Title: Ten times the Doctor didn't say 'I love you' (and one time he did).
Rating: Hmm, T-ish for implied stuff. Probably more like PG-13.
Characters: Nine/Rose, Ten/Rose, Jack
Genre(s): Romance, fluff, suspense, reunion!fic, angst, humour. Bit of everything, really.
Word Count: 7,697
Summary: Ten times the Doctor didn't say 'I love you'. And one time he did. What more can you say, really?
Warning: Doomsday angst. Don't worry, 'tis resolved ;)
Disclaimer: The names, images and logos identifying the BBC and their products and services are subject to copyright, design rights and trade marks of the BBC. Used without permission for non-profit, non-commercial personal use.
Fic Type: One-shot.
Author's Note: This bit me about six hours ago and would not leave me alone. At ALL. It was highly annoying, but demanded to be written, so here you go.
Excerpt: "The world's about to end," he remarks, his voice cracked with emotion, when he sets her on the ground in front of him again. "The whole world."
Ten times the Doctor didn't say 'I love you'
(and one time he did)
He's lost her. He's searched her room, the console, the aquarium, the library (on a whim, he didn't really expect her to be there), the gym... He's even searched his own room, perhaps out of a morbid hope rather than anything else. But, nope, he can't find her. She has managed to wander off inside the TARDIS.
"Don't wander off," he grouses to himself as he stalks down the corridors, the leather of his jacket crunching against itself in the brusqueness of his walk. "That's what I always tell her. Does she listen? Nope! She goes and she wanders, and then I have to spend half my bloody time trying to find her." The hum of the TARDIS in his mind vibrates with amusement, and he glares at the ceiling. "You could help, y'know."
He knows she's not going to, but snapping at her makes him feel a bit better.
He finally walks past an open door to a room he didn't know he had, and then he spies her. She's sitting cross-legged on the floor with a tub of ice-cream in her lap, and she's watching something on the TV. On the TV. He's a Time Lord, he doesn't even know why he has a TV, let alone why he has companions that watches it.
Standing in the doorway, arms folded and a serious expression ready on his face, he clears his throat loudly.
Rose turns to him, spoon in her mouth, and she looks so utterly ridiculous he can't hold his expression for much longer.
"Hi," she says, sliding the spoon out of her mouth and licking it.
"Rose," he replies, and takes a step into the room. "What are you doin'?"
She grins, shrugs, and turns back to eye the TV. "Eating ice-cream and watching 'Scrubs' -- what's it look like I'm doing?"
"We could have been off saving the world and you're in here eating ice-cream?" he admonishes with affection. She starts to look up, guilt sparkling in her eyes, but he rolls his eyes good-naturedly, ambles into the room and plonks himself down next to her. In for a penny, in for a pound. "Give it here, then."
She hands him the ice-cream and the spoon, and he can feel her eyes burn into him as he scoops a large chunk out of the tub. Just before he's about to put it in his mouth, she says, "I've licked that."
He stops. "Thanks," he says, trying not to think of that mental image as he slips the cold metal into his mouth.
She giggles from his side and leans into him, and he chokes, and then she slaps him on the back harder than her mother ever did, and he ends up laughing so much that ice-cream dribbles un-dashingly down his chin.
"Aren't you a sight," Rose teases, leaning over and rubbing it away before he can stop her. "Seriously, no one would think you were a Time Lord to look at you. All big ears and dribble chin and – "
"Oi!" he cries defensively, wiping the remaining ice-cream that she missed away on his sleeve. "I'm very Time Lord-y, thanks." Rose snorts, and he realises how his defence must have sounded. "At least I'm not an ape," he shrugs, spooning out another mouthful.
"Because you hate us so much," she says cheekily, leaning into him again.
He nods in agreement, and replies flippantly, "Yup. Hate the sight of you. Don't know why I bother, really."
"I'll remember that next time you need me to save your life."
He almost chokes on his ice-cream again, at the sheer absurdity of it. "'Scuse me, how many times have I saved your life already? How many times have you got yourself into trouble?"
"Oh, because that's never been your fault at all," she quips good-naturedly. He looks up and catches her eye, just to make sure she isn't really taking offence. When he sees a grin dancing in her eyes, he smiles into the spoon, then lowers it back to the tub as he looks at her.
"What?" she asks, sounding self-conscious, and he laughs through his nose.
"Nothing," he says, looking back to the ice-cream. "Just, y'know. It's good to have you around. I like it."
Their gaze holds for just a moment too long, and the Doctor feels his hearts begin to slow.
