The Doctor was sitting on the jumpseat when Rose returned to the console room.
"Mickey all settled in?" he asked.
She sat down beside him, bumping her knee against his. "He found your video game room. He's gonna be settled in for weeks. Plonked himself down on a bean bag with a mini fridge of beer next to him and couldn't wait to sample the 'games of the future.' You get to try and pull him out of there for an adventure, tomorrow, by the way."
"Ah. You'd think with all that trouble we got into with the Quevvils last year he'd be a bit put off."
"Nah, not Mickey," Rose replied. She studied the Doctor quietly for a minute; his gaze didn't leave the time rotor. "All right, tell me, then."
She looped her arm through his, stroking the sleeve of his jacket. "I dunno, how you're feeling, or what happened, or whatever."
The Doctor finally looked at her, raising his eyebrows. "Does that sound like something you think I actually want to do?"
Rose harrumphed and edged her arm back out, standing up. "Fine, wallow by yourself. Just thought I'd be a friend and offer some comfort, but that's okay, you just do your usual brooding thing and come find me when you've perked up a bit."
She made to move away, but he reached out and grabbed what he could of her, which happened to be the belt loop of her jeans. He tugged her back towards him, and she folded her arms. "Yeah?"
He dropped his hand when it appeared she was staying put, and heaved a sigh. "I 'feel' like I need a cuppa. Want one?"
She sniffed, and shrugged one shoulder. "Depends. You gonna talk to me?"
He shrugged a shoulder right back at her. "Dunno. You gonna listen?"
"But will you, though?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
The Doctor stood up, and put his hands in his pockets. "I don't know if you were listening to me the other night."
Rose's eyes widened. "What are you talking about?"
"Outside that chip shop."
She swallowed hard. "The wither and die thing?"
Rolling his eyes, he answered, "Yes, the 'wither and die thing.'"
"I was listening! Of course I was listening."
"Then you should know exactly what's going on in my head right now without me having to say it out loud."
Rose put her hands on her hips, raising her chin defiantly. "Are you kidding me? You barely said anything! And that was before all this, all what happened today, so how should I know how you feel if you don't tell me?"
"Why are you raising your voice?"
"Because you're making me frustrated!" she exclaimed. "You never say what you mean, so I'm always bloody reading between the lines and I'm sick of it."
"Well, maybe we just aren't as close as I thought we were, then," he retorted, with a huff.
"What, because I can't read your mind? I'm not a Time Lord, or an intelligent French aristocrat for that matter, I can't open doors in your head and sneak a few peeks just by touching you!"
"Ah, here we go," he said, his lips twitching.
"Nothing. Look, Rose. Today was…it was a mess. If seeing Sarah Jane again made me realise that what you and I have cannot last, today confirmed it with a great big neon sign."
Rose staggered backwards, grabbing the edge of the console in shock. The Doctor's eyebrows drew together, surprised at her reaction.
"What, that's a shock to you?" he asked. "You know our lifespans don't match up, Rose. You've always known that."
She swallowed against the lump in her throat, but it wouldn't budge. "No, I know, but what you just said - you - oh my god, did you love her?"
His eyes nearly popped out of his head. "What? Who?"
"Take your pick!" Rose spluttered, waving her hand vaguely. "Sarah Jane, Reinette - "
The Doctor sighed, sounding exasperated. "Rose, I knew Reinette for a few hours, that's not - that's not love. She might have convinced herself she loved me, for some reason, but - look. What I meant was, when Sarah and I were friends, all those years ago, I left her behind, because I had to go back to Gallifrey without her, and then I just…well, I never went back for her, and - "
"Mickey reckoned you did a similar thing today," Rose said, before she could stop herself.
" - what?"
"On that spaceship, leaving me and Mickey there to rot whilst you jumped through the mirror. I told him you had to, that it was the only way. Was it? The only way?"
"In the moment, it was all I could think of, yes."
Rose took a few steps forward, which seemed a bit menacing from the Doctor's point of view, given the sly, calculating look on her face, so he backed up a bit and hit his head on a coral strut. "So," she continued, ignoring his wince, "This was a woman you'd known 'for a few hours,' and in that moment she was all you could think about, that's what you're saying?"
"Rose, you're twisting my words," he countered. "I meant that it was the only thing I could think of to do, off the cuff. Given more time to think of a better plan, I would've made sure we stuck together."
She raised her eyebrows at this, possibly in disbelief, but nodded. "Okay."
