Song Title/Artist: Believe by Josh Groban
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, or any of the characters. I just like to play with them.
Spoilers: This is a post JE story.
Author's Notes: I always say I work best with a deadline. This does not, aparently, apply during the Christms season. Un-beta'd, so any mistakes are all me. Written for the Carol-A-thon at songs_in_time over at LiveJournal. FF won't let me insert the little picture of the symbol on the front of the Doctor's 2nd gift. It's the infinity symbol with a dot in each loop.
The Doctor stood on the patio just off the living room, his long frame leaning against the low brick wall in a pose that was made to look casual and was anything but. His expression was dark, the same strange mix of angry disappointment, loneliness and longing that Jackie remembered so clearly from the first him she'd known. With this him, there was no question what that look was all about.
Rose, who was sitting inside with Tony, back to the wall, knees tucked under her chin and her arms hugging her ankles. Rose, who was making no pretense of normality while she watched Pete and Tony and Jackie decorate the Christmas tree. Rose, who had never said an unkind word to him, never argued, never shouted. Rose, who never asked questions, never told jokes, never rolled her eyes at his lame attempts. Rose, who never treated him like the man he knew he was. Rose, who didn't love him.
Jackie had never seen two people look so wrong. The Doctor and Rose, they belonged together. Oh, when Rose was younger and the Doctor had first taken her away, Jackie had hated him, been frightened of him and then been jealous that he could make her Rose come alive in ways Jackie never could. But over time, Jackie had seen her Rose blossom, if she could use such a trite term, into a woman who stood up for what she believed in and fought for what was right. The Doctor had said that Rose made him better, but the Doctor had done the same for her. Jackie had raised a girl, and the Doctor had helped her learn to be a woman.
Not that they'd ever had that sort of relationship. Jackie hadn't quite believed that when Rose had told her so, but now she did. It was so clear in the way this new Doctor looked at her. He saw that, a real relationship with Rose, as something he couldn't have. Probably as something he didn't deserve. Something he'd been offered by a person who had no right to offer it. He would never ask, he would never even mention it. Jackie had spent some time talking to this new Doctor, and she knew that he resented the way the other Doctor had left them behind. He didn't regret being here, or being stuck on earth, not anymore. He regretted that Rose wasn't given a choice. And he would never ask her to make it.
The whole thing made Jackie feel ill.
Because Jackie also knew Rose, and she knew that as angry as she was with the other Doctor, and somehow with this Doctor as well, Rose loved him. It didn't matter which Doctor he was or how they'd come to be together, Rose loved the Doctor. She thought, somehow, because he'd left her here that she wasn't worthy of him. Not worthy of his love, and so she couldn't ever be worthy of this Doctor's love either. She had accepted him as the Doctor, and as such made no distinction between them. The biology of it didn't matter to Rose; if the Doctor didn't want her then it didn't matter what body he was in.
At first, the shy awkwardness between Rose and the Doctor had comforted Jackie. It had reminded her of that Christmas when he'd regenerated. They'd been unsure of themselves and each other then too, but after that initial strangeness had worn off they'd been closer than ever. But this time it hadn't worked that way. Shy awkwardness had given way to painful awkwardness. The Doctor had been alternately angry and clingy for those first few months, and Rose had been consistently polite and detached. Eventually, the Doctor had stopped looking to Rose for comfort and she had stopped being polite and remained detached.
Now it was Christmas, and Jackie could feel the gulf between them widening. She'd caught the Doctor studying train schedules and cruise manifests. He was a traveler, and with nothing here to make this place home there was no reason to stay. Jackie had done what she could to make him feel welcome, but it was clear that even after all these months he still felt like a visitor. Jackie had never felt that from him before. He'd always seemed at home with Rose.
As Jackie watched Pete struggling with the lights, and Tony laughing at him, she wondered if the Doctor missed his home. Missed his family, his children. Rose said he'd been a dad, but she didn't know anything else. Did he have fond memories of family holidays? Or would watching this little Christmas celebration only bring him more pain? Did he even have a holiday to celebrate? Did he have a religion, a faith?
She left Pete and Tony to wrestle with the lights, and ignored the way Rose stared at her angrily as she walked outside to stand with the Doctor. He smiled at her, not his usual ear to ear smile, just a quick upturn of the corners of his mouth. More out of politeness and gratitude really; he knew Jackie was doing everything she could.
