Frances (goldy_dollar ) wrote in the_altverse ,

1x12: Ten Minutes (3/3)

Title: Ten Minutes (3/3)
Authors: goldy_dollar and _thirty2flavors
Pairing: Ten II/Rose
Summary: Hoping to prove to the Doctor that she can handle herself, Rose strikes out on her own and ends up trapped in a room with a bomb.
Rating: PG
A/N: Thanks to shinyopals for the beta.
Excerpt: The Doctor fought the urge to take out his growing frustration on Pete—he was in a building that was crumbling to the ground and searching for his probably injured wife who very well may have just died. How did he think it was going?

Episode 12 of the the_altverse following Dead Reckoning
Virtual Series Masterlist

Previous: Chapter One; Chapter Two

Stars exploded behind the Doctor’s eyes as his head cracked back against the asphalt. Momentarily dazed, he blinked up at the sky as he tried to sort out what had just happened -- and then he felt his stomach drop. The factory had exploded.

Scrambling to his feet, the Doctor stared at the building in disbelief. No, no, no -- this was all wrong. There shouldn’t have been any explosion. Rose had stopped the bomb.

Rose. Realizing his hands were empty, he dropped to the ground, searching for his mobile. Rose was okay. She had to be okay. If she wasn’t...

He found his mobile and hurried to press it to his ear, his heart racing. “Rose? Rose, can you hear me? Are you all right? Rose?”

One silent second ticked by, and then another. The Doctor waited, frozen, his entire body tense. Then there was fumbling on the other end of the line, and Rose’s voice. “Doctor? Doctor, are you there?”

The Doctor closed his eyes, sighing with relief. “Hi.”

“Doctor,” she began, “what--”

She was cut off by a loud rumble and the Doctor’s gaze snapped up as the top left side of the building splintered and then collapsed.

The Doctor instinctively jumped back as dust and debris exploded from the building. He broke down into a fit of pained coughs, covering his mouth with his hand. The mobile almost slipped from his sweaty hand, but he pushed it back to his ear.

His voice was dry and scratchy. “Rose! What happened? Are you there?” He struggled to breathe through the thick cloud of ash and dust hanging in the air. “Can you still hear me? Rose?”

There was nothing but silence from the other end of the line.

For a second, the Doctor couldn’t move, too consumed by panic to think straight. The connection hadn’t been dropped--her headset was still working. So why wasn’t she answering him? Was she hurt?

Was she even still alive?

Some of the dust cleared and he could see that most of the building’s bottom floors were still standing. He did some quick calculations--the bomb had exploded on one of the top floors of the building. But Rose had been in the basement. There had been a second bomb, then. Whoever Bob Charila was, he obviously hadn’t wanted to fail.

The Doctor’s chest constricted in fear. But why? Why the whole show--why trap Rose with a ticking bomb and five innocent people in the first place? Why go through the whole song and dance if a bomb was going to be set off anyway? The whole thing felt like it was purposely designed to be some sort of sick torture or test.

He spoke into the phone again, “Rose? Rose, can you hear me? Please. Rose, please.”

His heart sank as the seconds passed without a response. There was no guarantee the factory would hold for much longer, but if there was a chance that Rose had been protected from most of the damage in the basement....

He glanced once behind him - most of the rest of Torchwood seemed preoccupied with holding back civilians and the media. His gaze briefly landed on Michelle, who was still attending to the young girl, and then he hurriedly looked away.

He would have to act quickly to avoid attracting attention. Decision made, the Doctor strode towards the building, his free hand automatically searching through his pockets for the sonic screwdriver.

But someone grabbed him by the arm, pulling him back. “You can’t go in there yet,” hissed Pete’s voice. He coughed a few times, clearly more affected by the building’s debris than the Doctor was. “It’s not safe.”

The Doctor wrenched his arm out of Pete’s grip, sending him a deadly look. “I don’t care. Rose is in there—if she’s still alive...”

He let the sentence go unfinished and strode forward again, only stopping when Pete bodily threw himself in the Doctor’s path. He was still coughing, but made an effort to stand up straight. “That whole building could come down at any second.”

“Then all the more reason to get in and out quickly, hmm?” the Doctor said, keeping his tone mild. But he kept his gaze on Pete’s face, plainly trying to convey that he was going into the factory with or without the other man’s support.