"I'm gonna change the channel," Rose says suddenly, and gets up, leaving the Doctor to poke melted dregs of ice-cream around the plastic pot with his spoon. As he sits there, waiting for her to return to his side, he hopes he never gets tired of having her around. He doesn't think he ever will.
"Well, isn't this just fantastic."
Trapped in a prison, in the cold, with red moonlight shining through their barred window and no way out. They've even got his screwdriver.
"Could be worse," Rose reasons from behind him, sitting on the stark bed. He turns, frustration in his voice and actions.
"How? How could this be worse? We've been locked up for the murder of the President, and all our belongings have been taken. There's no way out, these walls are feet thick. Solid concrete. We're to be executed in the morning. So tell me, Rose, how could this be worse? Because I'm just dying to know."
Normally, he might expect her to be angry or upset at his response. He doesn't usually shout at her or treat her as though she's stupid, but when things get like this and he doesn't know what to do then the first thing he does is turn on those he cares about, because what else can he do?
But she doesn't look angry, or upset. In fact, she stands up calmly, and there's even the beginning of a smile at the corners of her mouth.
The Doctor starts to relax. "Are you up to something?" he asks hopefully.
Without saying anything she reaches slowly into her back pocket and produces a round disc, the unique, electronic key that's assigned for this prison cell. Every cell has a different key and they all look identical, only the race here can tell them apart.
She holds it out to the Doctor in the palm of her hand, and the moonlight makes it glow all sorts of strange colours.
He stares at it, then looks up to her, not quite knowing what to say.
"How... how did you...?" he asks, well and truly stunned, because this woman keeps managing to surprise him even when everything else has fallen apart.
She smiles, pleased with herself. "When they were checking me for belongings I noticed this dangling off the guard's belt. So when he went to check my pockets I leaned over and slipped it off him. Mickey taught me how."
"That idiot?" the Doctor proclaims, not willing to admit that their escape will be because of her not-quite-but-should-be-ex boyfriend.
"Not such an idiot now, is he?" Rose points out, winking. The Doctor reaches out and takes the disc, which begins to glow warm in his hands. Definitely the right key. He looks up, wonder in his eyes at how lucky he is to have her.
"You, Rose Tyler, are fantastic," he enthuses, grinning. "Pure genius, and I don't say that often. Now, come on. We've got some escaping to do."
They're walking in the snow. He has never really been one for snow before, but Rose asked for it, so he brought her here. Nevi, a planet made up almost entirely of snow, and they've been spending their time making snowmen, throwing snowballs, swapping stories and generally enjoying each other's company. With no civilisation around for miles and miles, it allows for some truly alone time between them.
"Thanks," Rose says as they walk, shivering, even under his heavy jacket. When he glances at her, at the pinkness of her nose and the whiteness of her eyes, he just smiles and reaches for her hand. Her fingers are freezing, like the rest of the place, and he's glad he suggested they go home: it wouldn't do for his Rose to get frostbite.
Without even thinking, he brings her hand to his mouth to blow on it and warm it up. She doesn't seem to react, apart from to sigh happily, so for a good few minutes while they walk he sets about warming each one of her fingers individually.
This planet, he admits, is beautiful. The land curves in great claws of ice, leaving unexplored caves and twinkling grounds for miles around them. The sky above is a frosty dark blue, and even the wind seems to sing to them. He's glad he brought them here.
"Enjoy the trip?" he asks as the TARDIS looms into view.
Rose snuggles into him and makes an 'mmm' sort of sound, which he takes as a yes. Slowly, he puts an arm around her – just to warm her up, he tells himself.
"It was..." She starts, but can't seem to find the right word.
He grins down at her. "Fantastic?" he suggests, and she chuckles slightly.
"You always say that," she says thoughtfully. "Everything's fantastic when it comes to you. Said it the first day I met you. And the thing is, being with you, it is. It really is. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing."
"Do you think?" he asks, happiness flowing through him. "Must be impressive, then."
"Yeah. You are."
They've reached the TARDIS door, and she's detached herself from him. The way she's looking at him, with snow still sparkling in her hair and something else sparkling in her eyes, makes him want to stay here for longer than they should.
"If I am," he murmurs quietly, his breath condensing in the air, "it's because of you. You're just... you're everything, Rose. Really. I don't... I couldn't do it without you."
"Better with two?" She echoes words spoken so long ago, and he smiles, looking down to the floor.
"Yeah," he laughs. "And... I'm so glad you're with me. So thanks for that."
She shakes her head, shaking off the compliment. "Don't have to thank me, Doctor, I'm just glad you found me. In amongst all... this..." She looks around her at the planet. "All this chaos, all these planets, you came to Earth one day and you found me. And I said no!"
