His neck was stiff, and the crick in his back was one careless move away from ensuring he couldn’t move from his position if he tried. His right hip felt bruised from the hours spent pressed against the cold marble, and as consciousness grudgingly reasserted itself, he felt numbness in the arm on which he’d been resting his head. The stinging feeling of blood flow returning to deprived nerve endings sent a wave of frustration and bitterness coursing through him.
One heart now. Reduced blood flow, and no advanced regulatory abilities meant ‘dead’ limbs when he rested on them too long. The lack of efficiency was maddening. He couldn’t even go to sleep for a few hours (and wasn’t that just another wizard bodily mandate he was heartily lamenting. He was so tired all the bloody time, and all he was doing was sitting all day!) without waking up to some part of his anatomy reminding him he was, well, less than he used to be. Less than he wanted to be. Less than she wanted him to be.
His time sense told him he’d only been asleep for three hours and five minutes, and his new body was already protesting, insisting he either wake entirely, or somehow find a more comfortable position on the cold floor he’d claimed as his post for the last two days and nights.
He grunted in dissatisfaction as he pushed himself on unsteady arms into a sitting position.
It was only a little after four in the morning, and still very dark. Thank the many deities he still had all his time senses. An unexpected duvet slid off his shoulders and onto the stone floor. Someone — probably Jackie, who’d been hen-pecking him to move into a real bedroom since they arrived at the Tyler estate — had left a small stack of pillows, and a tray of cold tea as well. The unlooked-for display of pity both rankled, and tugged warmly at his heart.
Try as he might, he couldn’t stop coming back to that, and everything it signified.
Rose Tyler hadn’t spoken more than two words to him since the beach. These two words were a simple, “I’m sorry.” He’d asked her why, but, though she refused to answer, the rest of the unspoken words rang out, with crippling intensity, through her silent grief.
“I’m sorry…” but you’re not the Doctor.
Panic seemed to flit, with nagging consistency, at the edges of his awareness now. He’d been alive, technically, a scant three days, and he’d been wading through a veritable quagmire of persistent pain and anxiety since.
After years of yearning like a Time Tot yearns for the moons to be brought down so he might carry them in a pocket; years of dragging himself to his room and nuzzling into sheets that held only the faintest hint of her fading scent; years of only barely stopping himself from crossing his own timeline; years of aching hearts so full of loneliness, he was milliseconds from ripping a hole in the fabric of existence for just one more minute in her company, while the universe crumpled in upon itself, Rose Tyler was twenty feet, and a puny wooden door away from him.
The breach between them, however, was as vast, and seemingly insurmountable, as the void had ever been.
He’d always known life was cruel — cruel seeming far too inept a word to describe the crushing bleakness of what living an essentially immortal life could do over time. And time… ah, time. Time was life’s sadistic bedfellow — especially as he had so little of it now.
He’d offered to spend his newly acquired, limited forever with her on that cold beach, and he’d meant it. Down to the very nerve endings that were protesting so loudly just now, he’d meant it. He wanted the remaining decades — no longer centuries, eons, or millennia — to be filled with tongue-touched grins, and twirling hugs, and grumpy morning-before-cuppa faces, and wild laughter, and her hand in his, and her warmth in bed next to him, and her scent enveloping him, and—and he just wanted to look into her sun-warmed-honey coloured eyes to see the overwhelming unconditional love she once reserved for him, and only him, once again. Even if she never kissed him again (his lips still burned with the taste and feel of hers pressed desperately against his own,) if they could just—just be bloody friends again, he’d take it! Anything involving more her, and less… this… this cold-corridor-outside-her-room, aching-body-that’s-so-maddeningly-alien, Jackie-Tyler’s-pity-and-fuss-inspiring, Rose-less excuse of a life he was currently leading.
The worst of it was, it wasn’t anyone’s fault but his own.
Definitely his own fault.
Well, not technically his since it’d been a perfect storm of impossibilities converging into — well, him — and he certainly hadn’t intended for it to happen. Why would he? Daft idea on the whole, really, and inconvenient to all the hims involved. But, his fault, nonetheless, because this kind of thing only ever happened to him. Instantaneous human-Time Lord Biological Meta-crises (what a bollocks, snooty way to say he’d made a huge mistake, fractured his own consciousness, and then couldn’t deal with it) were rare. And by rare, he meant something he’d made up because they were without precedent.
