She has no idea what she's done and neither does he. Did she cast herself back through time, scatter the Valiant Child along with the Bad Wolf? The second was a self-fulfillment paradox, yet the first . . . . He still doesn't know where that name comes from, will come from.
There's a flaw in this assumption, an obvious flaw in assuming it's over. It can't be finished, not so easily, not with the conditions of their entwinement yet to be fulfilled. It's still there, pulling at him, tugging at him, tightening around him with each wrong move and relaxing when he goes the right way. The loop isn't closed, is still open to the influences of their actions, is still able to guide him.
Not that he needs the extra help in figuring out the current problem.
"Rose, it's me."
This is one of those things he really should have mentioned in advance, isn't it?
He's half under the console when she walks in, tinkering away as her footsteps ring on the grating. It's an oddly familiar situation for him, recently regenerated and needing to repair his TARDIS. Maybe she's here to help again – she's certainly not here to let him shag her again, not yet – or maybe she's here to get away from her mother.
He can certainly relate to that. What is it with that woman? Hating him and hating him and hating him and suddenly, just because he's a new man, she decides she'd rather coddle him. Coddle him! Him! Total lunatic, her mother.
She asks him something and he doesn't quite catch it.
Pulling himself out from beneath his workplace, he raises his eyebrows at her. "Hm?"
"How bad is it?" she repeats. "The damage, I mean."
"We've had worse," he admits after a moment, stroking the underside of the console. "Let her rest up a bit and we'll be off in no time."
She nods a bit as she replies, doesn't move from the jump seat. "Good. That's- that's good, yeah."
There's a moment of awkward, strained silence. They break it in mismatched unison.
Her: "Can I-"
"Can you what?" he asks, picking her question to go with. He's already forgotten what his was meant to be.
She shakes her head, looks down. "Never mind. It's- It was just a thought."
"Nothing wrong with thoughts," he answers. "Generally in favour of them, myself. All that . . . thinking. Pondering. Musing. Mulling over-"
He's babbling again.
"And whatnot," he concludes somewhat lamely. He ruffles his own hair, wondering what he's going to do with this unstoppable gob he's suddenly acquired.
She seems to be wondering, too. "Are you always going to do that now?"
"I'm trying not to," he admits. "But then again, I've never had a body quirk I could control all the way. A tendency for hats, an unexpected fondness for cricket, a short period of being spontaneously musical – you know, I used to play the spoons. Never learned how, just picked up a pair and played the spoons. Hit myself on the head, too. Not highly recommended that soon after regeneration. The brain's barely done getting itself all brain-shaped again – I wound up mucking up idioms for years, years, just because of those spoons-"
Clapping a hand over his mouth, he attempts to swallow his own tongue. He's not looking at her when he lowers his hand, when he asks, "What was the question again?" And then he dares a glance.
There's a moderately epic battle going on to keep her face straight. It's obvious enough for him to be able to tell, done well enough that she nearly manages. "Are you always going to babble like that?"
He holds up his hand, gesturing for just one second to compose himself. "Yes," he says very carefully. "Quite possibly."
Shoulders shaking, hands pressed over her face, she makes a sound.
It takes him a moment, but he realizes that she's laughing.
"It's not funny!" he protests. "It's new and unintentional and these teeth still don't feel right!"
She laughs some more.
He waits her out and has the oddest feeling that he's sulking. Sulking? He doesn't sulk. Or does he? Is he a sulking man now? He was a brooder before, he could brood up a storm, last him. He was just getting used to it, the brooding, and now he has to sulk.
Realizing that he could very easily sulk over sulking, he abandons that train of thought.
"Right, well, if you're going to be like that, all . . . laughing," he tells her, lowering himself back under the console, "I'm going back to repairs."
She says his name, calls him by it.
He comes back out, watching her approach, gazing up at her with his back on the grating and his skinny new legs sticking out. Suddenly, he can imagine what a newborn colt feels like, all gangly limbs and oddly skittish. She hunkers down next to him and he sits up.
"Can I?" she asks again.
"Yes," he says without knowing what he's answering to.
Taking her bottom lip between her teeth – and how he wants to do that for her – she raises her hand carefully, touches his face. Fresh nerves tingle and he closes his eyes, nodding so very slightly, nodding and not nuzzling. There's a difference, he's sure there is.
The pad of her thumb brushes over his cheekbones, strokes back and forth and back and forth and he knows what she's doing, knows that she's acclimatizing and learning who he is now, he knows that but it doesn't help. She touches his sideburns but doesn't run her fingers through his hair. She explores the lines of his face with a ghosting light touch, never brushing her fingertips over his lips.
The ways she doesn't touch him are more deliberate than the ways she does.
He opens his eyes when he feels her gentle breath on his face, on his lips. "It's still me," he tells her quietly, the first soft and quiet words he's spoken in this body.
She pulls back, but she doesn't jerk away from a familiar gaze in unfamiliar eyes. There's a difference, a very important difference between giving space and needing it. "I know," she says and then looks nearly surprised at her own conviction.
He smiles at her and it's a thing of beauty when she smiles back.
Blimey, this body is bouncy! And tactile. Blimey, it's tactile. He wants to touch and hold and swing her around in his arms, crush her against his body for the sheer joy of it.
He feels different, strange, almost repaired. He feels like he could do almost anything, even if he isn't ginger-
Oh! Oh! Chestnut and not rude!
It takes barely no time at all before all is back as it should be. Well, more or less. Well, he says more or less, he means sort of.
Well . . .
Okay, fine. Give him a minute, he's taking care of it. It'll be fine. Besides that little incident on New Earth, he's not even confused. He just has to sort out everything he's told her from everything she doesn't know he's told her. Once he does that, things'll get better. They will, of course. Just look at that entwinement, all loose and natural feeling and, and yes, he still doesn't know how he's going to fulfill that little bit.
