Takes place between GITF and Age of Steel-- explains why Mickey is holding the button and why the Doctor is being so smug. Also explains the "If you've ever trusted me" comment. Always thought that was a bit odd.
He walked into the kitchen, his gait slow and deliberate and his mind a million galaxies away, lost in some dimension where all things are possible and no one goes home alone. At first he didn't see Mickey sitting there nursing a cup of tea. It wasn't until Mickey moved that he almost jumped in surprise.
He didn't realise the human could sit that still without annoying him.
He plastered a smile on his face and forced joviality. "Hey, Mickey, ooh bad song." He wrinkled his nose as he remembered the awful pop tune from the nineties. "Why'd your mum name you after something so annoying … wait, never mind. Musta been a bit psychic, your mum."
Mickey said nothing and didn't even seem to realise anyone was there.
The Doctor frowned. "Mickey? Ricky? Earth to Mickey the idiot?"
Finally the boy looked up. "What?"
The Doctor slid into the seat opposite him. "Well, Pavlov was right; you can condition them to respond to anything."
"Yeah," Mickey said unenthusiastically.
The Doctor gave him an odd look. He didn't know much about Mickey but one thing he remembered quite clearly was the fact that boy always seemed to have a cheeky aspect to him. Whether he was photographing Slitheen on his mobile or hacking into the Department of Defence with a grin in his voice, he always appeared animated.
But not now.
"Just wondered," he said, "exactly how was me and Rose to get home?"
Ahh. The Doctor held back a wince. "The TARDIS is programmed to respond to emergency situations. Rose knows what to do."
"Yeah, thought it'd be something like that," Mickey said with a small smile that lacked any sort of happiness or amusement whatsoever.
The Doctor shifted slightly. "So, where to now? The whole of time and space at your disposal, Mickey, where shall we go?"
"I was thinking…"
"Did it hurt?" he grinned.
Mickey didn't rise to the bait. "I was thinking," he repeated, "we can go anywhere, yeah, any when."
"I'd like to try… London, 2006, February 25th. Powell Estate."
There was silence for a long moment and then the Doctor said: "You want to go home? Already?"
"Yeah." Mickey looked up at him and there was something in his expression that made the Doctor uneasy.
He tried to make light of it. "Time travel too much for you?"
"Nah, travelling in time is cool."
"Oh, I just realised something is all," Mickey interrupted.
Mickey looked him dead in the eye. "I'm travelling with the wrong Doctor."
It was like a slap in the face.
"See, I never particularly liked old Big Ears, thought he was some kind of prat, waltzing in and stealing my girl, jetting her off to distant parts. But I think, out of the two of ya, I'd ride with him any day."
"We're the same man," the Doctor said, half-incredulous, half-angry and all insulted.
Mickey laughed. "No you ain't. I remember the other Doctor, didn't like him, he didn't like me either, I guess, so that evened out. But I trusted him. Trusted him to bring Rose back, trusted him not to blow up the world, woulda trusted him with my life. He didn't think too much to it, but he respected it."
"And you think I don't?"
"I know you don't," Mickey's derisive laugh clawed at something inside the Doctor. "And I'm beginning to wonder if Rose is safe with you too."
"My life isn't safe," the Doctor argued. "Rose knows that. She trusts me."
"Are you so sure on that?"
The Doctor stared at him; there was such confidence in Mickey's eyes, his face, his tone.
"We've been through a lot together, me and Rose," the Doctor insisted, his tone hard. "You may not like it but we've learned to trust each other and we rely on each other. It might make you jealous, Mickey, but that's the way it is. Rose trusts me. She knew I'd be back if I could. That's why she waited for me for five and half hours. She knew I'd come back, me and Rose have a connection."
"No, Rose and him had the connection. I don't know what you have, but I think you just broke it."
The Doctor was angry now. "What are you drivelling about?"
"I was there, Doctor, when Rose came back to the estate, sobbing her heart out because you … he, was dying two thousand years in the future. I watched her cry and scream and almost drive herself crazy trying to get back to 'im. Did you know she was talking about nicking a Tank from the army to get the TARDIS open?" He gave a short laugh. "She once lifted a lipstick from New Look and felt so guilty she had to take it back. But for you … for 'im, she woulda swiped armoury."