“We’ll assemble a team,” said Pete in a tone that was probably supposed to sound reassuring, but made the Doctor clenched his jaw in irritation. “We’ll get them out. But we are not going in there until we know it’s safe.”

“There are people in there.” The Doctor could feel his hands beginning to shake with anger. “They could be hurt. They need help. I am not waiting for the rest of that building to fall down on top of them.”

Pete’s face was shining with sweat and dust but he held his ground. “I promised Rose, I told her I would keep you safe, and I’m planning to do that.” He raised his hand as if to signal for backup. “Just wait a little longer, Doctor. What if there’s another bomb?”

The Doctor stared at him for a moment longer and then made a show of looking at his mobile. “Ooh, let’s see, I know Rose programmed Jackie’s number in here somewhere,” he paused. “Ah--there it is under ‘Mum.’ Don’t have one myself so it must be Jackie. What do you reckon, Pete? Should we give it a go? What do you think she’ll say when I tell her that her daughter is trapped underneath a building that’s about to come down on her head?”

Pete visibly paled, but he lowered his hand. “That’s low.”

The Doctor dropped his congenial act. “I am going into that building, Pete Tyler. You may have all of Torchwood at your disposal, but you know that you can’t stop me, not for long anyway. Now you can help me or we can phone Jackie. What will it be?”

Pete stared back at him, solemn and stony-faced. Then he pulled out a walkie-talkie and pressed it into the Doctor’s hand. “Keep in constant touch, do you hear me? If you find them... once you find them, we’ll need an update on their medical condition, asap.”

The Doctor closed his hand around the walkie-talkie. “Thank you,” he said.

Pete cleared his throat. “That building could be infected with asbestos or any number of old - ”

“I’ll be fine.”

“As a safety precaution - ”

“I’ll be fine,” the Doctor hissed, rapidly reaching the end of his patience. “Do you think I care about asbestos when Rose is... when she’s....”

Pete managed a tight nod as though he sensed that the walkie-talkie was as good as he was going to get. “Bring her back safely, Doctor.”

***

The Doctor moved quickly but cautiously as he entered the factory. The building seemed to creak and teeter around him, a constant reminder that the whole thing could fall down at any moment. The air inside the building was thick with dust, and he kept one hand clamped over his mouth and nose as a makeshift filter.

Pieces of drywall from the ceiling littered his path and the explosion had left behind doors that were bent over and misshapen. The cement walls were cracked and rigid and infested with roaches that were pouring out of the walls in an attempt to escape the chaos.

He didn’t allow himself to entertain the possibility that the entrance to the basement might be covered in debris. He would find Rose and the others. And he would get them out of the building alive.

The Doctor stepped over a fallen ceiling beam and stopped in front of a closed door. It had held up well despite the explosion, but it creaked open with only a light push. Behind the door was a descending staircase and the Doctor swallowed heavily. Rose was down there.

Steeling himself as best he could, the Doctor started down the staircase, the stairs seeming to creak more with each step. The basement was nearly pitch-black, and the Doctor fumbled around in his pocket before he found a torch. The beam of light dully illuminated the concrete in front of him and he squinted into the darkness, eyes frantically combing each corner and step in front of him.

“Rose?” he called. “Rose, can you hear me?”

The walkie-talkie in his hand broke the silence and he jumped. “Doctor?” came Pete Tyler’s voice. “How are you doing?”

The Doctor fought the urge to take out his growing frustration on Pete—he was in a building that was crumbling to the ground and searching for his probably injured wife who very well may have just died. How did he think it was going?

But he only said, “Just made it to the basement. Nothing yet.”

There was a moment’s hesitation from Pete’s end of the line and then he said, “They should be in the east wing.”

“Great, yeah,” said the Doctor, not entirely able to hide his annoyance. “This walkie-talkie’s been very helpful, thanks.”

Without another word, he shoved the walkie-talkie into one pocket and reached for the sonic screwdriver. He didn’t have time to waste wandering around aimlessly. The sonic screwdriver would be able to pick up the signal from Rose’s headset and point him in the right direction.

He turned in a slow half-circle, the sonic screwdriver held out in front of him, scanning for a signal. It took a minute, but then the whirr of the screwdriver changed as it picked up the direction of the signal. With equal parts determination and trepidation, the Doctor took off in that direction.