He tugged on his ear. "Anyway, if I could get back to what I was saying?"
"Right. The other day. Seeing Sarah Jane after all those years…it shook me. She's lived a life, she's - well, I'm not sure how old she is, exactly, but she's certainly not as young as when I knew her."
"What, and you're worried what you'll think of me, when I'm that age? Are you that superficial, Doctor?" Rose asked, and there was a bit of laughter in her voice now, because she'd never believe he'd be shallow.
"Don't be daft. But Rose, listen to me, listen to what I'm saying. One day, you're gonna grow old, and I'm going to lose you. Today, I watched it happen in fast-forward, and no, I didn't love Reinette, but it was jarring all the same. I could never pop in and out of your life like I did with Reinette's, because I'm selfish and I want you always with me, but that means I'm not going to notice it. I won't notice you getting older. It'll happen gradually, and I'll not notice, and we'll do what we do, and then one day, in a snap, you'll be gone. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is?"
Rose was silent. She stared at him in shock.
"I met Reinette, she kissed me, we danced at a party, and then she was dead. That all happened in a few hours for me. It made me realise just how fragile you humans are, just how quickly you - " He broke off, his Adam's apple bobbing. "I know it's different for you, you don't live in eighteenth century France so you have a far less likely chance of contracting TB and dying at the tender age of forty-two. But it scared me all the same." He stepped closer, his gaze fierce and pinned entirely on Rose, and took her hands in his. "Anything could happen, Rose. Anything."
She squeezed his hands, speechless and trying to comfort him. "I…"
"Did you really listen to me the other day? Really? You can spend the rest of your life with me, Rose. You really, really can. I want you to. But I don't know how I'm supposed to deal with the fact that in the blink of an eye, you'll be gone."
Voice trembling, Rose replied, "I'll help you. We'll deal with it together."
"How?" he asked, frowning deeply.
A tear slid down her cheek and one of his hands left hers to swipe it away with his thumb. He left his hand there, cupping her jaw tenderly.
"I dunno," she laughed wetly, shaking her head to herself. "By, I dunno, making the most of the time we do have? 'Cos it's not so short a time, to me, you know. Pledging sixty years to you or whatever is kind of actually a big deal from my perspective. We might get sick of each other by then, anyway."
He smiled down at her, his other hand coming up to frame her face. "Oh, I don't know. I think we make a pretty good team."
She gripped his lapels. "Doctor."
"Do you snore?"
He chuckled. "No."
"Then I think we're good."
The Doctor squinted at her, confused, and then, after a few seconds, his eyes cleared in understanding, and he coughed, scratching the back of his neck. "Oh. You, er. You were planning on…embarking on a situation where you might have to hear that?"
Rose nibbled on her bottom lip nervously. "Well, I mean, not if you don't want to, I just thought…"
"I just thought, because I'd, well, I didn't think you wanted…"
"I didn't know if you wanted…"
The Doctor rushed out, "Oh, I do."
"You do?" She sighed in relief.
His hands stroked down her ribs and gripped her waist. "Yes."
"So, this business with Reinette, kissing her and all that, was that - "
"That was just one tiny snog, let's not - I didn't - it was a reflex - it wasn't - she ambushed me!" He spluttered through a series of half-formed explanations.
Rose grinned. "One snog?"
"Just one," he confirmed, nodding quickly. "Never to be thought of again."
"Yes." He paused, then added, "And if I'd known that we'd, that you and I, if I'd known that was - I wouldn't have. I won't. Again. At all." Rose opened her mouth to reply, but the Doctor continued, "And, wait, you and Mickey aren't going to - "
Rose shook her head. "Nope. Nothing like that, not anymore."
"Okay." He nodded. "Okay, good."
She tugged on one of his lapels. "Think maybe you can take us somewhere for chips? I'm peckish."
"Oh. Right, yes, of course." He seemed reluctant to let go of her, as he tried to reach for the console controls from his current position. Rose laughed, and looped her arms around his neck, halting his attempts for good.
"It's all right," she said, unable to stop her smile growing as his eyes focused on her mouth. "We can do this first, then chips."
"And, um," he mumbled, his fingers curling into the fabric of her top, "'This' would be…?"
"This," she whispered, standing on tiptoes, leaning in close.
"This?" he whispered back, angling his mouth over hers.
Their lips touched, pressed firmly, and drew apart for a breath, just enough time for her to murmur, "Yeah, this," before sinking together again.