Title: In Orbit Around You
Characters/Pairings: Ten/Rose, Jack Harkness, Mickey Smith, Donna Noble
Rating: R, to be safe
Warnings: Shameless fluff, lots of angst, spoilers up to s4
Genre: Romance/Angst/Hurt-comfort. Reunion!fic
Disclaimer: If I owned Doctor Who, it would have gone like this. This started as a very small idea, and turned into this monster instead. Enjoy
Summary: 'Donna informs me that I am an insensitive bastard'. Rose returns, but things aren't exactly brilliant. Yet.
ETA: 'In Orbit Around You' now has a (sort-of) sequel. You can read it here
She has been back for four months, but it rather feels like four years without him. Not that she’s lonely per se, because Mickey came right along with her and Jack’s here and his team is great.
But she’s stuck without her Doctor. Stuck without means of contact, because Torchwood doesn’t know how and UNIT doesn’t know how, or isn’t telling Torchwood how, and all she can do is wait until her Doctor sees fit to land back on Earth and hopefully, hopefully, she’ll be able to find him.
Rose has to find him.
Amidst shouting and gunfire and possibly dying, all Jack can really think of is the fact that Rose, lost-forever-in-a-parallel-universe Rose, is standing right in front of him, smiling and looking older and more tired than ever before. Also more beautiful and, again, very not trapped in another universe with no means of return.
Well. He should have known the Doctor was full of it, really.
“Hello,” he says, because really, what else is there to say?
She smiles. “Hello,”
“Yes, hello,” he repeats himself and is immediately reminded of zeppelins and dancing beside Big Ben and gas masks and a Doctor that still wore a leather jacket, and apparently so is she, because she laughs.
“Now, let’s not start that again.”
It’s déjà vu-like, but really, so is almost his entire life, what with all the dying and the aliens and whatnot and Jack doesn’t need to ask her why she’s here, because it’s certainly not for him, even if her eyes looks so soft and her grin is as happy as can be.
She hugs him tightly and he hugs right back, and sees the tint of gold that is always flashing before his eyes as life reclaims him from the dark edges of death. Bad Wolf.
“How did you come back?” He asks her later, when the shouting and gunfire has died out, and they’re safely back in Torchwood, in Cardiff (well, as safe as Torchwood and Cardiff ever is, at least).
“Torchwood – the other Torchwood – they still had the technology they’d used when they jumped between universes at first. We weren’t going to do anything. That is…” She stops herself as Mickey shoots her a look, quietly clearing her throat. “That is, they weren’t going to let me try and use it or anything,” she frowns and Mickey hides a smirk and Jack can’t help but grin. He’d have liked to see whatever officer they’d given the job of telling her that. Poor man.
“But then the Rift started acting up – the Rift in that universe is in London, not Cardiff, and all of the sudden half of London had just… disappeared over night, and Pete… I mean, my dad, he said that it was possibly the Void and the walls acting up, and so…” She trails off, staring into the distance, and Mickey jumps in with practiced ease to fill in the rest – it has been three years for them, three years of figuring out how to be friends after it all, three years of Rose wanting to go back and Mickey realizing that so does he, and now they’re both here. United efforts.
Mickey explains how London reappeared, how their universe started cracking, how Lenin suddenly showed up in Washington, how another version of Rose had showed up and how Torchwood had finally given them permission to start jumping between universes again, now that apparently everything was going to hell anyway. Seemed that having someone who never existed in a universe – and dogs with a shared name doesn’t count - permanently inhabiting said universe, caused a few chaotic events. Jack figures Rose should be allowed to slap the Doctor for not figuring that out, before sending her there in the first place.
“Think he’ll be pissed?” Rose murmurs when Mickey’s done, a small glint in her eyes. Jack grins.
Four months is a relatively short time to wait. Four months is nothing compared to three years, two of which there had been almost no hope and one in which everything seemed to fall apart – quite literally. No, after all this time, she can wait a little longer.
Only this ‘little longer’ is filled with nothing much to do besides help out Jack and watch telly and worrying. Worrying about her mother and Pete and little Tony, and how she’ll never see them again. Worrying that perhaps, her going to her ‘proper’ universe hasn’t helped one dolt, and Pete’s World is still ripping itself apart. But most of all, she worries about him, worries that maybe he’s dead or changed, or doesn’t want her with him anymore. It is the reality of an awkward situation, the fact that the last time they saw each other, thinking that it was going to be the last, she’d told him that she loved him.
And he hadn’t said it back.
