Far, Far Too Late To Stop Loving You

Perhaps he knows. Maybe she knows. But they will never ever say.

They close the doors.

He walks over to the centre of the console room and starts to press buttons and pull levers. She follows, leans against a coral column, and watches him. He is so new, yet so old; so different, yet just exactly the same - the fluidity of his movements, the effortless ease at which he commands his ship, small smile on his face, looking forward to the next adventure, the next place to impress her with.

She can tell, even though his body and face have changed, that he still loves this, the life they lead. Showing her new planets, new people, new ways of living. Exploring the unknown. Running from trouble. Saving the day. Although, now, he seems to like the quieter times, too, content to just 'be,' rather than rush around.

She can tell, despite the change in the colour of his eyes, that his past still haunts him, the things he's done, all he has lost. Although, he seems happier now, lighter, funnier, flirtier. Which she rather likes.

She can tell, however much his voice has changed, that he absolutely, positively delights in talking about everything and anything, assuming an air of superiority over everyone else in the entire cosmos. Although, he does seem to compliment her humanity now, rather than simply insult it.

And most of all, she can tell that he still wants her with him. Travelling in the TARDIS. His ship, their home. Better with two.

He glances up at her then, noticing she hasn't said anything for a while, and catches her looking. Rose averts her eyes, embarrassed to be caught staring. After what she had done today...well, what Cassandra had done in her place...she blushes. He practically beams.

"Rose?" asks the Doctor.


"You okay?" He wants her to mention it. Let her be the one to bring it up. He doesn"t know why, though, it's not like he would know what to say if she did. Maybe he would tease her. Maybe he would kiss her. Just to show her, of course, that in fact, he could snog back, despite his lack of response last time. He was just shocked before, that's all. She was acting out of character. Of course, he now knows, she was out of character. And that shouldn't disappoint him so much, should it?

"Yeah." No, she thinks. She doesn't know whether to bring it up or not. She can remember it: the strange voice, the peculiar posture, then the way she shoved herself up herself against him, flung her fingers into his hair, pressed her lips up to his with such force...

"Good." She's thinking about it, he thinks to himself. Their recent adventure with their old foe Cassandra had led to running away from patients with the plague, beating out a samba as Cassandra - she's bound to mention that, and he knows she will tease him good and proper for it, but he finds he doesn't mind - and seeing Cat Nurse Nuns being arrested. And kissing Rose Tyler. And he knows which one of those activities he enjoyed the most. Of course, he would never ever admit that to either himself or Rose. Although, he is always saying: 'Never say never, ever.' So we will see. Time will tell.

"Doctor?" Rose watches the Doctor suspiciously. He appears to be staring at her, though he's eyes are glazed over, lost in a memory. She often sees him like this. With all his 900-odd years, he must have a lot of wonderful memories to lose himself in - well, before the Time War anyway.

"Doctor?" She moves closer, and wonders what he's thinking right now. Probably about some beautiful, mystical planet far, far away, which he saved from universal terror, or something similar. She thinks he will either be about to boast about 'that time I rescued some historical figure from impending doom, with only a pair of sunglasses and a bit of old chewing gum I'll have you know', or something along those lines. Or perhaps he'd do the opposite – close off and not mention anything at all. But first she had to awaken from his current trance-like state.

"Doctor? Doctor! Honestly, I swear you act like this high-and-mighty Time Lord, with 'far more superior senses' and yet you lose focus so easily, and even I can't break you out of your daydream about God knows what!" she mocks light-heartedly.

The Doctor was brought right back to the present with the sound of his name uttered from Rose's lips. Twice. No, three times. She begins to talk to him, but he's confused. It's odd: he could usually juggle rather a lot of thoughts in his head at once, but when thinking about Rose Tyler, he often gets slightly distracted. Welll, he supposes, why wouldn't he, she's brilliant! Always getting into trouble, but eager to learn, eager to explore. Just like him!

And she's getting better, so much better, at extricating herself from said trouble, with a swift kick, or a kind word, or a smile that lights up the entire room (or prison cell). And she puts up with him, through all his madness; comforts him; makes him better. Before, with the big ears and the bitterness. After, with the big hair and the inability to keep his mouth shut.

She would do anything for him. And that's what scares him. But then, it is nice to share the wonders of the universe with the woman he...with the woman he thinks is so brilliant. She even likes the trouble. And sometimes the danger. That scares him too. Cassandra could have seriously hurt her, all that brain compressing, and yet she still empathised with the 'last human' during her last moments. He loves, likes that about her. Yes. She's simply a very, very brave, brilliant human. And he loves travelling with her, loves holding her hand, loves simply being with her.

