A/N: Cliché, perhaps? Mushy cliché, even! Oh well. That's how it goes in my blissful AU world. (I claim no responsibility for any cavities gained in consumption of this chapter) It was also written two years ago, and I like to think I've matured in my writing style since then... I'm content with the finished product, however, and didn't feel like re-editing to remove the pithy, melodramatic or overly ornate prose. Hope you enjoyed Imbalance, delayed as the final product was on this site!
Disclaimer: For the last time, no it is not mine!
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton
Rose, I love you.
She had hoped, of course, but she'd never had much confirmation other than longer than usual post-adventure hugs or sidelong glances she wasn't sure she'd actually caught. After accepting her fate in her new world, she'd neatly tucked that little bit of hope away in the corner of her heart, making sure it stayed warm and protected. It had unfolded to surround her soul when they had finally reconnected, but she still hadn't let it fully flame into being. Now, it overpowered her entire being and she had to respond.
His brave, brilliant little human mentally sobbed. I love you, Doctor. So, so much.
He'd known that, of course, but the doubts that had cropped up from being separated had apparently formed a mental block between them. He'd railed against being cut off the first time and had practically convinced himself she would write him off as a lost cause and settle down with a normal, human bloke who could give her all the affection she deserved. He had refused to let himself consider that she could think of him with anything more than fondness and even after they managed to reconnect, had barely let himself hope for more.
As soon as they each acknowledged their true feelings and the other accepted, the obstruction between worlds disappeared. After pulling so hard against the block, it was a sudden shock when it gave way, sending Rose's energy zooming through the last bit of the Void. The Doctor abruptly found himself with an armful of warm pink and yellow Rose.
It took a moment for them both to realise they'd done it; they were back together. Tears streaming down both faces, the Doctor and Rose clung together, each trying to mould themselves into the other. An immeasurable amount of time later, the Doctor slowly pulled back, keeping hold of his precious girl but wanting to see her face for the first time in far too long. Blotchy and tear-streaked, it was still the loveliest sight in the universe to him. Meeting her brown gaze with his own, he smiled, a real, full smile that hadn't been seen since that horrible day at Torchwood.
"Hello," he said, almost reverently.
Rose sniffed inelegantly and smiled through her tears. "Hello," she said back.
"You're real, you're really here," he dazedly said, still somewhat in a state of shock.
" 'm here! Oh my God, I'm really here!" Rose threw herself back into his welcoming embrace.
They hugged fiercely, neither wanting to let go until the TARDIS interrupted with a chime, obviously feeling left out of the reunion.
Rose laughed as she turned to face the console, wiping her face on the sleeve of her jacket. The Doctor refused to relinquish his grip, keeping his arms around her waist as he burrowed his face in her blonde hair. He absently noted the lack of roots and the new pixie cut, but focused on her familiar feel and scent, allowing them to flood his senses.
"Hello, old girl! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much! For pulling me through and for making sure I lived long enough for this to happen!" Rose giggled as the TARDIS sounded an almost bashful note.
The Doctor could feel the joy and utter completeness sweeping through the woman in his arms. With an abrupt start, he realised they hadn't fully disengaged from the connection that pulled her through. It wasn't intrusive, just a sense of her within his mind stronger than it should be. He shrugged internally; it was a small price to pay for having his Rose.
Her presence washed over him with a powerful force. She was really there. It wasn't a dream, it wasn't wishful thinking. He felt drugged with the sheer power of his, her and their emotions. Joy, contentment, wonder, desire, rightness, elation formed a brightly coloured maelstrom that he dove straight into.
Spinning her back to face him, he ran his hands up her arms to gently cup her face. He had to say it. She was miraculously in front of him and he had to tell her.
"Rose Tyler, I love you."
Her eyes widened. She had never expected him to admit it out loud. Honestly, she was anticipating having to tuck that memory away, playing it off as heat of the moment and continuing on as before. She really would have been fine with that; they were together and that was all that mattered. Realizing he was looking at her with increasing nervousness, she felt tears welling up again as she said, "Doctor, I love you too."
She would have continued, but speech was suddenly impossible as he bent his head down to brush his lips lightly across hers. She froze at the powerful jolt that swept through her at the contact, but melted into him as he pressed more firmly. They stayed perfectly still, relishing in the innocent connection of first kisses, or at least first kisses that they both would remember.
Needing air, Rose regretfully broke the kiss, but snuggled into his chest as his arms came around her, holding her with that surprising strength of his. She would have been content to stay there for eternity, but the real world beckoned.
