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Title: Out of the Howling (part 8/12ish?)
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: The Doctor’s mouth twitched, and for a split second Rose thought he looked hurt. There was a shameful triumph in knowing she could still hurt him; a petty part of her wanted to lash out, to break his heart as effectively as he’d broken hers.

Previous parts: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7

The Doctor sagged against the door after he shut it, head bowed and heart hammering. Throat burning, he scrubbed a hand over his face and took a deep shuddering breath.

Rose had believed him more easily than he’d anticipated. He knew exactly where to twist the knife – mixed lies with half-truths and cut her where he knew she was most vulnerable.

And it had been effective. Inside the flat, he could hear her beginning to cry in short, punctuated gasps, like she was trying to hold her tears back but not able to stop herself. Her cries haunted him, and he reached for the handle, yearning to go back inside and assure her that none of it was true, that he loved her more than anything in the world.

But that was the crux of it, wasn’t it?

He was going to lose her either way; those were the Master’s terms. Letting her die because he couldn’t bear to leave her would be unspeakably selfish. He wouldn’t do that to Rose or her family, couldn’t live with himself if he did. Knowing he’d helped save her life would have to be enough.

Perhaps it was even better this way. Rose would move on, in time. Humans always did. If this was the price he had to pay to buy her that time, so be it. Hating him might even make it easier for her to let go.

Sucking in a rattling breath, he pushed himself up and trailed one hand reverently down the wood of the door. Whatever his initial fears and misgivings, the little flat had grown in his estimation over the years. It had seen so many things: his first night alone with Rose in this world, the first time they’d had sex, their first big row and reconciliation, countless mornings and afternoons and evenings spent enjoying each other’s company. Standing in the hallway now for what would be the last time, he realized that on some level he’d expected to spend the rest of his life in this flat, with Rose. It was home.

His vision started to blur and he shook himself, snatching his hand back from the door as though he’d been burned. There was no sense longing for a sentimental goodbye. He’d never been good at those anyway.

He had work to do.

The staircase at the end of the hallway in their building was rarely used, overlooked these days in favour of the lift. He shouldered the door open and leaned back against the railing. Swiping impatiently at his eyes, he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialled.

“Doctor?” came the voice of Pete Tyler from the other line. “What—"

“I need access to a lab and whatever’s left of the Dimension Cannon,” barked the Doctor.

He heard Pete sigh. “Are you asking permission or telling me?”

“Telling. I’ve made a deal with the Master—"

“You’ve what?”

“—he helps Rose—"

“What’s wrong with Rose?”

“—I get him back to the other universe.”

He could easily imagine Pete’s skeptical expression. “Is that safe?”

The Doctor shrugged and flicked a piece of peeling paint off the railing, watching it fall several storeys below.

“It’s safer than keeping him here. Unless you’re happy having him in the same universe as Jackie, Rose, Tony?”

Pete contemplated that for a long moment, then sighed again.

The Doctor took Pete’s silence as tacit support. “Anyway, it’ll be over soon. You could still make that Florida trip next week.” The Doctor’s throat burned as he tried to swallow down the lump that was forming in it. “Take Rose with you, I think she’d like that.”

He ended the call before Pete could reply.

---

The Master didn’t bother looking up as the steel doors slid open. He sat on the bed with his elbows resting on his knees, body hunched over. The Doctor could tell he was losing some of the calm mirth he had displayed yesterday, and wondered if he was still feeling the aftereffects of his time in the Void.

Or perhaps he was beginning to feel the strain of being trapped in a holding cell with no one to talk to. The Master never liked being without an audience; the Doctor may have been able to wait him out, in the end – wait until he went half-mad again with nothing but the steel door and the drumming in his head to keep him company.

But Rose’s life was not something the Doctor was willing to gamble with.

The Doctor’s own reflection in the glass was unimposing. The shirt from the previous day was rumpled, its collar crooked. With no tie or jacket, the whole outfit gave the impression of being half-completed. Dark circles made his eyes appear sunken, and the stubble on his face did little to distract from how hollow his cheeks looked. Taken all together, it was a far cry from the impressive figure the Doctor liked to imagine himself capable of.

He couldn’t find it in himself to care.

The Master spoke without looking up. “Come to give in then, Doctor?”

“Yes, you’re excellent at blackmail, congratulations.” He slid his hands into his pockets and stepped towards the glass. “So have we got a deal?”