She laughs, then, remembering that first time, and he laughs too. Then he stops, because the thought of not being here with her, right now, stills his guts, and he doesn't like to think about things like that. He wants to have her with him always, even though he knows he can't.
"You're just..." he begins and he stares at her, meets her gaze with his crystal-blue eyes as he tries to say words he can't. Words he doesn't even know, words that get stuck in his throat like they're choking him.
She nods, and blinks. "So are you," she whispers, and she reaches out to put a hand on his arm.
He looks at it, at her fingers curled around his arm. How small she is. How frail and insignificant in a vast universe, and yet, she's one of the most important things in his life. Will she ever know?
She shivers, and he breaks himself out of his reverie and opens the door, letting her in first. As she slips off his jacket and hangs it over a pillar in the console room, the Doctor sighs to himself and hopes that being with her is always like this. He's not sure what he'd do if he ever lost her. So, trying not to think about it, he pushes them on, into the next world of adventure.
"Doctor? What's that mauve light?"
"Oh, this has got 'Doctor' written all over it."
Jack saunters into the control room with a smug grin on his face and his hands in his pockets. Glancing up, the Doctor grunts at him, then goes back to fiddling with streamers. "You could help, rather than just standing there," he says bluntly.
Jack obligingly squats down next to him and takes some streamers between his fingers. There are already a few haphazard balloons around the place, and a streamer that says, 'Happy Birtday Rose'.
"'Birtday'?" Jack comments, squinting up at it.
"I was in a rush!" the Doctor defends hotly. "I dunno, trying to throw a surprise birthday party while saving the world is not exactly easy. Especially without her finding out." He jerks his hand towards the corridor, signifying the Rose that isn't there.
He can feel Jack staring at him. "You're so sweet," he coos, eventually.
"Shut it," the Doctor grinds out. "Just shut up and fold paper, there's a good boy."
They continue to fold in silence, the pile of streamers to decorate the console room with getting steadily bigger and bigger.
"How do you know?" Jack asks after a while, and the Doctor raises an eyebrow at him.
"That it's her birthday. It's not like you wake up and the TARDIS says 'Good morning it's April 27th'."
The Doctor shrugs, then stands up and reaches for the pile of streamers. "I just do. Comes with being a Time Lord. Certain dates are drilled into you. Ascension Day. Queen's Golden Jubilee."
"Rose's birthday?" Jack confirms, sounding dubious.
"Yup. Now stop faffing, and help me hang these up."
It's maybe half an hour later, just as they're finishing, when Rose walks into the room. Jack is still on a step-ladder putting up the last few decorations and almost falls off when she shrieks with surprise and joy.
"Oh my iGod/i!" she cries, flinging her arms around the Doctor. He lifts her and spins her, once, closing his eyes and losing himself in her elation, before he sets her on the ground again. "Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
She bounds around the console room, taking in the brightly coloured balloons, the streamers, the banner that doesn't quite say 'Birthday', and then she comes back to both Jack and the Doctor and engulfs them in a huge hug.
"How did you know?" She laughs, letting them go. "Even I didn't know!"
"Time Lord," the Doctor says obviously, grinning.
"Time Agent," Jack says smugly, and they look at each other with a smile. "Only the best for our girl," Jack continues, slinging an arm around Rose.
"Excuse me, I think you'll find she's my girl," the Doctor corrects, and Jack obediently lets Rose go so she can give the Doctor another hug.
"Thank you," she says quietly in his ear while Jack looks on, and he squeezes her tighter.
"You're welcome," he says softly back, and she pulls away slightly, just enough to look into his eyes. He's not sure, but he gets the feeling that he's supposed to be saying something.
Then Jack says, obnoxiously, "If you love-birds don't stop that, I'm going to eat all this cake," and Rose is out of his arms and bounding over to the cake.
Sighing slightly at the loss, the Doctor stalks over to them and takes the hunk of jam-centred sponge cake Jack offers him. He doesn't seem able to take his eyes off Rose, and continues not being able to for the nest few hours. Life could, he reflects, be a lot worse.
Everything is quiet, still. The lights have dimmed and the gentle thrum of the TARDIS is more relaxing than usual. The Doctor and Rose sit opposite each other, on the grille floor of the central room, and the rotor pulses gently, throwing them into strange light. Jack is in bed; he's been asleep for a while.
It's just the two of them, a rare moment in time they get to spend with just each other, and for some reason the Doctor feels it's one of the last moments he's going to able to share with his Rose.
She came to him earlier, complaining of a nightmare about a wolf and a forest of metal, so he told her he'd have a look if she wanted.
