Title: Suspending Belief
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine. sniff
Spoilers: Season two pre-"Doomsday."
Summary: Rose quickly pushed down all feelings of guilt. The sight of the Doctor's pout was a powerful force, and the image of his frowning face had been more than enough to break stronger wills than hers. But not this time. She was about to be eaten. It was going to take a lot more than a pout to make that prospect seem any more agreeable.
Author's Notes: Well guys, this is it. This last chapter was so graciously looked over by the talented and magnificent Storm Medicine and lookatmoiye7 (from LJ). They are both lovely and beautiful people who get mountains of thanks and cookies! (Because everything great should involve cookies at some point.) However, even with their help my faults know no bounds, and as such concrit is always welcomed. Thank you all for your time and it's been a blast!

--

Part Nine

--

"Hello, oh dignified, mighty, gracious – not to mention quite handsome - guards of the Laxcorvatallaion nobility!"

It typically didn't work, but the Doctor always thought it best to test the 'flattery will get you everywhere' theory, just in case, although he did rather wish that it wasn't necessary to begin with. After all, they were the ones who had tried to kill him.

But then, they were also the ones who could burn him to a crispy husk if they so chose.

Hence, the need for flattery.

"I've noticed that you've taken to lounging about in front of my ship. Would you mind horribly letting us through?" He motioned toward the other end of the dining hall. "More sunlight at that end of the room anyway."

There was a tug on his hand from Rose, and he felt her rise up on her toes and whisper into his ear. "Doctor-"

She really did need to stop doing that, or else he'd end up trembling while he was attempting to be intimidating and Time Lord-like.

Of course, saying that aloud would be a horrible tactical move. Instead he settled on a clipped, "I'm negotiating, Rose." He turned to the Laxcorvatallaions, who were partaking in a collective glower, and gestured to the windows on the other side of the room. "Just look at that southern sky! Much more agreeable than the northern view, don't you think?"

Another puff of air ruffling the hair at the back of his neck. "Doctor-"

"Busy, Rose," he managed to squeak out, giving a small involuntary quiver and turning to address the Laxcorvatallaions once more. "I mean, sure, you've got that red sun blaring on you, but at least it creates great lighting for the right sort of 'mood,' if you know what I mean."

"Doctor!"

Well. There certainly wasn't going to be any mood-making with that tone.

"Fine, fine. No need to shout." He turned to Rose, ignoring the aliens who wanted nothing more than to cook them and giving her his full attention. "What is it?"

She nodded toward a spot behind said group of aliens. "The TARDIS."

The Doctor looked back and noticed that his ship was effectively chained in every way possible, securely attached to the floor with the entrance sealed off.

That was rather inconvenient.

"Oh," he said, readjusting his stance and coughing a bit as he looked to the Laxcorvatallaions. "And if you wouldn't mind unlocking my ship, that would be lovely as well."

A form made its way towards them from the large, scattered mass of aliens. He stopped once he had reached the head of the Laxcorvatallaion troop and glared at the Doctor, a still-blistering wound on the right side of his body.

"Surrender now and you won't suffer, Time Lord," Larin spat in a tone that was far from civil. "If anyone else gets hurt I can't promise that we'll be offering that same courtesy."

The Doctor frowned. "Who said anything about hurting? That's no fun, that. I just want to get to my ship, that's all. Slip in, slip out. No harm done."

"A little too late for that, I think," the Laxcorvatallaion ground out. "Zel's been in the infirmary screaming for the past hour." His gaze was hard, steely as he stared the Doctor down. "We're not in a charitable mood."

The Doctor felt a moment of shame.

The Time Lord knew better than most that there came times when harming others became necessary, when the circumstances left no option but to strike back, to hurt, damage and destroy or risk paying a price that was far too high to forfeit. Yes, the Doctor knew that sometimes violence was unavoidable, but that didn't mean that it should ever be easy.

The Doctor adjusted the intensity of his gaze to match that of Larin. "He'll live," he said, tone no longer light or accommodating. "Can't say the same for all of those you've killed to keep the appetites of your nobles satisfied."

Larin stiffened, shifting on his feet, uncomfortable. "To maintain order sacrifices must be made."

"And what makes those sacrifices less worthy of your concern than Zel?" Rose demanded from the Doctor's side, her tone fierce as she stared at the Laxcorvatallaion.

It was then that the Doctor realized that her hand was still clenched in his.

She shouldn't have been there at all, mind. If the Doctor had been a sensible creature she would have been back in the hallway, out of harm's way.

