"You should take her out," Donna suggested, nodding toward Rose who was lying on a nearby patch of grass playing with the planet's equivalent of a puppy.
The Doctor blinked at her and waved his hand above his head. "But she is out."
"Not like that you daft git! I mean you should take her somewhere."
"I just took her to the Orindirus Cluster and before that we went to Squalm. Don't you remember? You were there."
"Oi!" Donna shouted, flicking his temple. "Just how thick are you? I'm talking about taking Rose somewhere romantic, just the two of you."
When the Doctor simply gaped at her she sighed in frustration and added, "You know, like a date!"
The Doctor's eyes went wide and he shot a panicked look in Rose's direction. She was still playing with the puppy, so he turned back to Donna and hissed, "A date?"
"Yes," she hissed back. "A date. It's been over a month since Rose came back and you still haven't kissed her."
"What makes you think-- "
"Oh, please. You've been mooning over her since the first day I ever met you. I've seen the way you look at her. It's always been Rose. You love the girl and it's about time you stopped being a chicken and did something about it."
The Doctor gaped at her, started to speak then stopped and continued gaping for a moment before finally squeaking out a pitiful, "But--"
Donna glared at him. "If you're going to give me some complicated excuse about how Rose is human and it would never work you can just shut it. The poor girl fought for years to get back to you and I will not have you go breaking her heart over something as trivial as your stupid lifespan. You're both here now. That's what matters."
"Donna," the Doctor spat in exasperation, "What I was actually trying to say, if you would let me get a word in edgewise, was 'but where should I take her?'"
It was Donna's turn to gape. "Oh." After a beat, "Somewhere romantic like the birth of a star or something. Or maybe, Paris?"
"Hmm, Paris…" the Doctor trailed off. "Oh! I know the perfect place! Donna, you're brilliant!" He planted a sloppy kiss on her forehead and bounced from foot to foot with glee.
"Let's hear it then," Donna prompted.
The Doctor shook his head. "Nope, it's a secret. Rose can tell you when we get back." He started to move toward Rose but suddenly frowned and spun around. "Wait. What about you? What will you do while we're gone?"
Donna laughed and gave him a gentle shove back toward Rose. "Don't worry about me. You can drop me off at home – I'll have a cuppa with Gramps."
"Doctor? What's going on, why are you leaving Donna here?" Rose asked as she watched the Doctor hastily shut the TARDIS door behind Donna.
"She's going to visit her Gramps for a bit."
"Oh, I'd love to see Wilf again!" Rose reached for the door but the Doctor grasped her wrist, stopping her. She stared at his hand, her breath suddenly coming quicker as his touch sent ripples of sensation through her body.
"You can see him when we get back," he insisted, gently tugging Rose back up the ramp toward the console.
"Back?" Rose frowned. "Back from where?"
The Doctor released her arm and began to dance around the console. "You'll see." He grinned at her and as their eyes locked Rose felt the wind expel from her lungs. There was something different about him all of the sudden, something intense, and open and free.
Something on the console beeped causing the Doctor to turn away, refocusing his attention on flying. Rose took the temporary reprieve as an opportunity to catch her breath and examine the situation.
It had been a month since they'd defeated Davros and things had been decidedly… weird between them. At first he'd seemed delighted to have her back. He would grin at her and grab her hand and they'd laugh together just like they used to… before. Before the Daleks and Cybermen. Before Torchwood and the void and Bad Wolf Bay. Before the years of heartache while she single-mindedly searched for a way back.
But then something had changed. He grew distant and broody and though there was still the odd moment between them, it seemed to her as though he was pushing her away. It hurt, deeply, but she was trying her best to accept it and be happy with the fact that she was traveling with him again. That she could see him and talk to him every day.
Donna had been a god send. Rose had liked her almost the first instant they'd met, and she should see why the Doctor had chosen her to travel with him. They'd become fast friends and Rose found it extremely beneficial to have another woman around to talk to. Just the other day Rose had confessed to Donna her fears that the Doctor wasn't happy that she was back. Donna had promptly assured her that he was delighted by her presence, but still, Rose hadn't been convinced.
Rose was startled out of her thoughts by the Doctor's hand on her arm. "We're here!" he announced proudly, his face spread in a wide smile.
"Come take a look!" He tightened his grip on her arm and pulled her up before practically dragging her down the ramp and pushing her out the door.