Not that she can’t live without hearing it, because traveling with him as his friend is better than not traveling with him at all, but there is the distinct possibility that he will be too uncomfortable about this, and not want her at all.
Two years ago, this wouldn’t have entered her mind. Two years ago, she was determined and stubborn, intent on getting back to him, no matter what. But she’s had all this time, away from him, to think it over, to mull over it all. To realize the fact that he is a 900-year old alien who has already lost everything, and she is a human shop-girl from London, barely in her twenties. And somehow, as she’d been watching zeppelins fill a familiar sky back in Pete’s World, she’d been able to tell herself that it could never be.
And now, sitting in Torchwood Three in the universe she was born and where the planet spins like it should, she wonders if she would have really gone back, would have really left her mum and Pete and Tony, if it wasn’t because she’d had to, to save that universe.
It’s not a thought she likes – and it’s not a choice she regrets, because thinking of seeing him again still leaves her breathless and almost giddy – but it’s a thought she needs to focus on, because if she sees those blue doors close before her and the TARDIS disappear, she thinks she might just die from grief. Better to walk in with eyes open. Better to not expect something that he is not able to give.
It is four months and three days since she’d arrived back in her own universe, landing hard on the ground and opening her eyes to see Jack looking worriedly down at her and rather like he’d seen a ghost. It’s four months and three days since she’d come back, and two days since Jack had finally devised a way to reach the Doctor.
It is three years and four months since the last time she saw him, standing on that desolate and cold beach in Norway. Three years and four months, and when she hears that unmistakable sound, like the universes grinding together (and isn’t that poetic), she has the sudden urge to run. Not towards him, but far away. Oh, so far away.
Three years and four months for him to forget her. Maybe that’s enough.
The door swings open, still creaking slightly as always and out he steps, squinting against the sun, a woman with fiery red hair in tow. It’s Cardiff, it’s Thursday and Jack is standing right in front of the TARDIS, Rose farther away to the side, wanting to catch a glimpse of him before he sees her. If it’s so she can surprise him or run away before he sees her, she isn’t sure. She wonders, briefly, when she became such a coward.
“Really, Jack,” he says, eyes settling on the grinning Captain. “If you wanted to keep in touch, you should have just said so. Locking into my emergency system and making all the alarms go off simultaneously is a bit of overkill, not to mention extremely annoying and inconvenient,”
“Doctor…” Jack says and Rose can feel her chest tighten and she isn’t sure if she wants to laugh or cry. Possibly both, but she has an audience now, the red-head has turned and is looking at her like she’s seen her before, but isn’t quite sure where. Rose thinks that she would recognize those locks of flames anywhere, and then suddenly remember that she does.
“So, what is it this time? Rift acting up? Slitheen? Or are you finally going to buy me that drink?” The Doctor grins widely and Rose is certain she feels her heart stop. He still doesn’t see her.
“Oh, I almost forgot – this is Donna Noble,” he indicates the woman, Donna, whose taking a few step forward, scrutinizing Rose’s face. She tries for a smile, but is pretty sure she just ends up baring her teeth at the other woman. “Donna, this is… Donna?” He’s turned around to look at his companion when she doesn’t respond, and it is a matter of seconds before he follows her gaze and his eyes settle on Rose.
She doesn’t look at him. Looking at him would be too frightening.
“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” Donna asks, taking a few steps forward and smiling at Rose. “Was it… I know! It was right after the Adipose, you were standing at one of the crime scenes, right? I told you to look after my mother and tell her where I’d left the car keys.” She laughs as if sharing some private joke, and her laugh is like her voice, loud and soft at the same time and it settles something in Rose, like a button being pressed.
“Yes, that was me. Never got around to doing it though, sorry,” she steps forward. “I’m Rose. It’s nice to meet you.”
She tells herself she will look at the Doctor, only now Donna’s mouth has formed an ‘o’ in surprise, her eyes wide and staring at her as if she’d just told her the sky was made of hedgehogs. She looks like she’s about to say something, but she’s interrupted, because finally the Doctor speaks and her eyes fly to him, properly seeing him, for the first time in three years and four months.
“Rose,” he breathes out, sounding like her name is something he has to force himself to say. He looks pale and shocked and scared and it’s enough to comfort her as well, because he looks like he dare not hope that this is real. It’s what she’s felt like since she got here, and the tightening around her heart softens just a bit.
She doesn’t have to force herself to smile at him. She does have to concentrate on keeping the tears at bay, though.
