The Doctor didn't look at Rose even once as he stalked up to the TARDIS console and slammed a lever. The TARDIS shook and shuddered as it slipped into the Vortex, and the Doctor spun another dial to slow its motion and hold it into its place of flux. As soon as the TARDIS was stable, spinning slowly in place in the Vortex, the Doctor turned and walked from the console room without saying a word to Rose. She stared after him as he disappeared down the hallway wondering what in the world she should do now?
Rose had never seen the Doctor like this before. Silent, stiff, uncomfortable, and unwilling to even look her in the eye. It scared her to pieces. She had no idea how to handle the Doctor when he was this angry with her. So she sat on the jumpseat and wondered how long it would be before he dumped her back in London. It had been years since she had worried that the Doctor would willingly abandon her. Especially after Canary Wharf, with her mum and Mickey gone forever, he had expressed an understanding that they were all each other had in the world. But now she sat and waited for his final ultimatum.
Hours passed and there was still no sign of the Doctor. Rose couldn't handle sitting still anymore. The waiting was killing her. She went to her room and slowly started to pack her things. She had no idea what she would do with her life now. She had no money, but she would need to find a place to live. She could go back to the shop, of course, but after years of shopkeeping during the war, Rose dreaded the idea of doing it again in her proper time.
Her bag was nearly full when she remembered that the Doctor had packed her things from her flat with John. She hadn't seen that suitcase since they had returned to the TARDIS and she wondered where the Doctor had put it. It wasn't in her room, so Rose hitched her backpack over her shoulder and took off through the TARDIS corridors. She wondered where the suitcase might be, and desperately hoped that she wouldn't stumble across the Doctor during her search.
Of course, she couldn't possibly be that lucky. She found them together, in the wardrobe room of all places. The Doctor was sitting on the floor, his back up against a pillar, the suitcase open beside him, its contents strewn around him. He was holding a piece of paper in his hands, staring at it with a sad look on his face, and Rose wondered what it is that was upsetting him so much.
She slipped the backpack from her shoulders, and set it down by the door. The rustling noise caught the Doctor's attention, and he looked up at her. His eyes widened in horror and embarrassment at first, but then they flickered to her backpack and his brow furrowed in confusion.
"Are you going somewhere?" he asked, while his eyes flickered back and forth from the bag, to the paper in his hands, to her face. He was unsettled, and once again Rose wondered what was going on with him.
"I was just preparing myself," she explained. "I assumed that with what happened back there, you'd want me to leave."
"Why would I want you to leave?" the Doctor asked, clearly baffled at the mere thought of it.
"I just...you seemed so angry with me. I figured after that you wouldn't want me around anymore."
The Doctor chuckled. "It's hardly the first time that a companion has kissed me to save her own life, Rose. Or to save mine, for that matter. Forget it ever happened."
Rose's heart froze at the Doctor's words, and suddenly she found herself growing increasingly angry at his dismissiveness, and his avoidance, and his refusal to ever talk about anything important. It had been weeks and they still hadn't had a proper conversation about their time apart. The Doctor was just doing what he did best. He was just running from the situation, and refusing to face it. And from his current position, sitting alone in a room surrounded by pieces of Rose's life without him, it was clear that she couldn't let him get away with it for another moment.
"No," she told him firmly. "It did happen, Doctor. I kissed you to save my life. And I couldn't help noticing that you kissed me back. Do you do that with all of your companions too? And now you're in here, brooding over my things...what's going on with you, Doctor? And what are you looking at?"
She stormed over to him and snatched the paper out of his hands. When she saw what it is, she gasped out loud. It was a single sheet of paper, with a beautiful pencil drawing etched into its surface. A drawing of Rose. Somehow, even in black and white, her face was glowing, as she lay wrapped in the sheets of her wedding bed.
"John drew this for me," she whispered aloud. "On our wedding night."
"I know," the Doctor replied. "I remember."