Rose stumbled on the uneven cobblestone walkway and grasped the Doctor's tie to steady herself. As she regained her footing she surveyed her surroundings and gasped. They were standing on a narrow street, with colourful and beautifully sculpted buildings on either side of them. A few feet away was a small stone bridge that led to another narrow street. Water glistened in the distance as a long black boat that looked a bit like an oversized canoe glided beneath a larger bridge nearby.
Rose turned to the Doctor, her eyes bright with excitement. "Venice? You brought me to Venice?"
"I did!" The Doctor beamed proudly. "What better place for our first date than one of the oldest, most romantic cities in all of history."
Rose gaped at him.
He frowned. "What?" He ran his hand through his hair self-consciously. "Did I do this wrong? Did I pick a bad place?"
Rose swallowed and took a deep breath. "Date?" she finally asked, her voice filled with wonder and incredulity.
The Doctor suddenly looked uncertain and began shuffling his feet awkwardly. "Yeah…. Ummm… weeeelll… I thought… maybe… you know, if you want… Donna… well, I…if you want…" he trailed off.
Rose stared at him in fascination. In all her years travelling with him, she had never once seen the Doctor so tongue tied. She thought it was rather adorable. She let him squirm for a little longer before breaking into a wide, reassuring grin.
"Doctor, are you trying to ask me out on a date?"
Relief flooded the Doctor's features and he laughed. "Yes, I suppose I am."
Rose beamed at him and flung her arms around his neck. "Well it's about bloody time!"
He hugged her tightly; his arms warm against the small of her back. For a moment her awareness everything else faded away and all of her senses were zeroed in on him. The way he felt, the way he smelled, the sound of his breath, raspy and warm against her ear.
She pressed her forehead to his and their eyes locked. Instantly her heart began to pound and her entire body tingled. "So is this what you and Donna were whispering about earlier?"
"Maybe…" he answered coyly. "I may have needed a gentle push."
Rose had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Knowing the Doctor it had probably taken several strong shoves and a few swift kicks. "Remind me to thank her later." Rose kissed the tip of his nose and pulled away to find his hand and entwine her fingers with his. "So tell me Doctor," she said as she led them toward the first stone bridge. "What makes Venice so Romantic?"
They wove their way through narrow streets and over small bridges, passing many people dressed in elaborate attire.
Rose leaned into the Doctor so that she would speak quietly into his ear. "What year is it?"
"You know, I forgot to check." The Doctor studied the dress worn by a young woman who was walking past them. "Judging from the hoop-skirt, I'd say it's the mid 18th century."
He stopped suddenly on a large bridge that stretched over the Grand Canal, his eyes widening with glee. "Rose, do you know what that means?"
"It's incredibly difficult for women to sit down?" Rose looked down at her jeans and t-shirt. "And I'm dressed completely wrong? No wonder people have been giving us strange looks."
Forgetting his excitement for a moment, the Doctor frowned and sized her up. "Hmmm, you are dressed rather scandalously." He looked around, delighted to note that they were on the Rialto Bridge which just happened to be filled with dozens of little shops. He spotted one filled with dresses made of rich colourful fabrics a few feet away. Grinning, the Doctor pulled her toward it. "Come, I'll buy you a new dress." The TARDIS was so good at providing for their needs that he seldom had the chance to buy her things, and seeing as how this was a date, it seemed only fitting that he buy her a dress.
He watched with delight as Rose's eyes widened as she examined the various options. There were beautifully crafted dresses of every colour imaginable, all embroidered with intricate designs and patterns. The skirts were long and wide, and though most of them contained a full hoop skirt, there were a few with panniers. Rose gravitated to one of the panniered dresses made from a beautiful bright blue fabric that was adorned with golden thread. She drew the fabric through her fingers, rubbing it gently between her thumb and forefinger.
"Do you like it?" He whispered to her softly.
Rose nodded. "Very much."
"Try it on." The Doctor suggested. The merchant running the small shop had been watching them carefully since they'd arrived and he instantly came over to pull the dress off of its mannequin. He handed the dress to Rose and directed her toward a small tented area to change.
When she emerged a moment later, the Doctor felt his breath hitch in his throat. The dress fit her perfectly, hugging her upper torso in all the right places. The vibrant colour made her eyes sparkle and it was all he could do to prevent himself from gathering her into his arms and showing her just how beautiful he thought she was.
"We'll take it," he said breathlessly, without removing his gaze from Rose. He handed the merchant the psychic paper and closed the distance between himself and Rose in three swift strides.
"You look amazing," he told her earnestly.
Her cheeks flushed and she patted the large panniers that rested against her hips. "Even with these monstrosities?"
"Especially with them. Trust me, in a few years, that style will be all the rage."
