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Just Like That

Part 2 - Rose

Sometime between "Good smile, great bum," and "I love a happy medium," it hits Rose like a spaceship crash-landing on her head, exactly what it is that's going on here. She, Rose Tyler, a shop girl from 21st century London, Jackie's daughter, the hitch-hiking time traveler, is falling for the Doctor.

An alien from outer space.

He's not just an alien, of course, not to her, not even if she ever saw him that way in the first place. There's something about him, something familiar and comforting, something that's made it impossible for her, even up to this point, to treat him like the total stranger he probably really is. Hell, the one time she realized she didn't know him from Adam's Aunt Mary, she couldn't even hold onto her fear for five minutes in his presence. She knew she couldn't get home any other way, but she also knew a whole line of other alarming things by the time that conversation was over, and one of those things is starting to solidify, right now.

She's falling in love with an alien.

It hits her again, harder this time, and everything about it sprawls out before her like the sand from a broken hour glass. Maybe people who do special, real, important things don't see it, and can't understand. It might be huge decisions that change the world and make everything and everyone do one thing or another. Still, it's the tiny choices that make these big ones even happen in the first place. It's going with Shireen to see a band instead of going with Mickey to the pub, it's going out to pick up the vase yourself instead of sending your husband to do it, it's agreeing at break to turn in the lottery money once it's collected, instead of swearing you've got to be home in time to catch the match with your mates. That's where the world really changes.

She's just a shop girl.

Rose has never actually noticed this sort of decision before. In the past, she's just sort of let things happen to her, pretty much heading down a path that felt like inevitability even yesterday. She was going to be her mum when she grew up, just like her mum was her mum, and so on, and so on. Nothing new or different about it - the news said so, and her friends said so, and her teachers said so, and even her mum and Mickey said so. Everyone had a slot in the world, and hers was the same slot every smart girl born in her station in life occupied. She was too clever to just wind up single and preggers with some drunk guitar-player's unwanted sprog, but she wasn't educated enough to actually get out. Her attempts have been half-hearted and almost accidental, dating the guitar-player who was actually going somewhere (yeah, prison, but she'd never seen that coming), getting a job in a Regent's Street shop, instead of the chippie closest to her flat. Basically, a normal life was just sort of happening to her, and she was just sort of letting it.

This time, though, she can see quite clearly that she's got to make a decision.

She can just travel with the Doctor - be his friend or plus-one, or whatever the hell Time Lords call their tag-along sidekicks. When she's seen the Universe or bored the Doctor, whichever happens first, she can go back - right back - to that alley where she left Mickey, and back to her ordinary life. Put the man in the denim and leather behind her and get a job selling food of some sort, marry Mickey when her mum's carping becomes too much. Come home smelling of grease every night and watch the footie and maybe catch a snog during the commercials once in awhile. Maybe they can have two point four kids or something, if he ever gets around to turning off the telly long enough, if she's ever home from work long enough. Everything according to some grand plan that's not written up anywhere, a life that's exactly what it says on the tin.

According to everything she's ever known, she's supposed to want that.

She can tell very easily that the Doctor's used to running rough shod over everybody, just from the way he reacts to her challenging him. It doesn't occur to him that he doesn't know the first thing about these aliens in the Rift, except that they were hurt in his War. Rose, perhaps because she's the suspicious sort, having been dragged up on the Estate with lots of strangers with lots of candy, wonders if he even considers that just because the Gelth were caught in the cross-fire, it doesn't mean they were good guys. And even if they were, are they still? They want to inhabit dead bodies and that's cruel and creepy all at once. Time's in flux, he says, and everything changes. Maybe they're not nice anymore. She remembers the Nestene, quite clearly, thanks, and why it came to Earth. Maybe that makes her worse than him, the man who can stand judgment over the Last Human and watch her die.

Maybe that makes her his match.

It's not safe, living with the Doctor, but she knew that before the beginning. Even as he tries to gently persuade her to his way of thinking, even as Gwyneth says she wants to do what the Doctor wants, Rose is afraid it's wrong. She should have explained this to Gwyneth better - it's not that the girl is stupid, exactly. It's just that she's been sheltered and put upon at the same time, worked half to death and kept out of danger all at once. She believes in angels, Gwyneth does, and Rose honestly can't find it in her to make Gwyneth stop it. Even as the Doctor looks at both of them like they're delicate and strange and foreign little things, Rose can't help but wonder if she was ever half as innocent as Gwyneth. She wonders if she has even half the understanding of the Doctor. She wonders if it wouldn't be safer, easier, better, if she reminds herself that she's got nothing for him - she can't give him blind trust or child-like faith but can't give him a logical argument on equal footing either. She doesn't know if she's really suited for this life.

Somehow, though, it feels like what she's here for.

All her life, she's run away from giving anyone a chance to see the girl inside her. She's not told him, not yet, but the Doctor already knows her better than her mother and most of her friends, simply because the Doctor's smart enough to understand what she says. She's not sure if he wants a clever woman with him and it's tempting to go back to her blonde and pretty, easygoing disguise, but he looks at her while she sarcastically acknowledges creepy locations for creepiness. He's still annoyed with her for close-mindedness, and he still can't help the grin of true amusement. Happiness looks good on him and Rose begins to wonder if she can make him happy forever.