The Master lifted his head, ignoring the question as he looked the Doctor up and down.

“Look at you,” he murmured. “You look terrible.”

“Could say the same to you,” said the Doctor.

The Master’s lip curled in disgust. “The drumming. You’ve seen it, Doctor. You’ve seen what it does to your precious human companion.”

The Master pushed himself to his feet, his face was gaunt, his movements unsteady. The Doctor found himself wondering when the last time it was that he had anything to eat, and doubted that Torchwood had given him anything. He was relatively weak then, half-starved, still crazed from his time in the Void.

Truthfully, the Doctor didn’t know if that made the Master more or less dangerous.

The Master stood on the other side of the glass, his eyes piercing into the Doctor’s. “That’s how I feel all the time,” his voice was soft. “It never ends, Doctor. It never stops.”

“And I’m sorry for that,” said the Doctor. “But it doesn’t have to be like this. I would help, Master. I would. All you’d have to do is ask.”

The Master’s eyes narrowed. “Help? You?” he sneered. “You can’t even help your human. There’s nothing you could do for me.”

The Doctor clenched his teeth. Deep down, he suspected the Master was right. Maybe if he had a TARDIS... but that was the problem, wasn’t it?

“I would try,” he finally said, putting as much sincerity into the words as he could muster.

“You would, wouldn’t you,” the Master said. He took a step back, looking the Doctor up and down as if he was seeing him for the first time. “You are different. I should have seen it before,” he murmured. “You and I, Doctor, we’re alike.”

The absurdity of it – the sheer nerve of it, in light of everything – got the Doctor laughing.

“You and I are nothing alike.”

“We’re both cast-offs,” said the Master. “Both left behind, <>exiles. Not quite the right kind of Time Lord, not Time Lord enough.” The Master moved closer to the glass and pressed his palms up against it. His eyes held the Doctor in place. “Just how far would you go for her, your little human? You’re already putting two universes at risk. You’ll sign away another man’s TARDIS. All to rescue one human girl. Tell me again, Doctor,” he murmured, “tell me how different we are. Tell me you’re not dangerous.”

The Doctor met his stare. “You’re right,” he said. “There is not much I wouldn’t do for Rose.” He took a step closer to the glass until his nose was nearly pressed up against it. “So this is how it will work. You will help Rose and I will get both of us back to the TARDIS. We don’t go anywhere until I am satisfied Rose is safe. If anything happens to Rose before then, this deal is off and you will spend a very long time in this cell, alone. You and I both know I could make the rest of your life extremely unpleasant.”

The Master dropped his voice to match the Doctor’s tone. “Do people actually believe it when you threaten them?”

“The smart ones do.”

The two men stared at each other for a long moment. The Master broke their stare first and took a step back, palms up.

“You should be thanking me, really. Think of this as an intervention. I’m rescuing you from what you’ve become.”

A bitter laugh bubbled up from the Doctor’s chest. “What, happy?”

The Master’s mouth twisted into something between a grimace and a smile. “You know what I think?”

The Doctor looked to the ceiling in exasperation. “I don’t care what you think.”

“Well, that’s a lie,” said the Master casually. And then: “I think you’ve been playing at this whole human thing for so long that you’ve almost convinced yourself it’s what you want. But it’s not. Ten minutes on the TARDIS, and you’ll be thanking me.” The Master paused. “If you’re very lucky, I might even keep you. As my human companion.”

The Doctor snorted. “Now that’s a truly horrifying thought.”

“Is it?” said the Master, eyes glinting. “You used to travel the universe, Doctor. Face it, I’m the most exciting thing that’s happened to your sad life since you were left to rot on this planet. "

For the first time since the Master’s appearance back in his life, the Doctor felt his despair and desperation melt away, replaced with a simmering rage. The Master was right about one thing: he was different than he used to be. He was no longer the last the the Time Lords, burdened by a responsibility to the rest of the universe. The Time War had faded to a gentle longing in the back of his mind rather than a gaping wound. His entire world had narrowed to something much more mundane: Rose, the Tylers, a daft human life, saving the planet so he could be home in time for tea.

And he had been so happy. The Master had taken that from him. The Master had taken everything.

Now all that was left was the hope that Rose would find happiness again, that she would go on to live a full life.

“Help Rose,” he said. “You hold up your end of the bargain, and I’ll hold up mine.”

