Notes: This was for a challenge that Jillybean set over at T&C. Took me a while, but it's finally here! So, um, for Jilly.
Rose carefully counted off the days in her diary. She wanted to get this right. This had to be right – perfect, in fact.
She nodded, satisfied that she'd got the 'date' right, and left her bedroom in search of the Doctor.
She found him, as usual, in the control room. He was hunkered under the console, tool in one hand and mallet in the other. He was muttering just under his breath, talking to the TARDIS. The first time Rose had found him doing this, she hadn't been able to stop laughing for ten minutes straight. Now she found it endearing.
"Guess what," she said in lieu of a greeting. He jerked and swore, hitting his head against a protruding piece of metal. "Ouch. You alright?"
"Give a bloke some warning," he complained, pushing himself backwards and then standing. "Ow," he muttered, touching his head.
"Baby," Rose grinned. "Guess what."
He sighed. "What?"
"It's nine months since I came with you." Her grin grew even wider. "If I hadn't come, it'd be Christmas for me tomorrow."
The Doctor gave her a look. "Rose. Is there a point to this?"
"There will be," Rose nodded, practically bouncing. "Will you do me a favour?"
He folded his arms. "The last time I did you a favour, my boots got set on fire," he reminded her. "What is it?"
"I want to go shopping."
He grinned. "Why am I not surprised?" He spun around and pressed something on the console. "Jupiter Station do you? Best shopping in the galaxy, late fourth human empire."
"Sure," she agreed, crossing to the console and hanging on tight as the TARDIS started to hum and whir. "Thanks."
Fifteen minutes later, relatively speaking, Rose was happily browsing a curio shop on level four of the space station. She'd told the Doctor to stay and tinker with the TARDIS – and she hadn't seen him lurking around to 'keep an eye on her', so he might have actually listened for once. She needed for him to not be here, because Rose Tyler was a woman on a mission.
She and the Doctor had been dancing around each other for months, and she was sick of it. Yes, there had been hugs. Yes, they held hands a lot. Yes, they climbed into each other's beds in the middle of the night after nightmares.
But nothing had been said, and she was getting tired of cold showers, and dammit if the Doctor was going to chase off every guy she met before she could have a nice fling, he was going to have to 'fess up to the feelings between them.
Thus, the shopping trip. She needed the perfect gift for him, and possibly some jewellery for herself. After this, she would get the Doctor to take her sometime nice on Earth where she could dress up, and she was going to seduce him and tell him flat out how she felt.
Possibly not in that order.
She drifted past a display of arcane weaponry, paused at a variety of musical instruments, then leaned towards a display case of antique or rare coins. She was amused to see a twenty pence piece with an image of Elizabeth the Second on it. Other coins she recognised from times and places she'd been to with the Doctor.
Rose looked up, startled, to see the owner of the shop. He was human, and bore more than a passing resemblance to Richard Attenborough.
"Hi," she greeted.
"Are you looking for something in particular?" he asked politely.
"Yes – I mean, I'm looking for something for this bloke I know." She shrugged awkwardly. "Something special."
"Ah," the man nodded. "Perhaps I can be of assistance?" She nodded. "If I may ask, who is this man to you?"
"Friend. Best friend. But…it might become more."
"And his planet?"
"Gone," Rose said unthinkingly. She reddened as the man looked inquiringly at her. "Uh, I mean…"
"Very few planets have been destroyed," the man said slowly. "In recent history, at any rate." He held up a thin finger. "One moment, if you please…" He scurried away to a back corned of the shop, and returned holding a folded cloth carefully in his hands. "This might be what you're looking for," he announced, placing the cloth carefully onto a display case and unfolding it.
"What is it?" Rose breathed, gazing in wonder.
"Something out of its time and place," the shop owner said quietly. She looked up at him sharply, and he nodded. "Yes. Something that shouldn't exist."
"It's perfect," she said at last. "How much is it?"
"Nothing," the man said, folding the cloth again. "I shall give it to you for no fee except your smile, and the knowledge that one of those great people remains."
