Distractions

Chapter 1

"I can't believe you hit him. You must have inherited that ability to slap very hard from your mother. I almost feel sorry for the poor bloke; I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a Tyler slap!" exclaims the Doctor.

"Yeah, well, he shouldn't have called me a 'silly little human' then should he? You're the only one I can forgive for saying that," Rose says, and smiles cheekily at him.

The Doctor laughs.

"My god, I lo-" he begins to say.

He stops still.

Woah. He almost said it then. Without even thinking. He'd have to be more careful. This keeps happening.

Once upon a time, before Rose, he never had cause to say it. Then, after he met her, but when he was a different man, he never said it, because he tried to stop his feelings. Hid from them. Was scared of them. He thought that saying...it...would make things real; and then he'd lose her.

He used to be an idiot.

Then, after he regenerated, he was the same but different. Same thoughts, same feelings...but he was happier, funnier, sexier. Initially, he had still hidden from the feelings. But then he admitted it all to himself, and it wasn't so scary anymore.

But he is still an idiot.

Because, for all he has changed, for all he can tell himself that he loves her, he still hasn't told her. He doesn't think he needs to. What does it mean, anyway? They are just words. Plain old English words that could never reflect the true extent of his feelings. And anyway, she already knows, so what's the point?

The thing is, he has this niggling feeling that perhaps she needs to hear it. Which is why this keeps happening; he almost does let her hear it. Because it feels right. It feels...human.

Ah.

Maybe it wouldn't be such an insignificant thing to say, after all. Humans like to be told they are loved, even if they already know. He can say it now, he knows that. She means the universe to him, and he should tell her so. Now.

He turns around. And then he turns around in the other direction. Rose is gone. Hmmm. She must have sneaked away while he was all lost in thought.

Perhaps he should go and find her and tell her right now.

Suddenly, he feels two arms sneak around his waist from behind, and her chin rest on his shoulder.

He bottles it. Coward, every time.

But then again, what if he doesn't tell her? He thinks. She knows. She knows. It doesn't need saying.

"Where did you go?"

"Just nipped to the loo."

"Nice."

"You didn't notice I'd gone did you?"

He turns around and her arms tighten around his waist. He smiles at her sheepishly. "If I'm honest...no. Sorry."

"Lost in your own little world were you? Dreaming of the stars," she giggles lightly, drawing an inconsequential pattern on his chest with her fingers.

"Actually, I was thinking about you."

"Oh. Well, that's sweet."

"Indeed. I'm a very sweet person."

Rose snorts at this. "Of course you are. My Doctor: Oncoming Storm, but really quite sweet underneath all that scary exterior."

He knows she's mocking him, but he plays along. "Yep! Hmmm. 'My Doctor' – I like it. You've gone all possessive."

"I've always been possessive. You just never noticed before. Oh, the times I've been green with envy," she says dramatically, earning a raised eyebrow and a chuckle from the Doctor. She laughs with him, "Of course, you've been known to get a bit jealous yourself..."

He sighs, "I've told you before and I'll tell you again: Time Lords don't get jealous."

"Sure...but you can't deny it; even before we...well, you know...you were the possessive one. Even back when you were a different man..."

"Ah yes. But you were one for the pretty boys back then. Adam. Jack. Mickey..." he shudders.

"Firstly, what? Adam? That was just a thank you trip. No way did I want him to come with us all the time, nor did like him like that. Secondly, nothing happened with Jack..." she briefly looks a little dreamy, but a sharp look and an "Oi!" from the Doctor bring her back. Oops. "Sorry. But Mickey – well, he was my boyfriend, before you stole me away," she winks at him, "Anyway, you're one to talk."

"What?"

"Ok. Jabe. Lynda. Sarah Jane. Cleopatra. Reinette..." Rose counters.

"What? No, no, no, no. Nothing untoward there," he says, and she raises an eyebrow at him, "Weeelll, yes ok, I suppose you can have the last one. But at least I didn't... "

"Didn't what?" she asks.

"Didn't practically jump the Prince of Elestoei. Fell at his feet, you did." The Doctor sniffs.

"Oh don't start that again. I just smiled at him, ok?"

Anyway, he was a distraction for me from you being all forbidden, she thinks to herself. With all the sexual tension that had been flying around in the TARDIS that week, Rose had almost exploded. So making the Doctor jealous by pretending to like this other guy was a nice distraction. But she would never have done more than smile at the Prince. Thoughts of the Doctor invaded her mind too much to ever even remotely like somebody else.

"And then there was Henry. I told you – I specifically told you – 'don't let him dance with you, he's a right player' – didn't I say that? And what do you know. You bloody go and dance with him. And then he decides he wants you to replace dear Queen Catherine, poor woman, and he'd already spotted Anne as well, so really, you could've messed up the history there, Rose. You would've ruined the rhyme if he'd gone for you and not Anne. Although, at least she would've kept her head. Oh, but you might have lost yours, instead! Bet you wouldn't have liked that! You did look nice in that dress though – obviously his Highness' type of woman - but - "

" – enough! See! I told you that you get jealous. But I couldn't help that one. He was very charming. And not at all how I imagined. Very...athletic..."

Another adventure, another attempted distraction. It didn't work, of course. By then, she had already fallen (jumped) into bed with the Doctor, and no way was she ever leaving now she had gotten there. But however much she loved him, and loved being with him, she knew he didn't feel quite the same. So the distractions were always there, to keep her on a level playing field with him – as much as she had told him, quite often, that she loved him, she had to make herself appear indifferent, sometimes. Because he didn't love her back. And she needed distractions from that.

She was wrong, of course. But how could she know? He hadn't told her.

"Ha! Athletic. He got very, very large later in life. You wouldn't have liked him then. Oh, but he was ginger. How come he gets to be ginger and I don't? No wonder you fell for him. Knew I should've been ginger..."

She bursts out laughing at him.

"I didn't fall for him, Doctor – ginger or not. You can be such an idiot sometimes. I haven't...I would never..." It was obvious, wasn't it? He knew that she could only ever love him. "Ok. In conclusion, we've both done our fair share of chatting up the royals. But it doesn't mean anything. Well, not to me, anyway. I'm here, aren't I?"

"Yes. But you really did - "

"Doctor! Give it a rest. How do you think I felt with the very rapid way you became all besotted with Madame de bloody Pompadour? We both...Well. We are both here now, with each other...so..."

The Doctor feels guilty, now. Rose is so forgiving. Reinette had been a lapse in judgement on his part. He hadn't meant to appear 'besotted' with her. He hadn't been besotted. He hates to think that Rose thought he had been. He sort of got cast under her spell, for a bit, what with her being so forward and everything; she was a woman who made every human man fall in love with her. But it didn't quite work on the Doctor. Not when he was already so incredibly, irrevocably...

But, well, Rose didn't know that, did she? Even if he thought she did.

Reinette had been a distraction, that's all. Just like they all were; everyone else they came into contact with – all distractions, used by them both to pretend...to stop themselves admitting their true feelings for each other. Except, for a while now, Rose had been professing her love for him, but he hadn't done the same in return. Not yet. But he should. He doesn't know why. But something tells him he should. And there are no distractions now. No more hiding.

"So...?" he prompts. He's not sure why, but he will tell her. He'll tell her today.