Admittedly, she was still somewhat shaken from everything that had happened on that hell planet.
It was such a close call - nearly losing the TARDIS, almost positive that she would never see the
Doctor again - that for the first time in near about six months, Rose Tyler had to ask again:
"Can we go pick up Jack now, Doctor?"
She noticed that the Doctor tensed at the console but he did not answer her, instead focusing on the TARDIS' screens (and damn it all that she still had no clue what those symbols meant). Rose glanced briefly at her mobile - it was still set on London time and proclaimed the hour to be 11:15 at night - to see how long it took him to reply. When the five minute mark passed in silence she spoke once more.
"It's been a while, yeah? The earth of 200,100 should be set to rights by now. Jack's probably started thinking that we forgot all about him and--"
It wasn't the fact that he'd interrupted that stopped her flow of words, but the way he'd said her name - quietly, with the slightest break before he'd finished speaking. It sent a chill down her spine; and when she looked at him again, she saw heart wrenching pain in his eyes.
"We can't. I'm sorry," the Doctor said, as if four little words were explanation enough.
Rose was many things, but stupid was not one of them. She had a sinking feeling why they couldn't go back, couldn't bring Jack home, but she needed to hear it. If she didn't then she would always hold onto the hope that--
"Why?" she demanded, her own tone soft, coaxing. "Doctor, why can't we go back for him?"
Don't you care about him? I thought you felt the same towards Jack as you do about me, she thought, nearly said, managed to bite back.
The Doctor looked away, expression closing off completely. The total lack of any emotion on his face almost made her take back her question. Before she could tell him to forget it, or possibly repeat the question again, or do anything other than take a breath, he finally spoke up.
"I'm so sorry, Rose. I shouldn't have kept the truth from you." He finally looked her way again; although his face and voice remained expressionless, his eyes were once again filled with pain. "After I sent you home from the Games Station, everything accelerated. The Daleks... basically plowed through everything and everyone in their path. Jack had his comm link open, keeping me posted on how much longer until the Daleks reached Floor 500."
He stopped speaking again, and for a fraction of a second she could see sorrow etched on his usually boyish face. In that instant she could honestly believe with every fiber of her being that the Doctor was well over nine hundred years old.
"The Daleks chased him right to the control room doors," the Doctor continued, voice flat and devoid of emotion. "Jack kept shooting until the last round. They killed him, Rose. Exterminated him no more than a hundred meters from where I stood. The last words I heard him say were, I kinda figured that."
Silence now, save for the TARDIS' humming. Rose found herself torn between anger that he had kept this from her, had outright lied to her for do long... and sorrow for how long her had to have been mourning in silence. She took a deep breath to study herself before closing the gap between then and slapping the Doctor soundly.
He was obviously startled by the action if his gob smacked expression was any indication. "You just hit me," he said after a moment, his tone indignant.
"And I should give you another smack for not telling me sooner," Rose retorted before wrapping her arms around his waist, resting her head against his shoulder. "For an intelligent bloke, you can be right stupid sometimes."
For a brief second he tensed, almost as if he expected her to hit him again, before relaxing and leaning into her. His arms wrapped themselves around her, one and her shoulders, and rested his head against hers. Rose could almost swear that she heard him let out a muffled sob, but she would never call him on it. After all, the Doctor have born the burden of the horrible truth alone for so long; she could look the other way for a few moments more.
And if her own tears fell, it was okay. Neither of them had to bear it alone.
27 April 2007