jlrpuck (jlrpuck) wrote in the_altverse,

1x10: No Place Like Houm (3/3)

Title: No Place Like Houm(3/3)
Author: jlrpuck
Rating: T
Pairing: Rose/Ten II
Summary: Rose and the Doctor get waylaid yet again, forcing them to put off addressing some important issues.
Author's notes: Thank you first and foremost to shinyopals and all of the mods of the comm. for their patience when I ran so late on this. Thank you to ginamak, who wouldn’t let me get away with simply meeting the letter of the law; and thank you to Ms. Mak, earlgreytea68, and chicklet73 for quickly and thoroughly beta-ing the story once I finally got it final-final.

Episode 10 of a virtual series at the_altverse.
Virtual Series Masterlist

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three

Rose was reminded of school trips as they made their way to the library, the council forming up into a double-row and walking quietly along the hallways. The Doctor lurked at the back of the group, doing his best to be charming with one of the younger-looking council members; she, in turn, decided to chat up the leader a bit more, to try to find out why it was so deserted.

"We sent everyone to the other side of the planet," he explained in response to her question. "It was felt to be safer, as it is facing away from the dust. Many left, however. Seeking safety, seeking work. Wanting fresh air again, to see the night sky through something other than glass. We have all been inside too long; we have all forgotten what it is like out of these walls."

"How long have you been preparing for…for the world to end?"

"We have known of it for two generations. Shell doubts you have found the answer in the library, because we have all looked ourselves. Our best teachers searched, before many of them left. And those that stayed, they have also looked—how else are we to spend our time, when there is so little to do?"

"But…how do you get food? We had some at one of the pubs last night, and it seemed well-enough stocked."

"Ships carry it in. We are still able to provide for that. And we still have visitors, just not often—and some even stay, which is their choice. Society persists; it is simply not as it once was."

"Well. We'll show you how to fix the shield, and things will go back to being just as they were." She tried to inject her voice with levity she didn't entirely feel.

"Things will never be able to go back to being as they were. We can only hope that they move on to being better than they are." The leader gave her a sad smile.

They fell into silence for the rest of the walk, Rose trying not to read too much into the meaning of what he'd said.

The library, when they reached it, was not the deserted room she and the Doctor has discovered the night before, but was instead bustling with activity. Each table had a person sitting at it, heads bowed and fingers flying as they worked. Walking in the aisles, keeping a curious eye on the proceedings, were still more people, carrying what looked to be clipboards and periodically stopping to jot notes as they spoke softly with the researchers.

"See? They continue to seek information. And they have found none that proves the shield is anything but a myth!" The man—Shell, Rose supposed—gestured to the people before them.

"They don't know what they're looking for," the Doctor said firmly, stepping through the group. "No disrespect to them and the work they've done, they just don't know the right terms." His hand dipped into his jacket, and he pulled out his glasses. "Fortunately, I do. Save the world with a Boolean search."

Without waiting for a response he strode to the closest table, sliding his glasses on. Dropping a disarming grin on its surprised inhabitant he gently slid his hands across the surface, bringing the computer under his control. He frowned, shaking his head briefly before typing the same search terms he'd used before; and then his frown melted into a grin as the results were returned. "Right here. Been here all along. You just didn't have the last bit you needed to find it." He stood, his arm sweeping down to the table, the researcher he'd pushed aside staring down at what it showed with increasing astonishment.

"But…but this…"

"Now you know what to look for." The Doctor smiled and then stepped aside as the council gathered around.

The quiet of the library was quickly filled with voices—eager, now, instead of angry. Rose could still hear words of discontent, but overall she knew the council would now listen to the idea of going outside. At least, she hoped they would. Just because they'd found information proving the shield was real didn't necessarily mean they'd be willing to put aside their fears.

“Enough.” The leader of the council silenced the discussion. “We will listen to the Doctor and find engineers to go with him to fix this problem.”

"This book says there is a shield. It does not say it is safe outside!" Shell protested once more.

