Disclaimer: I owe it all to the BBC and Russell T. Davies.
Author's Note: It's possible my definition of "five" needs work. As well as my definition of "sleeps."
Rose Tyler is naked before him, and he is undone.
She's hurting and vulnerable but looks him in the eye anyway—brave, precious girl—and suddenly he gets it and just who is he to call her a stupid ape? He's taken her to the end of the world and the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire (well, almost); he's shown her the fresh snow of Christmas 1869 and has already nearly lost her more times than he can count, the price of admission nothing more than her hand in his.
But never, until this moment, has he realized that there's more to her than what she does for him.
This hadn't been some whim, born out of a desire to take advantage of or annoy him. (She's not Adam.) It wasn't about him at all; he really should start learning that. She'd needed this. She'd had a full life before she met him, has secret dreams greater and more terrible than a desire for adventure or to see the stars… and he never thought to ask. (He'd never asked before, anyhow. But the rules he's spent centuries writing are falling by the wayside one by one). She's seen him at his absolute worst—gun in hand, more than half-crazed, and stood up to him ("What about you, Doctor? What the hell're you changing into?"). She hadn't been the slightest bit afraid of him, then.
She's afraid of him now.
"Just… tell me you're sorry," he says, because he already said it once for yelling at her, and he couldn't possibly explain to her how things have changed in the past few seconds—that he has to get that word out.
"I am," she whimpers, "I'm sorry." The crack in her voice nearly breaks him, so he does the only thing he can do: grin daftly and pull her in for a hug.
He doesn't think he can ever have her close enough.
"Don't you ever sleep?" she asks, grumpy, hair a mess as she reaches for the toast he's offering.
"Haven't slept since the dawn of creation," he says impressively. "Didn't want to miss any more dawns that good."
Jack laughs. Rose rolls her eyes and turns away, but she's not quick enough to hide that she's biting her lip to keep from smiling.
She could—would—have died today. If he hadn't believed in her, if she hadn't been brave enough to take the gun or clever enough to shoot the airlock, if he'd been just a bit slower getting back to the TARDIS… if, if, if. He feels sick from the uncertainty of it all, possible timelines exploding into and then fading out of existence behind his eyes faster than he can keep track.
Believing that she knows hardly seems like enough, all of a sudden.
So when she stumbles through the door and locks eyes with him, he doesn't hesitate. They run at each other and her hug knocks him breathless, but it's a relief—all of the tension he's been carrying between his shoulders evaporates as he exhales against her neck. Her knees knock against his as she kicks in delight; he chuckles and lifts her higher into the air, relishing her happy squeak.
He holds her suspended and it's perfect, because—for one brief, intoxicating moment—he doesn't have to share her with anyone. Not even the ground.
(Later, she invites him into her bed for the first time. Nothing happens, of course; it's just that she's not any more fond of the idea of being away from him than he is being away from her. Not tonight. She's exhausted but wired, and he makes her talk—about what happened when he was below, about where they'll go next, about her mum, about anything—and talk and talk as he traces slow patterns on her back with his palm. Eventually she drifts off: her head on his chest, one leg between his and locked at the knees. And for the first time since he's gotten this body, he's still. Happy just to breathe her in.)
Pete's World, he's very quickly finding, is a place of endless contradictions and ambivalences.
He feels both empty and full to bursting, aching and hollow and different inside out. (It's a miracle his heart isn't bruising his chest from within, it's pounding so hard.) Rose is with him but with him, head and heart a universe away, and he wonders how long it will take before she can bear to look at him properly. The zeppelin-ride back to the Tyler mansion is too long and too short, he's too hot in his jacket and too cold in just his t-shirt, and everything about this feels too new and too strange and just wrong enough that he's worried. Too much of not enough.
"You alright?" Jackie asks as they disembark, eyeing him like he's liable to melt or explode or go mad. (He might.)
"I'm always alright," he says absently.
Rose takes his hand, then, and doesn't let go as she leads him across the opulent lawn, through the front door, up the stairs and into her bedroom. She seems lost when they get there, however; without a destination, she loses steam completely.
"Rose…?" he nudges her after a moment.
She startles back to life. "Sorry, I was just—it's been a long day." She gives him a weak smile, but he can tell she's steeling her resolve by the look in her eyes. He braces himself.
"The guest room's down the hall, if you want it, but I was wondering… if you like… you could stay with me, tonight."
Something very new and very human—wanting—awakes within him, and he's not remotely ready for it. His eyes must give his terror away, because she bites her lip and backpedals like crazy. "No, not like—I just mean, like we used to. To talk. If… if that's okay."
He swallows. "That sounds brilliant."
"Yeah?" Her smile gets a little more genuine.
The furrow between her brows disappears; she seems about a decade younger for it. "Okay. I'm going to go shower, it's been… you don't want to know how long it's been. Just—don't go anywhere, yeah?"
He doesn't really have anything to say to that, so he simply gives a little wave as she excuses herself.
