Title: On the Mend
Show: Doctor Who
Timeline: Not long after Fear Her.
Synopsis: Rose has questions that the Doctor doesn’t want to answer.
Author’s Note: Thanks to fairygothmum. A venture into a new pairing isn’t easy…but she made it a bit better.
Rose sat in the jumpseat with her feet propped on the console…positioned carefully as to not accidentally bump any of the controls. She had a magazine open and resting on her thighs, but her eyes were focused on the hole in the floor next to her. She huffed in slight amusement as she listened to him ramble incessantly, the hum of his screwdriver just barely audible.
He’d been down there for the better part of two hours. And she knew that he was avoiding her.
A few days earlier, he had let it slip. She was sure he hadn’t even meant to say it. I was a dad once. To say it had surprised her would be an understatement…it had shocked her. She had never really thought about what his life was like on Gallifrey before the war.
And now she wanted nothing more than to learn more about it. But, he was avoiding her and her questions…preferring to spend his time looking for a non-existent problem with the TARDIS. And so, here she sat…carefully avoiding any control that might cause the TARDIS to lurch into action, a forgotten magazine on her thighs, and more questions than answers racing through her head.
Suddenly her decision was made and she tossed the magazine to the side.
“Ah-HA!” The Doctor exclaimed, pulling out a spring and grabbing a pair of pliers. “I knew I’d find it! I’m surprised that you hadn’t noticed it.”
“Doctor…” Rose sighed, staring at the top of his head peeking out from the open grate in the floor.
“The constant squeak, grind, plunk, clink…it was driving me mad!” He jumped out of the hole and sat on the grate, giving her a quick glance. “Well, madder than my normal madness. I’m perfectly aware that I’m mad on any given day…but, this madness…well, I’d bet our next flight that it’s all to do with this spring.”
“A little twist here, a clip here and the noise should just be…kaput!” He grinned and twisted the end of the spring. “Where do you want to – ”
Frustrated, Rose lowered her feet from the console and leaned forward…knees on her elbows. “Why are you ignoring me?”
“ – go next? I was thinking about taking you to Whister. They have beaches there…” He paused and tilted his head. “Well, when I say beaches, I mean sand…but, there is water. I guess those would be more oases than beaches…”
Hearing Rose groan, he sighed and offered her another glance before putting a crimp on the other end of the spring. “I’m not ignoring you.”
“Oh?” She asked in a completely disbelieving tone.
“You said my name three times, each time with increased annoyance…and then you asked why I’m ignoring you…to which I answered, I’m not ignoring you. See?”
“But, you’re avoiding me.” She stated quietly after a moment.
“Not you.” He responded, turning his attention back to the spring. “Your questions. You want to ask questions that I’d prefer not to answer.”
“Look!” He grinned, holding the repaired spring up for her inspection. “All fixed…no more squeaking, grinding, plunking, clinking noises for her now!”
Rose stared at him, not really caring at all about the spring or whatever imaginary noises he was eliminating by fixing the spring. He gave her a boyish grin and slid back down into the hole.
“We can be in Whister by lunchtime.”
Rose rolled her eyes and climbed out of the jumpseat. “Whatever.”
The Doctor’s head popped out of the hole just in time to see Rose storm down the hallway. He opened his mouth to call her name, but then thought better of it. He sighed heavily when he heard the door to her room slam shut.
Maybe it was more than just the spring, after all…
* * *
He had given her some time. Truth be told, he’d given them both some time. He understood her frustration and had waited over an hour before even contemplating walking down the hall. He’d spent the time sitting on the jumpseat, staring at the controls…and thinking.
He had made his final decision three different times. And of course, each of those different times concluded with a different decision. No one had ever made him question himself as much as she did. Then again…no one else’s emotions had ever affected him the way hers did.
He breathed a heavy sigh and made a fourth decision before climbing out of the jumpseat and flipping a lever to make sure the TARDIS took care of them for the evening. Sliding his hands into his pockets, he started the walk towards Rose’s room…a walk that seemed to take three times as long as it normally did.
He paused only briefly in front of her room before lifting his hand, allowing his knuckles to rap lightly against the door. “Rose?”
Hearing her sigh of resignation, he swallowed and tried again. “Rose, please…can we talk?”
To that question, he heard her huff…but he also heard her voice.
“We can, but will you?”
His fingers curled around the doorknob, twisting it before he pushed the door open. His decision had been made, but when he met her eyes…red-rimmed eyes that were still damp with tears that had obviously been shed at some point during their time apart…he changed his mind again.
Without saying a word, he stepped into her room and sat down on the edge of her bed. He waited until she closed the book that he was sure she hadn’t read one word of and then he turned to face her.
“I was the third of four children born into my family.” He started, pausing as she pushed herself up and rested her back against the headboard of her bed. “My sister used to make crowns out of the silver leaves when they fell from the trees…said I was the Prince of Gallifrey.”
A small smile played at the corner of his mouth as he continued, turning his gaze to the wall. “Never the King, always the Prince.”
Rose bit her lip, partly to keep herself from asking any questions and partly to keep her tears at bay. She sat still, her eyes trained on him…waiting for him to continue.
