The hushed, not-quite-whisper dragged Rose from her sleep. 'If you're waking me up 'cos you're bored,' she mumbled into her pillow, 'you're gonna get such a slap.'
She heard him laugh as the bed dipped behind her, signalling that he'd climbed onto it. When she felt his body pressing against her back she snuggled into him, wriggling against him. She smirked as she heard the Doctor suppress a moan.
'I've got something to show you.' He said, his voice husky.
'I'll bet you have,' she shot back. 'It'll still be there in the morning though, yeah?'
He cleared his throat. 'Um no, actually. It's only now that everything's aligned just right and the TARDIS has just enough power to-'
'What are you talking about?' she interrupted.
He leaned forwards slightly and pressed his lips to the mark on her neck. Suddenly she felt anxious. Excited and anxious. She rolled over to face him. 'What's wrong?'
'Come on,' he said, rising from the bed and pulling on her hand.
'Doctor-' she began, warningly.
'Trust me?' he pleaded.
Rose narrowed her eyes at him but stood, pulling her jeans on and following him out of the room.
Once they reached the console room the Doctor bounded over to the monitor, swinging it towards her so she could see. She gasped; outside the ship was alive with fire. 'Is that… What is that?'
'A supernova. We're in orbit.' He leaned against the jumpseat, affecting an air of nonchalance, but watching her intently. 'I thought you might want to say goodbye to Jackie...'
She stared at him, her eyes filling with tears. 'But you said there were no more windows. That it wasn't possible.'
'You came through.'
'Yeah, but… I can't control it. What if I end up stuck there again?'
'You're not going anywhere,' the Doctor said, his voice low. 'I just need you to put your hand-' he reached out and took her hand, laying it against a flat pad on the console she hadn't noticed before, 'here. And concentrate.'
Rose retracted her hand, still staring at the Doctor. Then she stepped forwards and flung her arms around him, burying her face in his shirt. 'Thank you.'
'No problem,' he said softly, stroking soothing circles on her back.
She stepped back slightly so she could look up at him. 'But... How will I… will I be a hologram?'
'Yes,' he said, watching her carefully.
She nodded. 'How will I get to her? I can't do that telepathy thing and if she starts hearing your voice in her head she'll just think she's lost it.'
'Thought you could use this.' He reached into his pocket and pulled out the mobile phone he'd been playing with when she woke up in her room - was it only days ago?
She stared at it. 'Superphone?' she asked.
He smiled. 'Superduperphone. Superduperinterdimensionalphone. Well... When powered by a supernova and a TARDIS, anyway. Regardless, it'll work. Just tell her where to meet us.'
'How will I know?'
'I'll tell you. In... five minutes. Should be somewhere relatively close to where we arrived the first time.'
'Bad Wolf Bay?' Rose asked, trying to keep a tremor out of her voice.
He shook his head. 'Before that. With Mr. Mickey.'
'Right. Ok.' She sucked in a deep breath. 'Do I look all right?'
He looked up from the monitor and ran his eyes over her. 'Perfect.' She blushed and looked down at her feet.
The phone call had gone quite well, Rose thought. Her mother had calmed down quite quickly and had agreed to meet her on the South Bank. Rose would rather have skipped ahead to the meeting, than wait the fifteen minutes it took Jackie to arrive – something to do with the link requiring that they stay in the right timeline, the Doctor said.
'Ready?' the Time Lord asked, startling Rose out of her reverie.
He looked worried, she thought. Probably because she'd spent the last fifteen minutes staring vacantly at the Time Rotor. She smiled, hoping to reassure him. 'Yeah.'
He took her hand, placing it on the console. Then he stepped back and aimed the sonic screwdriver at the console.
Suddenly, Rose was outside, standing just feet away from her mother. She stared at her the older woman. Jackie had obviously been crying, her eyes were red and her mascara was streaked. Seeing the direction of her gaze, Jackie reached up and wiped her face.
'Hi mum,' Rose said. Jackie took a deep breath. 'How long have I been gone?' Rose asked
'Two hours!' Jackie said, scandalised.
'Only two hours?' Rose asked.
'Oh… only two hours, she says.' Jackie mocked.
Ignoring her, Rose turned and looked at the Doctor, who was apparently deeply engrossed in something on the screen. This man... This Time Lord who got confused between twelve hours and twelve months, between 1979 and 1879 - same difference - this man had gotten her a window with her mother less than half a day since she'd disappeared. 'I love you,' she said, not intending to speak out loud.
He looked up, startled.
'Suppose that answers that question then,' Jackie said.
Rose turned back to her. 'Yeah. Mum, I'm so s-'
'Don't you tell me you're sorry, Rose Tyler, don't you dare! You always find your way back to him. And I suppose, if it was your dad...' She trailed off.
'I love you, mum.'
'I should bloody hope so!' Jackie said, smiling. Rose grinned back. Jackie's smiled faded gradually. 'Can't believe I'm never gonna see you again. My daughter. My baby.' Rose choked back a sob, overwhelmed by a sudden rush of sadness. Jackie looked worried, twisted her fingers together as though she was thinking of reaching out to Rose and realised she couldn't touch her. 'Now sweetheart, don't cry. You'll set me off.'