The closer he got, the more disarray the building was in; bits and pieces of wall or ceiling had fallen to the floor, and the floor itself was cracked.

The Doctor tried very hard not to think about what that might mean.

As he dodged around a fallen beam, he could just make out a quiet noise in the distance, something other than the clatter of occasional falling wood or concrete. It sounded like a woman crying.

“Hello?” the Doctor called, speeding up again and nearly stumbling over a fallen support beam. “Is someone there? Can you hear me?” He swallowed. “Rose, is that you?”

“Oh, my god!” came a woman’s voice, and the Doctor tried not to let his heart sink when he realized it wasn’t Rose. “We’re over here! Help us, please! We’re trapped, we’ve been here for hours -- please, please, you’ve got to get us out, I’ve got a little girl, she’s--”

“I’m coming,” the Doctor said, following the sound of her voice as much as the screwdriver. “I’ll get you out, I promise. Hang on.”

“Yeah, we’ve heard that before,” said a second voice -- a man’s, this time, and though his tone was angrier than the woman’s, the Doctor heard obvious fear in his voice.

The Doctor didn’t argue. Instead he turned one last corner, and the beam from his torch revealed the crying woman, shackled to the floor, her face and hair covered in dust. The Doctor shone the torch a few feet to the left, and saw a young man with tattoos. Though the wall across from them had collapsed, they seemed unhurt.

“Oh, thank you, thank you,” said the woman.

“About time,” said the man, but he was trembling.

Throat tight, the Doctor only nodded as he anxiously scanned the rest of the room with the torch. Rose had to be here somewhere. She’d been with them. She’d...

“There was a woman here...” he began, but the woman chained the floor cut him off.

“Please,” she begged, her voice breaking with tears again. “Please, please, get us out--”

The Doctor moved almost mechanically as he knelt down to press the sonic screwdriver to the locks binding the woman. The locks clicked open with ease, but the Doctor barely registered the woman’s words of thanks. He pressed the sonic screwdriver to the man’s chains as well, the fear building in his chest. Where was Rose?

“You’re her husband, right?” said the man, startling the Doctor out of his thoughts. “The bloke from the phone. I’ve seen you in the papers.” The gruff tone was gone, and the man sounded sad. “I’m sorry.”

The words had the effect of a bucket of ice water. The woman next to them gave a quiet sob, but the Doctor sat frozen, his heart pounding in his ears. “What? Sorry? Sorry for what?”

The man didn’t answer; he only gestured behind the Doctor with his hand.

With what felt like an enormous effort, the Doctor turned and shone the torch in the direction the man had indicated. There, beneath a pile of rubble that had once been the opposite wall, the Doctor could just see Rose’s head, covered in dust, a small trickle of blood running from her temple down her face.

The Doctor couldn’t help the strangled noise he made as he scrambled over to her.

“No,” he whispered, feeling light-headed, struggling to breathe. “No. Rose... please...”

He dropped the sonic and the torch and reached out with one trembling hand, brushing her cheek and then moving his fingers to the base of her jaw, feeling for a pulse. Her body was still warm and a second later he felt it - a steady heartbeat against his fingers.

He felt such a powerful wave of relief that for a moment he was light-headed. But the creaking of the building above him reminded him that they were going on borrowed time.

He moved his fingers from her throat and stroked her hair back, brushing off the worst of the dust. “Rose,” he croaked, “Rose, I’m here--can you hear me?”

He shifted his gaze to the rest of her body. She was pinned to the floor, her lower-half buried under the fallen wall. He could tell right away that he wouldn’t be strong enough on his own to move the cement beam lying across her legs.

With a shaking hand, he took the walkie-talkie out of his pocket and said, “Pete, I’ve found them.”

There was scrambled static noise, and then Pete said, “Doctor, when I said ‘stay in touch at all times,’ I did not mean ‘completely ignore my orders.’”

The Doctor didn’t respond to that. “I need an extraction team,” he said. “It’s Rose. She’s buried under rubble. I’m not strong enough on my own and she’s... she’s injured.”

Pete sighed. “Doctor, you know I can’t send anyone else into that building. Not before my team finishes its inspection.”