Feeling like he was forgetting something, the Doctor suddenly remembered with dread that Martha had been on an open line. A quick query to the TARDIS reassured him that the intensely private reunion had in fact been private. He stroked Rose's hair, momentarily pressing her closer to him, before murmuring, "Sorry, love, but I have to call Martha back. I'm sure she and Aurelia are frantic at not knowing what happened."
As Rose drew back and released him, he was delighted to see her blush at the endearment. He decided then and there that he would make her flush that colour at least once a day. Holding out his hand, his fingers instantly twined with hers in the still-familiar grip. Leading her over to the console, he called up Martha's number and set it to ringing.
"Doctor? What happened? Did it work?" Martha's frantic voice rang out.
He grinned, unable to contain his happiness. "Oh, it most definitely worked! Tell Aurelia many, many thanks, please."
"Oh, I'm so glad! We all got worried when the call dropped, but Aurelia thought she felt it work. Are you heading back here, then?"
He answered distractedly, entranced by Rose's free hand stroking and caressing bits and bobs on the console as she quietly talked to the TARDIS. "Yep, we're on the way. See you in a bit."
Cutting the connection, he simply watched as the two most precious beings in his world communed. Hating to interrupt, he gently squeezed Rose's hand to get her attention. "Want to help me set the coordinates?"
Her eyes flashed excitedly as she nodded, their hands reluctantly separating to attend to their tasks. It was a bit rocky at the start, but they eventually recovered their old rhythm.
Rose was giddy beyond belief. Setting the coordinates and working to fly the TARDIS brought home the reality of the situation more than anything else. She relished every second of every familiar vibration and jerk that accompanied a TARDIS flight. She laughed out of sheer pleasure as they went through a typically unstable rematerialization that threw her into the Doctor. Easily absorbing the impact and folding her into his body, he beamed down at her obvious happiness. That was what he had missed the most: the way she put all of herself into every single aspect of their shared life. Other companions shared the excitement and anticipation of adventure, but none came close to the way it was imbued in every single one of Rose's actions.
He released her to allow her the privilege of being first out the door. He wondered if Martha had heard the TARDIS or if they would need to go meet her in the village. A flash of trepidation burned through him at the prospective meeting, again thinking of Rose and Sarah-Jane. He didn't want anything to upset his miraculous day.
Rose turned and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Was that you? I could have sworn I just felt..."
He rubbed the back of his neck, cursing himself for forgetting how perceptive she was, especially emotionally. "Umm, well, it seems the merging of energy needed to pull you across kind of, sort of left a bit of you in me and me in you?" His voice rose to a squeak on the final words.
Rose was silent, obviously digesting what he'd just said, which did nothing to ease his discomfort. "Oh. Okay. Let's go, then!"
She grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the doors, obviously excited to be setting foot on an alien planet again, but the Doctor dragged in his heels.
"Wait, what do you mean 'Oh'? What does 'Oh' mean?"
She laughed at him. "It means oh. Now, come on!"
"No, no, don't we need to discuss this?"
"No Doctor. I'm perfectly fine with it; there's nothing to discuss. Now will you get a move on?"
He let himself be led out the door, stunned at her easy acceptance. Testing their new connection, he found she really was perfectly all right with it. He would never understand women. His ebullient mood reasserted itself, pushing aside his confusion.
Rose was looking around eagerly, soaking in her first alien landscape in far too long. It didn't matter that she still remembered how Librum looked; she was there. She was there and with her Doctor. She looked up at him, grinning.
He glanced down at the same time she looked up. Her sparkling eyes and excited, uniquely Rose smile beckoned him in, leaving him powerless to resist. He stopped and yanked her against him before leaning down and crushing his lips to hers.
She vaguely recognized with her few brain cells not imploding that this was pure passion. The earlier kisses had been gentle, merely reaffirming their feelings. This was a claim and a promise rolled into one. It was also over much too quickly. She pouted, but conceded they had plenty of time to explore this new facet of their relationship. They had friends waiting on them.
Swinging their joined hands and chatting amiably, they made their way into the village. The Doctor was incredibly relieved to not feel any of the ill-humoured waves of influence, which hopefully meant all was restored. His spirits were further buoyed by the site of Martha and Aurelia standing in front of a scale restored to balance.
Obviously spotting the two, Rose's hand tightened around his, a sure sign of her nerves. He glanced down at her tenderly, knowing she was worried about measuring up, even if such a competition was utterly absurd.