She doesn’t even see him move, but suddenly she’s just in his arms and he’s holding her as tightly as he did after she’d lost her face and after he’d fallen into that pit and fought his way back. His two hearts beat frantically against her chest and she thinks that this is perhaps the happiest she’s ever been in her entire life. She isn’t aware of Jack and Donna staring at them, isn’t aware that they’re standing in the middle of the street, hugging for several minutes, so long in fact that Jack moves towards the other woman and charms her with a smile. She isn’t aware that their friends walk a few feet away and seats themselves on a bench to talk. Her eyes are squeezed shut, her nose filled with cinnamon and stars, the smell of the Doctor, her ears listening to his unsteady breathing. His face is pressed against where her neck and shoulder meet, the feel of his lips against her skin setting her on fire. He’s whispering quietly, words she cannot hear, but she briefly thinks that she catches her own name and impossible.
Minutes tick by and he gives no indication of letting go, but really, breathing is becoming an issue and she wants to see his face, see that smile. She starts pulling away slowly and his arms tighten around her for the briefest of seconds, but then he stands up and let her go, looking at her like he doesn’t really know what’s going on, but doesn’t much care anyway.
“Happy to see me, I take it?” She says and is rewarded when he laughs. Her heart tries to break out of her chest and some part of her brain is telling her that this isn’t really happening. It’s just another of those thousands of dreams she’s had these past few years. Only, if it was actually one of her dreams, he’d have kissed her by now, of course.
“You…” he starts saying, stopping himself and shaking his head. He’s still smiling like a fool and she thinks he looks beautiful. “Rose Tyler…”
Her breath catch and he’s suddenly looking at her like she’s something that he desperately doesn’t want to break, but has to hold onto anyway and she thinks, now. He says it now.
“You… need to come meet Donna Noble! And then you have a lot of explaining to do!” He grins widely and grabs her hand, pulling her along with him, not seeing the heartbreak in her eyes. She focuses on their fingers intertwining and thinks that she has promised herself that this will be enough.
It will always have to be enough.
She’s hearing about the Adipose and the Ood and the Sontarans and Agatha Christie, and it’s mostly Donna talking, explaining with such enthusiasm, gesturing and laughing and making everyone smile around her. The woman is infectious in her delight and Rose likes her already.
It doesn’t make her less uneasy: she’s been uneasy ever since the Doctor let go of her hand, outside of Torchwood, despite the fact that he’s sitting next to her now. She’s uneasy because he hasn’t said a word to her since she’d stopped explaining how she and Mickey got here, has only commented slightly whenever Donna said something he thought wasn’t completely right (“I didn’t lock myself in, someone had meddled with my screwdriver I tell you!”) and all the while, she’s felt his eyes trained on her, never once leaving her face.
She desperately wants to look at him too, but every time she thinks he’s looked away, she steals a quick peek and finds him still looking intensely at her, as if he thinks she’ll disappear the moment he blinks. So she looks away, not quite brave enough to meet his eyes and see whatever is hidden there.
It isn’t long before Jack has engaged Donna in conversation and everyone else appears to have left to retire for the night. His gaze burns on her now and she has to fight not to squirm under it, not to turn around and stare right back at him.
“What you did was incredibly dangerous,” he finally says, his voice low and devoid of any emotion, be it pride or anger. Her head snaps around to look at him and his face is just as blank, not betraying anything to anyone who isn’t as accustomed to him as she is. She thinks it should be comforting that, after all this time, she can still read the hard set of his jaw and the slight darkening of his eyes. She should be happy about that, but he looks disapproving, and she’s not.
“What else should I have done?” She asks, her voice sounding strained to her ears. “Just sit still and wait for the entire universe to rip itself apart around me?”
“I didn’t say that,”
“But you implied it,”
“You started meddling with it already before that. You knew it was impossible to cross, knew it would tear two universes apart, and yet you still tried.”
His words are like a bucket of ice-cold water being thrown over her and she feels something inside her snap, the last restraint. All her fears and worries, everything that’s been building up these past years and months, it all collides and explodes inside her.
“We never tried to cross over before we were sure it would work!” She hisses, her voice rising. “Did you think I wanted to kill us all?”
“You took a gigantic risk even attempting it!” He counters. Jack and Donna have gone silent and are staring at them both, looking surprised and uncomfortable.
“I told you, we didn’t start jumping before we knew something was wrong! They had to send me back or everything would have collapsed!”