Now, with his fingers placed gently over her temples and her eyes blinking back innocently at him, he wonders if this is such a good idea.
"It won't hurt," he reassures, his voice soft in the heavy air. "I'm just going to pop in, have a quick nose around. There's nothing you don't want me to see, is there?"
She shakes her head slightly, and he gives one firm, resolute nod. He said he'd help her, and that's what he's going to do.
Closing his eyes he allows himself to slip into her mind. He's never done this with a companion before, and he doesn't really know why he's doing it now. But he had forgotten what it felt like, to move within another being, to be completely swallowed up by them, and now he takes in a sharp breath as he explores the depths of her thoughts and mind.
He skims over childhood, he doesn't need to know anything about that. She can tell him in her own time. He's looking for the nightmares, for the whispers of shadows that haunt her dreams, so he can vanquish them and send her back to bed.
Her breathing is slow, and her heartbeat slower, and it's such an incredible feeling to be linked with her like this that he almost never wants to let it go.
"Doctor," she breathes quietly, and he tries not to falter. This must be overwhelming for her.
"It's all right," he says quietly. "I'm still here. Not long now."
"It's... you're looking through my head."
He smiles. "Yeah. I am. Is it all right?"
"It's... wonderful. And weird." He can hear the laugh in her voice. "How come we don't do this more often?"
The Doctor coughs nervously, still searching through the surface of her mind. "It's... ah, well... Time Lords don't generally... do this."
He opens his eyes to find her staring at him, wonder sparkling in her brown depths. "Emergencies only?" she asks, and he nods sagely.
"It's sort of intimate. Only done with people you trust, and... Well. You know."
With gazes locked and his mind in hers, something electric passes between them and the Doctor's hearts begins to race. This... doing this, being here with Rose, this can't be right, it goes against everything he ever told himself, but he can't seem to stop.
She's just sitting there looking at him, waiting for him to do something, and all the while he can see into her mind. And then he comes across something he's already wondered about, but seeing it in the flesh and blood of his own mind's eye, it catches him off guard.
He almost jumps at the abruptness of the thought. No, he tells himself firmly, as he smiles tightly to Rose and continues to search for whatever might be lurking in her dreams. Not now; it isn't the right time.
No, no, no, he tells himself again, but he doesn't think he can cope with this much longer. Things have been under the surface with he and Rose, and he's never really considered the possibility of her thinking of him like that. The thought to him is so alien that he's almost glad, but that still doesn't stop the nagging voice in the back of his mind that's telling him to stop what he's doing and plant his lips on hers, for once and for all.
But he's not going to: emergencies only, like she said.
And suddenly he hits something, a wall, her mind shuts down and he can't see anything any more. Frowning, he drops his hands, and sits back slightly. Rose looks hurts, and he can't blame her.
"What is it?" she asks, her voice barely above a whisper.
He frowns as her considers her, remembering the words that flashed in her mind just before he lost the connection. "What's 'Bad Wolf'?"
She just shrugs and looks away. If the TARDIS seems to glow in warning, the Doctor fails to notice.
It's only maybe half a day or so later when the Doctor wakes up to find himself trapped in Big Brother.
"And then I said to her, 'You should have seen my other one', and you should have seen the look on her face! I don't think I've ever been so pleased to run for my life."
Rose bursts into guffaws of laughter, nearly spilling her tea all over him, but he decides he doesn't really mind. He's laughing himself, at the memory of something or other he did a long time ago, and reliving the experience with Rose in the kitchen is raising him to incredibly high spirits.
"You don't half get into some rubbish," she chuckles, sipping her tea and eyeing him over the rim.
"It's not rubbish!" he protests, the need to defend himself stroer than he might like. "It's... it's very good, and rewarding, and... and planet-saving – is what it is. I don't know, you lot, you sit around with your Coronation Street and your TV dinners and you think the universe revolves around you, when people like me are off saving that universe right under your nose!"
Rose, after another slurp of tea, puts her mug on the counter. "And me," she says, slipping off the chair and heading over to the fridge.
"And you, what?" the Doctor asks, not in the least bit embarrassed about the fact he's watching every movement she makes.
"And people like me," she clarifies, turning back with a large bar of chocolate in her hand. "I save the universe, too."
"Oh, well, yes, but that's a given," he says off-handedly, waving his hand to wave the comment off. "You are people like me. My point is, it's ridiculous how you expect everything to fall into place for you." Rose breaks off a large piece of chocolate and hands it to him, and he takes it distractedly, still mid-rant. "You expect everything to be handed to you on a silver plate, and you don't have to do anything. Like you're... I don't know, kings and queens of the universe."
