Rose had lain in the wonderfully soft bed in the large and comfortable room the Doctor had shown her to for a at least an hour before she finally gave up. She was tired. No, she was exhausted. The last couple of days had been the most wonderful, terrifying, and eventful in her life. But there were so many questions she couldn't quite seem to let go of and the longer she laid there the farther away sleep seemed to get.
More than anything she couldn't help but feel that Gwyneth had died for no good reason. She'd saved the world, yes. But if only the Doctor had listened to Rose and not encouraged her... The Gelth's story had seemed to make him desperate though.
The Time War. That was at the root of the whole thing. That must have been the war he'd told her of before, the war his people lost, the war that had left him alone in the universe.
Even though he'd obviously never even heard of the Gelth before that night, he had been willing to believe that that war had brought them to the brink of annihilation and he wasn't going to stop until he'd saved them. Whatever the cost. Rose just didn't understand why.
It was only one of many things that Rose didn't understand.
* * *
The door to the Doctor's room was open when she got there, light spilling out into the corridor. The Doctor himself sat in an armchair with his feet propped up on a large table over which bits of metal were strewn. It looked as though he'd pulled apart a bit of the TARDIS and had is spread out in front of him. He himself was leaning back working on a small piece of whatever it was with his sonic screwdriver. For once he had his jacket off, but that was the only concession he'd made to the late hour. If the hour could be said to be late aboard a time machine.
He looked up, slightly startled. "Rose. I thought you'd gone to bed."
"I had." She hesitated in the doorway uncomfortable about entering his room.
"Is something wrong?" the Doctor asked, taking his feet down from the table and leaning forward a little.
"No, it's just that... Well, I couldn't sleep and I wanted to ask you something."
He stood up with a shrug, placing the bit of metal he'd been working on back on the table. He didn't seem in the least bothered by her interruption "All my vast knowledge of the cosmos lies at you're disposal. What was it you wanted to know?"
"Earlier... way earlier," she added, reflecting that they were currently parked somewhere in the depths of space some two thousand years and God only knew how many light-years from the place where they'd left Charles Dickens standing in the snow in Cardiff. She took a breath. "You believed them. The Gelth, I mean. When they fed us that line about their race dying and all."
The Doctor frowned looking down at the bits of machinery on the table. There was a forced cheerfulness to his voice when he answered. "Well, no one's infallible. Even me, believe it or not."
"The Time War... it was that bad then? It could have destroyed whole planets – species – who weren't involved? People you'd never even heard of?"
There was no real change in the Doctor's posture as he stood by the table, but as she studied his profile she saw the muscles in his jaw clench. For several long minutes they stood in silence.
"Doctor?" Rose asked finally, wondering whether she was prying too deeply into matters best left alone. Her gran had always said she was too curious for her own good.
The sound of her voice though, seemed to release the Doctor from his paralysis.
"Yes." He tossed his screwdriver onto the table and turned away from her in one restless movement. "It was that bad."
"It doesn't matter," he said sharply, cutting her off. He strode over to a cabinet and yanked it open, staring at its assembled contents of machine bits and tools the likes of which Rose had never seen before. He made no move to retrieve any of them.
"But..." she tried again.
"Leave it alone, Rose." His voice was tight, as though it hurt to force the words out.
Rose bit her lip, feeling a right fool and wishing she'd just stayed in bed after all. She wanted so much to understand what was happening. Increasingly, she'd been feeling as though she'd stepped into the middle of an ongoing story and no one would tell her what the plot was about. The Time War was this shadow over the Doctor's life, never far from his mind no matter how hard he tried to escape it. And now that she was here it seemed to be expanding to cover hers as well and she still didn't know the first thing about it. But the pain in his voice when he asked her to leave it alone... She couldn't ignore that.
He was still standing there, utterly motionless in front of the cabinet with his back to her. She wished she could see his face. Suddenly she remembered what he'd said to the Nestine Consciousness back in London; I should know, I fought in the war. I couldn't save your world! I couldn't save any of them!
