He turned to them both, dredging up a smile from somewhere and turning it on full wattage.
"So 25th century, check. Where to now, gang? Gang?" He wrinkled his nose. "Posse? Clique . . . gotta think of a better collective title." He grinned.
Mickey clapped his hands together excitedly. "Well—"
"A-actually," Rose cut in uncertainly. "I know we've just bin and all but I forgot something back on Earth."
"Aww!" Mickey whined. "I've just left there, Rose."
"Well," Rose tucked one blonde strand of hair behind her ear and licked her lower lip. "The Doctor invited you along so you could drop me off and take him to see, oh I don't know Raxacoricofallapatorius or something."
The Doctor frowned at her. "Are you okay?"
Rose nodded, not quite convincingly. "Yeah, course."
But she wasn't. Not really.
Actually not anywhere in the vicinity of okay.
It had been a crappy week, all told. First they land in a mad caper which brings back one of the doctor's old companions who looks at him like he hung the moon. Not that Rose could fault her, and even feels pretty bad for Sarah Jane.
But even worse because she can see herself in the woman. Left behind by the doctor and still waiting after 30 years.
And he'd said that he wouldn't do that. Not to her.
And yet, barely 24 hours later he'd walked away—well, rode away into a another dimension to another woman with no way of knowing if he'd ever come back and, most damningly, not even seeming to care.
The fact that he'd just left her and Mickey on some space ship 5000 years from home was nothing.
He'd left her, after he'd promised not to and now he was all sunshine and smiles and hey ho where to next?
Madam de Pompadour was beautiful and accomplished and whatever else Rose wasn't but that didn't mean that she was better than Rose. But he'd wanted to take her with them, another companion, along with Mickey and Rose and he'd never even bothered to ask if that was okay with her.
Knowing she was dead left a bitter taste in Rose's mouth because she wasn't sure that, if Reinette had lived, if she'd have replaced Rose.
The Doctor regarded Rose and knew that she was hiding something, she wouldn't meet his eyes and the smile was missing from her expression.
Maybe she was annoyed with him because he'd agreed to allow Mickey to join them on their adventure.
He was beginning to wish that he hadn't. Mickey was all right but he did miss having Rose all to himself.
Not as much as he missed that gorgeous grin though. Maybe if they took Mickey the idiot back to Earth he'd want to stay. It was worth a shot.
"Okay then, Earth-bound it is. We can pick up what you forgot, grab some chips and be off to the third moon from Vendor before you can spit. Although I'd appreciate it if you didn't," he looked pointedly at Mickey, "the TARDIS is hard to hoover and I fired the cleaner sometime in the 12th century."
"Yeah, shows!" Mickey sassed and the Doctor pointed a finger at him,
"Yeah," Rose faced Mickey with a mock frown. "Don't diss the ship, Mickey boy or you can get out and walk."
"You wouldn't do that to me," he replied confidently.
"Wanna bet?" the Doctor asked with a smirk and Mickey paused, suddenly not that confident.
"She's a good girl, ain't cha?" Rose said as she patted the TARDIS and then froze her hand on the glowing green and gold 'engine'.
Did she really just feel it hum?
God, she really had been with him too long.
The Doctor laughed and grinned, expecting Rose to join in the fun but nothing.
"Right-o, home we go," he said after a small silence. He grabbed hold of some levers and pressed a button, pumping the bellows and twiddling dials.
"How'd you learn to drive the ship?" Mickey wanted to know. "Seems like just banging about to me."
"Oh she knows what I want," he patted the ship and with a whir they were off.
They landed down on the street corner about six blocks away from Rose's old school and a further ten minutes from her home.
"Couldn't you have parked a bit nearer?" Mickey grumbled as he shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned against the door of the TARDIS.
"Are you just going to complain?" the Doctor asked with a sigh as he tucked his own hands in his pockets and watched as Rose grabbed her mobile. "You gonna be long, Rose?"
She paused at the door and bit her lip.
The Doctor just stared; she only did that when she was nervous.
"I might be. Not sure."
"Well, if Jackie asks, we're not available for tea," he said with a firm look on his face.
Rose would usually roll her eyes at his not-too-subtle reminder that he didn't like her mother. But she just nodded and left.
Something sank in his stomach and he darted after her.
"Rose?" he called and she stopped steps away from the blue box.
"Yeah?" She swallowed and he stared at her intently.
"Are you sure you're okay? You'd tell me if something was wrong, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah," she shifted uneasily and a lock of hair tumbled over her cheek. "Course I would."