So far, he's considered the following:
"Evidently, I'm going to bring you back in time to introduce you to my younger self. He's a bit of all right even if he's got a hell of a sweet tooth. You'll get on fine. Better than fine. In fact, you have to. Right, yes, that's a little skeevy, I know. Oh, and while I'm at it, we should probably have loads of sexual intercourse first. Just so you're not surprised by my biology. Care to straddle me?"
Somehow, that's striking him as a bit of a bad idea. Just a touch. A smidgen.
For the time being, he's trusting the entwinement, making decisions as best he can as to keep the noose of their timelines from tightening around his neck. Their necks, really, even if she can't feel it. And yes, all right, fine, it's a long shot, but it's worked before.
He's almost positive.
No, really, he is.
It's dangerously close to routine, the way they cuddle up together after a hard pseudo-day's work of planet-saving. But that's him, isn't it, always living on the dangerous side.
The dangerous side of the couch, as it is, but that's hardly a fair example. Now look at what they did earlier that day, eh? That, good example. This, a consistently repeating fluke.
It's been a long enough day for his little human to get all tired out, to muss up her hair a bit and leave her more than willing to sit next to him for an informational babble. Her breathing calm and steady, she looks up at him with half-lidded eyes, smiling at him in the way she does when she's not entirely awake. Well, when she's not entirely awake and he hasn't done something to inspire her non-morning person tendencies.
That's a shame, really, her not being a morning person. It's a bit because she's never fully appreciated his explanations on how there aren't mornings inside the TARDIS, but it's mostly because she's adorable when she's in partial states of consciousness. Clothing rumpled and her bed-head a hopeless case, she was almost too much for him to look at, too close to the woman she would become for any sense of restraint on his part.
Her fingers trail over the sleeve of his suit jacket. It's a small, sleepy act with her pressed against his side and were it not for the fact that he's currently wearing that jacket, he probably wouldn't be so fixated on this. Such a light pressure, such a small motion: through two layers of clothing, he can barely feel it. All the same, the manly hairs on his manly hairy arm are rising up, feel as if they are, straining towards her touch.
Her head is on his shoulder and when she speaks, he can feel the motion of her jaw. "Yeah?" she asks him, sounding for all the worlds as if she were already asleep.
"Yes?" he asks right back, a soft murmur as he turns his head just so, just enough to look at the top of her head and feel the brush of her hair against his chin.
She squirms a little there, presses into him and looks up with her face so close to his. "You stopped talking," she says.
"I do that sometimes," he replies without thinking, too caught up in looking at her for thought.
She giggles, nudges him in the side with her arm. "No you don't," she contradicts, smiling up at him and at this distance, he can taste the texture of her words.
"Sometimes," he repeats, feeling the heat of her hand through two layers of cloth.
They both stop talking then, watching one another, gazing into the other's eyes and getting lost therein. The manner of her touch changes, idle stroking of his sleeve becoming deliberate. It could be deliberate. That look on her face, the flush of her cheek and darkness of her eyes, that could be true.
He waits for her, as he always has.
He waits, but they stay as they are, willingly locked in warm gazes. He could look away, could break this moment as he's broken others. She wasn't ready then, he's claimed to himself. He was just imagining it, he makes himself believe without wanting to. But tonight, but this, this could be real, could happen.
There's a step she needs to make on her own, a leap he pretends to know she can't stumble over. If she doesn't love him on her own, she doesn't love him. And just thinking of the possibility pains him.
"Are you all right?" she asks him, brow furrowing, body warming his.
He just had a moment of cosmic angst, that and a moment of absolute terror. His answer is obvious: "Of course I'm all right."
She looks at him as if she doesn't believe him – which makes sense, considering she doesn't.
He continues speaking, his "sometime" of quiet used up. "But you, you," he emphasizes, placing his hand over hers on his arm, "should be off to sleep. You're no fun at all when you're exhausted and we've got a busy day tomorrow!"
If she were more awake, her smile would be a grin. "Yeah?" Dark, half-hooded eyes practically sparkle. "You've got something planned?"
"Maybe," he tells her and it's not a lie. "Now go to bed."
She kisses him goodnight.
Chaste and light, the soft, firm pressure of her lips against his. Gentle and quiet, perfectly understated.
He wonders how she can be so nervous in conscious intimacy and so natural in this. How is it that she can worry over the small things – holding hands in his pocket when she forgets gloves on an ice planet, that sort of thing – and yet be infinitely relaxed about kissing him?
It makes no sense, but then, she doesn't either, never has. Not in bed, not out of bed, not even approaching bed.
Every night, she kisses him, light and gentle, tongues never venturing into play. Beyond the contact of their lips, she doesn't touch him, doesn't so much as touch his face or wrap her arms around his neck. It seems oddly as if – but no, that doesn't make sense.
He's fairly certain that she would know it when she kisses him. She does it without thinking, like it's as natural as breathing, and, once that stops making him too absurdly happy to concentrate, he'll work out what it means. The issue of the Bad Wolf is still looming over him, still frightening him at times.
". . . all that is, all that was, all that could ever be."
How much memory of it does she still have? How much of her future and his past did she see? How much has that singularly monumental act changed her?
He wonders and frets and she kisses him goodnight.
The press of her body against his is delightful. Delectable. Not to mention desirable.
He swings her about just because he can, laughing with her when her joy bursts out of her, brushes almost tangibly past his ear. His arms tighten around her waist, hers wrap around his neck.
They're alive and happy and nothing can pull them apart, not now or ever and when he tells her of his love, he does it in ways she doesn't understand.
His hands on her back and his lips at her ear: both are good, simple human indicators. But he doesn't speak to her differently, doesn't mutter sweet nothings or anything of the sort. That would be stupid, not to mention idiotic. He's not that kind of a man.
Actions are carrying them forward and yet they haven't gone anywhere. It's nothing official, nothing recognized by both parties.
He's still not sure she's realized, not sure she knows what she's begun to do.
It's impossible, but then, so are they.
"What? Sorry, sorta zoned out for a mo'. Keep getting this feeling, y'know, like there's something I'm forgetting to do, yeah? Probably just tired."
