Fic Tennis: Twelfth Match, Part 3/3: FINISHED!
Wow. Well. Apparently this fic tennis is going kind of long. Here we are with Part Three of our ongoing match. In case you missed it, Part One and Part Two. If you want to avoid any potential TenToo/Rose feels, you might as well go ahead and savior “fic tennis.”
Jamie’s ETA: This gets adult in the last section! I forgot to say! But I imagine you could’ve assumed!
Head and stomach churning, the Doctor sits down next to the blond boy on the floor, picks up one of the toy trucks and flips it over, inspecting the undercarriage. “Mmm. Simple retraction velocity mechanism, I presume?”
Head tipping sideways, Tony stares at the Doctor as if he’s spouting out random sounds that bear no resemblance to human speech. The Doctor blinks, does a quick mental check of the last few seconds to make sure he was speaking English and hadn’t slipped into Gallifreyan or Farsi or Elvish. Realizing he was indeed speaking the Queen’s own, he lifts his eyebrows at the boy expectantly.
Tony says, “Mum always said you never made any sense.”
“Your mum said that, did she? Ohhhh, well, sense is overrated,” the Doctor tells him with a grin and a wink. “Especially as far as dealing with Jackie Tyler is concerned. We can improve the speed and power of these things with just a few little tweaks, have them crossing the length of the house in one go. Do you happen to know where your parents keep the tools?”
Tony’s eyes brighten at that. “Da’s got a box in the garage!”
Popping to his feet, lifting Tony up and bouncing him before setting him back down, the Doctor says, “Lead on, my good man!”
Rose is closing the doors to the parlor, with her back to the room, and when she turns around Tim is right there. Close, tall and familiar and her source of comfort for the last half a year.
“I know,” he says, his arms slipping around her, pulling her against him. “I know what’s coming, what’s happening, and just – just let me have this, just for a second. Before it all starts. Please?”
It’s like a reflex, relaxing into Tim’s embrace, her arms slipping around his back and hands spreading against his shoulderblades as she presses her cheek to his chest. He smells like aftershave and his shirt still carries the faint hint of his detergent that she knows so well from the sheets on his bed. There’s no subtle alien nuance to his scent, nothing unusual. So very, very human.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and the words are strained, broken. Trip on the way out of her mouth.
“Do you think, if Sarah somehow miraculously showed up on my doorstep, back from the dead, that I would be able to turn her away? To say no? Don’t be sorry.”
Rose has to get some distance, because the warmth of his body and the sound of his voice rumbling through his chest are like shards of glass, poking at her. Reminders of the fact that what’s happening – it isn’t fair to anyone, really. Clearing her throat, using her cuff to wipe at the hot moisture building in her eyes, she steps away from him. “C’mon, let’s sit down.”
She perches on one end of the couch, Tim settles on the other. Normally he’d throw his arm along the back of it, stretch out, sprawl. Now, he sits with his legs together, his arms crossed over his chest, and his shoulders hunched.
“I’m glad you’re okay. I wondered, when the stars came back and I didn’t hear from you for a couple of days – thought that maybe something had gone wrong, even though you achieved your – what do they call it? Mission objective? The brass at Torchwood weren’t very forthcoming in the information department, and when I called Pete, he was very cryptic about everything.” Tim’s eyes dart toward the door, toward the Doctor beyond it, in the other end of the house.
She smiles, a small stretching of her lips. “Yeah, managed to muddle through with only a few bruises. Destroyed a good bit of Torchwood tech, though. The paperwork on that’s going to kill me.”
“And your alien bloke, the one so intent on saving that other universe over there, that other Earth. He came back to this one, just for you.” It’s a statement and a question, all at the same time.
Rose’s gaze falls to her hands in her lap, to where she’s picking at her cuticles.
“It’s…complicated,” she says, and it’s such a drastic understatement that she almost laughs.
“Oh, is he not staying then?” The hope running barely restrained through Tim’s voice tugs at something in her chest, stretching it wide and painful.
“No,” she says. “I mean yes, I mean — no, he’s not not leaving, yes, he’s staying.”
Tim nods, a tight little movement she almost can’t see.
“And so that other universe is, what? On its own?” It’s a little bit off-topic, and probably not actually the thing he really cares about, but she answers him anyway.
“There’s a Doctor there now, too,” and there’s a delay, a beat where he’s just another Doctor, not the Doctor, not the Time Lord Doctor, just a Doctor, same as the one with her. She wonders at her brain, buzzing along, working through all that on its own, almost without her permission.
“And which one is the one you love?” There’s a jam stain in almost the exact shape of Tony’s hand on the fabric of Tim’s jeans and he traces it with his fingers before looking up at her. “Or is it both of them?”