Rose jumps up from her place on the couch, too angry to sit beside him. He follows, hands stuffed in his pockets as he stares down at her.
“You said yourself the only reason you didn’t try, was because Torchwood wouldn’t let you. You ignored everything I said, risked your life and a billion others and for what?” His eyes are flashing dangerously. She’s never seen him this angry, not in this incarnation.
For you. I did it for you. She doesn’t say it, but he must be able to read it in her eyes. She wants to scream and hit him. She’d expected a lecture, expected to hear him moan about the dangers, but not like this. He blames her, thinks lowly of her for it. In that moment, he really is 900 years old and in charge of the universe. And she has, somehow, failed him.
“Alright,” she says. “The next time, I’ll try to remember how much of a git you are and then I’ll be happy to stay put.” She turns around before he can say anything else, the door slamming behind her. She’s pretty sure she can hear Donna yelling something, and the sound of heavy boots – Jack – coming after her, to comfort, to tell her that he didn’t mean it like that, but that is not what she wants to hear right now, so she picks up her pace, running through the streets of Cardiff and getting as far away from them all as she can.
She briefly hears Jack calling her name, but she’s already rounded a corner and quickly ducks down an alley, determined not to talk to anyone right now. There are tears running down her face and she feels like there’s something suffocating her, slowly. She thought being stuck in a different universe, far away from him, was bad, but this, knowing that he disapproves of what she’s done, that he didn’t want her to fight for him, she thinks that this is the closest to hell she’s ever been.
She ends up in a park somewhere, not completely sure where she is except somewhere in Cardiff, and she seats herself on a bench, knowing that it is unlikely that she will be able to find her way back from here. She digs out her phone and checks the time, first now becoming aware of the fact that it is in the middle of the night, she’s only wearing a hoodie and she’s bloody freezing. She rubs her arms and tries to focus on the thumping of her heart, still beating erratically after having run so far. She also notices that there is five missed calls on her phone, three from Torchwood – oh Jack – one from a number she doesn’t recognize and one from the TARDIS.
Her fingers hover over the last one, but all it takes is remembering the ice in his voice as he accused her of risking all those people’s lives, and she calls up the unknown number instead.
It only rings for a few seconds before it’s answered, Donna’s hushed whispers meeting her ears.
“Rose? Don’t hang up! They don’t know I’m calling you – where are you, are you alright?”
She’s a bit flummoxed, absolutely surprised that the other woman would do this, but then she remembers the warmth in her eyes and how she’d described the Doctor in their adventures together, the sisterly affection hidden behind teasing. Donna cares, and the last spark of jealousy dies with a final wave.
“I’m not hurt,” she says and thinks that it sounds wrong. Surely the knife sliding deeper into her heart is a definition of ‘hurt’. But she isn’t physically harmed and she supposes that’s what the other woman met. Anyone who’d seen her in there would have known she wasn’t alright.
“Look, the Doctor and Jack have gone back to the TARDIS to try and trace you, but I’m thinking you probably don’t want to talk to him right now and I want to talk to you before he does. So can I come meet you?”
“Um… I don’t exactly know where I am.”
“Oh, brilliant,” Donna sighs. Rose can’t help but smile at the dramatic utterance and gives the other woman the address to the apartment she’s been sharing with Mickey since they got here. Sweet Mickey who’s probably asleep right now, who hadn’t wanted to live in Cardiff, but had waited there with her until the Doctor could come.
Rose finds her way quick enough, hailing a cab and feeling the tiredness settling in her bones. Donna is already there when she arrives, smiling at her brightly and triumphantly holding up the keys to Jack’s car, stolen while he wasn’t looking. Rose can’t help but laugh at the expression on the other woman’s face and Donna looks even more triumphant at the sound.
“He didn’t mean what he said,” is the first thing the red-head tells her as they’re seated on Rose’s couch, voices lowered and lights dim, so as to not wake up Mickey. Rose clenches her teeth, willing herself not to cry.
“Don’t give me that look,” Donna warns, apparently able to read her thoughts. “I know he didn’t. Did you know, the first time I met him was right after he’d said goodbye to you?”
Rose frowns. “No, I didn’t,”
“Well, it was my wedding day and suddenly, BAM, I’m transported to the TARDIS, no clue where the hell I am, and this bloke is just standing there and I spaz out completely, because hello, spaceship and aliens and all that,”
Rose can’t help but giggle at the image of the Doctor fending off a very pissed bride who also happened to be Donna, which made the whole scenario so much more terrifying.