"Doesn't matter how careful you are putting them away, the lights are always tangled when you take them out," Jackie said.
"One of the great mysteries of the human condition," the Doctor commented. "No idea how that happens. Be interesting to find out, I suppose. I could look into it, if you like."
"No, s'alright. Half the fun of decorating the tree is watching the men tango with the tangles."
"Tango with the tangles," the Doctor repeated and smiled a much more genuine smile. "Ooh, I knew there was a reason I like you, Jackie Tyler."
"Why d'you always do that? Call us by our full names."
The Doctor shrugged. Jackie raised an eyebrow at him and he sighed.
"It's a sign of respect," he said. "Time Lords didn't have first names and surnames like you lot do. There was a family name, but it wasn't used that way. We just had our names and they were long and complicated and you only used a shortened version of a name if you were very, very close."
"Doctor," Jackie said, "your people, did they have holidays?"
"No," the Doctor scoffed. He shook his head and narrowed his eyes, watching Rose watching them. "Holidays are for fun. Not overly interested in fun, Time Lords."
"You sure you're one then? Never met a bloke who was more interested in fun than you, Doctor."
The Doctor really did smile then.
"Oh yes," he said. "Of course, I was an outcast from Gallifrey. They never really…appreciated my free spirited nature."
Jackie snorted at that.
"What about faith?"
"What about it?"
"Do you have any faith, Doctor? I know, s'none of my business, and you can tell me so if you like, but here we are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. And maybe we're not church going folks, but Christmas means more than church. It's about family and hope and peace. And I believe in those things. And I thought, if you had some kind of faith, we could maybe help you celebrate it."
"Jackie," the Doctor breathed. Bossy and shrill, tough and hard, the Doctor sometimes forgot how deeply Jackie loved and how fierce she could be in her caring for her family. And his place or not, she thought of him as family. "We believed in what we could see, what we could prove. Faith was…well, faith wasn't something we did."
Jackie nodded. She wasn't very religious, not like her own mother or grandmother had been, but there were things that she believed in without needing any proof. She believed that there was nothing more important than family, and that family made everything better. The idea that the Doctor, this man who had given up everything so many times, felt like he didn't belong to a family made her do things she wouldn't normally do.
"I know it's none of business what's going on between you and Rose, but Doctor, no matter what happens I want you to know that you'll always be welcome in any home of mine."
"And don't be telling me to keep out of it; this is the only thing I'm going to say about it. I love my Rose, but she's not happy like this and neither are you."
"Maybe it seems like things will never work out between you, but I know my Rose, and …"
"What is it, love?"
"I do have faith," the Doctor said. Jackie turned and looked at him. He sounded so wistful; it was a tone she'd come to associate with his feelings for Rose. "I have faith that things will be all right; they'll be better than all right. They'll be brilliant, fantastic. Because I believe in her."
Jackie looked inside at Rose, huddled in the corner of the room, trying to look for all the world like she wasn't watching the Doctor and failing miserably. And Jackie smiled.
"Well," she sniffed. "S'pose you could believe in sillier things."
Jackie crept down the stairs just past midnight, packages in her arms. For years, Jackie had hidden presents in two places: the okay presents were hidden where Rose would look and the really good gifts were locked away somewhere Rose would never, ever find them. Parallel universe or not, Jackie wouldn't allow anyone to have a Christmas without at least one surprise.
Rose had always been a curious girl, poking her nose into things, and she'd discovered very early in life that Jackie and Father Christmas were one and the same. It had upset Jackie more than Rose. That year, with Rose only six years old, Jackie had known Rose had already snooped out all her gifts. There weren't many places to hide things in their tiny flat. When Rose announced Father Christmas was rubbish, and asked if she couldn't just have the Power Rangers action figures, Jackie had been devastated. Ever since then, she'd always secreted away a few choice gifts. Even Pete was unaware of the treasures she was now ready to place under the tree.
Walking into the lounge, Jackie was surprised to find the tree still lit. Exasperated, Jackie deposited her gifts on the sofa and walked over to turn the lights off, nearly tripping over a set of legs in the process. Rose was lying under the tree, staring up into the lights like she'd done when she was a little girl. She'd always loved the lights, said it was like having the stars right in your living room.
