A Second Chance
Chapter Five: Can't Let You Go
While the TARDIS continued to search for the source and intention of the signal the Doctor had picked up on, he allowed himself the pleasure of, and opportunity for, spending much of his time waiting with Rose.
He would meet her after school, or occasionally (when he felt like he needed more than an hour or two with her) beforehand. She'd skipped her classes more than a few times, despite his (rather weak) protestations. In her opinion, with her GCSE's nearly done, going to school served little purpose. Having been a less than exemplary student in his university days, the Doctor hardly saw it fit to argue with her.
She insisted on going for chips nearly every day he saw her, affectionately calling it "their thing." The Doctor was more than happy to go along with it, enjoying the familiarity of sharing the rather unhealthy meal. Remembering Rose saying "That was our first date," as they relaxed on New Earth took on a whole new meaning and he alternated between feeling elated or melancholy at the thought.
Jackie still hadn't warmed up to him in any way - which was no surprise. Rose attempted to bring him home once more about two weeks after he'd been chased out and he couldn't even get through the front door. In that particular instance, said door was slammed in his face, with Rose stuck on the other side with her screaming mother.
Interestingly enough, Rose hadn't been deterred, and instead took to bringing him home when she knew her mother wouldn't be there. In was on the couch by the TV that he learned everything she enjoyed as he kissed her. Against the kitchen counter he enjoyed the feel of her waist and hips pressed up against his while she played with his neck and ears with her teeth. In her bedroom he felt what it was like to have her on top of him, his arms wrapped around her and moving across the warm flesh of her back when he slid them underneath her jumper.
It never went any further than that - he made sure of it. He was certain she wasn't a virgin based on conversations they'd had when she traveled with him. Despite that it didn't seem right, like he was taking time and experiences he wasn't supposed to have and taking that last step would be one too far.
Besides, he'd gone decades without any kind of sexual intimacy and hadn't given it a single thought. There was no need to push for that when he could use what little time he had holding Rose's hand and listening to her speak.
It only took the TARDIS four weeks to identify the signal's source, but the Doctor was at a festival sharing a flavored ice with Rose at the time. And when he got back he was too distracted by the giant stuffed panda he was carrying to bother checking for any updates. The next day he rushed out early to catch the train to Brighton and the next he and Rose were having lunch in Hyde Park. All told, a full week passed before the Doctor finally realized that his ship had finished her job and was waiting rather impatiently for him to notice. She could have alerted him a bit more forcefully but as it turned out it was a fairly benign signal and even the TARDIS's level of sentience could appreciate the lighter mood and atmosphere of the ship since the Doctor had, essentially, gotten Rose back.
And it helped that the Doctor had apologized profusely when he realized he'd missed it.
The signal, as it turned out, was a message being transmitted from the Earth and out across the solar system as part of a networked message. It translated to an open invitation to the family reunion of the Darzengoth family of Pika being held in a neighboring galaxy. The transmission was due to expire in a few days, so there really was nothing to be done about it.
With that pressing issue (so pressing that he'd ignored it for over a month) resolved, the Doctor was free to move on and, despite his reservations, he did.
He went to see the Lotus Festival on Pricia and met a lovely couple who'd met in school. He wondered how Rose had done on her GCSE's.
He traveled to Rokahn and mistakenly landed in the middle of a civil war. In the back of his mind he could hear Rose admonishing him for getting the date wrong yet again.
He met a family of talking pandas in Onel, and thought of the stuffed panda he'd crammed into a storage room of the TARDIS.
He was mistaken for a celebrity on Jantho and swarmed by a pack of girls in school uniforms. Their striped ties matched the Jericho Street Comprehensive uniform.
He saved the royal princess of Lethloria and she thanked him with a rather forceful kiss, more practiced and holding far less feeling than any of Rose's kisses.
He saved a dozen worlds
He saw a million people.
He missed Rose.
He went back.
The Doctor rationalized that according to what Rose had told him, she was with Jimmy Stone for several months. It was already fated for him to go back. Not that he particularly believed in fate, but he couldn't argue with an already established timeline. At least not one that he wanted to see through. What kind of Time Lord would he be if he didn't go back to fulfill his role? So, being more careful with the date than usual, he set in the coordinates to land about a week after he'd last seen Rose. He was off by two months.
He found her by the Thames, not far from where she'd spotted the London Eye and helped him find the Nestene consciousness. Smiling at the memory, he made his way over to Rose, who was leaning against the wall, chatting happily with one of her friends, a brunette with curly hair. As soon as she saw him her face lit up and she called out his name.