The Master gave a little salute. "Save the girl, got it." He smirked. "You'll want to hurry though, Doctor. I'm not sure how much time she has left."

---

Rose Tyler’s head felt like it wanted to split in two.

She didn’t have to have a Time Lord brain to know that she was getting worse; might even be rounding the bend towards the end. She clenched her jaw, determined to hold back the pain from consuming her for as long as possible.

Of course, all the crying probably wasn’t doing much to help the pain in her head. Her cheeks were streaked with dried tears and her nose was so stuffed, she was breathing through her mouth.

At least I am still breathing, she thought bitterly. For now, anyway.

It wasn’t much consolation for the fact that the love of her life had announced that the last six years had been nice, thank you very much, but he’d really prefer to get back to travelling in his time machine. Then turned his back and left her. Again.

She picked up her mobile and drew up her mother’s name in her contacts before she set the phone down again. Her mum would rush over in a second, Rose knew, but she would also demand answers that Rose didn’t want to give. There would be plenty of time for her mother’s questions later, after the Master fixed her, and the Doctor was gone.

In the very least, she could stand up from the kitchen table. Get dressed. Take more Advil. Anything besides... sitting here, in the kitchen, the place where the Doctor had just broken her heart.

Rose buried her face in her hands, shoulders shaking with silent sobs. She hadn’t cried like this in years – not since a windy day on a breach in Norway when the Doctor’s image faded before he could tell her he loved her. Even then, she’d been so sure she knew how that sentence was going to end. Knew it enough that she spent years of her life working to find a way back to him even when it seemed like the Dimension Cannon would never work.

Back then, Rose had thought she knew what heartbreak felt like. But this... this was so much worse. How long had he felt that way? Trapped in a human life, forced to be with her because he had no other choice? Making the best of it, the Doctor had said.

Had the other Doctor known, back when he left them? A long time ago, Rose had learned to be grateful for what the other Doctor gave them – their one chance, a perfect, human, mad life together.

But now she wondered. Maybe it had never been about giving her anything; maybe he just never wanted to be with her. Maybe he saw an opportunity to pawn her off on someone else and took it.

Rose scrubbed a hand over her face, breathing in a shuddery gasp of air. A part of her knew she was being overly dramatic, but it was so hard to think. She knew how the Doctor felt about her – or she’d thought she knew. It was getting harder to focus. Their last conversation together played over and over again in her mind. She saw the Doctor’s face as he told her they would be separated again, felt the coldness in his voice when he told her he didn’t want to come back.

And how could she compete, really? What was a tiny London flat compared to all of time and space?

There was only one thing she could do. She was tired of crying over him, and she was really tired of the Doctor leaving her behind. She didn’t want to be that girl anymore. She wouldn’t sit back and wait for him to rescue her before he disappeared from her life forever.

If this is what he truly wanted, she wouldn’t stand in the way. She would even help him. It was her own life on the line, after all.

---

Outside the doorway to the lab Rose closed her eyes and took a deep breath. You can do this, she told herself, trying not to cringe at how she sounded like a cheesy talk show host. Steeling herself, she entered the room.

The Doctor was hunched over a table, tapping away at a computer, initially oblivious to her entrance. Rose’s fingernails dug into her palm; she hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to see him again. But she cleared her throat, and the Doctor jumped and spun around, startled by her presence.

“Rose!” For all his composure earlier, his surprise now was undeniable. “I… wasn’t expecting you here.”

She kept her expression as cold as possible while she shrugged. “Gotta be here eventually, don’t I, so you can fix me? Or are you so eager to get back to the TARDIS you forgot about that part?”

The Doctor’s mouth twitched, and for a split second Rose thought he looked hurt. There was a shameful triumph in knowing she could still hurt him; a petty part of her wanted to lash out, to break his heart as effectively as he’d broken hers.

But the look on his face was gone as quick as it’d come, and Rose wondered if she’d imagined it after all.

“I can do this on my own. I don’t need you here yet.”

“Tough.” She strode in the room, hoping the way she avoided his eyes read more like disdain and less like intimidation. “I’ve spent more time with the Dimension Cannon than anyone.”

From the corner of her eyes she saw him stand straighter. “Yes, but you’re…”

“What?” She folded her arms. “Stupid? Human?”

“Sick,” he finished, although his tone implied either of her suggestions would be equally appropriate.

“Yeah, well, I’m not dead yet.” Genuine anger was overtaking her sadness now, and Rose was more than happy to let it. “I’m not just a stepping stone on your path back to the TARDIS. If this is supposed to be about saving my life, I want to be involved.”