Rose shook her head. "I couldn't possibly," she denied. "It must be worth a fortune –"
"To a Gallifreyan, it is priceless," the man said gently. "He is lucky to have such a loving young woman."
Rose carefully placed the bundle into her rucksack. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "Are you sure there's nothing I can give you in return?"
The man shook his head. "No, my dear. You have given an old man enough. And do not worry, I shall tell no one of your friend."
Rose looked around the shop once more. "Thank you," she repeated. "I'll come back here, one day."
She didn't go to any other shops – there was no point now she had what she wanted – so she made her way back to the TARDIS. Stage one was complete, she thought to herself, a secret smile curving her lips. Time for stage two.
"Somewhere nice," the Doctor repeated thoughtfully.
"Yes," Rose nodded. "Pretend like it matters that if I'd stayed at home, it'd be Christmas tomorrow."
He regarded her curiously. "You're very hung up on this. Everything alright?"
"Sure," she nodded, eyes earnestly wide, fingers crossed in her pocket. "Everything's just fine. I just…want to celebrate Christmas."
He looked at her for a moment more, then nodded. "Alright. Christmas Eve it is. Any particular year in mind?"
She shook her head. "You choose – but I want to dress up," she reminded him.
"Hm. How about late eighteen hundreds? I know a nice restaurant in Venice…"
Eyes twinkling, Rose raised her eyebrows. "This a date, then, Doctor?" She enjoyed watching his blush spread from his cheeks to his ears. He sputtered, and she waved a hand. "Never mind. You get us there, I'll go change." She had almost departed the control room when the Doctor called to her. "Yeah?"
"You're expecting a present, aren't you?" he asked glumly.
"I hate Christmas."
"Humbug," she said mischievously, and disappeared before he could throw the mallet at her.
She made her way to the wardrobe to choose what she was going to wear. It had to be perfect. She brushed aside the twenties outfits with a sigh.
"C'mon, girl," she scolded lightly. "You know what I need."
She rounded a corner of the wardrobe and smiled. The TARDIS had, yet again, performed better than expected. Row upon row of Victorian-era dresses hung before her, suitable – or so she supposed – for nineteenth century Venice. Assuming, of course, that they ended up there. Sometimes she was sure the Doctor didn't actually know what he was doing when it came to flying this ship…
She made sure the wardrobe door was locked from the inside before stripping. It wasn't that she didn't trust the Doctor, she grinned to herself, but she wanted this to be perfect.
She discarded several dresses just by their colour, and another few for their style.
"C'mon," she muttered. "I know the right dress's in here somewhere…" A dress almost leaped into her hands. She grinned. "You want this too, don't you?" she asked the ship. "Alright, let's see what we can do…"
She slipped the dress over her head and managed to do the row of tiny buttons that fastened it at the back before realising that yes, she was actually going to have to wear a corset with this dress. She gave a small sigh, undressed, and picked up a corset. She glared at it.
"I hate you," she told it plainly. "But if I have to…" She pulled it on and started lacing it up. The Doctor liked her in corsets, she reasoned to herself. It would be worth it in the end. She shimmied back into the dress and looked at herself in the mirror.
"Not bad," she murmured, turning and looking at herself side-on momentarily. The full skirt swished nicely. The sleeves just capped the top of her arms, so she'd have to find gloves. The bodice was low enough to reveal some cleavage, but not too low, and embroidered with flowers.
"Pretty good," she nodded at last. She found a pair of silk gloves that matched the red of her dress, and fastened her cloak with a brooch she found in the jewellery box. Shoes and stockings, and then all that she was lacking was necklace and earrings…
A moment later she'd found appropriate accessories, and had caught her hair up with various clips. When she shook her head experimentally nothing fell out, so she felt fairly sure she'd stay presentable.
She returned to the control room, fairly sure that the Doctor would be wearing a hole in the floor by now. She was almost right; he was tapping one foot on the metal grill that was the floor, and glancing frequently at his watch.
"About time," he said as he heard her approach. "You ask for this, and then you –" He turned and stopped speaking, his mouth open in frank approval. "You – wow," he managed.