She gives him a kiss and a night filled with worry.
It's another day and another gleeful hug.
Back in the TARDIS, flushed and excited from a brush with danger or the unknown or both, she's too fantastic not to hug, not to sweep up into his arms. She reaches for him, bounds over to him and joyfully throws herself into his embrace.
He adores the sounds she makes when he crushes her against him, when he holds her tight and she holds him tighter. He wants to laugh and dance about and spin her along with him, wants to dance with her and to dance with her, thinks she might have at least thought about the idea by now.
Her warmth pressing against him, it's not too long before he must set her down, return her to her feet before his body betrays him. She smiles up at him, arms still around his neck.
"Hello," he says, greets that smile.
Beaming at him, she rises up, pulls his head down as if it's a natural motion for her. He wants it to be, can't understand how it became one. He leans in, expects soft and chaste and finds firm and insistent instead.
She tugs his lip between hers and he opens his mouth in grateful surrender. Hands pulling at one another, their kiss pauses in a jarring counterpoint, both realizing their own actions and waiting upon the other. The tip of her tongue touches his, a hesitant brush he returns.
Her warm hands buried in his hair, her fingertips touch his scalp, rub and massage and he groans just a little, arms tightening around her. Hesitancy vanishes, her tongue thrusting into his mouth to tangle with his.
An old song fills his ears, a song of celebration on a planet terrified of darkness and night. It fills his ears as she fills his hearts, as entwinement thrums around them in harmony. The angles between them have changed, his very body, all of his perceptions of her; so much altered and yet this is the same, will always be the same.
Full-circle. Almost but not quite. Soon.
She breaks for air, breathing deeply, her heart pounding in that strangely slow way human hearts have. Leaning against him for support, her eyes are glassy, her smile that of a dreaming lover. The smell of her arousal alone is enough to make him dizzy. He wants to bury his face against her, lick and suck and sample the tempting taste of her. Oh, he wants to.
"Hello," she replies and then blinks as if waking, as if confused by what they've done. She's touched her own future, slips into mannerisms and behaviors she has yet to form. Small wonder she's confused. "I . . ."
Her eyes are wide, wide and dark and suddenly frightened. He sees guilt and longing and embarrassment and he can't understand what's going on in her little human head.
"Yes, Rose?" he asks softly, his arms around her light and protective both. She's pulling away, retreating, and it's not something he can comprehend.
She looks at him as if she doesn't understand either, doesn't see how he can miss what must be to her an obvious problem. But he's not human and so he doesn't quite get it, can't quite make that twisting mental leap. Emotional leap? What's going on now?
Her gaze flickers to his lips, her cheeks flushing further, and it slots into place.
"Oh," he says, "right." But really, if she was talking about that, she really should have referred to it in a way that made sense. With bouncing or glee or whatnot. It's confusing, not to mention mystifying.
"Yeah," she says, strangely muted and nervous.
It occurs to him that she doesn't know he loves her. This is, perhaps, the strangest thought he's had in over a decade. Of course she knows. He's never had to tell her, not once. It's something she knows, some strange bit of innate knowledge imbedded in her brain.
But maybe he was wrong.
"That was fun," he tells her brightly, grinning at her like an idiot because she always smiles back when he does. "Care for another go?"
"You, wha- Yeah." She takes a breath and lets it out slowly, returning her hands to his shoulders. There's awe in her eyes and something that might just be love or at least minor adoration and he still doesn't understand what he's done. "Yeah."
He snogs her within an inch of her life and then she returns the favor.
This happens with a surprising frequency from then on, actually.
He's not complaining.
Neither is she.
He steps out of the Wardrobe ready for Edwardian England and feels her gaze turn curious.
She's dressed up for the time period as well, mostly. The dress is nice – he assumes – but it makes her look unnaturally demure. Still, that's not the detail he needs to speak with her about.
"Your hair is going to cause a riot," he says, exaggerating so she'll listen.
She blinks once, takes a look at his head. "Yours already looks like one."
Shaking his head, he tries to get the fond smile off his face and go with a more serious expression. Tries and fails as he attempts to straighten his hair with his hand. He's still not used to it. "It's a status thing," he tells her. "You're going to be approached either way -" that's what always seems to happen these days and no, he isn't jealous "- but with your hair up, you won't bring them all down on yourself." She's obviously old enough to put her hair up. Doing otherwise would be a quick ticket to a difficult time tonight. His girl is not a harlot.
She grins at him, tongue touching her teeth. "Look at you, all concerned."
He hums at her indulgently, not caring so much about what she thinks about it, simply that she'll do it. "After our inevitable scandal? I think not." It's a precaution, the hair thing. She's respectable and they're whatever it is that they are and so there will be no rudeness or catastrophe, only a lovely night for her.
He's fairly certain she knows this is a date. It was her idea.
"Scandal?" she asks, looking at him like she's not sure what he's offering.
"Holding hands in public?" he replies, the corners of his lips twisting upwards as she laughs.
The corset brings her laughter to a close quicker than usual, but she still has a joke at the end, one he'd rather she'd not say. "Yeah," she tells him, "'cause you're such a dirty old man."
She makes it both better and worse afterwards, smoothing his hair down herself and pressing a quick kiss to his lips. Normally, a playful mood like her current one would have her playing with his tie. Today, it's somewhat thwarted.
"What's this?" she asks, his alternative neckwear in her hand.
"Cravat," he says, "for the time period."
She rolls her eyes at him like she thinks he's being intentionally obtuse. "Yeah, I know what it is. Like your gray one better, s'all."
Somehow, he manages to get through the remainder of that conversation without making a mess of it, manages to reply and respond as if his brain is still on giving his girl a night at a ball. She goes away happy and he stays flabbergasted, running his metaphorical fingers over the entwinement to check for time leakage.
The gray one.
She likes the gray one.
