AN: I'll be honest, I lost steam on this project. I still think this is a fine place to end it though. I mean, essentially I just wanted them to get to a place where they were physically and emotionally comfortable with one another and I think they got there. The hard work of the relationship, all the heavy lifting, I think they've got the mettle for it after this.
The way I see it, if Rose can get herself to a place where she sees the duplicate as the real Doctor then the battle's already won. Confetti, babies, and adventures with the new TARDIS and all that are for other authors to conjecture. It's been fun.
Disclaimer: See part 1
167 Days Later
The Doctor, Rose decided, was thoroughly and frustratingly very much a tease.
Years of friendship, months of dating, and days of her practically throwing herself at him and still she couldn't hit the veritable home run with him. Had she lost her touch? It had been, well, years after all. It horrified her to think about actually. Was it like riding a bicycle? Is it the sort of thing you couldn't possibly forget? Was it like playing a sport and the more time spent away the worse you got at it?
Being neurotic over these sorts of questions was only a mild distraction away from the bigger question of why not, as in: why the hell is he not jumping at the chance? In some ways he was such a normal-ish man, impulsive and driven by his desires, but then on the one thing she thought she could count on him responding to in a truly normal manner and he threw a curve at her once again. He certainly had no problems touching her, or kissing her, as he proved by taking so many opportunities to do just that that sometimes she had to remind him of other things that had to be done in the day.
She had even been late to work so many times in the past week because of the Doctor distracting her that she was getting knowing smiles from people. The smiles wouldn't be half so embarrassing if they were right in their assumptions! The way their eyes darted down to her hands now and again, looking for the ring, it was almost as if everyone around them was about ten steps ahead from reality.
"You two could stand to be a little less, uh, intense." Jackie watched her daughter slump on the couch in the dressing room, watching a television monitor out of the corner of her eye. They were supposed to be having mother-daughter time, but Rose was a million miles away.
"What's that, mum? That's not your color, by the way, too orange."
Jackie peeled the designer coat off, angry that now that she could afford the darn things so few of them fit or complemented her looks. "This is peach, not orange, and I said that you and your Doctor need to take things a little more slowly. If we were back in our old place, everyone would be talking."
"Mum! It isn't like I'm flouncing around in lingerie or something all day long." Rose wondered if maybe that would be the answer. Maybe they could make a quick stop at another store after this one. "Besides, I've known him for years."
"Yes, luv, but you knew Mickey for years and you could still get to work on time and without being forced to wear turtleneck jumpers."
Rose dropped her face in her hands, embarrassed and irritated. "You're right! I know! I'm just going out of my mind!"
"I love you, you're my daughter, but I really wish you'd been a little less work mad the past year or so and made some girlfriends. You need someone who can knock some perspective into you, and you don't look like you're wanting to talk about this with me right now." Jackie had changed the peach jacket out for a green one with slanted wide pinstripes. "How about this one?"
Rose lifted her head out of her hands. "You look like a lime zebra."
It was one of those annoying things about growing up she had noticed, that her mom was often more right than wrong about relationship things. And honestly, even though Rose had always had a boy in her life, she had always had at least a number of girlfriends to talk with and eat with and laugh with… it seemed like there had been no time for laughing when she had been stranded here the first time.
"I don't know how I ended up with such a mean daughter. Switched at birth, I'm sure."
"Let's go get some chips, mum. I promise I'll love whatever else you put on today, really!"
As they were walking out, her mother clutching the lime zebra coat in one hand, Rose heard her phone jingle. It was work, as usual. Someone had misplaced the visiting goodwill ambassador from the Yinz Federated Monetary Alliance, who happened to look like a blowfish with legs and was about the size of a large paperweight. Rose strongly suspected this was an elaborate practical joke, but you just couldn't chance these things. She got warnings like this all the time, but she was just part of the mass list for something small like this and she didn't worry about it too much.
What it did remind her of was that there were a number of women at Torchwood that she had been working with for years, but knew absolutely nothing about. Maybe one of them would make a good friend.
"I feel like I'm in primary school again." Rose mumbled to herself. Worrying about making friends, bah! They had always just happened naturally before when she had normal jobs. Even travelling with the Doctor, people had just wandered in and out of their lives. Maybe it would be worth it to see if this reality had a Captain Jack as well. But if it were anything like the Mickey incident, then maybe it was better not to know.
"A lot of life feels that way. Now let's find somewhere to get a bite."
"Am I difficult to get on with?"
"What? No. What brought that on, Rose?" The Doctor gazed at her through industrial strength goggles that made him look like a goldfish. He was about to light a welding torch to construct some sort of new water purification system for rainwater when Rose had wandered in to his workshop to distract him. The TARDIS bubbled benignly in the corner, and Rose could have sworn she was already looking a little blue even if she still was an amorphous blob of coral.
"Nothing." She was terrible at lying to him. "Well, I mean, I don't have anyone to spend time with other than you, mum, dad, and Tony."
"I really think you and Donna would have gotten along splendidly. It's a shame you barely got to meet her." He got that sad faraway look tinged with nostalgia, the way he always got when he talked about past companions. She didn't ask about them very often, even though she was intensely curious about the life he'd lived before she knew him. It seemed like the Time War had created a barrier to him being able to revisit the old days without the pain of remembering how his people had been and where they had ended up. No matter their shared past and present, he had parts of him he just wasn't willing to share.
He started up the torch and Rose found herself shouting her thoughts at him. "Yeah, maybe, but I need a girlfriend here and now!"
"What about Tess from the Reclamation Department?" The Doctor supplied, even as he worked.
Rose shook her head, as she yelled back. "No good, she's hated me since I got promoted over her out of nowhere when I first got here."
"There's Susan in Accounting."
"Sweet girl, but she's having a baby soon. I think she's a bit occupied in her free time at the moment."
"Really? I just thought she was fond of those pastries." The Doctor paused to examine his work before turning off the torch and pushing the goggles up on top of his head. "There's a few women on the internal security team. I've seen you eat lunch with them before."
Feeling discouraged, Rose wandered over to the TARDIS tank and put her hand up against the side. "I suppose."
"This isn't like you, you know. I've seen you enter hostile territory and come out with bosom buddies of every shape, size, color, and level of sentience. Why you're fretting about who you're going to have a chat with around the water cooler is just madness."
"That's gossip around the water cooler."
"Not the point," he said with a touch of irritation. "Is this why you've been a bit, oh I don't know, drifty the past couple days? Here hold this a moment." He handed her a large bolt while he affixed two pipes together on some sort of casing. The king of rapid topic shifts. Attention always divided, sometimes Rose was tempted to tell him any old thing and see if he caught it. It was almost assured that his big Time Lord brain would, which was especially exasperating.
She felt along the cold metal edges slowly as she thought about how to answer him. I need girlfriends so I can talk about how you won't sleep with me in the biblical fashion, just didn't have the kind of ring to it that would open up the topic for discussion. And honestly, she had more than enough discussion time with the Doctor. It was time for some action.
"Drifty, am I? Well then, I think it's about time I drifted somewhere else."
"Rose that's not what I mea—"
"Drifting!" And after she set the bolt back on the workbench she stomped her way upstairs, knowing she was being childish.
A stolen teddy bear clutched to her chest, Rose wondered if Tony would even notice. She had needed to hug something and this seemed like a good alternative to finding a family member and being mopey at them. There had been a moment of self-pitying tear welling, but she managed to stuff it back down before anything fell. It was supremely stupid to feel this alone when she had tons of people who loved her (in multiple realities even). All of this self-doubt, all of this silly infantilizing angst, all because she didn't feel sexy?
That didn't seem right.
"Ok, Rose," she said softly out loud. "Think this through." She plopped down on her bed, stuffed bear and all, and began to ponder.
Time to take stock:
Family was healthy and happy
Money was no longer an issue
She had a good job where people largely respected her
Cooking and cleaning was totally optional for her
She had a boyfriend who was a time travelling alien
Was there anything actually wrong with her life? It was hard to think of anything besides physical frustration that caused any real stress. Maybe that was it, an embarrassment of riches. It's almost a terrible thing to get everything you ever asked for and more. Family, satisfying work, love; it was almost like she needed to create her own… oh.
Maybe she was creating her own problems just to have problems. What a terrible thing the human brain was, like the impulse to fight over a scrap of food when the pantry was full to bursting. People had to make their own troubles just to keep occupied sometimes, and that would certainly explain why everything seemed to be so damn difficult to resolve. If she didn't actually want to resolve it on some deeper level, then it just wasn't going to happen.
This was probably the kind of thing a normal person would go into therapy for, Rose thought. But the wisest and most understanding person she knew was also the source of all her most recent woe. The first instinct to seek out the Doctor and talk to him was almost overpowering anyway.
Rose stared at the teddy bear accusingly, rolling around on her bed to hear the gentle squeak of the springs. It reminded her of a song she had heard a long time ago on the radio. She was trying to hum it to herself while she debated asking her mum if she knew any good therapists when there was a gentle knock at her door.
Sitting up on the bed and folding her legs under her, she saw the Doctor peek his head in her room with his hair wild and his eyes rolling about. He searched for her around the room before he saw her and then he seemed to start as he let himself in the rest of the way.
"I didn't say you could come in, did I?" Rose hurumphed at him. The Doctor got a sincerely confused but reticent expression and began to retreat when she stopped him. "But I suppose you're welcome enough anyway. Come on over here, you look like you expect me to bite your head off."
"Well, you have to admit your behavior as of late has been most erratic. And I have to say I think I might be a bit off my game what with totally missing on the whole Susan being pregnant thing. Must be losing my touch picking up on all those human signals for things. I thought I was doing so well, too, considering some of my senses are—shall we say—a bit dulled in this particular incarnation." He paced around the room, his shirt sleeves rolled up, clothes rumpled, goggle marks still on his face from the welding, and all over looking awkwardly adorable.
Rose hated it that she wanted him, even when he was like this. Had to be something broken with her hormones.
"You're babbling." She commented to him, while picking at the ear of the poor teddy bear. "Come over here."
The Doctor sat on the corner of her bed, back straight as a signpost, eyes wide, hands clutching his knees tightly. He regarded her with wariness, but kindness and curiosity too. He was so serendipitous with his timing, now if she could just choke out the words for better or for worse.
"I think I've got a problem." The Doctor began to say something but she interrupted him. "I know you want to launch into a million questions before you hear everything, but let me go on a bit first." Rose cleared her throat as she watched the Doctor's brow knit in that cranky way he had when he was being foiled in one of his habits. He didn't like waiting his turn to talk.
"Ahem." Now that she had him here and she was ready to just say it, it seemed silly. "I've been all up in arms about making friends but that's just because I had another thing on my mind. You see, uh, we've… why is this so hard to say…we've been—well I guess you'd call it dating—dating for some time now. You'd agree, yes? Just nod if you agree." The Doctor nodded, his face impassive.
Rose clutched the teddy bear with both hands, kneading the fluffy insides as the terror of what she was saying began to sink in. A bead of sweat was forming at the top of her forehead. Her mouth felt dry. "We're very close. Ah, um, physically. But, you see… come on Rose you aren't some blushing schoolgirl… I feel like we could be closer."
The Doctor's eye seemed to twitch just barely.
Rose started down, afraid to see his expression now.
Now she was afraid she was the one babbling.
If the ground opened up and swallowed her, it would not have been unwelcome in that moment. A blush began to creep over her body, slowly and then in a rush like an embarrassment dam had broken and was sweeping through the countryside of her mind. She wished her hair were longer, so it could shield her better than it was doing now. Crawling under the covers and pretending not to be there was another possibility.
"So this is all about sex?" That the Doctor would say it so plainly, in that vaguely disgusted voice, simply confirmed all her fears. Now it would come, the rejection, or some weird physiological problem she never would have guessed existed with his Time Lord body. All sorts of nightmare scenarios whispered fragments of sentences to her consciousness.
"You're going around driving yourself half-mad, and everyone around you to distraction with worry about you, just because we haven't had sex yet?" She still couldn't look at him, but she could see by his posture in the corner of her eye that he was no longer tense. In fact he was pulling at his shoes, and it was only when one of them landed across the room with a thud that she looked up at his face. The wide smile there was enough to send her already pounding heart into something irregular and anticipatory.
"Did it every occur to you, Rose Tyler, that I was waiting for you to let me know that you were ready for something like that? I thought women were all about reading signals, and I've been giving you green lights like mad for ages!" The buttons on his shirt hardly seemed to take him any time, and he stood to work at his belt with impatience. "We've been at one another like teenagers but I knew there's no way I was going to push the issue. Especially when it's been, well, quite some time since I've engaged in that sort of thing."
He paused in the divesting of his clothing as if realizing something for the first time. He sat down suddenly on the bed, wearing nothing but his trousers and an undershirt. "What if I'm terrible at it? Oh Rose," he turned to her, grabbing her hands with both of his. "You have to promise not to judge me. I'm sure it's not the kind of thing you forget but it's been a human lifetime since I even considered sex and…" the Doctor trailed off as he noticed Rose was shaking with suppressed laughter. "I don't see what's so funny about any of this." He sounded a bit wounded.
"This whole time," Rose tried not to sound angry, but there was a bit of it mixed into the wonder and the humor of it all. "All I needed to do was ask?"
The Doctor stood, pulled Rose up off the bed and into his arms crushing the bear between them, and kissed her. It wasn't one of those sweet, tender, half-open mouthed kisses that they parted with in the morning, or the sloppy, fun kisses he used when he wanted to make her smile. The kiss he gave her was all heat and promise, demanding and selfish as his tongue probed through her mouth even as she felt a very human part of his anatomy poke into her abdomen. She pulled the bear out from between them to toss it across the room and subsequently grab something else that had the Doctor gasping her name in a way she hoped she'd hear a lot more in the near future.
"I'll make you a deal," Rose said as they finally broke apart, eyes bright and bodies aching to discard the rest of their clothes. "If we're both rubbish at this then we just have to practice until we get it right."
"Oh most definitely." The Doctor agreed emphatically, cupping her breast with one hand and running his lips down the side of her neck.
While what they would no doubt do in the next few hours would not solve all of her problems, Rose felt pretty sure that at least she wasn't going to need a therapist. However, she had to get some girl friends stat because there was no way in this universe that she was going to talk about this night with her mother.