It was well known among his people that even a handful of Time Lord cells contained enough TNA to create a viable body with enough regeneration energy, and a consciousness to drive it.
The thing was, it shouldn’t’ve been enough regeneration energy.
Donna’s DNA simplified his cellular composition enough to allow for it, and well, that could only happen to him.
His people (did they still count as his people with DNA convoluting his makeup?) wouldn’t have put themselves in a position for there to be a precedent. His people didn’t take on human companions. His people didn’t get involved with the universe’s problems. In fact, they were so uninvolved, later model TARDISes stopped having bloody doors for the observer to use to venture into any sort of involvement. And finally, his people were in enough control of their own regenerations that they wouldn’t fear losing a well-loved-by-Rose-Tyler face — not that the general majority would ever love a human, full stop, let alone care enough for anyone to risk what he had when he’d thrown his regeneration energy into the hand he sprang from. They wouldn’t. Couldn’t, most of them.
But that was irrelevant! His people were gone — never existed in his current universe — and it had happened to him. So, he was a rubbish Time Lord, of whom his people would shun, and be ashamed. He knew that. That had been life for, well, most of it. And yet, for all his shortcomings as a Time Lord, he’d not care about any of it ever again, if she’d only look at him with love once more.
And he did love his pink and yellow human, desperately. He’d been so scared of regenerating into an old, unattractive, crotchety, possibly mean, new new new Doctor when he’d just gotten her back. He couldn’t risk losing her because he was no longer her Doctor.
The irony of it all wasn’t lost on him.
The thought that he should give her more credit than he had; that she’d had to adjust to a new him once before, that she’d had to warm to the truth of it, and it’d hurt a bit, but she’d handled regeneration better than anyone but the Brigadier or Sarah-Jane, never occurred to him. Perhaps, it was a bit of vanity. Perhaps, it was crushing self-doubt. Perhaps it was too many years without Rose’s reassurance and love, but he’d risked it. He’d gambled… even thought he’d won… Only, he actually lost.
Twice over, apparently, because Rose had spent the last two days in her room. Alone. And he’d spent the same two keeping a silent vigil outside her door.
Rose didn’t want him. Didn’t want his newly limited forever. Didn’t believe he was the same man who loved her to the core of his being.
And he couldn’t accept it.
He accepted her grief, her confusion, and her hesitation. He still had very little idea what she went through to get back to him on the other side, and he’d left her, sort of… again.
No, he had. He’d definitely left her behind. On purpose.
That had to hurt. He understood. He could accept that she felt rejected and hurt. She cried like he’d only ever seen once — on the same bloody beach he’d cocked up their last goodbye, no less — and she made them wait five hours and thirty-five minutes before she consented to even move from her spot on that horrid patch of sand. And he accepted it. She sat unseeing and stone-faced, despite the tears leaking down her cheeks, the entire way to the Tyler estate, the silence nearly crushing, and he accepted it. She hid herself immediately, needing to… well, do this whatever she was doing — maybe crying, maybe raging, maybe sleeping, maybe all that and more, who knew — but she was taking time, and he accepted it. He really did.
But he wasn’t going to accept her ignorance. He was the Doctor. He loved her. He didn’t leave her. If she didn’t understand that yet, he would make sure she did in time, however long it was.
So, he wouldn’t leave her. He’d show her he wasn’t going to abandon her. He’d spend every second he could within summoning distance — not intruding, not pushing; he didn’t want to make her feel like she owed him anything, she didn’t — oh, Rassilon, he really hoped she didn’t think that — but he just needed to be there. He’d just be there until she was ready to talk.
Not swanning off.