"But why this?" Rose wondered.
"You just looked so beautiful," the Doctor replied. "And that's the thing, Rose. You kissed me. Do you have any idea what that was like for me? You kissed me this time. Not John Smith. It wasn’t in a memory. It was just...me. I can remember you kissing him hundreds of times. I can remember him making love to you, seeing you on your wedding night. But it's all his. None of it is mine. And then today you kissed me. And it was a wonderful thing, Rose. And a horrible thing. Because now I want more. And I can't have what I want, because you're not mine anymore. You're his."
Rose gaped at him, as for the first time she began to realize what the Doctor was actually feeling. He wasn't angry at her like she had suspected at all, he was jealous.
"He's gone," Rose stammered, as she tried to comprehend what exquisite torture it must have been for the Doctor since he came back, remembering all of these things that he desperately wanted, but believing that they were out of this reach.
She had to convince him otherwise. She had to make him see that what happened with his counterpart was over.
The Doctor let out a bitter laugh at her short words. "That's right, he's gone," the Doctor agreed acidly. "He's gone because I'm here. You had a chance at a happy life with a man that you loved, and then I killed him and took his place. And now you're stuck looking at his face every single day and remembering what you had with him. It’s no wonder you want to leave me. I'll take you home right now, if that's what you want."
The Doctor pushed himself to his feet, and tried to walk past her to the exit, but Rose grabbed his arm and stopped him in his path. "I don't want to leave you," Rose insisted to him. "I want to stay. I just thought that you wouldn't want me here anymore. You've been so distant, I thought you hated me for what I did to you while you were gone."
"What you did to me?" the Doctor repeated in confusion. "What did you do to me?"
"I took advantage of you when you weren't yourself. I used you, Doctor. What I did to you...that could be considered rape in a lot of cultures. And I wouldn't have done it if I had ever thought that you would actually come back, but I was certain that you were gone forever, and I was so lonely, Doctor. I just didn't want to be alone anymore."
"Oh Rose...don't you know? If anyone understands loneliness, it's me. I don't blame you for wanting to be with him. I'm just sorry that I took him away from you."
"But I have you back. Don't you know how much that means to me? I missed you so much when you were gone."
"And now you miss him." The Doctor's eyes dropped and Rose followed their gaze down to the ring still adorning her left hand. She froze at the suggestion that he was raising, and then grew irrationally angry.
"But don't you understand?" Rose argued back. "The only reason he was in my life at all was because he was you! John Smith would have never come to mean anything to me, if he hadn't been a part of you. Yes, I loved him. And yes, I miss him, but he was only there in my life because he was a part of you. If I could only have one of you, I would pick you over John Smith any day, Doctor."
The Doctor simply stared at her with confusion in his eyes for a long moment. Understanding broke into his expression, as if the truth was finally beginning to dawn on him, and his gaze softened. He studied her face carefully. "Do you mean that, Rose?"
"Yes." Rose replied firmly.
The Doctor's eyes heated, as he took a step closer to her and gently took her face in his hands. "Then would you mind terribly if I kissed you? Your lips are driving me mad."
His kiss was soft and hesitant, as if he couldn't quite believe that he was doing this. Or perhaps, Rose wondered, maybe he thought that he shouldn't be doing this. She kissed him back, eagerly, trying to instill a sense of comfort in him through her own feelings and responses. It seemed to work. The Doctor relaxed and deepened the kiss, and Rose opened herself to him and welcomed his advances. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she pressed her body closer to him, happily losing herself in the moment.
Later, they carefully repacked the suitcase that held the remnants of Rose's past marriage. They left the suitcase there, in the wardrobe room, a record of the past to join the archives of clothes from the Doctor’s adventures. The Doctor hoisted Rose’s duffel bag over one shoulder, and then, hand in hand, they walked to her bedroom. Together they unpacked her belongings. And for the first time since the Doctor had returned weeks earlier, Rose finally felt comfortable settling back into her life with him in the TARDIS.