Her next words stop the laughter. “And he was crying,” Donna says, her voice soft and low. “Didn’t really notice at the time, bit too busy flipping out all over him, but he just… and then I found your shirt, and I thought ‘okay, his day-job is kidnapping girls’ and when he saw me holding it, he just looked so ready to fall apart. And later…” She stops herself, looking like she’s fighting an internal battle and then sighs. “Don’t tell him I said this, but he almost… well, technically he almost killed himself. He was trying to save the Earth from this giant spider and he was… well, he was drowning it, and its children and he was just standing there, ready to go down with them. I had to yell at him to stop, to snap him out of it. He just didn’t care anymore, not about what happened to him, not about showing mercy.” Donna lifts her gaze, eyes deep and unsettling. “I’ve traveled with him now, seen all these horrible things, and I’ve never been so scared of anything, as I was of him in that moment. He’s a good man, but he’s lost without someone to hold his hand, and Rose, he loves you.”
Rose’s breath catches in her throat, her hands clenching into fists in her lap. The world is spinning.
“He doesn’t,” she whispers. “Not the way I’d like him to.”
“Oh, so you’d like him to see you as a good mate, is that it? Because I was under the impression, and this is just from watching you hug each other, that you where madly in love. The way he spoke of you…”
“He spoke of me?” Rose murmurs, thinking of Sarah-Jane and the pain of moving on. A pain he has to live with all the time. After everything, she can finally understand that now.
“He did. I’d not even seen you together before I knew that he loved you. And I figured you must love him back, considering some of the barmy things you did for him,” Donna says, rolling her eyes. “If there’s one thing that I know about him, it’s that he loves you. And I also know that that scares him.”
“Doesn’t explain why he starts yelling at me,” Rose mutters, still unwilling to cling to the strands of hope Donna have given her. She can’t bear to see it all come crashing down yet again.
“Yes it does,” Donna counters. “He’s scared, isn’t he? Scared that you might disappear again, scared that something might’ve happened to you while he wasn’t there. Look, he might be an alien, but he’s also a bloke, and that automatically makes him emotionally stunted. Actually, the alien-bit might have something to do with that too,”
Rose smiles. “You should write a manual,” she gently teases, not quite wanting to admit that Donna’s words have helped. Hope is a good emotion, but it can crush your soul like a sledgehammer and she’s oh, so scared.
Donna grins. “Oh, yes. ‘How to Understand Your Time Lord. A Guidebook for All Companions’. Oi, I might just do that. I could earn a few bucks,”
“I’d like to buy one, please.” Rose says and the next few minutes are a flurry of odd book-titles and soft laughter, before they’re interrupted by the soft ringing of Rose’s phone.
“You ought to answer it,” Donna says, demonstratively standing up and walking into the kitchen. Rose can hear the kettle being put on as the phone continues to ring in her hand.
She presses the little green button and his voice floats over her.
“Rose!” Jack shouts and she isn’t sure if she’s relieved or sorely disappointed. “Where the hell have you been? Where are you? Are you hurt? Did you fall down? Did you get attacked?”
“I’m fine, Jack,” she says, quickly interrupting before he can jump to any more odd conclusions. There’s a soft rustling on the other end, but she ignores it. “I’m with Donna, back at my place.”
“You mean your apartment?” Her heart stops as she hears his voice and belatedly realizes that Jack must have handed over the phone to him as they were talking. His voice is soft now, none of the earlier anger tinting it.
“Rose?” He asks when she doesn’t say anything, and he almost sounds a little desperate, and definitely nervous, though she isn’t sure if that’s just Donna’s earlier words, twisting everything inside her head. She takes a deep breath.
“Yeah, the apartment.”
“I’m coming, okay?” He sounds very determined for someone who’s asking permission. She almost smiles. Almost.
It’s hardly two minutes later that Jack walks in through her front door, looking a bit sheepish and apologetic.
“Um, Rose, could you come down to him? He’s parked outside and he sorta doesn’t want to come up,” Jack can’t hide a smile as he glances at Donna whose just walked in with two cups of tea.
“I guess,” Rose mutters, the part of her that is Jackie’s daughter huffing in annoyance that he’s giving her commands now.
“It’s just that he’s scared I’ll yell at him again,” Donna says, handing a smirking Jack the tea. Rose’s eyes widened.
“You yelled at him?”