For a second, the Doctor considered hurling the walkie-talkie against the nearest wall. He took a deep breath. And then another. And then said, “It’s Rose.”

“I’ll send someone to you as soon as I can.”

“Of course you will,” the Doctor hissed and then he signed off, burying the walkie-talkie back into his pocket. Fat lot of help that was.

He bowed his head, fingers combing through Rose’s hair. Above him the building’s walls shook but held. Panic seized him--what if he couldn’t get Rose out on his own? The factory could crumble at any moment, but he could never bring himself to leave without her.

The awkward silence that followed was broken only by the jingle of the chains as the people behind him stood up, but the Doctor didn’t turn to look. He stared down at Rose, suddenly feeling as weak and useless as he had in the van.

“I’ve got to stay with her,” he said after a moment, still gazing down at Rose while he addressed the others. “But you should go.” Even to his own ears, his voice sounded hollow. “There’s been structural damage, this building’s not safe.” He gestured in the direction he’d come from. “If you turn left at the first hallway and go straight you’ll find a staircase to the first floor. Should be easy to get out from there. There’s a team waiting outside, they’ll take care of you.” He reached back, holding out the torch, Rose fading from view as the beam of light shone behind him. “Take this.”

Someone touched his shoulder and he turned his head and looked into the kind eyes of the woman. “‘Doctor’ she called you, yes?” The Doctor nodded. “Well, Doctor.... we want to help you.”

***

The woman, Keshi, as the Doctor found out, had been taking karate classes down the street at the nearest gym and was stronger than he initially gave her credit for. Matt, the tattoo man, was far less eager to spend more time in the basement, but also couldn’t quite seem to bring himself to leave.

They cleared off the debris and rubble first and then focused on the cement beam. It had fallen mostly on Rose’s lower legs and right thigh. The Doctor and Matt lifted the cement block from the bottom while Keshi held the torch and helped support the beam from up top. The two men mostly worked in silence while Keshi murmured “come on, almost there, just like that.” Even in the dim torch light, the Doctor could see that Matt’s grimy face was shining with sweat and exertion.

A sudden murmur of pain broke their momentum and the Doctor almost released his grip on the cement beam when he realized it had come from Rose. Keshi swung the torch light over and he could see Rose’s face contorting in pain. She murmured something indistinct and it took all of the Doctor’s willpower not to drop the cement block and rush over to her.

Faster,” he hissed to Matt, arms straining as he put all his weight into pushing it up and off Rose’s legs.

“I - hate - you - people,” grunted Matt.

But with a final groan and scramble, they managed to heave the beam up a few inches and then off Rose’s legs. It landed with a crash on the floor. Matt fell to his knees, breathing hard and scrubbing his hands over his face.

Rose cried out, a high-pitched noise of confusion and pain. Right away, the Doctor could see why. Her leg was obviously broken, the bone sticking up through her skin just below her knee. He swallowed hard and then willed himself to focus. Their first priority had to be getting Rose out of the building alive - after that, she would be in the hands of London’s best medics.

He turned to Keshi and said, “Talk to her - tell her, oh, I dunno, anything. Just keep her distracted.”

Keshi nodded and then hurried to Rose’s side, bending down so she was looking into Rose’s face. “Hi there, sweetheart,” she murmured. She pressed a hand to Rose’s forehead. “Listen, we’re working on getting you out of here, okay? But you’re going to have to be brave for a while longer.”

With what looked like a tremendous effort, Rose’s eyes fluttered open. Her eyes focused unsteadily on the woman. “What....” she began and then broke off, crying out. One of her hands instinctively reached out, stretching to her leg, but Keshi caught Rose’s hands in hers.

“You’ve just got to stay still for a while longer, yeah? We’re working on helping you.”

Keshi looked over at the Doctor as if to say ‘why aren’t you doing this’ but he steadily avoided her gaze. He had to keep his focus right now. If he bent down to comfort Rose, he might fall apart himself.

He turned to where Matt was still on his knees, wheezing heavily. “Give me your shirt,” hissed the Doctor.

“What...?”

“Shirt,” said the Doctor. “Now.”

