A/N: So I was going to leave this till tomorrow but it looks like I'll get lynched if I do! I'm bound to hate this in the morning, so I'll come back and clean it up then.


Echoes


Standing before the door, her hand poised on the handle, Rose panicked. What the hell was she going to say? She wanted to go back with him, her life was barely worth living otherwise - but how could she do that without seeming like a doormat? Her entire future depended on the next five minutes. It was daunting. And what was he going to say? Was he going to say anything at all or just wait for her to apologise? Oh, well, only one way to find out... She took a deep breath and swung open the door.

"Mickey." Her face fell.

"Still upset then," he said sympathetically. It wasn't a question.

"Mickey?" said Jackie disbelievingly. "But he was- I saw him-"

He must've chickened out, thought Rose. I'm not gonna let him. She pushed past Mickey and tore off along the balcony, hoping to catch the Doctor before he left.

"But he was here, the Doctor was here," said Jackie, to the air in general. "Mickey, didn't you see the TARDIS out there?" Her eyes narrowed. "Are you the Doctor? Have you gone changing your face again?"

"No, Jackie. And I didn't see the TARDIS either. Came in the back way."

"Oh. Did you... are those for Rose?"

Mickey looked glumly at the flowers in his hand. "Yeah. In theory."

"I'll go get some water for them."

That's Jackie all over, thought Mickey. Always stay busy, never dwell on how miserable everything really is. She's completely right.

----------

Rose looked around desperately, glancing at everything and seeing nothing. She couldn't find the TARDIS. Which meant that he was gone. For good this time, she was sure. She brought her hands up to her face, praying that she wasn't going to have a full-on breakdown in the middle of the estate.

A hand softly came to rest on her shoulder.

"Come on, now," said a familiar voice. "It can't be that bad, surely."

Rose turned round. "Doctor," she breathed, then threw her arms around him. She took in every inch of him: his rumpled hair, his big brown eyes, the shape of his nose, his worried expression, his trademark pinstripe suit with that odd swirly tie, his battered Converse stained with that stuff he'd poured into the clockwork droid (and which the droid had poured right back onto him). Realising the cliché, she noticed that there wasn't a single thing about him she would change.

"The one and only." As before, his voice was low and carried a kind of comforting sadness that Rose couldn't quite define. She would almost have preferred the brisk, jocular tone he usually spoke with. No, she thought, that would've ruined it.

"I shouldn't have left," she said, words slightly muffled by his brown coat. She shifted a little in his embrace, so that her head was turned towards him.

He looked straight down into her eyes. "I shouldn't have let you."

They stood like that for a little while. "D'you want to go for a walk?" said Rose.

"Yeah, all right."

They walked hand in hand, neither saying a word. There was so much to say, but neither of them wanted to break the silence. Once that happened, everything was going to change. In the end, it was the Doctor who spoke. They'd stopped on a railway bridge.

"And I especially shouldn't've let you get away with implying that you're not loved on the TARDIS. The thing practically started weeping when you left."

"How long were you gone?" asked Rose abruptly. "How long was it for you, I mean."

He leaned back against the railing. "Oh, I dunno. Six minutes? Six and a half? Why, how long was it here?"

"Three hours."

"Oh." This wasn't going the way he'd expected it to.

"When you say... 'loved'-" Rose began awkwardly. Her heart started beating very fast; she thought she knew what was coming next and barely dared to breathe in case the bubble burst and she found she was dreaming.

The Doctor took her hands again and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Rose Tyler. I have for a very long time. Probably always will. Sorry. You can shoot me down on that one, if you want, but don't you dare tell me you're not coming with me."

Rose smiled. "Wouldn't dream of it." She laughed a little. "Hardly the most romantic setting, is it? Railways, run-down buildings, piles of scrap metal..."

The Doctor was incredulous. "Is this how you always respond to declarations of undying love?"

"No..." She swung his hands a little. "I just imagined... I dunno, waterfalls and sunsets and stuff for when I said this to you: I love you, Doctor. Always have, always will. And no need to apologise."

He beamed, never breaking eye contact. "You have no idea how happy you've just made me."

She sighed. "Likewise."

They broke apart, taking a moment to absorb the last exchange.

"Shall we go back, then?" Rose suggested.

"And tell them what?"

She grinned. "That we've kissed-and-made-up, I suppose."

"Oooh, look at that," said the Doctor. "Miss 'waterfalls and sunsets' talking about kissing. Miss 'I practically molested the Doctor in a big sinister hospital' who was so worried about setting a moment ago! Wasn't the way I would've imagined it." He mumbled the last part.

Rose laughed in mock outrage. "I was possessed at the time, if you recall! And what do you mean 'imagined'?"

"Well, I'd hoped that the first time we kissed - other than for lifesaving reasons of course - would be... well, for one thing I'd hoped you would be in full control of your motor functions, and for another I thought it would be something we both wanted to do as opposed to neither of us, and C- hang on, was I even using letters-"

It was odd. Her cheeks were still tight from the drying of tears shed in her deepest misery and yet here she was, happier than she'd ever been, with the Doctor at her side rambling in his lovable way, letting his words wash over her but hearing every one.

"You know what?" Rose interrupted as they came back to the estate.

"What?"

"We haven't actually..."

And then she was standing on her tiptoes, with the Doctor stooped over her, finally, properly, kissing. He was only the third person she'd ever kissed. He was very good at it.
Very different from Jimmy Stone. His kisses had been quick and always in front of his friends: always for show and as fickle as he was.
Different from Mickey, too. Mickey was clumsy but sweet. The Doctor always knew exactly what he was doing, including exactly the right way to hold her. She could feel his two hearts beating. It was perfect.

----------

"And it's about time, too!" said Jackie fiercely as they came into the flat. "I saw you two out the window."

"Oh," said Rose meekly. She didn't like the idea that they'd been watched, but it didn't really matter.

"And as for you," Jackie rounded on the Doctor.

"I'm not going to promise not to hurt her."

Jackie was momentarily dumbfounded. "Th-"

"I would never ever ever want to, and I'd never try, that I can promise. But I can't promise that it won't happen, because I don't know what's in the future, no more than you do. Same way I can promise to always take care of her, but not that she'll always be safe. I'm not the sort of man who makes unkeepable promises."

"Well, I'd be-" she began.

"It's not a normal life, mum," said Rose. "He's right: he can't promise anything about the future. I knew that when all this started." She squeezed his hand. He squeezed back. "I love him, mum. You know that."

"Oh..." Jackie Tyler hugged her daughter. She finally understood. This man- this alien- meant at least as much to Rose now as Jackie did. Rose's home was any building he happened to be standing in. It was a feeling she recognised, and she hoped it ended better for her daughter than it had for her.

----------

Back in the TARDIS, Rose snuggled up to her Doctor. This would be the first time she slept in his bed. There had been nothing untoward, they'd just lain there, talking and talking.

"What about Mickey?" she sighed.

"What about Mickey? Rose, he'll understand. I think he's always understood."

"Doesn't stop me from feeling guilty though. Well. Not guilty, really. Just... bad, for his sake."

"He's not coming with us."

"Wasn't suggesting it."

"Because it might get a bit awkward."

"Definitely."

"Are you ready to go to sleep yet?"

"Almost there."

"Same here. Goodnight then."

"I love you."

"I love you more."

"We're not going through this again, just go to sleep."

He didn't answer. In the darkness, Rose smiled to herself. It was probably the only time she'd ever get the last word in. She wouldn't have him any other way.



A/N: Sorry about the crap ending. I never know where to stop them. Hope you enjoyed it. Now time for me to sleep, wahey.