“It was like a hurricane,” Jack giggles. “It was amazing. I’ve never seen him look so scared,” his face darkens. “Not that he didn’t deserve it,”
Rose slips out the door, slightly warmed by the fact that Donna had been defending her. Before she knew it, she’s down the stairs and standing in front of the TARDIS on the street outside, the blue door slightly ajar, welcoming her in.
She takes a deep breath and briskly strides in, almost colliding with him once she’s inside. Looks like he’d been hovering by the door, and she’s so surprised that she stumbles and he has to reach out and catch her, his arm warm and steady against her shoulders.
“Rose,” he says and she hates the way her name on his lips can make her melt like this. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,”
“Yeah,” she mumbles and rights herself, slipping from his grasp. “Me too,”
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for,” he says, his eyes intense and honest. He looks old and young at the same time, like a man with a horrible past and a little kid whose toy got stolen.
“I know,” she can’t help but mumble. “Felt like saying it,”
He reaches out for her and she takes a step back, not quite ready to forgive, but hating the pain that flashes in his eyes as she does it. What she really just wants to do is throw herself into his arms and stay there forever, everything forgiven, everything alright. But she needs to be strong about this. So she waits.
“Donna informs me that I am an insensitive bastard,” he finally says, hand reaching up to scratch the back of his neck. He looks sheepish and oh, so boyish and she thinks she’s quite forgotten how handsome he really is. Thoughts like that really don’t help when she’s meant to be mad at him.
“I’m… I really am sorry, Rose. You know I’m not good at all with things like this…” he looks away, staring at the console in the middle of the room as if somehow, his TARDIS holds all the answers. “I wasn’t… I didn’t mean what I said back there. I know what you did was necessary, I just…” He stops himself again, hands buried deep in his pockets, still refusing to look at her. “I don’t… I don’t know what to say, except, I’m so sorry Rose. I really didn’t mean any of it. I’m so proud of you for finding your way back to… finding your way back to this universe.”
Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how she feels, but she supposes that she should be used to it by now. He won’t say it and so he won’t explain why he acted like a jerk either. Sometimes, she really wonders why she’s in love with him. She supposes that this is very selfish of her, that despite telling herself not to, she’s expected something from him that he isn’t able or willing to give. At least he’s apologized.
“It’s alright. Must’ve been a bit of a shock for you, everything that happened today” she says and does her best not to sound bitter or angry or anything. All she wants right now is go back to the apartment and her room, be someplace alone so she can cry until the tears dry out. “It’s late, so I guess I’ll head back up,”
She’s about to walk to the door, but then he shoots such a wounded and surprised look at her that it stops her dead in her tracks. “You’re leaving?” he says, looking like she’s slapped him or something. She raises an eyebrow in surprise.
“Yeah, middle of the night. Silly human, gotta catch some sleep.”
“Yes, quite, I just thought…” his eyes flicker towards the door leading to the hallways of the TARDIS and her heart skips a beat. “But, I mean, of course, you’d want to go back and sleep in your own bed.”
She knows, with a sudden clarity, that he won’t be here anymore in the morning. And she can’t stay like this. “Yes,” is all she manages to say, sounding choked and forced as tears spill over and she spins around and runs back to the apartment before he can see and hear too much of what she’s really feeling. She rushes back inside, bypassing the living-room and Donna and Jack and locking the bedroom door behind her.
Rose isn’t sure how much time has passed when she wakes, but it’s a bit lighter in the room and she still feels exhausted, so she can’t have slept long. It takes her a moment before she noticed the tall shape standing by her bedside, looking down at her, and her eyes widen in surprise.
“Donna kicked me out,” the Doctor mumbles before she can say anything, and that single fact promptly erases all other thoughts.
“She kicked you out of the TARDIS?” Rose asks, not able to keep a smile at bay. Now there’s an image she will hold and treasure forever in her heart.
“After she yelled at me again,” he says. “She’s very angry with me and Jack is very angry with me and the TARDIS seemed very angry too, because she slammed the doors hard after me. I almost got my coat stuck in it.”
“So, everyone’s pissed at you?” Rose mutters, thinking that he sort of deserves it.
“Yeah. You too, apparently.”
“I said it was alright,”
“You didn’t mean it,”
She frowns. “Look, if you came in here to moan about how everyone hates you, then you can get…”
“I’m sorry,” he interrupts her. “I am so sorry, for everything, really everything, and I don’t know how to make it up to you, but Donna’s right, I owe it to you and it’s not fair that I get to muck around and yell at you for the things you do. It’s just that you scare me.”
Okay. Not what she’d been expecting to hear. At all.
“I scare you?”