"Rose sweetheart, what are you still doing up?" Jackie asked, her concern outweighing her fear that her secret presents be discovered.
"M'just thinking," Rose said quietly, and at the moment Jackie decided she'd had quite enough of this.
"That's enough. Rose Tyler, you get up off that floor this minute," Jackie said sharply. Rose looked startled and Jackie raised her eyebrows. Rose scrambled off the floor quickly. Grown woman or not, there were still times when you just didn't mess with her mum. "We've all been coddling you, walking on eggshells while you got yourself adjusted to the new Doctor but I've just taken all I can."
"Oh no you don't. You've been a right bitch these last few weeks and I've had more than enough. That man has done nothing but try to make sure you were safe and happy and you're treating him like rubbish!" Jackie was whisper-shouting, desperate not to wake the house but unable to speak to Rose about this calmly.
"He hasn't ever done anything except what he thought was best for you, sacrificing his own happiness, his own life, for pity's sake Rose his own self, just for you!"
"But I wanted…"
"Oh hush up! You wanted the Doctor and that's exactly what you got. Didn't you say when he changed before that you loved the Doctor and you didn't care what face he was wearing? Well why is this any different?" Jackie stomped to the sofa where she'd dropped her gifts and began placing them under the tree, a bit more emphatically than was strictly necessary.
"Because he's not…"
"Maybe if you'd stop being so selfish and wallowing 'round in your own misery you'd spare a thought for that poor man. He loves you, Rose, so much. And right now, you're all he's got here. And he doesn't really, does he?" She shoved a small package roughly into Tony's stocking and it was only by stunned terror that it didn't rip away from the hearth. Even inanimate objects feared the wrath of Jackie Tyler.
"'Course he does, Mum, only…"
"Do you know what he told me? I asked him, before, if he had any faith. It's bloody selfish of us to expect him to celebrate all our holidays and traditions and not any of his. Do you know what he said? He believes in you."
Rose stopped trying to argue. She remembered Krop Tor, remembered the Doctor telling her about the Beast and how he'd been able to get away. She'd cried then, knowing how much he loved her even if he'd never say it, because he showed it to her every day in so many other ways that she'd always thought the words didn't matter. And here she had the Doctor who was willing to give her those words, and the other Doctor who was willing to give himself up to her so they could share a life together, and she still wasn't happy.
She sank down onto the carpet and dissolved into tears. She wasn't enough for him, how could she be? Just look at what he'd done for her, was still doing for her right now. Even while he was alone, newly human on a strange planet with no TARDIS, he was still sacrificing his own happiness to give her time. Time Lord. Rose snorted through her tears.
"M'not good enough for him, Mum. He's the Doctor, and he's so…and I'm not….and he'll never be…"
"Rose," Jackie sat down on the carpet across from Rose and took her hands. "Rose, sweetheart, do you believe in God?"
"What? Oh, Mum, I don't…"
"S'alright if you don't. Lord knows, I've not been the best about going to church and maybe I'm not sure I believe either, but sweetheart, everybody believes in something. Stop trying to figure it out, like it's some puzzle. What do you believe in?"
Rose stared at her hands, clasped in her mother's, and tried to focus. So many thoughts swirled in her head, all the time, doubts and longing and fear and rejection and joy and possibilities. She could barely breathe, let alone think. She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She remembered a time on some planet, it was very grey and very damp, when she and the Doctor, her first Doctor, had been trapped in the rubble of an explosion and she'd started to panic. The Doctor had taught her a trick, a quick meditation to help her control her fear. She tried it now.
Deep breath in. Hold for three seconds. Picture a candle. Blow it out slowly.
Jackie waited patiently, and when Rose lifted her head and opened her eyes, she knew she'd been right not to wait any longer to knock some sense into the two of them.
"I believe in us."
Jackie sat back against the sofa cushions and surveyed the chaos. Tony was running loops around the room, making roaring and screeching noises with his new Pterodactyl. He'd recently discovered dinosaurs, and with the Doctor had spent an enormous amount of time deciding which were his favorites. Bits of wrapping paper and ribbon were strewn about the room. One strand of lights on the tree was blinking, and it gave Jackie a bittersweet flashback to Christmas on the Estate, when having any lights on the tree at all was a triumph. Pete was dozing in the overstuffed armchair, snoring lightly. And the Doctor stood by the fireplace, fingering the Dickens novel that Pete had given him.