He lifted a hand to her but let it fall before it could brush away the piece of hair that fell into her eyes. "Take as long as you need, I'll wait." He gave her a heart-stopping, melting grin. One that she had once thought he'd saved for just her.
Bet ya would, came the uncharitable thought and she nodded once before turning away and leaving, the Doctor staring after her with a bitter taste in his mouth.
He went back into the TARDIS and looked at Mickey curiously. "Did something happen between you and Rose on that ship?"
Mickey was busy poking and prodding at the TARDIS and didn't answer.
The Doctor pushed away a bout of jealousy and strolled up to the central control panel. "Mickey? Has Rose said anything to you?"
"Bout what?" Mickey frowned.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "The sun, the moon, what's got her looking like a monkey stole her last banana? Anything?"
Mickey shrugged. "Dunno, know how girls are, maybe she just wanted to talk to 'er mum. I think I 'eard 'er talking on the phone. Maybe there's something up with Jackie."
The Doctor pulled a face. The last thing he wanted to do was get in Jackie's way. She was still all grateful for saving her from 'Death by Christmas tree'.
"Well, let's give Rose time with her mom. Lord knows it's rather her than me. Soooo, what say Mickey we go and you can show me what stupid apes do for fun around here?"
"Okay!" Mickey beamed before his brain caught up with the insult. "Oy!"
Rose felt like she had walked for ages before she finally arrived at her destination.
She stared at the black door, looking imposing and unwelcoming. Her throat was as dry as anything and she wasn't even sure how she was going to be received here. All she knew was that she wanted someone to talk to about . . . things and her mum would be no good.
She needed someone who wouldn't judge or yell or be afraid and who would understand.
She knocked twice and fought the urge to play "knock a door run" and just get out of there and back to the TARDIS, ignoring everything and pretending it was all okay.
But she'd hate herself and she couldn't allow that. She just needed someone to talk to.
The door opened and she managed a smile.
She licked her lips. "H'lo Sarah-Jane."
The older woman stared at her for a long minute and Rose shifted from foot to foot.
Then Sarah-Jane smiled and stepped back. "Sorry. Come in, I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"Me neither," Rose agreed sadly and walked into the living room. It was a beautiful place but tasteful, elegant and just a bit barren. Like a way station for someone who never expected to be home very often.
"Tea?" Sarah-Jane offered and Rose nodded.
She turned to walk into the kitchen but spun back just as quick.
"Just tell me, he's not . . ." She couldn't bring herself to say the words and Rose shook her head.
"No, he's fine, a-actually. It's me." Despite her best efforts tears welled up in her eyes.
Sarah-Jane didn't think twice and opened up her arms for Rose to fall into, sobbing.
"Oh, god. He left me! He just walked away and left me. It hurts, it hurts so much!"
Tears streamed down her face as she shuddered and shook into Sarah-Jane's arms.
"I know," she soothed, kissing Rose's hair. "I know."
"It doesn't matter that he came back, it doesn't. He said he wouldn't leave and he did."
Sarah-Jane pulled her over to the sofa and stroked her head. "Oh, Rose."
Rose swiped tars from her face. "You know the worst thing? He didn't even notice. He didn't—he didn't even seem to care!"
Sarah-Jane sat back. "Tell me."
The Doctor followed Mickey back to his flat and sighed heavily as Mickey gave him a brief tour. Brief meaning- "Here's the kitchen, here's the lounge, mind the dirt."
The Doctor dropped onto Mickey's sofa and slouched down.
"Tea?" Mickey offered.
"What from your kitchen?" he scoffed. "I may be an alien but even we have standards. Liable to get some horrid human disease like septicaemia or Hepatitis, ring worm," he shuddered. "No thanks. So, Mickey, this is where you live?"
"Yeah," he said, somewhat defensively. "I mean I do a lot of work from home."
"Unemployed?" the Doctor asked sympathetically.
"Nah, computer work," Mickey grinned. "Fair hand with a keyboard and hard drive now. I design web sites, freelance and all. Its how I found out about you."
"Now that does interest me. Learning all about me. Nothing more important in the universe, course I could be biased." He sat forward and pinned Mickey with a look. "Show me."
Mickey led the way into his room and shoved aside a pile of laundry that the Doctor didn't want to look to closely at.
Mickey booted up his computer and dragged his keyboard out from under the desk.
"Rose tidied up my dust sheets," he explained. "Can't find 'em."