Of course, the Doctor had very little sense to begin with, and when he looked at her that small remnant of good judgment seemed to vanish entirely. He'd do anything he could to make her happy, and the Doctor knew that particular brand of devotion was dangerous.

But he doubted that he could ever bring himself to send her away, for reasons that he was unwilling to ponder at present.

He still had no tie, was still running for his life and was still trying to liberate a planet.

Rules were rules.

"They're still people," Rose continued, and the Doctor took the opportunity to eye the pillared entrances around the hall. He heard nothing, saw nothing, that gave him any indication that anyone was behind those doors.

They needed more time.

"Still creatures who have the right to live."

"Things have been working this way for centuries without incident, running smoothly from generation to generation." Larin spat, furious gaze focused on Rose. "Everything was fine until you humans came along."

The Doctor felt Rose flinch a bit at the ferocity of the words, squeezing his hand more tightly as she met the Laxcorvatallaion's stare, despite his livid and fearsome manner.

It was more than a little startling. After all, Larin had been the reasonable one.

Larin shook his head, glaring. "You couldn't just accept the way things were, couldn't leave the established order be. No, you had to try to change things to better suit yourselves, to alter a culture that you invaded just because it didn't make you as comfortable as you were used to."

"They want their rights," the Doctor said sternly. "That's hardly an invasion."

"They want change," the Laxcorvatallaion shot back.

Rose shook her head. "Change isn't always bad!"

"Change is dangerous and costly, especially when the Laxcorvatallaion nobility don't want or need it," Larin snapped at Rose before turning his attention back to the Doctor, done with negotiations. "Do you surrender, Time Lord?"

The Doctor was about to answer in a mildly polite fashion (the kind that wouldn't get them killed), when there was the faint, barely distinguishable sound of shuffling feet and the small hint of shadows behind the various doorways.

Fortunately, forced politeness wouldn't be required.

"Well," he began. "If I do surrender, you'll take my companion and I to the kitchens and cook us for a bunch of primitive cellulites who are little more than filthy, murderous sacks of lard."

Larin, along with the group of Laxcorvatallaions around him, gaped.

"And, frankly, I'm just not up for being the main dish this evening." The Doctor grinned widely, thoroughly amused by their silent gawking. "So, I'm afraid the answer is no."

And in the next instant, several things happened: the Laxcorvatallaions, from various positions in the room, were shocked out of their stillness and began to move forward, obviously intent on causing the Doctor serious bodily harm; the twelve doors that led to the dining hall were flung open, revealing the escaped prisoners, angry and eager to fight; and Rose pulled violently on the Doctor's hand, forcing him to crouch on the floor as flying torrents of glucose landed on the large orange aliens.

And then there was a lot of screaming from the Laxcorvatallaions.

It was a messy task, making their way to the TARDIS while dodging flailing bodies and hails of sugar, but somebody had to do it. And as was often the case for the Doctor, that somebody happened to be him - and whoever else was foolish enough to go with him.

Because Rose was still there, her hand still in his, and she showed absolutely no hint of wishing to leave any time soon.

And, although he would never admit it, the Doctor was profoundly grateful for it, for all the wonderful facets of her that kept him grounded, that kept his hope alive.

When they finally did reach the TARDIS, the modified, nonfatal, glucose was already beginning to lose its potency, an oversight that could easily end in disaster.

What they needed was a plan.

Fortunately, the Doctor was great at those.

He pulled the sonic screwdriver out of his pocket and handed it to Rose, gesturing to the chains. "Get into the TARDIS and fish the hose out from under the console."

Rose blinked at him. "The hose? Why would anyone have a hose in a time machine?"

"For situations like this, obviously!" he said with a grin, which Rose quickly returned.

Even with both of their lives at stake she could still laugh with him, still trust him enough to share in a glib joke while a battle raged around them, risking her life with a enthusiasm, joy and a smile.

It really was no wonder that the Doctor kept Rose Tyler around.

He took a moment to study her face, her nose, her eyebrows, the small laugh lines that were beginning to form around her lips, foretelling more wrinkles to come. It was all beautiful, every glowing inch of her. He moved his gaze to their joined hands, examining every detail he could absorb. The way her fingers fit so easily inside of his own, how their palms connected as if they were designed to fit in one another, the feel of her soft skin pressed tightly to his own.

And then he let go, fearing that if he kept it up for too long he'd never be able to do so.