He lets out a low, humorless laugh. “You say ‘forever’, and I believe you. I send you away for your own good, and you fight your way right back. I say ‘impossible’, and you do it anyway. You’re…” his breathing is shallow, and he looks at her like he’s dizzy, like she’s a focal point that he has to hang on to while the ground is spinning beneath him. “I said to you that you could never see me again, and you spend all that time trying to figure out a way back. All those years, when you could have been living an amazing, a fantastic life with your mum and your dad and all you wanted was to get back to me. Didn’t matter that I’d told you it was impossible, didn’t stop you. And what did I do to get you back? Nothing. I looked, Rose, I really did, but in the end, what I found was only enough for me to send you a short goodbye. So inadequate. I couldn’t even touch you. Didn’t have enough time to… and then I just stopped looking. Wallowed around in my own misery. Hurt people I cared about. Lost my head completely, oh so many times. And all that time, you were still fighting. For me. And that’s… Rose, that’s just…”
It could be the dark playing tricks, but he looks almost like he’s shaking. She’s mesmerized right now, hanging onto his every word like they were gold and she thinks she’s never been more desperate for him to finally finish a sentence.
“Rose,” he says then, his voice picking up in strength. “Do you still want… I mean… do you still want to come with me? Traveling, I mean. With me,”
She has to take a moment to steady herself, because the conversation has just taken a new turn and this is a question that she’s been skirting around in her mind for hours. Her first impulse is a loud and resounding yes, but her eyes are still red and sore from crying, her pillow still wet from where the tears have hit the fabric. Her heart still hurts like something’s trampled on it.
“If you want me to come,” she says, yet again putting everything she is in his hands.
He looks relieved, then, the faint light from the window illuminating him enough for her to see it. He steps closer, shrugging off his coat.
“Scoot over,” he says and she’s so surprised she just stares at him as he steps out of his shoes and crawls unto the bed. When she still doesn’t move, he raises an eyebrow at her.
“C’mon. Room enough for two on this, and I’m not standing up all night long,” his tone is teasing and happy again, but she can see the flickering in his brown eyes, can see that he’s as nervous as she’s baffled and she obligingly scoots over, watching in wonder as he crawls under the sheets, her heart beating when he crawls closer and throws his arm around her. She’s lying on her side, her head tucked under his chin, enveloped completely in him. It’s wonderful. And frightening.
“You didn’t answer my question,” she forces herself to say, because she can’t live with silence right now. She is too confused and his close proximity is really not helping. She’d never thought something like this would happen, not ever.
“Of course you can come,” he says, hugging her even tighter and really not helping her jumpy heart one bit. “I’d love for you to come. Best thing ever, if you would come,”
She can’t help but smile, having missed his rambling. Quite a lot, actually.
But there’s still the fact that they are lying on a bed together, him holding her close as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Which, granted, it used to be, but this is far more intimate than a victory-hug. And she wants so desperately to ask what this means, to ask what everything he’s said tonight means, because if it’s what she thinks…
“I missed you,” she chokes out, not realizing that her voice is so full of emotion before the words leave her mouth.
“Oh, Rose,” he mumbles and she can feel his lips on her hair. Her hands automatically reach out and grasp his shirt, the material folding between her clenching fingers. It hovers on the tip of her tongue, I love you, and after everything, after searching for so long and finally lying here with him, being held as if she is his lover and not just a friend, she has to bite her lip not to speak the words. Because she doesn’t want to put him in an awkward position, not now when she’s finally got him. Because she can’t bear not to hear him respond in kind.
He moves suddenly, lips pressed against her forehead, her eyelids, her nose, sliding downwards until they meet her own, a warm soft press that is over all too soon. He pulls slightly away, arms still gripping her tightly and her eyes firmly closed. If she opens them, he might disappear.
“Rose, I…” it must be a new syndrome he has, not being able to finish his sentences, but this time he stops himself by kissing her instead, and though she figures that she should probably stop and demand that he say it, she’s too exhausted, too drained after having so many emotions warring with each other inside her head. One of his hands drifts up to cradle her head, fingers tangling in her hair. He feels so warm, and when his tongue brush her lips she thinks her heart might give up in disbelief that this is happening, the Doctor actually kissing her.
It feels like days, long, endless days of sunshine, before she needs to pull away to breathe. He only lets her pull so far away, his breath fanning out over her face in a warm cascade. If she wasn’t so tired she would ask him, why he kissed her, why he’s here, in her bed in the earliest hours of morning.