The Doctor nodded and shifted his shoulders trying to look nonchalant. "She stay here often then, did she?"
"Did before you came along," Mickey said resentfully. "Jackie didn't like it much, but when she had her men over at all hours, Rose came over and we'd watch TV and hang out. Sometimes we'd go down the pub."
"You know how to show a girl a good time."
Mickey stood up and faced him. "Just cuz I don't have a fancy ship to show her don't mean we didn't have some good times. If I coulda jetted her off to the far parts of the universe I would! She deserves more than this life."
The Doctor swallowed, suddenly feeling mean. "Right."
"You showed her that," Mickey sighed. "I never could. She'd always call me a plonker and say she was just the same as me. She isn't."
"No, she isn't." The Doctor looked away and his eyes fell on a picture of Rose—his Rose—sitting with Mickey in some park, her arms wrapped around him and that smile on her face; the one he called the 'hills are alive' smile.
It was the one she usually reserved for him, only . . . not so much in the past few days. His hand reached out and touched the smiling girl and his hearts leaped. She was so very beautiful, so very alive.
Mine. He wanted to say, but she wasn't. Not really.
He sighed. "So, show me your computer skills then."
Mickey looked from him to the photo and back. "Do you love 'er?"
The Doctor clenched his jaw and gave Mickey a look, once that clearly read "back off".
For once, Mickey obeyed. He wasn't sure he really wanted to know.
"So he comes back all sad and just . . . says he's fine. He looks like his heart's broken . . . one of 'em at least and that's it. The next second he's all smiles and 'where to next?'."
Sarah-Jane pushed Rose's mug of tea into her hands and sat back with her own.
Rose had been telling her what had happened on the ship and Sarah-Jane felt her own heart hurt along with Rose's. It had been hard when she'd seen Rose and the Doctor together even though it had been many years. It must have been hell for Rose to watch him with someone else so close to feeling jealousy over him and Sarah-Jane herself.
"She was so beautiful," Rose sniffed. "Reinette—even her name sounds perfect and he thought so too. I could tell. 'The most accomplished woman in the world'. I don't even have any A' levels." She looked up with pained eyes to Sarah-Jane. "I'm kidding myself, aren't I? He has his pick from space and time and I'm off the Powell Estate. Can't compare."
"Rose, no!" Sarah-Jane took her hands. "This isn't about you or how good you are. He saw something in you when he picked you up. You are special. I see it too. You're strong and smart and hey, maybe you don't have A' levels but that doesn't make you stupid. You saved his life, in more ways than one. I saw the way he looked at you."
"Then why did he leave me there? Didn't even look to see if I was okay, just grabbed that stupid horse and didn't look back."
"But he did come back," Sarah-Jane pointed out gently.
"He was gonna bring her," Rose swiped at her eyes with her sleeve. "He was just too late. She'd have come with us. Her and me and Mickey. Entourage. Just another one in the crowd."
Sarah-Jane sighed heavily and looked up at the sky, it was growing dark. "I think if we look at things from his perspective. Time Lords live almost forever and we don't. He feels a need to surround himself with as many people as possible to stop himself feeling so lonely. I know he had companions before me, maybe he loved them and they died, or left him. He keeps on handing out his hearts and they get broken time and again as people die. It's hard on him too. Maybe he thinks if he has enough people to spread the feelings out on it won't hurt as much when they go—there'll be others. Everything dies or ends and he has to go on. Alone. You'll die one day, Rose. Do you want him to be alone forever?"
Rose shook her head. "No. But I want to be more than someone who passes the time. While I'm here, I guess I want to be the only."
"That's very human."
Rose smiled. "Does that kind of thinking help you?"
"It doesn't hurt," Sarah-Jane said softly and laughed. "I think it's time for dinner. Want to stay?"
Rose looked out at the falling dark and just nodded. "Yeah, that'd be great."
The Doctor stared out of the window, almost impressed with Mickey's computer skills. They had surfed the internet and the Doctor had laughed with glee over some of the conspiracy-nut sites, typing in some of his own mad-cap theories and watching them flock to his post.
"Oh you humans are such fun to mess with," he laughed. "Its getting dark, Rose is probably back at the TARDIS by now. Coming?"
"Sure," Mickey grabbed his coat, not seeing the wince that came from the Doctor as he did so.
Right, so Mickey was coming back with them. Great.
