He’s startled out of his thoughts, brooding and dark (so dark, all the time, and he could handle it as a Time Lord but he’s not sure this human brain can take it) by Jackie’s voice, harsh and grating. “So, Doctor, what are you doing now?”
The first thing he’s learned is that he needs to listen now. He’s not a crazy man with a blue box anymore, not a man with all the answers. This is somewhere new, and he’s now just a crazy, angry, broken man.
He’s sure that Rose won’t be looking at him when he glances at her for surety (she’s his lifeline, and isn’t that odd when he considers how many times he – no, not you, the other him, the reason she loves you – saved her life?) But she is, and lips quirk up slightly in what he’ll always recognise as her comforting smile before her large blue eyes flicker away. “He’s staying with me, Mum,” Rose tells Jackie.
It’s true; he’s staying with her, has somehow gotten roped into her work with Torchwood though the name reminds him of nothing more than Canary Wharf, of what they did to his (old) world. But Rose suggested it, and they need him, it’s obvious, they tell him, so now he’s a registered employee that everyone listens to even though half of them don’t trust him. He even gets paid, once a fortnight to the bank account Rose set up for him and he pays for half the rent and the apples Rose has to keep buying for him.
That’s new, him actually being employed.
But of course, everything’s new, though he has to keep reminding himself of that.
Jackie mutters something sceptical and generally mumbly (is that a word? Mumbly? He’s fairly sure English has it, though he might be thinking about Spanish. Possibly Raxacoricofallopatorian, or Gallifreyan, but that can’t be because he knows Gallifreyan inside out, knows it because he’s the Doctor and he’s from Gallifrey and he’s nine hundred and three years old and he’s standing outside in the pouring rain and why-)
Correction: he’s kneeling, crouching, almost pressed against the jagged gravel as heavy breaths rack his body, and it takes him a while to recognise the voice shushing him, the hands rubbing at his back and brushing wet straggles of hair from his damp face.
I’m having a panic attack, he realises with horror.
“It’s alright,” Rose murmurs, “it’s alright. You’re just having a panic attack, it’s alright”
Well, that’s new. Haven’t had one of these before.
It’s not alright, no matter what she keeps telling him. He feels weak and pathetic and human, and everything is too similar but not the same – the smell of her hair, the scent of her skin, but he can’t feel her the way he used to, or the otherhim used to, with his Time Lord senses.
He’s too Time Lord to be human and too human to be Time Lord.
But Rose is soft and calm, and she must be freezing in the icy rain but she doesn’t move from his side, doesn’t do anything but hold him tighter when he turns to bury his head in her shoulder.
“You’ll be fine,” she tells him later, when the sobs have stopped rushing through his body, unstoppable.
He doubts it with everything he has but he doesn’t say anything about it, doesn’t tell her that he’d like nothing more than to take a knife to his throat right now and end it, properly, the way he should have done after the Time War took everything.
Otherhim should have, anyway, and he wonders when he started differentiating between the two of them.
Something makes her sigh, and he glances at her sharply, confused. “You think too much, you know? More than the Doctor used to, anyway.”
Inside him in the region of his heart, a muscle twinges and a sour taste fills his mouth. It takes him a moment to realise, with a sinking sense of horror, that he’s jealous. “Can’t help it,” he tries to shrug away. “Comes with the job description, you know. Time Lord and all that.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yeah right.”
“What d’you mean, ‘yeah right’?” Prickly, defensive – he’s jealous, and that is both distantly hilarious and terrifying.”
“Well, it’s like he said, right? The Doctor, I mean. You’re not a Time Lord, are you? Not with the, you know, two hearts, and all.”
Not a Time Lord/Not the Doctor/Not Good Enough, his head tells him with waves upon waves of raw feeling that hit him in the gut. Possibly the heart, all one of them.
“Oi!” He doesn’t realise till she’s grabbed his arm that he’s flinching backwards. “I didn’t say it was a bad thing, did I?”
“Isn’t it?” Stop, stop, stop, he tells himself but the words keep rushing out, like water from a broken dam. “It’s him you…” You can finish a sentence, he tells himself sternly. You can’t tell English from Spanish but you can finish a sentence without pausing. “…fell in love with, isn’t it? The adventure, the stars, the travel, the knowledge, all of it? You want a brilliant mad man in a blue box, Rose, I’m just a mad man.”
Broken, angry, his mind continues the litany for him, but there is a limit to how melodramatic even he can be.
She’s silent for a long moment and he knows he’s right, knows it till he looks up at her and sees her shaking her head, a mixture of amusement and fury on her face. “You idiot,” Rose groans, “you bloody idiot,” and she leans forwards, grabs his head in her tiny soft hands, kisses him and kisses away everything but that thundering ostinato to his life since he met her, a regeneration ago – Rose, Rose, Love You, Rose, Love You, Rose, Rose.
“I love you,” she growls when she pulls away, “you. Not the face, not the two hearts, not the…” She waves her hands vaguely, “time stuff and all the, you know, Gallifrey stuff. You. Because you’re an idiot and brave and I saw you at Torchwood the first day you came with me to work, you were terrified but you didn’t show it, and that’s what I want, okay?”
It doesn’t make sense; he’s stringing word to word, putting in the pauses, transcribing the words and commas and periods in his head but he doesn’t quite understand.
When he doesn’t reply, though, she raises an eyebrow warningly.
“Okay,” he says hastily and leans forwards before she can say anything else, meets her lips softly, gently.
And it is okay, because he doesn’t understand how or why or anything like that, but he thinks he understood what was important.
I’m not leaving you. I love you.
And that’s enough for him.