Disclaimer: I do not own! Take no offense and hire no lawyers.
Author's Note: This fic is fluffy like a fluffy thing. I am not responsible for any cavities you may get from reading it.
"So, where're we going?" Rose asks, watching the Doctor's contortionist act in amusement. He kicks out to rotate a dial with his left foot, his hands busy with buttons and levers, and she stifles a laugh.
"I've been thinking—sorry, could you flick that switch there, by your hand? No, your other hand. No, the blinking one, not the knobbly—perfect! …Where was I?"
"You've been thinking," she supplies.
"'Course I have! I've been thinking that it is high time I take you to the binary moon of Kallaxula Vega," he says merrily, knocking the TARDIS into gear.
They both stumble as the ship engages; she has to grab onto the jump seat to pull herself back up. "And what's on Kallaxula Vega?"
His lack of elaboration is a physical thing in the excited silence of the console room; Rose bites her lip as the Doctor shifts his weight in anticipation, overeager as a puppy but unwilling to sacrifice his dramatic reveal. She lets the moment linger as he bounces on the balls of his feet, swallowing a smirk.
Finally, she can take it no more: "Oh, go on, then. What's so interesting about Kallaxulan Fesh?"
"Excellent question, Rose! The Fesh people of Kallaxula Vega, as it happens, have a very complex system of religion—stemming from the idea that the ruler and creator of the universe is, in fact, a largish bowl of tapioca pudding named Fenburt." He takes great care in pronouncing 'Fenburt,' favoring the u and popping the t, knowing it will make her laugh.
He isn't disappointed. "What, really?"
"Well, I say pudding. It's really more of a custard. Weeelll, actually it's a viscoplastic non-Newtonian fluid, but it does taste like tapioca. Ish. In any case, the Fesh believe that they can communicate with Fenburt by sticking a ceremonial spoon into the pudding and asking it questions. According to the sacred texts, the spoon changes temperature in response: cools off for 'no,' heats up—"
"—when they're getting warmer?" she quips.
He beams at her proudly. "Oh, very good!" He gives her his full adoring consideration for a moment, and she feels suddenly lightheaded. "Rose Tyler, I believe I'm rubbing off on you."
And she knows better than to hope for more than this—than to think that maybe, maybe this time he'll kiss her—but that's okay. She never feels more alive than she does in these applegrass-and-werewolves moments—when there's nothing between them but electric air and eye contact, and he looks at her like she's more important to him than even the universe they travel.
There's a quiet thump and whine as the TARDIS lands, and just like that—like a whisper, like a click of the fingers—the moment is gone. She shakes off the vertigo that always accompanies the snap back to reality, and the Doctor just grins like a maniac. "They're completely wrong, of course—the Fesh—but no one's ever had the heart to tell them so."
She trots after him, bumping his shoulder with hers. "And why's that?"
He throws open the door with a flourish, and Rose gasps. "Are those—?"
"Yep!" he confirms.
Rose laughs in understanding. No one had ever had the heart to tell them so because the Fesh people of Kallaxula Vega were, apparently, a race of overlarge fluffy pink bunny rabbits.
They spend the day hand in hand: shopping at bazaars, chatting with locals and making a stop at one of the more prominent Temples of Fenburt. (They have to run for their lives—just a little—when he makes good on her dare to take a taste from His Holy Puddingbowl.)
"Faster than they look, the Fesh," Rose pants, bracing herself against the side of a building.
"Much better at hopping than we were, at any rate," he agrees. "Still. Knew we'd get away in the end. Big ears are good for many things, but they're hardly aerodynamic."
"And you'd know, wouldn't ya?" she teases, tongue between her teeth.
The Doctor is scandalized. "Rude," he declares, and he doesn't look at her again until she gives him a (terribly heartfelt and honest) apology.
"New rule," he announces as they walk through a park eating lunch. (Rose has no idea what it is, but it's delicious and comes wrapped in foil, and there's really not much more she can ask of a meal.) "No making fun of how I looked in past regenerations."
"But making fun of this one's fair game?"
"If you must." He pauses, then preens a little. "Don't see how you could, though, handsome devil that I am."
"Oh, of course. How silly of me," she concedes, ruffling his hair with affection.
It's twenty seconds worth of absent-mindedly mussing it back into just the right kind of disheveled before he realizes she's smirking triumphantly at him and he's been had.
At night they end up snuggled close atop his overcoat, spread out on the grass (which doesn't smell like anything in particular, but you can't have everything), watching a phenomenon the Doctor calls "a threefold Lissajous celestial event" but Rose just calls beautiful: the simultaneous sunset of the star around which Kallaxulus orbited (a red dwarf called Rebon) and planet-rise of gas giant Kallaxulus itself, split by the half-hour sprint of the twin moon, Kallaxula Majora, across the sky—cutting a path between the conflicting splashes of light and color like a comet in slow motion.
"The sky only looks like this once every seventy of your years," the Doctor whispers in her ear, transfixed. She shivers and he draws her closer, probably assuming she's cold. (She's really, really not.)
There's a muted humming in the air, and it reminds her that it's more than just the two of them on this little hill on this remarkable moon—the Fesh, too, are watching the sky, scattered over the fields in pairs and families. It sounds like a cello sonata and the buzz of a crowd and crickets on a summer evening and yet like none of those things; the soft harmonies fill her whole head, making the world dreamy and fuzzy at the edges.
"Doctor," she murmurs, anything louder than a whisper seeming somehow sacrilegious.
"S'that the Fesh, makin' that noise?"
"Sure is, yeah."
"Then why isn't the TARDIS translating?"
He looks down at her with that look—the one that turns her insides to jelly. "My Rose. Always asking the right questions. The TARDIS won't translate because it can't. It goes beyond language. Forget the pudding business and the ears—that sound, that's why we're here. It's what makes this place famous. This is their rapture, Rose. This is their hymn to the galaxy."
She feels sleepy and cherished and has to struggle to interpret what he's saying. "Like they're singing?"
"Oh, so much more than that. On a night like this, with a sky like that? They don't know how not to. It's like a kitten purring, or a… a flower, turning towards the sun. Like gravity." She glances up to meet his eyes, but they're trained steadily on the stars. "Imagine it, Rose. Reverence as biological imperative."
The tickle of his breath on her scalp gives her goose bumps, and she wonders if he's aware of the fact that he's been playing with the fabric of her hoodie this whole time. She doubts it.
(Just as she doubts he notices how comfortable he is with her now; how easily the hugs come. As she doubts he notices the perfect fit of their hands, or their identical accents, or the fact that Mickey and Adam had sideburns, too.)
Or how, when she sighs into the crook of his arm, she fits like she was made to go there.
Imagine it, Rose.
Rose can imagine it, quite clearly… and as he absent-mindedly hooks his fingers into the belt loop of her jeans, knuckles ghosting over the exposed patch of skin at her midriff, she wonders if maybe she understands more than he thinks.