The zeppelin comes to a halt in its parking spot, and everyone climbs down a short set of stairs onto a landing pad. Pete stays behind to lock up. Jackie heads for the lift, taking Rose's arm in hers.
"It's a good thing Pete wanted to talk to you two. Otherwise he would have been piloting, and I'm not sure we could afford another collision."
"Dad hit a tower last year, flying too low," Rose explains. "We're not allowed to mention it."
"Bloody fool," Jackie says with incredible affection in her voice. Rose reminds herself that Jackie got a second chance with Pete. That it wasn't her Pete, but they've made a good job of it. She has a chance to make a good job of it, too.
They climb into Pete's jeep, parked at the landing strip, and it's only a short ride back to the mansion from there.
Rose sits in the back with him - what does she call him? - and rests her head on his shoulder. Their hands are still linked. They haven't let go since they were on the zeppelin.
He has to gently shake her awake when they arrive. She blinks and yawns. That makes him yawn, and the look of surprise on his face makes her laugh.
"In you get," Jackie says, ushering them in the front door. "Pete will get you some clothes to sleep in."
"Thanks, " he says. "Never though I'd be back here. You've done some redecorating, Jackie."
"A bit," she says cheerfully. "More homey now that we have a little one."
"Remember this window, Rose?" he asks, peering through it. "We saw the Cybermen march up, here in this spot. Oh - and those trays we had to carry around - remember? Good canapes. Do you still have that little dog called - " He's heading towards the kitchen as he's talking, and Rose catches his arm.
"We can tour this place in the morning if you want," she says, choosing to ignore his question about the dog. "Come and go to bed."
"I don't sleep," he reminds her, and then stops. "But Donna sleeps. I'm half human." He looks at her in some alarm. "I'm half Donna."
"Donna is brilliant," Rose says firmly. "You're lucky she was there."
"She sleeps in," he murmurs to himself. "I'll sleep half my life away."
"You'll cope." Rose leads him up the stairs. He pauses on the landing to look at some photographs. Pete and Jackie, a small boy with light brown hair. Rose. She is smiling, but it's not the smile he remembers.
He follows her up the rest of the stairs and into the hallway above. "Were you happy here?" he asks, standing at the top of the stairs.
Rose turns. He is lit from behind by the lights downstairs. The edges of his hair are golden. She doesn't answer for a long time.
"Were you?" he asks again.
She closes her eyes. "I tried to be."
He steps over to her, cups her cheek in his palm. "I wasn't happy, either."
"I know," she whispers. "I know how sad you were. I saw, in that parallel world with Donna, what would have happened."
It's dimmer in the hallway, dark and quiet. She can't make out his features clearly, but right now she would swear she can see every freckle on his face.
"I couldn't stop thinking about you," Rose confesses. "I knew you would hate it if I wasn't happy and moving on, but I couldn't stop."
"I never forgot you," he says in a hushed voice. "I could never forget you."
"I don't know what to do," she says. "What to do now. What happens next?"
"No clue, myself. Is it so bad?"
They are whispering, standing close together and not looking away from one another.
"No," Rose says. "No. It's not so bad -"
"Stuck with you," he finishes. His hand moves to the back of her neck and draws her closer. His head dips down to hers.
Rose has no idea what to do, what will happen. She's still not sure of this man, suspects she'll be feeling that way for a while.
She decides she doesn't care. Her arms reach around his neck to pull him closer. His lips find hers, and the kiss takes them by surprise. She strains against him, hands in his hair. He keeps her trapped with his hand at her neck. His other hand slides down her back, to her waist, her hip.
"Oi!" Jackie is more surprised than upset, but they jump apart. Both look, to her eyes, dazed and delighted.
"Here," she says, shoving some clothes into his arms. "You can sleep in here." She opens a door and turns on a light. "We're on the other side of the house with Tony. There's everything you need in the bathroom."
He clears his throat, as uncomfortable around Jackie as he can ever recall being. He dumps the clothing on the bed. "And Rose?" He is relieved that his voice doesn't crack.
Jackie shoots him a look he can't quite make out.
"I have a flat near work," Rose herself says from the doorway, "but Mum keeps a room here for me."
He's smiling at her for no reason she can see, and despite all that's happened, despite the pain she is still carrying, she smiles back at his silly grin. "G'night."
She gives him a final smile before closing the door behind her.
He changes from the blue suit - is it really as bad as Rose and Jackie say it is? What's wrong with blue, anyway? - and pulls on Pete's t-shirt and grey sweatpants. Both are a bit baggy, but he hardly notices.
Alone, he walks to the bathroom mirror and releases his breath in a shuddering sigh. He rinses his face with some water and stares gravely at the reflection in the mirror.
He shuts off the light and walks to the window, stares up at the stars. They're not the stars he's flown among for so many centuries, but they're as impossible to him as those in his own universe.
He doesn't sleep that night.
Rose curses the light that wakes her. She can't figure out why she feels... how does she feel? Happy and miserable, and the ball of grief in her stomach feels light.
Remembering comes like a tidal wave, hitting her with memories and images. Daleks. Jack. Mickey. Sarah Jane, the TARDIS, Donna, oh God. The Doctor.
She sits upright. The Doctor. She found the Doctor. They saved the universe. He brought her home and the Doctor left her behind, like he told her once he would not do.
The Doctor left her behind with the Doctor.
Shaken, Rose lies back on the pillows. Sounds filter in through her closed door. Cars on the road outside, her mother's voice, her small brother's voice. The smell of coffee drifts in.
Rose Tyler has never hidden from the world. She gets up and takes a shower, dresses in jeans and a white t-shirt and dries her hair.
She goes downstairs because she's saved the world and it is waiting for her.
They are at the kitchen table. Her parents and... she still shies from calling him the Doctor. She wonders whether her confusion and anger will ever fade. He left her behind, but he's right here beside her.
"Rose!" Tony sees her and runs over. "You're home."
"Good morning!" She kneels on the floor and hugs him. "Told you I'd come back." He is nearly three years old and she adores him. She gives him a kiss and he heads back to his chair to finish his breakfast.
"Good morning," she says to the room at large.
"Mornin', sweetheart." Jackie kisses her cheek, happy to have her home. "I gave Mrs. Colton the morning off, since she stayed here with Tony last night. You hungry?"
"No, thanks, Mum."
"I'm going in today," Pete says. "You stay home, Rose. Plenty of time to go back."
She nods and sits down next to Tony, sparing no thought at all for work and Torchwood. On Tony's other side sits... him. He's been eating bacon and eggs, but he looks up and meets her eyes. The look in them - sheer delighted to see her - is one she has seen a thousand times before, and never thought she'd be allowed to see again. She smiles at him, and the grief and rage within her start to thaw a bit.
"So you're stuck here now," Pete says without warning. "No spaceship to take you away this time."
"Pete Tyler!" Jackie has cooked breakfast herself this morning with the housekeeper gone. She sets a plate of eggs in front of Rose and smacks the back of his head.
"No, he's right, Jackie. I'm here for good, just like you."
"I'm sorry." Pete has the grace to look uncomfortable. Whether it's because he feels bad for bringing up a painful subject, or whether it's because he's sorry he's stuck with the Doctor, a man who Pete knows brings trouble and chaos in his wake, is left to listeners to decide.
"It...had to be done this way. Don't be sorry for me."
Rose can hear what he isn't saying, and she wonders how many more times her heart can break and reform and break again. She glances around the table and remembers that Mickey is no longer there. Her heart cracks again.
"I'm done, Mummy," Tony says, pushing his cereal bowl away.
"All right, love. Go get some clothes on and Lucy will walk you to school."
"Oh, is Lucy still with you?"
Rose shoots him a glare without thinking. He grins at her - he asked only to see her reaction. She glares harder. He smiles, so happily that she sighs and forgets all about poor Lucy.
"What are we going to do with you?" Jackie wants to know. "You've no identification, no belongings, nothing."
"Won't be the first time the Tyler family has dealt with that," Pete says. "In one day my wife came back from the dead and our adult daughter appeared out of nowhere."
Rose frowns as she recalls that time. She'd had nothing to smile about, then, but watching Torchwood run circles around other government departments to get official documents for Jackie and herself had been...well, educational. And possibly illegal.
"What'll we call you?" Jackie continues. "I refuse to go around saying "Doctor" all the time. Won't work now, will it? No one's heard of you here."
Pete has stood up and gotten his briefcase. Now he sits back at the table and pulls out a sheaf of papers. "Right then," he says. "Just give me a few details and I can get started on this at the office."
"Have you even got a proper first name?" Jackie is asking. "Or last name?"
"What's your date of birth?" Pete asks. "That's an easy one."
Rose watches him curiously. He'd never mentioned such an occasion before.
"Er - dunno. Sorry. Don't have one. I'm over 900 years old, it was a while ago." He pauses. "But I was also born yesterday."