Rose clenches her jaw, catching the side of tongue her between her teeth inside her mouth and biting down just hard enough to give her something else to focus on. Because it is both of them, and she’s off to an inauspicious start with one, and the other left without saying goodbye and she’ll never see him again.
“It’s both of them,” she finally says. “This one here though, he’s here for good. Not so much ‘my alien bloke’ anymore as my half-human one. A half-human one.”
Tim tips his head back against the sofa, staring at the ceiling, eyes tracking the blades of the fan as it spins slowly.
“How did that happen?”
Rose feels a corner of her mouth lift, Tim is smart, incredibly smart, but she’s not sure he’ll understand about regeneration energy and metacrises and, anyway, she wouldn’t do a good job of explaining it. She lets her mind wander to a time when the Doctor could explain it to him, and the picture of it is so fuzzy, that she knows it’s not a very probable future.
“Alien stuff,” she says and smiles fully this time, because Tim’s used to that answer, used to asking her what she did at work that day and laughing when she tells him “alien stuff.”
Tim smiles, too, but it’s a sad thing, one that gnaws at her gut.
“Well, Miss Tyler, it’s been an absolute pleasure,” he says and runs his palms down the thighs of his jeans, like he’s readying to stand.
“You, too, Tim,” it’s not fair, what she does next, but she leans over and kisses him softly on the cheek.
He does stand after that, and she follows, accidentally catching the toe of his trainer with her own.
“Oi, these are meant to be kept in pristine condition,” he says.
It’s not exactly a hugging, tearful acceptance, but then, they were never about that.
“Henry got some new ones, purple, I think they were,” Rose says. “He told me to tell you about them, not even supposed to be out yet.”
Tim licks at his thumb, bending down to swipe at the nonexistent spot on his shoe.
“Lucky bastard,” he says when he stands again and it’s clear he’s not talking about Henry.
Rose doesn’t even have the parlor door open before the sound of shattering glass fills the house. She’s off like a shot, dashing through the marble foyer, across the living room, toward Pete’s home office, and the sense of urgency is all instinct, but different kinds of instinct. Part of her is still in dimension jump mode, attuned to everything around her, ready and waiting for every situation to go to hell, ready and waiting to deal with the (often literally) bloody aftermath. The other part of her has been dormant for years, now slowly reawakening; the what trouble has the Doctor gotten himself into now, damage control instinct.
Coming from the other end of the house, the Doctor and Tony arrive at the same time Rose does and they all peer into the office.
“Blimey, did you see the speed off of that one? The green truck’s definitely got at advantage, with its wider wheel base. Do you suppose that means the orange ambulance will go fastest?” the Doctor says to Tony, grinning like a maniac.
“Faster than that?” Tony responds in wonder, staring with big eyes at the shattered crystal vase on the floor next to the bookshelf. “But the green truck went so fast it was flying!”
“What the hell is going on here?”
Jackie’s voice makes them all jump, and Tony slips behind Rose’s legs, his little hands gripping her thighs like she’s a shield.
“Bit of a – ah – bit of a malfunction with the green truck, I’m afraid. The retraction mechanism didn’t respond quite as I was expecting to the recalibration, and –”
“David and Geri Beckham gave us that crystal vase as a wedding gift!” Jackie says, hands on her hips.
“Ugliest gift we got, by far.” Pete strolls into the room behind Jackie, shaking his head. “Always hated that thing. Now I have room on that shelf for my collection of signed cricket balls.” He gives Rose a hug, extends a hand to the Doctor for a shake. “I hope you’re all hungry, I’ve got the grill fired up and we’re having barbecue for dinner.”
Rose suddenly notices that there are only five of them in the room, that Tim is nowhere to be seen. He slipped out sometime during the hubbub, probably didn’t even follow her past the foyer. Just stepped out the front door, silent as a ghost.
She’s probably never going to see him again.
“Those breakfast pastries are long gone,” the Doctor says, patting his stomach. “I could do with a bit of barbecue.” He glances at Rose sideways, takes in her expression, and his fingers slip between hers, hand holding hers tight. She squeezes back.
It hurts, right now. A bittersweet ache. But it’s going to get better. And Tim’s always been strong; he’s going to be okay, too.
“Oh no you don’t,” Jackie retorts. “No barbecue for you, Doctor, until you clean up this mess!”
Tony is tugging on the Doctor’s trousers, and the Doctor looks down at him. “You clean up the mess like Mum says, I’ll get the orange ambulance and the screwdriver,” he says in a loud little-boy whisper.
“Good man,” the Doctor whispers in reply.
He’s not sure exactly how to go about cleaning up a broken vase. It seems like the sort of thing he’d leave to someone else, or his ship, or, well, just abandon entirely. But Rose says something about going for a dustpan, everyone else troops from the room, and then suddenly he’s left alone with a mess of broken crystal.
