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Title: Out of the Howling (part 7/12ish?)
Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Ten II/Rose
Genre: Angst, drama
Summary: Six years after Bad Wolf Bay, Rose gets a message from another universe.
Excerpt: Rose said, “Hang on, you want us to come with you? To the other world?”

The Master rolled his eyes with more gusto than anyone she’d ever seen, including her ten-year-old brother. “Not you,” he said disdainfully. “Him.”


Previous parts: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5 Part 6

When the steel doors rolled open again, the Master was lounging on the bed, his arms folded behind his head. Rose knew his relaxed air had been selected specifically to annoy her, but it still set her teeth on edge.

“All right,” said the Doctor. “You help Rose, I’ll get you back to the TARDIS.”

“Mmm.” The Master smiled at the ceiling of his cell. “How generous.” All at once the mirth melted from his face, replaced by something much darker. “Do you think I’m stupid?”

The Doctor didn’t look like he understood any better than she did. “What?”

The Master sat up again, his legs folded, elbows perched on his knees. “In exchange for helping her, I let you push a button and launch me somewhere? I don’t think so. What’s to stop you shooting me into space, or sending me back into the Void?”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said the Doctor, and Rose found herself strangely disappointed that he was telling the truth.

“No,” the Master agreed, “you probably wouldn’t. But then I wouldn’t have expected you to play house and start working for Torchwood, either, so it seems you’re full of surprises.”

Rose’s patience, long-since frayed, was about to snap entirely. “Guess you’ll just have to trust us,” she sneered.

The Master looked as though he was mildly entertained by the suggestion. “No, I’ve got a better idea.” With a glint in his eye he looked toward the Doctor. “Come with me, and we’ve got a deal.”

Of all possible requests, Rose hadn’t anticipated that.

Neither, it seemed, had the Doctor; his determinedly-cool mask slipped, eyebrows rising in surprise. “I’m sorry?”

At the same time, Rose said, “Hang on, you want us to come with you? To the other world?”

The Master rolled his eyes with more gusto than anyone she’d ever seen, including her ten-year-old brother. “Not you,” he said disdainfully. “Him.”

As he turned his attention back to the Doctor, so did Rose. Unlike earlier, when his grip had been painful, now the Doctor’s hold on her hand felt loose, his fingers simply hanging in hers. Instinctively, Rose tightened her own grip.

To her relief, the Doctor said, “I’m not leaving her.” But it was far from the strong declaration she might have hoped for. His voice had the far-away quality of someone who found themselves saying words they hadn’t expected.

He’s surprised, she thought, that’s all, but her nausea had returned.

“Oh please,” said the Master, “it’d be an act of compassion to rescue you from whatever… this… is.” He waved one hand in the air as if to encompass and dismiss all of the Doctor’s new life at once. Then he sprang to his feet and approached the glass until he and the Doctor were nearly eye to eye. “I know you, Doctor, and this claustrophobic life isn’t you, never has been. That’s why you left Gallifrey, isn’t it? You could never stand to sit still in one place too long.”

The Doctor’s hand twitched in hers, but he said nothing.

“I mean, sure, every few centuries, you give it a go,” the Master went on. “Scare some school teachers, rattle around UNIT. But it never lasts. You get that itch. I know what that’s like. How long have you been here? Do you feel it yet?”

His words were low and undeniably manipulative, but there was an intimacy in them, too, that made Rose all the more uncomfortable. She’d never expected to meet someone from the Doctor’s own race, and after six years in this universe, she’d long since stopped expecting to meet anyone who knew him better than she did. But she remembered the almost fond way the Doctor had described the Master back in their kitchen, and the wistful nostalgia she’d heard when he described their childhood together. She wanted to believe the Master was wrong, that he had no idea who the Doctor really was, that someone so cruel could never have any insight into someone so kind.

She couldn’t quite convince herself.