She's never even seen the gray one. He hasn't worn a cravat since his eighth body, not once. He'd had to go on quite the search to even find his blue one. He thinks of his current body, of his last one. There's no reason for her to think that he even owned a cravat, until today.
This is going to make things unfortunately interesting, isn't it?
This little incident with the jelly babies has been weird. Really, really weird.
Even by his standards? Weird.
And she still has no idea.
Sure, getting a bag of sweets, he can understand. And when the plastic yellow packet tears apart that way that plastic packets do, he can understand dumping the sweets into another bag. Makes perfect sense.
But does it have to be a white paper bag? Did there have to be a white paper bag search? Did she have to completely ignore the other twenty-eight hundred and forty-three possibilities available to her?
Because this is starting to freak him out.
"D'you want one?" she asks, evidently now watching him watch her instead of watching alien telly. He hadn't noticed the change, the redirection of her gaze.
He shakes his head and she pops one into her mouth, still looking at him curiously. Shifting on the couch in the third TARDIS den – the one with the really fuzzy carpet – he tries to think without looking like he's thinking. Staring at the telly is good for that.
"Are there any orange ones left?" he asks after a little while, glancing over at her.
She looks into the bag vaguely guiltily before displaying the last orange one, holding it between her teeth. Pulling it back into her mouth, she shrugs a sorry. "Nope."
A sudden grin touches his lips as he leans towards her. "Are you sure?"
When she looks into the bag again, he takes her chin and kisses her.
It's not as if they haven't snogged before, haven't got up to less than platonic behavior before, but the twists of this make him careful. He doesn't want her to choke, after all. He keeps slow, stays gentle, eases into her mouth with the care of an artist working with something precious and fragile. Precious, certainly. Her eyes fall shut and she makes a noise he hasn't actually heard before. That's not something he's considered, that she still has sounds that he doesn't know.
He wants to learn them all, decides to.
His tongue encounters his supposed goal, all sugar and starch and a bit in his way. Adjusting the angle of his head, he plays the game he's created, attempts to fish the sweet out of her mouth.
Somewhere between a wonderfully tactile exploration of his hair and her breasts brushing against his chest, she decides she's going to play along but not going to cooperate. They engage in wet and delicious battle, she defending and he on the attack. Finally, she gives in, surrenders the sweet.
He pulls his artificially flavoured prize into his mouth, breaks the kiss to look at her. Her cheek is flushed beneath his fingers, the delightful contrast of colour and temperature increasing as her heart pounds with a sluggish speed. She breathes in shakily through notably kissable lips and when she opens her eyes, she opens them halfway, such a devouring darkness contained within them.
Human arousal is a beautiful thing.
Or hers is, directed at him.
"We can get some more orange ones," she offers, looks dazed and uncertain at once. He hasn't been the instigator, hasn't deliberately started anything with her until now.
He hums, chewing as he mulls this over. "If you'd like," he decides, swallowing. "We don't need to, but-"
She interrupts him in a way he'd love to get used to.
"The Valiant Child," the Beast calls her, "who shall die in battle so very soon."
Let it have lied.
He leans on the entwinement, using it as ruthlessly as it uses him, both time and Time Lord struggling for their own fulfillment. If it tightens or stretches, here is danger: run. Don't do what makes it worse. Don't do what makes it complete.
Don't give up this guiding star, this landmark in time. So long as he has it, he knows how to move, knows how to avert the worst catastrophe of all, the loss of her.
It keeps her safe, gives him vague instruction instead of letting him wander lost. Even in this, she gives him purpose, gives him clarity and he needs that.
He needs her.
He needs her and he knows that someday, some point in time after the entwinement is fulfilled and after she's had a full and long life – and she will have a full and long life – she'll die. He knows that. There's a clock in his head, tick, tick, ticking its way through the moments, through every single second.
For that, he hates it. She'll die soon, sooner, even sooner now, simply because of the passage of time. The clock counts on, but it counts the moments in both directions.
This is how long she'll stay.
This is how long she's been with him already.
Both counts can't be high, a finite number of moments transferring constantly from the first category into the second. And he can't stop it, can't stop the loss of her if he is to keep the gain of her.
Tick, tick, tick, just waiting for a tock.
She's patched him together, his fantastic, precious girl. He'd shattered and she'd taken up the pieces, glued them back together. The glue won't last forever, can't last as long as him, so it has to be now. Now, while she's holding him together, he's got to complete the repairs she's started.
Otherwise, when she's gone – as she will be but not for a long time yet, a very long time – when she's gone, it all will have been pointless, a waste of her as he falls apart once more. He can't do that to her, can't put her through all of this and render her efforts useless.
"Hey, can you teach me how to use fire extinguishers? Alien ones that don't come with the instructional label?"
"Y'know, the thing normal people put fires out with. That handy world-saving tool?"
"Well, you use 'em all the time and I just thought . . ."
"That you should too?"
". . . Okay."
It was only a matter of time. Really, he should have expected this, should have seen it coming ages back.
But it's not like it's his fault for not noticing. He's had a lot on his mind, a very large lot on his mind. Small wonder it snuck up on him like this. Completely unexpected and all.
His well-formulated and carefully thought-out argument is gasped into her mouth, rationale breaking apart into a muffled murmur. Warm weight presses down upon him, blankets him delightfully. His overcoat on the back of the couch, his suit jacket spilled onto the floor, her hands easily slip beneath his shirt, untuck the cloth to touch his chest.
She marvels at the coolness of his skin, lifts herself off him enough to explore one-handed. Her hair falls into his face and he brushes it back, brushes the dyed strands away from their kiss. Her hand travels between his hearts, a trailing touch that sends his hips grinding up into hers. Her legs on either side of his, her thighs squeeze his, hold him in a tempting preview of what is to come.
He tries to speak, tries to halt momentum with rambling words that even he knows make no sense. He's saying one thing and completely doing another, his hands cupping her curves, his hips rolling against hers insistently, body begging for entrance. She drags herself over him, finding friction in the cloth between them even as her skirt rides up.