Some small part of him had expected her to yell his real name and it hurt just a tiny bit to hear that instead. It was like that one word created a gap between them that he knew he could never cross. No matter how much time he had with her, he'd never hear her say his name again. The magic of the Carrionites came to mind and he could see how they saw such power in the naming.
He forced a smile and eagerly returned the hug she gave him, inhaling the scent of her shampoo as he buried his face in her hair. For the rest of his lives he'd never find anything as comforting as the warm, soft feeling of having her in his arms. He released a sigh of relief, having fully expected her to tear his head off for being gone so long.
They broke apart and Rose gave her friend a sheepish smile. "Sorry. Shireen, this is Jimmy."
The Doctor quickly looked over the infamous acquaintance. So many of Rose's stories had begun with "Shireen and I," but he'd never actually met her.
Shireen was looking him over at the same time before finally nodding. "He's fit, yeah." She smiled and extended her hand. "Nice to meet the guy who'd been keeping her busy i every /i day." She gave Rose an exasperated look while the Doctor shook her hand briefly.
Rose rolled her eyes. "Shut up. Just because Derek dumped you doesn't mean I have to hold your hand every day."
"Oi! I I left /I that wanker. Get it straight."
"Which explains you calling me at home all, 'Oh Rose, he left me!'" She stuck her tongue out between her teeth and Shireen gave her a playful shove.
"Get off it. Your little boy toy is gonna see what a little bitch you are."
The Doctor sputtered, unable to come up with any kind of response to being called a 'boy toy.' Both Rose and Shireen saw his expression and began to laugh.
"He's cute Rose, I'll definitely give you that."
Rose took his arm and held her head high with pride. "Ah thank you."
"Alright," Shireen picked up her bag from where she'd placed it on the ground. "I can tell when I'm not wanted. You two have fun and I'll see you later."
Rose made no effort to deny wanting some time alone and immediately picked up her own bag, handing it off to the Doctor to carry.
The Doctor smiled. "Does 'boy toy' equate to 'bag boy' now?"
"Punishment for disappearing on me." She gave him a playful shove and began walking down the street.
"I'm sorry about that," he apologized, taking hold of her hand. "So, what have I missed?"
She shrugged and gave him a catty grin. "Not much. I'm more interested in knowing where you've been." She raised her brow in a manner that clearly suggested that, while she seemed playful, he'd better have a good reason for having disappeared on her.
"Yes, right." He thought hard as quickly as he could. Where would Jimmy Stone go? Really the only solid information he'd given was that he was a musician. "Last minute gig. Had to cover for a member of another group on a tour."
"You were on tour?"
"Yep." It was a weak excuse at best, but he knew from experience that as long as he answered confidently, she'd believe him. "Only as back up, for one of the secondary acts."
She eyed his suspiciously. "Right, okay. How did it go?"
"Oh, very boring really. How about you?"
"Okay. Pretty dull, especially without you around." He smiled as she stopped to lean up and give him a kiss on his cheek, his absence apparently forgiven. "Oh, I got my GCSE's back."
The Doctor jumped and dipped his head to look at her directly in the eye. "How'd you do?"
Unlike most of the questions he asked her, he had no advance knowledge on this one and was genuinely curious to know the answer. Her schooling had been a bit of a sore subject with Rose, and as it was in his nature to avoid any awkward conversations, he'd learned very quickly not to bring it up and never found out how she had done.
She pouted her lips and shrugged. "Oh, I dunno."
"Rose…" He gave her his best 'don't tease me' look, but she just smiled coyly, prompting him to give her hand a squeeze and pull her closer until she was mere inches from him. "Tell me."
Her tongue emerged from behind her teeth and she bounced lightly on the balls of her feet for a moment before finally answering him. "Four B's, two A's and one A star," she announced proudly. He barely heard her mumble that she'd failed Chemistry and chose to ignore it.
The Doctor dropped her hand and immediately scooped her up in a crushing hug, swinging her around. She laughed and he laughed with her genuinely happy, and more than a bit surprised. He'd known she was smart, but he never knew why she didn't go for her A Levels. He'd just assumed she hadn't done well on her exams.
"Proud of me, then?" She asked as he set her down.
"So proud you'll take me out for dinner… with dessert… and a film."
