And now, the conclusion.
As yet un-beta'd.
Chapter 7 - And We're Off
Martha opened the door to her flat, never having been more relieved in her life to see the small apartment. The Doctor and Rose followed her inside.
"Make yourselves comfortable," Martha offered, "or are you headin' straight off?"
Rose tried to answer, but was cut off by an unexpected yawn.
"We'd better be going, I think," the Doctor answered for her.
When Rose could speak again, she said, "Sorry 'bout that. But weren't you gonna call your Mum?"
Martha shrugged. Her family had been nowhere in sight when they had walked back past Lazarus Laboratories. "It can wait 'til mornin'," she said. "'Sides, if my Mum's really worried, there's nothin' to stop her from callin' here."
"Sorry they had to get mixed up in that whole business," the Doctor offered.
"Like it's your fault or somethin'?" Martha asked. "I'm just glad you were there to sort it out, runnin' for my life aside."
"It's good fun, though, isn't it?" the Doctor asked.
Martha grinned at Rose, recalling their conversation in the bell tower. "Yeah," she agreed.
"So," the Doctor began, glancing at Rose as well, "what do you say, one more trip?"
The moment of truth, thought Martha. "No," she said, with barely any hesitation. "Sorry."
"What do you mean?" asked Rose. "I thought you liked it."
"I do, but, I can't go on like this," Martha explained. "Trip after trip, never knowin' where I'll end up or when I'll get back. That's your life. I've got my own to live here, and a family to take care of, as much as they might try to drive me crazy. You've gotta take care of each other. And the rest of us." She realized that all came out a little rushed, and hoped that her friends couldn't tell she'd rehearsed that speech too many times on the walk back to her flat.
Rose and the Doctor just stared for a moment, then Rose stepped forward to hug Martha. "Well, call us if there's any more trouble, or if you change your mind or get bored," she offered.
"I will," Martha promised, letting Rose go. Then, she hugged the Doctor, too. "You'd better call when you're in town!" Martha ordered.
"We will," the Doctor promised, then stepped back to take Rose's hand. "We're quite often in town, it seems," he said, smiling down at her.
Martha caught the glint of gold on Rose's hand as the Doctor swung it between them, and she knew she really had to ask. "Um, you're really not married, right?"
They both laughed. Rose insisted, "No, we're really not."
But the Doctor amended, "Well, we've accidentally gotten married a few times. Remember Stonehenge, summer solstice?" he asked Rose.
Martha thought Rose looked surprised that the Doctor hadn't denied it as readily as she had. "Yeah," Rose answered.
Really, they're just too cute, Martha thought. "If it was an accident, why're you still wearing the rings?" she asked.
She gave up trying not to smile as they both pretended to notice their left hands for the first time. The excuses started almost immediately, something about biodampers, and the hospital, and Martha knew the Doctor could babble, but Rose was giving him a run for his money. When the explanations finally ceased, they both slipped the rings off their fingers, then stood there, awkwardly.
Martha laughed out loud, but didn't bother explaining. Too cute. "Okay," she told them, holding up her cell phone. "I won't keep you much longer, but I'm gettin' a photo before you leave."
The two gladly complied, and the Doctor posed with his arm around Rose's shoulders in front of the TARDIS.
Martha couldn't help one last jab as she centered the picture. "I don't wanna know what you two get up to in the TARDIS un-chaperoned, but you'd better be sure and invite me to the real wedding."
She snapped a beautiful picture of their gob-smacked expressions. "Speechless," she observed. "I'm definitely saving this one." Then, waving them off, she said, "See ya!"
Rose stepped into the TARDIS with a quick "Bye," but the Doctor lingered long enough to give Martha a mock-serious warning look. Martha shrugged innocently as he followed Rose and closed the doors behind him.
In a matter of moments, the TARDIS' engines picked up, and Martha watched as the magnificent blue box disappeared. She looked around her much emptier flat, moving to pick up a few odds and ends that had been displaced. With another check of her cell phone to make sure she'd saved both the picture and Rose's number, Martha decided it was definitely time for bed. Taking a deep breath as she faced her return to reality, Martha made to leave the room.
She was stopped by her flat's phone ringing. She listened as her machine picked up, deciding she could at least reassure her Mum that she was alive.