"Says the man who isn't sure exactly what year it is."
"I can't help it. I was distracted," the Doctor cried defensively as he accepted the psychic paper back from the merchant and led them the rest of the way across the bridge.
Rose looped her arm through his. "I suppose that's understandable." Her face widened into a vibrant smile and the Doctor felt both of his hearts summersault inside his chest at the sight.
"It is, is it?" The Doctor let his voice deepen.
They stopped walking at the base of the bridge, and Rose spun so that she was facing him, her nose nearly touching his. His hearts began to race even faster.
"Oh, it definitely is," Rose whispered, inching closer.
Her lips hovered just above his, and all coherent thoughts seemed to leave him instantly. He groaned involuntarily and tilted his head slightly to one side. Their lips met and the Doctor groaned again, the sound vibrating against Rose's mouth. He melted into her, wrapping his arms around her back and pressing her lower back against the cement rail that edged this side of the bridge. Rose responded by winding her fingers into his hair and deepening the kiss, her tongue dancing gracefully over his.
A regally dressed couple walking past them tisked loudly and they jumped apart as though they were two young teenagers who had just been caught in a sticky situation. When the couple was no longer in sight, the Doctor laughed nervously and ran his hand through his already mussed hair.
"So," he said awkwardly as he hopped from foot to foot, "As I was trying to say before, if we are in Venice in the mid 18th century, and your dress proves that we are, then we could pay Casanova a visit."
Rose looked at him, clearly surprised. "Casanova? As in the Casanova?"
"The one and only."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Rose pushed away from the ledge, grabbed his hand and dragged him down the final few feet to the base of the bridge.
The Doctor laughed and touched his lips lightly before grinning at Rose and taking the lead. Donna really was an absolute genius.
Rose's feet were beginning to hurt. It felt like they had been walking for hours and her leg muscles weren't used to the constant twisting and turning of her ankles that occurred as she walked along the cobblestone streets. They had long since passed St. Mark's Basilica and the bridge of sighs and were now in a less populated area where the buildings were a bit further apart and trees and grassy areas could be seen.
The Doctor had taken to peering through cracks in gates or hoisting himself up on the side of stone fences in an attempt to discern whether they were in the right place or not.
During the sixth such occurrence, a handsome looking young man with a long dark ponytail approached Rose. He smiled at her broadly and reached for her hand. He brought it to his lips and planted a delicate kiss against the soft skin.
"You, m'lady are the picture of perfect beauty," he said in a thick accent.
Rose blushed. "Thank you."
"What is a fine lady such as yourself doing walking along the boulevard alone on such a fine summer's day?" The man began to loop his arm through Rose's, ignoring her pleas of protest.
"Oh, I'm not a--"
"She's with me, Giacomo!" The Doctor interjected, coming round the corner and putting his arm around Rose's shoulder possessively. His touch caused a shiver to run down her spine.
"Do I know you?" The man asked, glaring at the Doctor.
"Yes. Well, no, well… sort of. I've changed since last we met."
The man frowned, confused.
The Doctor pulled out the sonic screwdriver and waved it in front of the man.
"Doctor?" the man exclaimed in a not entirely friendly voice. "Here to cheat your way through another round of Whist?"
"I did not cheat," the Doctor insisted.
The man folded his arms across his chest. "Prove it."
"You know I can't do that, Giacomo."
"Fine then, I demand a rematch."
The Doctor made a big show of sighing and looking disappointed. Finally he nodded in agreement. "I suppose that's fair." He slid his hand to the small of Rose's back and stepped forward. "But first, allow me to introduce you to one of the greatest women I know. Rose Tyler, meet Casanova Giacomo."
Rose's eyes were wide as she held her hand out to him and again he tried to kiss her hand. The Doctor's arm drifted around her waist and he held her more tightly. Inwardly grinning at this new possessive side to the Doctor, Rose forced herself to focus her attention on Casanova. "Pleased to meet you, sir."
"Oh, Rose. Believe me the pleasure is all mine," Casanova drawled, shooting Rose a look so heated it prompted the Doctor to press her back to him, his hands resting against her stomach as he staked his claim.
The Doctor must have given him some kind of signal, because the next thing Rose knew, Casanova released her hand and stepped back with a scowl on his face.
He cleared his throat after a moment and nodded toward the garden wall the Doctor had been peering over a few moments before. "Come, join me in the garden."
He unlocked the gate and stepped aside, allowing Rose and the Doctor to enter before him. Through the panniers of her dress made it difficult for him to keep his arm around her waist, the Doctor managed to keep one hand on her back as he guided her through the garden.