Her bed is huge and purple and inviting, and he kicks off his shoes and climbs in, to have something to do. While a biological metacrisis wasn't exactly on the same level as a regeneration, he feels utterly exhausted. And it wouldn't be so bad, really, to close his eyes a minute while he waited for her…
(Rose smells fresh and clean, skin dewy from her shower, and he wonders briefly if he's dreaming. Her hands are in his hair—fingernails scratching gently at his scalp—and the effect is utterly hypnotic. He feels like himself again, in this space between awake and asleep, and it's only moments before he dozes off once more.)
He's barely there a week before an unknown alien spacecraft decides to park itself over London.
Naturally, Rose is called into Torchwood, and naturally, he tags along. The Hub is alive with activity, but the whole room pauses when they enter. He opens his mouth to start in on a long speech about the nacelle design of the dorsal engine, but before he can make a sound, he's interrupted—
"Right, what've we got?"
(It's going to take some getting used to—being her companion.)
"We don't know, it just kind of materialized there a half hour ago…"
The whole atmosphere changes before his eyes. Rose is a dynamo, everywhere in the room at once, absorbing information like a sponge and occasionally pausing to gently issue orders to waiting personnel. She reminds him of someone, and it takes a moment before he realizes that it's him. She leans over a vidscreen, and for a second he nearly expects her to whip out a pair of spectacles. (He tries not to be disappointed when she doesn't.)
He's not sure what he finds more impressive: the fact that she so clearly knows exactly what she's doing, or the deference and respect showed her by all these people—soldiers and scientists and who-knows-what. The light from a nearby console scatters gold through her hair, nearly blinding him, and she's breathtaking. By far the most fascinating thing in the room, at any rate, and it's therefore only natural that she should catch his eye… which renders Jake's whispered comment about sockets and popping both terribly inappropriate and highly uncalled for, really.
Realizing he still hasn't closed his mouth, he snaps his jaw shut. But his pulse has already increased to a rather alarming rate, and he wonders—not for the first time—how humans bear to manage all these hormones and nerves and… and… sweaty armpits.
There's a brief lull and her eyes finally find his again. He has no idea what she must read on his face, as out of nowhere the mask of leader falls away and she shoots him a small, shy smile—one that says, Okay, I'll admit, I'm no… you. Am I doing this right?
For the first time in his life, the Doctor feels the quite insatiable desire to rip Rose Tyler's clothes off.
He slips off to the break room and makes himself a cup of tea instead.
The Doctor has never been very good at keeping promises to Jackie Tyler. But in the grand scheme of things—("Is she safe? Will she always be safe? Can you promise me that?")—breaking her 'No funny business while babysitting Tony' rule is hardly on the same scale. Not even a promise, in the strictest sense. More of a suggestion.
The Littlest Tyler has been asleep for a half hour, anyhow, and what else were they supposed to do, play tiddlywinks?
(Well, actually, tiddlywinks had been a legitimate proposal until Rose had pinned him to the sofa and he'd gotten rather spectacularly distracted.)
His head is spinning from oxygen deprivation and the smell of her and her lips on his and he wishes—not for the first time—that he still had his respiratory bypass system. More than a little dizzy and feeling rather brave, he starts playing with the buttons on her blouse.
She lets him.
A sudden wet and cold tickles the sole of his foot and he arches into her, gasping at the sensation. "Rose…"
The best she can manage is a throaty "Mmmn?"
"Rose, what are you—"
His terribly clever Time Lord brain comes to a screeching halt as it occurs to him that, seeing as he has her mouth quite delightfully occupied, that Couldn't Possibly Be Rose. He jolts, knocking them both off the couch and onto the floor, and Rose the Dog yelps in surprise and scampers from the room. For a moment it is completely silent, the two of them panting for air and staring blankly at the open door the tiny terrier had just run through.
And then Rose bursts out laughing.
"Oi!" the Doctor protests, tugging at his ear in dismay.
"Your—" Rose gasps desperately, "—your face…"
"It's not funny!" he insists, but her mirth is contagious and he's already fighting back a grin. "Rose, stop it!"
But she's completely gone, tears streaming down her face, doubled over with laughter.
She's half-dressed and completely naked, and he's never loved her more.
Their second attempt, later that night, goes much more smoothly.
Afterward he stares at the ceiling in wonder, waiting for his pulse to slow, every nerve ending on fire. For the first time, he feels completely in tune with his human body. He counts off the seconds to the sound of her breathing and revels in the plain old thump-thump of his single racing heart, pounding the rhythm of her name into his veins: bad-wolf, bad-wolf, bad-wolf.
"Whatcha thinking about?" she mumbles drowsily into his shoulder.
He blinks and awkwardly tilts his chin against his chest in an attempt to look down at her. "I thought you were asleep."
"Nah, I'm…" she trails off and waits for her mouth to catch up with her brain, propping herself up on her elbow to see him properly. "You alright?" She can't quite keep the quaver of worry out of her voice.
(He's sure of it now: he'll never have her close enough.)
He finds her hand, entwines their fingers and beams at her. "I'm brilliant." After a moment's consideration, he adds, "I love you."
"Quite right, too," she murmurs, lips twitching in amusement, and she settles back into the sheets.
(And if this is as close as he gets to close enough … well, he'll just have to learn to live with it, he supposes.)