Everybody lives. Those were two magical words. And even more magical was the look of joy on the Doctor's face. Rose wished that they could just stay in this moment forever. They had triumphed. They had saved everyone this time. Most importantly the Doctor was truly happy. Maybe for the first time ever since Rose had met him. It was absolutely contagious, except for one little thing. One little thought, niggling at the back of her brain. One that she didn't even want to think about, because she was wrong. She had to be wrong. There was no way it could have meant what she feared it might mean. So really, there was no need to think about it. Certainly there was no reason to ask the Doctor about it and drag him out of his good mood. But then:
"Go on, ask me anything. I'm on fire!"
She looked at him again, worrying her lower lip with her teeth, trying to form the dreaded question into words, scared that it'd make it more real.
"What about Captain Jack?' She knew the answer as soon as she asked. The joy left the Doctor's face like a switch had been flipped. The answer didn't even need to be spoken out loud. Not when the Doctor suddenly became very focused on the controls he was fiddling with. But she forced herself to go further. She needed to know for sure. Needed him to say it. All the while still hoping she was wrong.
"Why'd he say goodbye?"
"People say goodbye, Rose. It's fairly traditional in Earth culture, I've come to understand." He still refused to turn and look at her.
Rose crossed her arms, glaring hard at the back of his head. "That's not what I meant and you know it! It was the way he said it. It sounded permanent. And I want you to tell me why!"
He was silent for a long moment, and Rose was ready to really start yelling, but then he ran a hand over his close-cropped hair and turned to face her.
"You know why, Rose," the Doctor said softly.
"But, you said! Everybody lives. That's what you said."
"I know what I said."
"Everybody includes Jack, Doctor!"
The Doctor sighed in frustration. "Jack knew what he was doing. That bomb had to be taken care of. Jack made his decision. Besides, he might be able to find a way to deal with it safely."
"Really?" Rose demanded, crossing her arms over her chest.
The Doctor shook his head almost in perceptively "No," he said quietly. "No."
Rose couldn't believe that they Doctor could act so blasé about the whole thing. She wanted to grab him and shake him. She knew this was hurting him, just as it was hurting her. So why the hell did he have to act all stiff and unfeeling about it?
"Let's go, then." Rose leaned against one of the control panels. "Come on."
The Doctor nodded, looking relieved to be done with that line of questioning. "What do you say to America this time? I've been wanting to show you the Wild West."
Rose narrowed her eyes. "Stop acting dim. It doesn't suit you. We're going to go get Captain Jack. Right this second."
"I'm sure he'd look quite nice in a cowboy hat."
"Rose," the Doctor said again. "He made a decision. Jack knew what he was doing." He looked at the expression on her face and let out a sigh. "We'll go get him. Of course we'll go get him. We'll find someplace to drop him off."
"He's coming with us," Rose insisted. "He could be a lot of help in a scrap. Anyway might be fun to have someone else around the TARDIS, right? Keep you from getting bored with me."
"Bored with you?" He snorted derisively. "Never going to happen. We don't need Jack. We're good just the two of us."
"Bit jealous, are you?" Rose asked, a smirk on her face.
"He's a conman!"
"A conman who volunteered to give up his life to save others," Rose pointed out.
"You get into enough trouble by yourself. I shudder to think what you could do with him by your side."
"Oy!" Rose protested. "I'd say you've gotten us into trouble quite a bit yourself, Mister. And I think Jack's the type to get himself out of trouble just as much as he gets into it."
The Doctor shook his head. "What is it with you and strays?" he asked, exasperated. "You barely know the man."
Rose made a face. "Well, it's not like we really knew each other long when you invited me to come with you."
"That's different," the Doctor protested.
"Because I am an excellent judge of character," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Rose rolled her eyes and flopped down into the seat next to him.
"Come on, Doctor. He's smart, he's funny, he's got experience with space and time travel, and he's handy in a tight spot. What's the problem?"
By the look on the Doctor's face, Rose realized she knew exactly what the problem was. Jack was all of those things she just listed. Not to mention suave, flirtatious and good-looking. That was why the Doctor had a problem.
She looked at him sympathetically, and he turned back to the controls, pretending to be busy.
"Doctor..." Rose reached out and put a hand over his, forcing him to turn back and look at her again.
"You really don't have to be jealous, you know?"
"Of course not!" the Doctor insisted with a cheesy grin that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I'm fantastic!"
Rose smiled softly; she was constantly amazed that somebody so brilliant could be so dense. She leaned forward and gently kissed his cheek.
In the surprised silence, Rose took her chance, knowing that what she had to say had to be said eventually, and there was no better time to do it.
"You don't ever have to worry about me going off with Jack and leaving you alone. You never have to worry about me going off with anyone. I told you that I'd stay with you forever and I meant it. I still mean it. I'm Rose and you're the Doctor and it doesn't matter if there is one more person on the TARDIS or twenty. It's always going to be the two of us."
"The Doctor and Rose," the Doctor repeated quietly.
Rose nodded forcefully. "And I'm just going to come out and say it. And you don't have to say it back. I understand. But I want you to know, I need you to know, because I think you need to hear it. Even if saying it isn't who you are, it is who I am. And I think maybe you need to hear it more than anyone I've ever met..."
"You're rambling, Rose," the Doctor said softly with a smile.
"I love you." Rose giggled, hung her head for a moment, then stared back up at him. "How's that for straight-forward and non-rambling? I love you."
A look of joy broke over the Doctor's face, but there was some fear there too. Rose held up a hand to stop anything he might say next.
"I told you, you don't need to say anything. It's okay. I know. And we don't ever have to talk about it again. I just need you to know. Okay?"
The Doctor was silent for a long time, then reached out, gently brushing a wayward piece of hair out of Rose's face. "Okay," he agreed.
They stayed like that for a moment, just smiling at each other, the Doctor's hand cupping Rose's face. Finally, after what seemed like both an eternity and all too brief a moment, the Doctor pulled away.
He bounded out of his seat, headed for the controls.
"Alright, Miss Tyler, let's go save a conman!"