A/N: Rose bumps into a certain someone. Hope you like :D x
Ketchup's the Inspiration
She sees him.
He's told her he'll be five minutes - he's just got to go and clean up the mess he's made at the MI5 building - but it's okay, she can stay here in this nice park with green trees and purple tulips and finish her burger while he does it, 'cos actually, it could be longer than five minutes and she's so tired that he doesn't want her to be roped in to cleaning up. And yeah, she knows he's gonna be a while, and she's sitting on the bench with a half-eaten burger, smiling at her life.
So, this day seems fairly normal, really it does. Compared to what life is usually like for them, hanging around on alien planets and the like. No, today they're just on plain old Earth, had planned to come and see Jackie but then, when do their plans ever go right, anyway? Never, that's when. So anyway, there was this crisis, and as they were passing they thought they'd help out, and then the crisis was averted and here she is, watching some kids play football as she gulps down her food, having not eaten for around about the thirteen hours it's taken to avert said crisis.
And then she spills ketchup down her top.
"Whoops. Damn it," she says to herself, standing up. She finishes her burger quickly, then wipes at her top with a napkin as she walks, not looking where she's going.
It's here that she sees him.
Well, bumps into him, actually.
"Rose," he says, short, sharp, sounding a little surprised. Or a lot, really, which is silly, because he knows she's here, doesn't he?
"Oh!" she exclaims, realising it's only him she's crashed into, not some poor innocent stranger walking their dog. "Hey, it's been, what? Five minutes? Seriously? Thought you were joking, thought I'd be waiting here for half an age!" she laughs, chucking the napkin into the bin next to them before grinning at him cheekily.
Her grin falters when she gets a proper look at his face. She sees the shock there, and the sadness. The raw pain etched onto his expression.
She gulps and glances down.
"You've changed your tie," she murmurs shakily.
He stays silent, his mouth hanging open like a fish.
"Doctor?" she says, urging him to talk to her.
And just like that, he recovers himself, schools his expression into one of joviality, and claps his hands together. "Right! Hello! So, I'm er...well, I shouldn't be here, timey-wimey and all that! So, best be off, I'll see you later - "
He's backing away as he speaks, and she can't have that.
" - Doctor, hang on, wait," she interrupts. She crosses the space he has created between them. "Everything okay?" she asks quietly.
"Hmm? Yes! Fine! Absolutely fine!" he assures her, smiling widely.
She can tell it's false. He's lying.
She smiles back anyway; neither of them can bear to be the first to break the illusion that everything's fine and normal.
And then she asks it. Because she has to.
"Where am I then?" she asks gently.
He swallows thickly, and she sees the glimpse of sorrow flit across his face even as he tries to cover it up.
"Oh, you...you're at home," his lies come quickly.
Her smile falters. "Home?" she echoes, her voice breaking.
"Yeah," he insists. "You're...erm, well, we've crash landed, actually, and you're just waiting for me to get back. Probably having a cuppa in the library as we speak," he improvises with a half-smile, enjoying the pretence, enjoying the lies, imagining, wishing it is all true.
She lets out a laugh in relief. Home. As in the TARDIS home. Thank goodness for that, he hasn't got rid of her! "I'm still with you," she says softly, immensely pleased.
The Doctor stares at her intently. "Yes," he exhales roughly.
"Good," she grins. And then she remembers. "Hang on, why'd you look so surprised? So sad? How long's it been since this day – you remember, the one with the Arkivites and the infiltration of MI5 – you've just gone to clear that up, by the way, but I bet you just stand and watch really," she teases.
"I remember," he smiles. "It's...been a while. Years," he says, and he's not really lying, it really has been years. Just two, mind, but you know. Still plural.
She's happy with his answer, but then grimaces. "Oh my god, am I really old and wrinkly now? Is that it? You're shocked to see me so young!" she laughs heartily at her realisation.
She stops laughing when she realises he's not laughing with her.
"Something like that," he answers quietly, and his eyes fix on her top instead of her eyes. "Rose..." he begins, and that's when she knows.
He says her name, and he sounds so helpless. He sounds...he sounds as though he might choke on the word, and she knows.
She knows. And she knows he knows that she knows. But they both pretend she doesn't.
"Go on then," she says, her voice cracking a little. "Get back to me. I'll be wondering where you are."
His head snaps back up immediately, and she sees something flicker in his eyes, something that perhaps looks a little like hope. She thinks she's said the right thing, whatever it is that's really happened to her.
(She's not with him, not really, she knows that. But perhaps she's not dead? Maybe there's a way...?)
Nevertheless, his smile is forced, and when she smiles back with the same lying expression, her lip trembles a bit. She tries not to cry. She doesn't want him to see her cry.
"Yeah. I better do that," he murmurs quietly, and there she hears it – a little hope hinted in his tone. "Know what you're like when you've had to wait a long time. Very impatient, you are."
"Yep. I am," she says, just as quietly. They stare at each other for a few moments, searching one another's eyes. Trying to figure out how to say it...
She can't bring herself to do it, and by the look on his face, neither can he. So she simply gives him his favourite smile of hers
(You know the one)
and flings her arms around his neck and plasters herself to him in a tight hug.
