm waiting for you on the other side of the war."

His eyes bore into her for a few more moments before he gently grabbed her arms and pulled her toward him. Before she knew what was happening, he was kissing her. And she should have been shocked, or possibly want to push him away, but it was the Doctor , and he was kissing her.

The Doctor was kissing her, and she was kissing him right back.

"What was that for?" Rose asked when they pulled back. The Doctor just shrugged, "I seem to be a kisser this time around." He said and planted another short kiss on her lips. She chased his lips with hers but he pulled away. 

"Your Doctor is waiting, and I'm sure he'll be more than happy to kiss you as much as you want, but I'm afraid this is where we part ways."

"Oh, um, we don't kiss."

"But he wants to."

Rose let out a short pff but glanced up at him with interest, “Why do you say that?

The Doctor grinned and gently tucked a piece of hair behind her ear causing her to blush, “Rose darling, you must have noticed. He keeps staring at your lips."

Rose blushed again and mumbled no he doesn't and the Doctor laughed. 

He opened the door of the TARDIS and Rose took one step outside before turning back to him. "Take care, yeah?"

He smiled, "You too."

"No." Rose frowned, "I mean, promise me." The smile slipped off his face and he studied her for a few moments before nodding.

"Your Doctor, I don't know what he went through, but when you lose someone, and it doesn’t matter how close you are or how often you see them, it leaves a hole. Some days it’s easier, others are harder, and I think, right now, he's going to need you."

"Yes." Rose agreed, "Goodbye, Doctor." She planted one last kiss at the corner of his mouth and stepped out of the TARDIS. 

 

She could feel the Doctor following close behind her but didn’t look back, focusing instead on the Doctor in front of her who was already fidgeting, every inch of his body itching to get back to the TARDIS and fly away. He never liked saying goodbye, she knew, would always choose to avoid it if possible. And this might be the worst one he’d even endure. A ‘Goodbye’ when there would be no chance for another ‘Hello’. Her heart broke for him and she quickly made her way to his side and squeezed his hand. The Doctor smiled gratefully at her.

“It was lovely meeting you.” She told Romana and Brax, just as the other Doctor asked, “Doctor, may I speak privately with you?” 

Rose stepped away and stood by Romana, only partially listening to her idea for pranking the Doctor (an idea that involved a copy of his fourth self’s outfit that the TARDIS specifically created for Romana to mess with him). She was trying her hardest to hear what the Doctors were talking about, especially since the two kept casting her dark looks, but all she managed to hear were the words ‘storm’, ‘London’, and ‘harness’. Her Doctor finally met her eyes and nodded once. She gave Romana a short hug, promising to ask the TARDIS for help with whatever it was Romana was going on about and said a final goodbye before walking back to the Doctors who were standing a short distance apart, watching her.

“Is everything okay?” She asked.

“Of course.” Her Doctor answered, not quite meeting her eyes, “Just him messing around with things he’s not supposed to.”

“Don’t blame me.” The other Doctor shrugged, “Just regenerated, still can’t fully control it. And her timelines were just screaming to be read.”

“My…?” She started but the Doctor waved her off, “Ignore him.” He said, but then clapped him on his shoulder and whispered something that sounded a lot like ‘Thank you’, before shooing him, “Go on then.”

With a final wave of goodbye, the three entered the other Doctor’s TARDIS and were off.

 

As soon as the other TARDIS disappeared, the Doctor’s entire demeanor changed. His smile dropped, as well as his shoulders. His eyes, always sparkling with life and infinite knowledge dimmed, and without looking at her he trudged into the TARDIS and left the door open for her to follow. She stood grounded on the spot, staring at the place where the other TARDIS was only a moment before, and whispered a silent goodbye, then followed the Doctor inside. 

The moment she entered, the doors closed behind her and the Doctor pulled the dematerialisation lever, sending them to the vortex. She wanted to ask if he was okay, if there was anything she could do to help, but before she could, the Doctor turned to her with a small, almost teasing smile, one that didn’t fully reach his eyes, “You seemed to have a nice time.” 

He was deflecting, she realised.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

The Doctor raised his brow in amusement, “He’s me, you know. Those are my memories.”

Rose’s eyes broadened in embarrassment and she could feel her face heating up, “You mean…” Her voice came out higher than usual and when she noticed the Doctor grin at that, she cleared her throat, “He told me he won’t remember any of it.”

“He didn’t. But as soon as the timelines aligned, I got my memories back.” Part of her wanted to slap him for keeping that part hidden, another part wanted to remind him he was the one who initiated the kiss. A third part, that was threatening to take over, wanted to pull him down and kiss him like the other him did before. 

The Doctor must have sensed her embarrassment (but hopefully not her conflicted thoughts), because his face softened. “You did a good job with him, not saying anything about what’s to come. Not that he would have actually mattered, with him having to forget it all anyway, but you did a good job. A better job than I did .” He said that last part so quietly, that she wasn’t sure she even heard him correctly. 

And once again, she wanted to ask how he was, to ask what he said to Brax and Romana while she was on the other TARDIS. But before she could open her mouth, the Doctor told her he had some work to do and buried himself underneath the console, cutting off any possible conversation. 

She thought about staying with him in the console, keeping him company. But the last few hours had been so emotionally tolling, she too needed a moment to herself to cry at the unfairness of it all, to feel and understand the Doctor’s pain, and to realise with horror it was partially her fault for convincing him to stay any longer even after he asked her to help him leave as soon as possible. 

 

A few hours later, bathed and awash with guilt, she went looking for him but found the console room empty. She walked along the hallway, glancing through doors until she noticed the library door was open, and sure enough, he was sitting there, with a book open on his lap, staring at the fire dancing in the fireplace. Hoping she wasn’t mistaken, that he really was waiting for her, she rushed to the galley to make their usual evening tea before walking back into the library. 

 

"I'm sorry." Rose told him when she settled on the sofa and laid their mugs on the table, "I shouldn't have… I'm sorry."

He stared at the tea and shook his head at her words. He looked so small and so broken and before she knew what she was doing, her hand ran over his forehead to smooth out the lines. As her hand lightly grazed his temple, the Doctor closed his eyes. Realising she had crossed a line, Rose moved to pull it back but his hand wrapped around her wrist to hold it in place. 

Her breath hitched as the Doctor asked, "Is this okay?"

His eyes were still closed when she breathed a silent yeah but he still seemed to hear her.

"I can feel it.” He whispered, “I can feel how much you…" He trailed off looking awed. 

And she knew, without him having to finish the sentence, exactly what he meant. What he was feeling. What she was projecting. And for once, she didn’t mind it. He is going to need you , the Doctor said, and she wanted to be there for him, even if it meant dropping the walls she had carefully constructed to protect her heart. 

"I do." She told him truthfully.

His hand left her wrist and wrapped around the one she still had on his cheek with her fingers hovering over his temple. And she remembered how oh so long ago he told her of the silence he felt since he lost his people, and how, despite wanting to leave Brax and Romana as quickly as possible, there seemed to be a lightness to him that she had never seen before, that he couldn't seem to shake, that disappeared the moment the other Doctor's TARDIS left. And if she could do anything to help with that pain she would do it. So she stayed there, with him, long after the tea had gone cold, and she may have dozed off at some point, and perhaps he did as well, but her palm stayed on his cheek, with his hand covering it.