They hadn't made sense to her at the time, she hadn't know yet about The Time War, hadn't known that the Doctor was alone in the universe. But the desperation in his voice had caught her attention nonetheless. The words had stayed in her mind. He'd even tried to save that creature, an alien willing to wipe out the human race on a whim. Desperate to save someone. The Gelth had played on that desperation and because of it Gwyneth had died.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I... I'm just trying to understand what's going on. The Gelth knew that what they said was a reasonable story, that we'd fall for it. But it didn't really make sense to me. I mean, how could an entire race be killed off by accident?" She sighed. "It's like wandering around without a map. I don't know what's going on. Hell, I barely know the first thing about you really." Days worth of questions came pouring out, whether Rose wanted to say them or not. "I mean, what exactly is a Time Lord anyway? You've got all this great technology that lets you travel through time and space – anywhere you want to go, but is that it? Do you get the fancy title just for having a nifty ship?" She took a breath to continue, but didn't get the chance.
"No." The Doctor sighed, shutting the cabinet again he turned back around. He suddenly looked very, very tired and Rose wondered if aliens needed to sleep. But at least the words seemed to come more easily now, the tight pain of the moment before was gone. It was almost disturbing at times how quickly he could focus on something else and push all his more painful memories away. But then, maybe you had to be able to do that in order to survive when you were the last of your kind. "Being a Time Lord is more than just having a time machine. Our ability to manipulate time came first, the technology to do it on a grand scale like this," he motioned vaguely with his hand, indicating the TARDIS around them. "That came later."
Rose was relieved to have found a topic he was willing to discuss, even though the exhaustion in his eyes made her feel like a bitch. But how was she supposed to find out anything if she didn't ask? He wasn't exactly overflowing with personal information.
"Manipulate time how?"
"Just... manipulate it." He shrugged as if what he meant should be obvious. "Use it, like you would use the three dimensional space you're used to dealing with."
"I don't understand. Use it how?"
"Just use it," the Doctor said. "You know, move through it."
"But I move through time," Rose objected. Then she paused. "Don't I? I mean, I can feel time passing..."
"That's not moving through it." Life seemed to be coming back into his expression and voice as he focussed on explaining this new concept to her as he'd explained so many others over the last few days. "You're just aware of time. You can't use it or effect it, like you can three-dimensional space. Although, humans are only aware of time on a very limited scale. There's more to it than just minutes passing. It's as complex and real as the space you're occupying now. What I mean by using time is more like you use the space you're in at this moment. You can go around it, see it from more than one angle. Go backwards, forwards, sideways..."
He stopped as he looked at her, obviously seeing that she still didn't understand what he was saying. "It's probably a bit complicated for you."
"Right," Rose said. She couldn't stop a small amount of bitterness creeping into her voice. "Too complicated for the stupid little human." That was one thing she had got tired of, being made to feel brainless. She knew she wasn't the sharpest tool in the box, but she wasn't an idiot either. Although, there were times the Doctor made her feel as if she were.
"That isn't what I meant," he told her firmly. "It's just that..." He sighed and looked away frowning to himself. "It's like trying to explain the third dimension to someone who's only ever lived in two..." He trailed off, obviously trying to think of a way of explaining what he meant to someone who couldn't experience time the way he did.
Suddenly he strode forward and held out his hand. "Come with me."
"Where?" Rose asked, taking his hand without hesitation as she always had.
Instead of answering the Doctor pulled her after him through a door on the other side of his room and into a large bathroom. He tugged her over to the tub and released her hand only to reach over and turn on the shower.
"I've already had a shower, thanks."
"I noticed," he said, turning back and taking her elbow, he guided her nearer the tub before stepping up close behind her. "Your hair's still damp," he added. "Now, relax."
"I don't..." Rose began, but stopped as he slipped his arms around he waist.
"Shhh." He stepped up even closer, she could feel him pressed up against her back and she tensed. "Relax," he said again. "Just look at the water. Focus on that."
"But what are you doing?" she asked, feeling slightly uncomfortable being held this closely.
"Relax and I'll show you," he said, sounding slightly exasperated. "Just watch the water. It's alright."
Rose frowned, but took a deep breath and forced herself to relax into him, resting her hands lightly on his where they lay against her stomach. She stared fixedly at the shower, trying not to think about how solid he felt against her.