"Hellooo? Anybody home? You know, sometimes you stand there, like a right lemon, just gazing off into the distance, and I have no idea what you're thinking in here," she says, laughing, as she steps towards him and taps the side of his head, and holds it there.

He looks up at her hand with a raised eyebrow. She pretends not to notice and keeps her hand right where it is. And he's glad.

"Like earlier, right, when, erm, when Cassandra was inside my head and, well, you know, I -she - kissed you. And you just stood there, completely baffled! Well, I suppose you would be, wouldn't ya? You didn't know it wasn't me," she rambles, quickly adding, "And I don't usually do that, do I? Kiss you, I mean." She laughs nervously.

She mentioned it. Aha. Now what to do? What should he say? Then it's obvious to him. He knows he shouldn't say anything.

So he doesn't. Which is extremely hard, considering he's prone to hour-long rambles regarding just about anything and everything.

She thinks he's going to mock her, and she decides would mock him right back. After all – 'and a little bit foxy'? What was all that about? Although, then he could use that against her, and insist that she did find him foxy. Which she didn't. Obviously. Ok, well maybe she did, just a little bit. But that doesn't mean anything. And the banter would continue, and perhaps they would flirt a bit, and then he would lean over and tickle her, or make a really bad joke, and they would laugh and laugh until they are clutching their sides and trying desperately to regain composure. They way they always do.

And yet, he's strangely silent, and she's extremely embarrassed at what she said, and -

His hand comes up to grab her hand that is still raised by his head, where her fingers are absently stroking his sideburns, the corners of his mouth twitching up in amusement, his eyebrow rising again, and her expression alters as she realises what she's been doing as she's been speaking and thinking. She thinks perhaps her touching his face like this is far, far too intimate. She thinks he's going to move her hand away, and go off rambling about some planet far away that he's going to take her to next.

He doesn't. He simply links their fingers together and pulls their joined hand towards his chest, the momentum bringing her forward too. She's confused.

Perhaps he should kiss her. He could say it's an experiment; a one-off; a joke. JUst to show how good at kissing he is. Or...He could tell her the truth. Right now. Tell her that maybe, just maybe, things could change. They're best friends, aren't they? And best friends hold hands, just like they do, and hug, just like they do, and...snog occasionally, surely?

He's not very accustomed to this, though, he ponders. He has not really had this...whatever 'this' is, before. He steps closer. He looks deep into her eyes and she takes a sharp intake of breath. He wonders why she does that for a moment, then realises exactly what she must think he looks like just then; his hand squeezing her own; his eyes dark; his breath on her cheeks; his tight grip on her other arm, holding her close. He must have let his thoughts get away from him, if she could tell, without him saying anything, what he means to do next. Perhaps he looks a bit more human. Less old?

He felt so old. He felt so miserable. Then Miss Rose Marion Tyler came into his life and she changes all that. She made him live again – no, more than that; she made him love living again. She made him better, and he feels his life is pretty brilliant right now. But still he doubts. She will pull away in a moment, he knows she will, because they don't look at each other like this, or stand as close as they are, or breathe quite this shakily unless they've been running for their lives.

But then, he also knows that he will probably pull away first.

But he doesn't want to. They stand there, pressed together, staring into each other's eyes, her breaths mingling with his own... they're so close, the pulse of their hearts coming quick and unsteady beneath their joined hands.

Rose cannot believe what is happening. Since when did the Doctor look at her like this? Since when did he press their bodies so close together that she feels she might die of frustration at the fact they are just standing there, so still, more motionless than they have ever been? No rushing, no running. Just him and her. And their short, erratic breaths.

"Doctor," she whispers, and it's no longer a question. She pushes herself closer still; she doesn't pull away. This is nice. For a moment, she thinks he might kiss her.

"Yes," he replies, and he means it. This is nice. For a moment, he thinks he might kiss her too.

"..." She opens her mouth to say something, but she doesn't know what. She doesn't want to speak, lest she break the spell, the intimacy of the moment.

"Rose... I - " He begins. What? 'I want you,' 'I need you'... 'I love you?' He thinks. Somehow, those words die on his lips. They are just not enough. His fingers on the hand that is holding her arm trace a pattern there, symbols, a hidden language. One she could never translate.

She shivers, and places her free hand over his right heart, feeling it thump, thump, thump, faster and faster. He leans into her. He feels himself trembling now. Since when did he desire something so much that he physically trembled?

Oh, that's right. Since Rose.

Oh god, he thinks he wants this more than anything he's ever wanted in his long, long life. And now he is so close to giving in to temptation, to grasping it with both hands. So close...