"Yesterday," Pete echoes.
"July 5, Pete," Jackie says with a sigh. With everything she's seen since her daughter brought this alien home, being born yesterday is not that much cause for excitement. To get her even slightly worked up over something you'd have to show her a fat man with a zip round his forehead.
"What year? And don't tell me this one."
"How old do you want to be?" Rose asks, getting into the spirit of things.
"I don't know! How old am I supposed to be?"
All three Tylers stare at him, eyes narrowed slightly. He can suddenly see the family resemblance.
"What do you think, Rose? Thirty?"
"Bit older, maybe, Mum."
They debate each year until Pete picks up his pen again. "You can be 34. Good age."
"Not one hell of an age gap," Rose says cheerfully.
He takes a sip of coffee and shudders, remembering Jackie hitting him in the jaw for bringing her daughter home 12 months late. She'd pegged him as 40 or 45 back then. From the way Jackie's staring back at him, she's recalling the same incident. He rubs his jaw.
"Name?" Pete continues.
"You've got to be called something," Rose murmurs.
"Humans have proper names," Jackie says, determined to name him, "and you're human now."
"Half," he corrects her, but it's without heat.
"Do you still use John Smith?" Rose asks. "That was always a favorite."
"Yeah, it came in pretty handy for a long time. I don't know. A name's a pretty important thing."
"That's why you're usually given when as a baby," Jackie says in annoyance. "Not as a full-grown human."
"I've only been full-grown for a few hours," he says stubbornly.
Pete shakes his head. "Think it over today, eh?" He gives Jackie a kiss. "I'll leave now. I'll drop Tony off at school, let Lucy get to work."
"All right. I'll go get his things."
"You'll be picking him up at noon?" Pete asks.
"Just like every other day." Jackie skates over the fact that the last time she should have picked up their son, she left him to the maid so she could jaunt over to a parallel universe and find her daughter.
"Bye, sweetheart. Goodbye, Doctor."
Alone in the kitchen, Rose finishes a breakfast she didn't want. He eats his eggs, finishes Tony's plate of toast and eyes her bacon. She pushes it over to him, something she's done many times in many places.
"Welcome." She takes a sip of coffee. "So what do you plan on calling yourself?"
He gazes thoughtfully at the wall, seeing things that are lost to him forever. Rose used to wish she could see what he did when he remembered the past. Now she thinks she is glad she can't.
"Foreman," he says experimentally, and pauses. "No. Chesterton. Hmm. Campbell." He smiles sadly. "Couldn't bear that one. McCrimmon. Grant?" He looks at her and smiles slyly. "Maybe I'll call myself Lethbridge-Stewart."
She raises her eyebrows. "You'll be the only one who does," she assures him. "What about Noble?"
"Right! Problem for another day."
Rose doesn't want to remind him of what he's lost, so she lets the subject drop. "I don't think I've ever seen you so casual," she says, taking in the sweats and t-shirt. "Unless you count that time in a toga."
"Oooh, I'd rather not."
"The sandals were sweet, remember?"
"You'll have to name yourself. You need a job, and to get a job you need a name." Rose rests her chin on her hand. "You could teach physics," she says innocently.
He snorts. "Not bloody likely."
The phrasing startles her. That is not his typical turn of a phrase.
He's frowning. "Huh. That must be the human coming out in me."
"How's it feel, then, bein' part ape?"
"The last me called you lot that. Never this me."
"You were hiding your great and abiding affection for us."
He snorts again.
"Does it feel odd? Bein' half Time Lord, half human?"
"D'you know," he says, "I made myself human once, in England in 1913. Had to - long story. Now that I've got you back I'll tell you one day. I made myself human, and I had dreams of things that were not human. I kept a journal of everything I dreamed. Drawings, descriptions. That human me dreamed of Daleks and Clockwork robots. My sonic screwdriver and the TARDIS. The Moxx of Balhoon -"
"Oooh, I remember him. Blue, wasn't he? Slid around on a box."
"Cybermen and aliens and danger," he continues. His eyes cut to hers. "And you. I dreamed of you, over and over. I drew your picture in that journal. And out of everything in that book, 900 years of people and places and events, you were the only thing I could name. The only thing in 900 years of my life."
Rose swallows hard and reaches across the breakfast plates.
"All you really need," he says softly, "is a hand to hold."
These are the things Rose is sure of:
She loves the Doctor.
This man is the Doctor.
This man is not the Doctor.
She can accept that. Staring at him in the morning light, she lets herself believe, for the moment, that he is hers.