He had to show her that she was where he wanted to be, no matter what, and not because he had no choice. He had a choice. He could find his own flat, or get on a Zeppelin and roam the globe, or just pick a bedroom there in the same dwelling where Jackie was practically threatening to remodel the corridor around him if he didn’t just act like a normal bloke and go move into one. He had a lot of choices. It was just… he’d reshape galaxies for her if he could… staying near enough to reassure her was the least he could do. And maybe, he needed to make a… grand gesture… or something… He was rubbish at this, but it felt like he was doing what he could to fix things, even if the doing meant doing nothing. She knew sitting still was hard for him.
And he was scared. He’d never seen her so very broken, and he’d broken her before. A lot. He hated to think about how very much he’d broken his precious Rose Tyler. He’d honestly believed he’d seen every facet of her sadness between the people they’d lost, and his own idiocy on some of their adventures. She’d even gone back to her own room for a torturous month on the TARDIS after… well, one notable adventure involving a spaceship, a horse, and his stupid hero complex. That’d taken swallowing his pride — gallons of it — exposing his pain to her, exploring his propensity to abandon people, a half-confession of love—weeell, need— which still had been terribly hard to say — and good, old fashioned begging, to fix. But this was new. He’d never seen the, seemingly immutable, fire in Rose Tyler’s eyes go out entirely, and it shook him to his core. He didn’t believe she’d ever try to hurt herself, but he knew from experience that sometimes just waiting for darkness to consume you was just as dangerous. He had to stay close to make sure she didn’t just… give up.
He cursed himself — the him still roaming the prime universe — for drowning her fire, and for leaving without bearing witness to it. Hated him for bloody legging it, and probably believing he was leaving them in a fairytale to live happily ever after. If he could send one image to him, it would be the way Rose looked when the car door opened, and she looked up at the place she’d never considered home and never expected to return. He wanted to punch that him in the vain, too-important, self-righteous, delusional face, and force him to come to grips with what he’d done to the woman he loved.
Still, two days in a hallway, and he’d little cause to believe she’d relent soon. He hadn’t seen her open her door for so much as a bit of tea and toast yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time before Jackie intervened on that front, and, while the heavy mahogany door remained obstinately locked, if it were pitted against one Jackie Tyler, and he were a betting man, he’d put money on Jackie any day.
He wondered how long it would be before he saw her face again. He wondered what state she’d be in when he did. What state they’d both be in.
He kneaded at his neck and lower back. Blimey, his new body would take more adjusting to than he’d thought.
He grabbed a few biscuits off the tea tray and munched them in the darkness, his eyesight adjusting easily once he calculated the exact number of ambient lumens.
His senses, all of them, were intact, and for that he was grateful. He’d only lost a heart, and it was something he’d gladly part with again, if he could only get her to accept it. He had a constant headache, and an empty feeling where the TARDIS once hummed away, adding to the already painful void his people once filled. He was completely devoid of telepathic interaction. It was torture, but he could be thankful for this. Perhaps he’d never be able to manually regulate his blood flow or core temperature again, but at least he retained the rest. His mind was intact. He couldn’t imagine how much harder everything would be if he’d found his connection to time and the world around him were dulled — or if the senses were, forbid the thought, non-existent. Or just human, though he suspected if he’d been any more human, he wouldn’t be able to sustain his own consciousness, but any testing he’d run on himself would have to wait until he’d sorted things with Rose.
His thoughts strayed to Donna. Brilliant Donna, his best mate and often saving grace. He wondered if she was okay; if she was able to cope with what the regeneration energy had done to her mind. He doubted it. And he doubted he’d have let her burn, but he also understood what the consequences would be for both of them. Guilt roiled within him, sending him further down the path of dark thoughts that made falling back asleep in the cold corridor completely impossible.
He contemplated his latest annihilation of the Daleks.
He’d committed genocide again.
It needed to be done.
The only reason he’d been upset with himself was that he knew one of them was going to do it. Shouting about it was only a verbal manifestation of guilt that the decision had already been made. The outcome would not have changed had the other him, who left, been alone in the confrontation. Yet, neither of him would ever escape hating himself for the action.
He spent a long time re-playing the words of Davros, and beating himself mentally for all he’d done to those Davros called The Children of Time. He cursed himself for breaking everyone he involved himself with, coming full circle to Rose.
