Author’s Note: Contains drug-related imagery and depictions of a somewhat unhealthy relationship.
He justifies the way he reaches for her hand instead of pushing her away as he should by telling himself that it’s too late anyway. She’s already had that first taste. There’s no turning back now.
If the Doctor has learned anything at all about humans in the hundreds of years that he’s been flitting in and out of their lives, it’s that deep down they’re all addicts of one sort or another. Some of them never actually find that one thing that they’d never be able to completely leave behind, but the potential is still always lurking beneath their skin, waiting for that fatal moment of discovery.
When the Doctor realises that Rose Tyler’s drug of choice seems to be the mad life the Doctor leads, he knows he should push her away. It’s a dangerous dependence that’s bound to get her killed sooner rather than later. He justifies the way he reaches for her hand instead of pushing her away as he should by telling himself that it’s too late anyway. She’s already had that first taste. There’s no turning back now.
As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, though, he knows that’s mostly just a fiction intended to cover up the real issue.
He can’t imagine losing her, ever, despite knowing all too well that other constant of the human condition. He’s aware of the inevitability of them all leaving him eventually. Not even a man with his kind of power should try to change that. He reassures himself that he won’t. He would never. Not even for her. He’s not sure he believes it, though, especially when he catches himself interfering in aspects of her life that he has no business touching.
When she asks to stay – to spend some time with her Mum that he knows both Tyler women have earned after his mistake with the timing of delivering Rose home – he panics. Logic simply flies out the TARDIS door. In that moment, with her an untouchable distance away from him, he can’t stand the idea of her having time in which she might rethink whether she wants to keep travelling with him. People battle against their addictions all the time, after all, and Rose Tyler is nothing if not a fighter. He can’t give her that chance. He’s already steered the TARDIS away and left her standing on a London street once when he’d barely known her, and even then he’d boomeranged right back to her. He can’t imagine forcing himself away from her again unless he knows he’s about to die anyway, and so won’t have to live without her. He certainly can’t bring himself to do it right now.
He hates himself for playing the part of the dealer, reeling her in with promises of a brilliant future filled with more of the things he’s already begun showing her, only more dazzling. He knows she can’t resist and purposefully uses that to his own advantage, much to his own disgust.
That regret at his weakness is short-lived, though he imagines he’ll find himself dwelling on it again later. For now, through the phone he can hear her breath accelerating with excitement. He unconsciously matches the pace she sets. That sameness makes it feel almost as though he’s breathing her air, even though they’re at least a block and a staircase apart. It’s somehow even more intimate than the skin-on-skin press of their palms that he’s already grown so accustomed to seeking out with her. He has a mental picture of her sitting alone in her room right now, with his voice in her ear and her thoughts filled with nothing but him and all the things they’ll do together.
With that possibility in mind, he thinks it’s no wonder she’s so far beyond tempted by his words that it’s clear, even through his desperation, that any chance of her staying in London has evaporated.
He smiles smugly as he hangs up. She’s coming. She’ll be there with him again in just minutes, he’s certain. Even that short wait seems too long. He’s almost tempted to use the TARDIS to skip past them, except that the experience of having just overshot his target by a whole year, thereby risking her leaving him because of the consequences, is too fresh in his mind for him to risk it.
He fidgets pointlessly with something that doesn’t even need fixing. He forces some rebellious youth to clean off some graffiti on his ship while paying only the barest amount of attention to either the boy or the task. He even lets Mickey the idiot attempt to serve as a distraction. And still he feels every prolonged second tick by with that intensity born of a Time Lord being too focused on the minutiae of movement and life and time itself.
Only when he sees her approaching, and finds himself somehow calmer even though his hearts start beating faster at the sight, does he realise exactly what it is that he’s been doing all this while.
He’s been impatiently craving his next fix of her.
Apparently Time Lords can be addicts as well.