Rose sat in the TARDIS, her fingers wandering absentmindedly over the various buttons and gears. The Doctor wandered in without a word, and something in his posture looked broken, or perhaps ashamed.
“You left me,” she whispered, clenching her jaw against the wave of anger boiling up from the bit of her stomach.
“Rose,” he murmured, his voice somewhere between pacifying and patronizing.
“You left me!” Rose roared, vaulting to her feet as her anger exploded. “You left me, without a second thought! No hesitation, not a word, nothing! You had no idea that you’d be able to get back, and you left me stranded in space, with no way to get home!”
The Doctor’s eyes narrowed at her, watching her emotions play across her face, reading her thoughts and feelings as easily as a children’s book.
“You’re not mad that you wouldn’t have been able to get home,” he said coldly, turning his back to Rose as he fiddled with the TARDIS’ controls. “You’re angry that I would have been with someone else.”
“I’m angry that you chose someone else, yes,” Rose seethed. “You had a choice between Madame de Pompadour and me, and you didn’t even think about it. Like I mean nothing to you, like I am nothing. I’ve had a lot of people make me feel worthless in my life, but I never thought that you would.”
“She needed my help, Rose,” the Doctor answered, as if he were sad that she couldn’t understand that.
“I NEEDED YOU!” she yelled, and the Doctor considered her with wide eyes. “God, you didn’t even deny that I don’t mean anything to you.”
“Of course you mean something to me,” he protested, stepping toward her, but he kept his hands thrust in his pockets. “Rose Tyler, you mean a great deal to me, don’t ever doubt that.”
“But I do doubt it, Doctor,” she said, shaking her head at him. “Because if I meant so much to you, you wouldn’t abandon me for any pretty woman who crooked her finger at you, even if she was the great Madame de Pompadour.”
“Oh Rose,” the Doctor sighed, reaching for her, distressed by the tears that were starting to well up in her eyes.
“You have to decide, Doctor,” Rose sniffed, straightening up and trying her best to look much stronger than she felt. “Either I’m just a coworker, and acquaintance, and you can leave me at will, whenever anyone else turns up, and I can be sacrificed if it comes to it.”
The Doctor looked like he was ready to interrupt her, opening his mouth to protest, but Rose powered on.
“Either that, or I’m more, I’m number one,” she continued. “I come first, always, and you don’t ever leave me because you think someone else needs you more. You commit to me, because god knows I’ve committed everything to you. I can’t do this... this in between thing anymore, where you’re my top priority but then you leave me behind if I’m inconvenient. If you don’t want more, if you don’t want me, that’s fine, I can handle that, but you need to decide, because what’s going on right now is not working.”
Rose wasn’t sure if she felt better for confessing her feelings, or as near as she was willing do, but she did feel intensely vulnerable. She couldn’t stand and watch the Doctor, she couldn’t bear to see the look in his eyes as he told her that they were just acquaintances, coworkers really. Not at that moment at least. She needed time to collect herself, to prepare. She turned and walked away, weaving through the hallways of the TARDIS’ inner chambers, until she found her room. She collapsed on her bed, burying her face in the pillow and letting the tears she had held back fall.
The Doctor stood at the controls shocked by her words. He might have suspected that she felt for him beyond just a traveling companion, but he had kept those suspicions firmly tamped down, not wanting to hope for it, not wanting to open the whole door of problems that hoping meant.
He began moving, flipping controls and spinning knobs as his mind moved ten miles a minute. He wouldn’t age, that was the biggest problem, the first problem that came to mind. She would live maybe seventy years more, if she was lucky, and that would be nothing to him. He’d lived that more than ten times over already, and he’d live it another 50. Rose might be able to spend her life with him, but he could never spend his entire life with her. And when she was gone, then what? There wouldn’t ever be anyone else like her. Would he spend eternity grieving? No, that would be no good.
He pulled the screen in front of him, staring at the galaxies laid out across it. And what if he regenerated and the new him wasn’t him anymore? Perhaps he would be a she, or old, or ginger, or obnoxious, and Rose wouldn’t want him anymore. And then what would they do? Go back to being just traveling companions? No, that never worked.
And yet, in the face of all that, he wanted what Rose said to be true. He desperately wanted her to be his everything, to be the only thought that was constantly on his mind. He wanted to never leave her, to travel with her and have adventures forever. Rose was so very different, so marvelous. He could love her, he could love her very easily if he let himself.
The Doctor pushed one final lever and the TARDIS began to squeak into movement, disappearing from the abandoned spaceship. He let the familiar motion of the TARDIS lull his mind and soothe his racing thoughts, taking comfort that this, at least, was something he could understand.
But the universe was never content, it would seem, to let the Doctor understand what was happening. A deafening bang sounded throughout the control room, and a burst of light exploding from the center console. The Doctor was thrown back, landing in a heap on the floor as the TARDIS sputtered out of life, free-falling through the universe. Rose and Mickey both rushed in, looking for him, looking to him for answers.
“The time vortex,” he said, quickly examining the center console. “It’s gone, it’s just gone.”