Rose munched on the chips in front of her and smiled at Sarah-Jane. "Thanks, ya know, for listening. Didn't really have anyone else I could speak to about this stuff. My mum doesn't really like the Doctor very much, although she did make an effort at Christmas for us. They managed to have a Turkey dinner without killing each other- which was a major achievement."
Rose looked up oddly as Sarah-Jane dropped her fork.
"He's met your mother?"
"Yeah, and my dad—well, he took me back in time. My dad's dead. Died when I was a kid. Why?"
"When I was a companion it was strictly no domesticity. I wasn't even allowed a boyfriend. He must have loosened up."
"Hardly, you could bounce quarters off him sometimes," Rose laughed out loud. "But he's a soft touch. I can usually get my own way."
"He must care for you a great deal, then," Sarah-Jane prodded. "He never did anything like that for me."
"I guess," Rose looked down. "I prefer his old . . . body? What do you call that?"
"Did you ever see it happen?"
"Yes. Did you?"
"Yeah, happened right in front of me. Dead freaky it was too. Scared the hell outta me. Thing is, the old him, the him I knew first . . . he loved me, I knew it. He never even had to say, I just knew, yeah? This one, I don't know. He doesn't show it and I think, you know, what if he changed his mind. What if he doesn't care as much and I still do and he's gonna up and leave me. How can I go back to an ordinary life after all I've seen?" She looked up and suddenly realised who she'd been talking to. "Sorry."
Sarah-Jane smiled. "I know what you mean, for the longest time I waited for him, I knew that my Doctor cared for me. It wasn't anything like what you have . . . had with your Doctor, but I did care for him. He was my life. But if there's one thing I have learned is that life didn't end when he left. It was boring for a while and painful, but it goes on."
Rose's lower lip trembled. "I don't want it to."
They sat in companionable silence for a moment and then Sarah-Jane sat forward. "Tell me about his regeneration."
"Honey I'm home!" the Doctor called out but the TARDIS was dark and empty. "Rose? ROSE? Huh." He turned back to Mickey. "Not here."
"Her chips'll get cold," the boy pointed out. "Probably still talking with Jackie."
"I'll give her a ring then," he said and walked over to the TARDIS phone.
"You know," Mickey hedged. "If you want to win brownie points with Rose, might be best to go talk to Jackie."
"Ah no!" the Doctor replied, the very thought making him shudder. "Me and Jackie are like two things that should be kept apart as often as possible. Did I tell you she hit me, mean right hook that woman."
"Tell me about it!" Mickey empathised. "When she thought I'd done something to Rose she went after me. Nothing is as scary as Jackie Tyler when she's mad."
"So does she hit all Rose's . . .?"
"Rose's what?" Mickey asked pointedly as the Doctor trailed off, clearing his throat.
Rose's friends? Rose's fellas? Rose's loves? None of those were particularly indicative of his relationship with her and yet, none of them were incorrect either.
He was her friend but that's not all he was. He wasn't her boyfriend but he knew her in ways that Mickey never could. He was her fella but not in the way that mattered and as for love?
All he knew was that he suddenly wanted to see her and if that meant walking over to the dreaded dragon's den then that's what he would do.
"All right, we should go see her, then. Get Rose back quicker and all then we can get off."
"Fine," Mickey said. "But I'm eating her chips."
"You humans and your odd fascination with the potato," the Doctor sighed. "Now give me a banana any old day."
Mickey moaned all the way to Jackie's flat and the Doctor let him, partly because he was too concerned to care what Mickey the idiot was twittering on about, but partly because Mickey the idiot was actually quite funny. Not that he meant to be, of course, he just was.
They arrived at the flat and the Doctor took a second to brace himself for the onslaught of Jackie Tyler. She really was far more frightening than many of the things that he had seen in his many travels and he was worried that, with the way Rose had been acting, that Jackie would be angry with him.
Something was wrong with Rose and no matter what it was; he had a feeling that Jackie would blame him and be none too thrilled to have him show up at her door.
Therefore it was something of a surprise when Jackie opened the door with a smile on her face; less of a surprise when that smile faded, however, upon seeing him.
"Hello, Jackie," he forced a grin. "Can't stay, love to chat but we really have to be going, is Rose ready?"
"What'dya mean is she ready?" Jackie demanded, her hand defiantly placed on her velvet pink track suit. "I thought she was off with you!"
An incredulous look crossed the Doctor's face. "You mean she's not here?"
"No! I haven't seen her since she swanned off with you and himself."
"Standing right here!" Mickey muttered.
"Where's Rose? What have you done with her?" Jackie asked shrilly.
