Party lanterns had been strung across Florizel Street, Elvis played over the wireless, and Rose Tyler glowed. The Doctor couldn't take his eyes off her, drinking in the way her eyes sparkled when she laughed, her cute habit of scrunching up her nose when she disagreed with someone, and—

Oh, gods, she'd caught him watching her. And now he was mesmerised by her teasing tongue, poking out from behind her teeth. His arched eyebrow in response was automatic, and his hearts stuttered when she slowly worked her way through the crowd, her skirts swishing around her calves.

He had rules in place, keeping their relationship strictly platonic. And with every step she took, another of his reasons they couldn't be together shattered at her feet.

Then Rose was in front of him, that hint of tongue teasing him again. "This is a party, Doctor," she chided him. "You're supposed to be having fun, not standing here all by yourself." She rested her fingers on his tie, between his hearts, and he wondered if she could tell how fast they were beating. "D'you want to dance?"

She bit her lip as she looked up at him through her lashes. That uncertainty, even as she flirted with him, struck the final blow at his rules. Tonight, they would talk. Tonight, their relationship would change.

The Doctor shook his head slowly, and Rose's shoulders slumped. Before she could step away from him, he covered her hand with his and leaned closer, so his next words would be for her ears only. "I think," he said, letting his teeth click on the k, "that I would rather spend the rest of the evening at home with you… if you'd like."

He was close enough to feel her soft gasp against his cheek. Rose pulled back and looked at him, and whatever she found on his face made her eyes darken.

"Yeah." She swallowed. "Yeah, let's go home."

The Doctor smiled and took her hand. It was easy to sneak away, since they were outsiders. As they walked down the street, the sounds the party faded behind them, leaving them wrapped in a deliciously tense silence.

His courage faltered when they reached the TARDIS. Could he actually do this—let his relationship with Rose achieve the potential it had always had? Where they were right now was safe. Becoming more—letting her know how much she meant to him—was dangerous.

The silence between them, which had hummed with anticipation, took on an awkward note as they entered the ship. Rose looked up at him, and the blue-green light of the time rotor cast her face in shadow. Still, he thought he saw the same rueful, wistful glint in her eye that had driven him to speak earlier, and it broke through his fear just as easily as it had his resolve. Backing away now would hurt Rose far more than the inevitable end of their relationship would hurt him.

So when she tilted her chin back, he reached out and pushed a piece of her hair over her ear. Her brave mask faltered, and she licked her lips. "Doctor?"

"Shhh…" Now that he was touching her face, he couldn't stop. This had been gone only hours before, taken by the Wire, and he needed to touch, to believe she was here in front of him. "You're so beautiful," he whispered as he brushed his fingertips over her forehead, down the bridge of her nose, across the sweep of her cheeks.

Rose drew a shaky breath and grabbed the lapel of his coat as she swayed towards him. The Doctor cupped her face between his hands and brushed his thumbs over her cheekbones.

"Rose?"

Her fingers clenched around the soft suede of his coat. "Please, Doctor."

With that simple please, two years of fighting with himself came to an end. The Doctor slowly leaned down until he felt Rose's soft, warm lips against his own. She sighed and tilted her head until her bottom lip was slotted between his, and the tenderness of the moment took his breath away.

He'd kissed Rose before, three times. He'd thought he knew what it was like to kiss her. But he realised now that each of the previous times, he'd been able to focus on the secondary meaning behind the kiss. A way to save her life, something that had only happened because she was possessed, or a way to celebrate the simple pleasure of being alive. There was no secondary meaning to this kiss, nothing to distract him from the way her lips moved against his.

Needing to catch more of Rose's taste, the Doctor ran his tongue over her lips. The sound she made in the back of her throat in response flooded him with desperate want. He gasped and pulled out of the kiss—that had not been part of his plan.

He looked down at Rose, intending to apologise for getting carried away and suggest they go to the library so they could talk. One look at her dark eyes and parted lips, and he was undone.

"Rose," he groaned as he ran his hands down her back to rest just above her bum.

She nodded, then wrapped his tie around her fist and tugged him down as she pushed herself up on her toes. The Doctor groaned in satisfaction when their lips met again. He slid one hand under her denim jacket to stroke her back through the thin fabric of her blouse.

In return, Rose scraped her nails against his scalp, drawing a hiss of pleasure from him. There was still tenderness in the way their lips moved together, but it was rapidly being overtaken by the passion building between them.

The Doctor nipped at her bottom lip, then thrust his tongue into her mouth when it opened. His senses swam as Rose's taste drowned out everything else. The punch and cake from the party, her tea from breakfast, but more importantly, a delightful cocktail of hormones and pheromones that told him how happy she was, and how much pleasure she gained from his touch.

Gradually, he felt Rose pulling back, scraping her teeth over his bottom lip as she eased out of the kiss. The touch sent a jolt of pleasure down his spine.

The Doctor opened his eyes, and when he did, his knees went weak. Rose Tyler standing in his TARDIS with kiss swollen lips and eyes dark with lust was easily the sexiest thing he had ever seen—though he suspected it would be surpassed before the night was out.

She was regarding him with a question in her eyes, and the Doctor loosened his hold on her until his hands rested on her hips. "What is it, love?" he asked, brushing his thumbs over the soft pink satin of her skirt.

He didn't know the endearment had slipped past his lips until her eyes lit up, but he didn't regret it. A confident gleam entered her eyes, and the Doctor groaned. He'd been right—Rose would only get sexier as the night went on.

"Well…" She stretched the word out, mimicking him, then let her tongue peek out through her smile. "I just thought, maybe we ought to take this someplace else."

With that implicit permission, the Doctor swept Rose up into his arms. "You're absolutely right," he told her as he carried her away from the console. "This is not the place for what I have planned." At the entrance to the corridor, he paused and looked back at the jump seat. "At least, not this time."