He collects a few larger pieces in his palm, sweeping the smaller bits into a pile with his shoe and he’s so focused on the way the sunlight streaming in through the windows is catching the shards, throwing rainbows throughout the room, that he doesn’t hear Rose return.
“Got a broom,” she says and her voice, one he’s still not used to hearing in real life again, makes him jump.
His hand closes around the shards he’s collected, and there’s the sharp slice of pain as one cuts into his skin.
He yelps at the feeling, hand uncurling to drop the pieces to the ground as Rose turns to look at him.
There’s blood flowing in a steady stream from the wound, and he watches in fascination as it collects in the lines of his palm, pooling and dripping to the floor.
Rose lets go of a muffled noise he can’t quite make out and then she’s clutching at his hand, her face pale and her lips drawn tight.
“What did you do?” She says, but she’s already examining the cut, small fingers clearing the last of the crystal from his skin. “You’re bleeding.”
His hand is pulsing steadily, like he can feel the blood flowing to it, flowing out of it, but he’s more worried about Rose and the tight grip she has on his hand, the way she looks as if she herself is in pain.
“It’ll be all right, clean it up, get a plaster, back in tip-top shape,” he says. “Might even get a scar out of it — that’ll be novel! Never had a scar before.”
He’s almost fascinated by the blood, human blood, dripping out of his body, he can smell the copper of it, feel the endorphins and adrenaline, all of it rushing through him. There’s cells and platelets, things to clot the wound and it’s racing in his veins and he can tell, in some detached Time Lord part of his brain, that two millimeters deeper and he’d have needed stitches.
“And you don’t need any scars now!” Rose’s voice is raised and she drops his hand, wheeling on him and no longer pale, instead her cheeks are flushed, eyes flashing with anger. “Barely been here a day and you’re already getting hurt!”
This probably isn’t entirely about him, but it is in part, at least, and she’s kept such a tight hold on everything that it’s a wonder it didn’t boil over sooner.
“I’m sorry,” he says and cups his hands together so the blood stops falling to the floor. “Loo?”
Rose’s brow is still furrowed, her shoulders held tense, but she guides him to the bathroom, turning on the tap and pointing at it.
He winces as the water hits the cut, blooding lightening to pink as it swirls down the basin, and he sees Rose visibly shake her head. Her voice softens as she says, “Here, let me,” and then she’s got his hand again, fingers gentle and grip firm.
Rose runs her fingertips along his palm, working the blood out of the creases and making sure there’s no more shards hiding there. Then she turns off the tap, grabs several tissues and wads them up. Folds them into his hand, wraps his fingers around them and squeezes to stanch the bleeding.
There are two primary things the Doctor notices about this entire process of events: first, Rose’s hands are calloused, and they weren’t before he lost her at Canary Wharf. Not in this way. He’d held them often, and he has a particularly clear recollection of what Rose Tyler’s hands felt like then, the clear recollection of someone with enormous brain capacity whose attention to detail can be quite precise, when he’s interested in something.
He has always been interested in Rose Tyler.
Second, he notices that his own skin is remarkably sensitive. Maybe it’s because he’s only been in this new body for a few days, and there’s a tiny remnant of regeneration energy buzzing in his marrow (the last time he’ll ever feel that sensation, actually). Maybe it’s because now he’s got human nerve-endings mixed in with the Time Lord ones. But he can feel the soft puff of Rose’s breath on his wet skin when she sighs, the warm curl of her fingers across his own, the way the air around her shifts when she lets go and steps away.
Rose is hurting. He sees it plain as day across her face, in her posture. She’s hurting, maybe because she felt more for Tim than affection (he squelches the tiny spark of jealousy that flickers in his head; squelches it because she’s here with him, not the other bloke); maybe because she hurt a good man, by making the choice (and isn’t that just like his Rose, always so attuned to others’ feelings, always conscious of how they’ve been affected); maybe it’s because she’s been fighting a battle for four years, and the battle is over.
Rose shifts from one foot to the other, brings her right hand to her mouth and nibbles on her cuticles. “Just a few minutes’ pressure should do the trick,” she says. And the Doctor realizes she’s flustered, on top of everything else – at the sight of blood?
Her eyes meet his. “’Course. You go around bleeding very often, though, and I’m going to murder you.”
Bringing his uninjured hand to his forehead, he gives her a mock salute. “Aye-aye, Miss Tyler.”
She swats his hand down, a smile ghosting around the edges of her mouth. “Oi, no salutes!”