At first, she didn't realize what it was that she was seeing. It was just a lot of water falling from the showerhead to the bottom of the bathtub. But slowly as the familiar white noise of the falling water seemed to be changing in pitch ever so slightly, she began to realize that something was changing. So subtle to begin with, it was difficult to make sense of.
The flow of water falling through the air began gradually to slow. Not as though the shower was being turned off – the same amount of water was still coming out – but the water itself was falling more and more slowly through space. Enough so that after a short time she could distinguish individual drops and trace their decent. The sound shifted from a steady beat of water against porcelain, a constant and solid sound, to that of individual drops hitting one after the other, unsteady and without rhythm.
Gently, the Doctor took one of her hands and held it out to the falling water until her fingers were between one falling drop and the next. She watched one slowly make its way downward to her until it hit her index finger. It slid down the side of her finger at a normal speed, dropping from her finger to the Doctor's just under it before dropping away from them. As soon as it was back in the air again, however, it slowed abruptly to fall at the same creeping pace as the others.
Rose let out a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding. The steam that was beginning to rise ever so slowly around them, gusting out from her with her breath. But even that happened very, very slowly and she had the time to watch the swirls and coils form and reform in the air.
The Doctor drew his hand back to rest against her stomach again and Rose swept her fingers slowly around the drops of water, marvelling at the way the light caught in them and sparked colours that flashed by too quickly to see when the drops were falling at a normal speed. Instead of the curving rainbow effect she was used to with falling water, there were a thousand tiny flashes of coloured fire.
Then, as gradually as the drops had begun to slow in their journey downward, they began to speed up again. Rose withdrew her hand and found herself gripping the Doctor's as she watched the shower speed up until it was falling the way it had been before.
A shiver ran through her as the world returned to normal around them and she sagged back against the Doctor, too awed to say anything for a moment.
For the space of a few heartbeats they just stood together, watching the water fall. Then the Doctor slipped his hand from beneath hers to lean forward and turn it off. It wasn't until then that Rose's awkwardness returned. At the same time, he felt real, substantial, and safe against her while she felt unbalanced by what she'd just seen.
She turned slightly, not moving away, and looked up into his face. He looked down at her calmly, his eyes still tired but warm as well. His voice was gentle when, one arm still wrapped around her waist, he finally broke the silence.
"That's what a Time Lord is. In part anyway."
For a long moment, they just stood together saying nothing. It was such a small thing really, slowing down a shower after showing her both a Christmas over a hundred years before she was born and the destruction of the Earth more than five billion years after. But that had been different somehow. The TARDIS was a machine, technology. And while all of that had been beyond her experience up until then, it was still just technology. She was used to the idea that machines could take you through space, it was simply a matter of adding time to that as well. It was incredible but...
But what the Doctor had just done wasn't a technological wonder. It was more like magic. He'd slowed time around them while she'd watched. Just him. He didn't need any computer or machine for that. For the space of a few minutes the whole world slowed and the two of them had stood alone in a separate time all their own. And for the first time Rose found herself looking, not just at a rather strange guy, not even at the friend he had so quickly become, but at someone truly alien. Up until that point, he'd never done anything really alien. His technology was alien, but he wasn't. At least, he didn't seem to be. But what he had just done was more than anything any human could ever have done. Even one with access to all the technology he had at his disposal. But instead of being frightened or overwhelmed as she had been by all the strange races around her on Platform One, she felt drawn to him even more. He was alien, but here and now with his arm around her and her shoulder resting against his chest – she felt completely safe.
Suddenly he grinned, himself again, and the intensity of the moment was broken. "Impressed?"
Rose gave a startled little laugh. "Very," she admitted a little breathlessly. For once not bothering to tease.
He stepped back then and Rose found herself missing his arm around her, just a little. The smile vanished as quickly as it had come, but it seemed to stay in his eyes somehow as he looked at her.
* * *
Lying in the dark again, the last thought that occurred to her before sleep finally puller her under was to wonder just how much must have been lost when the Doctor's planet and people had been destroyed. So much power, so much wonder, so much potential. Just gone.
At the same time though, at least it survived in him. It still existed. Even if it was only in one person.