The Doctor swallowed. He hadn't known that.
"I told her that she could die if she managed it, managed to get back to 'im. She didn't care, said there was nothing on Earth for her anymore." Mickey's smile was bittersweet. "She was willing to die for you. She would have gone through time, rewritten history, all to save you."
"She did," the Doctor said softly. "She saved the world. Saved the universe. Saved me."
"Didn't stop you leaving her though, did it?" Mickey snapped back and the Doctor reeled.
"You knew you couldn't come back to us and you just charged through the mirror on that stupid horse, riding to the rescue leaving me and Rose."
"The Whole of Versailles was at risk!"
"No," Mickey laughed and folded his arms. "The French woman was at risk. Those clockwork things wanted 'er head. You didn't think about all the others. You went in to save 'er."
Mickey was right. He had used the others to justify going in to save Reinette.
"You chose 'er over me and Rose, don't says I blame ya. She was pretty."
The Doctor looked at him in disgust. "That's not what I did, or why I did it."
"No, you probably had some noble thought. Right hero complex you've got. Thing is, I don't think he woulda done that."
"The other Doctor."
Mickey ignored him. "He was gonna destroy the entire world, but he made sure Rose got home safe first."
"The TARDIS was right here! You could have gotten home any time. I was the one stuck in 18th century France." The Doctor felt it was time to point that out.
"I know," Mickey said calmly, standing up. "The TARDIS was right there." He reached into his pocket and placed something very gently on the table in front of the Doctor.
"But this was in here. I'd borrowed it from Rose, left it in my other jeans."
The Doctor stared down at the TARDIS key, his hearts still and stomach around floor level.
"He kisses her head, takes her into the TARDIS and shuts the door to make sure she stays. Even leaves a message to let her know it's gonna be okay. She's safe."
Mickey walked to the door before turning around. "You get on a horse, smash through a mirror which closes behind you; I don't even know why cuz you never explained it. You never even bother to check make sure we can get back into the TARDIS. So we wait, Rose waits. Five and half hours. Not because she trusts you, not because she doesn't want to leave. But because she can't." He shoved his hands into his pockets, ignoring the silence behind him. "An' I think I'd like to go home while I still can."
When Mickey walked away the Doctor just sat there, stunned.
For the first time since that night, the enormity of his actions occurred to him.
He'd left Rose and Mickey on a space station three thousand years in the future without any conscious thought as to what would happen to them.
In some part of his mind he'd figured that Rose could pilot the TARDIS back to Earth and he'd pick the TARDIS up after living on Earth, on the slow path, for a few hundred years. Maybe meet up with them on the Powel estate when they got back, full of stories of his travels through history trying desperately not to meet himself or alter the course of history.
Other than that, his mind had been worryingly blank on the subject of the two people he'd brought with him.
In fact, it wasn't until he'd stood and stared at the stars, that he really realised what he'd done. He'd tried to push it to the back of his mind and had succeeded, at least until Reinette had shown him a way to get home.
He'd been excited and hopeful and relieved and … unquestioningly selfish.
He was usually the first one to leave the scene of his "adventures", never helping with the clear-up or seeing the repercussions of his interference. For the first time he was seeing the effects of his actions and he wasn't sure how to handle the fall out.
Mickey wanted to go home.
It wasn't the first time a companion had wanted to leave but he couldn't remember them ever leaving so quickly and because of something he had done. It made him feel … small.
His eyes widened as he recalled part of Mickey's accusation;
"And I'm beginning to wonder if Rose is safe with you too." "Rose knows that. She trusts me." "Are you so sure on that?"
What if he'd somehow made Rose want to leave too? What if Rose no longer trusted him?
The thought that she might not turn to him just about killed him and he knew that the reality would finish the job.
He had to find her, had to see if he'd just screwed up the rest of his life.
Rose wasn't in her room curled up in bed with the blankets over her head.
Neither was she in the shower or the bathroom. She wasn't by the pool— none of them—nor working out in the gym; she hadn't been in the sauna and she wasn't in the Jacuzzi. She wasn't in the solarium, the atrium or the arboretum. Nor was she in any of the three gardens or the planetarium or the conservatory. She wasn't in the games room, the television room, the mini cinema or the music room.
By the time he reached the anti-gravity chamber the Doctor had decided that he had far too many rooms in this place and maybe it was time for a clearout.
