A/N: Set after Father's Day - the Doctor comforts Rose, because not so long ago, after an emotional day in which he'd met an old enemy, she had comforted him.
Oh yeah, and because he loves her.
Console, Forgive, Repeat
After her actions today, Rose genuinely wasn't sure what things were going to be like between her and the Doctor now. He'd seemingly forgiven her...after all, not only had he held her hand after, but he'd also been holding her for the last two and a half hours, a time during which she'd first soaked his jumper with her tears, then rumpled it by clutching it in tight fists, then relaxed against his double heart beat and drifted off to sleep. But now, as she stirred from her surprisingly dreamless nap, she couldn't help but feel nervous about the long-term consequences.
Truthfully, she was surprised that they were both still in the same position on the jumpseat after all this time. She'd thought he might've made his excuses and moved. Or told her to go to bed. Or maybe even carried her to bed, like he did last week when she fell asleep against his shoulder on the sofa in the library. But no, she was still right there in his arms, and his arms were still right there, wrapped tightly around her.
Earlier, she'd thought he was only holding her so firmly because of her wracking sobs. And when she'd stopped crying so much, she assumed he just kept on holding her to comfort her.
But while she was asleep? Still?
Maybe, she thought abruptly, maybe...he needed her comfort, too. He had died today, after all. Sort of.
The thought of that made her heart lurch in her chest again and she choked back a sob. Instantly, the Doctor realised she was awake again, and shifted their position slightly, lifting her head with a hand beneath her chin to look into her eyes.
"Rose," he murmured softly, stroking her cheek with the pad of his thumb.
"I'm so sorry," she gasped out, because she hadn't said it in awhile and felt she should.
He tutted at her and moved her head back to his chest, rocking her gently. "Shh, don't worry about that."
"But I am," she protested. "That's what I am worried about. How can you even..." She swallowed against the lump in her throat.
"How can I even what?" he asked gruffly.
"How can you even look at me, let alone hug me like this, I..." she broke off, her throat dry.
He rested his chin on top of her head and sighed. "I don't know what thoughts are whirring around in that silly human head of yours, but stop blaming yourself for all this. It was my fault. I shouldn't have even...I'm the one who should be apologising, Rose. Me. Not you."
"But you only took us there because I asked you to," she argued, raising her head. "I promise you that I never imagined I'd do...what I did. I really didn't go there with some intention to save him, I swear I didn't. It just...when we were there...I just couldn't help it, you know?"
He offered her a warm smile. "I know."
Something fluttered in her chest as he stared into her eyes, forgiving her with his smile and his unrelenting gaze. "Doctor," she whispered.
"Yeah?" He lifted his hand to cup her cheek again, his fingertips stroking against her temple.
"You won't..." she trailed off, unable to voice her fear.
She swallowed hard. "You won't take me home, will you?"
His eyebrows drew together. "Rose." He paused, hoping she wouldn't pull back from him if he asked her what he wanted to ask her.
"Yeah?" she prompted.
"Um." He breathed out shakily, scarcely believing he was saying the words as he requested gently, "You can think of the TARDIS as...I mean, if...if you want, um. The TARDIS, you've lived here for awhile now, it can...be your home...if you want."
She stared at him, startled. She didn't tell him that really, she already thought of the TARDIS as home. She didn't say anything. She just watched him carefully, in disbelief that he'd said what he'd said.
He misinterpreted her reaction and sniffed nonchalantly. "Fine, then. It was just a thought," he grumbled under his breath, glancing away.
"No, I..." Rose protested weakly, tugging his jumper so he'd look at her again. "I do. I just thought..." She swallowed thickly. "I just thought you wouldn't want me after what I'd done."
He frowned. "I told you; I wouldn't have left you on your own." And I'll always want you, he didn't say.
"But you could take me back to Mum's now, couldn't you? Easy as that," she mumbled sadly.
"Pfft, easy?" he scoffed. "That'd never be easy."
"What do you mean?"
"You said I was stuck with you. I'm holding you to that," he informed her wisely, then grinned, deciding to echo the other thing she said all those months ago when she first brought her stuff aboard, "Ha!"
A smile tugged at her lips. "You mean that?"
She settled against his chest again, smiling to herself. Then, "He thought you were my boyfriend," she said randomly.
"Mmm," the Doctor agreed, intentionally not revealing his opinion on that.
He couldn't help but let out an indignant, "What?" however, when she started giggling.
"Nothing," she assured him. "It's just, he said something about you being too old for me. But he had no idea! I mean, what is it? 881 years difference?"
She knew she didn't imagine it when she felt his arm tighten around her even more, and grinned in surprise and amusement at his little huff of breath.
"It's a bit different, though," he said petulantly. "I know I'm old by your standards, but I'm actually quite young for a Time Lord. Sort of."
Rose lifted her head. "I don't care, you know," she told him.
He swallowed. "You don't?"
"Nope. You're as young as you feel or whatever," she dismissed with a wave of her hand.