He laughed lightly. "A movie? But that's so boring, just sitting there for two hours when you could actually be doing something exciting!"
"Yes, well, when we can actually hunt aliens and stuff, then we can skip the movies and go for the adventure. In the meantime I want to see Men in Black."
Not being able to show her the TARDIS and take her across time and space had never been as painful as right then. He wanted more than anything to say okay, and go running off together. To show her talking pugs and honest to goodness alien agencies. Instead all he could do was agree to sit in a dark cinema, imagining what it would be like, and remembering when that life was a reality.
"Okay, dinner, desert and a movie it is. Although it's already 8:00. Sure your mother won't come and track me down for getting you home so late?"
Rose visibly flinched. "She won't care."
She turned to face him, a smile plastered on her face. "Because I haven't been home in three days anyway."
Her statement, said so nonchalantly, released a torrent of emotion and questions. What had happened to drive her out? Where was she staying? With who? Friends? Mickey? Would she have left if he hadn't been gone for so long? He swallowed hard. "Why?"
She sighed and looked downward, her expression morose. "We got into another stupid argument. Mickey came 'round the flat, asking about me and," she tried to hide a nervous smile, "about you. So she started in again about Mickey and school and you and everything. I told her I knew what I was doing, unlike her, so she told me to get out and I did."
The Doctor reached forward and pulled her into a comforting hug. "I'm sorry."
"Do you always apologize for stuff that's not your fault?"
He smiled, recalling her reaction to his apology after her fight with Mickey. "Only when I think I'm part of the cause. And, I'm sorry I wasn't there."
Rose squeezed him a little tighter, then pulled away. "Not your problem. Besides, Shireen's mum understood and let me stay there. She probably told my mum I was there too." She sighed. "I'll go home soon; probably tomorrow. But, for tonight, can it just be about having fun?"
She looked so nervous and hopeful. A little girl trying to escape the stresses of home, if only for a little while. "Of course."
Whoever'd done the alien design got it all wrong. Kylothians looked nothing like that. And why in the world would one be looking for I anything /I from Zartha? The entire plot was preposterous and the Doctor wondered where human cinema had developed its obsession with aliens being filled with goo.
Still, Rose seemed to be having a good time, laughing, gasping, and in one (mortifying) instance shouting at the screen.
Hidden in the relative darkness, he gave himself the freedom to observe her without fear of being caught. Not that she'd mind if she did catch him, but he had spent so long hiding what he truly felt for her that it was a matter of habit now. He still couldn't believe she was right there next to him, smiling without worrying about what might attack next or where they were headed off to. So much life ahead of her, if she only knew…
Suddenly Rose turned to him and he realized that the film had ended while he was lost in his musings. He gave her an awkward smile and followed her as they filed out with the rest of the theatre patrons. As soon as they had exited the building he inhaled deeply, relieved to be back outside and moving again..
"So what'd you think?" Rose asked as they began walking down the street.
"It was good," he half lied. "A lot of action. Quite funny as well."
"I'm glad." She smiled softly. "So, what do you want to do now?"
It was nearly midnight already and he knew exactly what she was doing. The sooner she went back to Shireen's, the sooner she'd go to sleep, and the sooner she'd wake and have to go home.
"There's a club down the street that's usually pretty busy."
He shook his head.
"Or we could see if Jane's around,"
"Rose." He stopped walking and waited for her to do the same. "You've got to go home at some point."
"But not tonight," she answered with an overly cheery grin. "You promised that tonight..." Her voice broke and she turned away from him. He hesitated behind her, not sure if she wanted comfort or to be left alone.
A long silence passed before she spoke again. "I'll just go." The finality in her voice was terrifying and the Doctor jumped forward immediately to take hold of her hand.
"Don't. We can do whatever you want. You don't have to go." He chided himself mentally. It wasn't like him to be so... clingy, for lack of a better word. and if he thought about it, it was rather embarrassing. But he'd walked away from her once and wasn't going to let her walk off angry when he'd just come back.
"Look," he said, resisting the urge to turn her to face him. "It's important for you to go back and talk to your mum, but you don't have to now. If you're not ready..." He squeezed her hand, still held in his.
Her voice was a whisper and he was certain she was trying not to cry. It amazed him that she could face down aliens and handle being assaulted without a tear but the floodgates always opened when she was dealing with people.
He wrapped his arms around her then and she leant back against him. Aliens and bruises he could help with, but when it came down to things like this, all he could do was reassure her that he was there.