The Doctor takes a pause in his jabbering as he bites down on the chocolate, chewing on it thoughtfully while Rose, who has spotted his mug is empty, tops him up with another cup of tea. "It's like..." the Doctor starts again, in the middle of his mouthful, "like when you sit around waiting for someone to come running after you, picking up the pieces, even when the whole world is falling apart – you still expect someone to just rush in at the last moment." He's just about to knock his new tea out of Rose's hands, but she's quick to react and moves it away from his wild gesticulation just in time. She then hands him his tea, and he takes it, nodding his thanks. "All I can say is, it's a good thing you lot have got someone like me."
Rose perches on her seat again, just in front of him, and reaches for her tea. "Finished?" she asks as she takes another sip.
"What? Oh, yes. I think so. Cheers."
She grins at him, and he has the feeling he's missing something entirely obvious. "What?" he asks her, not self-conscious in the slightest. Well, maybe just a bit. "What?" he persists, when she doesn't say anything.
Rose laughs. "Nothing."
"No, really, what?" He sits up and leans towards her slightly, his interest captured. "You've got me now."
She picks up her tea and swills some of it around, staring into it as though she's a tea-leaf reader. She's smiling. "You're just... a bit crazy, that's all."
He sits back, not sure whether he should be offended or flattered. Sometimes she is utterly impossible, he decides.
"You're utterly impossible," he tells her warmly. "I hope you know that."
"Says the man who runs around time and space in a wooden blue box," she quips. Then, after a pensive moment, she adds, "That's bigger on the inside."
"Oh, all right then," he gives in, a laborious but teasing sigh in his voice, and he looks at her rakishly. "iWe're/i impossible. And you do make a good cup of tea."
Blushing slightly, Rose pushes some hair out of her face. "Thanks."
"No, really. You're just... brilliant, really." And he grins, making a happy little 'hum' sound through his nose. "Rose Tyler – practically brilliant in every way."
"Perfect," she corrects with a wide, cheeky smile.
"Practically perfect in every way."
"Oh, well..." He trails his eyes up her body and catches her eye, and his eyebrows wiggle, just a bit. "You do embody perfection, after all."
He's not that impressed when she laughs at him, properly laughs at him, with her head thrown back and everything.
"Now I know you've had too much caffeine," she remarks, eyeing his mug and getting down off the chair. She stretches, and her slight, strap-top rides up a little, baring a thin rim of her stomach to the Doctor's eyes. Then, relaxing again, she gives a small shiver, and goosebumps dance all over her skin. "I'm going to slip into something warmer. Where we going next?"
He drains his tea, then hops off his own chair in pursuit. "Oh, you know," he answers, sliding his hands into his pockets as he follows her out of the kitchen, noting the way her form slinks down the corridor and how the light reflects off her skin. "Somewhere... hot."
They walk back in silence, hands stiff by their sides and the atmosphere thick between them. This has not been an easy planet. It hasn't been an easy anything. They've both been pushed to their limits, said things they didn't mean, done things they didn't want, and now making their way back to the TARDIS feels like both a blessing and a curse.
The Doctor isn't sure he can be in such a claustrophobic space with Rose at the moment, even if it does get bigger on the inside.
The air is thick and heavy with pollen from the plants, and the sickly sweet smells wafts up the Doctor's nose completely uninvited. He resists the urge to cough and splutter, and tells himself he simply has to make it back to the TARDIS and he can lock himself away in confinement, until he's ready to face Rose again.
He's not sure, but he thinks the air is going to need to be cleared between them. On a planet that has hormones and spores whizzing about in its atmosphere that makes foreigners angry and upset, makes them say things they would never normally say or mean... well, they both have a lot of apologising to do. He'd only come here because he found a call for help, but now he wishes he hadn't bothered. Let them starve to death.
Except, he doesn't really mean that.
"That was..." he starts, looking at his feet, as they tread the grass, rather than Rose.
He can't seem to form sentences, and neither can she. Eventually, he looks up, and she's looking as awkward as he feels, embarrassed by what's happened between them.
"Is that all I am to you? Just another bloody notch on your bloody metaphorical bedpost?"
He shivers when he remembers the harshness of her voice and the angry, tired flare in her eyes. He doesn't want to remember her like that, he never wants to see her like that ever again. To try and reconcile things slightly he goes to catch her hand, but he feels her stiffen beneath his touch.
"That's all you do, Rose. You run around, panicking, taking my hand when it's not welcome – what use are you?"
"Rose." He says her name softly, just above a whisper, and she looks up to him. Tightening his grip on her hand he stops walking, forcing her to stop too, and when he looks at her he knows there's remorse carved into his features. "I'm not going back into the TARDIS like this."
