To Love Well and True

-x-

"I met this man once, years ago. He told me something that I've never forgotten. He said that if you love well and true then you can push away your fear of death. If you are scared of death, it means you have not loved, or have not loved well."

"You sound like Hemmingway," the Doctor murmured, hiding his smile in the curve of her neck.

"The point is, I never understood that, until I met you," she said softly, turning in his arms.

His smile widened. "That's very sweet. So, who was this man?"

"Oh, just some bloke," she mumbled, blushing a delightful shade of pink. Her eyes went slightly wistful. "He was..."

The Doctor simultaneously growled and scowled. "He was what?"

She pressed her lips together, suppressing her giggles. "Nothing."

"No, tell me," he insisted, sniffing. "'Cos I know it wasn't bloody Jimmy or Mickey; they would never have said something insightful and deep and meaningful like that."

She shrugged innocently. "It was just a random guy I met one day. Nothing happened. Much."

"Rose!"

"What?" she laughed. "Don't get jealous, Doctor. I practically told you I love you just now."

He harrumphed. "Fine. Sorry. I'll stop being nosy." Then he narrowed his eyes at her. "How much is 'nothing happened, much?'"

"Um..." Rose pondered. "Remember last week, when we went to Sambaba and we did that thing where we -"

He remembered. "Rose Tyler!" he exclaimed. "How old were you at the time?"

"Eighteen. It was before me and Mickey got together properly."

"But – but - "

"Doctor, I'm just teasing you."

He exhaled in relief. "Oh..."

"Well, not really, but you think that if it helps."

"What!"

"Joking, Doctor." She waited a beat. "It was you."

"What?"

"Who said that to me. And it was you who kissed me in the moonlight the same evening in the local park."

His brow furrowed deeply. "What do you mean?"

She rolled her eyes. "You can be so thick sometimes," she said, fondly ruffling his hair. "It was a you, from the future. I don't know which regeneration, but it's not the next one."

"How do you know it's not the next one?" he asked, baffled.

"I just do," she shrugged evasively. She couldn't exactly tell him that she'd had rather frequent visits from the next one in the last few years.

"Right," he nodded, as if that makes sense. Then he realised something. "Blimey, I go back on your timeline and introduce myself as the Doctor? Surely that would cause some sort of para -"

"Idiot," she muttered, interrupting him. "You called yourself John Smith."

"Oh." His eyes lit up. "So, I get to snog you in a future regeneration, too, that's nice." Then the light in his eyes faded. She knew instantly that he was thinking about why he'd go back to see her in her younger days. And the heartbreaking reason was, because he didn't have her anymore. His voice was decidedly hoarser when he spoke next, "Rose. I..."

"I know," she said softly, cuddling into him. "I know."