A/N: There is no A/N for this one-shot.
It was April the 12 of a year that didn't matter, going on for late in the evening though, this being the TARDIS, the exact time didn't matter, and she was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and a steady expression, which shouldn't have mattered but, actually, was as far from irrelevant as it was possible to get. It was at this point that she asked him for the first time.
Well. Not actually the first time— the first time she'd asked him in words, he should have said. There'd been countless times when her grasp on his hand or his arm had seemed a little different, when the tone of her voice had taken on a different timbre, when her eyes had made a series of silent but eloquent pleas. He had to pretend he didn't notice, since he was sure it was all next to involuntary, sure that she'd made up her mind, even as he had, that it was a thing best left undone, a secret best kept, an experiment best left unexplored.
What had happened that day? What was the runup, and therefore the explanation? She seemed to have gotten to the point where she enjoyed running for her life, within reason of course. She'd accused him of being a thrill-seeker, whereupon he countered that that wasn't the case at all, quite the opposite, that the thrills sought out him. She'd disagreed, since he was the one with the TARDIS. He'd pointed out that in this particular case as well as in several others, he'd allowed the TARDIS to be drawn off the course he set for her, in the hopes that he'd find something interesting going on and land in the middle of it, instead of taking a trip to the beach like she'd asked, because to him, that sounded completely boring, and he wasn't keen on sand, last time he'd had a run in with sand he'd gotten buried in it and perhaps it'd had a bit of an adverse affect on his psyche where that was concerned because frankly, the thought of getting sand back in there again gave him the screaming heebie jeebies. She'd said she would smack him if she could get her hands free. He said, hang on a mo.
"If you had the sonic screwdriver all along, why is it we've been tied up here for four hours?"
He grinned, inches away from her face. "Don't tell me you didn't enjoy the company."
"Couldn't I have enjoyed the company somewhere a little less damp? A little less slimy? A little less tied up?"
"I told you, I'm not going to a beach!"
"There's other places besides beaches that don't have slime!"
He turned her around by her shoulders, firmly, and undid the catches that held her bound. She turned back to him, rubbing at her wrists, and frowned slightly, pouting. "Next time we visit a planet where they believe everyone who doesn't have green hair is demonized, lets not skimp on the dye, alright?"
He grinned and traced one of the few lines of lime green in her blonde hair, catching it between thumb and forefinger and wrapping it around, tugging slightly. "You've my word on that."
"And I still don't understand why you didn't dye your hair—"
"Because," he said, taking her hand, smoothing his thumb over her wrist carefully, and leading her to the door, "I didn't want to."
"Not quite an opportune time for argument, Rose— run!"
Then they ran for their lives, hand in hand, her hair trailing, and the Doctor tossing a final glance and a grin over his shoulder. Their captors put up the usual chase, nothing too strenuous.
"At least I keep fit this way," Rose panted.
"S'why I never bothered to equip the TARDIS with a treadwalker," he panted back.
They made it back to the ship with little trouble, and as she sank breathless onto the floor, leaning against the wall, he dashed to the central console and began to punch buttons, quite literally; if the strength of his own physical force failed to work, he could always call into action his trusty sledgehammer. She laughed at him from her seat on the floor. Green hair.
He smiled, not looking at her.
"There, now, wasn't that more fun than a holiday?"
"If by 'fun' you mean 'dangerous' then yes, I suppose it was." She grunted slightly as she hauled herself up off the ground and swayed towards him, the dance-like walk an effort to keep her balance as the TARDIS grumbled into life and began to hurtle— somewhere. He hadn't quite decided where yet, but it was most definitely somewhere.
"You wanted a life of excitement and really wild things—"
"No," she corrected, "that's Zaphod Beeblebrox."
"Don't be a pedant, Rose. Now. Forward five thousand years, or forward five million years, that's the question— I hear there's a very nice teashop on Angelus 6, even if they do spell 'shop' with two Ps and an E. Uppity little buggers— and I'm not slanging, they really are buggers, to be technical, although actually I believe they're quite tall. But, disregarding all else, very, very uppity. Two Ps and an E indeed."
"A life of excitement," said Rose dreamily, leaning against the controls at his side, "really wild things, and tea shops—"
He grinned suddenly, ferociously, at her. "And don't you just love it?"
She laughed, clear and unthinking, and mirrored his exuberant grin straight back at him. "Life as Rose Tyler, professional plus one, companion to the last of the Time Lords, traveling free and easy in a blue police call box which seems to be possessed with an irrational fear of safe places. Isn't it all just too fantastic?"