He was quiet for so long that she was ready to start arguing again when he nodded. “Fine.” He pointed with his chin to a table in the far corner, where the burnt-out remnant of the old Cannon sat next to a host of new wires and circuit boards. “I need you to connect the new motherboard to the old mainframe. You’ll have to replace any parts that have burnt out.”

His voice was businesslike and to-the-point, which in itself was nothing new. She’d heard that voice many times over the years, in moments of pressure or crisis, when delegating work efficiently took priority. She half expected him to toss her the sonic screwdriver – but of course he didn’t have one of those anymore.

They worked in silence for what must have been hours, Rose in her corner of the room, the Doctor in his. Occasionally the Doctor crossed the room to set a new part he’d made on the corner of her table, and Rose wired it in without looking at him. Though she was no technical genius herself, the intricacies of the Cannon had been explained to her time and again by the various scientists and technicians who had built it for her, and Rose knew the machine intimately. For brief moments Rose would forget herself, and suddenly it was as if she was working on the Cannon the first time, trying to cobble it together, desperate to return to the blue box she called home and the man she loved.

Other times it was like nothing was wrong – just her and the Doctor, working towards a common goal.

Both illusions left her feeling more bitter than before once they faded, and Rose wondered if it was a side-effect of whatever the Master had done to her brain. The ache in her head was dulled by medicine but constant, hanging heavy behind her eyes, pressing on her skull from the inside. Whatever else this deal might cost her, she would at least be glad to be rid of that.

Sometimes, Rose thought she could feel the Doctor watching her. It was a prickly sensation on the back of her neck that distracted her from what she was doing. She could tell he didn’t want her here, and it only fuelled her desire to stay. She wondered if he was uncomfortable because her presence made him feel guilty.

Good, she thought, ripping a frayed wire out of the Cannon.

Finally, when her fingers were burnt and her back was sore, the Dimension Cannon was starting to resemble itself again. She picked up the new chronostabilizer and pushed out her chair, rolling her shoulders as she stood. She’d forgotten how stiff this sort of work could make her. She stepped back from the desk to stretch, and—

The pain her head seemed to burst through an imaginary wall; the room spun, her vision blurred, and her knees buckled. The chronostabilizer fell with a clatter, and Rose slammed down on her side, bashing her elbow against the chair on her way down. As though it were a million miles away, she heard someone call her name.

Almost as quick as it had come, the pain in her head receded to a tolerable throb, while hot pains shot up her arm from her elbow. As the room refocused she saw the Doctor bending over her, looking alarmed.

“Are you okay?” The words were oddly strangled.

“I’m fine,” she bit out, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He held out his hand to pull her up and she batted it away, grabbing the chair instead.

“Rose, you...”

“I’m fine,” she repeated, sharper this time. The concern in the Doctor’s voice stung worse than her arm. The thought of him pitying her made her sick.

“...you almost broke it,” he finished, gesturing to the chronostabilizer on the floor. He picked it up gingerly, inspecting it for any damage.

The absurdity of everything in the past two days hit her at once, and Rose found herself laughing – a jarring, delirious sound even to her own ears. Even the Doctor looked at her quizzically.

“You know, it’s funny,” she said, a bitter smile on her lips. “Two days ago, I thought I knew you better than anyone in the world. Now I feel like I might never have known you at all.”

For a long moment, the Doctor regarded her in silence, his expression inscrutable. But when he spoke, she thought she heard a hint of regret.

“Maybe you didn’t.” He packed the stabilizer under his arm and stood up straight, looking away. “This is almost done. Just take a seat, I can finish on my own.”

Chapter Nine

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
bittybye2000
Sep. 25th, 2014 05:41 pm (UTC)
Thank goodness. I was hoping the Doctor wasn't a total all but I wasn't sure.
goldy_dollar
Oct. 3rd, 2014 02:31 am (UTC)
Poor Cloen, indeed. Thanks for reading!
magali29
Sep. 26th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
Even if it's to save her life, I fear that in the end, once it's done, there will be a huge trauma for Rose and all their relationship, their trust, will have to be rebuilt. It could take a very long time.
goldy_dollar
Oct. 3rd, 2014 02:31 am (UTC)
Yes, it's definitely not going to be easy for them... just how we like to write them! :) Thanks for reading.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )