Part 4

-x-

The TARDIS materialises in the precise location her occupants are aiming for: the observatory deck of Belle Ariaa. Here, not only can you look out on the planets and stars' orbits from the most fantastic vantage point in the universe, but you can also peruse the cosmos' innovative creations that are displayed within a universally renowned art gallery. It's all rather wonderful, and the Doctor only has to glance at Rose to know that her big, bright smile means she thinks so too.

First things first, before any romantic-ness can prevail, he and Rose have got the mystery to solve. There's something possibly dodgy going on with the fact that the curator of the art gallery is a jellyfish with a rational brain. Well, that's how Rose thinks of it in her mind. Its true name is something very hard to pronounce, so she calls it Bob for short.

Anyway, issue is, the restaurant and its accompanying facilities are supposed to be run by a race called the Cupers (she can pronounce that one, even if that's probably not how it's spelt) but Bob commandeered the art gallery section a few days ago and the Cupers have had a hard time negotiating with him to give it back, seeing as – due to some inheritance dispute that Rose is completely puzzled by but comforts Bob about anyway – he thinks it's rightfully his to run as he pleases (which includes charging people not with money but in fruit, much to the Doctor's dismay when he is forced to hand over a banana for the entrance of himself and his 'pink and yellow human' to see the Monet exhibition. Should've just gone to see Monet himself, the Doctor had in fact grumbled. But that's by-the-by.)

So, cue the Doctor and Rose, with matching smiles, arriving to solve the problem. Rose speaks with Bob, at length (much to the Doctor's annoyance when he can't gather her attention for over ten whole minutes!) and the Doctor, disgruntled by Rose's disappearing act as well as having no banana to snack on (he hasn't eaten since breakfast. Which was...okay, fine, so only a couple of hours ago. And he'll be having a slap-up meal soon enough. But still. Insulting) decides to have a chat with the Cupers about the troubling situation.

As per usual of late, the Doctor muses, it's Rose who ends up settling the matter. He's not sure how. By using her womanly wiles, no doubt. Anyway, just forty minutes later, both Bob and Cupers are happy as Larry (whoever Larry is...why do humans come up with these strange sayings?) and the Doctor and Rose are free to enjoy the splendours of the art gallery in peace. Well, relatively. They endure the tourists for awhile, but then the Doctor decides he's had enough of the noise and hustle and bustle and so, when he bundles Rose into the next sector of the gallery, where no one else has reached yet, he sonics the door shut behind them and gives her an innocent look when she tells him off.

"I want to show you all this in peace, not with all that lot pushing us onto the next painting or sculpture before you've taken it in," he replies to her.

"Right," she says sarcastically, trailing her finger down his chest as she steps up close to him. "It's not 'cos you want me all to yourself amongst the masterpieces, then?"

He swallows thickly. "Weeelll..." Flashing her a grin, he leans in for a kiss, but Rose backs away before he can reach her mouth. He pouts. "Why'd you move away?"

"I want to appreciate the art, Doctor," she tells him mock-sternly, turning from him to admire a piece from 34th century Earth.

He closes the distance between them again and wraps his arms around her waist from behind. "In that case, let me give you a commentary," he whispers close to her ear.

She giggles and lets him be her tour guide in a similar fashion for the rest of the gallery, relishing in their closeness and his intimate, intelligent whispers.

-x-

Sometime later, Rose is leaning against him (not because she's tired; just because she can) as he guides her out of the gallery.

"So! Time to go back to the TARDIS," he announces, his hand at the small of her back, gently nudging her towards the ship. "Got to get ready for our big date!" He winks at her and she giggles.

"Where's the restaurant in this place, then?" she asks.

"It's on the floor below," he answers, gesturing for her to enter their ship first. He's being very chivalrous today, he's decided. "I'll move the TARDIS down there in a minute, 'cos they close this area later on and I don't think I'll be in the mood to break in."

"No? What will you be in the mood for later?" she asks innocently, twirling her hair around her finger.

He sniffs, feigning nonchalance. "Ooh, I dunno. Game of scrabble, maybe?"

She mock-scowls as she walks backwards away from him. "Don't land us fifty thousand years in the future when the restaurant's closed, yeah?"

"Course not," he answers, as if the idea is scandalous. "The TARDIS will land wherever you want to go; you're her favourite, Rose Tyler. Why do you think we end up visiting your mum so often? It isn't for the Sheppard's pie, you know."

"Oh, whatever – you love Mum's Sheppard's pie! In fact, I do recall her telling me that you secretly asked her to make you a bulk load to take on board the TARDIS!" she smirks triumphantly.

He tugs at his ear, knowing he's been caught out. "Ah. Yes, well. See, I was going to tell you about that, you know. I was going to let you eat some, too; I wasn't keeping it from you, I promise," he says hurriedly.

Rose laughs and waves her hand dismissively. "I really don't mind. See you in a minute!"

"More like an hour," he mutters under his breath, knowing how long it takes Rose Tyler to even choose a dress let alone get in one.

"Heard that!" she calls out to him as she walks away.

"Hoped you would!" he calls back. He turns around and strokes the console, smiling up at the time rotor. "You'll land us right where we need to be, yeah, old girl?"

The TARDIS hums appreciatively. Or maybe in approval. Or probably both.

The Doctor lowers his voice to confide, "Now, if all goes to plan tonight and Rose doesn't end up hating me, things might get a bit..." he trails off, considering his words carefully. "Different, in here," he settles on.

He's not really sure why, but he feels like he has to justify this to his ship, considering that nothing of the sort of thing he's hoping will happen tonight has happened within the TARDIS before. Well, at least, nothing that's included him. He's pretty sure a couple of the couples he's had on board might've...done things...but that really doesn't need to be thought about so he clears his musings on that topic pretty much instantly.

"Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, I hope you don't find it...weird...but, see..." He checks over his shoulder to make sure Rose isn't within earshot. "I love her so much, and I want to, er...show her that. Like, you know, in that way. In our home..."

He listens for a moment; even though she can't talk back at him, he can tell, sometimes, by the pitch of the hums she makes, what the TARDIS is thinking about certain things.

Right now, he gets the distinct impression that his ship is laughing at him.

"What?" he counters defensively. "I'm just being courteous - forewarning you and that! You're sentient – who knows how you feel about that sort of thing happening in here?"

He feels telepathically calmed, then, as if she's reassuring him. He visibly relaxes, and pats the console again. "Thanks, old girl."

-x-

And then comes the date. The proper part of the date. The date-y part of the date.

"Wow," Rose breathes, as they step out of the TARDIS and onto a plush purple carpet.

"Impressive, right?" the Doctor grins, taking her hand.

She takes in the glass walls of the restaurant, the cascading water of the glass fountain at its entrance. Looking out, she sees the stars sparkling at them through the glass as if they're personally there to make things as romantic as possible. A few days ago, she'd never have imagined that the Doctor wanted to take her to a place like this.

"Yeah," she answers, squeezing his hand tightly. "It's amazing!"

Everything feels like it's going to be perfect. Rose wonders if she's just imagining it, or making this evening out to be bigger and better than it really will be. But she can't help it. She feels so happy, so...oh, it's indescribable. All she knows is that she can't wait to spend this evening in this place, with the Doctor.

-x-

As they finish off their third course, the Doctor steals a strawberry from Rose's dessert. At her playful glare, he leans over and draws a heart in the chocolate sauce left on her plate. She immediately giggles.

"See," he whispers, "I can do this romantic business. Sort of."

"Mmhmm," she agrees, biting her lip to hold back her grin.

"And doesn't it make you want to stay with me forever?" he asks her, his fingers moving to play with hers atop the table.

"I wanted that anyway, you daft alien," she says softly. "But I s'pose this seals the deal."

He beams at her, eyes shining in the candlelight. "Nah, I tell you what seals the deal," he begins wisely, reaching his hand into his pocket. He pauses then, his brow furrowing as he realises something. "I mean, don't get too excited, it's not a ring," he says hurriedly.

Rose bursts out laughing. "That's fine by me," she giggles. "Too young for all that."

He smiles, relieved. "Thought so. Anyway!" He pulls his hand out with a flourish, and hands her a wrapped up rectangular box.