He began the old well-worn argument about his danger to her, and how he’d never deserve her. He wished he could undo every injury, and mend ever place he’d ever broken her. He wished he were not too selfish to let go so she could find someone who truly deserved her.
It was in this downward spiral that he heard the first of the cries behind the heavy wooden barrier separating them. Cries he knew signalled the onset of particularly bad nightmares for Rose.
He snapped out of the reverie that was heading into panic-attack territory, and tried the door. He knew it was locked. He knew, and he jiggled the handle pathetically anyway, hoarsely calling out her name and knocking with his free hand, hoping it would wake her from the torment, even if he couldn’t get in.
The screams stopped abruptly, and he heard a small, “Doctor?” from inside, followed almost immediately by heartrending sobs.
One nightmare to the next. He was doing a fantastic job of keeping Rose Tyler miserable.
He slumped down the wall like a boneless Whijergub, resting his cheek on the door jam in his own despondency.
Would he ever get it right? Would he ever make this better?
He just didn’t know what to do.
How could he prove himself when he himself felt so… worthless…?
Morning came with all the urgency of the evolution of carrots, adding to the bodily aches he was beginning to resent with bitter fervency.
Though the light streaming through the many windows made it difficult, he had just started to nod off again when the clinking of dishes, and warmth of a shoulder next to his own brought him back from the brink.
Peter Tyler sat with his back to the wall beside him, little Tony Tyler in his lap, munching on the leftover biscuits from the tea tray. Pete, too, had his eyes closed, and head resting on the wall behind them. His vivid green dressing gown stuck out like a sore thumb against the muted colours in the corridor. Hair (where he still had it) sticking out in all directions, slippers slightly askew on his bare feet. Tony, in his own brightly patterned jimjams and dressing gown, watched the Doctor with curious blue eyes as he snacked messily on his father’s lap.
Pete yawned and said nothing.
Tony finished the last of the nibbles intended for the stubborn, mostly-Time Lord, and cocked his head.
“Dad,” he queried in the warbling soprano of a toddler, “is he camping in Rose’s doorway?”
Pete opened one eye, and peered blearily at his small son without answering, before closing it again.
The Doctor gathered Peter Tyler was not a morning person. The behaviour was so reminiscent of Rose most—well, every—morning he could easily see where she’d inherited the disposition.
The Doctor smiled sadly at the boy, deciding to let Pete truly wake up before Tony could subject him to any more of his questions.
“Hello, there. I’m the Doctor,” he offered extending a hand to the child and realising, though he’d been there three days, someone had been keeping the toddler from pestering him. Likely Pete. It would only aide Jackie’s cause of getting him out of the hall if Tony was buzzing around constantly. “What’s your name then?”
“Tony,” he grinned, thrilled to have someone willing to engage his vivacity despite the time of day. “Are you really the Doctor?”
“Really, really,” he confirmed.
“The real Doctor?”
“Ye-p. The really real Doctor.”
“Are you camping in Rose’s doorway, Doctor?”
“I suppose I am.”
“Why? Don’t you like beds?”
“Well, yeah, I do,” he nodded, trying to avoid telling the child the real reason he was sleeping outside his sister’s room, but not give him ideas his mother would not appreciate about the merits of bed-sleeping v floor-sleeping, “but… er… I… er…”
“Tony… leave it,” Pete grunted softly.
The boy scowled for a second, then perked up. “So, do you have a spaceship? Rose said so.”
“Did have,” he nodded and winked.
“Where is it?”
“I… er… I don’t have it anymore.”
“What happened to it?”
“It has to live in another universe,” he replied with a smile, even though his heart hurt.
Tony frowned. “Why?”
“It can’t live here.”
“Because it’s a special spaceship!”
“Like a dinosaur spaceship?”
“Really really. Well, probably. I don’t exactly know how old—”
“Why can’t it live here?”
“Not the right kind of… er, petrol here, sort of, not really, but something like that. Nothing for it to live on! Can’t fly a ship on biscuits, now, can we?”
Tony grinned and shook his head. “Not like me.”
“No, not at all like young men like you! Though she certainly was missing out, wasn’t she? Biscuits are—”
“Dinosaurs can’t drive spaceships ‘cos they don’t have hands,” Tony told him sagely.