There was still no sign of Rose. He stopped in the corridor and glared at the TARDIS walls.
"Okay, girl. I get that you're mad at me. Quite right too. But I need to talk to Rose. Please?"
There was a reluctant groaning and one of the walls shimmered in front of him, a tiny hum echoing down the corridor to tell him what he wanted to know.
He frowned. "Well, what's she doing there?"
His feet made no noise as he meandered through the TARDIS corridors again.
He passed the control room and peered in to see Mickey the surprisingly eloquent and insightful idiot sitting on one of the chairs reading a comic. He wondered if he should say something to the boy, thank him, or torment him, but decided that it had to wait until he had spoken to Rose. He edged away quietly, taking the first left and then the second right.
He ducked down under the stairs and walked past the bins making a mental note to get them emptied soon. The fifth door on his left was shut and he knew for a fact that the hinges were squeaky but he also knew that, as vast as the room beyond was, no one would hear it open. It gave him the element of surprise.
He opened it and grinned.
No matter how often he came in here he couldn't help but love the architecture of the TARDIS wardrobe.
The huge spiral staircase in the centre looked like it was hollowed out of a planets core; the soft bronze metal warm and somehow pulsing with life.
The spirals of clothes ranged from the sublime to the obscene, from the hilarious to the sophisticated and all seven storeys were in constant flux so he could always find something new.
It was, to steal a phrase, fantastic!
He wandered up onto the second storey which seemed to be devoted to beachwear and picked up a pair of Rayban sunglasses; unable to pass a mirror without at least trying them on. He gave himself a stern glare at his reflection and mused that they made him feel like a 'copper'.
"'allo!" he said gruffly and the sound made him smile. He sounded like someone from that show Rose had watched at home- EastEnders.
He put the glasses back near the Finding Nemo beach towel and yellow polka dot bikini and ventured up another floor.
Rose wasn't hiding in amongst the exquisite evening gowns and ball dresses— much to his disappointment— or by the sun-dresses and shift dresses.
He paused. Why did the TARDIS have a whole section on dresses? None of his regenerations had ever been female and he just couldn't see Sarah-Jane or Nyssa or even Susan in one of those outfits.
Was the TARDIS consciously redecorating for Rose?
He shoved his hands in his pockets and stalked up another floor.
Here seemed to be devoted to coats, jackets and other outdoor pursuits. He let his eyes drift over a pair of snow shoes and skis.
Skiing! He hadn't been skiing in an age. Maybe Mickey and Rose would … ah.
He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and grimaced.
He could take them skiing if they wanted to stay with him.
He half-turned to move up to the next floor when something made him pause. He saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye and he turned slowly.
There. Tucked underneath a rack of jackets of all shapes and sizes sat Rose, knees curled up into her chest, her lead laying back on a pile of winter coats and her arms cradling her head as she slept.
The Doctor knelt down on one knee and watched as her chest rose and fell rhythmically. Asleep she looked so young and vulnerable; something he would never had applied to Rose Tyler.
There was something so appealing about watching her sleep, about watching her sniffle softly and rub her cheek against the sleeves of her … long leather jacket.
The Doctor's hearts turned over as he recognised the coat that she was drowning in.
It was the one that his previous incarnation had worn like a shield from the outside world.
The collar was raised so that it curled around her cheeks where she could breathe in the scent of the leather and any residual odour he had left behind.
In her sleep she turned her head slightly and he could see the trace of black mascara edging down her face and the dried trail of tears.
The Doctor swallowed hard as realisation swamped him and his eyes closed almost involuntarily with regret and pain.
Rose had come here to find the jacket as it was the one thing she could identify as belonging or even part of the previous incarnation.
She'd needed to be close to the man he used to be and to do that she'd come here to wrap herself in his clothes.
It was as if she had wrapped herself in the previous Doctor and all he stood for.
Right there the Doctor knew what Mickey had meant when he'd said that Rose had had a connection with the other him, and the way he'd acted had broken or destroyed any connection that they might have had together.
"Oh, Rose," he sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
He reached out to brush a blonde strand of hair away from her face and, as if sensing the movement, Rose woke up, blinking rapidly.