She nods, but doesn't say anything, instead looks away to the trees and the massive plants that surround them.
"It's just..." she begins, and he doesn't have to see her face to know she's trying to hold off tears. He needs no more encouragement, and simply steps forward to take her in his arms and rest his head on hers, closing his eyes, trying not to think about everything that was said and everything that was done.
"I know," he comforts quietly, rubbing her back and holding her close.
They stand, encased in each other, for a good few minutes. The Doctor swallows and glances to their left, where the TARDIS stands patiently waiting for them to return. She doesn't have to worry about this sort of thing, but the Doctor knows he would never give up caring about people.
"Rose, I..." She pulls back from him slightly and her hands slide to his collarbone. When she looks up to him, her eyes are shining with tears, but he knows she hasn't, and won't, cry. He tilts his head slightly, sympathy reigning down on him. He can't seem to stop looking at her, to stop feeling for her, and what's more he doesn't want to.
Then, somehow, he chuckles and shakes his head. "Look at us," he teases. "The Doctor and Rose. Reduced to... this, thanks to a few wayward hormones. Aren't we rubbish?"
He sees a smile begin, and it gives him new energy and new strength. Before he can stop himself, he's bending down to kiss her – briefly – on the cheek, hoping it will give her enough courage to put everything behind her.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs quietly, detaching from her.
Rose shakes her head. "No, I'm – "
"Ah-bu-bup," he cuts across, putting a finger on her lips and looking at her meaningfully. "None of that, or we'll never leave. Let's just put it behind us, shall we?"
"But – " she begins from behind his finger, and he cuts her off again with a simple raise of an eyebrow.
When she nods, slowly, he lowers his hand, and then offers it to her, the only olive branch he has. She takes it, willingly, twining her fingers with his, and they walk back to the TARDIS hand in hand. It's a funny old life they have, but he doesn't think he'd change it for anything else in the world.
She prods the TARDIS monitor, or – more accurately – the post-it stuck on the side. To her it's a bunch of squiggles, a quick little doodle stuck to the side of the screen to look pretty. In reality, it's actually a shopping list.
"This one, then?" she asks, leaving her finger there but eyeing him almost suspiciously.
The Doctor indicates a squiggle larger than the others. "'We need milk'," he reads.
She glances from the post-it to him, then back.
"Yes!" he laughs. "That one's a shopping list. And look, here, this one." He moves slightly, showing her a pink one that's crumpled at the corners. "This says, 'Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.' It's part of a poem I've been trying to remember."
"Dylan Thomas?" Rose queries, looking at it as though she expects it to turn into English before her eyes.
"Yes, actually," he responds, surprised. She looks up and sees his frown. "How did you know?"
She shrugs. "Mum likes him a lot. He's Welsh. She likes Welsh." The Doctor gives her an odd look, and she laughs. "Don't ask me, I've no idea. I like my men a bit more... well, you know."
"Doctorish?" he teases, before he can stop himself. She blushes and avoids his gaze, and he's not sure he can blame her.
"What about this one?" she asks, starting to peel one off the bottom of the screen.
When he catches sight of it – the only blue post-it on the console – he's suddenly very, very pleased she can't read Gallifreyan.
"Oh, that!" He snatches it away from her hands and pretends to consider it, before scrumpling it into a small ball and hiding it in his pocket. "That - that's... that's maths, that is. Very... mathsy. Mathematical. Complicated stuff, you wouldn't believe."
A dubious eyebrow arches at him. "Wouldn't I?"
"Nope. Well, probably not," he garbles, forgetting his original point. He's just pleased Rose didn't see it, the – the very important, and very private... thing, which was... oh, never mind what it was, he's just relieved to have it off the console. He silently reminds himself to leave his late-night thoughts firmly in his head, not lying about on pieces of paper on the TARDIS console unit.
When he dares to look back at Rose, she's giving him her 'you're-not-fooling-me' face, but he chooses to ignore it. He's getting rather good at ignoring things, he thinks, and he knows she has no idea why he's smiling at her like he is.
"What is it?"
"You're just..." He's elated, and he can't really explain why. He just feels like grinning, because being with her in this crazy, knocked-up place they call a home is against all the odds, and makes it all the more fantastic. "Good."
"I'm 'good'?" She sounds dubious.
"Yes!" he persists, grin as wide as ever. "I'm glad we got that covered. Now then, this one..."
And he proceeds to tell her what all the post-it notes stuck about really mean. Well, nearly all of them. He's just about coming to the end when one of them reminds him of something, the 2012 Olympics, and something hilarious that Rose just has to see. As he smiles at her across the console, and she smiles back and covers his hand with hers, he knows it'll keep her happy for hours and hours. Such is the life of the last Time Lord.
