After spending the first night back in this universe at Jackie and Pete’s, Rose breathes a sigh of relief when she turns the key to the door in her tiny flat and lets herself inside. It’s not much, her flat, as she hadn’t spent much time here or personalized it in any way, but after hours of her mum’s overwhelming hovering and questions, she’d had to escape.
Rose leaves the door open for the Doctor to follow her inside, and when it closes behind him with a soft click, she stops in her tracks.
“You don’t have to stay,” Rose says without looking at him, her voice low and emotionless.
It’s the first thing she’s said to him since arriving back in London. Jackie had done all the talking during their brief stay at the mansion and had basically shoved the Doctor into the cab with Rose after she’d decided to return to her flat. It was assumed, she supposes, that the Doctor would go with her.
Where else would he go?
“Rose,” he says softly. “Look at me.”
With a shaky breath, Rose turns around slowly and meets the Doctor’s gaze.
For the first time since she’s met him, the Doctor looks… less than. He’s uncertain and insecure, like he’s trying to hide himself away from her. For a moment, her churning thoughts stumble, and she wants to wrap her arms around him and tell him everything is going to be okay.
But it’s not.
Because he left her. Left them.
“Of course, I want to stay. But if you don’t want me here, I’ll… go.” His gaze flicks to the side and focuses on something behind her.
Rose sets her jaw and glares at the man in front of her. “I’m not gonna force you to do anything, Doctor. I’m giving you a choice.”
She intentionally places emphasis on the word, secretly placated when he cringes at her not-so-subtle accusation.
“You knew, didn’t you? That he was gonna leave us here. Why didn’t you stop him?” The anger rushes out, now, and Rose can’t stop the words that flow freely from her mouth.
The Doctor finally looks at her again, and one hand reaches back to rub the back of her neck. The action is so achingly familiar, that Rose almost loses track of her anger and the words that need to be spoken.
“Because either way, he was going to leave me, leave us behind. I felt the timelines, Rose, and we weren’t a part of his future.” The Doctor runs his hands down his face. “I am sorry I – we – didn’t give you a choice,” he says, shrugging helplessly.
“Again,” Rose growls. “You took away my choice, again.”
A long silence settles between them, and the Doctor’s eyes finally widen in what Rose hopes is the (very belated) realization of how many times he’s taken away her choice.
“You. Him. The Doctor... Whoever the bloody hell you are, I’m not gonna let it happen again. I worked so hard find you, ran myself into the ground for years , and while I know no one could have predicted everything that happened, you just…” Rose pauses, gasping for breath, as the reality of the situation crashes over her once again. “You just left me behind. After everything.”
Tears stream down her face, now, as she’s no longer able to keep at bay the emotions she’s locked up inside for so long. Sobs wrack her body from deep inside, as grief and anger erupt and pull her to the ground in their intensity.
Rose feels strong arms lift her off the floor and wrap around her as she sobs. She’s dimly aware of drops of moisture falling on her face, as though whoever holds her shares in her grief. Time passes as she loses herself in a storm of emotions, and now that she’s started, she can’t stop.
It’s cathartic, deeply necessary, and in some ways, soul cleansing. As her sobs quiet and the fierce roll of emotions tapers off, she’s still angry, still grieving, but the intensity of everything pressing in against her has lessened.
And as the Doctor – yes, it’s the Doctor – holds her, with his oh so familiar arms wrapped around her in comfort, there’s a spark of hope that flickers deep inside her heart.
That someday – maybe not today or tomorrow – but someday, she’ll find happiness again. And maybe, just maybe, she can give this Doctor a chance, and they can have what she and her other Doctors never could.