"The Doctor has said it is safe outside. We have seen that he did go outside, and he has returned unharmed." The leader looked around the group, a small smile forming on his lips. “We will find male volunteers for this dangerous task, and we will send them out today. And both the Doctor and I will go.”

Rose blinked in surprise at the man’s words—at the casual sexism contained in them, and at the way they echoed the Doctor’s comment about the women and children being a priority for evacuation. She’d wanted to volunteer, to be with the Doctor; but, once more, she’d had a decision taken away from her. It was absolutely infuriating, and she chafed at the feeling of powerlessness. She squared her shoulders, but was beaten by the Doctor to arguing against her exclusion.

“Rose should come with us. After all, she—”

“Males only,” the leader said firmly, putting an end to the argument. The Doctor gave her a sympathetic look, shrugging his shoulders almost imperceptibly.

Volunteers were, not surprisingly, a bit challenging to come by. Several looked horrified by the idea of setting foot outside, even once the leader—Ice, Rose learned his name was—stated he would be going out himself. The Doctor, even at his most charming, was also having trouble convincing people that it wasn't the suicide mission everyone thought it would be.

"Been out there myself, you know—just today." A grin. "Fit as a fiddle, not a scratch on me." An arm outstretched; a hand casually run through his hair. "Right as rain." Again, with a grin.

If nothing else, Ice and the Doctor's mad idea drew a crowd. Not just the researchers filling the library, but others who began to slowly trickle in, drawn by the tale of the mad Ygrozy who'd convinced Ice and the entire council of his mad scheme. But the volunteers still weren't forthcoming, and so it finally came down to a decision to go outside with the small group they'd amassed.

"Five people." The Doctor sighed, looking around. "Better than going it alone, though."

Rose swallowed as he looked at her. She was still angry—furious, even. But even so, she couldn’t help the worry that he’d go outside and she’d never see him again. If she’d been given a choice, it would have been to go outside with him, to be there if something bad happened. But the Doctor had decreed she’d stay, and the entire council had taken it as done and immediately turned to her for guidance, and that had been that. No choice. Again.

The volunteers were given time enough to say goodbyes to loved ones—further emphasizing the idea held by almost everyone that this was a mission that would end in death. But eventually they all met once more, gathering at the doorway to the surface. Only the Doctor seemed truly excited to be going outside once more, pacing before the doorway he’d unsealed that morning.

The entire group were wearing bright purple suits, the hoses and buckles and straps which seemed to be universal for a space suit covering the heavy fabric, clinking and rustling as last hugs were given. Once the goodbyes had been said, every member of the group except for the Doctor carefully put on a Perspex helmet—another universal constant, apparently. Rose watched from the side, powerless to stop the Doctor from going out, trying to keep her emotions in check as the group was finally preparing to go outside. Memories of having seen the Doctor in similar attire before, of what had happened on Krop Tor, kept flashing before her, as she watched. She was worried for him; she was furious with him. As seemed to be normal for her, now, she didn’t know if she wanted to go up to him and kiss him for all she was worth, or if she wanted to give him a piece of her mind. He was leaving her behind—again. She was powerless to do a thing about it…again.

She glanced up at the heavy sound of bolts unlocking, and her heart faltered as she found the Doctor gazing steadily back at her. He gave her a wink and then he was off, striding through the door without a backwards glance.

This had to stop, because she wasn’t sure she’d be able to take it again.

It was a quiet vigil inside the building, the council sitting in the lobby of the security centre they’d visited that morning. The team had been outfitted with communications equipment, but the channel was maddeningly silent. And so they sat, and waited, and Rose tried not to think of all of the times he’d left her behind. Of the times he’d gone off, had almost died, had decided what was best for her in spite of her protestations to the contrary—of the time’s he’d done it since they’d been reunited, in spite of her showing him time and again that she wasn’t the girl he’d left behind.

