I own nothing.

Set in between New Earth and Tooth and Claw.

Rose absently twirled a strand of her hair around her index finger, her expression thoughtful. The Doctor was quite happy to let her think; he had plenty to consider, himself. Though he was briskly moving about and fiddling with the TARDIS' controls, spinning knobs, and occasionally giving something a solid whack with his closed fist (he'd misplaced the hammer than he kept on hand for that sort of thing), the majority of his attention was not on flying his ship. The face of Boe… It was strange, now that he was thinking about it. Something that old, and he'd only even run into it on one other occasion?

To be fair, the odds of running into the same person twice while running around the universe were technically astronomical, but in his life... well… And it had known him. Somehow, he just knew that it had. It had known how to contact him, hadn't been ruffled by talking to him the way most people were, and had wanted to tell him some enormous secret? Maybe a future version of himself had encountered it in its past? That was really the only thing he could think of at that point, and it happened often enough to be a real possibility, so—

"Doctor?" The Doctor blinked, turned, and saw Rose looking at him with a little frown on her face. Her arms were crossed protectively over her middle. This was probably not a good sign.

Pretending like he didn't notice her pensive expression, he raised his eyebrows. "Hm?"

She hesitated for a second, looking down at the floor and shuffling her feet a little. "Remember… how everyone always assumes that we're…" She trailed off, looking spectacularly uncomfortable.

In his previous incarnation, he probably would have let her flounder for a bit, but an encouraging, curious, "That we're what?" popped out before he could think about it, surprising him more than it should have.

Rose pursed her lips briefly, then shrugged, doing her best to seem offhand. "Oh, I don' know. Together, or something." The offhand bit failed miserably. Rose cared about this. A lot.

The Doctor suddenly felt like a deer caught in the headlights. "…What about it?" Was she getting ready to tell him that they definitely weren't together, or that she wanted them to be? He wasn't sure he wanted her to do either one. She didn't know—couldn't know—about…. I mean, the first time she had the Time Vortex running through her head, and the second time she had Cassandra running through her head.

"Well, I was just wonderin'…" she said slowly, "Why… do you think everyone thinks that?" He let out a breath that he hadn't realized he was holding, and a split second later cursed himself for doing it so obviously. Rose, however, didn't seem to notice. "I mean… the other you had those ears—"

"Hey!" the Doctor cut in, indignant, "I LIKED those." Well, they'd grown on him, anyway.

Rose continued as though she hadn't heard him. "And you've got those stupid trainers—"

"Alright, WHAT is wrong with my trainers?" He was no longer happy with the turn that the conversation had taken.

"They don' match," Rose told him flatly, her arms tightening over her chest.

"They don't match what?" he shot back, exasperated. "I'm wearing a pinstriped suit, a brown overcoat, and the trainers. Nothing matches anything else. "

"And," she informed him loudly, ignoring his retort again, "BOTH versions of you talk too much." What on earth was WRONG? The last time he'd seen her like this, she'd been having a bit of a breakdown over seeing multiple alien life forms on a space station parked above a dying Earth. THAT had been understandable.

He just stared at her for a couple of seconds, probably looking about as confused as he felt. "… Are you done?" he asked finally.

Her hands came down from her sides and balled into fists as she stalked right up to him, her expression tight. He had to force himself not to back up. "Not. Even. Close. Why did you let her die?"

He blinked. Had he really lost the thread of the conversation that completely? "Wha—Who?" He was very tempted to ask if it was 'that time of the month', but after about a second of thought concluded that this would be likely to exacerbate the situation.


His expression hardened automatically at the name. "I told her on Platform One. She'd had her time. More than."

"That's it?!" there were held back tears in her voice, and he noticed --with a sudden, unpleasant dropping sensation in his stomach—her eyes were getting a bit red.

He was not, however, backing down on this. "That's it," he replied quietly.

"And you just DECIDED that?" she shouted, looking like she wanted to hit him. The knuckles of her fists were turning white.

"As a matter of fact, I did, yes," he snapped, his face losing some of that steely calm.

"Just like you decided that I'm a stupid ape, right?" she all but screamed. The Doctor's face went completely blank with surprise, and a split second later he opened his mouth to contradict her. Too late. "Someone who doesn't know what they're doin'; someone who doesn't know… anythin'! Not even whether or not she wants to stay with someone! No matter what! Whether she wants to… to… die with someone, if it comes to that… so he won' be alone when he goes!"

Understanding flitted across his face. "… This is about forcing you to go home in the TARDIS during that battle with the Daleks."

"YEAH, IT BLOODY WELL IS!" snarled Rose.

He couldn't think of anything to say to that, but his mouth found something to say, anyway. "… Bit of a delayed reaction. That was days ago."


He did, except to mutter, "Blimey," under his breath.

"Listenin' time," she hissed at him, and grabbing his tie and jerking him down to her eye level. "I make my own decisions. Period. I'm not a little kid. I'm NOT a STUPID APE. I'm goin' to do what I want, when I want, and how I want. If you don't like what I'm doing, you can explain things to me and TRY to make me change my mind. Alrigh'?"

He pursed his lips, trying not to smile; she'd think he was laughing at her. … Which he was. "Got it. Absolutely." Pause. "You gonna let go of my tie, Queen of the Amazons?"

Rose raised a dark eyebrow, took a deep breath, and said, "No."