Martha was curiously assessing the small, blonde figure so naturally connected to the Doctor. She looked much the same as the brief glimpse from the memory cube, happiness and warmth radiating from her. What was really amazing was the change to the Doctor. His entire being seemed lightened and he practically shone with an inner serenity that spoke to the importance and power of the woman at his side.
Aurelia, noting the same, smiled. All was as it should be, finally. "Doctor, all has been restored. The balance is once again equal and my brethren have regained their sense of self." She turned to his companion and walked forward to embrace her. "Welcome back, Rose. You have been much missed."
Martha was intrigued to see an almost shy expression cross the other girl's face as she hugged her friend back. Most definitely not like Annalise, then she thought, glad to have her earlier contemplation confirmed. She also didn't miss the fact that Rose never let go of the Doctor's hand.
"Aurelia, thank you so, so much! I will never be able to thank you enough for bringing me back." Rose was afraid she was going to tear up again, but managed to push them back. She didn't want the Doctor to think she'd become a weepy little girl in the last three years!
Aurelia stepped back only to turn to the Doctor and embrace him as well.
He gave her a strong, one-armed hug as he whispered a heartfelt, "Thank you."
Knowing the three needed to find their own sense of balance, Aurelia gracefully took her leave. "Forgive me, but there is much to do to recover from this situation. I must go see to the immediate return of our ambassadors to their posts. The balance must continue to be maintained. If I do not see you before your departure, peace be with you all."
The TARDIS travellers watched her go, glad that their friend had the opportunity to resume her usual routine with such relish, then turned to regard each other.
Forcing down his instinctive wariness, the Doctor cheerfully spoke up. "Martha Jones, meet Rose Tyler. Rose, this is Martha."
Letting go of his hand, Rose stepped forward, saying, "Hello, Martha. I'm so glad to meet you. You're a medical student, yeah?"
Surprised that someone trapped in a parallel world would know that, Martha nodded. "Yep, I was until this one crashed into my life and turned it upside down."
Rose smiled fondly and glanced back over her shoulder at the Doctor. "Yeah, he's good at that."
Making an instant decision, Rose closed the gap and hugged Martha tightly. "Thank you," she whispered in her ear. "Thank you for being there and being his friend. He probably wouldn't have made it without you."
Now that she'd seen the difference between a Doctor-without-Rose and a Doctor-with-Rose, Martha had to concur. Squeezing the smaller woman back, she replied, "It was my pleasure. But I'm glad you're back. He needs you."
They separated and again, Martha was amazed at how Rose's hand instinctively sought out the Doctor's, which was there waiting for hers. She didn't know what the future held, or if she would stay, but right then, she was simply rejoicing in the Doctor's obvious happiness.
The Doctor, glad to have Rose's hand once more and to realize his fears had been unfounded, announced, "Well, shall we? Back to the TARDIS and off to the next adventure?"
The trio bantered back and forth on the walk back, gradually finding an ease in their interaction. Martha was amazed at how naturally the other two related to each other, even after their long separation. She felt a slight pang of envy at their obvious connection, but more out of longing for something similar than having to do with the particular players.
The Doctor, while nearly completely content, unsurprisingly couldn't quite turn off the niggling in the back of his mind. He fully participated in the teasing and story-telling with Martha and Rose, but still paid attention to what was bothering that small part of his brain that was continuously analytical. Why didn't Rose affect him as Jack did? Why did he feel more whole with her proximity instead of the horrible aversion he felt near Jack? Something was obviously fundamentally different with Rose's new state of enforced liveliness and his rabid curiosity was aroused. Laughing heartily at Martha's embarrassing stories from the wards, he began compiling a list of all the tests he'd run on Rose as soon as he could.
Rose happily trotted next to him as they strolled back to that dear blue police box. All was right with her world, at least for the moment. She wasn't naive enough to expect that to last, not when living with the Doctor anyway, but she was determined to bask in it as long as possible. She knew she was avoiding thinking about the essential conversation they needed to have about her connection to the TARDIS, how they'd spent the time apart, whatever the Doctor was hiding about Jack and what their new relationship meant, but she didn't think it was too much to ask for at least one day of bliss.
Approaching the door, the Doctor felt Rose's anticipation. He nodded down at her and watched with satisfaction as she pulled her key out from under her shirt. Fitting it to the lock, she stroked the battered wood as she unlocked the door and swung it open. Letting Martha precede him, the Doctor immediately reclaimed Rose's hand and pulled her inside. Taking a last look at the beautiful scenery no longer under threat, he closed the door.
Fading along with the setting sun, the same blue shape which had disturbed the tranquillity of the quiet meadow only a day before gradually blurred out of sight.