She jumped when a voice crackled through the room after what had felt like hours of silence. It wasn’t the Doctor, but the news it bore was good: a station had been reached, the instructions followed, and it appeared that machinery which had been silent was, after many hours and a number of failed attempts at repair, working once more. There was celebration, then, the people around her grinning and hugging as she remained seated, alone with her thoughts and worries.

Rose decided she’d had enough—enough sitting and waiting and watching—and quietly made her way out of the station, easily finding her way back to the room they’d been assigned. The TARDIS wasn’t far away, she knew—the Doctor had visited the ship before taking the team of engineers out, changing his shirt and collecting a few of the items he insisted were tools but really looked like refuse from a mechanic's shop—but Rose wasn’t in the mood to be in a space that was filled with the Doctor’s presence. Their guest room was simple and spare, and filled only with the memories of the past day.

She crawled onto the bed, pulling his pillow to her and curling around it. She couldn’t help but worry, despite knowing things were going well outside. He was her husband, the man she loved so much it continued to astonish her; the man she’d do anything for, even when he was driving her spare. But they couldn’t go on like this, not if she wanted to stay sane. She couldn’t let him get away with avoiding the discussion they needed to have, not any more. The rules had to change, because so far as she could tell, he was the only one currently dictating what they were.
She’d just dozed off when she was pulled back from sleep, the sound of someone moving around the room, dragging her into wakefulness. She blinked her eyes open to find the Doctor had returned, his jacket now draped over the back of the chair, the sound of water running trickling out from the small en suite. She decided it would probably be best to change out of her clothes, and was unbuttoning her blouse when the Doctor walked out.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said gently.

“It’s ok. Shouldn’t be sleeping in my clothes anyway.”

“Had—had you been here long?”

She slipped out of her slacks, laying them across the arm of the chair before answering. “An hour or so, maybe.”

“Oh.”

“No point in waiting up.” Her tone was a bit harsher than she’d intended, but it was impossible to keep the bitterness from coming out.

“I was hoping to see you when I came back in.”

“And here I am.”

“Everyone else was there.”

“I was non-essential personnel.” She turned, tiredly shuffling back to the bed.

“You’re never non-essential, Rose.”

She gave a humourless laugh, standing at the side of the bed. “No, of course I’m not.”

“Is that what you think?”

“It’s that, or I accept you’re a patronizing sod who thinks he knows what’s better for me than I do. I’m choosing the lesser of the two evils, I think.”

“You’re not ‘non-essential’, Rose. You’re important. Very important.” He’d moved to where she stood, and his hand came to rest on her shoulder. The combination of his touch and the careful reasonableness of his tone were enough for her to decide she had well and truly had enough.

“So important that you think you know what’s best for me. So important that my opinion on what I should or can do is brushed aside. So important that you run off without a backwards glance, decide that you need to go do this or save that and I’m best sitting back or doing something else entirely while you nearly get yourself killed.”

“Rose—”

“No. Don’t ‘Rose’ me. I’ve told you time and again that I don’t like it, having my opinion brushed aside, having you decide what to do for me. Deciding I need saving or protecting, thinking that I’m still some shop assistant, not realizing that I spent years on my own, without you to protect me, that I was able to take care of myself and more besides.” Her anger was making her almost shake now, but her voice remained low. “I love you more than anything, Doctor, but the way you’re treating me…I’m not some china doll. I’m not an object. I’m an adult, and I’ve seen what’s out there, and it’s about bloody time you acknowledge that because I’m surely sick of you ignoring it.”

“I thought I lost you, Rose—I know what it’s like to—”

“You don’t have a monopoly on that, Doctor. I was on the other end of that, and I had to deal with it too. So don’t even think about using that as an excuse, or as justification.” She stepped away, moving to the far side of the room and crossing her arms before looking up at the Doctor.

His eyes were bright as he looked back at her. “I love you, Rose. I—it’s a dangerous universe, moreso because of what’s different here. Why shouldn’t I do what I can to make sure you’re safe? When I have the ability to do that?”