He blinked again. "Wh—" Before he could get the rest of the word out, she leaned forward, and—


She was kissing him. Right there, right then, nothing foreign running through her head. For all of her bluster, the kiss was gentle, almost timid-- the exact opposite of the kiss that he'd gotten from Cassandra an hour or two previously. Her eyes were closed, which he could see because his eyes were wide open, emphasis on WIDE. But… it felt right. Really, really right, just like it had on the Gaming Satellite, and just like it had when Cassandra had been in Rose's body, had grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him into some really, really hot snogging. Now that it he knew that it had been all Cassandra, the thought made him a little ill, but there it was; the snogging had been hot, no qualifiers. That same electricity was there right then, and—

With a start, he realized that he was kissing her back, his eyes slowly drifting closed. Instantly, they snapped all the way open, and he roughly broke away from the kiss, stumbling back. Rose looked surprised and a little dazed, like she'd just been rudely woken up from a particularly nice dream. He just stood there, breathing hard, eyes wide. I shouldn't have done that. Why did I do that? I kissed her back! Why?

As he stared at her, trying to gather his thoughts into something that at least resembled coherence, awareness brightened in her eyes, her face crumpled, and she turned away. "Sorry," she murmured.

He flinched, feeling like someone had just punched him in the stomach. "Don't—Don't do that," he told her in a low voice.

"Sorry," she said again, her voice ash soft. Her breath hitched in a little sob that she seemed to be trying to muffle. It didn't work.


"I shouldn't 've—"

"Rose—" He took a step toward her, feeling his chest start to ache. I made her cry. I made Rose cry.

"I wasn't thinkin'," she told him, still not turning around, "I jus'… If you want to drop me off back home, I'll—"

He shook his head impatiently, walking over the rest of the way to stand behind her. "Rose, that's not—"

She spun about, facing him, her face streaked with tears and patchy in places. "I want to go home!" she sobbed, "Jus' take me home, please!" Then she noticed the expression on his face and instantly went very still, barring the occasional hiccup.

He leaned in and kissed her on the mouth. Rough. Insistent. Almost desperate. Before she could start kissing him back, he pulled away again. It was really, really unnervingly difficult. "Have I got your attention?" he asked, his voice mercifully staying steady despite his pounding hearts. She nodded, her eyes wide and stunned. "Good. Now, first thing's first: you've done nothing wrong. Alright? Nothing. I'm not angry, and I didn't…" He took a deep breath. "It's just that—" This was really difficult. He stopped, averting his eyes, ran a frustrated hand through his hair, and considered making some excuse before running away. Rose waited patiently, her eyes on his face. Finally, he looked back at her. "… I was married. Before. Did you know that?"

Rose shook her head slightly. "No," she replied, her voice almost inaudible.

"More than once. I've lost all of them. More to the point, I've lost everyone that I've ever been in any sort of romantic relationship with. You're so, so young, and... I don't want—" He broke off again, and again she was patient. Companions don't stay with me for long. Not ever. You'll leave, or I'll have to send you off again, or one day I just won't come back. I won't mean to, I just-- I don't want you to be any more upset than you absolutely have to be. "I won't lose you. I promised Jackie," he added, taking an easy out and hating himself for it. He'd promised himself; that was the important bit.

Rose thought about this for several seconds, her brows knitted together. "So… What you're sayin' is…" He waited, his hands balled up in his pockets to stop himself from reaching out to hold her. "You won't ever…?"

"No," he told her honestly. He suddenly felt very old indeed, and so very tired.

"Not with anyone?"

"Not with anyone."

They were both very quiet for several minutes after that. The TARDIS hummed soothingly in the background, and the Doctor eventually went back to fiddling with the controls. Finally, Rose cleared her throat. "So… how was my snogging?"

He looked up from the controls, surprised and relieved by the figurative olive branch, then half smiled. "Oh, you know. Not bad."

Rose glared, but she was obviously trying not to smile back. "Not BAD?"

"I suppose," he confirmed off-handedly, "For a human."

She gaped at him for a long moment. "For a HUMAN? What else have you been snogging, then? Raxocoricofalabatorians?"

"A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell," the Doctor replied primly.

"Oh, get off it!" Rose was grinning outright by that point. "Mickey likes it," she added.

"Likes what?"

"My snogging technique," she told him, wiggling her eyebrows as her grin widened even further.

"Mickey the idiot," he quipped lightly, trying not to picture her kissing said idiot instead of him, "He would, wouldn't he? Low standards on a global scale. Almost non-existent, I'd say."

"Right," she snorted, "Bed for me, then. Where are we goin' tomorrow?"

"It's between the 80's and Area 51. I'll have to sleep on it."

"My vote's for the 80's. Oh, and I'm goin' to do it again, eventually."

The Doctor frowned and looked over at her again. "What? The 80's?"

Rose smiled that bright, catching smile of hers. "The snogging you," she replied, her voice bubbling with suppressed laughter. Before he could get his head around that, she chirped, "Night!" and then she was through the doors and off into one of the TARDIS' other rooms.

He stared after her, then caught himself, swallowed, and muttered something unintelligible under his breath. "And you," he snapped up at the glowing green cylinder in the center of the TARDIS' operation console, pressing buttons and turning dials at a furious pace--and without so much as glancing down at his hands, "Can keep your opinions to yourself. I'm going to go—shop," he added irritably, and stalked over to the exit. He pulled the doors open open and slipped out into what looked like a perfectly ordinary, very English shop before slamming them behind him again with a satisfying snap.

The TARDIS hummed. Somehow, it sounded rather smug.