"I need," he tries to say, "I need to- need to- Rose, I- please, let me, please."
"Yes," she pants into his ear, her hands lower between them now, tugging at his fly and touching him in the same motion. "Yes."
He cries out as she cups him, bucks into her hand in the desperate need for entry and still he hasn't penetrated, hasn't even been touched skin-to-skin. The sounds he makes are absurd; he's never been so helplessly vocal. Moans break into whimpers, groans into sighs, manly grunts into high-pitched squeaks. He can't stop it and she pushes him further, rewards each sound with the incentive for another.
"Rose, please, I- explain- need to-" He interrupts himself with a noise he's never made before, not with this mouth.
"Explain later," she tells him and provides a compelling argument as to why he should. Later sounds good, later sounds very, very good, fantastically good, but he knows better.
"Now," he insists, pushing at her shoulder, forcing her up with a will he doesn't truly have. "Now. You need to listen to – oh."
Change of angle, focus of pressure, grinding friction and heat heat heat . . .
His head pressing back into the couch cushion, he squeezes shut his eyes, gasps and tries to control the jerking motions of his hips. He's still pressing up into her, still straining for her.
She rises up and he nearly pulls her back down. The sides of her shins press into the outside of his thighs; her hands against his bare stomach keep him where he is. The skin beneath his hands is bare as well, her skirt giving him every opportunity to touch her legs.
"Talk fast," she tells him, panting and she kneels over him.
The noise he makes in reply is highly inarticulate.
Her fingers drum on his ribcage.
"Not helping," he informs her.
"Not explaining," she reminds him. "If you're not going to, then I'm just gonna have to . . ."
He groans, makes a grab at coherency as he forces himself to change his grip on her, move his hand from flesh to cloth. He can't let go, but he can't hold on. "Two things," he gasps. "Different biology. Not human, so obviously, it'd be different. Not that different – not that I've compared – not different in appearance, not so much, I think – oh, gah, stop that – behaviorally, that's the issue, that's it, yes, I, yes – can't stop, no – ahh – no stopping once, ah, penetration and, and – stop, stop, please, Rose, don't . . . don't . . . . Thank you."
His head lolls to the side, his body an impossible mixture of tension and relief. His hips still jerk, the motion completely beyond his control, this helpless begging and blatant display of need. His hands fall from her sides, slip from her waist to fall further, one hitting the couch cushion, one hanging off the piece of furniture entirely.
She lets him breathe, allows him this terrifying moment when all control is gone, allows him to endure it.
It might be the pain of waiting or it could simply be the scent of her arousal filling up his head. It might be a lot of things, a great deal of things he can't face at the moment and so he keeps his eyes closed. He breathes, tries to breathe. His respiratory bypass isn't helping, would probably startle her anyway if he used it now.
Murmuring his name, she touches his face, sounds more worried than frustrated, more concerned than annoyed. He nuzzles into her hand, leans into her touch. He's always done that. He's always done it and now there's no point in denying it, not after what she's just seen.
"Did I hurt you?" she asks, sounding scared. "Your different biology – did I . . . ?"
He shakes his head, rubs his cheek against her palm, still unable to speak with an unwavering voice. "No. No, you . . . . If we kept going, maybe. If I startled you and you pulled back . . . . I need to . . ."
"Explain," she finishes for him.
"Two things," he agrees. "You need to know both first."
Because consent is meaningless if it's not informed consent.
"If you're about to give me the alien sex talk," she tells him seriously, impatiently, "I've already had it."
He frowns up at her, going so far as to open his eyes to see. "No you haven't," he protests. "I don't care what your mother says, she's not qualified to give that talk. And if she is," he adds belatedly, "I'd really rather not know."
As far as mood dampers go, that one is highly effective. He might even say extremely.
She laughs at the look on his face, shakes her head. "Nope. Got my information from a very knowledgeable source. Ex-Time Agent, you know."
He stares at her. "You're kidding."
"'m not," she replies. "Got the safety talk, the manners talk, the how-not-to-react-to-unexpected-bits talk . . . . I think I've got enough talks."
"He gave you talks," he says blankly, mind inexplicably detached from the movements of her hips. "He taught you how to have sex with random aliens."
She shakes her head, her hair still mussed from his hands. "With a very specific random alien," she corrects, sending memories crashing through him.
Looking up at her like this – oh, Rassilon, no – she's herself already, simply unaware of it. The time is soon to come, very soon to come and after, his lifeline of the entwinement, his simple and easy guide to keeping her safe, after that, it's gone. He'll lose her after this, he knows he will, knows something will happen because he can't see it coming.
She sits on his thighs and he sits up, pushes himself up with his arms, pushes himself up and gathers her to him, her arms wrapping around him instantly. Enfolding her in his arms, he presses his face into the crook of her neck, gently kisses what bare skin he finds before simply resting his head on her shoulder.
"Doctor, what's wrong?" she asks him, tense and holding tightly to him and that's good. That's very good. He wants her to hold on, wants her to never let go. "Tell me." She cradles his head, keeps him where he is. "Whatever it is, we can-"
"I love you."
Her body tenses as she stops breathing and he has never felt more like a child, hiding his face and clinging for comfort. He tries to stop but he can't seem to, can't reclaim composure when she's rapidly becoming the woman he fell in love with twice. She should know him and love him and hold him and he wants that back, wants it so much that it physically pains him.
"What was that?" she asks softly, holding him as if realizing for the first time that he can break.
"I love you," he replies, attempting to sound irritable. It's an impossible task with her on his lap but then, he likes impossible. "Try to pay better attention."
"Okay," she breathes, relaxing into him, stroking his back soothingly. "Definitely paying attention from now on."
"Very good." Well, no, it's not, not until he gets the looked-for response out of her, but it'll have to do for now.
He lifts his head from her shoulder, pulls back enough to look at her.
She kisses him immediately. "Love you," she murmurs against his lips. "I love you, I love you, I love you."