“Because it assumes that my safety is something only you can control! Do you realize how insulting that is?”

She watched the Doctor blink several times. “But…Rose, I can’t focus unless I know you’ll be—”

“Then we’d better stop travelling together right now, because I am done having you make my decisions for me, especially without my input. You almost died in Rome, Doctor. Do you not remember that? Just a few days ago? You were so close to dying that you had to go into a healing trance for days on end. There was no need for it to get to that state! And that’s only the most recent time you’ve done it, and I am just...no more. No more.”

Rose wrapped her arms around herself, memories of the Doctor when he’d been found in Rome sending ice through her veins. If he’d just had her with him, it would never have come to that; it was preventable, insofar as things like that could be completely prevented.

“What do you want me to do, Rose?” The Doctor’s voice was weary, and she was surprised to see how old he suddenly looked as he stood across the room.

“Treat me as an equal. Don’t just leave me behind, especially when things go pear-shaped. Maybe trust that I have some experience to back up an opinion. Just because I haven’t been around as long as you, doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about sometimes.”

“But what about those moments where there isn’t time for a leisurely debate on the merits of our options?” The sarcasm in his tone was inescapable.

“Those aren’t the situations I mean, and you know it!" She took a deep breath, willing herself not to shout. "Listen to me, Doctor. When we’re out travelling. That’s all I want. Trust that I know what I’m doing, too.”

“What if I lose you?” The Doctor had moved closer to her, and his eyes were haunted now as he gazed at her.

“Look at what happened in Canary Wharf—you tried to protect me there, and you can see what good that did.”

His eyes darkened with anger. “And that’s exactly what I don’t want to happen again, Rose.”

“But it didn’t work the first time! Locking me away isn’t the answer; deciding what I can and can’t do won’t solve your problems. You bloody well will lose me if you insist on treating me like a China doll.”

“I don’t treat you like that,” he scoffed.

“You do! You have been for—for far too long, and it’s driving me spare. I’m not going to break from living our lives, Doctor. But you can be sure I will if you keep treating me as you have. Something has to change. Something will change. Because if it doesn’t, I won’t be able to take being with you any more.”

She’d ended by shouting, and her words rang eerily around the room as the Doctor stared at her, slackjawed. She held his gaze, her arms crossed and her chin raised.

“You’d...you’d choose to leave me?”

“You keep acting like this, and it’ll be my only option.” Her heart raced as she spoke, and she tried not to think about whether she really meant the threat. “I learned to do all of this on my own, Doctor. I had to learn to do it on my own, and I learned that I’m pretty good at it, even alone. I can do that, if I have to. You keep going on like you have been, and I’ll have to.”

“You’d leave me over this?” His voice was quiet, his expression that of a little boy lost.

“I cannot live like this, Doctor. I cannot live with you bundling me off like a parcel—and with you not listening to me, not taking what I’m saying seriously. With you thinking that running off and having an adventure will fix things, or that having a shag will make it all better. I take you seriously, but this is a partnership. And it takes work, and listening to things you may not want to hear me say, and it’s not fun all of the time, which I learned from watching my mum and Pete.”

He swallowed convulsively, staring at her, but remained silent.

“I love you. But you’re going to kill that if you keep ignoring what I’m saying because you don’t like it,” she added softly, exhaustion suddenly washing through her. She continued to hold his gaze as he thought, his hands alarmingly still, his entire body seemingly rooted to the spot.

“I...” His voice was gravelly, and he swallowed before continuing. “I’m so sorry. So sorry, Rose. I never...” He brought a hand up, almost violently running it across his hair as he bowed his head. “I just wanted you safe.”

“I know. But nothing’s safe in this life, Doctor. You know that. We know that. So let me be there as your partner, instead of pushing me aside and trying to do it yourself.”

His hand rested on the back of his neck for a moment, then dropped away as he raised his head to look at her. “I...I can’t promise to never do it again. But I promise to try. To listen to you, and to remember that you’re the strongest, bravest woman I know.”