"I'll be back before you can say 'Raxacoricofallapatorius,'" he said as he glanced over his shoulder and then began a speedy move to leave, quickly interrupted by the feel of a gentle tug on the arm of his coat.

Rose looked at him, concern shining in her eyes. "What will you be doing?"

"Oh, you know, same old." He grinned. Rose released him as the Doctor sprinted away once more. "Just saving the world!"

He all but felt her eye roll as he weaved through the crowd and made his way to Maz's struggling form. The neo-human, sporting several bags of glucose, was dodging several flailing Laxcorvatallaions while keeping an eye on the rest of the room. Meanwhile Lenica perched on his shoulder, a painful looking scorch on her tail.

"The glucose," Maz yelled as the Time Lord reached them. The Doctor pulled them into a secluded corner. "It's not working, not affecting them like it should."

"It's working fine," the Doctor replied quickly, eyeing the marvilinion's injury. "Are you okay?"

"Fine," she said. "Thanks to him," she added begrudgingly, motioning to Maz.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows and turned to the neo-human expectantly, only have the man wave it off. "She wouldn't have been hurt at all if the sugar was working properly."

The Doctor shook his head dismissively and then looked across the room, trying to take stock of the other members of the group. "It's doing just what it's supposed to. How is everyone else?"

Lenica frowned at him. "What do you mean 'just what it's supposed to'? It's supposed to kill them!"

The Doctor said nothing, sensing the marvilinion's rage.

"What did you do?" she demanded, tone livid.

The Doctor leveled his stare with hers, expression severe. "I prevented you from killing people who don't need to die."

"To accomplish what?" she snapped back. "To make it easier for them to kill us? Well, that's good, then." she eyed the Doctor with disgust. "As long as we're the ones to die it doesn't matter, does it?"

"No one's going to die!" the Doctor yelled.

He had seen too many people die. For good reasons or bad, senseless or for a noble cause, too many had fallen in his lifetime for him to be capable of casually doling out death sentences. He would not let it happen again, not permit mindless slaughter in his presence.

No one would die. Not if they didn't have to.

The Doctor leveled his intense stare on the marvilinion.

Lenica was silenced instantly.

"I have a plan," he reassured her, tone softening slightly. "Where's the flighty?"

"Kelica? Over there." Maz nodded to the other side of the room, never taking his eyes off the Time Lord. "Here." He removed the extra bag of sugar he had slung over his shoulders, "take this."

The Doctor grinned gratefully, hefting the large bag. "Thanks."

"Whatever your plan is, you'd better implement it quickly," Maz remarked, his gaze still serious as he looked around the room. "If all of these Laxcorvatallaions are going to get up again, no worse for wear, we don't have much time."

The Doctor met the man's gaze levelly. "I know," he replied, maintaining the look for a moment before starting across the room once more, back to the TARDIS, back to Rose, and back to a hose.

He was making excellent progress and was quite pleased with himself until he came face-to-face with a horribly disfigured Laxcorvatallaion, the entire structure of his face replaced with ugly boils, who was eyeing the Doctor with malice.

"Look what you've done to me!" the creature screamed at the Doctor, eyes slightly crazed and heaving breaths that were obviously painful.

And the Doctor knew then that it could only be one person.

"Zel, I'm sorry, but you were going to hurt someone." From the looks of it, the Laxcorvatallaion had escaped from the infirmary. A device similar an IV line was dangling from his neck, and he was panting angrily as he took a step closer to the Time Lord. "I couldn't let you do that."

"So you decided to disfigure me?" Zel yelled, advancing menacingly, limping, as the Doctor struggled with the unopened bag of glucose over his shoulders. "What are my children going to say when they see me like this? My wife?"

The Doctor shook his head in denial, running a quick hand through his wild hair helplessly. "You were going to kill Rose!"

He was close now, close enough to touch, and the Doctor still didn't have the bag open. "And she deserved it," the Laxcorvatallaion spat. He raised a hand. "Just like you do."

"Stop!" a voice cried from somewhere behind Zel, a too-familiar voice whose owner should have been in the TARDIS waiting for him.

Stupid, stupid ape.

"Right now!" Rose continued, and the scarred Laxcorvatallaion turned to face her. She was pointing the sonic screwdriver right between Zel's eyes. "I'm not afraid to use this, you know!" she said as she shook the device a bit. "Now, back away and leave him alone."

This, the Doctor decided, was not a good idea.

"Rose!"

"It's all right, Doctor, I've got it," she reassured him quickly, sending him a small smile before turning her gaze back to Zel, shifting on her feet slightly.