"Oh, Rose. I don't feel very young," he chuckled.
"Alright then," she amended, smiling that teasing smile she had where her tongue touched the corner of her mouth. "You're as young as the girl you've got hanging on your arm."
He laughed deeply at that. "Well. I like the sound of that."
"Course you do," Rose laughed back. He drew her in closer and she snuggled against him even more. "Thanks for this," she murmured.
"You're welcome." He paused, then, considering something. "Rose...you do realise that you did this for me, after...after Van Statten's museum..."
"I s'pose so," she replied, recalling how, once she'd shown Adam to a spare bedroom, she had returned to find the Doctor sitting on the floor, his back to the console, staring at nothing, his hands trembling. She remembered how she sat down next to him wordlessly, and took his hands in hers so that he wouldn't have to tremble on his own. She remembered how he pressed his face into her shoulder as he clung to her, surprising her by taking the comfort she was offering instead of refusing it as she'd thought he might've down.
"Everyone makes mistakes," he continued. "Me more than most. And you forgive me, every single time. I don't know why, but you do." He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and confessed, "And that means everything to me."
She mumbled happily into his chest, "Good," before yawning widely and closing her eyes.
He stroked her shoulder with the pad of his thumb as he felt her breathing slow down as she drifted off again. In his arms.
Where she should be.
The Doctor shook his head at himself. He was getting far too sentimental in his old age. Not that he was old, not really. So he'd told Rose, anyway. Not that it even mattered to her, apparently, which was good...
He rolled his eyes, but nevertheless he acknowledged that at some point, he'd have to accept the fact that she really was turning him all...well. He coughed awkwardly, still a little unwilling to even admit it in his own mind. He took a deep breath. Right. So. He was...well, he was... sortofinlovewithher. There. Not so hard to think it, really. Just had to concentrate on not saying it out loud for the rest of time, now. Should be interesting.
And then he looked at the top of her head fondly, and couldn't resist kissing it again. He even let himself nuzzle her hair a bit, inhaling her gorgeous scent. Who cared if he was sentimental now? The Time Lords were dead, along with the Daleks. He was on his own, but he wasn't, because he had Rose. And Rose was asleep, so she wouldn't notice as he let his guard down for once to let himself breathe her in.
Rose was also special and fantastic and so very human. She'd made a mistake today, but her Dad had fixed it, like all Dads' should get the chance to do for their daughters. And he couldn't begrudge her the few hours she'd had with him today. The few hours she'd only ever have.
It had all come right in the end, and the Doctor had already forgiven her anyway, because she said she was sorry and she meant it. And he hoped she knew, he really hoped she knew, that he'd meant it too, when he said he'd never leave her.
She was young and silly and human and lovely, and she was a part of him, not just his life, not just in his home, but in his every atom of existence; he needed her. He needed her to stay like he'd never needed anyone before. Whether it was because of the War, or how she healed him, atoned him...or maybe it was just that she was her; he didn't know, couldn't possibly rationalise it. All he knew was that everyone who ever saw him looking at her the way he did was right in their assumptions. Even a bloody Dalek could see it. What hope did he have of hiding it from her, if the creature only existing to hate could notice love?
"I'm scared," he admitted, whispering to her as she slept. "I'm too terrified to say it, in case it's too soon, in case you leave, in case you get taken from me. Coward, me. You know that."
Rose, however, had stirred with his murmurs, which were so softly spoken into her hair that she thought she'd imagined it at first. Then he spoke again.
"But I feel it, Rose. Oh, do I feel it."
She didn't mind that he didn't say it properly, as such. She didn't mind because she didn't think she'd be able to say it, either – the lump in her throat and her overwhelming emotions would see to that. And it was scary, so scary, to feel the way she felt for him, and to know he felt...something...for her in return. She didn't know if he meant exactly the same thing that she felt, of course, but still, it was something. And yes, she'd been telling the truth when she said she didn't care about his age, but that didn't mean she knew quite what to do with her feelings. He was an alien, after all. She had no clue what could or would or would never happen between them. One day she'd get up the courage to ask him if he even did things...like, you know...things...the same way humans did, if at all. That day was not today.
So, luckily for him, she was just as much of a coward to pretend she was, as he thought, sound asleep. That way things could stay...just friends...until she was absolutely sure what his intentions were. If he even had any.
But her closed eyes and steady breathing could only last so long. As soon as she came to the conclusion that he had fallen asleep himself, if the slight snoring above her head was any indication, she opened her eyes and let out a breathy giggle, inexplicably delighted by the evening's revelation, however much it made her nervous. Because she'd never felt like she belonged anywhere so much as she felt she belonged with him in that moment.
She let her arm fall back into its position, wrapped around his waist in a mirror image of how his was around her. And then she snuggled into his chest, pressing her ear between his hearts, and let the soft feel of two beats vibrate beneath her cheek lull her into dreams filled with his disarming grin and intense stare, chasing her nightmares away to keep her safe.