The Doctor stepped forwards quickly, resting a hand lightly on Rose's shoulder. She stepped back slightly, resting against him, but keeping her eyes on her mother.
'Hello you,' Jackie greeted, giving the Doctor a stern look.
'Jackie,' he responded, smiling warily.
'No need to look like that, Doctor,' Jackie said, 'its not like I can reach you.' She smiled and he grinned at her. 'All right are you? Rose thought you were dying.'
He nodded. 'I was. Rose saved me. Your daughter, Jackie Tyler, is brilliant.'
Jackie looked indignant. 'I could have told you that!'
'How long have we got?' Rose asked, looking up at the Doctor.
'Not long,' he said. 'I'm not sure how much longer we can keep the link open. Couple of minutes at best I'm afraid.'
Rose nodded, as though this was what she'd expected. She looked back at her mother, 'Mum-'
'Look at you two,' Jackie interrupted, her voice too cheerful. 'The Doctor and Rose Tyler. You look… right.' She paused. 'If we've only got a couple of minutes, I'll get your brother. He's in the car.' She turned and shouted towards the limousine parked behind her. 'Didn't tell him why we were coming here, in case it didn't work.'
The door opened and Pete Tyler emerged, followed by Tony. The boy saw Rose and ran forward. 'Rose!'
He reached out for her, but Rose shook her head. 'You can't touch me, Tony. I'm a hologram.'
Tony nodded, serious brown eyes regarding his older sister thoughtfully. Then he switched his gaze to the stranger beside Rose. 'You're the Doctor,' he said, absolute conviction in his voice.
'You're Tony Tyler,' the Doctor returned.
The boy smiled, pleased to be recognised.
Pete was watching his not-quite-daughter carefully, his arm around Jackie. 'You're not coming back, are you, Rose?' She shook her head, tears streaking down her face again. Pete nodded slowly and looked up at the Doctor. 'I don't have to tell you to look after her,' he said, 'I know you will. But I will say this, Doctor. Let her look after you.'
'No regenerating,' Tony said, making the Doctor smile.
Rose heard beeping, coming from the console and looked up at the Doctor warily. 'Is that-'
'I'll see what I can do,' he promised, pressing a kiss to her hair. 'Pete – good to see you. Tony, brilliant to meet you. Jackie… its been an experience.' He winked at Rose's mother and disappeared from view.
'I love you,' Rose said, her voice strained. 'All of you. I just had to-'
'We know, sweetheart,' Jackie said gently. 'We love you too. Just promise me,' her voice broke, 'promise me you'll be happy. That he'll make you happy.'
'He always has,' Rose said.
'Darlin', what I said, before all that stuff with the robots at Canary Wharf…'
'Mum – its ok…'
'Shut up and listen to me. It doesn't matter. I was wrong.' Rose stared at her, feeling relief run through her. 'Whatever you do, wherever you go, you will always be exactly who you always were. My daughter. Rose Tyler.'
Suddenly, Rose was back in the console room. She stared around herself for a moment, disoriented. Then she began to sob, her whole body shaking. The Doctor appeared in front of her, pulling her body against his and supporting her.
'I'm so sorry,' he murmured. 'Rose,' he swallowed hard. 'If you want to go back, I'll do my best to help you. I'll-'
'I don't want to go back,' Rose said in between sobs.
'When you were talking to your mother, you… flickered,' he said, softly. 'Like you were disappearing.' He tensed as she stepped back from him slightly and looked up at him. 'I think you were trying to go back, but I stepped forward and touched your shoulder, stopped you going. I'm so sorry, Rose. I shouldn't have-'
'You knew that could happen?' Rose asked quietly. He looked away. 'You knew and you didn't tell me.'
'I wanted you to have the chance to go, but I couldn't…' he trailed off. Then his eyes snapped to hers. 'I'll help you, if you want.' He looked over at the console, moving to step away from her. 'I'll just-'
Rose's grip on him tightened. 'No.'
'Rose, you're so upset…'
'Everyone leaves home in the end,' she said, her voice hoarse from the tears.
He regarded her for a long moment, 'I mean it, Rose.'
She glared at him, then reached down and took his hand, pressing her fingers into his wrist harder than was strictly necessary.
The Doctor felt a wave of utter despair roll over him. Rose was sobbing uncontrollably, her voice lost in the sound of the sea. Her mother was holding her, supporting her because Rose's own legs couldn't.
The Doctor gasped as Rose released his wrist. 'That was when I lost you,' Rose said softly. 'I'm not going through that again. I'm just sad, Doctor. But I'm home, and I'll be all right.'
He looked down at her, still uncertain.
Rose rolled her eyes at his expression. 'I told you I was gonna stay with you forever, yeah?' he nodded. 'I meant it, Doctor,' she said firmly.
He smiled down at her, his eyes crinkling at the corners. She stood on tiptoe, stretching up to kiss him, moulding her body to his. He could taste her tears on her lips, and he twisted his fingers in her t-shirt as he drew back from her mouth, pressing kisses all over her face. 'Rose Tyler,' he whispered in between kisses, 'I love you.'