Dinner at the Tyler mansion is more enjoyable than the Doctor would have imagined. The fact that Tony’s around livens things up considerably; he brings his toy cars to the back yard, and the Doctor shows him how to tinker with the retraction velocity mechanism on the orange ambulance until it ends up lost over the fence at the very far end of the enormous lawn. And as all five of them sit down on the patio to eat, talking and laughing, the Doctor feels something he hasn’t in a long time – shades of the warm sense of belonging he’d begun to have during the Christmas of the Sycorax invasion. Mickey’s gone, but Pete and Tony are here, and this is … something the Doctor’s been missing for so long, he forgot how good it could feel.
On the way home, they stop at Tesco, because Rose insists the cupboards at her flat are bare. Which is a gross overstatement; the Doctor clearly remembers three Pot Noodles, a half-used jar of dried rosemary, a bottle of beer, and a molded container of Chinese food in her kitchen, but he doesn’t think this is quite the time to bring up the validity of her assertion.
They wander together down aisles of dairy and bread, Rose pushing a wheeled basket and asking his opinion about whether they should get whole or two percent milk.
The Doctor thinks about milk-producing trees on Arborea Prime, about how the sap is effervescent and how it pops and fizzes on your tongue and releases different flavors depending on the season and UV intensity of the sun. Thinks about how he’s never going to see Arborea Prime again. Stares at Rose, at the sweep of her blond hair across her forehead and the way her fingernails have gone white, gripping waxed cartons; at the glitter of fluorescent light in her honey-colored eyes and the tiny crease between her eyebrows as she stares back at him.
There are entire universes inside of this woman, he thinks. Unexplored horizons, new worlds, all of it fizzing and popping and she’s standing on these linoleum tiles in her new jeans, asking him about milk because she cares what he thinks; she wants him to be happy.
“Two percent,” he says.
Rose leaves him for a minute, says something about feminine products. “Do you need help choosing those, too?” he asks, bright and enthusiastic.
Tongue touching her top lip, grin lifting the corners of her mouth, she says, “I think I have this one under control, thanks. Pick us out some cold cereal, I’ll be right back.”
There are shelves upon shelves of choices, box after box, bright cartoon characters and specious claims about nutritious vitamins and minerals, and the Doctor stares at them all. Walks up and down four or five times, and when he looks up, he discovers Rose is standing at the end of the aisle, staring at him. How long has she been there?
He lifts his hands, a different box in each. “There’s the one with a leprechaun on it, but the proportions are all wrong, his skin is pink instead of green, the hat’s something no real leprechaun would ever be caught dead in. But it’s got marshmallows in it, Rose – marshmallows in all different exciting colors for breakfast, what will they think of next! The human race is a wonder! And then there’s this one, just plain little O’s, but it looks a bit boring.”
“Why don’t you just get Weetabix? You love Weetabix.”
He shrugs, lifts his eyebrows. “New-ish man. New-ish taste buds. Time to try new-ish things.”
She takes a few long strides right at him, and it’s practically feline, the way she’s moving, the intensity of her focus. Before he can react, her hands slip over his cheeks, into his hair; she pops up onto her toes, and her mouth opens against his.
The cereal boxes thud hollowly onto the floor as he goes stiff in surprise, just for a second before his arms reflexively wrap around her. Eyes closing, he sees flashes of New Earth behind his eyelids, of his new body and Rose’s fingers in his hair, her sucking his bottom lip between her teeth just like she’s doing now – except then, it had been Cassandra.
Now, it’s Rose, only Rose, her skin warm and soft, his hand pressing into the curve of her back, his nerve endings tingling and his tongue moving like it’s got a mind of its own. Definitely still a bit of an oral fixation in this version of himself, didn’t lose that with the metacrisis, and part of his still-entirely Time Lord brain begins cataloguing, in very precise detail, all the ways he wants to taste Rose Tyler.
Exploring, savoring, wondering how inappropriate it would be to trail his tongue along other parts of her body right now, he walks her backward until she bumps into a cereal shelf. It shudders, a cascade of boxes toppling onto the floor, and she hums. He opens his eyes and discovers she’s got hers open too – watching him, curious and shining with something else. Arousal.
Face pressed against his, gazes locked, Rose runs her tongue across his top lip; without thinking, he sucks it inside his mouth, his chest fluttering as he tries to breathe.
When he was properly Time Lord, he had a bit more control over the way his body responded to things – now, it’s like he’s piloting a malfunctioning ship half the time. And right now this half-human ship is diverting fluids to places that don’t need fluid, places that definitely shouldn’t be full of fluid in the cereal aisle at Tesco, nerve endings crackling with hyper-awareness and overloading from every little sensation (her hair across his forehead, her hot fingertips against his scalp, her curves pressing into him, chest and hips and thighs).
“You two! What do you think you’re doing!”
The Doctor stumbles back, clears his throat, blinks to try to clear his vision. Rose is still up against the shelves, her hands in the air, her lips parted and the tip of her tongue sticking out.