The alien began to advance toward her, and the Doctor took the time to struggle with his bag of glucose. This wasn't going to end well, not at all. Because the Laxcorvatallions were a very technologically advanced race.

And that only spelled trouble for Rose.

Who was currently smiling in satisfaction up ahead, the shopgirl eyeing the Laxacorvatallion smugly. "Good, just back away, don't get too close." Rose frowned and Zel ignored her. There was a gleam in his eyes as he continued to advance. "Okay, you can stop now." She retreated a few steps. "Really, you could have stopped."

Zel smiled vilely, taking another set of shuffling steps toward her. "You're trying to threaten me with a sonic screwdriver?"

"Oh." The Doctor saw Rose gulp nervously. "You know what this is, then?"

Another smile. "Yes."

And then he had her, his long thin arms wrapped around her form, one hand firmly around her neck with the other around her forearm - Rose wincing as the bony fingers grasped the wound they had created a mere hour before.

"Don't hurt her!" the Doctor screamed, rushing forward.

"Throw down your weapon," the Laxcorvatallaion told him.

The Doctor stared blankly, Rose looking at him with wide-eyes.

Entirely too trusting.

And that blind faith was terrifying, becuase he'd always known that one day he would let her down.

"Do it!" Zel yelled, and the Doctor quickly tossed the glucose off his shoulders.

Better to see an entire civilization remain in squalor, better to be killed than to have to watch her die.

He always knew that holding onto Rose Tyler would be the death of both of them.

"Good," Zel said, smug, tightening his grip on Rose's throat and causing her to wince. "Now, the nobles are getting mighty cranky, and that means bad news for the citizens of Ellricion. Let's solve the problem. Why don't the three of us take a walk to Marty's kitchen?"

"You don't have to do this," Rose choked out.

"I don't have to do anything!" he yelled, sneering. "But it's all so much easier this way, don't you think?" He gave her a jerk and then looked to the Doctor.

"Move."

The Doctor remained stock still, eyes frantically looking from Zel to Rose.

He couldn't lose her. Not Rose.

There was the faint sound of searing flesh and Rose's pained cry as Zel gave her another shake. "Now, Time Lord!"

And the Doctor had just taken the first step when a large bag of glucose came flying from the edge of his vision. In an instant it had struck Zel in the head and knocked him to the floor, causing him to release Rose and bang his small skull on the steel of the tile.

Both the Doctor and Rose gaped in shock for a moment before raising their heads. The Doctor looked on in wonder as he saw the panting form of Maz, staring down at the unconscious body of the Laxcorvatallaion.

"I just knocked out one of my supervisors," he said in shock before lifting his head and grinning. "And damned if it wasn't wonderful!"

"Ha ha! That's the spirit!" the Doctor shouted in glee, giving the neo-human a huge grin before stepping forward and scooping Rose up in his arms in one swift motion, lifting her and holding on tight, breathing her in.

It was only when she squeaked out a strained, "Doctor," that he reluctantly set her on her feet once more.

"Are you all right?" he asked as he began to untangle himself from her, quickly running his hands over her. He felt her shivering as he did so, seeming no worse for the experience, if a little shaken. Until he came to her neck, that is, and she gave a small wince as he touched the new wounds.

"I'm okay," she responded after a moment, pulling him back to her for another hug, throwing her arms around his neck and taking a large breath. "How about you?"

"Me?" the Doctor asked with a slightly hysterical bark of laughter.

She really shouldn't mean this much to him. It wasn't safe, for either of them, for him to depend on her this much.

"You almost got killed while I stood and watched."

"I could say the same for you," she said angrily before holding him more tightly, eliminating the effect of the harsh tone of her words.

"Well, you're both still alive," Maz pointed out drolly from behind them, Lenica on his shoulder as the two of them watched the spectacle with strained patience. "Although that won't last long if you don't get a move on."

"Right," the Doctor said, removing himself from Rose but refusing to release her hand. "Sorry about that." He turned to his companion. "Hose?"

She gestured behind Maz. "Over there."

"Okay, then," he said with a grin. "Let's save the day, shall we?"

Rose gave a firm nod. "I think we shall."

The Doctor broke out into a wide grin. "Well what are we standing around here for, then?" With that he dashed forward, pulling Rose with him as he went about doing the thing that he did best.

Being brilliant, saving people, planets and civilizations. All of those good things. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more the Doctor realized that his effect was very similar to that of bananas.

The thought pleased him enormously.