The Doctor stepped back. "She said she'd forgotten something, we thought she'd come here."
"Well, have you rung her?" Jackie opened the door and let them come in as she headed for her ever present mobile phone. She pressed a few buttons and waited, rolling her eyes at the Doctor and Mickey who had crowded into the room.
The phone rang.
Rose grabbed for her jacket as her phone started to trill in her pocket. She'd been listening to Sarah-Jane's tale of meeting the Loch Ness Monster, something that she'd been fascinated to hear about.
They had both jumped at the mad tune coming from her pocket and smiled at each other. Rose merely checked the caller I.D. and switched it off.
Off Sarah-Jane's looks she explained. "It's just my mum, I'll call her back tomorrow. She probably wants to tell me about her new fella or something."
She turned the phone off totally and turned back to Sarah-Jane. "So, carry on, then."
Jackie stared at the phone in disbelief. "She didn't answer."
"Rose always answers her phone!" Mickey said, his voice rising in pitch. "Except when she's in danger."
"Or she's ignoring you," the Doctor added, remembering more than one occasion when Rose had seen Mickey's caller I.D. on her phone and switched it off.
"Well, she better not be in danger," Jackie said menacingly. "I left her in your care Doctor."
He nodded, his mind already racing away. Where would she be? "If I were a hormonally charged adolescent female with a travelling mindset and an idiot for a boyfriend, where would I go?"
He readied himself to go rushing off to look for her, action- movement, anything to keep him from going crazy. Where was she?
"Shireen's? I'll do a ring around." Jackie offered and the Doctor sighed.
This was why he didn't do domestic.
She wasn't at Shireen's, nor at Nathan's, nor Andy's. She hadn't dropped by to see her Gran or gone to see Scott and Jimmy. She wasn't with Jess or Amy and she hadn't been to see Mark in an age.
"She knows all these blokes," the Doctor said to Mickey, somewhat jealously, "and she sticks with you?"
"Yeah, I kinda wondered that too," Jackie truthfully added and Mickey pouted. "Not that you aren't sweet, Mickey, but Darren is gorgeous and I know Andy's fancied her for ages."
"Has he?" Mickey sat up.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Can we focus on where she might be please?"
"Probably gone off and got herself attacked. She's so used to running into trouble with you!" Jackie accused. "I bet my sweet little girl has run into thugs or mugger's. There are worse things lurking around London than monsters and aliens ya know!"
I know¸ he thought, I'm facing one.
"Pity you can't trace her," Mickey huffed, put out at the thought of someone else with Rose and the Doctor froze.
"Trace her! Of course, Mickey you're a genius!"
"I am?" Mickey beamed.
"Well, no, but you're not as thick as I thought!" the Doctor allowed and Mickey's face fell. "We need to get back to the TARDIS!"
"I'll stay here in case she comes back. Let me know when you find her," Jackie said, walking them to the door. "Tell 'er to give me a call."
The Doctor didn't bother answering and simply rushed away, his coat flowing behind him like a cape.
Mickey was sick and tired of running across London and back again and was only doing it because it was Rose. Had it been anyone else he would have gone back inside with Jackie and watched Coronation Street. But, somehow, racing across planets with people chasing them seemed to be part and parcel of travelling with the Doctor. He'd just have to get fitter.
They reached the TARDIS and the Doctor had the door pulled open before Mickey reached it.
He was rifling through an odd compartment of the control panel, throwing things randomly over his shoulder.
"What are ya doing?" Mickey asked breathlessly, clinging to his knees as his stomach wanted to bring his chips back up.
"Jack made some kind of tracing device for all of us; it was how we knew Rose was still alive on Satellite 5. I put it away because we always travel together now, but I know it's around here somewhere."
"Rose tidy up?"
There was a queer little lift to the Doctor's mouth as he answered. "Yep."
"Huh, you'll never find it, then," Mickey scoffed, thinking of the times that Rose had tidied his place, only for him to lose things that he had needed or found things that he had never seen before.
The Doctor didn't seem to mind though and rifled through drawers and cupboards, muttering to himself as he did so. "Aha!"
"Find it?" Mickey asked, sitting up.
"Well, no, but I did wonder where this went!" the Doctor said, holding up some odd gizmo with wires sticking out of the top. "Useful gadget this is."
"What's it do?"
"No idea," the Doctor threw it over his shoulder. "Picked it up in a sale outside Aigrettel one. Lovely planet, shame about the water."
Mickey thought about that. "So?"
"So?" the Doctor paused briefly. "So's their urine."
