And I knew the the beat 'cause it matched your own beat
I still remember it from our chest to chest and feet to feet

A pulse, your pulse
It's the only thing I can remember
I break, you don't
I was always set to self-destruct, though

~"If There's a Rocket, Tie Me To It," Snow Patrol


Somethin' big's gonna happen, she mumbles to Mickey over breakfast the morning before. I can feel it.

Mickey just smiles patronizingly at her and leans down for a quick kiss before excusing himself to prepare for work. He doesn't believe her, and honestly Rose doesn't blame him; she hardly believes herself. After all, she is Rose Tyler: Nineteen. A shop girl. Ordinary. Nothing special has ever happened to her.

Yet.

"So exactly how does this…thing work?" she calls over the whirrs, beeps, and buzzings of the alien machine—What was it again? Time-somethin'. Time and…T-A-TARDIS! That's it!—that is so much bigger on the inside.

The Doctor barely glances at her. "It's complicated," he brushes her off, moving around the console as he works. He halts mere inches away, and her breath catches in her throat. His eyes; they are so… "Too complicated for a—"

"Human?" Rose supplies, fixing him with a frown and thrusting away her wandering thoughts. The Doctor studies her for a moment.

"Exactly!" he says and instantly returns to his work. He's moving so quickly, and Rose, for her part, needs to sit down before her head spins so quickly it falls off. Still, this Doctor, whoever he is,really thinks he's something else, and that irks her for reasons she can't explain, so instead of giving in to her dizziness, she steps toward him and challenges, "Try me."

He pauses his actions momentarily to glance up at her again with something akin to—but not quite—irritation. Rose's heartbeat speeds up anxiously. What if she's upset him and he wants to send her home? That would be a shame; she's only been here five minutes and there were so many things she thought she might like to see.

But instead of throwing her out, he leans against the console and states, "Well, first off, it really needs about six people to fly it properly…"

He tells her everything, and, true, she doesn't understand most of the gibberish that comes out of his mouth, but Rose listens to every word. She thinks she could listen to him jabber on all day and be content just to listen to the sound of his voice. It's reassuring and familiar, like he's someone she used to know but forgot.

She wonders at that but doesn't press it. It seems like too delicate a thing to confront.

"D'you think I could fly it, some time?" she asks when he's finished.

The Doctor snorts and returns to his fiddling. "Maybe," he says, but he clearly doesn't mean it. "But I doubt you'll be able to."

Rose grins and watches him work, certain she'll enjoy proving him wrong.

She has no reason to go with him, really, but she doesn't need one, in the end; she just goes, without thought or consideration.

Maybe it's that she can't bear to spend another second in that shop, doing nothing, going nowhere, being no one.

Maybe it's that the way he cried "Run!" left her dizzy and starry-eyed.

Maybe it's the twinkle in his eye like he's the keeper of a thousand secrets she longs, desperately, suddenly, to know.

Maybe it's the promise of all of space and time.

Or maybe it's simply that he comes back.

(He wants her. He wants her. He thinks she, Rose Tyler, is clever. He wants her.)

Whatever the reason, she leaps onto that ship and does not look back.

She wonders, racing away from some species of alien the Doctor swore up and downwas perfectly benevolent and would not attack them, how she ever thought her old life was anything worth living.

"Have you always traveled alone?" she asks one night. From experience, she understands that he may not give her an answer, especially when he is tinkering so furiously on his ship, but she will keep asking anyway because, really, she knows so little about him. What kind of girl does that make her, she wonders, running around with a man she hardly knows?

To her surprise, she doesn't much care.

The Doctor grunts, and there is a faint clatter. "Not always," he answers gruffly. She likes that about him: He acts so rough, but she knows better. She's comes to realize that his harsh exterior gives way to softer insides.

"So you've had other…friends travel with you then?" Rose prompts, bending over to get a better look at him.

"You could say that," he answers, noncommittally. Rose frowns.

"So I'm not the first?"

"Well, I am nine-hundred, Rose, so no, you're not." Her frown deepens. Jealousy, she thinks, does not suit her well.

It's only later that she realizes she has no rightful reason to be jealous at all.

She loses track of time on the TARDIS, because there is just so much to see. She wonders, in those first few months, when she'll go home, when she'll get sick of travelling like this. When she'll begin to miss Mickey and her mother and the normal humdrum of everyday life.

The Doctor doesn't miss it. She asks him about it once—about home—and he looks at her oddly, confused and sort of sad, as if he'd forgotten about missing things.