The Doctor had seemed genuinely surprised at all the gifts that had been under the tree for him. Jackie understood; he still didn't feel like a part of the family. Not while Rose was still so distant. She'd been a little disappointed that Rose hadn't gotten the Doctor a gift, but she reasoned that she couldn't really expect her to be able to find him something special when they'd only spoken last night. And really, as encouraged as she'd been last night, Rose had slipped out of the room as soon as Tony was done opening his presents.
The Doctor looked so crushed, Jackie wanted to go and just give him a hug. She knew he'd sit rigidly and accept her gesture, but derive no comfort from it. There was only one Tyler woman whose arms he longed to feel around him, and Jackie was not her. She sighed. If Rose didn't do something about this soon, she had a strong feeling they'd be starting the New Year without the Doctor.
"Jackie," the Doctor said, sitting down beside her on the sofa, and she tensed. She leaned forward, looking around anxiously for Rose. Where had she swanned off to? And why now, of all times? "I think, perhaps, after the holidays have died down a bit, I might…that is, Rose doesn't…she needs time, Jackie, to work this out for herself, and maybe that would be easier for her if I wasn't here."
"Oh Doctor, don't you dare leave my little girl behind again," Jackie said, and though she meant it to sound threatening she thought it really sounded much more like she was pleading with him.
"I don't want her to feel like I'm…pressuring her, or trying to make her decide something. I'm here, right here, all the time. Just…waiting. It can't be easy for her."
"What about you?"
The Doctor and Jackie both jumped off the sofa and spun around at Rose's voice behind them. She stood just inside the room, with two packages in her arms. Tony whirled by her legs in a wobbly run, looping his Pterodactyl through the air gleefully. Rose barely glanced at him, her eyes were locked with the Doctor's.
"Rose, I…" he began, but she shook her head and he fell silent. He could deny her nothing, and if his silence was what she required it was what she would have.
Jackie moved quickly to gather Tony up and moved to sit on the arm of the chair where Pete was still snoring. Tony wiggled in her arms, but she hushed him swiftly.
"You have another present to open, Doctor," Rose said, and she walked around the sofa to stand before him. She looked down at the carpet shyly, and Jackie could see the hope blossoming on the Doctor's face. Rose held the two flat red boxes, adorned with gold bows, out to him. The Doctor accepted, cradling them in his hands, treating them as if they were the most precious things in any universe, without even knowing what was inside. He stared at them so long, Jackie could see Rose beginning to tense. "You gonna open that?"
"Oh yes," the Doctor breathed. He placed the boxes on the sofa and then opened one. He withdrew a photo album from within it and stared at the cover.
"I had the TARDIS key set into it," Rose said softly. Jackie watched as the Doctor opened the album and flipped through the photographs. Jackie watched as he smiled and frowned and once caught his breath. "You gave me this wonderful life, and even if I was never going to see you again I didn't want to forget a minute of it."
The Doctor put the album down and opened the second box. He withdrew another album and opened this one as well. "It's empty."
Rose nodded. "Now we can start our new life together. And I don't want to forget a minute of that either."
The Doctor flipped the album closed and stared at the front cover.
"Oh, Rose, a religious symbol, really?"
Jackie snorted. The Doctor and Rose both shot her a look and she held up a hand in surrender. "Fine, fine, I'll stay out of it."
"S'not a religious symbol, exactly. The circle is for a woman, the dot…"
"A bindu," the Doctor interrupted. Rose glared. "Sorry, go on."
"The bindu is for a man. And the infinity, it means forever."
"Forever," the Doctor said.
Rose shrugged. "S'what I believe in."
Jackie sniffed as she watched Rose and the Doctor throw themselves at each other. Tony screamed a high-pitched EW! and flung himself into Pete's lap. Pete jumped and stared wildly around the room, calming only when he saw Rose and the Doctor locked in a kiss.
"What happened?" Pete asked.
"Christmas," Jackie said. "Christmas happened."