After that, it was a simple matter to give one end of the long hose to Kelica and have her zoom to the room that stored the glucose while sending the two belikfests to the cells to get more of the sugar-chains.

Maz, releasing several decades' worth of unreleased rage against his employers, had then gleefully drenched the Laxcorvatallaions with the modified glucose, sending them to the floor, screaming at the intense pinching feeling that the Doctor's concoction was meant to produce.

No one, the Doctor reflected, appreciated the power of sheer irritation as opposed to pain. Yes, pain had the benefit of hurting, but who really liked to be pinched?

In a matter of minutes the entire troop was wriggling on the floor, screaming from the unrelenting pinching sensation as they were tied with the bonds, many breaking out into unpleasant rashes, but none dead or dying. Meanwhile the released prisoners were viewing the pathetic display with amusement, still angry, but not murderous.

And the Doctor still had Rose's hand in his, neither too worse for the wear and tear of the past hours, even if both were covered in a ridiculous amount of sugar.

All things considered, the Doctor had had worse days.

"Well," Rose remarked blandly as they both stared at the glucose-covered floor and the Laxcorvatallaions littering the tiles. "I suppose I did ask for something new and this is, without question, very new for us."

The Doctor nodded in agreement. "Can't say it's happened to us before." He turned to her excitedly. "Want to do it again?"

She shot him an annoyed look. "No." She glanced down, looking at her now sugarcoated clothes. "At least not until I've changed and have had a nice wash."

"But then we can do it again?"

She laughed, rolling her eyes. "Yes, then we can do it again." She shook her free hand slightly, frowning when a glob of sugar went flying off the end of her fingers. "I'm going in," she said, gesturing to the TARDIS. "Just going to wash up a bit and change." She eyed their joined hands before glancing back up to him, inching closer. "You'll be in soon?"

The Doctor gave another nod, firmly quashing the desire to ask her to stay, to linger by his side and never leave.

It was a silly impulse, foolish and human and completely ridiculous in its utter lack of logic. They were safe now, she was going back to the TARDIS, back home, and he had absolutely no reason to beg her to hang about.

Besides, it would be cruel to ask her to stay drenched in all of that sugar forever.

Not that she would have to…

The Doctor promptly ended that thought, longing for his tie. Why weren't these things about when he needed them?

"Yep," the Doctor said, trying not to gulp. "Be there in a mo."

Rose grinned brightly at that, and the Doctor slowly, more reluctantly than he was comfortable with, detangled their fingers, letting out a small sigh of loss as she bounded back into the TARDIS.

Back to where he would never confess he felt she belonged.

"So, what now?"

The Doctor turned back to the crowd, shaking himself as he regarded Maz. "What's that?"

The neo-human had his arms crossed over his chest and was glaring at the Time Lord with no small amount of bitterness. "You've kidnapped me, dragged me along with you on your insane crusade, obviously got me fired." He pushed his wire-rimmed glasses up his nose irritably. "Anything else you'd like from me?"

From his shoulder, Lenica was rolling her eyes.

"Yes, actually, now that you mention it," the Doctor responded eagerly, striding forward as Maz stared back at him in horror.

The Doctor smirked a bit at that. Maz had offered the Time Lord an opportunity to talk and honestly thought that he wasn't going to take it?

Oh, those silly, silly humans.

The Time Lord strode forward and planted a hand firmly on Maz's free shoulder. "You have a responsibility now, Maz. To the people you've helped kill, to their families, to Lenica, to these prisoners and yourself. You have to undo the harm you've caused here." He stared at the man seriously, locking gazes with the cook. "You've got one chance to atone, to make things right as best you can." The Doctor gave the shoulder a quick pat and grinned broadly. "So don't muck it up, all right?"

Maz blinked.

"Good!" the Doctor said, without waiting for a response. "Well, I'm off then." He turned on his heel and walked briskly back to the TARDIS, missing Rose already.

Some voice in the corner of his mind muttered something about 'separation anxiety,' but the Doctor thought it would be best to ignore it. It was an awfully bothersome voice anyway.

"That's it?" Maz yelled. "I get a 'don't mess up' and you're off?"

"You can't go!" another person yelled from behind the Doctor, and he reluctantly turned to look at the group once more.

The flighty was staring at him desperately. "We need your help."

The Doctor shook his head, giving her a small smile and inclining his head toward Maz and Lenica. "You already have all the help you need."

He opened the door to the TARDIS.