At the Doctor’s tone, Matt rushed to peel off his t-shirt. Underneath, his bare chest was dotted with a patchwork of tattoos similar to the one on his neck. Without a word, the Doctor grabbed the shirt and then bent over Rose’s broken leg. Hurriedly, he wrapped the shirt around her leg, tying the sleeves together. It wasn’t an ideal solution, but it would at least stem some of the blood loss.

Rose cried out while Keshi murmured “shh” and “it’s okay, nearly there.” He felt chilled when he finished. How could he get Rose out of the building without causing her more pain? Even if he carried her, the pain would be intolerable.

As he finished with her leg, Rose lay back, panting and clutching at Keshi’s hands. The Doctor climbed over to her and Keshi pushed herself to her feet and out of the way. Taking Rose’s hands in his, the Doctor stared down into her face. Her eyes were glassy and unfocused. He touched her temple with his thumb, gently wiping the trickle of blood out of the way.

“Rose?” he said, “Rose, can you hear me?”

There was a long moment of silence before she answered, and when she did, her voice sounded hopeful, “Doctor?”

“Yeah,” he said, feeling a wave of relief. “It’s me.”

“But... what are you....” her voice rasped in and out, but she suddenly gripped his hands tightly. “The bomb went off you can’t be here, you can’t, you....”

“Shh, it’s okay, Rose, I’m okay.” He paused and then when he spoke, his voice was more urgent, “Listen, we have get out of the factory right now. And I’m sorry, Rose, I am so sorry, but we’re going to have to carry you.”

She sucked in a sharp breath and her voice trembled. “What’s wrong with me? It hurts... oh my god it hurts... Doctor...”

He dropped his forehead down close to hers and whispered, “I know, Rose, but you’re going to be okay. We’re going to get you out of here, but it’s.... it’s going to hurt. Is that okay?”

“Yes,” she whispered, but her voice sounded faint. The Doctor wasn’t certain if she’d even heard him at all.

He looked up helplessly and into the eyes of Keshi and Matt. “I’m not waiting any longer,” said Matt. “We go now.”

The Doctor nodded and then bent over Rose. But before he could lift her, there was the sound of approaching footsteps and then two torch lights flicked around the basement.

“There you are,” said a familiar female voice, “we’ve been looking all over for you. You really should check that walkie-talkie every once in a while.”

The Doctor blinked. It was Michelle and Daniel.

“What...” he began.

But Daniel waved his torch in the Doctor’s face and said, “Rose ordered us out to save us. We couldn’t very well abandon her now, could we? It’s not really the Torchwood team motto.”

The Doctor felt himself beginning to grin. “What about Pete?”

“So we’ll get a note in our file about insubordination. To be honest, in this case, I think he was quietly egging us on.” Michelle unhooked something from her back and then unfolded a long, white stretcher. “Now are we going to get Rose out of here or not?”

The Doctor’s grin widened. “I could kiss you.” He winked at Daniel. “Both of you.”

Rose whimpered in pain again, and immediately the Doctor’s grin fell away. She had her eyes screwed shut against the pain, and the Doctor gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “It’s all right, Rose,” he said softly, and beside him Michelle and Daniel set down the stretcher. He moved out of the way but kept hold of her hands as Michelle and Daniel lifted her and she cried out. “You’re all right,” he repeated. “We’ll take care of you.”

Finally, he didn’t add.

***

The sun beat down on the Doctor’s head as he, Michelle, and Daniel emerged from the collapsing building, carrying Rose on the stretcher. Keshi and Matt followed behind them.

The Doctor felt like he was walking in a daze. He held Rose’s hand and murmured softly to her even though her unfocused and confused gaze barely registered him. Torchwood agents were spread along the perimeter of the property, holding back curious onlookers and coughing into their hands and shirts. The air was still heavy with dust from the explosion and the Doctor’s eyes were beginning to water from the combination of smoke and soot.

Finally, they made it to the ambulance. Paramedics jumped out to attend to Keshi and Matt while Michelle and Daniel helped load Rose into the back of the ambulance. The Doctor’s head was beginning to pound, but he still shot Pete a baleful glare when the other man approached them.

Pete, all business, turned to the paramedic and murmured, “I want Rose to get the best care she can, is that understood?”

The paramedic nodded. “Of course, Mr Tyler.”

“I give that hospital a lot of money every year.”