His arms immediately wrap around her, holding onto her just as hard, keeping her close to him, squeezing the breath out of her, and she's never felt so sad. Away from his gaze, her face pressed into his neck, she lets her smile fade, and a few tears fall from her eyes. It's when she feels his lips press into her hair that she sighs and leans back slightly, her nose brushing his the very littlest amount as they remain touching at every point of contact but their faces; their arms wrapped around each other, her hips pulled flushed into his, their legs pressed together. His eyes bore into hers and she knows he must see her tears because she can see her eyes' reflection in his.
She swallows thickly when she realises it's not just a reflection. He's crying too.
"Doctor," she whispers, and her voice breaks.
She bites her lip in an attempt to control herself, and this is what seems to be his undoing, as he presses his forehead into hers, closes his eyes, and kisses her.
Just a small, chaste kiss. A press of lips to lips and then he's pulling back, trying to push her away, get away from her warm arms and forgiving eyes.
He clears his throat, and eventually extricates himself from their hug to step a few feet away from her. "I have to go back for you," he says, his voice firm and resolute.
Not I've got to go back to you now, you'll be wondering where I am. Not I'll be going then, see you in a bit!
I have to go back for you.
So she isn't with him. But he's going to go and get her back.
"Yeah?" she asks.
"Yes," he nods decisively. And then he grins, and it lights up his whole face. Makes him look younger, freer, happier. Makes him look like the man that's currently cleaning up the MI5 building and will be out in a few minutes to come and take her into the stars for however long they still have left with each other.
The sight of it tugs at her heart, and she realises how much she's missed seeing that smile in the last few minutes where he's looked so lost, so miserable.
"Why?" she asks simply, because she's Rose and she has to know. If she's gone, but still alive somewhere, somewhen, then...why? How, first off, surely...but also, most of all, most importantly, why? Why go back for her if he's left her behind? She knows he won't answer her, can't answer her, so doesn't bother asking him why he's left her behind in the first place.
So she just asks why?
His grin falls, to be replaced by something that tugs at her heart just as equally. It's his oh dear, you silly human, Rose Tyler – can't you see the answer is obvious? Oh, and also, you've just dribbled down your shirt, it's a lovely accompaniment to the ketchup stain... expression.
"Rose Tyler," he says despairingly. "Because you're impatient, of course, and I've dawdled on the impossibility far too long."
She smiles, slowly. "Why now?"
"I've been inspired," he answers, a twinkle in his eye once more. He averts his eyes to the path beneath their feet to continue speaking, though. "And I miss the way you can never eat something with ketchup in or on it without also getting it all over your t-shirt."
Her breath hitches, and that hope...oh, that hope; that's wonderful. It's completely, completely wonderful. And she likes it.
"Doctor," she says, and his eyes meet hers instantly when she takes his hand and intertwines their fingers. She looks down at their joined hands for a long moment. "Still fit, yeah?" she murmurs.
"Our hands or me?" he grins cheekily.
She rolls her eyes. "Our hands."
"And you," she adds.
"Goes without saying," he replies easily.
"Haven't regenerated yet then," she states. "I'm glad."
He can't quite meet her gaze then, and she doesn't know why. But she thinks she can guess.
"Find me," she whispers. "Please don't give up."
He pulls her to him again, and cradles her head in his hands, kissing her for the last and not-last time. "Okay," he agrees. And then he steps back again, and walks backwards away from her, eyes locked on her the entire time.
"Doctor - " she begins, giggling, but it's too late, because he slips over the banana skin she is going to warn him about but doesn't quite have time to, and he falls on his bum with a groan.
Then his eyes widen. "Oh my...that was me, wasn't it? I dropped that there earlier? And you didn't..." he trailed off.
She grins. "Yep! Told you not to be a litter bug."
He shudders. "Bit too timey-wimey, that is," he says, standing up and straightening his tie in a weak attempt at reasserting his dignity and poise. "Right. Cheerio, Rose Tyler. I'll see you when I see you."
"That a promise?"
"Oh, definitely. And when I do, we're going to do that again," he tells her.
"The kissing thing," he says, as if it's obvious.
"Oh! Right! Excellent!" she smiles, her eyes alight with mischief. She watches his smile grow, before he turns to leave her and go and find her. Somehow.
Then she realises something, and her smile dims exponentially. "Hang on! Does that mean we don't do that until now? Doctor?" she calls after him. "Oh my god, we don't, do we? You're gonna make me wait until you...oh, you're an idiot of an alien, you are!"
He gets to the end of the path, turns around, and flashes her a cheeky grin. And she can't help but smile back.
It's only once he's faded from view that she realises she's kneeling on the floor next to the banana skin, crying herself silly. She takes a deep breath, trying to compose herself.
So. He's gonna lose her soon. And then, he'll come back for her. See? Everything'll be fine. It'll all turn out fine. Impossible? That's nothing for him. He'll come and get her, she isn't going to die. She'll just have to wait it out.
And right now, she's still here. And his hand is on her shoulder, asking her if she's alright. She looks up at his concerned face and smiles through her tears.
"Just sprained my ankle, that's all. Tripped over your flipping banana," she explains, mock-glaring at him.
He carries her back to the TARDIS in a sort of apology, and she revels in being in his arms again.
And she knows that one day, this might actually lead to somewhere.
A/N: What didya think? :) x