“I know you must have thought about it,” the Master continued, tilting his head. “No regenerations. The rest of your life spent on this one planet – the same air, the same sun, day after day until you die. Doesn’t the thought of it make you sick?” He raised his eyebrows. “You can have it back again. The TARDIS. Come with me.”

The Doctor had done his best to keep his face blank while the Master spoke, and it was a commendable effort; but to someone who knew him like Rose did – or like the Master did, she thought grudgingly – the cracks were easy to see.

“I can’t leave Rose,” the Doctor said at last, and Rose exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

“So instead you’ll let her die,” sneered the Master, and under the disdain Rose thought she might even sense some hurt. “How noble.” He looked at Rose. “If it’s any consolation, I’m sure his theatrics at your deathbed will be spectacular. They certainly were for me.”

“Right,” said Rose, clutching the Doctor’s hand tighter. “That’s enough. We’re done here.”

As she reached across to the keypad to shut the doors, the Master smiled at the Doctor again. “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

---

They barely spoke the entire way home.

The Doctor spent the taxi ride staring at the back of the driver’s headrest, his hands folded together in his lap. Though his cold determination on the ride over had scared her, the hopelessness and defeat radiating off him now was much worse. She hated seeing him look so small, and the worst part was knowing that this was him keeping it together: whatever he was feeling was more intense than what he allowed to show through the surface. Rose spent the journey home with her eyes closed, trying to quell her nausea.

The silence followed them into their bedroom. As she dressed for bed, Rose found herself cataloguing regrets; suddenly the row they’d had the week before seemed unbearably stupid, and she desperately wanted to reclaim the days they’d wasted barely speaking to each other. She should have gone to the quarry with him and let Hyde Park alone. She watched the Doctor slide the tie from around his neck and thought fiercely, I should have shagged him in that chair this morning.

Finally, the quiet was too much for her.

“Look,” she said, trying to infuse her words with a confidence she didn’t feel. “I’m not giving up yet. But it’s late, and we’re both tired. So we’ll get some sleep and talk about it in the morning, yeah?”

“Mmm.” It was a noncommittal noise, and he nodded without meeting her eyes. Around her fear and worry, Rose felt a surge of anger.

He’d promised he wouldn’t run away.

She crossed around the bed to get to him, grabbing his hands before they could get to work unbuttoning his shirt. “Doctor, I need you in my corner.”

His responding smile was sad. “I am in your corner.” But he looked down at their hands and took a half-step back. “You sleep. I’m… not tired yet.”

The dark circles under his eyes said otherwise. Beyond that, she found herself embarrassingly intimidated by the prospect of sleeping alone. At any moment she might start to see something that wasn’t there.

“Doctor…”

“I’ll just be in the next room, if you need me,” he said, as though he’d read her mind. “I just…” He sighed. “I just need some time alone, okay?”

No, she thought, it’s not okay. I need you.

But that wasn’t fair. He was scared too, and she knew that for the Doctor, the thought of anyone else seeing that fear only exacerbated it. Time alone to come to terms with what had happened, removed from the pressure of wanting to be brave for her, might be just what he needed.

She nodded reluctantly. “Okay.”

The Doctor’s fingers brushed through her hair. “Get some sleep,” he whispered, and then walked into the hallway.

The bedframe squeaked as Rose sat down on the end of the mattress, nervously fiddling with the hem of the oversized t-shirt she slept in. Against her will she found herself wondering what upset the Doctor more: the possibility that he might lose her, or the possibility that the Master was right.

You’re being silly, she scolded herself. She knew the Doctor loved her. He’d be absolutely devastated if he lost her. And yet...

He’d loved travelling, too, and he’d given it up for her. Now he stood to lose both. What was left for him here if she died?

The Master, said another voice in her head, and she felt sick at the thought.

Shaking herself, she stood and moved to go brush her teeth. As she passed through the hallway, she couldn’t help but look down towards the living room. She could just make out the outline of the Doctor, crouched on the sofa with his head in his hands.