Her make-up smeared eyes were jammed together and it took a few seconds before she could focus properly. She didn't know the Doctor was there as she breathed in the scent of the coat.
A bittersweet smile swept over her lips and she inhaled deeply, reaching up to caress the supple material.
Waking more she rubbed her face and looked around, freezing as she saw the Doctor watching her.
The Doctor said nothing. It had been small, a human wouldn't have noticed it, but the instant she'd seen him something had closed in her expression, locked away, under guard.
Something that Rose Tyler had never done to him before. She had always been an open book. Someone he could read without question. She'd never bothered to censor her thoughts or her emotions because she'd trusted him.
Now it appeared that he had lost that.
He tried for a smile put couldn't quite make it fit. "Hello."
Rose sat up frowning. "What is it? What's wrong?"
He reached out and touched the lapel of the jacket, his expression soft. "Suits you."
Rose coloured as she realised what she was wearing. "Right," she said as she pulled at the collar. "Came looking for a decent coat and found it."
He knew she was lying and it hurt. "Don't lie to me, Rose."
"We've always been able to be straight with each other, haven't we? Best friends and all that."
"Yeah, I —" Rose looked away suddenly not wanting to face him.
The Doctor reached for her desperately. "You can tell me anything, Rose. You know that. You've always known that."
"I know," she swept her hair away from her face. "I could always tell you anything."
"Can, Rose. You can." He urged her encouragingly.
"Maybe." She eyed him. "And you do the same, yeah? I mean, I know something's you can't tell me. But important things, you'd say. Wouldn't you?"
He put his heart into his answer. "Yes. Of course I would." He grinned manically. "You can't shut me up sometimes. I have a tendency to babble or prattle. Prattle is a good word, much nicer than blab." He shook himself. "But important things, you bet. I trust you."
He hoped she understood that.
Rose nodded once, her face almost wistful. "You tell me anything. That's how I knew about Sarah-Jane and all your other companions, isn't it? 'Cause you told me. It's how I knew not to change time. It's how I knew about regeneration and you changing into a new person. I was only pretending to be surprised because you'd already told me. Because they're important things and you'd tell me the important stuff."
His mouth hung open as the hurt poured out of her voice.
"I mean I don't need you to tell me you're in love with some woman you just met. I don't even need you to tell me that you're all right even though you're really not, because that's none of my business, right? But important is telling me your plan so I can adjust. I may be just a stupid ape and don't understand everything that you do. But if you'd told me what you were planning on doing I could have, I don't know, helped or gone with you or—"
"Told me that you didn't have your key?" He dug into his pocket and pulled out the TARDIS key.
Rose looked at it blankly.
"Mickey gave it to me," he explained, his voice taut with emotion, "after he reamed me out for leaving the two of you stranded."
"It was his first go," Rose muttered, staring down at the small metal object which could have changed everything.
"No!" Rose was suddenly angrier than she had ever been in her life. "You don't know! It was his very first attempt at striking out, doing something different and getting out of his pokey little flat and into the world. It's like, a baby's first steps and they need to be taken care of their first try. Not dumped on some floating ship a million miles away from home. He deserved more than that his first go. You invited him; it was your responsibility to make sure he was okay!"
The vehemence in her voice made him bristle. "He knew out lives aren't exactly safe, Rose."
She looked away. "You don't get it. I've always taken care of Mickey. Always. This time I couldn't."
"This isn't about Mickey," he stated. "So leave him out of it for now."
Rose grimaced. "You always could forget about him."
"You were pretty quick to leave him too, Rose, so don't throw stones."
Her mouth fell open and closed at that.
He sighed and rubbed his temple. "I didn't come here to fight with you. I came to apologise for leaving the two of you stranded."
Rose shrugged. "We made it out. Next time I won't let the key out of my sight." She reached up and took it from him.
"There won't be a next time."
Rose froze. "What?"
"Mickey wants to go home." He wondered if he should mention the other part. Whether it made more sense, or stung just as badly, if he said it out loud. "He says he's travelling with the wrong Doctor. He doesn't trust me."
Yup. It still hurt.
"Are you kicking me out too?"
His eyes widened as he realised how she could have taken his words, how she was taking them. "No, no." The very idea of her leaving made him feel physically sick. "Unless you want to leave with him. Can't say I blame you."