He never imagined he'd be here, lying in Rose's bed, wrapped up in her, but here he is nonetheless. Fully clothed, of course, he never goes in for that other sort of thing unless it's an emergency. They've been lying, chatting, in the middle of the night because Rose couldn't sleep and he happened to check in on her at the right moment.
Now, they've already drunk four mugs of hot chocolate between them, contemplated playing a game of monopoly, figured out how to save the universe without actually needing to leave the TARDIS and engaged in a minor tickling competition.
Rose may have won, but it was only because he let her and because he's such a gentleman. If he wanted to he could pin her down and tickle her into submission, but he feels there would be something completely inappropriate about that, so he makes do with lying here with his arms around her and her hand on his chest.
"Doctor?" she asks innocently, her voice vibrating through his chest.
"Yes, Rose?" he asks, reaching slightly over for his hot chocolate and beginning to take a sip before considering her over the top of his spectacles, which are placed firmly on his nose.
She meets his eye and frowns a bit, as though considering something.
"Did other Time Lords have sex?"
He chokes, hard, on the hot chocolate, spitting out his current mouthful back into the mug as the rest of it dribbles down his chin onto his clothes. Rose stills and he holds his breath slightly.
"What?" he asks, his voice octaves above where it should be. He can't believe she... She was quiet, yes, but was she thinking about... that? Really? After all they've...?
She sits up and seems to huff at him. Oh, that's rich. "I said, did other Time Lords have specs?"
He sits up, too, depositing his mug on her bedside table and then turns back to blink at her. "No you didn't," he contradicts after a moment.
"You said... 'Did other Time Lords have sex?' I heard you. With these." He flicks his ears with his fingers. "May not be as big as they used to be, but they still work just the same."
Rose has flushed a bright, bright red, and she can't seem to look at him. She edges away from him slightly, fiddling with her hands.
"Don't know what you've been hearing lately, Doctor, but I... I did not say... that." She looks up at him briefly before giving a slight squeak and looking away again.
He can feel the colour drain from his face and the muscles by his mouth begin to twitch. He really did mishear her. She had been wondering about his glasses, about the strength of his vision and how with his 'superior Time Lord physiology' he still needed glasses... and he'd... he'd thought about that. Oh, dear. He's in a spot of bother now, isn't he?
"Oh," he says, and he curses the hint of dejection he recognises there. He just hopes Rose doesn't know him well enough to notice it, but the way she looks up when he says it implies otherwise. He'll admit, it would be an... interesting conversation. Just not one he particularly wants to have. Really. Ever. Much.
"You're..." Rose starts, and he wonders what she's going to say, how she's going to judge him now it's quite evident what he'd thought. "...an idiot."
She's laughing. She's actually laughing at him. Because he thought she'd asked him about sex.
Then, he sees the funny side too, and he's giggling helplessly and pulling her into his arms again, and they're lying and laughing and he's got tears in his eyes and tears running down his face, because really, it's ridiculous, it's quite ridiculous, and he loves her, so very much, and –
And... that's the first time, he realises, that he's admitted that to himself.
The thought sobers him. When Rose questions him, he shrugs it off: what else can he say?
"I... I love you."
Before he saw her, he didn't think his hearts could possibly break any more. But hearing those words when she's looking like she does – so broken, so torn, so far away – practically rips him in half. He can't help the simple, bitter smile that cracks his face.
"Quite right, too."
Why he's being flippant, he doesn't know. There isn't much time, he can feel the seconds dripping and draining away, lost forever in the sea of memory. He's come so close, so many times before, and now it's the final time – the last time – and... and the words are catching in his throat. How the hell is he supposed to say it, such feeble words, to the woman who changed his life? How is he supposed to tell her everything she was, everything she is, when he knows she already knows? He's the Doctor, for pity's sake. He doesn't... He can't...
"And I suppose..." Damn it, he will, if it's the last thing he does. He'll force those terrible, earth-shattering words out if he has to. Because he does have to. It's Rose. "...If it's my last chance to say it..."
And she looks at him. In that moment, in that second – one of the last few he has – he knows she knows, and suddenly, saying it doesn't seem so very hard at all. He's earned it. They both have.
Pride swells in his hearts, as does fear, excitement and, yes, love. He can't stop it.
"Rose Tyler, I..."
And she's gone. The link is broken. He's staring at an empty console room and the TARDIS hums in melancholy around him. That's it. She's gone, forever. He never said it. All those times, all those options, and he never once said it.