“You should sleep. You must be tired,”
She snorts. “Are you reading my mind?”
He smiles, lips curving softly. “Only a little. Close proximity. Pheromones.”
She really shouldn’t be blushing just because he’s talking about things like this. But it’s the fact that she can still taste him on her tongue, that her mouth is still warm, that his arms are still locked around her in a protecting embrace.
She finally forces up enough energy to ask. “What does this mean?”
He kisses her forehead again. “Go to sleep, Rose. I won’t leave.”
It scares her that she isn’t sure if she believes him. But she closes her eyes, and does what he says.
Rose wakes, and he’s still there. She’s turned around in the night, his front pressed against her back now, arm slung over her stomach. Her first thought as she becomes fully conscious is that they fit quite nicely.
She lies still, quietly, savoring the moment. She doesn’t know if this will ever happen again.
“I know you’re awake,” he mutters, hand pressing against her belly. “Good-morning. Or, well, good-afternoon really. You humans really do sleep a lot, you in particular.”
She smiles softly, regretfully leaving his hold to stand up and go to the bathroom. She brushes her teeth and changes clothes with her heart in her throat.
When she walks back into her room, he’s sitting on the edge of her bed, hands folded together as he stares at something on her night-table. He’s heard her, but he doesn’t move and she realizes that it is, apparently, up to her to make the first move. Yet again.
He turns and smiles at her though, when she sits down beside him, reaching out to take her hand. It gives some form of steadiness, a comfort, the feel of his hand in hers. It always has.
“You kissed me last night,” she says and is almost sure that he is trying really hard not to roll his eyes at her.
“That’s a keen observation, Rose Tyler.”
“Ha, bloody ha,” she huffs, annoyed that he isn’t taking this seriously. She gently tries pulling her hand back, but he stubbornly refuses to let go. She ignores the warmth that spreads through her at this gesture.
“I thought that was what you wanted,”
Rose blinks, a little surprised. “It is, but… I mean, it’s… do you?”
His gaze turns dark and his hand tightens it hold. “Oh, I want.” His voice is dark and raw, laid bare before her. She has to swallow hard to get a grip on herself.
“But do you, really I mean?” She needs to know this. Now they’ve come this far. “I mean, what you said all those years ago, that still counts now. You’ll still lose me, eventually. I’ll still…”
“Don’t,” he interrupts, sounding frantic. “Just don’t. You…” he turns more towards her, their knees bumping together. “You’re… questioning whether I love you or not, is that it?”
She’s so shocked that he’s actually said it, almost half-thinking that there was some Time Lord-curse that made him unable to, and she’s rendered completely speechless. When she doesn’t say anything, he gently squeezes her fingers and jumps up, reaching for his coat and rummaging through its pockets.
“Now where did I put it…” he mumbles to himself, hands reaching for something that apparently isn’t there. He checks the other pocket and triumphantly pulls out his prize.
“Here! Present for you, Rose Tyler.”
She accepts it quietly, weighting it in her hand. It’s a small ornate box, silver and small enough to fit in her palm. She gently reaches out to open it, watching in fascination as blue smoke curls from it, taking the form of a ship that sails through the air, a horse that gallops away.
“It’s… beautiful,” she says, a bit bewildered at the direction this is going. Is this his attempt at distracting her? She looks up and he’s watching her like he did last night, eyes dark and intense.
“Bought it on a planet named Aerona. In the earliest stages of their evolution, it's inhabitants were all smoke, without physical form. They are able to harness it now, to shape it at their will. You’ll always be able to reopen it, and see something new every time. Surprises you a lot,” he smirks slightly. “Reminded me of you.”
She’s about to say thank-you, genuinely touched by the present, but something he says makes her frown.
“Wait, Aerona? Didn’t Donna mention that last night – she said it was one of the first planets you visited together,”
“It was,” he says, his voice oddly vulnerable and she realizes that they’ve reached the stopping point. Wherever all of this has been leading to, it’s happening now.
“You… You bought this for me, back then? When you had no idea… when you thought I was trapped forever…”
He looks away now, and she can almost swear he’s blushing. He looks almost embarrased.
“Yes,” he admits.
“Oh,” she says, and suddenly feels lighter than she has in three years and four months. “That’s… brilliant.”
He laughs softly at that, still looking at her as if he’s expecting her to bolt for the door any minute. And she’s just about to tell her that she loves him, tell him again, when he beats her to it.
“I-I love you,”
She smiles. “Quite right, too.”