She tears her gaze away, pulling at the hem of her shirt down, stepping over the spilled cereal boxes as she gets away from the shelves. There’s a woman standing at the end of the aisle, cart full of groceries and her daughter – can’t be more than three years old – standing beside her. The mother’s frowning at them, her mouth open like she’s about to say something else, but before she can the little girl shouts at the Doctor, “Get a room!”
“Come on, Greta, we don’t need cereal this week,” the woman huffs, grabbing the girl’s hand and hauling her to the next aisle.
Rose starts giggling. She leans down, scooping up a box from the jumbled mess on the floor. “Definitely the one with the marshmallows.”
The Doctor reaches up to straighten a tie he isn’t wearing, ends up pulling at his collar instead. “Right. Good. Yes.” He holds out his uninjured hand, and she slips her fingers along his, threads them together.
Three days later, with the morning sun shining in through the small window in the kitchen of Rose’s flat, the Doctor is sitting cross-legged in a chair at the table, picking out little marshmallows from a large bowl of cereal, transferring them to a smaller bowl with the focused attention of a mechanic working on delicate machinery.
Rose appears in the doorway, wearing jimjams and a robe – he’s been sleeping on the couch, and she’s been sleeping in her bedroom, and that kissing thing hasn’t happened again, but the Doctor doesn’t mind one bit. Because every day, she’s been acting more like the Rose he remembers. Smiling, holding his hand, leaning against his shoulder, poking her tongue out at him whenever he does something daft.
She sits in the chair beside him, puts her elbows on the table and her chin on her palms, inspecting his work. “Got tired of the cereal, just having marshmallows for breakfast this morning?”
“These can hardly be called marshmallows,” the Doctor replies, frowning and shaking his head. “Little compressed bits of sugar, covered in dye – not fluffy, not tender, not anything like a marshmallow should be.”
“I don’t believe it. The Doctor, turning down a little bit of compressed sugar?” She reaches up, touches the back of her hand to his forehead. “You feeling all right? Feverish? Sick?”
“No, Rose, just let me show you.” Plucking a marshmallow from the bowl, he thrusts it in her face. She opens her mouth, sticks her tongue out. And he freezes, marshmallow pinched between his thumb and index finger.
“Go on then,” she says, words muffled because her tongue is still stuck out.
He drops the marshmallow, right onto her pink tongue. She draws it into her mouth, squints and quirks her mouth as she chews it. “Mmm. That is rather crunchy, for a marshmallow.”
“Couldn’t even make a proper s’more with that thing.”
Her eyebrows lift up. “What’s a s’more?”
“Oh, a dessert, from America.” He leans a bit closer, wondering if he offers her another marshmallow if she’ll stick out her tongue again. Without looking, he digs into the marshmallow bowl, plucks another one out, lifts it in front of her face. “Do you suppose the green ones taste any better?”
“Ought to have a good sample size, for scientific accuracy,” she replies, and out pops her tongue.
He drops the marshmallow onto it, and she draws it into her mouth, and he leans forward at the same time. His nose bumps her cheek, his lips pressing against hers. She tastes like minty toothpaste and sugar, her mouth a little bit sticky.
The Doctor draws back, studying her face, looking for any sign of … anything. Disappointment or disgust or unhappiness.
There aren’t any of those things. Just pink cheeks and a grin, Rose biting her bottom lip. She reaches across him and snatches the bowl full of marshmallows.
“Well if you’re not having them for breakfast, I am,” she says, hopping up from the table and going to fetch a spoon from the drawer beside the sink. “We’re due at Torchwood in an hour for our official debriefing.”
The Doctor rolls his eyes and picks up some of the cereal out of the big, marshmallow-less bowl in front of him. “Debriefing. Never was a fan of those. They’re never brief, for starters.” He looks up, quirks an eyebrow at her. “You had my old bit of psychic paper in your pocket at Canary Wharf in the other universe, didn’t you?”
She tips her head at him. “Yeah.” Spoons a pile of marshmallows into her mouth.
“Well if we’re going in to Torchwood this morning, we could use my psychic paper to requisition one of those official vehicles — y’know the ones with the enormous wheels, drive over anything — and see how long it takes us to make it to the Cape of Good Hope.”
“Could do,” Rose replies, arching her eyebrows at him. “Might be more interesting to see Cape Dezhnev, though. Never been there before. Have you?”
A grin breaks over his face. “Nope.”
She loses her nerve at the very last minute.
The turn that would take them to the zeppelin port looms up ahead and they hadn’t packed or planned or anything, they were just going to go, she assumes. His hand in hers and new places to explore.
But right there, on the corner, as she reaches for her signal, is the coffee shop where her mum had listened to her after they returned from Bad Wolf Bay the first time.