"Rose Tyler," he says.
"Loves you," she adds with a smile, finishing his sentence.
"I like the sound of that," he admits, hands stroking her sides.
"You'd better," she replies, shifting on his lap, unfolding her legs to loosely wrap them around him. "You're sort of stuck with it."
He looks up at her, admiring the brightness of her eyes. "Am I now?"
"Yep," she replies simply, "'fraid so."
The corners of his mouth twitch. "I'll make the best of it, I suppose."
"You'll just have to manage, yeah," she agrees, tangling her hands in his hair.
"Oh, I can do that," he tells her seriously. "I can do anything, me."
She grins at him, arms around his neck, legs tightening around his waist. "Including sex with Rose Tyler?"
"With the utmost skill," he replies before continuing with equal seriousness and less arrogance. "Just not now."
That delightful shifting on his lap stops immediately. "Two things, you said," she reminds him, confused. "That was two things."
He blinks. "What? No, wait, that was- Well, yes, I suppose. Or no. Not, I mean. That was the first thing and the third thing, skipped over the second thing entirely."
She frowns. "If there were three things, why'd you only say two?"
"Meant to get to the third bit later," he admits. "But you know me, running at the mouth as always. Just sort of popped out."
"I'm glad," she says. "That it did. 'm glad."
There's an incomprehensible mix of emotion flowing between his hearts, tangling and clashing and merging together, taking elation and nerves and mashing them together, melding fear and relief, combining giddy euphoria with the utmost dread.
She watches his face, easily picks up on his mood. Not the nuances of it, never the nuances of it, not when he can't understand them himself. But enough. Always enough. "S'okay," she says gently, so very gently that he just might break anyway. "You can tell me."
He wants to ask for later, to promise he'll get around to it eventually but eventually has begun to collide with now and there's nothing else for him to do, nowhen for him to run to.
It takes him two attempts, but he says it.
"It's about the Time War," he breathes. "About how I survived." He closes his eyes, fights back the twisting sensation between his hearts. "And why," he adds quietly, even softer than before. His throat closes after that, refuses to allow even his babble to break through.
She holds him, holds herself against him, her heat sinking into him through her gentle embrace, gentle and secure. His arms tighten around her, pull her closer still.
She tries to speak, manages to tell him what she's told him before. "You've got me," she tells him, sounds so strangely sad, sounds as if she believes she should somehow be able to give him more than all that she is. "You've got me and 'm never gonna leave you. Love you too much."
"Yes," he answers, accepting a promise she can't fulfill. "That's the 'and why.'"
After, she sits back against the arm of the couch, sits there with her legs pulled up to her chest, sits there hugging her knees. "It's like . . ."
"Like what?" he asks, watching her face carefully, waiting for the play of emotion across her features to be decided one way or another. He hasn't told her everything, hasn't told her half of it, merely the outline. They met, they had a few adventures, she was there for him both before and after the War and then he'd had to find her. Couldn't have tried to stay away.
"It's like," she says again, trying to find the words he knows she'll find. "It's like a non-linear love story."
"Yes," he says quietly, "it is."
She bites her lip, stares at a point in spacetime that not even he can see. There might be flecks of gold in her eyes, but he's too afraid to look. She's quiet then, for a time.
"I'm not surprised," she says at last, sounding surprised.
He blinks at her.
"I mean, I should be, yeah?" she asks. "But 'm not. Not even confused," she adds, sounding confused.
This is not the reaction he expected, not any of the reactions he expected. And he's thought of millions of ways this might go. "Rose?"
"It makes sense," she says. "In my head, it just – it makes perfect sense. And I know it shouldn't, so I'm confused over that, but, yeah. I feel like . . . . I dunno." She bites her lip again, going somewhere in her mind where he can't follow. "S'like . . . like you told me about a dream I had. I already knew, I just . . . didn't know I knew, I guess."
"What do you dream about?" he asks, touching the entwinement to make sure it's still in the safety range. What he finds surprises him: it's the loosest around him it's ever been, giving him more leeway in his actions than he's had since he'd met her. "A recurring one, maybe?"
She thinks about it for a moment. She bites back a smile, telling him, "I've got this one where you're in velvet and on fire and I've gotta put you out. And then we laugh about it later."
This is said as if it couldn't possibly be important.
"Do you really?" he asks. "Is that why you asked for the fire extinguisher lessons?"
"Could be, yeah," she replies, just a touch sheepishly, a bit more like she's ready to laugh at herself.
"Ah," he says because, really, there's nothing else to say. He's tempted to ask if she ever dreams about having sex with him, but that could easily be taken in completely the wrong way. "What happens after that?" he asks instead, feigning innocence.
"Dunno, really," she replies, shrugging a little though her cheeks do flush. "Just goes the way dreams go, I guess."
Meaning that she wakes up before the good part?
He can't ask that, thinks about it instead.
"Hey." Moving forward to tap him on the arm, she's looking at him in a way she's never looked at him before, like he might actually be frail. "When are we going to do this? Go back into your timeline, I mean," she clarifies, part of her mind still obviously on intercourse of the nonverbal kind.
He stares at her. "You want to? Just like that." Obviously, he's left out too many of the sketchy details. "Rose, you don't-"
Her finger is soft and firm against his lips. "You needed a hand to hold, yeah? Okay, I can do that."
"I want to do it," she adds. "I mean, I've thought about it – different, but sort of – but I figured there'd be a paradox involved or something. But if it turns out I can be there for you, I'm gonna be an' -"
"We had sex."
There is a short moment as she processes this. "Okay," she says. "Now I really want t' do this."
"Rose! This isn't a joke," he stresses. "It's a paradox waiting to happen, self-fulfillment and entwinement all rolled together."
"I know, I get that," she tells him patiently. "It's serious. What's entwinement?"
"Two or more timelines twisting together to the point where the destruction or violation of one at a certain period of time would result in destruction or violation of the other," he rattles off.
She processes this as well. "So if I don't go and visit younger you, your timeline implodes or something?"