Eventually, she forgets, too.

"What are you doin' with your life, Rose?" her mother demands on one of their visits. The Doctor has wandered off to fix something-or-other on the TARDIS, so Rose has to face the interrogation alone.

"Mum," she sighs, digging around in the fridge. She really does not want to deal with this right now.

"Now, Rose, you listen to me," Jackie says, visibly upset. "Look at yourself! Runnin' around with a man you hardly know, doin' God knows what! I mean, he's not even human. What if he gets you killed?"

"He's not gonna get me killed," Rose insists, rolling her eyes and pouring herself a glass of milk. "The Doctor—he takes care of me, Mum. He'd never let me…"

Jackie huffs indignantly. "You wouldn't need takin' care of if you wasn't travelling with 'im in the first place!" she argues, tearing up.

Rose slams her glass against the counter, finally turning to face her mother. "You don't understand, Mum!" she says and softens a little. "He's so wonderful. I mean…beyond wonderful—he's wise and passionate and-and sweet, but also so very…broken." She sighs. "I think-I think she's been alone a while, and that's…not good for him. He needs me, Mum. I can't let him travel alone—not with how lonely he is."

Silence engulfs the kitchen and Rose fears her mother might burst into tears. However, when Jackie speaks, she is calm, resolved. "Just promise me one thing, sweetheart," she says quietly. "Don't go fallin' in love with him."

Rose laughs at the very idea. "I promise," she returns, rolling her eyes again.

Her heart isn't really in it, though.

Somehow, 'his' TARDIS turns into home.

In October, they get themselves into a situation.

Arguably, they get themselves into situations every day: there is always the running, the chasing, the escaping at the last second.

This situation, though, is a little bit…well, different.

"Doctor!" she cries, vowing silently once more that as soon as she sees him and his big ears, she will murder him on the spot. She struggles once more at the bonds around her wrist, knowing it to be a futile attempt but at least those bonds are rope, unlike the ones on her feet and—

Wait. Let's back up:

After a frightening disaster involving the Cheetah People, the Doctor had promised her a nice, relaxing vacation trip, but, as she was quickly learning, relaxing was a word she might have to erase from her vocabulary while in the Doctor's company. They were sharing gluffn'a, which, the Doctor swore, was the origin of ice cream, on the planet El-Nor, when suddenly Rose was swarmed by a mob of the planet's inhabitants. The next thing she knew, she was sitting on a throne being proclaimed a 'goddess' as the Doctor looked on, caught somewhere between amusement and annoyance.

"Exactly why do they think I'm a goddess?" Rose hissed as they El-Norans celebrated around them. The Doctor grinned apologetically, and she most certainly did not think about how charming she found that grin.

"It may have something to do with the fact that you're, you know, all…yellow," he said, waving a hand at her hair.

"You mean 'cause I'm blonde? What's so special 'bout that?"

"Well, look at them! None of 'em are blonde."

Rose looked again, and found it was true: the El-Norans surprisingly resembled humans, despite their short statures and green skin, but all of them had dark tufts of hair. She was the only blonde in sight.

That would make for an okay trip, actually, were Rose not currently chained up in what appears to be a high-security El-Noran prison, waiting to be unfortunately and unwillingly sacrificed for their fertility festival.

Some goddess.

"Doctor!" she cries again, struggling against the makeshift handcuffs that keep her pinned to the wall, but he cannot hear. He is miles away.

'I won't let them hurt you,' he cried as they were dragged apart. 'I'll come get you, Rose Tyler!'

She had believed him, too; she'd believe most anything he promises her. But sitting in the small cell alone and shivering, she's beginning to suspect he was wrong. He isn't coming; he can't. There were too many El-Norans for him to take on by himself. He's probably dead by now.

In her mind's eye, there is a flash of her Doctor—the Doctor—on the ground, covered in blood and unmoving, all that wonderful life drained out of his eyes. Crying out, she pushes the thought away and instead focusing on her own miserable imprisonment.

"I'm gonna die here," she whispers to herself. "I'm never gonna see my mum again. I…"

"Now, Rose Tyler," a booming, beautiful Northern voice says, interrupting her misery. "Have you really got so little faith in me?"

"Doctor!" Rose cries, leaping forward. Or well, trying to, anyway; she doesn't get very far, what with the bonds restraining her appendages. Glaring, she demands, "What took you so long?"

