To An Outsider's Eye
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine.
Sometimes she thinks she'll never know what's going on between them. She thought she had it figured out before he went and changed his face, and Rose sobbing that her old Doctor had left her only added to Jackie's conviction, but then everything changed.
She'd been so against the idea of their relationship, back then. He was the man who stole her daughter away for a whole year without ever explaining why. He was old and alien and sometimes so inhuman that if she hadn't known Rose almost better than she knew herself, she would have begun to doubt he had enough gentle moments for Rose to love him at all. Now, though, he rambles and babbles and never says what he means, and she's not so sure what she thinks is going on, let alone what Rose wants to happen.
They're sitting at the table, pulling crackers and cutting up sprouts. Mickey sneaks his into a plant pot when he thinks Jackie's not looking. The Doctor gives his to Rose, apparently unabashed. Her eyes flicker sideways to meet his, the lightest of blushes staining her cheeks, and they all know he's taken her hand under the table. Who'd've thought it – the Doctor eating Christmas dinner, Jackie letting him? Every preconceived notion she's ever had of him is blown right out of the window.
Almost every notion. He clearly adores Rose as much as he ever did. A long way from being as blind as they seem to think she is, Jackie watches them when they're too busy watching each other to notice. She sees the look on his face, sees him smiling at Rose as she puts on a paper hat from their cracker, sees her watching him as he dons glasses for the first time. For a moment, she looks hurt, confused; she bites her lip before walking up to him, stopping just short of touching like she's not sure where their boundaries lie anymore.
They had a whispered conversation, Jackie knows, in Rose's room before the Doctor went to change his clothes as drastically as he'd changed everything else. She wishes she knew what they'd said to each other. Rose, though she'd already seemed fairly convinced of his identity, had come out of her room with an accepting, if resigned, look on her face, apparently much more comfortable with him after words had been exchanged. He, for his part, left the flat with a much softer expression in his eyes than any of them had yet seen and returned grinning like a Cheshire cat.
They stay for a few days, after. There are many more whispered conversations, Rose often leaving her room in the early hours of the morning to come and talk where he sleeps on the sofa. Jackie finds them in the mornings, once or twice asleep but often awake, tired and infinitely cheerful with a habit of springing guiltily apart whenever a door opens.
Rose still won't touch him without invitation.
One night she finds him drawing her as she sleeps, awkward with the pen as though he hasn't figured out how to hold it yet, making her forever with a scratchy biro and the back of a Pizza Hut menu that he slips into his pocket when he thinks Jackie isn't looking – just in case.
She thinks his tie is strange and tells him so, breaking their week-long boundary and making the first move by tugging it off him in laughing defiance. "You're the Doctor. You don't wear ties," she insists, and he prises it from her fingers then loops it over her neck and ties it in a silly bow.
"Does Rose Tyler wear ties? Ooh. Tyler, ties. I like that. You should wear ties, Rose Tyler."
"Only if you've got a pink one," she tells him, and when he shows up wearing a pink tie the next morning, she can't stop laughing all day.
His old leather jacket is hanging up in her wardrobe with her Henrik's trousers and her school jumper.
Jackie hopes they can make this work.
Next time they come back, he lands right in the middle of the living room. His new-found domestic streak hasn't changed, then.
He watches her cry like he's itching to go to her but feels like he is half the pain. There's something in the way he looks at her, even now, as though she's something he can never have – will never let himself have. Jackie's grateful for that, in a way, but sometimes she wishes he'd just get it over with, swallow his stupid pride and make her daughter completely happy.
Jackie receives the brunt of her sobs, but his shoulder sees them end. His jacket is thoroughly ruined by the end of it. Rose clutches at him afterwards, refusing to let go until he resorts to carrying her to her room so her exhausted eyes can finally get some sleep. Just as Jackie is thinking she won't see either of them again until morning, he appears in the doorway announcing that Rose is asleep, and, to Jackie's surprise, settles down to watch Coronation Street with her.
She'd thought, not so long ago, that it would all be The Other Doctor from then on, that Rose would never be able to fall in love again because she was too busy comparing him to the man he once was and sort of somehow still is. She'd thought that maybe, just maybe, Rose would stay.
She couldn't have been more wrong. Later, she catches them clinging to each other in the hallway of the flat, all wiped tears and hushed words. He holds her face in his hands and promises her that it won't always hurt this much.
The next morning, they're gone.
They fill her life even when they're not on Earth. Sometimes – more frequently than before – she gets phone calls punctuated with giggles and the sound of his voice in the background. There are constant asides to him in the middle of conversations – "Cheese, please…no, slices're fine…sorry, what were you saying about cousin Mo, Mum?" Most calls end abruptly when they land somewhere new or a scream echoes out in the distance and neither of them can help but run towards it, and Jackie is left hanging, waiting, waiting to know that they're safe.
She finds the photo in Elton's jacket and in that moment she knows that she'll do anything she can to protect them, both of them, because there's no taking them separately anymore. She gets rid of Elton and swears to herself that she'll be more careful what she says in the future, that she'll tell the Doctor he's welcome to park the TARDIS in the living room any time he wants if only it means no-one'll find out about them.
She can't do much, stuck here on Earth, and she feels a little useless. Even Mickey lived their life. But she can do this.
The Christmas incident with the tie isn't the last time she sees Rose running about in his clothes. A few weeks later, Jackie wakes to the sound of the TARDIS engines fading away and rushes out in her curlers and dressing gown to find Rose curled up asleep in the living room, the Doctor's coat clutched tightly around her.
There's a note blu-tac'd to the telly:
I promised her I'd come back.
At first she's angry, but Rose's face is peaceful and the thought occurs to Jackie that an abandoned woman would never sleep quite like that. Perhaps his coat is a silent promise of his return.
And, sure enough, the following morning Rose tells her mother how the Doctor has had to visit a world uninhabitable for humans ("International relations, he called it") and, knowing Rose's biggest insecurity, has left her his coat not as a remembrance but as a reassurance. He will be back for his coat, and he will be back for her.
It's two hours short of a week later when he returns, a little frayed around the edges but alive and true to his word. Rose's feet catch and break a vase when he spins her around, but she barely has time to say, "Oops?" before he has set her back on her feet and is kissing her desperately.
Jackie's sure he knows she's in the room, but he doesn't for a second try to hide this moment away. Amused by the flush of Rose's cheeks and the pink of the Doctor's ears, she invites them both to stay for tea and another night.
He doesn't make her take the coat off until morning.
After that, something changes.
They've come back to London for a few days after a trip to a remote planet neither of them want to tell her about and they're closer, somehow, without ever touching more or saying anything on the subject. In fact, they seem almost reluctant to touch, looking to Jackie for a sort of permission every time they try, and Jackie tries not to think about the cause of this change in attitude.
She remembers the first time she went home with Pete and met his parents, sat around a dinner table with them all thinking how funny it is that his family have known him all his life yet she is the one who knows so many secret things about him; she is the one who owns him in the only way he ever could be owned. He'd always belonged with them, but after that day he had belonged to her.
Rose's toes wiggle in her sandals and she smiles shyly at the Doctor across the table. Jackie clanks her spoon rather loudly against the side of her bowl and pretends she doesn't notice.
Even after all this, Jackie convinces herself that there can't be anything going on between the pair. She's looked carefully for a ring, for some sort of alien jewellery that will defy all her expectations of the Doctor on too many visits, but nothing appears.
He's from outer space and she is a human girl from London. They are worlds apart, but sometimes she gets that feeling about them that she gets when she rewatches Bridget Jones or thinks about her own husband: they fit.
They can't be a couple. They don't even fight.
They fly in with presents for what they think is Christmas but turns out to be Bonfire Night. Jackie has her presents anyway, and spends the rest of the night in a snowflake jumper.
After an impromptu Christmas dinner of turkey, peas and Yorkshire puddings with leftover orange sweets from Halloween, the Doctor can longer contain his excitement at the prospect of fireworks and tries to persuade them both to try and find some sort of public display with him.
Only Rose goes, in the end. Jackie leans over the balcony and quietly watches them walk away, hand-in-hand under the streetlamps, before the sound of their laughter reaches her ears and they break into a run.
She thinks of Pete that night, and how even Rose's fairytale has to end.
During a particularly long stay due to injuries Rose has sustained on one of their many adventures, Jackie realises that the Doctor is no longer sleeping on the sofa. She walks past Rose's open door on the way to her own room and can't resist glancing in just as she always used to when Rose was little, marvelling at how her and Pete had brought a whole, tiny person into the world and how she was right there, having her own dreams and nightmares.
Rose is asleep, one bandaged arm out of the duvet as she lies on her side, curled towards the Doctor. He is lying at the edge of her bed, watching her with an expression that only a man desperately in love could produce, and it's in that moment that Jackie realises her daughter will always be safe with this man. There is someone else to watch her now, and every line of his face makes it clear that he cannot bear to see her hurt.
Jackie stands there in silence for a moment, watching as he leans forward and tilts her head to kiss her. Rose's eyes flutter open contentedly, devoid of the pain that has been creasing them for the past three days, and she snuggles sleepily into him, pressing a light kiss just under his jaw before she closes her eyes and prepares to give into sleep again. This is no new routine.
For once, Jackie doesn't shout or make a scene, as she suspects most mothers should when encountering their daughter in bed with a nine-hundred-year-old alien. She can't bring herself to disturb them, not when he brings Rose a happiness which she knows she herself will never be able to offer.
If she's honest with herself, she's always known this is how things are. It's been a long time coming.
Somewhere, between all the coats and ties and the fireworks and tears, she thinks that maybe, just maybe, they've found a way to make it work.