She’d been unable to stomach the thought of going back to the empty mansion again right then, and her mum had sat with her, passing the owner more money than they used to see in a week to keep the lights on and the coffee coming. Her mum had stayed, letting Rose get sad and angry and sad again.
They will leave, she knows, but going now, not even a week after her mum had followed her across the universes, it doesn’t quite seem fair, and Rose is sick of hurting the people close to her.
They’ll take some time now, time to learn to be a proper family — all of them — and then they’ll go. Nothing will be able to stop them.
The Doctor watches her out of the corner of his eye as the light changes and she drives straight through the intersection.
“Soon,” she tells him and he nods, hand reaching to twine with hers for a moment before she has to shift gears.
A manual had seemed like a good idea when she bought it, the more she had to focus on, the less her mind could wander to dangerous places, but now she wishes for the ease of an automatic and a hand free to hold the Doctor’s.
It might be easier for the Doctor, too. She’s only let him drive once, on a quick trip back to the shop for more pants, following a conversation that involved the question, “How could you possibly think two pairs of underwear would be sufficient?” And an incredulous look that implied she was the one being daft.
“One to wear and one to wash!” he’d said, like it was obvious, and she’d hustled him out the door, mumbling about laundry frequency and decidedly not thinking about how, with both pairs dirty now, he was probably going pants-less.
He’d scooped the keys up from her hands and spent the entire drive fighting a battle to find third gear. He’d lost, and her car hadn’t been the same since.
They make it to the debrief just as Jake is arriving with the donuts and she mentally winces — that had always been Mickey’s job and she’s barely even spared a thought to him, which makes her feel awful, even though he’ll be happier back in their original universe now.
The Doctor swoops in for one with icing and sprinkles and he’s eaten four more by the time they’re finally done, stepping out of the building just as the sun is setting.
Jake catches up to them as they reach her car, “Fancy a pint?”
She glances at the Doctor, who shrugs and then nods.
“Sure,” Rose says. “But you’re sleeping at your own flat, so pace yourself.”
Jake gives her a look that implies he knows exactly why he’s sleeping elsewhere and Rose almost laughs. It’s clear from the twinkle in Jake’s eye that he is not imagining it’s because the Doctor’s been bunking on the sofa.
In fact, in some crazy fever dream hallucination where she may have imagined she’d end up with a part-human Doctor living in her flat, she probably wouldn’t have pinned him as sleeping on the sofa either.
Pinned him to the sofa, maybe. Not for sleeping though.
“Can I at least get a ride there?” Jake says. “I’ll take a cab home, I swear it.”
Jake had lost that round when Rose pointed out that two months ago he’d spent some one-on-one time with a bottle of tequila and ruined her ottoman.
The pub is noisy when they walk in, settling at a table while Jake makes a beeline for his favorite bartender. He returns with three pints of lager and a giddy look on his face.
“Why don’t you make a move already?” Rose says. “You clearly fancy each other.”
Jake launches into a lengthy explanation of the intricacies of modern dating, but Rose is more caught up in the look the Doctor’s giving her, the small smile that sets off a blush across her cheeks, the one that seems to scream, “Speaking of people who fancy each other…”
Flying right in the face of the “play it cool” part of the speech he’s just given, Jake stands from the table and heads straight back to the bar, sitting down on a stool and all but leaning his chin on his palms with a dreamy look in his eye.
The Doctor takes a swig of his beer and winks at her, pushing back in his chair, “Rose Tyler, I win nothing by default.”
He holds a hand out toward her, “Come on then, I’ve got to show someone up if I’m to be champion.”
She takes his hand and lets him tug her toward the dart board, laughing when he jogs back to the table to grab their pints.
“I believe this is an important part of the human darts-playing experience,” he says, handing her the glass and lifting for a toast.
“Cheers,” she says.
Two hours later the Doctor has proclaimed multiple victories over the dartboard, and over Rose, but he’s too far into the lager and it comes out all wrong.
“I am the dartboard victorious,” he tells Rose. “And there’s no one to stop me.”
Rose gives him one more pint, and promptly stops him, scoring down to zero while he’s still in the hundreds.
“Pool table victorious?” He says and Rose laughs. It’s a little weird in how weird it isn’t — out for a normal night, on a normal (parallel) Earth, normal chips and normal lager, with a man who is anything but normal.
“Pass,” Rose says. “I’d just beat you at that, too.”
The Doctor looks offended, “Were you hustling me? Rose, if we were in the Myglat Quadrant and you did that, you’d be promptly thrown in prison and then where would you be? Well, prison, I suppose. But you’d also be at the mercy of your traveling companion to come bail you out. And do you know what bail is in the Myglat Quadrant? Goats. I’d have had to find at least eight goats for a crime of that nature. That’s an awfully large gamble to take, me finding those goats.”
Rose smiles up at him sweetly, the alcohol buzzing warm in her veins, “You’d find them.”
The Doctor tips his head down to look at her, he’s been matching her drink for drink, but his eyes are clear when he speaks.
“I have a feeling, Rose Tyler, that you might find them for me,” he says.
She feels something coil low in her abdomen at his words; only the Doctor could make procuring goats seem intimate. She glances at Jake, but he’s still at the bar, mooning over the bloke behind it.
“Should we go back to the flat?” she says.
“Yeah,” he says. “Let’s go home.”
If her heart flips a little at that, at him calling her little flat, with four walls and a fixed size, “home,” she decides not to dwell on it.
Rose leads him out of the pub and takes the long way back, pointing out similarities and differences between this universe and her own. He’d noticed some of them that first morning, on walkabout by himself, but it’s better with Rose here.
“Best curry in the whole city,” Rose says and points at a restaurant. “They’ve got this spicy one, just mental spicy, sort of like a challenge. Tim tried it once and —”
She snaps her mouth shut so quickly he can almost hear the sound of it.
“You can talk about him,” the Doctor says, and realizes that he means it. If Tim or Mickey or Jackie or Jake made her happy, he wants to hear about it, wants to know she didn’t waste four years on thoughts of a lonely, old Time Lord with abandonment issues. Or is it commitment issues?
Whatever they are, he better sort them, and quick.
Rose gives him a searching look and he does his best to kept his face open and earnest.
“I mean it,” he says. “Talk all you like, give me the scoop, the news, the dirt.”
There’s a flash of panic when he realizes what the dirt probably entails and he rushes to correct himself, “Maybe not all the dirt. Not the dirty dirt, not the, um, well, the —”
Rose laughs, shoving at his arm and he makes a show of tripping down from the curb, “I wouldn’t,” she says, tongue snaking out to touch her teeth, like she’s thinking of adding more.
She slows their pace a little bit and then they’re stopping, facing each other. They’re nearly the same height with him in the street and her up on the sidewalk and he doesn’t miss the glint in her eye.
“Besides, wouldn’t want you jealous over what you haven’t had,” Rose says and her tone is playful enough, sexy enough, that he can’t feel the sting of the words, not with all the heat behind them. All the promise.
He’s felt desire before, felt it in this body even. It was there for the three times he’s kissed Rose with these lips. It was there for the glimpses of her breasts, softly rounded in clingy t-shirts, her bum in those tight, new jeans, the smooth skin of her arms, her neck, her ankles — it was there for all of it, these bolts of want right through his veins.
But none of it felt like this, like he could have exactly what he wants, he just needs to ask, or take, if Rose will let him.
“Haven’t had? Or won’t have?” And oh god, he’s said that, he’s said it out loud, and he can’t unsay it. He fights the urge to slam his eyes shut, to close them tight against the thought that he’s misread the entire situation.
It’s too soon.
She doesn’t feel like that about this him.
She’s still in love with Tim.
All the possibilities tumble through his brain and he doesn’t realize he actually has closed his eyes until he feels Rose’s forehead lean against his, noses brushing, and her breath warm on his mouth.
“Haven’t had yet,” she says and the rushing in his ears almost drowns her out. The hairs on the back of his neck raise, skin tingling, and the way time has slowed down, it’s different than it’s ever been before.
He can’t stop his mouth, can’t stop from checking, “It’s something I’m allowed to have though?”
His eyes are still closed and when Rose doesn’t answer him, when the air around them feels still and suffocating, he opens them to see her smiling at him. Wide and bright and brilliant, it’s the smile of the last memories he’ll share with the other him, Rose Tyler, on a darkened street, beaming at him.
She’s all cheek as she leans into him, mouth hovering just in front of his, “If you want,” she says, and he closes the distance between them.
Her mouth opens instantly and he mirrors the movement, tongue sliding to twine with hers with a confidence he wishes the rest of him had.
His hands flounder for a moment, coming to rest on her hips and he curls his fingers into her belt loops, tugging her closer.
She comes willingly, her body flush against his as he tilts his head for a better angle. Rose’s fingers find the back of his head, nails scraping before she’s fisting her hands in his hair.
He likes that, likes the sharp pull, the way she’s guiding his movements, and his tongue stutters to a halt before he’s pulling back to kiss her neck, her shoulder, her collarbone.
He’s just begun to test with his teeth, light little nips against her skin that have her arching her hips into his, when suddenly she pulls back.
He tries to focus himself, to calm the rush of adrenaline and hormones singing in his blood, and he only catches the end of what she’s said.
“Probably past her bedtime, but we shouldn’t risk it,” she says, and he’s fixated on the rise and fall of her chest, the flush spreading across the base of her neck.
“Huh?” Rose’s bedtime? Is he invited? He wants very much to be invited.
“Greta, from the grocery store? The little girl that told us to get a room?” Rose looks entirely too pleased and composed and he skates a hand down to her bum, cupping lightly as he pushes into her.
“Out of the mouths of babes, Rose Tyler,” he says. “We should definitely get a room.”
Rose hops down from the curb to stand next to him on the street, twining their fingers and smiling.
Running back to the flat was admittedly not her best idea. They’re panting in the lift, laughing and staring and the Doctor keeps licking his lips like he can still taste her there.
If she’d have sat down, with a calendar, and tried to imagine when she’d be ready for this, when they’d be ready for this, it probably wouldn’t have been quite so soon. There’s Tim to think of, and the TARDIS, and years spent apart.
But it’s that last thing that really gets her, because really, it’s not that it’s too soon, it’s that it was almost too late.
The lift dings for her floor and she’s darting out ahead, laughing as he stumbles to catch up.
She gets the key in the lock on the third pass, swatting the Doctor’s hands as he reaches for the keys on a path that somehow includes brushing repeatedly over the front of her shirt.
They tumble into the flat and the Doctor leans down to unlace his trainers while she toes her own shoes off.
When he stands, he gives her a smirk she feels in her bones and then he’s loping off to the sofa, fluffing at the pillows there.
“Well, I’ve had a great night, better turn in,” he says and oh, that’s how it’s going to be?
“Best do,” she says. “I’ve got a few things to take care of in my room. Might get noisy, be sure to let me know if I’m keeping you up.”
She walks toward the hall to her bedroom, unbuckling her belt and sliding it from the loops, dropping it to the ground as she passes him.
“Oh, now, if I’m going to be kept awake anyway, might as well help,” he says, ducking around the sofa to grab her by the waist.
He backs her up to the wall next to her bedroom door, nipping at her earlobe as she starts on the buttons of his shirt.
She gets it undone and pushes at the material, laughing as he stretches his arms out behind him to get the sleeves down without removing his mouth from her skin.
“Come on, let’s do this properly,” she says, moving sideways out from under him to get through her door.
He mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like an assertion that the hallway wall looks more than proper, but he follows her in anyway.
She hops onto the bed, walking on her knees toward the middle of it before turning to face him as he stands at the footboard.
He smiles at her and she smiles back, both of them nearly laughing with the sheer joy of the situation, that they’ve found each other, found themselves here. She catches his eye, fingers inching to the hem of her t-shirt.
“Naked victorious?” he says.
She winks at him, “Go!”
He starts on his trousers while she goes for her shirt, tugging it up and off before reaching behind her to unclasp her bra, tossing that away, too.
She moves to undo her jeans, fingers hovering over the button as she watches him drop his trousers to the ground, tugging his pants down after them.
He steps out of them with a filthy grin, leaning to pull his socks off. When he tugs his undershirt off she’s spurred back to movement, fingers making quick work of her button and zip, but it’s too late. He kneels on the bed as she flops to her back and he helps her pull her jeans off, taking her socks with them.
“I won,” he says and then he’s looming over her, eyes trailing down her body and fingers following in their wake.
He skims wide circles around her breasts, narrowing as she lets out a growl. She pulls at his shoulders and he shifts so his knees are between hers before leaning down to kiss her.
It’s sloppy and wet, lacking hesitancy and finesse, and it’s perfect.
She arches her hips up into him, body jerking as his fingers trail lower, skimming across her stomach before moving lower still.
Her hands are pulling at his hair, the skin of his back, his bum, and even though she’s suddenly very fond of his long, long fingers and the way they fit her, she’s more interested in the fit of other things.
She swats his hand away before turning to grip him, feeling a small swell of pride at the way he lets out his breath on a groan.
“Rose,” he says. “I do want.”
She shifts further back into the pillows, legs splaying wider.
“Have,” she says.
And he’s replacing her hand with his own, positioning himself and pushing forward.
She groans this time, while he goes completely still, panting softly in her ear. She shifts her hips under his and it’s like lighting a fuse.
He braces his weight on his forearms, caging her in, and starts up a rhythm she can’t make out and instead gives herself over to, mouth, teeth, tongue against his shoulder and fingers curling into his skin.
It’s not long before she’s nearly there, so close she can feel it coiling low inside her and when he moves his arm, hand grabbing underneath her calf to bend her knee toward her chest, it’s just enough, the perfect angle and it’s only a few more pumps of his hips before she’s coming, a string of swear words and noises that don’t even sound like they’re coming from her.
He only lasts a few moments more, rhythm stuttering and then he’s following her, matching her words and something between a grunt and a groan at the end.
She locks her limbs around him, keeping him in place as he collapses onto her.
It’s a good weight though, not like the one she’s been carrying for years, the weight of something lost replaced with something gained.
She’s going to carry this one forever.
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