"Oh," Mickey's nose wrinkled. "Urgh."
"Got it!" the Doctor pulled the transmitter out of the drawer. "Excellent. Let's go!"
As the night drew on Rose stared out of the window. "I guess I should be heading back. Mickey'll probably be getting all sorts of gyp off him and he'll probably be mad I made him wait this long."
"Or be worried?" Sarah-Jane offered lightly. "He may look different Rose, but he's still the same man. Regeneration changes the face but not the essence."
Rose just looked at her. "It's hard to look at him sometimes; he doesn't have the same face as my Doctor."
Sarah-Jane clasped her shoulder. "You've got my mobile number, any time it gets hard, please give me a ring. I'm here because I understand."
Rose nodded, a sad smile playing around her lips. "Thanks."
She opened the door and stepped out, pulling her denim jacket around her tighter as the chilly London air swept over her shoulders.
"What do I do?" Rose asked suddenly, her voice low as she looked out into the evening sky. "When he leaves me, what do I do?"
Sarah-Jane smiled sadly and brushed her hands against the doorframe. "You go on. It's all we can do. We . . . just go on."
Rose nodded and pulled away from the house into the darkness.
The trace machine was particularly sensitive, which would have been great except that Rose had lived in this area for almost 19 years and old traces of her still lingered in the air.
They had reached at least three dead ends, one being the newly built Henrik's store which had been Rose's place of employment for years.
Mickey was out of breath and regretting ever eating anything ever and the Doctor was getting more and more nervous and worried about his companion.
She had a habit of wandering off and getting herself into trouble that bordered on obsessive and he had always been able to find her in the nick of time. But the third moon on Obtris was a far cry from the mean streets of London and, although she could defend herself against the mud-beasts of Frawl, how would she fare against a London rapist?
His two hearts almost gagged him as they tried to crawl into his throat.
He would not take her halfway across the universe, only to lose her here on this puny little rock.
"Come on, Mickey!" he yelled, pumping his feet faster and faster as he followed the red blip on the metal screen in his hands, leaving the gasping boy behind. He was going to find her. He was, and it wouldn't be too late.
He wasn't going to let her go.
They rounded a corner and the Doctor looked up to see a figure walking slowly towards them, familiar denim jacket pulled tightly around her.
He skidded to a halt, peering intently into the gloom. "Rose?"
Blonde hair swung as her head snapped up and a rush of relief that was so swift an hard it almost crippled him filled his body. He rushed forward and grabbed the startled girl.
"You're all right! We've been frantic!" he pulled her into his embrace. "What's the good of having a phone if you don't bleeding answer it?"
Rose smiled tremulously, feeling his warm body imprinting all along hers. "I'm all right, didn't mean you to worry."
He pulled away and looked deep into her eyes, searching.
The way he looked at her made her feel like the only girl in the world, made her feel adored, revered, precious, loved.
But Rose pushed the feeling away, tucked it into a dark place in her heart and slammed the door.
Put it away Rose. It'll never happen.
She allowed a grin to break over her face. "You're as bad as my mum."
"Oy!" he laughed, glad to see the smile back on her face, even if it wasn't as bright as it once had been. There was something missing in those eyes; some sort of pain that she was hiding.
Hiding from him.
His eyebrows slowly rose and an odd expression crossed his face, but before he could say anything Mickey, with impeccable timing, came around the corner.
"What did you do?" Rose laughed. "Drag him all around London?"
"Just about," Mickey gasped, grabbing at his knees. "You weren't at your mums and we did a ring around, you were nowhere."
"Prat," she said affectionately, not telling him where she had been. She looked over her shoulder to where the Doctor was staring at her oddly and grinned.
"Come on then, I believe you promised to show us the universe."
"Yes, yes I did!" the Doctor recovered and reached to take her hand, not noticing the slight wince in her eyes. "Well, come on then, Mickey. You'll need to be fitter than that to join our gang . . . really need to have a better title."
Mickey sighed and tuned to limp back to the TARDIS and Rose just shook her head. He needed to get fitter than that if he wanted to be chased all over the galaxy.
She started to walk away, only to have the Doctor grab at her arm and turn her to face him, a concerned look on his face.
"You're really okay?" He said intently
Rose nodded, feigning levity. "Yep!"
"And you'd tell me if you weren't?" he persisted, digging for something. Something that Rose couldn't give.
"Course I would." She took a deep breath, looked him in the eye and shattered her own heart. "That's what mates are for."