The Doctor pushed through the crowds of people as he looked for her. She was easy to spot. Her blonde hair a beacon amid the sea of black heads of the native citizens wandering through the market bizarre.
"I put all of time and space at your feet, and what do you do? Go shopping," the Doctor said.
She grabbed his hand, and dragged him to a shop window. "You have to see this!"
Behind the shop window a row of suits were changing colors from deep orange to bright pink, to black. Every color Rose could imagine and even some that she couldn't. The colors swirled and rolled and changed.
Rose grinned. "It changes color with your mood!"
The Doctor leaned forward towards the glass and squinted. He whipped out his glasses to get a better look. "Amazing! The psychic threads have to be woven into each individual stitch by hand. The threads are far too delicate for machine work. It must've taken themaaaaaages to sew these."
"I think you should get one," she said.
"I don't take advice from a girl who owns a Union Jack t-shirt."
She smacked him playfully on the arm. "Oi! Rude! I loved that shirt."
He shook his head. "Your enjoyment of that shirt was directly proportional to how much Jack liked that shirt."
Jack. They didn't mention him very often. The Doctor instantly wished he hadn't. He tensed waiting for the questions, but they never came.
She linked her arm through his, and said with a grin, "I bet Jack would've liked this new new you."
"He would've liked me better if I'd been ginger."
Rose laughed. She reached up and ruffled his hair. "I like your brown hair just fine."
"See!" he said. "Even you admit, it's 'just fine.' If it was ginger you'd be…..you'd be…"
He stopped walking and stared at her. "You're right. It's better this way. Wouldn't do at all to have you distracted by my head of gorgeous ginger locks."
"I would never be distracted by your hair. Now if you'd had a better looking bum – - – " Rose was already laughing before she even saw the stricken expression that crossed his face.
"Rose Tyler! What would your mother say!" The second the words left his lips he had already changed his mind. "No, don't tell me. I really don't want to know."
"So, where are we headed next?" Rose asked. "A intergalactic salon to have your hair colored?"
He gave her a look, but didn't rise to her teasing this time. "Point in any direction and I'll take you to see the most amazing thing in that part of the universe."
"Haven't been in that mood for a while," she said.
He grinned and turned his back, and shrugged. "If you don't want to go then…"
"Didn't say that now did I?" She caught up with him and looked at the sky considering her options. "Hard to decide, there's just so much of it."
He smiled. "Well then, I suppose you'll have to use my tried and true method."
"You? Have a method?" she grinned. "And here I just thought you took off with no notion of where you were going until you stopped."
"Shows you how well you know me then," he said. "Because I have a very very scientific method. Are you up for it?"
"Close your eyes," he said, leaning in close. He took her arms and spread them out. Then he started spinning her in circles. She laughed, as he spun her round and round and round.
"Ok, now point!" he said, letting go of her.
She flailed her arms around, stuck out her finger, and poked him right between the eyes.
Laughing she held onto him as she tried to get her balance. "Is that your scientific method?"
"It was until you came along," he said. "But you do seem to have a way of making all of my old notions obsolete." He brushed the hair out of her eyes.
"And what do you think we'll find in there?" She reached out one finger and tapped him gently on the forehead.
The smile fell from his face. "Death." He took her hand, impulsively kissed the back of it, and grinned. "But not today. Today is all about life. And I know just where I'm going to take you!"
They ran through the crowded streets and launched themselves into the TARDIS. As he pressed buttons and flipped switches on the TARDIS console, he talked nonstop.
"You've never been here before. I've never been here before. At least not this particular handsome manly version of me." He winked at her. "And no version of me has been here at the particular time I'm taking you, which is a good thing or we'd be breaking all sorts of time travel laws. We're better off without those other mes anyway, some of my regenerations weren't nearly as impressive as this one is."
They came to a stop, and walked out of the TARDIS into a land of perpetual sunset. The sky was a rich haze of pinks and reds. The ground stone. They were at the edge of a bay. But it was unlike any Rose had seen before. Tall outcroppings of rock formations rose up out of the water in jagged sweeping arches.
"We're a bit early," the Doctor said.
"Early for what?"
"A birthday party," the Doctor said. "Today the Lasseni Dragons will hatch. It only happens once every 3 million years."
"Dragons?" she said. "Next you'll be telling me that fairy tales exist."
"Course they do," he said. "Cinderella's step mother was wicked. Almost as bad as your mum."
"Shut up," she said, the smile never leaving her face.
"Care to explore until the party starts? If we're lucky, maybe we can see one of them hatching," he said.
They walked away from the bay and scrambled over the rocks. Rose was on her hands and knees, while the Doctor leapt from one rock to another with ease.
"I don't see how you go leaping about dressed like that," she commented as she struggled to get to her feet.
"It's the shoes." He lifted up his trouser leg to show off his black Converse high tops. "Best shoes in the universe. The Troshan's smuggle them out of Earth by the ship load."
"What's so special about them?"
He held up his foot and pointed to the two small eyelets on the side.
"Those little holes? That makes them the best shoes in the universe?"
"Even feet need to breath. My toes wiggle better when they get a nice healthy dose of oxygen," he said, as he walked along a path that wound it's way through high rocks. He glanced over his shoulder at Rose. "Some species, like the Troshans breathe through their feet. Shoes like these keep their feet protected from the elements, and allow them to breathe. Like I said, perfect shoe."
They squeezed between two boulders and came out into a forest of stone. Thin sharp spires of rock towered over them. Strung up in between the spires as far as they could see, were hundreds and hundreds of – -
"Hammocks?" Rose asked. She stared at the white nets strung between the rocks. "They look just like hammocks. What are they?"
"Left-over pouches from where the dragons hatched, I suppose."
They approached the first hammock. The Doctor reached his hand out and touched the thick strands of the rope. "It's sticky."
"Smells funny too," she said. "Like licorice."
Without warning, the hammock sprung to life. The net swung out and grabbed them both. It spun them round until they were tangled tightly in its grasp. Rose was pressed so tightly against the Doctor that she could feel his hearts beating against her own chest.
"Brilliant!" the Doctor said, as if it was the best thing to ever happen to them. "These are webs! The dragons feed on small herbivores. Faces like the Ood. They love sweets."
"So this is how the Dragons catch their snacks?"
"Exactly!" he said.
"And it looks like its snack time," Rose said.
One of the large dragons swooped down lower and lower, circling overhead until it landed with a thud right beside them.
"I told you I was going to take you to a party. I just didn't expect us to be the birthday cake," he said. "My mistake."
The both started squirming to get out of the binds as the dragon came closer.
"Now would be a good time for a heroic rescue," Rose muttered.
"Oh, come now, Rose. You don't need me, most of the time you can rescue yourself just fine without my help."
The dragon leaned his head down and sniffed at them.
"Stay perfectly still," the Doctor said.
After a few tense moments of sniffing at them, the dragon swiped his tongue along the length of Rose's cheek. Instantly, the dragon backed away and began gagging. He was still coughing as he took flight and left them tangled in the hammock.
"Right then, nothing to it," the Doctor said.
"Guess I don't taste good," Rose said, wishing her hand was free so she could wipe off the side of her cheek.
The Doctor licked the side of her other cheek. "Taste perfect to me. Though I could do without the cosmetics. Leaves an aftertaste."
"Doctor!" She could feel his grin against her face rather than see it.
"Now, how about you get us out of here," he said. "Not quite fair that I always do all the work."
"It's sweet then, yeah?" she asked. "If it's made of sugar can't we just, I dunno, eat our way out?"
"Eat through it?" He licked the ropes. "Just complex sugars. Don't see why not." And he took a big bite of the rope. It was tougher than it looked, and they took turns gnawing on the binds.
After quite a while of eating, they fell into the ground in a heap. Rose sprawled on top of the Doctor. "I never want to even look at a piece of licorice again, as long as I live."
He laughed, and wrapped his arms around her, before giving her a shove off of him. They got back to their feet and wandered back to the bay.
"See! I knew you didn't need me around to rescue you. Defender of the Universe. That's what you are."
She stared at him. "You've been saying that ever since Satellite Five."
"Have I?" He thought for a moment. "Well, I suppose I have.
"I know you don't want to talk about it." She stuck her hands in her pockets. "It's just….I remember things. And I don't know what's real, and I don't know what's not. Why don't I remember?"
"Whatever happened, I can handle it. Even if…even if I did something wrong. I'm not scared to remember," she said. Then she looked at him. "Or are you? Are you scared for me to remember what happened?"
"My brave Rose. Never scared of anything," he said, sadly.
"I know I didn't save you, or you'd still be wearing your black jacket."
"You saved me. You saved the world. You were…." he paused for a moment and smiled. "Absolutely fantastic. I didn't lie about that."
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
"Course I do."
He walked to her and touched her head, and revived the memories that she thought were buried. One by one they came back. Mickey, her mum, the ridiculous truck and chain, the light. The feeling of power. The Daleks crumbling to dust. Jack coming back to life. The Doctor. Kissing her. Saving her.
She looked at him. She'd known that Jack was alive, but she'd never gotten the details. "Why did you leave Jack there?"
The Doctor sighed. "I could blame it on my regeneration. And that's probably part of it. But you changed things, Rose. Things you shouldn't have. I didn't know what the extent was, and what the consequences would be, and I thought it best – - "
"To leave him stranded millions of miles above Earth without so much as a goodbye from us?"
"Jack knew what he was getting himself into," he said. "But he's alive, isn't that enough?"
Rose stared at him. "But – - "
Her words died on her lips as a huge flock of dragons rose from the rocks and soared overhead. The dragons began to swoop and dive and glide effortlessly through the air.
"You kissed me," she said.
"I would hardly call it a kiss, I was sucking the time vortex out of you."
"You definitely know how to show a girl a good time," she said.
"Good time? I nearly got you killed." He sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "You were right. I was afraid. That you'd find out what happened and – - "
"And what? Leave you?" She shook her head. "The kiss wasn't that bad."
He grinned. "And that was my old self. You'd be surprised what these new lips can do."
She rolled her eyes. "From what I saw on the instant replay on the space station, Madame De Pompadour was the one doing all the kissing."
The Doctor squeaked. "You knew?"
"You never let me tell you about my conquests, so I certainly didn't want to hear about yours," she said, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from grinning.
"Conquests? Conquests! You make it sound like you're the Vikings invading Europe!" he said. "How many conquests have you had exactly since you've been tagging along with me? The Slitheen! You've been conquesting the Slitheen!"
Her laughter was one of his favorite sounds in all of time and space. He would never tell her that. There was so much more than Satellite Five that he'd kept from her. Things that he didn't even want to admit to himself. But there was one thing he wanted to hear from her, even though he knew her answer would be lie. Still he wanted – - he needed to hear it.
"How long are you going to stay with me?" he asked.
Rose glanced at him and smiled. "Forever."