And then he realises what he's doing. This would change things. Complicate things. On the other hand...just one kiss, could that really hurt? A kiss with a companion, a friend? That's not too hard to do.

That couldn't hurt, he tries to bargain with himself in some sort of internal monologue. Yes, yes it really could, he replies to himself. Because it wouldn't be just a kiss with a companion or any old friend. It would be kissing Rose Tyler. And she's so much more.

And so it would continue: the boundaries, the rules, the walls he's constructed around his hearts would crumble further and further until there is nothing left and he would finally have to admit it. And when she's gone – oh, the inevitable - when she leaves him, whether willingly or through some cruel twist of fate, and he's lost her, it would hurt so much more. If he can pretend that she's just a companion, a friend, just another human who will pass through his life and leave, then it will be easier.

So he won't acknowledge his feelings, in the hope that perhaps his hearts will not break quite as much when he loses her.

She watches him, and she understands now, as his eyes flicker, that his thoughts have taken a left turn. He's never been so silent, and she can see the battle raging within him, the dashes of hope and then sadness in his deep brown eyes. She's half sure he would have kissed her just then, but now she knows he won't. 'Cos he's realised who she is, who he is, who they are, together.

So much more than friends, but far, far less than lovers.

And it hurts. But she's clever enough, human enough, to recognise that ending something between them before it has even begun will be easier on him, in the end. She would never leave him, she knows that - she would stay with him forever if she could - but she also knows that he might leave her. Or she might die. And although she knows that she is far too deep in love with him for it not to break her heart if he did leave her, she also knows that he should do everything he can to preserve his hearts, when they part ways, for he has to live a far longer life. And she doesn't want his hearts to break; she doesn't want him to hurt. So she knows what is coming next. And she finds herself thinking that maybe it is for the best, so that things aren't quite so complicated, so that he doesn't fall in love with her back.

Oh, how he wants to kiss her. Tell her...tell her he loves her. Because he does, he really, really does love her, and nothing in this entire universe will ever change that. And he wants her to be with him forever. But she won't. And that hurts. He'd never ask her to leave, or dump her home, or try to send her back - away from danger, and death, and him - like he tried to do before; he knows that now. He is far too selfish to let her go. But he is also far too selfish, and far too much of a coward, to let her love him back, because if they did this – if they kissed, right here, right now...if he just told her – she would be taken from him, he knows she would, because that's how his life works out. He cares about something and it disappears, dies, leaving him bitter, and tired and old and miserable. All that she saved him from before. But if he lost her...then who could save him? Who could ever make him better after that?

He doubts anyone could. So he knows what is coming next. They can never have want he wants, and what he is pretty sure she wants too, because when she goes away, he will have nothing. And so he will break her heart a little now: hoping that she won't hate him for it, knowing that she never could, because she is just too good. And she knows he loves her. She knows. And that is enough. For he has fallen in love with this silly, jeopardy-friendly, brave, brilliant human girl, and she must know it, everyone else they meet seems to know. He thinks his eyes betray him.

And so, if he never says the words aloud, he can pretend that he never ever did love her, when she is gone.

Because he is both far too selfish and selfless to see that letting himself love for a little while is far, far better than to never let himself love at all.

Coward, every time. He clears his throat. He lets go of her hand. He moves it away. He steps back. He moves over to the console. And he goes off on a ramble about some planet far away that he will take her to next. All the while, wishing he had the courage to kiss her, wishing he had the knowledge to say he could really promise her forever. All the while, he thinks, and hopes, and loves.

And knows deep down that it is far, far too late to deny anything to himself anymore. It's only a matter of time really, isn't it? Before he really breaks. Before he gives in to temptation. But not now. Not yet.