It was a vibrant, lush environment – a little Mecca of greenery hidden amid the stone city. The lawn was freshly mown, and to the right stood a tall hedge, carefully sculpted into the shape of a large elephant with two white tusk. Just behind, was a second, slightly shorter tusk-less elephant and next to that was a smaller, baby elephant.
A few feet away, under a shady tree, a round wooden table was set up. Casanova beckoned them over to it and he and the Doctor began to play some kind of complicated card game whilst Rose tried to find a way to sit comfortably in the dress. After a fair bit of squirming she managed to work out a position that was bearable so she was able to turn her attention back to the men.
She didn't understand most of what they were saying – half of it seemed to be masculine banter and the rest had something to do with the ancient game and a chicken – so she amused herself by studying the Doctor.
During the years that they'd been separated she'd gone to bed each night, closed her eyes and pictured the Doctor in her head. Sometimes she'd picture his first face, but usually it was this one. She'd note for herself the colour of his eyes, the lines on his face, the contours of his smile. Overtime, much to Rose's dismay, the details had faded and it had grown more and more difficult for her to picture him in her head. Now, as she sat in the garden watching him, she memorized every miniscule detail, etching each one into her memory so she'd never forget them again.
Her gaze reached his lips and she was immediately reminded of what it had been like to finally kiss him. She had dreamed about kissing him countless times over the years, but every dream combined paled in comparison to the reality of the kiss they'd shared on the bridge. His lips had been softer than she'd expected, but every bit as intoxicating as she'd imagined.
A hand slipping into hers brought her back to the present, and she looked up in surprise. Something had happened between the men while she'd been daydreaming and they were now sitting across the table staring at each other with matching expressions of animosity.
The Doctor squeezed her hand as he glared at the other man. "Well," he said in an artificially bright tone, "We'd best be off. Perhaps we can do this again sometime." The Doctor stood, pulling Rose up with him. He started to walk toward the gate, without waiting for a response from Casanova.
"Doctor, wait!" the other man called out.
Rose felt the Doctor stiffen beside her, but he stopped, waiting expectantly.
Casanova's next words were so unexpected, Rose nearly burst out laughing. "You lost the bet. You owe me a chicken."
"Errmmm right… umm… weeeellll…" The Doctor drawled. Suddenly he tightened his grasp on Rose's hand and whispered, "Run!"
They took off at a sprint, weaving through the elephants and passing through the gate. Rose didn't dare turn around, but she could hear feet behind them and she knew instinctively that Casanova was not far behind them.
The Doctor pulled her down an alleyway, and then another. Soon they were weaving their way through narrow streets and over small bridges, but always there were footsteps just behind them. Rose's lungs were burning, but she continued to run, never letting go of the Doctor's hand.
Finally the footsteps behind them seemed to slow and the Doctor used the brief lull to try and make their final escape. There was another bridge ahead, but this time, instead of leading them over it, he led them to the edge of the water beside it where there was a single gondola. The gondolier stood excitedly as they raced forward and the Doctor shoved the psychic paper toward him as he and Rose clambered into the boat.
The gondolier used his stick to push off from the bank and they floated under the bridge and down stream a little ways before Casanova caught up with them. He stood on the bridge, shouting to the Doctor about his chicken, but the Doctor merely cast him a lazy smile and waved coyly. A second later, they turned the corner, and Casanova was out of sight.
The Doctor turned his grin toward Rose and she burst out laughing. "Oh Doctor, you would manage to get yourself into trouble on our first date."
He laughed with her. "I can't help it. Besides, he cheated."
"He did not," Rose said pragmatically, "you just don't like losing."
He sulked. "That's not true… I…" Rose cast him her most disapproving look and he trailed off. "Okay, I suppose it's possible…"
Rose grinned triumphantly. "Good. Now stop sulking. We're travelling in a gondola in 18th century Venice; this is supposed to be romantic."
Catching her point, the Doctor promptly enveloped her in his arms so that she leaned back against him. She settled in as best she could in the dress and turned her head to face him.
"Doctor?" she said softly.
"Even with all the running, in fact, especially with all the running, this has been one of the best dates of my life. Thank you."
The Doctor smiled. "We can have many more dates like this… I mean… that is… if you want…"
The insecurity was back and once again Rose found it to be endearing. She inched closer, until their lips were nearly touching, then spoke softly. "Yes, I want this. I love you, Doctor."
Then, as they passed under the Rialto Bridge, and before he could say anything, she kissed him.