The paramedic looked annoyed by the insinuation (and the Doctor, who had been on the receiving end of far too many of Pete’s orders in one night, found himself sympathizing with the man), but only said, “Understood, sir.”

The Doctor turned when Pete touched him on the arm. Pete looked so tired and worn out that the Doctor couldn’t quite find it in him to keep blaming him for what had happened to Rose.

No, Bob Charila deserved all the blame for that.

“We’ll do a full sweep of the building,” Pete said, seeming to read the question in the Doctor’s eyes before he said anything. “If Charila left behind any clues, we’ll find them.”

The Doctor inclined his head in a small gesture of gratitude. “Thank you,” said the Doctor, and he was surprised by how scratchy his voice sounded. “I want him found.”

“Believe me, Doctor, so do I.”

The Doctor nodded once and then he climbed into the back of the ambulance beside Rose, careful to avoid getting in the way of the paramedics. He took her hand as soon as he was seated, thumb sweeping over her knuckles as the sirens began to blare overhead.

***

When Rose came to, she found herself in a hospital bed.

It took a second or three of confused blinking to put the pieces together -- the various beeping noises that seemed to be coming from every direction, the unfamiliar bed, the IV tube sticking out of her arm. She barely had time to scrunch up her forehead in confusion when the Doctor’s face popped into her line of vision, a smile on his mouth but bags beneath his eyes that suggested he’d gone much too long without proper sleep.

“Hello,” he began. Something warm brushed her fingers, and it took her another few seconds to realize it was the Doctor’s hand.

Rose stared at him, her forehead still scrunched up, feeling like she was several seconds out of the loop. “Hi.” She hesitated, looking down at their hands, and then her eyes widened, staring at the big white thing wrapped around her leg. “My leg is broken,” she announced, staring at it, perplexed. “I’m in the hospital. What...”

“There was a second bomb,” the Doctor explained, his voice tight. “On one of the top floors. Half the building collapsed. You...” He swallowed, and she could see that he was trying to make light of what had horrified him. “You got caught beneath a wall.”

The memory all clicked at once--the bomb and the people and the few seconds of pure joy when she realized she wasn’t going to die, followed by the boom from above, the room being bathed in darkness and then... She couldn’t remember anything beyond that. Her eyes widened. “The people I was with. Were they--”

“They’re fine,” the Doctor said at once. “They’re safe.” He squeezed her hand gently. “You did it.”

He sounded proud, and though he smiled as he said it, Rose could read the worry in his eyes. It must have been horrible for him, standing outside and watching the building collapse. She gripped his hand a little tighter and tried for a reassuring smile. “Good,” she said. “That’s... good.”

“Yeah.” The Doctor’s smile softened, giving way to more concern. “How are you feeling?”

“Oh, you know,” she said lightly. “My best.” She paused. “How’s my hair?”

She was heartened by the spark of amusement in his eyes and he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before murmuring, “It looks lovely.”

Liar, she thought, but still felt something inside of her go all soft and warm at the compliment. She took a breath and in a softer voice said, “Are you okay?”

His eyebrows jumped slightly, but he only said, “Fine, I’m.... I’m fine.”

It was the answer she was expecting, but Rose still felt her heart sink. She could tell from looking at him that he was very much not fine. His jacket was covered in dust, his hair was almost grey from ash, and his eyes looked old and tired. Even pumped full of pain medications, she felt every limitation of her broken leg. When he got like this before, she had been there to hold him or push him into a shower or make him eat. Now, though.... now she could only watch him hopelessly from a hospital bed.

“Handled myself pretty well out there, yeah?” she said, trying for levity.

But it fell flat. The Doctor didn’t smile at her. “Yeah,” he only said, but she could read the guilt and self-blame all over his face.

Again, she wished desperately that she could get up and put her arms around him. Instead she said, “I guess we’ll be watching a lot of telly over the next few weeks, won’t we? Bet Mum will love having us around.”

That earned her the ghost of a smile. “Some downtime would be nice,” he said. He paused. “Rose, why did you.... if this was about trying prove yourself to me, there are better ways of—”

Rose cut him off with a gentle squeeze to his hand. “Maybe it was at first. But I... I couldn’t leave them, Doctor, I just couldn’t.” She swallowed. “What would you have done?”