Being deployed to France in the morning. Will write when I can.
Those were the last words that Rose had heard from John, and they had come nearly a month earlier. Communication from him had been scarce since he enlisted in the army, and Rose found that as much as she hated it, she was getting used to the silence. While he was in training, she had received the occasional telegram. They were brief, informational, with very little feeling in them - the result of a man who was used to keeping his deepest emotions private from the outside world. He was usually only an open book to her, his wife, the one person who knew him the best - even better than he knew himself, really.
So after a month of silence, Rose was shocked, and relieved, to receive her first proper letter from him. His handwriting addressed the envelope, and it was sealed, locked away from the world for her eyes only. Rose was desperate for a proper report from him, without the filter of the outside world shielding him from her.
Rose wasn't exactly sure how she managed to keep the letter sealed until she reached the TARDIS. When the postman had brought the letter by the shop, she’d taken one look at John's handwriting, and immediately locked the store for the day to go to the train station.
Rose didn't know why she felt it was so important to wait and read the letter in the TARDIS. Perhaps it was because somehow she just knew that the TARDIS was worried about him too. Or maybe because she knew that if she couldn't handle whatever news was contained within, she at least wanted to fall apart in a comforting place. She questioned her reasoning for the entire duration of the train ride while toying with the corner of the envelope.
After the train dropped her at the Farringham Station, Rose swiftly walked the mile to the TARDIS, and impatiently pushed herself into the shed, and through the TARDIS doors.
"The first letter from him has arrived," she called to the TARDIS as she hurried up the ramp to the main platform. "I waited until I was here to read it for you. You probably know what's going to happen, but I thought you might like to hear what he has to say."
She ripped open the letter, and began to read out loud to the TARDIS.
My Dearest Rose,
I've been on the Western Front for nearly three weeks now, and already I desperately miss England. The life of a soldier is a harsh one, with few comforts and amenities. I long for the comforts of our life together, and have been far too long without your embrace.
I don't know what it is about living in the camp. Perhaps it is the horribly biting cold air at night, or perhaps it is the uncomfortable cot, but I have barely been able to sleep since my arrival here. The few hours that I've rested here and there, my dreams have been much darker than usual. They're filled with a war, the likes of which I have never seen before. The enemies are cold, metallic, and heartless. They utterly destroy, and in my dreams I am chasing them, trying to save time itself. In my dreams, whole planets burn and I can hear people screaming, but when I wake, the screaming is still there.
I don't mean to frighten you. I long for your comfort and your ear to discuss these dark events. No one guides me back to the light quite like you, my sweet Rose. I desperately long to return to you, but I suspect I will be here for some time still. The Germans continue to advance, and Englishmen are dying all around me. Yet somehow, I survive. I like to believe that it is your love, protecting me even from across the sea.
I await the day when I might see you again, my love.
Until then, I will always be yours,
Rose's heart hurt as she read and reread the letter again and again. He sounded sad, scared, and lonely, all feelings she wished desperately to be able to protect him from. And he was dreaming of the Time War, one event the Doctor always hesitated to speak of. Even she didn’t know the depths of the horrors that he had experienced while fighting the Daleks. Her heart suddenly started boiling with anger, and she silently cursed this world that they had been trapped in. Any other place, any other time, and they could be safe together. But the TARDIS chose here. A world trapped in a dangerous war that forced a separation on them both that left each of them disconnected from the other.
She felt helpless. He was reaching out, begging her for comfort, and she could give him very little. Abandoning her own typical comforts in the TARDIS, Rose quickly left, heading back for London. There was one thing she could do for John. She could hurry home, write him a return letter, and hope that her words would bring him some peace of mind. She could go back to her standard routine, and even though she felt like a ghost, haunting the streets of London, she would continue to do so.
Rose would wait as long as she had to. Until the day when her husband would return to her.