Tears trickle down his face and he closes his mouth, burying those words deep down to somewhere they can never be accessed again, somewhere nobody else will ever find them. Maybe, after all he put her through, he deserves not to say them after all. It's a just punishment for the man he is. And he wonders, bitterly, whether he'll ever feel like that again.
It can't be. It just can't be.
How long has he been without her? How many nights of trying not to sleep, not to dream, how many planets, adventures, companions? How much has he done since he saw her fade away from him, the ghost of the woman he...
It can't be. It's impossible. It's just, it's impossible. Because if it weren't he'd have broken down the wall between their universes and pulled her back through, pulled her back to him, back into his arms and into his life.
But... it's impossible. He looked, he tried. For months and months he looked. And he failed.
So... why? Why is she standing over there, looking at him like she's seeing a ghost, with tears in her eyes that are splashing down onto her cheeks. Why is she shaking like that if she's not really there?
Oh, to all the gods, every god, this hurts. It hurts more than he could have ever imagined. It hurts more than saying goodbye.
She's walking towards him. This ghost, this figure, she's coming towards him and he's stuck, he's rooted to the ground like he's a tree. He can't move, he can just watch her, and yes his hearts are racing and his breath is catching, but he just can't help it and right now he doesn't really care.
"Hello," she says, when she's a few feet away. There are still tears on her cheeks.
That's it? After all this time? Is that all she has to say?
"Hello," he responds, his voice dry, like he hasn't used it for years and years. God, she's beautiful. He'd forgotten. She looks older, just, but not really, she's just... there. "Are you – ?" he starts, but he can't get the words out because, really, what's he supposed to say?
She nods. "Yeah."
"And... and I'm..."
Again, she nods. "Yup."
And suddenly he can't help it any more. Beaten and grief-filled laughter echoes on his broken breaths, and then he's stepping towards her and enveloping her tightly in his arms, so tightly, and he's inhaling her and being surrounded by her and getting high off her and he's laughing, oh, he's laughing so much and so hard, and tears are spilling down his face into her hair and he just doesn't care.
He picks her up and swings her, one circle, two; he makes them both dizzy with elation and freedom and relief.
"The world's about to end," he remarks, his voice cracked with emotion, when he sets her on the ground in front of him again. "The whole world." And he's grinning, because isn't it just fantastic and aren't they just unbeatable, really.
"And you... and you're... here." He cups her face, his eyes bright and broken and filled with love he'd forgotten he'd ever felt. "My Rose," he all but whispers.
She closes her eyes, nods into his hand. Oh, she's all wisdom now, like she's lived through so much, and he feels it too, every day.
"Just like old times," she says, jokes, and even though those words hurt, he loves them too. "Shall we go and save it, then?"
He nods, dumbly, thunderstruck by her, and then he shakes his head instead and his grip tightens on her cheek.
"There's... there are... things I should say," he insists. Then he laughs. "The world can wait, for once."
"Doctor – "
"No, Rose, I have to – " And he doesn't even finish his sentence before he's stepping towards her and stealing her mouth in a kiss, so long overdue. Finally, finally, after all this time his lips are on hers, teasing her, trying to tell her what he was never able to say, all those times. Trying to apologise for all that heartbreak and that wasted time. He's connected with her, really and truly, and he's slightly surprised when she begins to open her mouth, but he gives in, seals himself to her as much as he can before the world explodes around them, one last time.
Eventually they pull apart and he rests his forehead on hers, laughter in his voice.
"Wow," Rose breathes, and he wonders when her arms came up around him to hold him, and when one of his hands drifted to her waist to keep her close. "Well said."
"I thought so," he agrees with a smile that's only slightly smug.
He pulls back and looks at her, then, on the beauty that is Rose, and his hearts do a flutter. He still... he can't believe it.
"World. Ending," he manages, and Rose nods emphatically.
"I know," she says, just before he dips his head and kisses her again, this time more recklessly, his tongue slipping out to taste her and salvage any part of her he can.
Then they stand and immerse themselves in each other's arms again, and the world becomes still, for them. In a deserted street in the middle of London, with everyone worried and the entire world on red alert, the Doctor sighs into Rose's hair and holds her tightly in his arms.
And it's time. Suddenly, everything it just as it should be.
"I love you," he says, quietly, barely more than a whisper. She stills in his arms, doesn't even breathe, and he closes his eyes to listen to her heart rate.
She doesn't say anything. She doesn't have to. Everything, from the very beginning to the very end, has just been said, in those words, and he means them, and he always will.
I love you.
It is an incredibly funny old life that they lead; but he knows he won't change it. Not ever. Not even for the whole, wide world.