"Running off is easy when you've got nothing holding you back, isn't it Time Lord?" Maz taunted behind him. "Easy enough not to face the consequences of your actions when you've no one depending on you."

The Doctor sighed, looking back at the neo-human, and opened his mouth to explain how dangerous it would be for a planet to rest its fate in his hands, how deadly it had been in the past. To tell him just how disastrous it would be for anyone to rely on him, how much pain he had caused to those he cared for most, and what truly facing the consequences of all that pain would entail.

But Lenica spoke up before he had the chance. "He's got someone depending on him, cook," she remarked, regarding the Doctor with a calculated look. "It's just not us." She smiled lightly, a knowing glint to her eye. "And he needs her just as much as she needs him."

The Doctor maintained the marvilinion's gaze, thinking it best to remain silent.

If he couldn't think about how he felt about Rose Tyler, he certainly wouldn't be allowed to talk about it.

"Go on, Doctor," Lenica said, nodding to the TARDIS. "We'll take care of things from here."

She gave another smile that the Doctor readily returned, turning back toward his ship.

"Wait," Maz said frantically. "'We'?" His tone took on a hysterical pitch. "There is no 'we' in this arrangement, you gruesome lizard!"

"You heard him, Neanderthal. You have to fix what you've done, and I am going to make sure that you do it." A pointed pause. "Or else I'll be certain that you face the consequences."

There was a large sigh as the Doctor opened the TARDIS door further.

"Wonderful," Maz muttered. The Doctor glanced behind him to see Lenica smiling smugly while the neo-human hung his head in defeat.

"Good news, then!" the Doctor said cheerfully, grinning more widely at Maz's withering glare. "Well, in that case I'm off." He waved and put one foot in the TARDIS. "Happy Revolutionizing!"

"What?" he heard Maz shout as he slammed the door shut. "What did he say?" A frantic pause. "No! No, I will not!"

"You will," Lenica's voice sounded faintly through the wood. "And you'll smile while you're doing it."

The Doctor sighed happily.

His little birdie was growing up so very fast…

"That's it?"

The Doctor turned to see Rose at the console, towel in hand as she wiped away some muck on her face.

He bounded forward and fiddled with various controls. "That's it," he affirmed.

"But, the nobles are still in power!"

The Doctor gave a firm nod. "Yep."

Rose stared at him. "And we're just leaving?"

"Yes," the Doctor said as he ordered the TARDIS into the Vortex. "But the planet's in good hands."

"Whose?"

He flicked one last switch and then leaned against the controls, turning to Rose and smiling smugly. "You'd be surprised."

"I'd have to be, wouldn't I?" she muttered, huffing and throwing the towel onto the couch. "No one down there's done anything to get those overgrown kids out of power!" She began to pace in front of him, irritated. "And who are those nobles, anyway? They have the mental maturity of children and think that they're too good to be put in their place every now and then!" She looked to the Doctor, crossing her arms. "What makes them so special?"

"What makes anyone special?" he replied with a shrug. "Money. Hereditary. Social standing. Arbitrary facts doled out randomly at birth."

"Then why doesn't anyone change it?" she demanded. "It doesn't have to be this way!"

"Someone does change it," the Doctor remarked. "Just not today." He turned back to the console, bringing over the screen and fiddling with some more controls. "Not tomorrow either, for that matter." He looked up, contorting his face in an odd manner as he thought. "In about, oh, twenty years' time the Uprising begins. Retallamazdos Frank Doslinicon, I believe, starts the revolution, robs from the rich, gives to the poor. All of that good stuff." He focused on the controls once more. "Or at least he did." He grinned at her. "We might have changed things a bit, you and I."

She shook her head, coming up to stand next to him by the screen. "Frank?" She asked, smirking.

The Doctor gave a firm nod. "Frank." He pushed the screen over to her, gesturing to it smugly. "Take a look."

She gasped as she saw the photograph of a balding man with wire-rimmed glasses, covered with dirt and blood, a bag of sugar flung over his shoulder and a serious look on his face as he glanced over his shoulder, other men forming ranks behind him.

"That's Maz!" Her brow furrowed and she gave The Doctor a disbelieving look. "He leads the Uprising?"

The Doctor studied his fingernails. "I suppose he does," he said as casually as he could muster.

"You knew!"

Well, so much for casual.

"Knew what?" he asked innocently.

"You knew that he would lead the revolution later, didn't you?" She grumbled a bit. "'Our little birdie' indeed."

"I didn't know!" the Doctor protested, throwing down his hand and abandoning all attempts to appear blameless.