"Where'd you get this silver wrapping paper? And the little bow?" she grins teasingly.

He winces, wishing she hadn't asked him that. "Um...perhaps...your Mum, maybe?" He sniffs nonchalantly, as if that's all that needs to be said on the issue.

Rose smiles at his thoughtfulness, wondering if he wrapped it himself or got her Mum to do it for him. She shrugs her question away, deciding it doesn't remotely matter, and carefully opens the gift.

Inside is a delicate silver bracelet, with stones of different shades of blue set along it, glinting beautifully in the moonlight.

"God, this is gorgeous!" Rose gasps, examining it closely.

"Yep," the Doctor agrees, popping the 'p.' "For my gorgeous Rose."

She glances up at him between her lashes. "Okay, so this is really starting to get weird now."

He shrugs innocently. "What, I can't compliment you?"

"Where's this from?" she asks instead of answering him.

"All sorts of places."

"Bit like you, then," she smiles.

"Bit like me," he nods with a grin.

"What, so is each different stone from someplace else?"

"Yeah," he answers, quickly putting on his glasses and leaning on his elbows across the table. "That little turquoise one – I picked that up on Morichio Minor. And see that one, the palest one?" he says, delicately pointing it out. Rose nods, entranced. "That's from Kibonto. The azure colour, I got that from Telos, in the mountains of Zimboota. The deep blue, almost violet one; that's found in the rocks on Antio. And the TARDIS blue one? That's...well, that's from a shop in Camden. Funny, that. Anyway, I saved them in my pocket until I found the perfect silver chain to have them set in. Incidentally, that's from London, too. Some jewellers on Oxford Street that I can't remember the name of. Anyway, then I took the chain and the blue stones to an old mate of mine, Kastall – he's a Zembar who lives in Stockholm disguised as a human, completely nice and safe and just wants to make pretty jewellery, him - and he was more than happy to fix it up how I wanted it."

"You did all that," she marvels happily, biting her lip. "How'd you do it without me noticing?"

"Oh, this was a few months ago, when you were at your Mum's and locked me out of the flat because of that argument we had," he informs her wisely. Rose giggled, remembering their silly fight and how she'd given up on staying mad at him after about ten minutes. "I got bored sitting there in the TARDIS on my own, so I started conjuring up ideas on how to make you like me again. So then, I took a few trips to various planets et cetera, and there we have it. So...well, it was going to be a 'please forgive me' present. But then, see, I got the TARDIS to get me back about ten minutes after I left, this time materialising in your Mum's living room, and you were standing there with your arms folded and foot tapping as if you were expecting me to have arrived sooner, and then you sighed and rolled your eyes and mumbled 'let's go' and then we left and you forgave me super-quickly, really, 'cos just half hour later we were watching The Lion King all snuggled up on the sofa. So! I didn't give it to you then. Thought I'd save it for a more...romantic setting, once I'd got my courage up, so to speak."

She smiles beautifully at him. "Well, thank you. It's so lovely. It's the most precious thing I'll ever have, I'm sure of it."

"Oh, I don't know about that," he disagrees softly. "I expect I'm going to have to live up to this, right? One-up each present every birthday, Christmas and anniversary for every year of your life."

"That's very sweet. I suppose I'll have lots of precious things, then," she smiles. She feels like she's the luckiest girl in the universe. She's tamed a flipping Time Lord – the Oncoming Storm himself – into buying romantic gifts. She reckons she should be proud of herself.

"Yeah. Plus, if ever we did..." he trails off, and she blinks, a little dumbfounded, when he blushes.

"Doctor...?" she prompts. "If ever we what?"

He coughs uncomfortably, leaning back away from her. "Weeelll. It's probably way too soon for me to even suggest this. In fact it is, of course it is. It's just...well. This morning, you looked...when I said that we couldn't, you looked...upset, and...but I think maybe...well, maybe we actually can...in which case, I'm pretty sure that this bracelet will definitely not be the most precious thing you'll ever have, so..."

"What are you on about?" she interrupts, completely lost.

"You know," he hedges, tugging his ear. He can't believe how hard it is to say the words. He's a bit petrified she'll run away from whatever they have now, if he starts talking about the distant future too much. "That thing we were discussing with your mother this morning."

"What thing? Be more specific!"

"Babies!" he blurts out. A little too loud, apparently, because now the waiter over there is staring at him. Oops.

"Babies?" Rose gasps in surprise.

"Yes," he sighs. "What I'm saying is, I did some research, earlier, when you were getting ready. With a bit of fiddling with the genetics, we could, in fact, procreate. But it wouldn't be via an accident – like I said, it'd take some fiddling with some stuff. But, yes, technically, we could have children together. In the future. Not now. In about five or ten or fifteen years, maybe. If you want." He clears his throat nervously and waits for her to answer.

"Right," she exhales roughly. "Right, well. That's. Huh."

Apparently, she's gone into a state of shock. "Rose?" he prompts. "Look, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have assumed. I shouldn't have brought it up, just forget it."

"No, wait a sec," she replies, shaking her head. She swallows past the lump in her throat. "You're seriously that serious about me?"

His brows draw together. "Yes, completely," he answers, looking at her as if she's daft. "I know we're just starting out and that, but I can't help but visualise my life, what it will be like, in the future, and you, you have to be there. Always, I...I...I want you to be there."

She bites her lip apprehensively. "You won't...you won't ever take me back to Mum, to live a normal life again without you? You won't ever get bored and leave me, replace me with someone younger and cleverer and - "

"Rose, stop it," he interrupts gently, leaning across to her again. He frames her face with his hands. "I told you, you can spend the rest of your life with me, if you want. Because I want. I want you to. I'll never leave you. Weeelll, unless you're in danger-" Rose's eyes flash dangerously at him and he swallows convulsively. "I mean, of course, you'd only send yourself right back to me if I tried to keep you safe, so what's the point?" he amends, smiling sheepishly. He drops his hands and squeezes hers.

"Good," she smiles. "Then yeah."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. All of what you see for us, for our future, I want that. I want to be with you for- "

"Shh, wait," he interrupts again, a finger pressed to her lips to hush her. "Turn it over."

"What?" she mumbles.

"The bracelet. Turn it over."

She slowly turns the bracelet over in her hands, and squints in confusion when she sees a tiny scrawl on the back of the silver chain. "What's this?" she asks him, peering at it even closer.

He stares at her, his faces inches from hers, watching for her reaction. Knowing she'll read:

Forever, on the back of the clasp, and five individual words on the back of each stone: because it's better with you

When Rose realises what it says, her breath hitches and she looks at him with tears in her eyes.

"Doctor, I - " she starts. But she can't finish. She has no words to say, not really. He's made her speechless. She kisses him instead, and his hands find her face again, thumbs brushing over her cheeks as he draws her closer. They're both leaning over the table in an uncomfortable sort of way, but neither really notice. His fingertips slip into her hair and he's kissing her harder, more urgently, when suddenly she pulls back, gasping. "Look!"

She points out of the window, and he smiles when he sees the phenomenal show of lights streaming across the sky.

"Ah yes," he whispers, his voice still husky as a result of that kiss. "I remember hearing a story about these once. Those lights, all those colours – it's not fireworks or an aurora type thing or anything. They're creatures."

"Creatures?" she marvels, in utter awe.

"A swarm of Derachpttt. Completely incapable of being on their own, them. Look ugly without their friends, too. Only when they come together do they truly outshine the rest of the universe."

"Bit like us, then," she smiles, somehow teasing and earnest at the same time.

He glances at Rose, feeling a perfect ratio of amusement and adoration for her. But she's still looking out of the window, so she can't see the expression of unbidden love that's captured on his face. "Yeah," he murmurs, his voice cracking slightly. It feels heavy with emotion, matching the moment.

And now, he realises, is the perfect time to say it. They've both practically pledged forever to each other. He's got all the confirmation he needs that she feels the same way. Who needs courage to say this, anyway? Why has he been scared to say it before now? It suddenly seems so very simple, so very easy, so very, completely, honestly true. "I love you, Rose," he tells her.

She shifts her eyes away from the spectacular sight in front of her and a few tears fall to her cheeks as she smiles at him widely. Her hand finds his instinctively, without even looking down. "I love you too," she whispers back. And everything is perfect.