And then she kissed him, because she was happy, because he looked like he wanted her to, he looked at her like she was all the strange grace in the world and he needed her to be finally absolved of all his sins, and because she had wanted to forever, and she wanted to now.
The correct and proper thing to do would have been to keep on grinning, even against her lips and against the pull of her arms about his neck, and then go on as though nothing out of the way had happened. Or make it wilfully awkward, bump his admittedly large nose against her, bite her lip, bite her tongue if it came to that; she kissed him thoroughly, like he was life, like he was light and she was afraid of the dark. No, honestly, the correct and proper thing to do would have been to not let it happen at all; but it did and it was Rose and he couldn't think and he couldn't breathe and her heart was in his mouth and his breath was in her lungs and his hearts had seemed to absent themselves from their proximity entirely. She had her arms around him; he wrapped her up in turn, gathered her in to him. One hand on the back of his neck, the other with the fingers curling absentmindedly around his ear as her mind lost all sense of purpose to pleasure; his hands on her waist, on the small of her back, sliding down, sliding up, roaming and twitching and shaking because he couldn't, he didn't, believe any of this. Any of it.
She let him go only slightly, her eyes half-closed, her breath coming with difficulty; when she licked her tongue over her mouth she was still so close that it touched his lips and that was it, really, right there, game over. Doctor: 0. Rose: All.
He said it briefly, for the sake of decency.
"It. We. Um."
"Shut up," she mumbled.
If there ever was a time, he thought, that she should have been running for her life—
She didn't run. She was right there. Their legs tangled and they both went down, she landed on top of him and in any other situation they probably would have taken time out to laugh; he was feeling rather taut and strained by this point, though, so although he could feel her smile under his lips, he remained absolutely dead serious. Fingers worked haphazardly at buttons and buckles, releasing to twist in her hair, or to dig at his shoulders, to work the skin between his fingers, to convince himself that this was real. He wasn't dreaming. It felt like he was dreaming; but he wasn't dreaming.
A running commentary in his active mind:
Its been a long time. I hope—
And does she—
What is it she's looking for, here, here and now, here and right there, yes, thank you, yes, right there, what is it she's looking for afterwards? Does she want, as I want, as I want, the sleep peaceful sleep loss of anger lose myself in her wake up in the morning new—
Perhaps not a very coherent running commentary; but a running commentary nonetheless. He feels an ache of sadness in his hearts, echoing the ache of longing elsewhere. Right as it is, perfect as it is, it can't last, and he can't bear to lose her because of this, as he surely will.
He can't concentrate; everything primal blocks out higher thought. Their skin melds, melts, there's a heat to lift the everlasting cold from him and the floor is safe behind his back. He can support her. She feels supported. She feels loved, curled there weeping and panting between him and the TARDIS. She feels loved, and she is loved, and he whispers it into her hair, for her ears only, no one else would ever hear him say it, though everyone could always see it on his face.
He can't fall asleep here, though he's regained his breath now; he rises without a word, stoops over her and picks her up, clutching her to his chest; she wraps her arms around his neck again and puts her cheek on his skin, to hear the beating of his hearts. He can't cry anymore; she's his, she isn't lost, and he only wants tomorrow.
He carries her to bed.
This is her domain, her territory, and what she's wanted so desperately for so long. He does his best to be content, to put firmly from his mind all the terrified whispers of loss that echo straight from years ago, that perpetually remind him of how alone he is. But she's here; Rose is here. And if he cannot be a human, and she cannot be Gallifreyan, perhaps there's some middle ground; the two of them, as time travelers, as smiles, as heat, as hearts that matched each other in rhythm, a bit of a three-part harmony. For a while, everything is warm; they're wrapped up in the covers and each other, and she's falling gently asleep with her head tucked under his chin, as his fingers play absentmindedly up and down her arm, skin he's learned by touch and taste.
The coldness surges again; it wasn't ever truly gone, he knows. Nothing, it seems, will block it out completely. There's only the hope that he can forget it for a little while. The coldness is reality and he knows that it should never have happened, purely for the sake of what they had been and what they were. He wants that back, that easy friendship, and as much as he wants his gentle morning after, waking up to her fingers tracing his lips, he'd kiss her hands and keep his eyes closed for a while, she'd look in his eyes when they opened, and smile, they'd be together and lazy and sleepy and suddenly restless and heated once more, he knows that a morning after is all it would be. There would be no more days like the one they'd just had. Time changes everything, even a Time Lord. He can't hold onto something, once he's had it. It drifts away.
He whispered quietly to her. "I'm so sorry." He'd never meant anything more in his life.