"More or less," he admits.
"And then mine goes the same way from association?" she asks.
"Quite possibly," he agrees.
"Well," she says, sounding completely serious at last, "I think I get why you're acting like this is kinda skeevy. Y'know, besides the age gap and the species thing and all that." This list is said as if it happens to be utterly unimportant and truly makes him wonder about what goes on inside of her brain. She bites her lip and then asks, "When this started, how did you think it would end?"
He rubs the back of his head, mulling it over. "Didn't know it was starting, actually. After I caught on, I mostly assumed I'd sort of stumble into it and have it work out that way."
"Okay," she says, leaning towards him. "I'm gonna ask you a question. There's two options you can pick from and you've gotta pick one."
He nods because he owes her that much.
"You risking a fatal paradox to send me back in time for a shag, or me doing whatever I have to do to be there for my best mate," she says. "One's likely, one's not. Your pick."
"Rose," he says softly.
She kisses him, soft and tender and everything he doesn't deserve. "Don't be daft."
"And don't you dare go off on one of your guilt trips or something. 'Cause it's my idea an' you just had to remind me, s'all," she tells him, hugging him from the side. "Just had to tell me it was possible."
She looks up at him, lets him speak. "Yeah?"
"Thank you," he tells her and pulls her tight against him, his fantastic, precious girl.
They stay like that for quite a while.
"Okay, so we had the first thing, the second thing and the third thing – not in that order - but we never got around to the fourth thing," she informs him.
He frowns, puzzling it over. "What fourth thing?"
She answers him simply: "Sex."
A nod. "Yeah."
"Bed?" she asks.
"Yours," he insists.
They grin at one another and she takes his hand. "Let's."
Her bed is a little too small and far too pink but she's discovering her audacity and he won't ever say no. After what he's told her, he's still amazed that she's saying yes.
She's yet to climb on top of him like it's her accustomed place, yet to undress him like it's her right. Of course, he technically has yet to see her naked, so it's not like he can talk.
She gropes his bum a bit and while he'll be first in line to agree that this is yet another wonderful location for hand-placing, he likes other things more, needs her to touch him differently if he's going to touch her the way he's waited to. He catches her hands, presses her palms to the sides of his face. Fingertips creep into his hair and he readjusts her grip on him, murmurs something against her lips about her staying like this, just for a little while. It's as if his skin is on fire, feels like it, feels like this might work.
She arches up to fit her body against him, all warm and soft and when he slips his hands under her top, presses them against the skin of her back, when he does that, she gasps into his mouth and arches further, moves without intent, only reaction. She's still not used to it, still unaccustomed to the temperature of his body. She's not used to it, but she doesn't pull away, only holds on tighter, squirms against him.
His hips slam her down, grind against hers mercilessly and her answering cry fails to be one of complaint. Her hands leave his face, clutch at his shirt, his back, and he nearly forgets what he has planned. He pants into her neck, moves his hands from her back to her stomach and when she gasps, it's not from cold.
He's ready, he decides. Nuzzling as he goes, he moves down her body, kisses her skin where her top has risen up. It occurs to him that he should really impress her now. He's going to look like such a clumsy git when he's younger.
He pulls down her skirt as he flicks his tongue into her navel, tastes her there because he can. Realizing his intent, she whimpers, a weakly sighed expletive encouraging him.
He chuckles, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to her stomach as he rids her of her knickers as well, loving the way she moves beneath him to help. The side of his face against her skin, he nuzzles her belly in a pointedly languid counterpoint to her struggling legs, twisting hips.
It's her turn to make inarticulate noises, to writhe deliciously beneath him, the scent of her arousal strengthening the further down he goes. He wants very much to lick and taste and suck and so he does.
A keening cry meets his ears as hands tangle in his hair, push his head down in encouragement. Chuckling entirely on purpose, lips tugging, tongue pressing, stroking, flicking, he gathers up the taste of her, can't imagine why he's never done this before.
And the sounds she makes, the mewling whimper as he pauses, the groan when he presses there or licks here, the gasp as he rubs his sideburns against the inside of her thighs. But best of all, best of all sounds she has ever made, best of all is his name falling from her lips, pulled from her as he thrusts his tongue into her core.
He smirks and lets her feel it, presses his mouth to her in a wet and intimate kiss, drinking in the scent of her. Hot fingers pull at his hair, touch his neck. He keeps his hands on her, keeps his hands warm with her heat. "Rose," he murmurs, growls her name into her, plays with the syllable with lips and tongue, caressing her with it. "Rose, Rose, Rose . . ."
She gasps and jerks and squirms and it's beautiful, she's beautiful, glorious, exquisite. His. She's his. Now and always, for the rest of his life, she'll be his.
Sucking, licking, tasting, he lays claim with tongue and lips and teeth. He gauges her reactions, takes note of her sounds as he presses his tongue flat or strokes with the tip, learns her responses and uses them mercilessly against her. She presses into his mouth, her hips bucking up against him, and he moans for her, against her, into her, long and low and loud and she moans to match.
He tastes her orgasm and immediately decides that she should have another.
After he's done with that – for a little while, perhaps – he sits up to look at her, lying limp and languid before him with the perfect little smile, at once content and dazed. As she watches, he wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand, licks it clean. Breathing out a shuddering sigh, she reaches for him and he climbs over her, blanketing her with his body, his precious girl.
Her arms wrap around him, hold him weakly. "You're still completely dressed," she tells him, points out this important fact.
"Yep," he tells her, popping the "p" close to her ear. "Actually, no. Started with just the shirt. Took my socks and trainers off, too."
"Yeah, I saw an' . . ." She closes her eyes, tightens her grip on him. "Oh god."
"What?" he asks, not entirely sure of this reaction.
"Death by shagging," she replies.
"Long, slow, drawn-out death by shagging," he agrees.
She giggles, petting his hair. "Life's overrated." Their legs twine together, hers bare, his covered.