It never worked anyway.

"Had my suspicions maybe, but didn't know." He paused for a moment before reluctantly admitting, "At least not until he mentioned that his son could be born in over a year's time. Then I knew."

Rose glared at him.

He turned back to the console, taking the screen back and flicking through what information he could find. "Retallamazdos Frank Doslinicon began the Resistance within the next twenty years, when his nineteen year old son, Junior, his only child, was captured and killed by the Laxcorvatallaions for violating the strict neo-human laws of the time." He eyed Rose grimly. "I think he insulted the nobility."

There was a moment of pained silence. "He died?" Rose asked.

"Yep," the Doctor tried to say lightly. "And when he did, Maz did just what he told us he would do." He sent her a somber glance. "He tore down the walls of the very palace to get his revenge."

"Did he?"

"Eventually, although he wouldn't be alive to see it. Forty years in he was killed, months before the Uprising took control of the capital."

"So he dies," Rose said bleakly, looking at the Doctor sorrowfully. "He loses his son, seeks revenge and dies before he has a chance to revolutionize anything."

"He did die," the Doctor pointed out quickly, poking at some more controls as he continued his search. "It's different now."

"Different?"

"We changed things," he clarified quickly, smiling as he brought up the correct set of information. "According to this, the revolution didn't start in twenty years' time… It started today."

"What?" Rose asked, leaning forward and snagging the screen from him.

"Yeah, see here." He pointed to another photo, markedly different from the other.

It seemed as if they had created a very different type of revolution.

It was still Maz, but instead of being on the front lines he was standing proudly on a stage in front of a large group of people, neo-human, Laxcorvatallaion and other aliens all included, obviously mid-pace with a red form perched on his shoulder, scowling at him.

"Lenica?" Rose asked in surprise, squinting at the photo before turning to the Doctor. "She was a part of the resistance too?"

"Well not before. She was dead then. But now…" He scanned the screen, smiling when he found the proper passage and gesturing to it. "Look here."

"'Veteran on the front lines, a co-commander of the Uprising and a life-long political partner of Retallamazdos Frank Doslinicon throughout the Revolution and Golden Age of Ellricion.'" Rose read. "Wait, 'life-long'? Does that mean he lives?" She smiled, turning to the Doctor hopefully. "Does that mean they both live?"

"I suppose so," the Doctor said smugly, leaning away from the screen and giving a nod of approval. "Those two, they'll make a good team. She'll keep him in line and he'll be certain she doesn't get too wrapped up in power."

"But can they work together? After everything that's happened?" She looked away from the screen to give the Doctor a grave look. "He killed her son."

The Doctor returned her gaze. "And I doubt either one of them will ever be able to forget that."

"But today, they were just so…" She sighed, running a hand through her hair before continuing. "Maz is too involved with his own life to care about anyone else's and Lenica's too obsessed with revenge to see past her need for it." She shook her head, giving a bitter laugh. "There's no way they could start a revolution, much less lead an entire planet."

The Doctor made a motion to respond.

"And how could they collaborate?" she continued before he could start.

He resisted the urge to pout.

"They can barely speak to one another!"

"Things always change, Rose," he pointed out, grinning at her frustration.

She sent him a speculative look. "Not like this."

"We re-wrote history by making a stand, running for our lives and saving twenty-seven aliens," he reminded her, smiling smugly. "We just changed a world without even trying to."

She laughed. "I never would have believed-"

The Doctor interrupted and stepped forward, sending her a stern look. "And what have I been telling you about belief, Rose?"

She sighed, staring up at him and smiling softly. "It's better off left in suspension."

"That's right," he said, nodding in satisfaction and trying to ignore the way she was looking at him. The way her eyelashes rested so beautifully against her skin and how her hair was still wet from its earlier washing. He tried not to notice their proximity and the way he could hear her, slightly gasped, breathing if he listened closely.

And he most definitely ignored how all of that made him feel, how much he loved being close to her and how desperately he needed it.

And he did that the only way that he knew how.

"Good to know I've gotten something through to that ape-like brain of yours."

He was rude.

"Oi, I will smack you!" Rose said. He smirked and quickly jumped away from her, grinning as he hopped to the other end of the console.

"Remember, people have been trying to eat me for the past five hours," she continued, following his progress. "I'm incredibly irritable."

"You wouldn't hurt me," he said glibly, flicking another switch. "I'm the Doctor." He sent her one of his winning grins. "I'm too cute to smack."