He slid out from under her, away from the warmth, away from her, and stood. Stood and watched the slight figure in the bed, her hair tousled over her face, her lips curved in a peaceful smile. Too much for her.
He stood naked in the middle of the room, body tensing, his elbows bent and hands raised, fingers crooked and twitching slightly. Mucking about with time in the TARDIS was a much more intricate and involved process than directing the ship to a time or a planet elsewhere, outside— he trembled very slightly with the effort, felt his skin shrivel. The memory of her surged over him, he basked, awash afloat in it for a split second, then pushed it ruthlessly away. Too much. Too wrong.
When he opened his eyes, it was yesterday.
The pattern repeats, honest and endless, and it is once again her first time. As she collapsed back onto the SARDIS, breathing fast from the adventure, grinning at him, he smiled back and let his eyes linger just a little too long on her lips. She notices that sort of thing; she revels in that sort of thing. The memory is his alone; he can't escape that. He tried not to let it haunt him. He tried not to let it make him want her all, right now, first time all over again.
She rose and came towards him. Now comes the hard part, he thought, pretending that he didn't know where this was going, pretending he's just the same as he was yesterday, pretending he's not completely different, now.
It is May 12 when she asks him. The exact time is unimportant, but it is going on for late in the evening.
Her fingers plucked at the leather of his jacket, and he closed his eyes briefly.
And before it comes, he said, brightly, "Right then! Where to now, Rose Tyler?"
He saw the question die on her lips, but it was still there in her eyes, hiding, waiting. And that's okay— he didn't have to answer it as long as it remained unasked. He didn't have to tell her no.
"Anywhere with you," she said.
It would be so easy, right now, to forget about shouldn'ts and disregard supposed-tos. Already he's getting his mental tenses mixed up. Is this the first May 12 or the second? Has it happened? Does he want it to happen? Would that ever change, and could he ever change, and could he walk this fine, fine fault line of a major mental earthquake, never mind the physicality for he had definitely felt the earth move, or the SARDIS rather, which meant he supposed that it was the second May 12 and, no, he couldn't. Couldn't. It'd be so easy to play havoc with time and share in a million first kisses with the right one, his Rose.
He hesitated, his eyes heavy on hers, his breath coming slow and not without effort.
"Anywhere with me," he said, and grinned his manic grin. "Ah, now you're in for it."
He probably shouldn't have smiled that way; she leaned, she leans closer, and with a hand on his arm said, "Doctor—"
So perhaps he couldn't bypass the question, not entirely, couldn't avoid giving an answer. Perhaps, no matter what, she had to know. So he covered her hand on his arm with his own, much larger, a bit cooler, more calloused, and alien, and says firmly, "No, Rose."
She blinks. "But I—"
He touches her chin lightly and does his best to look fatherly and firm. "No. Rose."
The crashing look of disappointment on her face nearly undoes him; the stubborn set of her mouth, the jutting of her chin, the narrowing of her eyes as she bravely tries to mask the hurt, pushes him further towards the edge. By the time he reaches for her, though, her back was turned and she was walking very quickly, very precisely, very meaningfully, away from him, towards the door.
There was a brittle, brilliant, crystalline madness in the air; he swallows hard and reminds himself that he doesn't need to apologize. She'd had her yes; she'd have to live with the no. As would he, only— he bangs his fist on the console, and closes his eyes.
Some three hours later, she's fallen asleep, and her face is peaceful; the familiarity of it gives him a definite pang. She doesn't stir when he slides into bed beside her, disdaining the bedcovers, folding them down neatly across her back so he can wrap his arms around her. He fitted himself to her form, front to back, lanky body echoing the lines of her smaller shape, and tucks his chin in the crook of her neck.
"I'm sorry for it all," he mumbles into her hair. "And I do love you, you tiny, inconsequential, all-important, maddening, wonderful, fantastic human. Rose."
She breathes in, soft under his hands, and in her sleep one knee bends, her bare calf inserting itself neatly between his legs. He lets out a breath of laughter that further disarranges her hair.
"And," he adds, "you're incorrigible."
It was April 13 that they woke up to their morning after, not that it mattered.
She turned to find him there, sleeping still, and didn't seem surprised. She traced his features with her fingertips, till he grunted, "That tickles," and kissed her hand as she traced his mouth.
They stared at each other for a long moment, once he finally opened his eyes.
"You know," said Rose thoughtfully, "I have the strangest feeling of deja vu."
He nodded slightly. "And oddly enough, so do I."
And then, as it happens, it was a new day. Again.
For the first time.
Not, of course, that it matters.