Sure enough, Francine's voice came over the line. "Martha, it's your mother. Please, phone me back. I'm begging you." Martha felt her earlier guilt return in full force at the desperation in her Mum's voice, but before she could pick up, her Mum went on. "I know who this Doctor really is," she said. "I know he's dangerous. You're gonna get yourself killed. Please, trust me. This information comes from Harold Saxon himself. You're not safe!"
Frowning, Martha picked up the phone. "Mum?"
"I really thought she'd wanna come," Rose said, as the TARDIS returned to the Vortex.
"Well," the Doctor told her, checking the settings on the console, "we could have said it's not always this dangerous, but I think she's seen a little too much of our lives to believe that."
Rose nodded even though his back was turned. "'Sides, that really is what makes it so fun," she said with a smile.
"Still," the Doctor went on, "we'll see Martha again, I'm sure," he said as he flicked the last switch, then turned to lean on the console.
Why is this suddenly awkward she wondered, then she remembered the ring she still had concealed in her fist.
"I guess I'll turn in, then," Rose offered, gesturing towards the corridor.
"Right," said the Doctor, bouncing off of the console and taking her free hand. "Big day ahead of us, after all."
"Really? Where're we off to?" Rose asked as they headed towards her room.
"No idea," he told her, smiling.
"You're just that impressive," she said, grinning right back.
"I do try," he agreed. "Not that hard, mind, it comes rather easily."
Rose nudged him in the side, and just like that, they were at her door. The phrase "un-chaperoned" came to mind, as the Doctor stopped with her, still holding her hand and brushing his thumb over the back of it.
Awkward or not, they at least seemed to be on the same page. When Rose made to face him, the Doctor turned right into her, his free hand coming to her waist.
Rose toyed with his undone bowtie, tugging it with the pinky of her fisted hand. "I do like the tux," she told him, finally meeting his eyes.
She watched him swallow as she brushed the exposed skin at his neck. "Guess it's not so bad," he allowed. "Not as many pockets as I'd like."
"Look who's talkin'," Rose countered, glancing down at her evening gown.
Of course, that encouraged the Doctor to glance down, too. Rose could feel her face heat up, especially when he answered, "Seemed to me like that dress has got plenty of storage space."
"Shut up," she told him.
"Make me?" he asked, his eyes quite obviously focused on her lips.
His invitation alone stole her breath. Still, she complied readily enough, freeing her hand from his, snaking her arms around his neck, and pulling him down to her.
She only had one hand free to run through his hair, the other still clasped around the pretend wedding ring, but she took full advantage of the kiss to see just how a scrape of her nails here, or a tug of his hair there made him hum or even gasp. As her fingers brushed along his sideburns, and up into the longer hair on top of his head, she couldn't help but think of the last him and his short-cropped buzz cut.
Maybe pressed against her bedroom door wasn't the most appropriate place for it, but Rose giggled.
The Doctor pulled back, breaking the kiss but still keeping her firmly in his arms. With a wounded expression on his face, he asked, "Care to share the joke?"
Unfortunately, above his wounded expression was a thoroughly mussed head of hair, which only sent Rose further into hysterics.
She held his face as reassuringly as she could as her laughter at last came under control. "I just," she began, catching her breath, "I just was thinkin' of your last haircut," she admitted. His eyebrows rose. "An' I was wonderin' what this would've been like--but don't you dare think of cuttin' it!" she warned, before he completely misconstrued her confession.
For a moment, the Doctor just looked at her like she was crazy, and Rose was afraid she'd said exactly the wrong thing. But suddenly, he gave her a huge grin. "You wanna live dangerously?" he asked, hearkening back to their conversation in the console room. "Oh, have I got a surprise in store for you!"
The Doctor twisted her around, spinning her out from himself, then back into his arms like some kind of crazy dance move. In her surprise, Rose finally let her ring slip from her grip, and watched as it bounced through the floor grating, down into the lower decks of the TARDIS.
"Don't worry about it," he told her. "I'll get you a new one, if you like." Rose blinked. A new--was that--did he just... propose? Don't be ridiculous, she told herself. "But first, we've got to get you out of those clothes," he continued. Forget "proposed to", did she just get propositioned? "Something casual, whenever you think you're up to it," he told her with a note of finality, bending to kiss her quite thoroughly. In an instant, he let her go and headed off straight back to the console room.
Her head was spinning. Rose couldn't be certain of anything in the universe in that moment, except for that fact.
And that's it. Over a year in the making, but thanks to everyone who hung in there and poked and prodded me into writing more.
Of course, "42" is up next, followed closely by "Human Nature"....