She smirked, taking a large step closer to him and eyeing him in what the Doctor felt was a decidedly evil fashion. "Don't push your luck."

"Rose, what are you doing?" he asked as she came closer still, the Doctor beginning to back away slowly.

She simply smiled in the same evil manner, stretching out a hand and making a grab for his jacket.

"Rose, no," the Doctor said as he tried to dart away once more, only to notice that she was following him, chasing him around the console, laughing as they dashed about. "Rose!"

She was still chuckling when he finally came to a stop, her mirth increasing as she ran straight into him.

"You were actually scared!" she gasped into his jacket, her fingers tight around the fabric.

And it really was entirely natural for him to lightly rest his hands on her hips.

"I was not!" he insisted, laughing as well, but attempting to appear as if he wasn't.

The Doctor wasn't too certain that it was working.

"You were!" she snickered. "Here you are, the 'Oncoming Storm,' and you're afraid of a smack from me."

"Have you ever been hit by your mother?" he demanded, feeling a phantom pain in his cheek. "A slap like that must be a genetic trait."

She tried to appear serious for a moment, nodding at him in sympathy before breaking down into laughter once more, and the Doctor found that, when he was looking at her smiling, radiant face, he had no choice but to laugh as well.

She was truly gorgeous, his Rose. Kind, courageous and loyal, smart and funny with a thirst for adventure and excitement.

He almost felt his fingers burning where they touched the fabric of her shirt, had to stop himself from bringing one of his hands up to caress her hair, to stroke her skin, to lean his head forward and taste that small, delicate place where her neck and shoulder met.

Did she have any idea how wonderful she was? How spectacular he found her each and every feature? Did she have any notion of how terrified he had been throughout this long day? How each threat of her loss had made his hearts stop and his mind race?

Because the Doctor suddenly realized that maybe Rose didn't understand how much he needed her.

"You know Rose," he began, staring into her laughing brown eyes. "I…"

And in that instant he remembered why he couldn't need her, couldn't care for her, couldn't love her.

Because in the end, everyone was lost. To death, time or circumstance, no one could stay with him forever.

Not even Rose.

"Yes, Doctor?" she asked, looking at him with concern and a flicker of hope in her eyes.

"I really think it's time we had a break, don't you?" he finished quickly, jumping away from her as if he had been burnt and running about the console once more.

"A break?" she asked with a frown. "You want to have a break? With me?"

Odd, that there still seemed to be that strange note of hope in her tone.

"Yeah, why?" he inquired, concerned. "You don't?"

"No, no, I'd love to," she said with a small laugh, coming closer and peering at him. "But you don't want to send me home?"

"And see your mother? Of course not." He shuddered at the mere thought before shaking it off.

He was not going to let Jackie Tyler ruin his attempt at a good time. No doubt there was some alien force that would manage that, and it was all quite well and good with the Doctor.

So long as it wasn't Jackie Tyler.

"Let's go somewhere fun," he insisted. "Less running and more enjoyment, more seeing history rather than shaping it and all that." He grinned as a thought came to him, twisting a dial and turning his face to Rose enthusiastically. "I know the perfect place!"

The TARDIS gave a lurch and they both grabbed onto the console, Rose returning his smile as they set off.

"Where?"

"Now that's a surprise, isn't it?" the Doctor reprimanded lightly, clapping his hands together and grinning, happy with his decision.

Rose really didn't need to know all of that feeling nonsense anyway. And besides, there was no time! Too many things to explore, adventures to have.

All of those domestics could wait for another day.

"All right, coordinates set." He nodded towards Rose. "Let's go take a look at your burns and make sure you don't have any infections before fixing them up."

Rose smiled, still with that oddly happy air about her, as if by suggesting a break the Doctor had given her some great gift.

She could be an odd one, his Rose, every now and again.

Suddenly she was directly in front of him, and the Doctor wasn't quite sure how she had gotten there.

In the next instant she was leaning towards him, kissing his cheek lightly and wrapping her arms around him. "Thank you, Doctor."

The Doctor blinked, too startled, too confused and too busy trying not to think about Rose Tyler's lips against his skin and her body next to his to form an intelligent, witty reply.

Instead he asked, "For what?"

"Everything." She gave him another tight squeeze before pulling back, flashing another smile. "I'll meet you in the medical bay," Rose said as she turned away, walking towards the corridor and leaving the Doctor gaping after her.

And the Time Lord only had one thought, minutes later, as he finally gathered enough sense to follow her.

He definitely needed to put on a tie.