"I had a little trouble sneaking past the guard." Shouts echo down the hallway. "Speaking of which… Let's get you out of those bonds, eh?"

An hour, twenty-three minutes, two seconds, and lots of running later, they are safe on the TARDIS. Rose looks down at herself and laughs at the disarray she's in, but before she can say much of anything, the Doctor wraps his arms around her and pulls her close, letting out a relieved sigh into her hair.

Rose freezes, her breath caught in her throat. Certainly, they've hugged before—hundreds of times—but never like this, never so…intimately.

What scares her is how much she enjoys it.

"Doctor?" she asks tentatively.

"I thought I'd lost you," he breathes, squeezing her once before letting her go completely.

Rose looks at him then—really looks at him, at the lines on his face and the circles under those endless eyes, reveling in the determined jaw, big nose, and weathered leather jacket—and something deep within her stirs. She forgets, for just a moment, that he is an alien, that he is so much older, wiser, harsher. For a moment, they are merely a boy and girl, a man and woman playing at life. For a millisecond, she can see a life of waking up to his big ears and muttered 'Stupid apes,' and letting the universe rest for an hour or two.

She sees it, so perfectly clear for a moment, and then it is gone, so she smiles, tongue between her teeth, and quips saucily, "Doctor, if I didn't know better, I'd think you'd begun to care about me."

"Nah," the Doctor returns, grinning. "Just afraid of what Jackie might do to me if I had to tell her you'd been…." He swallows the last word, not willing to finish his sentence. "Well, you know."

"Yeah," she says. "I know."

I wouldn't have missed it for the world, she tells him once. Every day, she finds she means it just a little bit more.

"What do you do," she asks, "while I sleep?"

The Doctor shrugs, giving her a look. "Oh, this and that. Tinker with the TARDIS. Read. Sleep, sometimes."

"You sleep?" she asks, surprised.

"Only occasionally. I don't need much," he explains, "thanks to my—"

"Superior biology. Yeah, got that, thanks," Rose finishes for him, tongue sticking out between her teeth.

After a moment of exchanged grins, the Doctor adds, "Pretty boring when you're asleep actually. Least favorite part of the day."

Rose stares at him, a blush growing on her cheeks. "Was that a compliment?" she teases. She doesn't tell him it's her least favorite part of the day, too, being so far away from him.

She falls slowly, but she falls. That's the important part.

Captain Jack Harkness comes as a surprise—and if Rose is honest with herself, a welcome one. This whole business with the Doctor is confusing and a little too much for her to handle at the moment, so Jack becomes a distraction, a barrier between them to keep her from doing something stupid, like jumping his bones or blurting out, "I love you!" at every turn.

Because she doesn't. Love him, that is. Not one bit.

(Except for the parts where she totally does. Maybe.)

Of course, the annoying thing about Jack is that he's too smart for his own good, so when he sits down next to her on a bench during their trip home, she nearly groans in aggravated anticipation.

And, sure enough, the handsome captain does not disappoint.

"You love him, don't you?" he states bluntly because it's not really a question when you already know the answer.

Which he doesn't. Because she is in no way in love with the Doctor.

"No!" she exclaims, glaring at the man next to her.

"Yes," Jack answers, grinning. "You are. You didn't even have to ask who I meant."

"Well…" Rose sputters. "Says you."

Jack laughs, shaking his head at her. "So what about Mickey?" he asks.

Ah yes. Mickey. There's the real problem on her mind. Mickey—her boyfriend, maybe, thought she's begun to suspect that's just another barrier she's using to halt whatever is going on between her and the Doctor. She loves Mickey. She does. Or she did. She's not sure, anymore. In fact, the only thing she's sure of these days is that she only feels real and whole and alive when the Doctor holds her hand.

But that certainly doesn't mean she's in love with him.

"I dunno," she mutters, glaring at the ground. "I dunno anything anymore."

"Well," Jack says, putting an arm around her shoulder. "You'll figure it out. If anyone can figure it out, it's you. You are the beautiful and brilliant Rose Tyler, after all."

And that is why they keep Jack around: he knows how to make any situation seem a little less bleak.

The Doctor talks of an Oncoming Storm; Rose knows about those: she can feel one about to crash into her heart at any moment, so she keeps running, hoping to evade it.

Thing is, she can run all she wants, but she cannot run away from the growing (horrifying, wonderful) feeling that vibrates throughout her entire being. She cannot escape falling in love with the Doctor. It is as inevitable as her eventual demise, and no amount of running can prevent it.