"Right, well, I thought perhaps we'd visit the planet Uio next, run right across the iced beaches a hundred miles across – iced beaches, Rose; ooh and we could view the Alova Asteroid Belt from down below on the mauve mountains of Morii - beautiful sight, asteroids forming a ring around the entire world, million stars up above, seemingly so close you could touch them. Wellll, I say a million, actually there's only around 876,000, but still – impressive...." he rambles.

He can't look at her as he says it. If he looked into her eyes again, he knows he'll break.

Rose swallows, and wills herself not to cry. And when she smiles, it is genuine. 'Cos she will never forget the way he looked at her prior to his commentary on the Moorey mountains or whatever they were called. She will never forget the way her body was so tantalisingly close to his, or the way she could feel the rapid double beat of his hearts under their joined hands. Perhaps she will never experience it again, but at least she has the memory. Better to have loved than never loved at all, right? She only wishes he would have actually kissed her, just once, properly, to see what it was like. So that she could pocket that memory in her mind too, and have that fuel her dreams for the rest of time. She loves him so much, and to not be able to show him often drives her mad. But who knows? Maybe she will get possessed again, or perhaps there will be a life or death scenario in which he would be forced to snog her. She chuckles to herself. As if he would do that. She suddenly thinks that maybe one day she should ask him if there is a festive custom, somewhere, somewhen, in which she would have an excuse to kiss him.

And then she remembers there is, and laughs at her own stupidity. Of course - on Earth, at Christmas. Mistletoe. Aha, she thinks...maybe he would fall for it then... She giggles again. Bit too soon to ask to go back there though, he's had a far too domestic, slow pace experience recently, what with Mum's Christmas dinner after they prevented the Sycorax invasion. She will have to wait to investigate this. She makes a little bet to herself that he would 'um' and 'er' and stammer his way out of it; she doubts she will ever see him as unguarded and so, so nearly about to kiss her like he was today. She smiles as she realises he's still chatting away about this planet he was setting the course for.

"...ooh you'd love it! And the people, they're fascinating - although, we'd obviously be going at night time..."

He rambles on and on, and she loves it, though she stopped listening properly a long time ago.

He had her at run.

"...so we probably wouldn't meet any of the inhabitants. Especially being on top of the mauve mountains of Morii, no natives up there. No anyone, can't exactly climb those mountains, they are sort of fluid – welll, not really fluid, but you know what I mean - so it's lucky we've got the TARDIS. It'd just be you and me. Still, I suppose we could stay there until morning, and then I could take you down to the little town of Swansu, lovely little place, nestled at the bottom of the mountains..." he continues.

He glances over at Rose. He could still do it...just stop talking, and go up to her and kiss her. He wants to. But he doesn't.

It all sounded beautiful to her. Just them, watching the stars, hand-in-hand. The Doctor and Rose in the TARDIS, just as it should be. And she would follow him anywhere. Maybe that's what scares him. She would go anywhere, do anything, with him. For him. She would die for him, and she knows that frightens him. But she just smiles.

"...And, I bet you didn't know this – up there on top of the mauve mountains of Montii in the middle of the night, you'd think we'd be cold, but ohh no! Warm as toast! Brilliant, their climate, they only have..."

Just one kiss? He's still thinking as he speaks. That could work. He looks at her again. No, he wills himself, he has to be strong. He has to keep his distance.

He finishes his narrative of their destination, and motions for Rose to pull that lever and press the blue button second from the right of the transmotional stabiliser. She does it. They arrive, with quite a gentle landing compared to normal. It must be because he's concentrating so hard. They smile at each other. He holds out his hand.

"Alons-y?" she asks, before he can say it.

"Alons-y!" he replies, and they walk outside together, hand-in-hand, to see the stars.

She loves him. And he loves her. But they will never, ever say.

Then again...

...the Doctor's always saying: 'Never say never, ever.'

A/N: Hello everyone, I hope you liked the story. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed; this is my first story and the reviews have meant so much to me. Now, I'm wondering whether to write a sequel to this story, that takes place after Tooth and Claw...any thoughts on whether or not I should?