And he couldn't. He'd hate it and blame himself for everything that he had done, or not done; for everything that he had said and not said. But he would never blame her.
Rose shifted her shoulders, the leather jacket falling down one slim arm. "I told you, you're stuck with me."
He closed his eyes as much in relief as not to see the resignation he dreaded in her expression. "I remember."
They sat in silence for a moment.
"Are you gonna take Mickey home, then?"
He blew out a breath. "S'pose. If he wants to go, can't hold him here. But I s'pose I should apologise to him too."
"But you're not sorry," Rose said softly. "You can't be. You saved all them people, saved her. Saved history. That weighs more than the lives of two humans. If it happened again you'd do the same. I don't blame you for that. If you'd've asked, I would've agreed to it." She sniffed. "Besides you're the Doctor. The Doctor doesn't apologise."
"I do." He looked over at the small human; the human who would have allowed him to let her die, on more than one occasion because she understood about the greater evils.
"I haven't treated you as well as he did, have I?"
It was the first time he had ever alluded to his past self as being another person and it made Rose flinch in pain.
"You're two different people; different personalities. You may have the same memories but not the same feelings. Bound to act differently. S'no big deal."
"Oh, but it is. You don't trust me."
"I do!" She said indignantly.
"Then tell me why you came to get the jacket, why you've been crying?"
Rose looked down at the too big jacket and something crossed her face too quickly for him to see.
"See," he said sadly. "Before, you would have told me anything. Do you remember sitting up there in the observatory, staring out at the stars talking about nothing for hours?"
"I miss that," he confessed. "We don't do that anymore. Why not, Rose?"
"Because you don't want it." She was staring down at the sleeve of the coat she was wearing and missed his frown.
Rose took a deep breath. "Me and him had this connection—" his hearts stopped as she echoed Mickey's words "—it was like; no matter what happened I know that he cared about me. Loved me, even. Yeah. He loved me."
She smiled tenderly and The Doctor shoved his hands into his pockets, trying to plaster over the hurt he felt at the softness on her expression.
"I dunno much about the Time War and all that, but I figured it was still pretty recent. When I found him—he found me, whatever—he was still shaken up by it. He needed someone and he found me. It was like he needed me to, I dunno, take care of 'im. Sometimes when he looked at me I was the universe and he was almost …"
"Obsessed?" the Doctor filled in quietly.
Rose nodded. "Didn't mind so much; a girl likes to be needed." She grinned, still not looking at him. "He got better though, let go a bit, An' I felt like I'd healed 'im. I was useful. I was needed. Then he died and became you."
Now she looked at him, looked him dead in the eye. "You don't need me. Never have. An' it's like you've gone in full retreat, trying to take back all the things he meant. He never told me about Sarah-Jane but he'd never have rubbed my face in it either." She added hurriedly as he opened his mouth to say something about that. "I don't blame you for that. I liked her too."
She pushed her hair behind her ears and continued.
"You don't want us to get close— like we were before— so you ask Mickey along. Fair enough. You wanted a buffer. Then you fall for Madame De Pompadour, which is fine, like I said, just cuz you're the Doctor doesn't mean that you have the same feelings as you did before. But you're constantly pushing me out, pushing me away; like I'm some stupid ape who won't get the hint that you don't care about me any more."
"I do!" he burst out, unable to keep quiet any more. "Rassilon, Rose, is that what you've been thinking?"
He stepped back, hands rammed deep in his pockets so he didn't reach out and shake her, hold her, kiss her, show her exactly how much he cared. "So you came here to—what?"
Rose was silent so long he thought she wasn't going to answer and then she said, so quietly he almost didn't hear it. "Feel needed. Be someone's everything, just for a little while. Someone who would never leave me behind, or walk away. Someone who … loved me."
The lump in his throat threatened to destroy his hearts, or choke him into regeneration.
"I miss him." Tears started to well up in her eyes. "I miss him so much."
The Doctor opened his arms and Rose hesitated a heart-beat— breaking both his in the process— before falling into them, sobbing into his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her. He closed his eyes and inhaled, taking in her scent and trying to commit it to memory.
She was going to leave.
The thought impacted with all the force of a meteor and the pain was like a vice, grabbing his windpipe and digging sharp claws into his chest.
She was going to leave him.