Can she love him enough to spend the rest of her life with him?

Rose knows that he still thinks she is quite young, while she can't tell from his actions his true age. Looking into his eyes, she sees very nearly eternal youth, and she also sees age that is completely beyond her understanding. Sometimes, he grins like a child, tossing out random ridiculous puns and going fanboy over Charles Dickens. She can't help but remember that man, even when he's towering and stern and informing her, point blank, that her whole reality can be rewritten with a wave of his hand. It's almost like this high-handed dictator act is just that, an act, to hide something far more fragile. She doesn't think it's the grinning lunatic - she's almost certain that's another part of the act. He's young and old and harsh and beautiful all at once, and Rose wonders if that isn't what he's trying to keep anyone from seeing.

A kaleidoscope of contradiction is at the very heart of him and she wants to see it all.

She's demanding a promise of the aliens and the Doctor's actually seen things her way, after all - just because they can use the corpses doesn't mean they can keep them. The Doctor's not cruel enough to allow that, to allow the Gelth to steal the faces, the very things that made these people who they were in life. Gwyneth walks fearless under the arch, and then it begins. For a few moments, it's so incredibly beautiful, all these aliens flying and glowing through the empty air, and Gwyneth shining in the light cast by her angels. For a moment Rose understands, sees beyond the mask. This is what he wants - life and miracles and moments of pure beauty. For the smallest filet of time, it's there and fully visible to her, the fundamental innocent at the heart of all that bluster and exaggeration. And then the Gelth explodes into darkness and the Doctor looks unutterably crushed.

"I think it's gone a little bit wrong," he says, and Rose wants to shield him like a child.

She might already love him too much, if the way his grief and anger washes through her is any sort of indicator. He determinedly keeps his body between hers and the infested corpses, but Rose honestly believes he's the one more in need of protection from this. She's begging him to tell her she can't die before she was born, and he's apologizing and locking them behind a conveniently barred grating. She looks into his eyes and absolves him. She means it, too; it isn't his fault. She wanted to travel and see the Universe. She wanted to do something different and better with her life, she didn't want to be just another London shop girl, just another Estate urchin grown up to become another Estate mum.

And he makes all of it worth it, even death a century before she was born.

His eyes are bright and so full of so much emotion as she tells him they'll go down fighting, as she promises they'll go down together. He holds her hand, holds her close, their lingering last goodbye nothing like in the romance movies. She's never seen a moment more true all the same. It's all there for her and he says it with a smile, a look so full of tenderness and truth that she knows the words are only part of it, only the beginning. He's giving her so much, offering her everything, and she's never wanted to live more in her life.

"I'm so glad I met you," is what he says.

But what he means is so much more. This is them, spending the rest of their lives together, right this minute. There's so much that could have been before them, kisses and quiet moments and running for their lives. She can sense that he fears rejection from her and from this, right now, even as their murderers are just outside the cage, clamoring for their heads. She smiles back at him and at last she knows her own heart, knows what all this really means to her, knows what he means to her and will continue to mean to her, even if by some miracle they survive after all. So she tells him.

"I love you, too, Doctor," she says, and reaches her free hand to touch his face.

Forget the zombies and the end of life as she knew it. Forget that there's a forever they could have had and probably never will. The feelings they share have been given a name and that name has been given a voice, and maybe that's all that really matters. The Doctor nods, innocent and earnest, and Rose is aching inside that she didn't get to be with him in every way she can see in his eyes, in her day dreams. She wonders if this was enough, just to say it and feel it and let it live, and then die in each others' arms like some kind of Shakespearean legend.

Charles Dickens brings a Christmas miracle and saves lovers from ghosts this time.

When the Doctor jumps free of the burning building, Rose's first thought is to drag him close and never let him go again. His first thought is apparently to apologize. She thinks he's the one who needs apologies for this. He wanted it so badly, to save the Gelth, to save Gwyneth, to make something better.

"She didn't make it," Rose says, and she's just as sorry for them as for Gwyneth.

They all lost their chance to save the girl who saved the world tonight. Rose feels guilty because she thinks she should have said something more, and she feels sorry because the Doctor thinks she blames him.

She can't blame him any more than she can blame Gwyneth - they both tried so hard.

They send a reborn Charles Dickens on his way and they're changing his world only long enough for him to find true joy in the end of his days. Rose knows, right now, exactly what that sort of thing is worth, and she's completely grateful.

She's been given the ultimate second chance, and every thing is like magic before her.

She looks up into the Doctor's hesitant smile and tugs him down to kiss him. His lips are so soft and so well shaped for kisses. He's had a lot of practice, too, because she's just getting into this thing and he's already reducing her to a quivering, whimpering, wanting mess. She knows there are lots and lots of things that will need to be done and said between them besides this, questions and answers and maybe a promise or two. There's a whole entire forever to map out between them. But today she's learned how very, very short life can be, whether you pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party or not. So she whispers across the Doctor's kiss damp smile the only thing that's really important in this moment.

"Help me out of this corset."