Rose flushed slightly. "You like?" she asked shyly. "I just…" She twisted her fingers together. "I…"
"You're beautiful," he said honestly.
"What, for a human?" she checked.
"No, just beautiful," he shook his head. "Perfect. You ready to go? Christmas Eve in Venice awaits."
"Yeah – ooh, hang on a minute." She disappeared from the control room again, and he rolled his eyes. She reappeared after a few minutes with a shoulder bag matching her dress. The bag bulged conspicuously.
"What's in there?" he wanted to know.
"Surprise," she said demurely. "You look good in a suit, Doctor." He gave a strange smile. "We off, then?" She moved towards the door; oddly, he darted past her and held the door open. She raised an eyebrow but didn't comment as she stepped out into the bitterly cold evening.
Venice, 1895, was beautiful. They were parked in a small side alley, by the side of one of the smaller canals. The water was frozen, the small boats – gondolas, she remembered – sat stiffly, unable to move.
"Wow," she breathed, the word escaping her mouth on a white puff.
"Ready?" the Doctor asked, locking the TARDIS and pocketing the key. He held his arm out and she took it. "I know I got it right, this time."
She grinned. "Good." Very good, she mentally noted. This was going to be…perfect.
Carols filled the air as they walked leisurely through the streets and across the bridges. A short ride in a gondola – and Rose managed not to fall out, which she personally felt was rather an achievement – and then out, across another bridge, and into the restaurant.
Rose looked around, eyes gleaming with delight, as they were led quickly to a table. An orchestra was playing music from somewhere; candles lit the tables. There was a terrace on her left, and a dance floor on her right. She wondered, as she sat down, whether she could persuade the Doctor to dance.
"Not a chance," he said quickly, seeing where she was looking. "I don't dance."
She smiled at him. "We'll see." She looked down at the menu. "Ooh, oysters. I tried them, once." The Doctor raised an eyebrow curiously, but she ignored him. "The steak looks good. What're you going to have?"
They spent the meal laughing and talking, and then finally Rose cast a longing glance at the dance floor and looked pleadingly at the Doctor.
"I can't," he denied. "Three left feet."
"Unless you've been hiding a third leg somewhere," Rose said wryly, "that's just not true." She stood up and smoothed her skirt down. "Please, Doctor?" she asked. "Just one dance…it's nearly midnight, give me a Christmas dance?"
He looked at her and sighed, then stood up. "One dance," he warned. "And if you laugh…"
"I won't," she promised, shaking her head. "Promise." She held her hand out, and he took it. "Just one dance."
He led her out onto the dance floor and settled his hand onto her waist. "I hope you can waltz," he said before starting.
"Waltz is easy," Rose said, eyes twinkling. "Load of us did a term of ballroom dancing, years ago. Learned how to waltz, foxtrot, all sorts. Never tried to tango, though."
"Good," came the brief reply as he spun them around. "At least one of us knows what we're doing."
Her thumb grazed the skin of his neck. "I don't know what I'm doing," she confessed. She gave a weak smile when he looked intently at her. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" he asked.
"For…being so silly." She took a step away from him. "Sorry." She returned to their table and fiddled with the tablecloth.
The Doctor slid into his chair opposite her. "Rose, what is it? What's wrong?" He watched her, concern in his eyes. "I thought you were enjoying yourself."
"I am," she said quickly, not looking at him. "It's great. Lovely."
He sat back, still watching her. "But you're not enjoying yourself." She shrugged one shoulder. "Rose…" He trailed off, a little frustrated. "I wish you'd tell me what's wrong," he said after a moment, choosing his words carefully. "You know I'd…I'd do anything I can, to make you feel better."
"I know," she said quietly. "That's…" She shook her head. "I mean…it's…"
A waiter glided up to them. "Would Signor and Signorita care for a dessert?" he asked demurely.
"Yes, please," Rose said before the Doctor could speak.
"I shall bring the dessert trolley," the waiter bowed, and disappeared.
"Rose, please talk to me," the Doctor said. He leaned forward in his chair. "What's wrong?"
"I got you a Christmas present," Rose said, ignoring his question. "On Jupiter Station."