He snickers like the arrogant madman he is. "I'm rather fond of it at the moment," he informs her seriously, rocking his hips against hers.
She groans, eyes squeezing shut. "G- gimme a mo'?"
He's already given her years, but would give her decades if she asked him, if she could hold them within her life span. "Yes," he replies. "As long as you want."
"Want now, need later," she answers and he's back to snickering.
"Well then," he says.
"Yeah," she breathes.
He is very, very pleased with himself.
Seeing a perfect opportunity for cuddling, he seizes upon it, rolling off her to gather her against him. She sighs, pressing back into him, and her hand covers his encouragingly when it slips beneath her top.
She trembles, just a little, but her voice is remarkably steady as she asks, "About that entwinement thing . . ."
Ah, there it is. The not-making-sense-in-bed. "Mm?"
"How's it work?" she asks him snuggling into him contentedly, pressing her shapely little bum against a not-so-content piece of him. He bites back a groan and it comes out like a growl instead.
She pulls his arm tight around her and pushes back even more firmly.
"How's it work?" she prompts him again. "After the loop is closed or whatever – the paradox prevented – what happens?"
"It-" His breath hitches as she shifts. "It stops being dangerous. Obviously, if the crucial period of time is attacked or altered, there would be problems, ah . . ."
"Obviously," she agrees, squeezing her thighs tight around the leg he's pushed between hers. She's hot and burning and he can smell her on him, can smell him on her. "But once it's complete, there shouldn't be a problem, normally?"
He grinds into her rear, squeezes her breast the way he knows she likes it. "No," he admits, sounding more strained than he would like. "But . . ."
"But what?" she asks, turning her head for a look at his eyes, for the kiss he wants to give her.
"It keeps you safe," he murmurs to her lips. "I can feel it – when it's in danger of not coming to pass, I can feel it . . . correct it." He's depended on it for as long as he's known her name, has had to depend on it. "Protect you."
She releases his leg to roll over, to press against him chest-to-chest. "S'okay," she tells him.
"I'll lose you," he tries to explain. "If it's gone-"
"You'll think of something," she interrupts, interrupts with a kiss. "You're brilliant, after all."
"Completely genius," he agrees, slipping his hand around to her back, fumbling one-handedly with the catch of her bra.
They snog a bit, sitting up enough for him to return her to her proper state – namely, naked and in his lap. She toys at his tie, loosens the knot slowly. A thought striking him, he breaks the kiss to watch her face, his hands cupping her shoulder blades.
"S'like," she says slowly, says and then trails off, a blush crossing her features.
"Like what?" he asks her, touching her face, already knowing the answer.
"S'like unwrapping a present," she says for the first time, says it quietly and without looking him in the eye, embarrassed.
"Mm," he replies, brushing his lips against hers, his hand in her hair. "Yours."
It's a statement, not an offer, but she responds as if it were, as if he'd added something about it being a limited time only deal, as if he might snatch back the words. He is very quickly rendered shirtless, her clever fingers working through tie and buttons as her legs wrap about his waist, hold him where he'd never try to leave.
"Rose," he says, cries, reminds her, presses up and into her hand, her hot little hand cupping him through cloth.
"Penetrate, flare, climax, withdraw," she repeats, pants out the carefully explained mantra. "No stopping until the end. No thrusting."
"I'm," he tries to say, both of them fumbling for his zipper. "I – colder than – body heat, and, you, ah, hot and, and, yes. Yes." Both straining to rise up enough for the act, they shove his pants and trousers down, the cloth getting caught mid-thigh and giving him a rush of sexual déjà vu, the rising memory of his first blowjob and his legs restrained. "Oh Rose."
He brushes against her opening, her weight pressing down on him as she shifts and gasps and he has to fight not to bite down on her shoulder, not to mark her before it's time. "Warm enough," she decides quickly and takes him inside.
There are words for this, he thinks. Words like homecoming and completion and many other things he's never believed in, never cared to believe in until he had her to believe in as well.
He flares and he's almost braced for it, almost prepared for the way they don't interlock, not completely, for the way he clutches at her from the inside and still cannot hold on. She lets out a shriek that turns into a low moan, nearly pulls up and pull back but stops, stops at his cry and comes back down, returns to him and the Shorts of Rassilon, that hurt.
Her arms tighten around his neck as he grips her by the waist, hands digging into her hips. "Did I, oh god, did I?" she asks and this is it, this is why he made sure she came before, why he hopes she'll remember the start and not the finish.
He shakes his head, a lie. "No," he pants, "no, good, like this, like, yes, this."
They fumble into it and she catches on quickly, such a fast learner, his girl, his, his his his, his lover now, yes, his lover. To love and be loved by; to shag and be shagged by. His his his. He finds that rhythm they hold between them, adapts it for this body, new and untested and hers.
He grinds up into her and she rocks her hips, rolls them, clenches, nearly holds him as tightly as he needs. "Please," she gasps into his shoulder. "Please, oh god, I, please."
"Rose, Rose Tyler," he replies, clutching her to him.
And then that's her mouth, her mouth on his shoulder, biting and sucking, and oh yes, this is going to leave a mark, her mark, her claim and yes. Yes.
They shudder together and he follows her into completion, still sighing her name.
"Can we go now?" she asks one day, sitting on the jump seat as he tinkers beneath the console.
He shakes his head even though she can't see it with him down where he is. "There's still time."
Her voice draws him up, brings him around to her side of the console. He leans back against it, ignoring the levers digging into him as he crosses his arms. ". . . You're sure, then?"
"Yeah," she replies, nodding, then gives him a small smile. "Can't keep your reality hanging in the balance, now, can I?"
He shrugs fondly. "I don't mind."
He looks down, sees her feet as she moves to stand before him, to reach for the contact he'll always give her.
"It's okay," she tells him, holding his hands, one in each of hers. Their arms form a circle between them and his lips quirk at the symbolism. "I'll come back to you."
"I know," he says, not doubting it.
She always has.