This story was prompted by a piece of hint fiction in an anthology of hint fiction though which I was skimming. The hint fiction in question was written by John Connors, which inspired, and is more or less exactly the first four lines of this piece (except for the bit about the duvet). The book is called "Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer."
I don't own Doctor Who or the aforementioned book.
Chapter 1: With You.
"Just one smile and I'll stop," he said, lying next to her on pink duvet-covered bed.
He scooted closer so that his arms, bent at the elbows, touched her back, but there were still several inches between their bodies.
The slight pressure on her back made her have to restrain a shiver and she gritted her teeth together. She felt his breath on the back of her neck, but not the slow, warm rhythm of regular breathing. He was blowing cool air through pursed lips. Like a child. Just to be annoying.
"Doctor! I said quit it!"
"I can practically feel your smile from here. Your ears just wiggled. Your ears always wiggle when you smile."
Silence. She continued to breathe steadily, and her body shrugged backwards, snuggling further into the puffy blanket.
"Rose, you're acting like a child."
"Well, compared to you, nine hundred whatever years old, I am."
"You're hardly a child, Rose. Thank Rassilon for that," he said.
"What?" The tone in her voice was sharp and surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Just…I…uh, you know. I could hardly take a child on our adventures, right? Wouldn't last a minute. Kids, y'know, just slow you down. You hardly slow me down." Especially my heart. He gagged at himself. What a sap Rose was turning him into.
"Oh, yeah, right."
"Look, Rose, I'm sorry." The Doctor inched closer, almost imperceptibly so, but she felt the slight shift on the mattress. "I was trying to maintain my disguise for Bana Minor 5's official court, and when you broke yours, it just made my life more difficult in that moment. I'm sorry I got angry with you earlier."
"I told you I was sorry about that. One of the soldiers started coming onto me. It was gettin' a bit weird…I…it was time to get out of there." She finally flipped around to look at him, her eyes downcast.
The Doctor's face was etched with concern and shock, disgust and terror.
"Why didn't you tell me that? Rose, did they hurt you?"
"No! Of course not. Got outta there, didn't I? I handled myself. You were pretty preoccupied. And I can take care of myself, usually."
"Except for when I have to save you," the Doctor said, smiling grimly.
"Oi! I save you a fair bit as well!"
"That's true. I think we save each other fairly equally." Not even true, he thought. She's saved him in ways she'll never know. You know, unless he tells her.
He noticed the dried tear tracks down her cheeks.
"I'm sorry I made you cry." He would never forgive himself. Seeing Rose cry made his hearts hurt to their very cores.
"No. Wasn't you. Just me bein' silly."
But it was his fault, he knew it was. Maybe not directly. As long as Rose was with him, she would always be in danger. Sometimes he thought he should take her home, as in, forever. She would never see him again. And he would never see her, except for moments of weakness when he would go and check on her from afar. Just to make sure that she was alright and safe and happy. But he knew he couldn't live without her, not properly anyway. She might not know that, how much she actually completed him. Maybe that was a good thing. If she knew, she would probably feel obligated to stay with him. She'd feel like a prisoner to her own promise that she made to him: that she'd never leave him, that she'd stay with him forever. She'd regret she ever said those words to him. She would feel shackled. And then she'd actually want to leave. So he just wouldn't tell her how much she meant to him.
Except that she deserved it. If anyone deserved to be told how important they were, it was Rose Tyler.
"I'm…I'm glad you're here, Rose. On the TARDIS. With me."
"Yeah? I'm glad I'm here too. With you."
She moved closer to him, the fatigue from the day settling into her bones, finally, having found respite from her tears and knowing the Doctor wasn't actually as angry as he had made himself to seem. She leaned her cheek against his chest and listened to his hearts. They were like dueling metronomes somehow magically in tandem. And they were beating quite quickly. The percussion against his ribcage was relaxing, and she exhaled deeply, her muscles deflating and sleep coming quickly.
"Your hearts, do they always beat this fast?" she asked breathily, punctuating with a large yawn.
No, they certainly do not, he thought.
"It depends, really." She probably didn't even hear him. She was fading fast.
"Wellll, um. Situation. Company. That sort of thing. Just like humans."
Actually, just you. It really just depends on you. Whether or not you're in the room. Or if I'm thinking about you. So maybe, yes. Maybe they did always beat this fast.
"S'not so different, then. You'n me." Her speech was beginning to slur together as she fell asleep.
The Doctor sighed. He wanted this very much to be true. And maybe it was, partially. Rose had a way of putting things that made them seem so simple. He would say that all humans had a way of making things look simple, because they were simple. Simple and very often daft. But with Rose, she had a way of simplifying things so that they were beautiful and perfect. Rose always had a way of giving him hope. He never had enough of that particular emotion, and it was one of his favorites. She was his source of hope, as sappy and thoroughly un-Time Lord as that sounded. He needed her, perhaps more than he cared to admit, but he was becoming increasingly more comfortable with the idea. That he needs her.
Rose shifted in the middle of the night and groped her arms forward, searching for the smooth fabric of the Doctor's suit that she might snuggle a little closer. She hoped she wasn't making him uncomfortable with this snuggling, but it was just as much as they were used to; the only difference this time is that they were on her bed. Which might have realized was actually a pretty big difference, but she was quite tired.
But she reached out only to find air.
"Rose," she heard him whisper. At least he was still in the room.
"I don't think that would be such a good idea."
"Mmm?" she asked into her pillow.
What would he say?
That every time he felt her breath on his skin he wanted to tell her so many gooey, romantic things that it made him feel very much not like a Time Lord and instead very human?
That every time she moved a little closer to him while she slept, he was very close to waking her up and snogging her senseless?
That every time she sighed he felt an overwhelming fear of rejection?
That every time her eyes fluttered, he wanted very much for them to be wide open so he could look her in the eyes and tell her, finally, how much he thoroughly loved her.
So instead he said, stupidly, "S'just not."
"Bein' silly," she groaned.
He should just say it. He meant it, after all. He meant it like a man sick in love, because that's what he was. He wanted to lie next to Rose just to be next to her. Even if she only wanted him as a mate, he wanted to be close to her. But maybe he could say it. Maybe his personal universe would not explode as he somehow felt it would if he told her. Maybe he could be a Time Lord who could also be in love. Maybe she would love him back if he was very, very lucky. He wanted that so much, to feel the love of somebody else. But specifically, and only, he wanted that love to be Rose's.
"Rose Tyler, I love you," he said softly into the darkness of the room.
But she had already fallen back into sleep.