He nodded. "I guessed."
"I didn't know what I was going to get," she babbled. "But then I found this, and it was just…" She shrugged. "The guy in the shop said…so I thought…"
"Rose," he said gently. "I'll treasure whatever it is, just because you gave it to me."
Rose bit her tongue. She looked as though she were about to say something, but then the waiter returned with the dessert trolley, and he began to rattle off the list of desserts.
The Doctor chose a peach melba, and Rose decided, after much deliberating, on a lemon sorbet. She was, they were both well aware, procrastinating.
But finally she couldn't delay any longer, and she looked at him again.
"I wanted to tell you something, this evening," she admitted. "That's why I wanted to do all this. I wanted it to be perfect." The Doctor rested his elbow on the table and propped his head up, looking at her curiously. She glanced away for a moment. "You're making this so hard," she scolded lightly. "Look, I…" she trailed off, and tried again. "You've never…" She shook her head. "Damn, I can't do this." She fished the parcel out of her bag and put it carefully on the table. "I'll meet you back at the TARDIS," she muttered, stood up and left.
The Doctor watched her go. He wasn't worried about her – she knew how to take care of herself, even if it was a hundred years before her time. But she'd been making next to no sense, talking in half sentences, and cryptic ones at that.
He looked down at the parcel, wrapped in blue tissue paper. His hand hovered over it for a moment before he picked it up and started opening it.
When he saw what it was, he started after her at a run, ignoring the cries of dismay from the waiters and other customers disturbed by his departure.
It was snowing outside, and he couldn't see any sign of Rose. He turned one way and then another, hoping for some hint.
"Rose!" He darted under the archway and grabbed her shoulder with his free hand. "Are you alright? You're freezing!"
"I'm fine," Rose said, lying through her chattering teeth. "I'm sorry I ran off like that."
He shook his head impatiently and held aloft his present. "Rose – where did you find this?"
Rose smiled slightly. "You – you like it, then?"
"Rose – it's from home! My home!"
The expression of sheer awe and wonder on his face made her give a small laugh even as tears sprang to her eyes.
"I found it on Jupiter Station," she explained. "Or at least, the shop owner did. And you said there's nothing left, or supposed to be nothing…so I just thought…" She looked at the object. "It's a musical instrument, right? Like a harp? I don't know if you play, or anything…"
"I play," the Doctor said with a smile.
"But I thought…you'd like to have it anyway."
"It's perfect," he said, cupping her cheek with his hand. "You're perfect."
Rose flushed. "I – you – "
"You've been trying to tell me something all evening," the Doctor said after a moment. "For ages, actually. I'm an idiot. Tell me now."
Rose chewed on her lip momentarily. "I don't know if I can," she admitted. "If I'm wrong…if it's not…if it's just what you do, or something…it'd ruin everything."
"Try me," he said, an amused glint in his eyes. "I might surprise you."
A slow smile curled Rose's lips as she looked up at him. "Doctor…you bloody tease." He looked expectantly at her. "I love you," she confessed, and let out a breath. "I love you," she repeated, slightly more confident.
"Good," he said. "Feeling's mutual." His head dipped down, and then his lips were on hers, and they were softer than she'd thought, and slightly cooler, and then his tongue pressed between her lips and he tasted like nothing on Earth.
She closed her eyes, breathing deeply, her forehead pressed against his.
"So, um, things not ruined?" she asked tentatively after a while.
"No," he promised. "Very not ruined."
"I thought…I didn't think you felt the same," she admitted. "I mean, you never…"
"I, uh, didn't think you'd feel the same," the Doctor confessed sheepishly. "There's a lot about me you still don't know, Rose. I'm older – a lot older. I'm a different species."
Rose's lips twitched and she pulled away slightly to look at him. "Yeah. I know. But it doesn't matter. And we're similar enough in the ways that count." She looked down deliberately at the bulge in his trousers. "And I've had enough of cold showers."
He held his arm out for her. "To the TARDIS?"
"I think so," Rose nodded. "I'm freezing my arse off."
The Doctor's laughter carried into the night.