---

Rose didn’t sleep well at first, twisting and turning, sweaty and overheated. The bed felt too big; too empty. Finally, sprawled out on top of the covers, she drifted off.

It felt like minutes instead of hours when she woke up, pulled from her sleep by a violent pounding in her head. Crusty eyelids fluttered open, and through the haze of pain in her head, she saw bright sunlight pouring in from the gap in the curtains. It looked like it was going to be another hot day in London. She squeezed her eyes shut, burying her face in the pillow. Everything seemed to make the pain in her head worse – the light, the heat, the familiar noise of a zeppelin trundling by outside.

What had the Master said? That her brain was liquefying from the inside? She’d wanted to think that he was exaggerating to scare her, but at the moment the possibility felt very real, and very close.

Finally, she rolled over and forced her eyes open again. The light rushed in, nearly blinding her. Nausea rolled through her stomach, but she swallowed it down, and eventually it passed. Forcing herself to sit, she shifted her legs off the bed and, with what felt like herculean effort, pushed herself to her feet.

Mission accomplished. Her stomach was still roiling, but she was standing. The Master didn’t have her beat, not yet.

She felt something wet on her face, above her lip. She reached up to swipe her hand under her nose, and when she pulled it away, her fingers came away smeared with blood. She stared down at them for a second, mind unable to comprehend where the blood had come from. As she stared down at her fingers, a droplet of blood fell to the ground, landing on the carpet before pooling. Then another one. And another.

Rose stared down at the carpet, breath becoming ragged. Jackie had given them that carpet – a persian rug, the best that money could buy. Now it was stained with blood. Her blood.

Just a bloody nose, she thought. Everyone got them. She told herself calm down, but it was getting harder to breathe. The room was spinning, her throat was clogged, and blood was beginning to drip down her nostrils, over her lips, on her chin. She reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose, her hands shaking.

And there was something in her eye.

In a real panic now, Rose stumbled over to the vanity. She could barely see as something warm and thick pooled in the corner of her eyes. She made it to the vanity, bloodied hands clutching its edges as she looked into the mirror. She choked on a gasp as she stared at her reflection – blood everywhere. Coming from her nose, pooling in the corner of her eyes. She turned her head. It was dripping from her ears.

The room spun around her and she forced her eyes shut. Warm blood trickled down her face, down her neck. She sucked in a breath of air, chest feeling tight and pained.

She pursed her lips and took a deep breath, still bracing her weight on the edge of the vanity. Just a hallucination, she told herself. Like the cockroaches. Or thinking the Doctor had been struck by that car. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t.

She opened her mouth to call out for the Doctor, but something made her stop. She remembered the way he’d looked last night after speaking with the Master. He was already teetering on the edge; she didn’t want to push him over it. And if there was no way of stopping this thing, if these really were her last few days alive, she had to be brave. She had to face this thing on her own.

The last thought seemed to calm her and she took another deep breath before daring to open her eyes. Her image in the mirror swam back into view, but it was normal this time – there was no blood, no other visible signs that her brain was fighting a losing war.

She took a deep breath, and then another, trying to calm the pounding of her heart. It was no use though. It was like she told the Doctor – it was getting harder to tell what was real and what wasn’t, and it was terrifying.

---

Rose took a shower and swallowed a handful of Advil before going to find the Doctor. By the time she emerged from the bedroom, she felt more like herself again. Her hands were no longer shaking and the painkillers had dulled the worst of her headache.

Bright sunlight streamed in through the windows of the flat. Normally, she loved how bright and open their flat was. Although it was a far cry from being bigger on the inside, it was about as large as London could offer in her price range and equipped with modern floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounge and the bedroom. Now sunlight made her wince. It felt like a knife was stabbing against her eyes and in her head.

She found the Doctor in kitchen, sitting at the table with a mug of coffee in front of him. He didn’t seem to be drinking it though. Instead he was staring into space, lost in thought. Somehow he looked even worse than he had the night before. The circles under his eyes were darker and Rose suspected he hadn’t slept a wink. His eyes seemed swollen, like it was an effort to hold them open, and she found herself wondering if he’d been crying.