"Oh, Rose." There was a universe of anguish and apology in his voice. He tightened his embrace trying to show her that he wanted her to stay and never leave him like she'd promised. She'd promised!
"I'm sorry," she cried. "But I do."
"Don't be. I'm the one who should be sorry, Rose. I never meant to make you feel unwanted."
"S'okay." She backed away and swiped at her face with the leather sleeve. "Told you; I get it. Jus' wish … I want him back."
"I can't turn back time." Regress a regeneration was one thing he couldn't do.
And right now he wished with all his regenerations that he could.
"I wouldn't ask you to." She gave a short laugh. "I know how bad an idea that is. Last thing we need is Reapers taking over the shop."
He reached out and touched her cheek, a streak of make-up making its way down her rosy skin.
Rose tilted her head away and he felt the distance between them in light years.
She was going to leave him.
He had never been comfortable with emotions and emotional displays … Well, anger came pretty quickly and vengeance. Happiness, too, was a quick friend. But proper emotions, feelings and vulnerability, were something to be avoided at all costs.
But Rose was an unacceptable loss.
She was going to leave him.
She took a deep breath. "Maybe—"
"Don't say it," his voice cracked and she looked up startled. "Don't."
"What'd'ya want me to say?"
"We can fix this!" He insisted. "We can. Remember it's better with two?"
She nodded, her lower lip trembling.
"I know I've done some things to make you doubt me, but I'm still the Doctor. I'm still the same man who took your hand in the basement."
Rose started to shake her head in denial but he reached out and grasped her slim fingers in his own.
"I am." He stepped close to her again, swallowing hard. Gods, this was hard. But it was important. "If you've ever trusted me, Rose, trust me on this. You mean as much to me, no … you mean more to me now than you ever have. If you walk away—" He couldn't finish.
It was too close, too raw. If she couldn't see what she meant to him; if she couldn't feel how he felt then he couldn't tell her.
He didn't know if he could feel love, or should feel love. His entire planet was dead and gone, what right did he have to happiness? Maybe losing Gallifrey and Romana and Susan wasn't enough punishment for his part in the War.
Maybe the universe wasn't finished with its particular brand of karma. Maybe he hadn't lost enough, hurt enough, grieved enough. Maybe being last of the Time Lords wasn't his final punishment.
Maybe losing Rose was.
His fierce gaze met hers, two set of eyes, both older than they had a right to be, staring endlessly into the other.
"You pushed," she whispered.
"Now I'm pulling," he vowed. "Don't go."
Rose blinked once; a slow act that dislodged a crystal drop from her lashes, sliding over curved bone to drip onto their clasped hands.
"This life of ours, it's getting more dangerous. One of these days I'm not gonna make it. I'm gonna be too slow or not smart enough and I could wind up getting you killed again." Rose pushed back more tears, hating herself for the weakness in her voice. But she had to say this. It was important. "I'm not Sarah-Jane and I'm not Madame De Pompadour. I'm just me. Just Rose. Shop-girl, no 'A' levels. If that's enough, then I'll stay. If not—I'll go with Mickey."
"Stay." The Doctor squeezed her hands, his face suddenly lighting up from the insides. "It's all I've ever needed. And you were never 'just Rose'. You are worth a million companions. You are Rose. My Rose."
"My Doctor." Her smile was tremulous as he pulled her into his arms again and this time they both held tight.
He closed his eyes and cursed all the things that he couldn't say, not knowing that she was doing the same.
As always Rose pulled away first and gave him a grin.
"Right!" he said brightly. "Cup of tea, I think. Then we'll go talk to Mickey. Maybe we can take him on one trip before he leaves. Where should we take him? New Earth?"
"Nah." Rose slipped her hand in his and they strolled out of the wardrobe, along the corridors. "Maybe one of the pleasure planets. He'll be so confused by all the aliens he'll forget about going home."
He paused. "Is that what you want?"
"You invited him," she reminded him.
He nodded, realising that that might not have been one of his best ideas. "Yeah, well. He does want to go and then it'll be just the two of us again. The way it should be."
Rose suddenly realised that she was still wearing the leather jacket. She paused in the corridor, tugging on the sleeves sheepishly. "Uh, probably should take this back."
He'd also just realised what she was wearing and she could see the hurt in his face, even though he tried to hide it quickly. "It does suit you, Rose. Keep it." He decided. "To remind you of me."