He bowed his head. “I should have been there with you.”

He sounded so sad that Rose almost opened her mouth to agree with him. When he looked like that, she wanted to do anything to make him feel better.

“You can’t always be there, though,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just gonna be me on my own and you’ve got to trust that I can handle myself, yeah?”

“I do,” he said, now sounding frustrated. “But if I lost you.....”

He trailed off like even saying the thought aloud was too painful. Rose squeezed his hand again, a lump gathering in her throat. What could she say? She couldn’t promise him that she would always keep out of danger or wait for him to be by her side. That wasn’t how they lived their life—it wasn’t how either of them wanted to live their life.

After a moment, the Doctor changed the subject. “I owe a certain Bob Charila a conversation, hmm?”

Though his tone was light, Rose could hear the barely suppressed anger in his voice. “We’ll find him,” she said. “I don’t suppose Torchwood found anything useful in the building, did they?”

The Doctor hesitated, glancing down at her broken leg like it somehow made her stupid and fragile as well as immobile. Rose caught his eyes and frowned at him, and he hastily said, “It was a test - or, I dunno, an experiment. He wanted us in that building, Rose. He wanted to see what would happen.” He paused. “There were cameras - tiny, hidden cameras on every floor.”

“He was watching us that whole time.” Rose felt a shiver of fear. “Why would someone do that?”

The Doctor scrubbed at his face. “I don’t know,” he said, sounding completely exhausted. “I just... I don’t know. If it was because of me that you....”

“Hey!” Rose said. “We don’t know that for sure. I’ve been on this world longer than you have, remember? For all we know, it could be some sort of deranged stalker following me.”

The Doctor didn’t respond to that. “Pete’s trying to trace the video link on the cameras now, but I think our chances of finding him are low. Everything he’s done has been calculated. Untraceable.”

Rose chewed on her bottom lip, pondering this bit of information. “Do you reckon it has anything to do with what happened to Mum and Tony a few months back?”

The Doctor shrugged. “Could be.”

“I’ll talk to Dad, maybe he can run some scans....” Rose trailed off when the Doctor only stared at her with a look that was glassy and unfocused. It couldn’t be a good sign when the person with the broken leg was sounding more coherent. She grabbed his hands again and said, “Listen, Doctor, I’m going to be out of here soon and then we’ll track him down, yeah? No one messes with us and gets away with it.”

“No one hurts you and gets away with it,” he murmured, but his threatening declaration was somewhat ruined when he gave a loud yawn.

Rose tried hard to keep a straight face. “Come on,” she said, tugging on his hands and nodding to the spot next to her. She tried to scoot over on the hospital bed, discovered that it was very hard to move with a broken leg, and then decided the Doctor would just have to make due. He was pretty skinny.

The Doctor watched her with a half-smile. “Rose, do you know how small this bed is? Small enough to fit in the cupboard of our old flat, that’s how small. I’m not even sure it would hold the weight of two -”

Rose tugged on his hands again. “Come on, you’re not even making sense anymore.” She met his gaze, widening her eyes in a look he had never turned down before. “Just for a bit?”

She saw the exact moment that he gave in. Some of the tension seemed to leave his shoulders and he nodded before slowly climbing in next to her - like the slightest bounce or touch might break her. Well, Rose reckoned with a wince when the bed jostled from the extra weight, she did have a broken leg.

He finally settled down on his side, next to her good leg. Rose tried to shift over to look at him - and failed. She settled for staring at the ceiling, managing to get a little bit of his chin and stubble in her line of vision.

“Next stop is the shower for you, mister,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “Honestly, I have half a mind to call Mum on you -”

His fingers stroked her cheek and Rose cut off abruptly, stilling at his touch. A second later, he leaned in, pressing his lips to hers in a gentle kiss. She kissed him back eagerly, arms wrapping around the back of his neck.

He pulled away, panting lightly. “Did I,” he began, “tell you the part where I’m so glad that you’re going to be all right?”

“No,” Rose said, blinking back tears. She nudged him gently on the back of his neck, summoning up a smile. She was too injured for anything more and the bed was far too cramped, but the kissing was nice. Very nice. “But you could show me again?”

His face broke out into a grin. “Okay,” he said and leaned down and kissed her again.
Tags: earth, series 1
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