She felt a pang of sadness and something that felt like a rejection – why hadn’t he come to her? She would have been there for him. Together. That was how it was supposed to work.

Rose cleared her throat and the Doctor looked over, blinking rapidly like he was surprised to see her hovering in the doorway.

“Good morning,” she found herself saying. Her voice sounded scratchy. She cleared her throat, and opened her mouth to tell him more – like about how she hallucinated again that morning, and how worried she was about him, and maybe that he could use a good shave.

But something stopped her. He wasn’t smiling at her (and the Doctor always smiled at her). Instead he was looking at her with something akin to trepidation, and a little bit guilty, like she had caught him doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. Her stomach twisted nervously.

“Hello. Sleep well?” he jerked his head to the counter. “I made coffee.... although it may be, ah, rather lukewarm by now.”

Rose nodded, and more to give herself something to do than an actual desire for coffee, she walked over to the coffee pot and pulled out a mug for herself. She pulled out the coffee carafe and filled her mug, feeling the Doctor’s eyes on her back.

When she turned around, she found him watching her with something soft and pensive in his eyes. He quickly looked away and down at the table, clearing his throat. “Rose, we should talk.”

Rose picked up her coffee mug, her stomach coiling so tightly that she felt nauseous. We should talk. Nothing good ever came out of those words. But she forced herself to walk over to the table where she sat down across from the Doctor. She tried to keep her voice calm. “Okay. Talk about what?”

Despite her best efforts, her voice shook. She took a sip of coffee and made a face – it wasn’t just lukewarm, but practically cold – and then set the mug down again, trying to ignore the sudden beating of her heart.

The Doctor ran a hand through his hair and then sighed, a heavy rattling noise that seemed to echo through the room. “Rose, I’ve considered all the possibilities, all the options. I’ve thought about this from every angle there is and then thought about it some more.” He looked up at her. “There’s only one choice here. One thing we can do.”

Despite the almost suffocatingly hot weather, Rose suddenly felt cold. Before he could say anything else, she said, “You’re gonna go with him. Do what he wants.”

She told herself that she’d expected this. It even made sense. Why would the Doctor want to stay on this world if she was gone? What would be the point? Especially if he had a chance at getting the TARDIS back.

“It’s not a bad deal, Rose. You’ll get to live your life with your family, and the Master will be gone from this world.” He smiled thinly. “I’ll have the chance to travel again.”

“Yeah, but we’ll be separated,” Rose said, but couldn’t help but feel like her words were futile. Wouldn’t he have already considered that? Weighed the benefits of accepting or rejecting the Master’s offer? And decided whatever the price was for saving her life, it was worth it?

“Yes,” said the Doctor. He still wasn’t looking at her. “Forever this time.”

Rose found herself shaking her head. No, she remembered all too well what it had been like the first time. But this – this was six years later, and the Doctor was no longer just her friend, no longer just the man she loved. Now he was all that and more – partner, lover, confidant. Whatever pain she had felt the first time would be magnified by what he was to her now.

“We’ll find a way,” she said and her voice became more animated. “We always do, Doctor. We’ll keep the Void between worlds open and I can... I’ll find my way back to you.” She forced a smile, trying for some levity. “I always do, yeah? I’ll find you.”

“No,” he said brusquely, “too risky. One person travelling across the Void is dangerous enough as it is, but now there’s two of us. Anything more could destroy this universe. I’m sorry, Rose, but you’ll have to close the gap after we’re gone.”

As he spoke, Rose watched him carefully for some sign that he was finding this as difficult as she was, but there was no crack in his voice, no emotions on his face. “What about the other you, then?” she pressed. “If you do find the other Doctor, once you stop the Master, maybe you can can come back, yeah? He’d help you come back. You know he would.”