“Life was beautiful. I argued with my brothers, rebelled against my father…did as my mother asked.” He took a deep breath and exhaled shakily, realizing that he had already told her more about himself than he’d told anyone before.
And it felt good. It felt right.
“And then…centuries ago…she chose me. The twin suns hung high in the sky on the day we were married. The highest I’d ever seen them…or maybe I’d just never noticed how high they sat in the sky. Doesn’t matter…not now…”
Rose wanted to reach out to touch him, especially when she saw his jaw clench. But, this was him wanting, maybe needing, to talk…and she worried that any movement or sound from her would distract him. So, she remained still.
“Then the war came…and there were no more crowns of silver leaves, there was no more Prince of Gallifrey. My oldest brother died in battle…and the second escaped, only to die much later in a different solar system altogether. Had changed his name to Irving. Irving, of all names.” The Doctor chuckled softly, running his hand through his hair as his chuckle ended and more memories flooded his mind.
“My wife said that our daughter looked like me…though I’m not sure which version of me. But, she was beautiful…dark brown eyes, hair the color of spun toffee. And a smile that…” The Doctor paused, staring down at his hands as a tear escaped from the corner of his left eye.
The tear was more than Rose could take and she reached out to touch his shoulder. At her touch, he closed his eyes.
“They all died. My sister, my wife, my daughter…my unborn son…all massacred in front of me because I refused to help the Daleks.”
“Doctor…” Rose whispered, moving to sit next to him as she took his hand into hers.
“And then I ended the war.” He stated, slowly turning his head to meet her eyes. “Gallifrey and Skaro burned…because of my rage.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor. I’m so sorry…”
“I was a dad once.” He swallowed thickly as another tear streamed down his face. “And I was a good dad. I just couldn’t save her…I tried. I tried to save all of them, but I lost them all. And now…I’m the last of the Time Lords. But, I remember what it was like to have a family.”
Rose was lost for words, her eyes wide…sad and wet with tears. And she felt even worse knowing that she had basically forced him into talking about it…when he obviously wasn’t ready to discuss it just yet.
He read that thought as it ghosted in her eyes, a brief smile appearing on his lips as he reached up and cupped her cheek in his warm palm.
“Thank you, Rose.” When she furrowed her brow in confusion, he rubbed his thumb over her skin and continued. “I may have thought I wasn’t ready…but, I think I needed to tell someone. And if there’s one person I could tell, it’s you…it’s you, Rose.”
“You can tell me anything, Doctor.” Rose whispered, gently pulling his hand from her face and lacing their fingers together.
He nodded slowly, squeezing her fingers between his. “I know.”
He offered her a sad smile…the same sad smile that he’d give her each time he’d proclaim that he was alright, when he obviously wasn’t. He cleared his throat and lifted his free hand to the back of his head, lightly scratching his scalp.
“I’m not alright this time, Rose. I will be…but, right now…I…” He closed his eyes for a moment and exhaled a deep breath. “Would you mind very much if I take you to Whister tomorrow?”
“What?” She asked, having forgotten all about the destination to which he had earlier seemed rather keen to take her.
He opened his eyes and glanced over at her. “I’d love to watch you in the sand…and Whister is so very beautiful. But…I think what I’m trying to ask is…would you mind if I stay? With you? Tonight, I mean…I don’t think – ”
“Of course, you can.” She answered with no hesitation. “For as long as you want.”
He watched as she moved over on the bed, his eyes moving to her hand as she gently patted the mattress. He twisted his body around and lay down, resting his head on her pillow as he rolled onto his side to face her.
She lowered herself down next to him, reaching over to loosen his tie before gently stroking the side of his face. Their eyes met and he inhaled deeply, curling his right arm under his head as he stared at her.
“I’d like to kiss you, you know.”
She smiled and wiped the back of her hand over her watery eyes. “I know now…and I know we shouldn’t. Not right now.”
“Later?” He asked, a hint of hope in his tone.
She couldn’t help but grin at him, giving him a nod as she moved closer and snuggled against his chest. “Later.”
Wrapping his arms around her, he pressed a soft kiss into her hair and sighed.
He felt a sense of relief. The weight that he’d carried on his shoulders for ages had lessened somewhat. He thought of his little girl’s smile and couldn’t stop his own smile from forming. For the first time in centuries…possibly the first time since the war…he thought of his family and felt peace intermingled with his guilt.
He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to fully alleviate the guilt, but he could think of those he’d lost and smile. That had to be a step in the right direction. And he knew that he owed it all to Rose. If not for Rose, he –
“Doctor?” Rose interrupted his thoughts.
“Yeah?” He responded, lightly stroking her back.
“Please stop thinking…”
He chuckled softly and held her closer, inadvertently slipping his left knee between her legs as he shifted slightly. “Yes…quite right...”
She snorted and curled her fingers in the soft fabric of his shirt. She felt him relax and allowed the sound of his hearts beating rhythmically to lull her to sleep.
Her last thought was that they had taken a huge step today…and hoped that they could take a bigger one soon. He smiled silently, accidentally reading that thought as he brushed his fingers through her hair.
“Soon.” He whispered, allowing her warmth to pull him into slumber with her.
The TARDIS continued to hum…no more squeaking, grinding, plunking, clinking. Everything was on the mend now.