The Doctor watched in horrified fascination as Donna manhandled the systematic destabiliser into position. He winced as he heard the minute clunk as the cogs fell into place within the harmonics of the TARDIS; Donna definitely wasn't the frail female type.
He absently patted the TARDIS as if soothing it from her rough ministrations.
"This is brilliant!!" Donna cried enthusiastically. "I'm flying the TARDIS."
"Yeah," he said weakly, watching her with eagle-eyed awareness. He couldn't believe he'd let her talk him into this. This went beyond 'bad idea' and more into "Oh, God, oh, God we're going to die" territory.
Her hand moved to brush her hair out of her face—her ginger hair, thought the Doctor enviously—before heading back to a lever that definitely wasn't the systematic destabiliser.
"Gah!" he cried as he hurtled around the other side of the console to grab her wrist. "Not that one!"
Donna froze and looked down at the little pump that was almost identical to twenty other levers on that patch of console.
The Doctor was starting to realise exactly how insidious these ghosts were. They had people thinking that they were actual people and not just invaders. It was dangerous and the more Jackie was for them—Jackie Tyler for alien invaders!—the more he wanted to know exactly what they were and what they were doing here.
He unwound the cable and started to lead it though into the TARDIS.
Rose was following closely and he felt better just knowing that she was on his side in this, even if it meant making her mother unhappy. He shot her a smile over his shoulder as he plugged the cable into the console.
"Right," he said quickly to an eager Rose, "as soon as it becomes activated, if that line goes into the red, press that button there." He pointed and Rose nodded. "If it doesn't stop…"
He brandished the sonic screwdriver under Rose's nose with dramatic flair and grinned as she went cross-eyed trying to focus on it. She could be so very cute sometimes.
"Setting 15B, hold it against the port, eight seconds and stop."
Rose bit her lip as she took the screwdriver. "15B, eight seconds."
"If it goes into the blue, activate the deep scan on the left."
Rose interrupted. "Hang on a minute, I know..."
She leaned over the console, and pointed to a button. "It's that one." She said confidently.
He almost hadn't got the heart to say it. "Mm, close."
With a grin Rose tried again. "That one?"
She looked so endearingly eager that he felt a little mean as he shook his head, a smile still on his lips. "Nnnnow you've just killed us.
The embarrassed giggle was worth it and he fell for her just a little bit more as she finally got it right. They really were the perfect team and as soon as this ghost business was over he'd take her somewhere special and show her how much.
Just as soon as it was all over.
The Doctor blinked at Donna before pointing out the correct lever.
"It's just not a good idea."
Martha's voice sounded oddly muffled as she spoke to him with her head inside the cupboard.
"I think it's a great idea. The trouble with you, mister, is that you can't stand to be still. I reckon you've got ADHD or something."
"It's not that," he denied as he reached into the fridge and pulled out a jar of marmalade. "There are just so many spectacular sights to see that standing still seems so silly," he paused with his fingers in the jam, "and alliterate."
"I'm just saying," Martha continued as if he hadn't spoken, "with us stuck here until Sally Wotsaname sends the TARDIS back, you could find something constructive to do while I'm working."
"Mwike hwaht?" he said around a mouthful of sticky goodness.
"I don't know," Martha shrugged. "Cleaning, tinkering, cooking—when's the last time you made a cake?"
After the fiasco of their visit to the Rhodian Islands, the Doctor was taking time to fix the shelves in his room. He'd noticed them coming loose with the abundance of books that filled them but he'd put it off until such a time when it was a danger to sit underneath them.
Of course he probably would have left them for even longer if Rose wasn't holed up in her own room, probably unnecessarily beating herself up over her little royal faux pas.
It wasn't her fault and he had told her, as far as dungeons went, it was quite a nice one, but it hadn't stopped her feeling guilty.
As soon as he was done here he'd go and—
Before he could finish the thought, a shrill alarm blared throughout the room, a klaxon which made him drop the screwdriver and clap his hands over his sensitive ears.
He raced out of the room to be greeted with a medley of shrill tones that set his teeth on edge. He called out for Rose as he made his way down the corridor, even though he knew that she probably couldn't hear him over the noise.
As he turned a corner he saw wisps of smoke edging over the top of a door and he hurtled towards it, kicking the door open and ducking just in case the inferno was larger than he thought.
He took in the scene and stopped dead just inside the threshold as he saw Rose frantically batting at a huge plume of black smoke coming from...wait, was that the oven?
For the first time he realised that his mad dash had led him to the kitchen.
"Uh, Rose?" he called only to stop when he realised that there was no way she could hear him over the din of alarms.
He reached over and flicked the switch the turn on the ventilation extractor. With a whir the smoke began to clear and he could see his way over to the oven to switch off the plug.
Rose backed away as he turned off the contraption and twenty seconds later there was no sign of any smoke. The alarms shut off with such suddenness that that the silence was almost deafening.
The Doctor looked around at the mess, counters littered with white powder and smears of yellow with scorched pans everywhere. He faced Rose.
"Wha—" he halted mid-word as tears welled up in Rose's eyes.
"Doctor," her lip trembled, "I wanted to say I was sorry, you know, for messing with the Prince and all. I really didn't know about the death sentence."
"I know," the Doctor said simply, trying to ward off tears that made him feel impotent, but Rose merely shook her head.
"I'm always messing things up; I thought I'd try to do something nice. You know, to say sorry."
"So…you decided to burn down the kitchen," the Doctor sniffed. "Fair enough, didn't really like it—odd choice of apology, but on Megra Royestic in mating season, the Jaka bird…oh no. no, no, no, no, no!"
Tears slashed onto the kitchen counter.
The Doctor, helpless, opened his arms and enfolded Rose against his chest. "Hush, what is it?"
"I…I was trying to ma…make you a cake," Rose said damply, sobs giving her hiccups.
"Me? A cake?" the Doctor felt absurdly pleased. "Really?"
Rose nodded against his chest. "But I couldn't even do that right. I didn't understand the oven times and so I went with what I remembered from mum's old cooker and…and…" she sniffed "I'm sorry."
The Doctor looked at the mess covering every surface and then at the offending oven. Well, no wonder it was burnt; those symbols were in Ferneceltic—three times higher than the centigrade system she was used to. He only really used the oven for melding TARDIS parts together.
But Rose had tried, even though she didn't understand. She still tried to do something nice for him. It was kind, gentle, genuine and perfectly Rose.
He looked down at the tearful girl in his arms and over to the pan with the charred rock of cake.
He held her close and tried not to let her see him laugh.
"That's one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me, Rose Tyler."
Martha waved a hand in front of his face. "Earth calling the Doctor, come in Doctor?"
He put down his marmalade, appetite gone.
"I don't cook," he said and walked away.
The sun was high, the bugs were biting and Donna was fast losing patience. She planted her hands on her hips and stopped in the middle of the rather large field.
Slapping her flyaway hair out of her eyes she glared at the Doctor. "We've been traipsing around these fields for hours. Do you have any idea where we are?"
"Yes," the Doctor lied, "we're right about three miles from the… if you went the way of…about…yes, yes, Donna I know exactly where we are."
"Me too, Mate," Donna said putting her hands on her hips.
"Really?" He felt a glimmer of hope.
"Lost!" she stated with disgust. "Hopelessly lost, wandering around alien fields like alien cows. Three suns, loadsa bugs and lost. No TARDIS, fancy boots, empty fields lost."
"We're not lost," he denied. "Just more, uh, temporally displaced."
Donna stared at him unimpressed. "That's just alien for 'lost'."
"Ye-ah," he relented. "I mean not spectacularly lost, I mean, I've been spectacularly lost and this isn't it. What this is is slightly misplaced. Misplaced as in not entirely sure where we are but…but! I know which planet we're on and the possibility of the direction being this way…possibly." He trailed off.
Donna took a deep breath and he braced himself for the yelling and recriminations.
"Sometimes," she said softly, "just sometimes, I really bloody hate you!"
Her last word was yelled. "Why do you have to be a bloke, hey? There was a farm about two miles back we could have asked for directions, but no. You big Time Lordy, stupid, stubborn, arrogant, scruffy, irritating," she started to search for words, her hands gesturing with frustration, "nonsense chattering, no sense of direction-y alien! You had to just carry on. Why not just ask for directions? Or, better yet, stick a sat-nav in your pocket. They're bloody big enough. Got a map, hmm?"
Rose held the map in her hands and frowned. It was starting to get far too dark for her to see the tiny little marks and details that the picture held. She squinted and tilted the parchment more towards the setting sun.
"Well?" the Doctor said his eyes fixed on the compass that whirled maniacally in his hands. "This is no good; according to this north is that way."
Rose glanced up, "Well, in that case—"
"And that way," he pointed, "and that way, and that way." He grinned as he tossed the compass back into his pocket. "Useless. Sorry. So, what about the map? Does it say 'Here be monsters' anywhere?"
Rose bit her lip, eyes returning to the yellowing paper. "It says that right now we should be in the middle of a market town with two palm trees to the left of us and six round boulders to the right."
They both glanced round at the deserted hillside with the forest looming up on the left. The dark gates to the east of them were foreboding enough to suggest staying away from that way and the mountains to the south were just as unappealing.
"You know," the Doctor said conversationally, "I'm thinking that maybe we should have gone right back there at the sign that said 'go right here'."
Rose shrugged. "I thought that was a toilet instructions. Sort of like 'no services for ten miles'."
He allowed himself to grin as he surveyed their surroundings. "You know this really is a beautiful planet. L'yrica Omega. Literally, last lyrics."
Rose sniffed, still trying to make head or tails out of the map. "Sounds kinda final."
"Yes well. Interesting thing about L'yrica Omega is the absence of a third moon. Unlike most planets in this solar system the rings from this one block out the third moon, so if you look over there you'll see…ah."
"Ah?" Rose queried and then stilled. "Doctor?"
She looked up to see him sheepishly scratching the back of his head.
"Rose," he started and then smiled, "Uh, how many moons do you see?"
Rose looked up at the sky. "Three."
"There's not meant to be three?"
Rose thought about this. "Wrong planet?"
He nodded. "Either that or that's no moon."
"It's a space station!" Rose laughed and stepped over to him. "So this isn't L'yrica Omega."
"And we've been wandering for six hours on a planet that isn't the one we came to see."
"Ye—good?" His head snapped back to look at her. "Why good?"
With a sheepish grin Rose held up the map and slowly, very slowly, turned it upside down. She shrugged. "Oops?"
He stared at her for one long moment. They'd been walking all day, they were lost and cold and tired and all she could say was 'oops'.
Rose Tyler was a marvel.
His lips quirked and he took the map off her and thrust it into his pocket. "Oops, indeed. Rose, did I ever tell you about the time I—"
Rose reached over and slipped her hand in his as they started across the hill, lost but holding hands.
"Maps are no good," the Doctor said interrupting Donna's rant mid-flow. "I have a Time Lord's sense of direction. You just need to relax, Donna."
He closed his eyes and sensed the TARDIS not too far away. With a nod in Donna's direction he turned and walked the right way.
"Barmy!" Donna said as she shook the mud off her boots and followed him.
The movie wasn't a bad one, but he could think of a million things he'd rather be doing. In fact he had been thinking of them and listing them. First in order of importance and then in alphabetical order, and then in the order that they would actually get done—odd that that list was remarkably shorter. Still it wasn't like he didn't have enough time to do them all in.
He glanced across to the other side of the room and was not at all surprised to see Martha fast asleep.
He owed her some down time after the events on the space ship SS Pentallian, and all Martha wanted to do was to sit back and watch the last Harry Potter film. He'd had to sneak forwards a few years so that she could watch the final part of the series but it was worth it when the tension left Martha's shoulders and she finally relaxed enough to sleep. He just hoped that she wasn't dreaming about suns.
It was something would definitely haunt his nights for a while to come at any rate.
He watched as Martha shifted uneasily in her dreams and then settled back down.
Maybe he could take her somewhere nice to take her mind off the events in space, maybe a concert or even the moon landing. That would be nice…as long as it didn't remind her of her own time on the moon.
He frowned as he wondered if all he would ever show Martha Jones would be pain and death. Maybe it would be a good idea to drip her back off home after all.
She probably wouldn't mind so much, it wasn't like she was tied to him, not like…
Rose slid down onto the sofa and stared blankly at the TV.
"So," the Doctor said jovially, "what do you want to watch? Movies, film…what's the difference between a film and a movie anyway? I've always wondered, and film is a bit of a weird word. How about a TV show? I can get Supernatural season 5? Jensen Ackles? Uh, how about Lost season 7? Totally confused about Hurley and the bear? No? Heroes? Primeval? Pirates of the Caribbean 6?" He stared to feel a little desperate. "Comedy? Romance? Pride and Prejudice? Dirty Dancing? Red Dwarf? Blackpool-- no, forget that one. Uh…come on, Rose. Anything you want. Anything at all."
Rose looked up at him and his hearts sank at the tears in her eyes.
He sank down next to her on the sofa. "Oh, Rose."
"He didn't want me," Rose said sadly. "I thought… I thought he'd know, you know, just look at me and know. But 'e didn't. When we was talking at the party he seemed like he knew who I was, but when we told 'im." She corrected herself. "When I told 'im who I was he just looked at me like I was dirt." Her voice trembled.
"It wasn't your fault," he said softly. "It must have been a bit of a shock for him, Rose. I mean one second he has a wife and a dog and a mansion and the next his wife's a robot, his home is smashed and a beautiful girl who he probably thought he had a chance with turns out to be a daughter from a parallel world. Culture shock."
Rose gave him a weak smile. "Yeah."
"Rose." He lifted her chin with his finger and looked straight at her, all traces of amusement gone from his voice. "It wasn't you. How could it be you? You were there for him all the time. You went into that factory without a single hesitation—which, by the way took centuries off my life and made me feel a bit of a second thought. In fact, forget Pete Tyler, how come you just went off with him? I'm just a space taxi aren't I? Dad turns up and its goodbye Doctor. Don't need me anymore, is that it? Not that I'm like your dad… or am I?" he grimaced as the thought occurred to him, "No, don't tell me, I don't want to know. Don't say I'm a father figure, or father surrogate. Or a father anything. In fact we'll stop talking about fathers all together, okay? Is that good for you because it's good for me. Can we talk about something else?"
Rose looked at him blankly for a moment and burst out laughing.
"Mental you are!" she exclaimed when she could get a breath out. "Absolutely flipping mental. Course I don't think of you like a dad. God, as if!"
"Good," he sniffed, slightly mollified. "Fancy a movie then, do you?"
Rose sighed, laughter still evident in her expression. "Go on then, something with Johnny Depp in, since you're being so nice and all."
"Pirates six it is." He leaped off the sofa to stick in the laser disc and settled back with Rose tucked against his side.
Two hours later the Doctor turned to the unusually quiet Rose to see her fast asleep. It put him in something of a quandary because his arm had just fallen asleep with her. Every nerve ending in his arm was tingling and his wrist, never the strongest of his joints, was starting to go numb.
But Rose, her blonde hair a halo around her face, her pouty lips open and breathing softly, her eyes closed and expression serene, looked so much like an angel that he didn't want to wake her up.
She was so very beautiful and soft and just…the best person that he knew. Every second that he spent with her he found more things to like; more things to fixate on and dream about and to look forwards to.
Every night when she went to sleep he found himself waiting anxiously for the morning light so that he could spend more time with her.
He was falling fast and falling hard.
And he didn't care
He reached up with a small finger and traced the satiny softness of her cheek. "Your father is an idiot," he said softly, "How could he not want something so perfect to belong to him? How could he not want you, Rose? Impossible."
The Doctor tugged Rose closer and wrapped himself around her a much as possible, trying not to wake her.
The movie went on, the night bled into day and still he watched the precious gift her father had denied.
Martha gave a heavy sigh as she turned over and the Doctor got to his feet and fetched the blue blanket that lay over the back of the sofa.
He placed the raggedy cover over her shoulders and walked out quietly, switching off the light as he left her to her dreams.
Donna was surprisingly subtle sometimes and she knew when two people had to talk to clear the air, no matter how little one of them wanted to do so.
She stayed over by the TARDIS and left Martha and the Doctor to their discussion.
"You can't keep doing this," Martha said in her usual blunt fashion. "Turning up and saving the day and then swanning off, asking me to come with you. It's not…it's not fair."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said sadly with a trace of unease—what had he been thinking?—, "I really did forget. I enjoyed having you travel with me."
"But that's all it was," she said bitterly, "all I was. Just someone to travel with."
The Doctor straightened. "I've already apologised for that, Martha. I won't do it again. I never did anything to make you fall for me."
"But that's just it though," Martha insisted, "you did. Every day. There were just little things. It was never the saving or the planets or anything like that. It was a thousand little moments. Like helping me on with my coat or acknowledging that I was a doctor in my own right. You never did anything big but it was there."
It was the little things.
It was the unconscious grace she used as she pushed her hair back behind her ear to concentrate on the books he recommended.
It was when she chewed her lips when she was thinking hard about how to stop the Sylzarian blood hound without killing it.
It was the little light that shone in her eyes when she saw the ice planet of Fitar.
It was the mischievous look on her face as she stopped Mr Connelly berating his wife.
It was the way she sang off key and danced when she thought he wasn't watching.
It was how she put her arm around the heartbroken Elton and silently asked the Doctor to do something despite wanting to smack Elton not ten minutes before.
It was the way she played along with his games and was whoever he wanted her to be, feral child or Lewis the detective.
It was the smiles she gave and the hugs she offered and the way she promised things she had no right to promise.
She tried to so hard to be perfect for him but he loved her even more when she failed.
But most of all, it was the way she always knew when to hold his hand.
His fists tightened as the empty feeling returned to his hands, as they so often did lately.
"Look, Martha. I never meant to do that, any of it."
"I know," Martha smiled sadly, "but sometimes I really did think…"
"Yeah," he said firmly but not unkindly. "Now I really do have to go—planets to save, people to annoy. Donna really wants us to find a planet of hats. I'm not so certain but I should probably accommodate her, she can actually be quite scary."
"Tell me about it!" Martha laughed.
"I'm glad we got this out in the open," he said suddenly, honestly, "I would have hated to have left without saying everything I needed to."
"Yeah," Martha laughed, "like you'd ever run out time to say things…Time Lord!"
And just when there was no chance to see her again, just when he knew he should stop looking for those little things, those little moments, she blows him away with her quiet acceptance of his inability to say the words.
He regrets his casual "Quite right too" and tries to make amends.
Tries to give her one last little moment to cling to.
One last little moment, just for Rose.
"I suppose, if it's my last chance to say it. Rose Tyler I…"
He swallowed hard. "Oh, you'd be surprised."