Disclaimer: They're not mine.

A/N layers between them, from Rose's point of view.

It just—it happened so fast. One minute they were on that beach, her hand in his, and maybe he was squeezing a bit too tight but that was okay because she was squeezing right back, and then she'd turned around for five seconds and he was just… gone. Like a dream; like "And I suppose, if this is my last chance to say it: Rose Tyler;" like…

So. It's possible she goes a bit mad.

"What have you done with him?" she demands, inwardly wincing at the shrill desperation in her voice. She's tried so very hard for so very long not to be this girl. To be brave and to be steady and to be sure. She's not the kind to bang helplessly on white walls anymore—she stands back and is objective; looks for cracks and back doors. But the fear and the paranoia hit her like a battering ram, so that's what she becomes.

"It's not forever, Rose, it's just until we can get him sorted—"

"This isn't some textbook bag and tag we're talking about; he's the Doctor!"

"We have to make sure he's safe."

Full of blood and anger and revenge comes to mind, and she sucks in a breath; focuses. "He's not diseased, Pete."

"Not for us, from us. A human/Time Lord metacrisis, you called it? How much of his 'superior biology' do you think he retained? God only knows if he has immunity or not. We have to make sure he has the proper vaccines, so that this world doesn't kill him, Rose."

Somehow this sinks in, and all the fight flows right out of her. "…Don't give him aspirin," she says in a hollow voice.

"But are you okay, though, really?" she asks into the phone, resting her forehead on the concrete wall of the Hub. Everything in her craves contact—she nuzzles against the smooth cement, imagining burrowing into his chest; being lulled back to calm by the beats of his hearts. (Heart, now, she reminds herself. Just the one, and that's enough.)

"Oh, you know me," he says, in that fake-brave voice of his. "I'm always alright."

Her nose bumps against the wall as her lips brush the plastic of the phone, and it's not enough, not nearly enough. "Pete'll get it sorted," she whispers.

(It's not fair. Five years clawing her way back to him and now it's all wires and locked doors and static and they deserve better than this. The lack of him, the dull ache she's grown almost but not quite used to, stings acutely; it's all she can do not to storm down there and liberate him herself.)

"It's not so bad," he soothes, obviously trying to cheer her. "They're letting me pick my new name and everything."

It feels like a physical blow. What if I was wrong, what if he doesn't—the idea of calling this man anything other than 'Doctor' terrifies her. With effort, she manages to choke out: "New name?"

"Well, not to use, of course. But for my passport and driver's license and things, they want me to go by something that isn't Doctor. Can't imagine why."

"But that's not… you aren't… they can't do that to you," she insists, and she probably sounds completely mental but for god's sake, the only things he has in this universe are his name and her hand. If they're going to deny him access to one, it's nothing short of cruel to strip him of the other.

(This calls to mind, of all things, a trip they took back when he had blue eyes and fewer freckles—the premiere of The Crucible, to meet Arthur Miller. Unbidden, the line "I have given you my soul; leave me my name" echoes through her head as it'd echoed through the theater. She starts to think—as she often has since she fell—that he'd be proud of her for remembering, before it hits her all over again that she can simply tell him these things now.)

"But think of the possibilities, Rose! I could be called Alonso if I wanted. Come to think of it, maybe I will. Bit tired of John Smith."

"Mum almost called Tony 'Doctor,'" she argues, more for the sake of arguing than anything else. He sounds exactly like himself and it's like a cool compress to fevered skin. "You could say you got named Doctor. It wouldn't be impossible."

"Oh, I dunno. It's a bit of an adventure, isn't it? A new name?"

The one adventure I can never have, he'd said grandly, and a laugh bubbles up before she can bite down on it. (She hasn't slept in… well.) "So go with Alonso, then."

"Would you say it?"


"'Allons-y, Alonso?'"

She frowns. "D'you want me to?"


Her victory lies in his hesitance. "Exactly," she states simply. "I'm not going to call you anything but the Doctor. Other people can call you whatever you want."

After a very long pause, he breathes her name with the kind of awed reverence that only he could ever muster, and her palm slides up against the wall driven by sheer muscle memory.

In some ways, the next ten days are even worse than the past five years. Somehow she's expected to attend debriefings and file reports and keep calm and carry on despite the fact that somewhere, many floors below her, he's being poked at and tested and isn't where she is. (For some reason, no one else seems to understand the severity of this issue. "But you've got him back," they blink innocently, and it's all she can do not to scream no, she doesn't, because if that were the case they'd be touching right now and oh yeah, there's no way the office rumor mill would leave that one alone.)

"How's our newest arrival?" is her new mantra, demanded of Tosh and Owen at every available opportunity.

"A handful," Tosh will reply; Owen would never skirt so close to basic social interaction as to actually grace her with a response. In a way, knowing that is almost worse. Means she has to imagine him being his usual insufferable, irrepressible self, making fast friends with all the hired help and refusing to answer any important questions. She can just see him there, breaking equipment and withholding information because that's his way, not realizing that the longer he refuses to cooperate, the longer they'll keep him from her. (Or maybe he has, and that's why—stop it.)