She closed her eyes, sighing in relief at his words. “Thank you.”

“I never meant for it to come to this between us.”

“I know, Doctor. But keeping me pushed away, trying to guard against something that maybe we can’t control...it won’t work.”

He closed the distance between them, his arms sliding around her waist, his cheek resting on her shoulder. “I don't want to go through that, Rose. Not again. Not ever.”

“Neither do I. I hated being separated from you.”

He raised his head, watching her steadily. “Please don’t leave me, Rose.”

“I don’t want to. Ever.” She leaned forward, pressing her lips against his in a soft kiss. He returned it tentatively, before pulling back and giving her a searching gaze.

“Are you...sure you want to do this? This isn’t kissing and ignoring the problem, is it?”

He was terribly earnest, and she quashed the smile she felt pulling at her lips. “It’s not kissing and ignoring the problem, Doctor. It’s kissing after discussing the problem.” She slid a hand up around his neck, and pulled him back down to her.

“I think I like this sort of positive reinforcement,” he murmured against her mouth before returning her kiss.

She sighed against his lips, relaxing as his hands began to slide down her back, pulling her flush against him. She’d said her piece, and he’d heard her.

She trusted that he’d take her worries to heart.

~ - ~

He was relieved to find Rose wrapped around him when he awoke, her leg wedged between his, her arm draped over his chest. Their kisses had rapidly turned into something more, the two of them hastily shedding clothes before tumbling into bed together, and they’d spent several hours alternately speaking softly to each other and making love. He didn’t particularly enjoy rowing with Rose—he hated it, in fact—but he couldn’t deny how much he’d enjoyed making up afterwards.

Rose stirred against him, and he gently rubbed his hand across her shoulder as she came awake. She blinked up at him, smiling slowly, and he was happy to smile in return.

“Hello.”

“Hi.”

“Did you sleep well?”

“Mmmyes. Someone tired me out. In a very pleasant way, I might add.”

He beamed. “I rather liked the resolution of our evening myself.” He wiggled against her, earning a laugh in return.

“Thought you’d have got enough of that last night, Doctor.”

“Never.” He rolled them, his body covering his wife’s before he leaned down for a lingering kiss. “I do, after all, still need to show you how genuinely sorry I am for how I’ve treated you.”

A small frown formed between her eyebrows, and he reached forward to stroke it away. “I’m not being flippant, Rose. Not remotely.” He slowly slid down her body, whispering words of apology and love as he moved.

It was some time later that they once more lay still together, both of them catching their breath. Rose slid her fingers through his hair, as he lay across her chest, her heart beating steadily below his ear.

“Do you want to see why people come here?” he whispered after several quiet moments, punctuating his question with a kiss against her breast.

“I’d love that.”

It was still dark when they crept outside, the two of them the only beings on the surface of the planet. Above them the sky was filled with stars, cosmic dust forming clouds which wrapped around and through the galaxies of M81 and M82. It was beautiful, and Rose settled herself against his chest, his arms wrapped around her stomach as they both gazed upwards.

He took a deep breath, reassuring himself of her presence, and allowed himself to consider what she’d said the night before.

He didn’t particularly like what she was asking, but perhaps that, too, was part of her argument. He was in the habit of knowing what was best, what had to be done to make things right. That hadn’t necessarily changed, but perhaps he needed to factor in that Rose, too, knew what had to be done to make things right. It was too easy to forget that he cleverness was more than the ability to get people to open up to her. She was brilliant in her own right, and he needed to remember that.

He needed to remember she wasn’t the woman who’d been snatched away from him. That she had grown since then, as she had demonstrated every day they’d been together since their reunion. He was the one, he suspected, who might need to do a bit of growing.

"It's beautiful," she finally whispered, her head resting against his shoulder as she continued to stare at the sky.

"It is. The universe is truly an amazing place."

He felt her nod. "Better with two, though." The smile was apparent in her voice.

"Better with two."

~ fin ~
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