AN: This is part of my series, "The Course of True Love." It covers events that happen during the time skip in the second chapter of "Love on a Desert Island," as well as in between that story and "With This Ring."
The Doctor was the first to the workshop, just as he had been every day for the last four months. He pulled the curtains back from the tall windows, and warm sunlight streamed into the room, dancing over the canvases and slabs of marble Michelangelo's apprentices were working on.
And in an alcove, there was an almost finished statue of the goddess Fortuna. The Doctor studied it carefully, starting with her sandalled feet and making sure every detail matched the image of Rose in his head. He swallowed when he reached her hand—the one that would eventually be lost—and remembered how those fingers felt, laced between his own.
Her face was blank, and looking at the pale white marble, the Doctor felt a flicker in his time senses, like he'd just remembered something that hadn't happened yet. Focus, he told himself sternly, then picked up his chisel.
Slowly, the room filled with chatter as other apprentices arrived to work. The Doctor blocked out the sound of their voices as the curve of Rose's full bottom lip emerged from the marble. As he worked, he remembered the way that lip had felt caught between his own, and he furiously blinked back tears.
"You do not work with any sort of reference."
The Doctor didn't look up when Michelangelo spoke. "No," he said, brushing away marble dust and studying his progress before reaching for the chisel again.
"I think your Fortuna is real, and you love her."
He stilled. "Yes."
Rose felt the breeze on her face first, then her vision cleared and the Doctor's face swam into view. Her heart clenched when she saw the deep furrow between his brows. As soon as she could move her hand, she reached up to smooth it away.
She heard the suppressed sob in his voice and wondered how long she'd been stuck as a statue. Before she could ask, the Doctor wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close.
Rose tilted her head back and met his kiss. His movements were frenzied, nipping at her lip, darting his tongue into her mouth to taste her, trailing kisses along her jawline before returning to her mouth.
She understood his desperation a few hours later when she held her breath and poured the green potion over his head. This time, she was the one to whisper his name, the one who needed to feel the warmth of his blood flowing beneath his skin as she touched him.
When he ran his hands up and down her back, Rose wound her arms around his neck and kissed him urgently, letting him feel her worry and her relief as they celebrated the unspeakable pleasure of being together.
Their kisses finally softened into a series of pecks, and then the Doctor pulled back and cupped her face in his hand. Rose smiled up at him and turned to press a kiss to his palm.
They were all right. They'd always be all right.
The Doctor stared up at the dark ceiling in Jackie's lounge. Seeing Sarah Jane again had been hard. Seeing how he'd hurt her by leaving and never coming back…
A soft shuffling noise distracted him from his thoughts, and he rolled over to look towards the hallway. Rose's figure was silhouetted in the pale light coming in through the window.
"I thought you were in bed," he whispered.
"Couldn't sleep," she answered. "Budge up."
The Doctor pushed himself up so his legs were stretched out on half of the couch, leaving room for Rose. But instead of sitting on the empty half, she wedged herself in between the back of the couch and his legs, resting her head on his chest.
"What's bothering you, love?" His hand dropped to her head, his fingers playing with her silky hair.
She shifted so he could see her face. "Why'd you leave Sarah Jane behind, Doctor?"
His throat closed when he heard the vulnerability in her voice. He would rather kiss a Slitheen than explain his fears to Rose, but he couldn't leave that fear unanswered.
"I don't age. I regenerate. But humans decay—you wither and you die."
She sucked in a breath, but the Doctor continued on, needing her to understand this.
"You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I wish I could, but I can't."
Rose climbed into his lap. "Then let's enjoy the forever we have."
The library's dim lights cast the Doctor's face in shadow, but Rose could still see his frown. "Why do I feel like you're angry with me?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. "You knew I didn't want to bring Mickey along!" she hissed. "I shook my head and told you no when he asked. So why'd you do it, Doctor?"
He raked his hand through his hair. "I really don't understand why you're so upset about this. You wanted Sarah Jane to join us—that was your idea. How is Mickey any different?"
Rose narrowed her eyes. "Really? You can't think of any reasons why having my ex-boyfriend along would be different?"
"It didn't occur to you that it might be… awkward, considering how our relationship has changed?" The Doctor's eyes widened, and his obvious surprise made Rose wonder if she'd misread his motivation.
"But he… you're not… you haven't been together in months!" he finally spluttered.
Rose sighed, and most of her anger drained out of her with the gust of air. "Yeah but Mickey still cares about me, and I don't want to hurt him by rubbing our relationship in his face."
The Doctor tugged on his ear, and Rose finally smiled at him. "Never mind." She crossed the room and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I thought you were pulling back, that's all."
He shook his head. "Never," he swore. "You promised your forever, and that's what I want."
The Doctor stared at Reinette, who was stalking him across the room with a coy smile on her face. It was similar to Rose's teasing smile, but instead of wanting to catch her in his arms and kiss her, his hearts pounded with a frantic need to run away.
He backed up to the wall, a few feet from the fireplace. "Listen, lovely to catch up, but better to be off, eh? Don't want your mother finding you up here with a strange man, do we?"
"Strange?" she repeated. "How could you be a stranger to me? I've known you since I was seven years old."
The logic was impeccable, but it also shot a hole in the Doctor's argument. He shifted towards the fireplace and said, "Yeah, I suppose you have. I came the quick route. But now that I've seen that you're still all right, I should just…"
Reinette crossed the remaining space between them, her eyes glittering with amusement. "Will you not allow me to thank you properly for keeping me safe all these years?" she purred, matching him step for step as he inched sideways.
"No thanks needed—all in a day's work for a fireplace inspector." Finally close enough, he grabbed the lever, then leapt through to the spaceship when the fireplace turned on its base.
Rose and Mickey were gone, and after his hearts slowed down, the Doctor followed them. Best if he stayed close to Rose until they were done dealing with Reinette.
"You're going to do what?" Rose asked.
The Doctor shoved his hands into his hair and tugged. "I know. I know, Rose. But timelines are dissolving around Reinette—if I don't save her, there will be disastrous consequences."
"Yeah, I get that," Rose replied. And she did—sometimes he had to act. "But I'm not staying behind."
"Oh!" His eyes brightened. "But didn't I explain the next part?"
Rose looked at Mickey, then they both said, "No."
"Ah. Well." He tugged on his ear and grinned sheepishly. "You two are coming to get me."
Rose blinked. "How're we gonna do that?"
The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets and grinned, like he'd been very clever. "When you get into the TARDIS, there will be a big red button on the console. That will tell her to follow our telepathic connection so she can come after me."
There were a lot of questions Rose wanted to ask, but there wasn't time. Instead, she grabbed the Doctor's tie and pulled him down while she pushed herself up on her toes. His lips met hers in a searing kiss, and she knew his rescue plan wasn't quite foolproof.
"You be careful," she warned after she backed up.
He swung himself up on the horse and beamed down at her. "See you in a minute, Rose Tyler."
Mickey stared at her after the Doctor broke the window. "So. You and him?"
Rose smiled, her lips still tingling from the kiss. "Yeah. We are."