She lay awake staring upwards into the darkness, not really seeing anything but knowing if she closed her eyes the night would be over, and the last few hours would turn into nothing more than a pleasurable memory. Rose wasn't ready to let the events of the evening fade that easily into the past. Rolling onto her side she let the covers wrap tightly around her, proving to be a poor substitute for the warmth and security his arms had offered. Restlessly she turned onto her back again, sighing heavily and silently cursing the universe for revealing that the Doctor did indeed dance.
Now her thoughts were a frenzy of confused feelings and unfinished ideas. Did the Doctor feel the same way towards her or was she misreading his intentions? After all, he was an alien, a nine-hundred year old alien at that, even if he only appeared to be a few years older. And what if his species wasn't compatible, or that she was misinterpreting his ability to dance with her deeper implications of the horizontal tango?
Rose jerked and sat up quickly; throwing the sheets back and squinting against the dark while reassuring herself she wasn't dreaming. She closed her eyes, listening again for the faint music as her body leaned towards the source of the sound. Her hand slipped off the edge of the bed, forcing out the breath she'd been holding as her chest hit the mattress.
She swung her feet out from under the covers cringing as the rustling material threatened to drown the faint melody, and grabbed her dressing gown before hurrying out of the room towards the deep voice that was humming, an alluring siren to her already racing heart.
Trailing a hand lightly over the walls as she padded barefoot along the dimly lit corridor, she felt the subtle vibrations of the ship and became aware of the dark shadow stretching across the hallway ahead of her. Moving inside the kitchen doorway its long silhouette stretched thinly then widened again, but it wasn't the familiar shape of the man she was hoping to find. Hesitating just to the side of the door she listened quietly and froze when the humming abruptly stopped.
"No use hiding in the hallway, I know you're there," Jack called.
Sighing in resignation, Rose took a tentative step forward and peered around the corner into the brightly lit kitchen, blinking owlishly as her eyes slowly adjusted to the light. There stood Jack, leaning back against the counter, blue jean clad legs crossed above bare feet and his arms folded over a shirtless chest. Laughing, his boyish smile disarming he stepped forward and grasped her hand before she could pull back or object.
"C'mon girl," he coaxed her softly. "Plenty of tea for two, since neither of us is up for sleep," he added disarmingly with a slight wink and pushed her into a chair as he turned and began rummaging through the cupboards in search of mugs.
"Third over from the sink," Rose prompted after watching him jump backwards when he opened the cupboard containing the live herb garden. The plants tended to be overly cranky when rudely awakened, which was most of the time, and unless one was prepared to deal with them their sharp bite could take a year or two off of one's life span.
Mumbling something sounding like thanks, he slammed the door on the still hissing plants and quickly procured two mugs from the proper cupboard, setting them on the counter.
Rose couldn't help but admire the view before her, after all it wasn't every day that half dressed men went about their normal routines as casually as Jack did. Of course the few times she'd been around Jack she was sure he'd be just as comfortable in even less, and quickly averted her eyes as her imagination sought to finish the picture for her.
Pouring the tea Jack shot a quick glance over his shoulder and caught her admiring look. He turned to allow a profile shot and handed her one of the mugs. "Like what you see?" he asked offhandedly as Rose accepted the tea, her face flushing as she set the cup on the table afraid her trembling hands would spill the hot liquid. Jack slid smoothly into the chair across from her; both hands around his drink as he ducked his head down in an attempt to catch her eye.
Twisting the cup in her hand she refused to meet his gaze, remembering the look the Doctor had given him earlier. As if reading her mind Jack chuckled lightly. "Just a bit of playful flirting, Rose, I know where the boundaries are."
Dropping one hand to her lap she shook her head, letting her hair drop behind her shoulders and gave him a defiant look as her other hand played nervously with the handle. "Don't know what you're on about, Captain," she said meeting his gaze as steadily as she could.
Jack leaned forward on his elbows, managing to close the distance between him and Rose, until the table seemed rather small and insignificant. She tried not to shy away from his predatory advance, feeling the warmth of his breath against her face, sending shudders through her, but she resolutely held her ground. The hand in her lap twisted the edges of her gown into a tight clump of wrinkled material.