A small snort resounded from Pete’s direction.
“Very astute,” the Doctor nodded. “Do you have hands then?”
Tony giggled, holding up his crumb-covered hands for inspection.
“I’d say those pass muster,” the Doctor nodded as he appraised the proffered appendages, “but I’d never let you fly unless you washed up a bit. Off you get then!”
Tony scrambled from his father’s lap, and took off running on chubby legs in the direction of the washroom.
Pete still sat with his eyes closed and head resting on the posh wallpapers.
“Jackie send you?” The Doctor decided he’d have to be the one to open a dialog, as Pete seemed loth to do so himself.
The Doctor took it as confirmation, and waited for the lecture to follow. Strange, to think of being lectured by a man in his late forties at his age—though if he were going to follow that line of thinking, he had zero business “camping” outside the door of a twenty-something-year-old. Best to ignore it.
Peter Tyler, however, did not proceed with the Doctor-You-Need-To-Move-Into-A-Room-Of-Your-Own-And-Take-Better-Care-Of-Yourself speech. He simply sat for another five minutes and seven seconds, before groggily hauling himself back to his feet, and grunting, “Tea?”
“Thanks,” the Doctor nodded, meaning much more than the cuppa.
Pete nodded in return, and shuffled his way down the hall in the direction of the kitchen.
A few endless minutes later, Peter returned with a tray bearing tea and toast. He set it between them and sat again, busying himself with the jam, and sipping at his own steaming cup.
Expecting it was coming any moment, the Doctor stared at him, trepidation marring his brow.
“Tea’s getting cold,” was all he said.
The Doctor hesitantly reached for the cup, then downed the strong infusion in one go.
Pete looked up in amusement as the Doctor set the empty cup back on its saucer. “Needed that, eh?”
The Doctor nodded once, brows still furrowed.
Pete finished the last bite of his toast, and gave him a sympathetic look, before reaching in his dressing gown pocket, producing a bottle of paracetamol, and tossing it to him.
The Doctor stared at it, then back at the man next to him.
Pete just shrugged and dragged himself to his feet.
“If you want to wash up,” he said lightly, “I’ll have one of the girls take that suit to the cleaners.”
The Doctor frowned, suddenly very aware of the sand still in his trainers, and in his… well, and he… smelled a bit. That was new. He cursed this new regulatory system once more. Sweat was not something he’d dealt with often.
“Er— thanks,” he replied.
“What’re you, a 38?”
“And slim, I imagine.”
“Good. Jackie’s ordered you—”
“I don’t need—”
“—some changes of clothes.”
“Really, I don’t—”
“Doctor, it’s done,” he sighed. “Try stopping her yourself. I can’t seem to get her to do anything other than just as she pleases, whether it’s her business or not. Still, until you’re ready, it’ll be good to have a few changes.”
“I-I… yeah… I suppose it will.”
“This is all temporary anyway.”
The Doctor looked up from his contemplative staring at his sand-filled trainers, and gave Pete a questioning look.
“She’ll come ‘round,” Pete explained softly.
The Doctor shook his head, “I don’t know…”
“This is a temporary glitch,” he reassured, “but she can’t stay in there forever. Jackie’ll be at the knob with a blowtorch in a few days.”
The Doctor felt the corners of his mouth curl as he imagined Jackie Tyler in a pair of safety goggles, and huge leather gloves, wielding an arc welder.
“She’ll be by in an hour or so before she takes Tony to the park,” Pete warned.
“You were very convincing, but I’m very determined,” the Doctor reassured.
Pete smiled and nodded. “You could always just be washing up,” he whispered conspiratorially, before heading back toward his bedroom to start his day.
The Doctor glanced up at the mahogany barricade between him and Rose.
Surely, popping into the bathroom for a shower couldn’t be considered swanning off, and if she did come out, the state of him would matter. No use sending her right back inside just to escape his smell.
He stood, rested his forehead against the expanse of wall separating them for a moment, and trudged off in search of a wash.
He wasn’t giving up.
She was worth not giving up.
More with Tentoo and Rose Tyler can be found in my other stories: