Rose could feel the Doctor's gaze on her, and she shifted awkwardly in her seat. The fancy black leather reclining chairs of her not-quite-dad's luxurious zeppelin suddenly didn't feel so comfy.
As soon as Pete had picked them up in Norway, both she and the Doctor had zonked out, exhausted, in seats either side of the aisle. Currently, Rose was stirring, but she hadn't yet opened her eyes. She surreptitiously wiped her chin against her shoulder; unfortunately, she had a propensity for drooling when dozing, something which the Doctor had been fond of joking with her about in the past. But she wasn't really in the mood for his teasing right now.
Slowly, she turned her head, and let her eyes flutter open. The Doctor smiled tentatively at her, then looked away, leaning over the empty chair next to him to peer out of the window. "Looks like we've reached the lovely white cliffs of Dover," he said, affecting a cheerful tone of voice that didn't fool Rose for a second.
"Great," she replied, quite tonelessly - but then, she was still knackered. And things were…confusing.
His head rolled back around to face her. "I know things aren't what you expected," he said soberly. "But we're - well, we're here, now. Together, in the same universe again. We're just gonna have to make the best of it, eh?"
The corner of her mouth lifted in a half-hearted smile. "Yeah. It's just - it's all a bit weird." She fiddled with her hoop earring. "Listen, I've got something I need to say. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but…" She trailed off, swallowing hard.
With her hesitant pause, his eyes grew round. "Oh, you're - you're not courting, are you?"
For a moment, she forgot about the butterflies in her tummy and laughed, loudly. "Courting?" she repeated, with a bit of snort. "No. No, Doctor, I'm not courting."
"Ah. Well, what is it, then?"
"I've only got one bedroom, in my flat - "
"That's all right, I don't mind sharing," he replied easily.
Rose winced. "No, that wasn't - see, I don't feel like it would be right. To…do that, straight away."
"Do what? Share?"
"Oh." He tugged on his ear. "No, that's - of course. But, for the record, I didn't mean - I wasn't suggesting that I wanted to immediately jump into physical intimacy, Rose, so if that's what you think then - "
Rose could feel herself flushing pink but ignored it. "No, I know you wouldn't, but - well, sharing, it's still intimate, even without all the - the - " She waved her hand around vaguely. "Sex potential."
His lips twitched. "Sex potential?"
"Shut up. Look, I just think maybe you could stay at Mum's for a little while. 'Til we get used to all this, this new life. They've got plenty of room there - you could have a whole wing of the house to yourself if you wanted, I bet."
The Doctor nodded absently. "Okay. You need your space, that's fine. You'll sleep in your flat and I'll sleep at…" He raised his eyebrows briefly, as though he couldn't believe he was saying it. "Your mother's house, and we'll do that whole human thing."
"What human thing?"
"Well, humans usually live apart before they start courting, don't they?"
Rose couldn't help but laugh. "Don't think one half of the 'courting' couple usually lives at his mother-in-law's first, though."
He wrinkled his nose at this detail. "Out of curiosity, though, how far away do you live from the Tyler household?"
"Just twenty minutes."
"On foot or by car? Or, I dunno, bicycle?"
She smiled at him fondly. "Twenty minutes by car."
"Oh, well that's fine, that's - that's easy-peasy!"
"Can you drive, Doctor?"
"Can I - can I drive!" he spluttered. "Of course I can drive!"
She didn't quite believe him, but she nodded as if she did anyway. God, he was so like the Doctor.
"I am him."
Rose's eyes widened. "Were you in my head?"
"No, course not. You just had the same look on your face there, for a second, as you did that Christmas, when you finally accepted that I was the same man."
She let out a long breath. "Right. Yeah. Just a bit different, this time, seeing as there's still a you out there, somewhere."
"Well, that's what you mean, isn't it? There's a me out there without you, and that's true. But then, there's a me here with you, without the TARDIS. He's still me just because he hasn't got you with him, and I'm still him even though I don't have her."
Rose glanced away guiltily. "I know. But you're different men, now, you're gonna have different lives and I just…this isn't something I ever thought could happen. Us, Earth-bound."
The Doctor stood up and crossed the aisle. "Shift over for a mo." She did, and he slid into the seat she'd vacated. "If he was the one with the human lifespan, he'd be sitting right here, Rose. I promise. He didn't leave you here with me because he didn't want you, or this, he left because he could never have either of those things. I never could, before."
She met his eyes again, and sniffed. "But…"
Slowly, the Doctor reached into her lap and took her hand, entwining their fingers. "You know that before - that I -" He cleared his throat, and squeezed her hand. "I wanted to give you everything."
Her voice was shaky when she replied, "You did."
He shook his head. "No. Maybe I would have tried, if - if I hadn't lost you that day, if you'd been on my side of the room instead and I'd grabbed that lever and we went back to the TARDIS together, no harm done. Maybe you would've stayed with me on my ship forever, like you promised, and we'd…well. All that. A life together, albeit one not settled down on Earth, but…a relationship." He coughed awkwardly. "Properly, I mean, defined and…full. But here's the thing, Rose. That forever, I know you meant it, but it's the human version of forever. You would've been gone, someday."
"Well, obviously. Doesn't mean you should deny yourself happiness, Doctor, no matter how fleeting or whatever."
"I didn't deny myself happiness. You made me incredibly happy. Happier than I've ever been."
Rose nibbled on her bottom lip. "Really?"
"Yes." With his free hand, he reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear, then let his fingers ghost down her shoulder and arm as he dropped his hand back to the armrest between them. "Rose. My forever matches up with yours now," he murmured. "So we can be even happier." He shrugged a little, and repeated his words from the beach. "If you want."
She nodded, and squeezed his hand in confirmation. Her throat had closed up too much for her to get proper words out.
He suddenly let out a whoosh of breath, sounding relieved, and Rose realised how tense, how worried, he'd been.
"It won't be for long," she said quietly, then coughed and spoke louder, "Us living separately. I just need to get back and sort myself out and…I dunno, maybe your idea of us courting first sounds nice."
"Really?" he chuckled. "Thought you found that amusing. Am I too old-fashioned for you, Rose Tyler?"
"Old, yeah, but - "
"Oi!" He nudged her with her elbow. "Here, how old do you reckon I look?"
"Well, I suppose I'm going to have to have an official age to tell people, aren't I? Oooh! I can have a proper birthday, now!"
"Glad you're seeing some benefits of being part-human."
"Mmm, well… Luckily I've still got a Time Lord mind, and it's true that I'd rather some other parts be Time Lord than this new human thing I've got going on - "
Rose raised her eyebrows and he caught her look.
" - I meant my singular heart and inefficient respiratory system, Rose Tyler, not my nether-regions!"
"Did I say anything?" she remarked innocently. "I don't think I said anything about that!"
"No, but you were thinking it, I could tell. Filthy mind, you've got. Anyway! So the organs - internal organs, Rose, stop snickering - could use a bit of an upgrade, but you're right, there's a few cultural benefits I'm looking forward to. Mostly the holidays. Mostly where there's cake involved. And Christmas! Oh, I love Christmas. Actually, that's a lie, I just lied, I've hated Christmas lately, and all the trouble it brings, although I did get a kiss under some mistletoe before the Titanic nearly crashed so I'd like to experience that tradition with you - "
"Hey," Rose narrowed her eyes, poking him in the chest. "And who was this mistletoe kiss on the Titanic with?"
"Someone who reminded me very much of you, actually, though I don't really know if that's a good thing for you to hear or not. Anyway, that wasn't - it was just - harmless. Nothing for you to worry about! Besides, I'm sure you've had your fair share of snogs in Pete's World." He leant his head closer. "Have you, by the way? Just wondering."
Rose rolled her eyes. "I went on like, one blind date that Jake set up that went horrendously wrong. Then there was a trip to Moscow for work that led to a cosy moment with a Fericcan."
The Doctor snorted. "That can't have been pleasant. Fericcans smell awful."
"That's a bit prejudiced, Doctor," she tutted. "But yeah, you're right, and it was only 'cos we got snowed in that I was stuck in such intimate conditions. Kept as much distance as I could."
"So," the Doctor said, his eyebrows drawing together, "Is that zero, then?"
"A bad date, an accidental house-share with a Fericcan…zero snogs?"
"Oh, I haven't told you about Teddy." She said his name with relish, for the Doctor's benefit, but she had been quite fond of the man so it wasn't hard to exaggerate.
"Teddy?" The Doctor squared his shoulders. "What kind of a name is Teddy?"
"He was lovely," Rose continued, ignoring his comment, "Trouble was, he was the head of the Canadian Torchwood branch."
"Now who's being prejudiced!"
"No, I didn't mean it like that! I just meant, you know, long-distance, tough to navigate."
"Mmm." He paused, and scratched his chin. "Twenty minutes away, by car, that's not long distance, right?"
"Course not," Rose laughed.
"Just checking." He was silent for a moment, then jumped back into the conversation with, "So, this 'Teddy'…"
"No, one with Teddy." She ran her hand through her hair casually. "The other was…accidental, and surprising - good, but surprising - and done whilst a tiny bit tipsy."
"Why are you so interested?"
"Just curious, that's all. Want to see how many rivals I have here on Pete's World." He waggled his eyebrows. She knew he was joking, knew he was over his jealous streak, that he trusted her completely, but she still found it odd that he was being persistent with this. She definitely didn't want to hear about what he'd been up to in that regard whilst they'd been away from one another.
"Okay, fine, I have this friend, we met in a school when I had to go undercover - yes, again, but as the receptionist instead of a dinner lady this time - and we're just friends, but once there was a moment. But that's all it was. A moment."
"Will I meet this friend?"
"Probably, one day - I expect you'll meet all my friends. Maybe even make friends with them yourself."
"Will you ever tell me which of your friends it was?"
Rose grinned. "Never."
He grinned back. "Bet I'll work it out."
"Bet you won't."
"Already know they work in a school, don't I?" he said triumphantly.
"They don't work in a school anymore."
"Oh. Well, I'm very good at deducting."
She arched an eyebrow. "Not as good as me."
"Very true," he replied, his voice low.
Rose giggled, and looked away.
"What?" he asked, sounding affronted.
"Nothing. It's just so weird."
"Flirting with you."
"Rose, you flirted with me constantly."
"Yeah, but it never had this - this feeling of inevitability surrounding it."
"It didn't?" He frowned at her.
"Wait, what? Did you think it was gonna go somewhere?"
"Did you not?"
"But - but you never said! Back then, I didn't - I didn't think it was on your radar. Thought when your voice got all low and seductive like that it was just harmless fun, for you, or that you didn't realise quite how flirtatious you were being!"
"I just ran out of time, that's all! Blimey." He ruffled his hair. "Thought we were just going slowly."
"Building the anticipation," he mumbled. "Didn't know there was a need to hurry, then, did I? Thought we had all the time in the world."
"Oh." She rubbed at his arm consolingly. "Yeah."
"You knew how I felt, though. Right?" He bit into his bottom lip, and Rose stared at it for a moment, so he elaborated, "Emotionally, I mean, not the fancying bit."
Her eyes returned to his. "I did, yeah."
"For the record, I knew you fancied me, too, just didn't think you were planning on acting on it."
"But now we're on the same page."
They both smiled, slowly, staring at each other as if to check their expressions were matching. They were.
For a few hours after they'd landed in London, Rose hung around at Jackie and Pete's house, catching up with her little brother and giving the Doctor a bit of a tour. They all ate takeaway together in the living room, Rose pausing in her devouring of noodles every five minutes to contemplate how surreal it was to have her family all back together. And then, it was ten o'clock at night, and Rose was ready to head to her flat to catch some more sleep.
She ended up stood on the doorstep for five minutes chatting to the Doctor on her way out. She'd said her goodbyes to the rest of them, and they'd all gone upstairs to get ready for bed, giving her some time alone to wish the Doctor goodnight.
Stroking his lapel shyly, Rose said, "I'll be back in the morning. I'll take you shopping, yeah? Grab a few bits and bobs."
He chuckled, and tugged on his ear. "You're going to try and get me in jeans, aren't you?"
"Mm, you know me so well." She grinned. "You'll look good in 'em, promise."
"Well, if they're purely for your ogling benefit, Rose, I suppose I concede."
"Excellent! Anyway, after that maybe I can take you into work, introduce you to my Torchwood team?"
"I'd like that."
Rose ducked her head. "You're not surprised?"
"That I have a team."
"Of course I'm not surprised. I am surprised you're not running the entire organisation, though, to be honest."
She whacked his arm playfully. "Shut up."
He grabbed her hand and drew her closer. "I'm very proud of you."
"Thanks. That, um. That means a lot." She wished her voice hadn't come out all shaky, but there was nothing she could do about that now, so she just hugged him tight to distract him.
The Doctor hugged her back just as fiercely, burying his nose in her hair. "I'll see you in the morning," he whispered, as they pulled back from each other.
Rose smiled. "Not if I see you first." She walked backwards down the path as far as she could before needing to turn around to see where the taxi she'd booked was parked. As she climbed inside and gave the driver her address, she looked through the window to see the Doctor still standing in the doorway, his hands in his pockets.
He nodded at her as the taxi pulled away, and a shiver went through Rose. It was a cold night.
That the temperature was below freezing that night became all too apparent when she was trying to get to sleep. Tossing and turning in bed, trying to get comfy, to get warm, Rose was growing increasingly frustrated with herself for her stupid idea of the Doctor sleeping in a bed, on his own, twenty minutes away.
Rolling towards her bedside table, she grabbed her landline phone from its cradle, and dialled her own mobile number. She'd left her phone with the Doctor, for emergencies, until they could get him one of his own; she just hoped he was still awake.
The call connected and Rose let out a sigh of relief to hear his voice sleepily saying hello.
"Hi, it's me," she murmured, then sighed, feeling daft.
"I gathered," he replied. "Given that it said 'home' calling, and this is your phone. Hmm. Quite apt, that. It saying 'home,' you on the other end. Rose, I'm trying to be romantic, is it working? I'm too tired to tell."
Rose giggled. "It's sort of working. Do you get sappy in the dark of night or something?"
"Mm, maybe. Who knows. Anyway, what's up?"
She paused for a few seconds, then in a rush admitted, "I've made a huge mistake."
He didn't reply.
"About us not being in the same place tonight," she clarified, hoping he hadn't got the wrong end of the stick.
"Oh! Oh, that! Phew."
She kicked herself internally. "Oh god, you thought I meant - sorry. Sorry! I didn't mean that. I made my choice on that beach and I'm sticking to it."
She heard the smile in his voice when he replied, "Me too."
"Okay, good. So, yeah, I can't sleep. I'm cold. I miss you nattering in my ear. I miss you in general. God, Doctor, why did I think this was a good idea? I haven't seen you for years, and then I go and let you out of my sight once I've finally got you back?"
"Well. I must admit I'm not fond of this situation either, but I suppose it is healthier, maybe, to have a bit of space - nah, I can't fool myself with that, sorry. It was a terrible idea."
"Then why did you let me drive away?"
"That poor taxi driver looked like he needed a fare?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Doctor."
"No, look, I let you go because you said that was what you wanted."
"I know. I know. Thanks. It's just, I dunno. Could use a cuddle right now."
"Me too. But you didn't want to rush things."
"Pfft, we cuddled all the time, it's not like it's something new."
"Are you saying you want me to come over? Because I would, but I don't know where you live, remember."
Rose heaved a sigh. "No, it's gone midnight, I s'pose we might as well stay as we are."
"Now we're on this subject though…"
"Rose, as nice as your family is, I'm not sure I can live here much longer."
"It's been half a night!"
"I know, but your mother tucked me in. She - she fussed over me like I was a child! Like I was as young as Tony - who, by the way, is a delightful little boy."
"She's missed you, you know. And she thinks you need looking after. You probably do, you've got a lot to get used to around here."
"Yes. But I'd rather have you to teach me about all the human stuff. And I don't need tucking in."
Rose laughed. "Yeah, okay. You're right."
"Excellent. So, am I gonna have to fork out money I don't have for a hotel, or is there a sofa at yours I can nab for a nap? Ooh, I like that, 'nab for a nap.' I should write that down…"
"I'm not gonna make you sleep on my sofa, Doctor."
"But you said you only had one bedroom, which I would assume means one bed - unless you have bunk beds - ooh, or hammocks! Do you have hammocks? That would be a novelty, at least for a little while, could see them getting impractical later - anyway, where was I? Oh yes, you seemed very averse to sharing earlier."
"As we've established, I was being an idiot. Thought I needed space, which was daft, because all I've had is space from you for years. Tomorrow, you're moving in, okay?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. This bed is big enough for two, and I want you in it." She paused. "You know, for cuddling."
"Right," he replied, and she could hear him smirking from twenty minutes away, "For cuddling."
"Seriously, I mean it. Nothing else just yet."
They were both quiet for a few seconds, then simultaneously clarified, "Apart from snogging, obviously."
"Exactly," Rose said, laughing that they'd said the same thing at the same time. "Did that on the beach already so we can try that out again."
"Yep, no harm in it."
They went silent again. Rose swallowed, her mind choosing this moment to conjure up other things she wished she could do with the Doctor right now, things for which they definitely needed to get to know each other again properly before they embarked on them. Probably. Maybe? Really, was it necessary that they dance around things again, start from scratch, date and 'court' or whatever other nonsense the Doctor was entertaining? Hadn't they waited long enough?
"I know what you're thinking."
"How can you possibly know that?"
"Because I know you. And I know me, and I know us, and I know that now there's nothing standing in our way, we're not going to be able to help it."
Her pulse sped up. "What's that?"
"Rushing into things."
"Right." She swallowed. "Yeah, think you're onto something there."
"It might not be a bad thing."
"We've been through a lot. Together and apart." She heard him clear his throat. "And, well, we're headed for all that anyway. Right?"
"Correct," Rose exhaled roughly.
"Then, we'll just - not bother with silly restrictions? Take things as they come?"
"Sounds good to me," she replied, suddenly not at all cold in her freezing flat. "Doctor, can I tell you something?"
"I'm blushing. Isn't that daft? I'm all flustered. It's just sex. Why am I getting all embarrassed about talking about it?"
"Oh, are we talking about sex?"
"Shut up, Doctor."
He chuckled. "Sorry. Ahem. Listen, if it helps, I'm blushing too. Bloody human part, that; I never blushed as a Time Lord. So…tomorrow, we'll do all what you said earlier, shopping and Torchwood, and then in the evening, I'll come and stay with you?"
"And we'll cuddle."
"And snog," she interjected helpfully.
"And see how it goes?"
"Yep." Rose couldn't help but beam up at her ceiling. "Totally on board with that."
"Okay. Right. Perhaps we should say goodnight, then."
"Yeah, probably. Thanks for chatting with me, Doctor."
Rose hesitated before ending the call, wondering if she should say it. She hadn't yet, not today, not in a reply to his profession on the beach.
She felt like she should. Like she wanted to.
"Love you," she rushed out, then hung up, clutching the phone to her chest for a moment as she let out a tiny, embarrassed squeal to herself.
Everything had changed, today, and it would do so even more tomorrow. She should still be feeling sad, bereft, even - apprehensive, at least. And maybe she was still those things, in small parts. He almost certainly felt those things too, having lost his ship and his second heart and his ability to regenerate all in one fell swoop.
But something the Doctor had made clear to her today, and tonight, was that he would be there for her, however much she needed or desired. This Doctor, with his singular heart, and his words, and his forever that matched hers.