Stranded on earth as he sacrifices himself thousands of years in the future, her legs finally give out.

New planets to see, new adventures to be had, lots of running to be done, he reminds her one morning, all new, pin-stripes and cheeky smiles, and her heart beats faster.

He's different, this new Doctor, and for the first few weeks all she wants is the comfort of big ears and a leather jacket. It takes her a while to see she can love this Doctor, too—does, already, from the moment he says ginger—and then it occurs to her that it doesn't matter how much he changes because she will never, ever be able to do anything but love him, completely, utterly, unconditionally.

Over breakfast, she catches him staring at her with those ridiculous glasses perched on his nose. Or, no, it's not really staring—more like studying her, as if she's some new creature they've happened upon. She frowns at him, having none of it, but when he continues to gaze at her, she clears her throat and loudly says, "Want somethin', Doctor?"

"What?" he asks, breaking out of his slight trance. "Oh. No."

"Okay." Without response, the Doctor resumes his stare. Rose blushes, only slightly annoyed. What is she supposed to do with this sudden—though not uninvited—attention? "Doctor," she says slowly. "Whatcha thinkin' about?"

The Doctor frowns, a sigh escaping his lips. "You," he confesses casually.

"Me," Rose repeats slowly, heart beating a thousand thuds per second. "What about me?"

He pushes his glass farther up his nose, leaning back but still fixing her with that calculating look. "I'm trying to figure you out," he explains. "You're so…" He pauses, biting his lower lip.

Rose lets him think for a moment, but it is quickly too much, so she prompts as nonchalantly as possible, "So…?"

"I don't know. I can't explain it," he admits. "There's something about you that's…special." He smiles a little. "Rose Tyler, the girl who got a second chance." His grin grows. "I don't usually do that, you know. Ask a second time, I mean."

"So why did you?" Rose asks curiously. "Why'd you come back?"

The Doctor shrugs, uncertain. "Dunno. I-I spent two weeks flying around, having adventures, but I couldn't get you out of my head. So…I went back and here we are."

He grins fondly at her, taking off his glasses and placing them in the jacket of his suit, examination clearly finished though the mystery has been left unsolved.

Rose returns his smile, adding sincerely, "Glad you did. Come back, I mean."

"Oh, me too, Rose Tyler. You have no idea."

He thinks she doesn't remember the Bad Wolf, but he is wrong. She doesn't remember much—it is like a nightmare, always creeping at the edges of her thoughts. That cosmic, infinite weight of time and space still reverberates through her; in the stillness of night, she can still hear the Wolf howling in her veins.

One night, she awakes to that all-too-familiar pounding in her head and the ringing in her ears, and it is too much. Desperate, she races out of her room and right to the Doctor's, which is odd, really, because she's never known exactly where it is. But there she is, standing before a giant wooden door with engraved symbols that she can't read (and shouldn't she be able to, what with the TARDIS translating everything in her head and all?) and then she lifts a hand to knock and—

The door flies upon to reveal a still-dressed, very-much-awake Time Lord looking at her with such deep concern, she could kiss him.

She doesn't, though. Lines and all that.

"Rose?" the Doctor asks, his brow creasing as he steps toward her. "What's wrong? You're crying."

"I-I need," she struggles to say. "I just…"

"Shh," he says, pulling her into a tight embrace. "Don't speak. I'm here. Don't worry."

It makes her see him a little differently, her Doctor. Now that she's seen what he sees, known what he knows, she understands, maybe, a little bit more. Why he's so damaged, so lonely. There is so much to see in this expansive universe, but what does it all mean, she wonders, if you've no one to share it with?

That is the imprint the Time Vortex left her with: Not what is, what was, and what could be; not everything ends—but instead the echo of emptiness that follows her Time Lord's every step, the unavoidable truth that Time will see the end of all things.

As she falls asleep once more, she thinks about the end and holds back tears for fear it will only make the end hasten its approach.

Hours after the events on Krop Tor, she watches the Doctor set the coordinates to a familiar place, and Rose pauses, studying the resolved crease of his brow as he pulls levers and presses buttons. He does not look at her.

"Where are we going?" she asks though she already knows.

Not even sparing her a glance, the Doctor says, as blasé as anything, "Thought we'd pop back to England for a visit."

"But…why?"

"Just thought you'd like to see your mum."

Liar, she thinks because she knows him. She's gotten too good at reading him; she can almost taste the lies in the air now.

"Well, I don't. And I don't really want to go home right now. Thanks," she tells him decidedly, fixing him with a defiant frown.

The Doctor returns it, crossing his arms, "Well, I think we should."

"Well, I don't really want to go."

"Who said you have any choice?" the Doctor demands, his anger growing, and Rose knows she should put an end to this before they both say things they'll regret but she can't help herself. She needs this; the tension in the air is suffocating.

"Oh, so now you're just gonna treat me like a little girl? Not gonna let me have any say in what we do?" She puts her hands on her hips, her frown changing into a full-on glare. "We. Are not. Goin'. Home."

"Yes, we are Rose!" he says, his voice raising a few decibels.

"Why?"

"Because, you stupid human, I said so, and what I say goes on this ship!" the Doctor shouts, slamming his hand down on the console. The TARDIS reacts angrily, the lights flickering and the console beeping in fury. The Doctor instantly sobers, a hand covering his eyes.

"Dammit," he breathes as the ship settles.

Rose's eyes sting with tears. She feels small suddenly, like a child and not a grown woman. It is not like this often; usually, the Doctor makes her feel his complete equal, but there are occasions when she is suddenly aware of how powerful and old and alien he is.

Biting her lip, she wipes the tears away so he won't see, and, taking a calming breath, closes the distance between them.

She is so very tired of pretending.

"You're gonna take me home an' leave me, aren't you?" she murmurs, looking up into his half-covered face. Cautiously, she reaches up and pulls his hand down to reveal glistening eyes. "Doctor? Answer me."

He swallows, looking her directly in the eye. "Yeah," he mutters. "Yes. I am." He draws his hand away from hers. "I…we can't do this anymore. I-I almost lost you today."

"You almost lose me every day," she reminds his, desperate.

"Yes," he answers steadily, "and I'm no longer willing to risk that." He turns back to the ship to finish setting the coordinates.

"But…"

"No buts, Rose!" he cries, flipping back around and grabbing her by the wrist. Suddenly, she feels her back press up against the console. "I will not put your life in danger any longer. That-that monster said you would die in battle, and if I can help that in any way, you better believe I will because I—" He cuts off, his face mere inches from hers. Their breaths tangle, and if she weren't so concentrated on convincing him to let her stay, she would be eagerly drinking in this moment—this closeness.

"Because you what, Doctor?" she asks fervently, but he frowns, pulling away. She grabs the lapels of his jacket, dragging him back. "Please," she begs.

And then he is kissing her, his lips pressed against hers in an embrace that is all at once frantic and passionate and devastating in its need. He thrusts her further back into the console, his hands on her hips as her fingers find their way into his hair, and—

And then it is over before it has even begun, and Rose is left wanting, as always.

The Doctor lets his forehead rest on hers, closing his eyes tightly. "I care about you, Rose," he tells her. "More than—more than you will ever know. I can't let you—you can't…"

Rose puts a finger to his lips to silence him. "I won't," she assures him but he shakes his head, leaning back and letting his hands fall to his sides.

"You can't promise that."

"No," she admits slowly. "No, I can't. But y'know what I can promise? That I will always find a way back to you, no matter where you leave me. I will always figure out a way."

He doesn't respond, only studies her as he has so many times before, as if he can't comprehend why, exactly, she is so completely devoted to him. But Rose knows her Doctor, and she knows when she's won. She steps forward once more, lacing her fingers through his.

"Please," she whispers. "Please let me stay. I don't want to go home and return to what I once was—a boring shop girl with no idea how amazing this whole universe really is. Whatever happens to me, I want it to have been my choice… I-I wasn't livin', not really, until the moment you took my hand and told me to run. A life without you in it won't be any sorta life at all."

Silence encompasses them, and she is afraid she misread the emotion in his eyes, but then the moment passes. He sighs. "You, Rose Tyler, have never once in your life been boring," he assures her. Then he squeezes her hand, kisses her forehead and murmurs wonderingly, "Of course you'll stay." Searching her face, he adds, "Rose Tyler, the girl who refuses to give up."

Then he lets go of her hands and returns to the console to redirect the TARDIS to somewhere new and unexplored.

They never speak of the kiss.

"Rose, how long are you gonna stay with me?" he asks her. Once, she would not have been able to answer that question. She would have thought, An hour? An month? A year?

Now, clutching his hand tightly to her side, forever doesn't seem like a bad place to start.

...

"Run" was their beginning; she scoffs at the thought of any sort of end at all.