It was a long moment before he answered. Staring into his coffee, his answer was soft. “Maybe I don’t want to come back.”

Rose blinked at him, momentarily dumbstruck. A hollow and aching feeling pressed against her chest. “I’m sorry?”

He looked up at her, his eyes pensive and far away. “Rose, it’s the TARDIS. I never thought I’d get a chance to see her again. This world, living here without a TARDIS... it’s been so very lonely.”

But it’s me, Rose wanted to say, but the words got stuck in her throat. She clenched her fingers together in her lap and then stared down at them, tears blurring her vision. Deep down, Rose knew the Doctor was trying to save her life. But there was no mistaking the longing in his voice when he spoke about the TARDIS, the faint hint of excitement she could detect behind his words. She knew he loved her, but the Master was right. Maybe he loved the travel just a little bit more, and the chance to get back to it, even like this, was something he couldn’t pass up. Even if it meant being without her.

“So that’s it?” she found herself saying, voice thick and hoarse. She could hear the pounding of her own heart in her ears, and the short gasps of her breath. “Six years together and that’s it? You’d rather have your time travelling machine?”

She stared at the Doctor, looking for some sign of guilt, some sign that this was at least difficult for him. His expression was hard and as cold as she’d ever seen him. “Yes.” Then, with that same blank expression, he said, “I’m sorry, Rose. I am. But I never thought... I have a chance to travel the universe again.”

“Yeah, and how’s that gonna work, then?” she said sharply. “In case you’ve forgotten, the TARDIS already has a Doctor. Or are you planning to work with the Master to steal it from him?”

“Of course not,” said the Doctor, looking both surprised and offended that she would even ask him that question. Good, Rose thought. About time she saw some emotion from him. “Rose, if I have it my way, he won’t get anywhere near the TARDIS.”

“Okay, fine,” she said, “let’s say you stop the Master or – I dunno, find some way of warning the other you. What then? Is he just going to share the TARDIS with you? Are you gonna go on travelling together? Become his companion?”

The Doctor shifted uncomfortably, but only said, “Maybe. Something like that.”

Rose snorted. “You could barely stand to share the TARDIS for five minutes, never mind your lifetime.” Something else occurred to her, something she had never really thought about before. “Oh god,” she said, “all this time, I thought... I thought that back on Bad Wolf Bay, that it was your choice to stay behind with me. But it wasn’t, was it? He left you here, too. Just like he did me. He never would have let you stay.”

The pieces all fell into place at once and she felt ill. She looked up at the Doctor, part of her expecting him to deny it, reassure her that anything he was doing was just to save her life, that’s all.

He hesitated, and then said, “Rose, you know how much I...” he paused, and then tried again. “I’ve been happy, the last few years, with you. Happier than I’d been in a long time. I made the best of it.” He locked eyes with her, and there was none of the Doctor’s usual warmth in his expression, none of the gentleness she expected to see when he looked at her. “But it never changed the fact that I was stuck here.”

Rose felt like she was looking into a stranger’s eyes. Everything the Master said had been right. The Doctor could do this sort of life, even enjoy it, for months, even years, but it wasn’t really him. A part of him would always yearn to leave, to return to his ship – his home – again. Rose had thought she knew the Doctor better than anyone, but she’d been wrong. The Master knew exactly what he was doing when he dangled the TARDIS in front of the Doctor, and asked him to choose between her and his beloved ship. The Master knew exactly what the Doctor would choose.

“If that’s how you really felt... you could have talked to me,” Rose whispered.

With that same dispassionate air, he said, “There was nothing you could have done. The way a Time Lord feels about his or her TARDIS... Rose, you don’t even have a point of reference for something like that.”

“And the Master does?” Rose said bitterly.

The Doctor shrugged. “He’s a Time Lord.”