"You're still around."
"Okay then," he beamed. "To remind you when I'm being an idiot that I wasn't always so stupid."
Rose grinned. A full blown smile that always had the ability to make him feel years younger. "All right. I'll go put it in my room."
"Come find us in the control room," he suggested, letting go of her hand reluctantly.
As Rose walked away, her steps lighter than he had seen in while, he took a deep breath. That may have been a close call but it wasn't over yet. He needed to talk to Mickey.
Mickey was still in the control room, staring at the console with a frown.
"Oi!" the Doctor said. "What're you doing?"
"It beeped." Mickey explained. "Then something flashed once and went quiet. I was trying to work out where it came from so I knew exactly where to stay away from."
The Doctor peered over and flicked a few switches. "Oh, it's nothing."
"Nothing like a window in time?" Mickey asked sarcastically, "Or nothing like a shop window dummy?"
The Doctor took another deep breath. "Mickey, I don't apologise to humans as a matter of course but you weren't … completely wrong about what you said."
Mickey stared. "What kind of rubbish apology was that?"
"I just told you," he sighed, "oh forget it. I'm sorry for leaving you stranded three thousand years in the future on a space station. I'm sorry you want to go home already, without seeing some of the fantastic things that the universe has to offer like super novas and nebulae, or historical events like the battle of Trafalgar or say … England Verses Germany World cup 1966."
"It's a kind of apology," the Doctor said offhandedly. He'd offered it seriously as he did owe Mickey for opening his eyes about what he was doing to Rose. Thanks to Mickey's interference the Doctor had a chance to make things right. To have his Rose with him.
Actually Mickey didn't know that he had ruined his own chances with Rose by opening his mouth to the Doctor. Oh well, Mickey's loss, the Doctor's gain. "Still not good enough? Oh well, better take you home then—"
"Hold up!" Mickey reached out to stop him, his eyes gleaming. "World Cup '66, seriously?"
"Front row." The Doctor folded his arms across his chest in his classic 'I'm-so-impressive' stance. "What'd'ya say?"
A cheeky grin crept over Mickey's face, only to fall. "You're having me on, ain't ya?"
"You were wrong, Mickey. The earlier me— still me by the way— saw potential in you. It's why I asked you to come along the first time. I was actually impressed when you said no. It takes a special person to know what they can't do. Many have bitten off more than they could chew. Showed real maturity. Then when you knew you could handle it you took steps to be better. Not many'd do that."
"So you're saying you do respect me?" Mickey's cheeky grin was back full force.
"Let's not go that far," the Doctor rolled his eyes. Humans! "But how about helping me fly the TARDIS back to 1966?"
Mickey's eyes lit up. "Yeah?"
"Yup. I'll reroute this and adapt this. Ooh a tweak here." The Doctor almost danced around the console, flipping switches and turning dials. "Uh, Mickey. See that button next to you? The red one? Can you press it and hold for me?"
"Sure." Mickey said proudly, holding the button in with his finger.
"Hey!" Rose greeted Mickey as she walked in. "We off somewhere?"
"The Doctor's gonna take me to see he World Cup 1966!"
Rose rolled her eyes at the exuberance in his voice. "I knew there had to be a match for you to be that happy." She leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek.
A kiss the Doctor caught and didn't like.
If Mickey decided to leave after all, it wouldn't take much for him to convince Rose to go along with him. They had such shared history. They loved each other.
Well, he had one scare today and there was no way he was going to lose Rose. All he had to do was remind her of their history.
"Oh, I don't remember you complaining when you saw that match between the Humanoid Greffulds on Detraxus. Enthralled you were."
"They hit the ball with flamingos!" Rose exclaimed, sitting down in the seats next to the console. "Then the flamingos breathed fire. Not like a couple of guys whacking a ball into a net."
"Speaking of breathing fire, do you remember the dragons on that moon?"
"Why, what happened?" Mickey wanted to know and the Doctor smiled slyly, slipping into the seat next to Rose and draping an arm over her shoulder, a gesture of possession and unity. A clear message to Mickey. Mine. Hands off.
He looked down at a much happier Rose and locked eyes, letting her see that he was as much hers and she was his, excluding Mickey quite purposely.
"Oh, you had to be there."