"You're unavailable, and only a fool would believe they could come between the two of you," he whispered seductively.
"So, this is all just—" she asked in a half-whispe,r aware that her voice was shaking as much as her hand.
"Consider this, as staking my own claim. You're a very beautiful woman, Rose Tyler. And you're both very, very fortunate to have each other. I only wish there were room for more." As Jack finished, Rose knew the warmth on her cheeks was no longer just from his breath.
Shaking her head Rose wanted to laugh, wanted to slap him, wanted to—no she wanted to kiss him, and feel his breath on her face. She thought this, even as she sat looking at Jack, who leaned back triumphantly as if he'd just completed the biggest money making deal of his life. Curse the man for confusing her even more than she already was. Wanting them both wasn't right, or fair to either one, was it?
"He's not blind, nor stupid," Jack began offhandedly, watching her closely. "And it's not a game for either of us. You belong with the Doctor, and I don't have any problems with that. It may take a little time and patience. He's not like us." Rose nodded, biting her bottom lip as she kept her eyes lowered.
Jack stood abruptly; leaning close he caressed her cheek and whispered in her ear as he began walking towards the door. "Give him a chance, Rose."
Then Jack was gone and Rose was left staring into her cup of tea, wishing that life aboard the TARDIS wasn't so complicated.
Normally, Rose would have been content to be curled up on the large sofa, thumbing leisurely through one of the current entertainment gossip rags while the Doctor sat at his desk, reading a scientific journal, written in an alien language.
Normally, the two of them would have been sipping hot tea, sharing anecdotes and laughing at their latest close-call encounter with danger, and the subsequent harrowing escape that generally included running for ones life.
Normally, the lapses in conversation would be filled with comfortable silence; each lost in their own thoughts and sneaking the occasional glance at the other, catching a shy smile before quickly averting eyes.
Rose sighed inwardly and winced as every small movement brought a sharp reminder of that afternoon's adventure. A furtive glance towards the Doctor confirmed her own suspicions; his brooding countenance mirroring his thoughts. He was in as much pain as she was, and still they both sat across from each other pretending everything was normal.
Normal had changed suddenly when Jack had joined them aboard the TARDIS. The Doctor was still the Doctor, and they still found themselves in unlikely situations while under the pretense of exploring new worlds, but there was a new tension in the air, and it seemed no one wanted to discuss it, or admit it existed. This wasn't normal.
Rose flipped another glossy page, looking at faces that seemed to mock her, daring her to break the silence. She closed the magazine and tossed it to the other end of the sofa, blinking back tears from the effort and rubbed her shoulder gently. She was tired of this pretending everything was normal, and if the Doctor was content with ignoring there was a problem, she'd bring it to light.
"It's not his fault."
The Doctor glanced up from his magazine, scanned the room quickly as if looking for a disembodied voice, and then continued with his reading. Not quite the response Rose had hoped for.
Ever so gingerly and with great effort she moved one leg off the sofa, then planted both hands firmly on the cushion and swung the rest of her body around, inhaling sharply as her body protested the movement, at least now she was facing the Doctor.
She'd never heard him speak that softly before and raised her eyes, wondering when he had moved from his desk. He was now standing or rather squatting in front of her, his eyes, steel in color were searching hers and his clenched jaw was a sharp contrast to the tender touch of his hands on her arms, pulling her upwards to stand. Rose groaned as stiff muscles protested the sudden command to move and she found herself leaning hard into the Doctor.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked sympathetically, one arm encircling her waist and allowing her to lean against him for support. Rose chuckled at the irony.
"It didn't hurt this much earlier," she stifled another groan. "Must have been all that sitting around, everything is stiff now and I feel like I'm a hundred years old." Rose stopped suddenly and the Doctor let out a short laugh.
"I won't take it personally. But you should have let me know you were feeling this sore," he chastised her lightly, bending over and scooping her into his arms.
Rose sank gratefully into his embrace as he strode along the corridor.
"Figured you were feeling the same," she mumbled into his jumper, not caring that it was a bit scratchy against her skin.
He hmphed, turned down another hallway, and continued walking right past her door. "Time Lord, me. Faster recovery than you humans, takes a lot more than a tumble down a dry, mud-packed hill to slow me down, even if I am older than a hundred."
"You missed my room," she reminded him.
"Yep. Wasn't going there," he stated, refusing to say another word about their destination.
"And when I get my hands on that Captain—"
"I told you, don't blame him. Wasn't his fault, I should have listened to you and not gone off to follow him. 'M sorry."
"Stop it. You have no need to apologize," his voice was final.
They stopped outside a room unfamiliar to Rose, and the Doctor turned sideways as he passed through the door, keeping her back to the room. Rose could see thick, dark green foliage at the edge of the doorway and she was suddenly reminded of stepping into a greenhouse. The air was denser and a hush had settled around them. It was the type of spot one found, in the midst of a large park during the summer, when seeking to escape the heat and enjoy the cool shade and quiet solitude offered.
The sound of trickling water could be heard getting closer, and Rose found it hard to pull her head away from the Doctor's chest, the steady rhythm of his hearts a calming lullaby. They were now below a canopy of leaves, most of them larger than anything Rose was familiar with, and the crisp scent of the remains of a rainstorm having passed through added to the surreal environment.
"This a secret?" Rose asked, now standing beside the Doctor at the edge of a small pool.
"Not anymore," he said removing his leather jacket and laying it on a stone bench that seemed made just for that purpose.
Rose had suddenly become preoccupied with trying not to watch the Doctor as he squatted down to untie his boots, her mind racing with possibilities. Still, her eyes were drawn to the musculature outline beneath the clothing, that deceptively hid the strength his body possessed.
Rose had quite forgotten about her own stiff and sore body while watching the Doctor casually undress in front of her, and her mind was now a jumble of short-circuited thoughts. He looked up questioningly, fingers still working on the laces.
Rose swallowed hard, averting her gaze towards the water unable to make a coherent thought at the moment, let alone be able to force any words out of her mouth.
"There's a dressing room just past the bench," he offered, seemingly unaware that undressing in front of Rose wasn't anything other than normal. Rose simply nodded and turned towards the bench. How she had missed the curtained divider, hanging behind it in her earlier look over, well, it had been a long day.
She disappeared inside the cubicle; quickly pulling the curtain closed and leaned back heavily against the wall, finding the room stifling as she struggled to catch her breath. She bit her lip and pinched herself, just to be sure she wasn't dreaming, and sank down onto the low shelf with a heavy sigh.
The curtain fluttered, revealing the Doctor now pulling the black jumper over his head and easily tossing it towards the bench. Rose suddenly discovered her mouth had gone dry when he turned his back to her and both hands began working on his trousers.
She hurriedly adjusted the curtain, allowing him some privacy as her eyes scanned the tiny enclosure, noting the towel hanging by the entrance. She reached over to pull it off the hook, watching in amazement as a swimming suit dropped to the ground. She laid her hand on the wall next to her, closing her eyes and silently thanked the TARDIS, the gentle reverberation under her palm a reassuring comfort.
The Doctor appeared the picture of calm, floating on his back in the middle of the pool, his face relaxed and for once the lines that usually furrowed his brow were smooth. He could have been sleeping except for the fact his hands and feet were in motion, keeping him from sinking. Rose was keenly aware of the white swimming trunks he wore, and the way they clung suggestively to him.
She laid out the towel, spreading it wide next to the edge of the pool before lowering herself to the rock ledge, tentatively stretching a toe towards the rippling surface. The water was much warmer than she had expected and she let her foot slide just below the surface, leisurely circling her leg, watching the patterns of ripples spread outward. As she allowed her body to sink into the welcoming warmth, she was overwhelmed with relief and wished she had discovered this piece of paradise earlier. The sense of weightlessness coupled with the relaxing atmosphere immediately put her mind at ease and erased the day's troubles.
"Comfortable?" The voice sounded close, but she couldn't be bothered to open her eyes. Just a few more minutes, she promised herself.
"Rose?" She heard herself groan in disappointment at the insistent voice. Why wouldn't it let her be? Opening her eyes, she blinked, then blinked again and accepted the glass that was being offered her. A rose red liquid that smelled faintly of fruit tempter her, and she pulled herself up into a sitting position, very aware as she studiously watched the contents of the glass that the Doctor's eyes had wandered elsewhere, and she tried to control her voice.
"What's this?" She inhaled the sweet smell, tipping the glass just enough to catch a bit against her lip and then let her tongue wipe it off in a slow sweep, plenty aware that it was the Doctor who was now unable to turn away. "'S good." She took a proper drink, letting the cool liquid play over her tongue as she tried to determine the flavors she tasted.
"It's from my home." Rose had given him her full attention as he went on. The Doctor was turning the bottle over in his hands, a faraway look in his eyes as a myriad of colors played along its surface, changing as the different degrees of light hit it. "Similar somewhat to what you folks call cider, although we grew a variety of fruits that were added to the mixture. Depending on the harvest, that would determine the quality and potency of the drink, and for which festival it would be used for."
"How was all that determined?" she asked, finishing her drink.
A mischievous grin crossed his face. "Taste testers," he quipped. Rose slapped his shoulder playfully.
The Doctor nodded. "I tried it one summer, taste testing. Terrible job, that." He quickly refilled her glass, setting the bottle back on the ledge and pushed himself away from the edge, while Rose tried to imagine the Doctor as a teenager with a summer job. "So many different flavors, some of them good, some of them not so good and then there were always the ones that weren't even fit to be consumed, turned out it was all a matter of politics more or less." Rose attempted to hide her giggling. "What?" he huffed.
Rose pointed at him, the glass shaking in her other hand from laughter. "Trying to imagine you, working."
"Oi. Nine hundred years old me, you don't think I've held a job or two?" he sounded a bit hurt as Rose wiped a tear from her eye, shaking her head.
"I just can't picture you as a shop girl, yeah?" she asked teasingly. The Doctor burst out laughing with her and they enjoyed the sound of their merriment in the quiet hideaway. Rose continued querying the Doctor on various jobs he'd held and for once he didn't seem reluctant to give her a glimpse into his past.
It wasn't until later and three more glasses of the homemade concoction that Rose became aware of no longer listening to what the Doctor said, his words no longer made any sense, but she didn't want him to stop. Oh no, because then those lips would stop moving, and she was imagining all the things those lips could be doing, not just content any longer to have them spilling out useless words.
The Doctor had paused in his oration sensing a change, but unable to put his finger on it, and began to watch Rose carefully, repeating his question. "You okay, Rose?"
Rose wasn't at all happy that the Doctor was no longer speaking and let the empty glass fall harmlessly into the water as she stood and started towards him. She could make out his outline, wavering above a kaleidoscope of colors dancing around him, shapes stretching and shifting with every movement. He wasn't going to get away.
The Doctor was backed against the far side of the pool, his brow creased in deep furrows as Rose continued her predatory advance, and he silently cursed himself for forgetting the possible effects the beverage would have on his companion.
"Rose? How many glasses did you drink? I'm thinking you may need a lie down?" the Doctor's voice cracked, raising a half octave as she pressed close to him, the heat of her body a few degrees warmer than the pool. He tried to push himself further into the rock barrier behind himself, arms stretched out to the sides, panic starting to set in. Rose leaned forward, their bodies pressing even closer together, three heartbeats out of sync, the Doctor closed his eyes. "Rose—" he pleaded.
"Sweetheart!" Jack's voice broke through the delirium, halting Rose as she turned to face the Captain. Jack was squatting next to the Doctor, leaning forward on the edge above with the towel she had laid out earlier now open wide in his arms.
"Time to go, Rose," Jack encouraged her quietly, offering his hand and lifting her out of the pool, quickly wrapping her in the towel then sliding an arm around her waist as he steered her towards the doorway. "You will definitely be thanking me in the morning," he spoke softly to Rose while directing a knowing look at the Doctor, who returned a slight nod.
The Doctor's knees gave way, relief flooding through him and he found himself fully submerged, letting the water wash over him wishing he could as easily remove events in his past. He was still reprimanding himself for his own stupidity as his two companions left.