On day eleven, she casually informs Pete over breakfast that she's going down to Medical to retrieve the Doctor and there's nothing he can do to stop her. To his credit, he doesn't bother contradicting her—merely invites Jackie to come along with them, ostensibly as Rose's moral support, but more likely as his own backup. There are arguments about cover stories and custody and Standard Torchwood Policy, and it's possible that she throws things but she can't really remember, it's all a blur, because as soon as Owen opens that door everything that isn't the Doctor goes quite spectacularly out of focus.

He's still wearing that ugly maroon t-shirt and those ridiculous blue trousers, standing awkwardly in a stark metal room where she's interrogated hostiles and negotiated peace treaties and he looks so lost and she doesn't care, she doesn't care, he looks like the Doctor and smells like the Doctor and talks like the Doctor and she doesn't think she's ever needed anyone as badly as she needs him in this moment.

Belatedly, she realizes that she's babbling, words rushing out of her like she's possessed. ("—thought I'd never see you again; practically went out of my mind—"). She hopes the metaphor is apt, because she could stand to exorcise all of this worry and fear.

"Rose, I'm fine—it's fine, look. See? All here."

It's embarrassing, but she just can't stop crying.

(In the car ride to her flat, he timidly ventures, "Was it really that bad?"

She stares at him. "Wasn't it for you?" He swallows, and she reaches over to take his hand. "I'm never losing you again," she says firmly, as if the power of her words alone could change the universe. "Not for a single second."

"Okay," he croaks, and she squeezes his fingers.)

She starts taking baths.

She tells him it's because she couldn't hear him talk over the roar of the shower, which is true, but in all honesty it's not him she's scared of not hearing. Anything can happen, she knows that full well, and over the rush of water she's far less likely to hear if a commotion is raised. She can't get the images out of her head—someone breaking in and snatching him; her never seeing him again. She's got to be sure of his presence on the other side of that door.

What she hadn't anticipated, however, was the day that even his voice wouldn't be enough. But it's only logical, really. What if something were to happen? She can't chase kidnappers naked.

So she invites him to breach the perimeter.

"You're quiet today," she says, as if it's normal for him to be leaning against the side of the tub playing with a rubber ducky. As if this could ever be something casual—warm water and scented bubbles and the bob of his Adam's apple in her peripheral vision.

"Am I? Sorry about that. Won't happen again." Words start pouring from him, and god, she knows how that feels. "You know, I once had an entire silent conversation through a door. With Donna, actually, right when I first met back up with her. There was a whole room between us, with her on the other side of a portal and me hanging out a window. Well, I was on the washer's cradle, if you want to be specific, but—"

"I've ruined it, haven't I?" she asks softly.

"Rose—" he starts, spinning around, but then he gets a good look at her and freezes.

(Oh, right. Naked.)

"I'm sorry," she says, biting her lip, hardly even registering what's coming out of her mouth, "I just… I wanted…"

She registers the blissful, all-encompassing silence he brings more than she registers the kiss itself, at first. Her brain catches up with her body with a jolt, and she parts her lips, kissing him back. She reaches up to grasp him by the collar, to pull him closer (she needs more), but stops herself.

"Don't," she gasps, leaning back, "I'll get you all wet."

"Don't care," he promises.

"That tie," she breathes, "is silk. S'a good tie."

"You can buy me another."

She disengages from him completely, and his face falls. The sheer petulance of his pout drags a chuckle out of her, and she impulsively fashions him a bubble beard, relieved to have found this place with him again: the Doctor and Rose, silly and easy and light-hearted.

He gets to his feet and wipes at his chin, then reaches out for her.

"That hand of yours still gives me the creeps," she smirks.

"Oi! This is the original model, remember?" he protests, persistently wiggling his fingers.

"Doctor," she laughs, "I'm all wet."

"Already?" he asks, eyebrows shooting up.

And, well. How could she refuse an invitation like that?

She takes his hand and lets him haul her up, only to slip thanks to the combined force of his enthusiasm and the still-full bath. But before she can topple to the ground, strong arms grip her around her shoulders and under her knees, and she'd make a witty comment except the Doctor's already got her lips otherwise occupied.

He carries her to the bedroom and drops her gently on the comforter, and she's too distracted by the sight of his deft hands untying his tie and unbuttoning his buttons to remember to complain about him ruining her sheets. She helps him undress, he climbs in after her, and in moments she's utterly lost to sensation and rhythm and him.

She doesn't know why she's surprised when she starts babbling once more.

"I missed you so much I couldn't I never please Doctor oh god I love you love you love you love you…"

And it's not like she'd tarted around a lot, before she met him, but she'd never quite bought into the idea of making love—that sex, while very fun indeed, was anything particularly more. But this… this feels different. Feels like something precious and something sacred; like first rain after years of drought. She finally, finally has him in a place where he's safe: where she knows she can't lose him; where he's solid and tangible and overwhelming all of her senses.

(She thinks she wished it, once: her Doctor, protected.)

Their entangled limbs fit like puzzle pieces, and for the first time since she arrived, Pete's World feels like home.