“He’s a sociopath. You....” she swallowed thickly, “you’re... well, you.” She couldn’t stop the softness from creeping into her voice or the way she glanced over at the Doctor, again hoping for some sign, some hint that he was feeling half as cut up about all of this as she was. A part of her felt weak for just how obvious she was being, but another part of, a smaller part, was beginning to get angry. How could he sit there so calmly and talk about being separated forever and act like he didn’t care?

“I’m me.” He smiled humourlessly. “All of this? Doors, and carpets, and living in a flat? Rose, that’s not me.” He paused. “I made the best of it, I really did, and I’m not saying that I regret any of it, but....”

“You’d rather be out there,” Rose finished, numbly. “Travelling. Even if it means being without me.”

Her voice cracked over the last word. The Doctor winced, but the expression disappeared as quickly as it came. “It’s not something I planned,” he said. “Honestly, I never thought I’d have this chance again. And it’s not so bad, is it? If it means I can save your life?”

Some of the cold detachment left his voice, and he sounded sincere, almost pleading like he was hoping she would understand. Rose found herself marvelling at how effectively he knew just how to cut her the deepest, how he knew to pick all the right things to make her believe him. She knew the Doctor could be a world class actor when he wanted to be, and a part of her couldn’t help but cling to the hope that he was only saying these things as part of some other plan, some plan he’d hatched to protect her. Even so, everything he said sounded all too plausible to Rose’s ears. She buried her face in her hands and squeezed her eyes shut, breathing in deeply and willing herself to calm down.

“Rose? Are you alright?”

It was amazing, she thought, how softly he could say her name, and how little concern he could put in his words. “Tell me I’m hallucinating again,” she said. “Tell me that none of this is real.”

She pulled her hands away from her face and opened her eyes. She caught a flash of... something on the Doctor’s face, but then it was gone. “You’re not hallucinating.” He stood up, somewhat abruptly, and ran a hand through his hair. “Listen, I’m headed back to Torchwood. I think it’s best if we get this sorted as soon as possible. We don’t know how much time you’ve got left.”

As soon as possible. Rose nodded, numbly, suddenly unable to speak. She couldn’t believe this was happening.

He surveyed her up and down, somewhat curtly, as if his mind was already somewhere else, already focused on his ship in another universe. “You shouldn’t be alone. Why don’t you have Jackie come over?”

“Fine,” Rose managed, suddenly eager for him to go. She didn’t want to look at him any longer. Didn’t even want to be in the same room as him.

“Alright—" he hesitated, and then took a step towards her, before pulling back again. “I’ll see you later.”

His footsteps echoed their way down the hall. Rose waited until she heard the door to their flat open and shut before the first of her tears began to fall.

Chapter 8

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
honorh
Sep. 20th, 2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
Asshole.
honorh
Sep. 21st, 2014 04:01 am (UTC)
Okay, now that I've got my initial reaction out of the way, I can think of perhaps two explanations that would make the Doctor not an asshole (or at least not as much of one) in this situation, so I'll reserve judgment for now. And you know Rose is going to be blaming herself for bringing the Master over in the first place. Who, by the way, is acting like someone trying to break up his ex's new relationship, the bastard.
goldy_dollar
Sep. 25th, 2014 12:02 pm (UTC)
Hey you, thanks for commenting here and at teaspoon!

The Master is totally all about breaking up his ex's new relationship lmao. Kali and I spent a long time hashing out all of his motivations, and I can't even remember all the ones we threw out there now, but you are on to something. We also discussed that in the Master's own way, he really thinks he's doing the Doctor a favour because how could any TRUE Time Lord stand to live like a human? The Master considers himself a humanitarian worker, basically.
magali29
Sep. 21st, 2014 07:02 am (UTC)
Oh damn! This better be a plan the Doctor has, to get the Master back to the other universer, deal with him thanks to the other Doctor and then get back! He can't do that to Rose! That can't be true. Nope, can't be.
goldy_dollar
Sep. 25th, 2014 12:03 pm (UTC)
Hehee, thanks for commenting. I say nothing, but the next chapter should be up soon. :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )