He leaps around the console like a madman, pulling levers and hitting keys and pushing buttons and all sorts of things she still doesn't understand. It's such a familiar scene she feels like she's nineteen again, watching a fascinating stranger in a leather jacket do his damnedest to impress her, and at the memory she smiles. Whatever he'd told her all those years ago, there was no way she ever could have predicted she'd end up here, in a parallel world where her father's alive, with her own Doctor, about to take the maiden voyage in their very own TARDIS.

--

It's a whole year before he tells her about the bit of coral. He gives her all sorts of reasons – that he'd wanted to surprise her, that he'd wanted to make sure he could get it growing before he got her hopes up – but privately she wonders if he'd simply been waiting to gauge her interest. Perhaps he honestly thought she wanted the house and the fence and the two-point-four children, the very safe, very human life that simply didn't exist on the TARDIS. Perhaps he'd been testing out that life himself, seeing just how much Donna he'd inherited after all.

Or perhaps – and most likely -- he'd simply been worried she wouldn't want to travel with him, the man with a familiar face and a strange single heart.

The guilt hits her full-on like a punch to the stomach, and she sucks in a breath.

--

Now, though, he's beaming like a prisoner set free and it's with a bit of a jolt she recognizes that's what he is. They've had a good time these last few years, fought off alien invasions, seen the corners of this world and learned to live a with both feet on the ground, but all this time he's been waiting. She doesn't begrudge him for it – part-human or not, she knows he's got a restless Time Lord mind, and anyway she missed the traveling too, though she suspects not as fiercely. He was made for traveling, for floating through space like driftwood, absorbing everything around him and occasionally saving a civilization or two. She thinks – not without regret – that this must have been what kept him going, all those weeks she'd been unable to decide if she loved him just as much as she loved the man who'd left them stranded.

--

The first few weeks are confusing. They stay at the Tyler mansion rather than Rose's flat in order to have distraction, because Rose is sure they don't know how to be alone together yet. Some days she wakes up and wants to cling to him like a lifeline, as though he's a mirage, as though at any second he might slip through her fingers again; other days she spends lost in thought, her mind and her heart back at Darlig Ulv Stranden with a man wearing pinstripes.

He seems to sense her indecision, so he hovers around her like a satellite, careful not to get too close. Truthfully, she hardly notices how silent he becomes because she spends most of the time just as quiet herself and she doesn't notice his wistful stares because she spends so much time staring straight ahead.

It's Jackie who finally drags her to her senses. "You can't do this, sweetheart," she says. "I know you're upset but you can't go back and forth like this, it's not fair to him. You did enough of that to Mickey." She touches her daughter's arm and half-smiles. "He needs you, Rose. All those years flying around, then he's stuck here with us -- you're the only thing he's got in this whole bloody universe."

It's then that Rose decides she's a very selfish person, and it's ten minutes later that she finds the Doctor and flings her arms around him, murmuring into his chest that she's sorry, so sorry.

--

He grins at her across the console and she grins back, running her tongue over her teeth. Really, he looks uncannily like Tony on Christmas morning.

"We," the Doctor says, pausing for importance (because really, Rose thinks, having some Donna in him certainly does nothing to tone down the theatrics) "have a fully grown TARDIS."

She raises her eyebrows and leans across the console, mimicking him. "I can see that."

"The entirety of time and space, once again at our brilliant, excited, oh-so-human fingertips."

He raises one hand and wriggles his fingers as he says it; an thrill she hasn't felt in years slides up her spine like a snake. He leans forward as far as he can, inches away from her, and she can feel the excitement crackling off him like electricity.

"And d'you know what, Rose Tyler? I don't even know what's out there. Oh, I can guess, sure – I can hypothesize – but that's it. I don't know; I've never been." He arches both eyebrows and smiles like this is the best news in the world. "Imagine that. A great big brand new universe and I've only seen this planet."

It's a fact that had never occurred to her until that second, and though part of her is frightened, an even larger part is ecstatic. The Doctor and Rose – exploring a great big brand new universe, together.

"Well, what're we waiting for then?" she asks, unable to stop the smile from stretching across her face. "Allons-y!"