Complications and Confessions
"So what are you gonna do next?" asked Jackie curiously, sitting down beside Rose. The Doctor had brought them back to visit her for the day so that Mickey could tell her about his first couple of adventures in time and space. They had just finished dinner, and so Mickey had gone back to his own flat for a bit to get some more clothes, and the Doctor had disappeared into the TARDIS so that Jackie and Rose could have some mother-daughter time before they went back to the stars.
"Honestly?" replied Rose. "I don't know what to do." She sighed sadly, bit her lip and glanced away.
"Sweetheart? What is it? What's wrong?"
Her mum wrapped a comforting arm around her and gave her shoulder a squeeze. "Talk to me," Jackie murmured. "You never know, I might be able to help. What's wrong, darling?"
Rose hugged the cushion to her stomach and let out a groan of frustration, dropping her head in embarrassment. "I can't decide what's best for my heart," she admitted, and then winced.
Jackie's brow furrowed in confusion. "Sorry, love, I don't quite understand?"
"Yes. Exactly," Rose muttered. "Bloody love. Why can't it just be simple? Why does everything have to be some flipping complicated?"
"Rose, come on. Stop talking in riddles, you sound like that Doctor of yours," Jackie chided good-naturedly.
"He's not though, is he," she mumbled next, leaning back on the sofa, "Not really." She turned her head to look at her mum. "What do I do?"
"Well how should I know?" answered Jackie. "You won't bloody tell me what's wrong!"
Rose huffed impatiently and quickly clarified, "Do I choose the man who loves me or the man I love?"
Jackie blinked at her for a few moments, then laughed. This was the response Rose neither expected nor desired.
"What?" Rose demanded. "Why are you laughing?"
"Sweetheart, in your situation, I was under the impression that they are the same thing."
"I don't love Mickey anymore, Mum. Not...in that way."
"I wasn't talking about Mickey."
Rose rolled her eyes. "The Doctor? Mum, the Doctor...he's not like that. We're not like that. I've told you this a million times...plus, you know...remember, he's changed now. He's...different."
"But you still love him," Jackie stated firmly, because she knew it to be true. The Doctor had only regenerated a couple of months ago, but already Jackie could see that Rose looked at him like she'd known and loved this version of him all along.
Her daughter pulled a face of annoyance and nodded. "Unfortunately yes," she muttered.
"Why is it unfortunate?" replied Jackie. Rose raised a dubious eyebrow. "No, look, listen to me, Rose. I know it's taken me awhile to get used to him being in our lives, but I'm not bloody blind. Even if he does put you in danger every month, anyone can see that he loves you from the roots of your hair to your stripy socks."
Rose swallowed thickly and stared at said socks to avoid her mother's eye. "Okay, so maybe I admit that I thought perhaps he did, once, but now..." She shrugged. "Now I'm not so sure. Whereas Mickey told me yesterday that he still loves me. But I've already told the Doctor that I'm gonna travel with him for the rest of my life. But then he had this thing with a French courtesan and I -"
"He. Did. What?" Jackie screeched, getting progressively louder with each syllable.
Rose grabbed her mother to stop her leaping off the sofa to go in search of him. "Leave it, Mum. He's already apologised, anyway, which was...weird."
Jackie still looked angry, but she tilted her head in triumph to at least say, "Well, there you go then. Proves it. If he apologised, it means he was aware that there's something between you two that he could've potentially ruined."
"Nah, I think he was apologising more for the fact that he left me and Mickey on a spaceship in the fifty-first century while he disappeared off to potentially not come back."
"He did WHAT?" Jackie exclaimed again.
"I wouldn't have ever stopped trying to get back to you, Rose Tyler," came a quiet voice from the doorway. "Past versions of me pop up loads of times throughout the centuries. I'd've faced the excruciating frustration of conversing with a past-self and gotten them to bring me to you."
Rose had frozen the second his first word announced his presence. Jackie slowly turned her head, her eyes alight with fury as they landed on the Doctor. "You!" she shrieked, launching herself up and around the sofa, marching up to him. "I could slap you."
The Doctor stood still - his hands in his pockets – and winced a bit, but graciously offered, "Yeah, you could. Might knock some sense into me."
Rose remained silent and shell-shocked.
Jackie stared at him in surprise. Then, "Alright, then," she said, and slapped him around the face.
The Doctor stepped back, hands clutching his cheek, and then accidently hit his head on the doorframe. "Oww!" He shook his head, letting out a long exhale of breath. "Blimey! Forgot how much that slap of yours hurts," he told her. Then he lowered his voice to murmur, "Can you..." He tilted his head towards the kitchen. Jackie raised her eyebrows. "Please?" he tried. "I need to talk to Rose. Alone. Plus, a cuppa would be lovely." He smiled beseechingly at her. Jackie rolled her eyes and shoved him out of the way, and left them alone.
Rose was still staring at the spot on the sofa her mother had vacated previously, so he cleared his throat a little to garner her attention as he approached. Finally, she moved her head to look at him. "You shouldn't listen in on people's conversations," she murmured hoarsely. She was embarrassed when tears filled her eyes as she spoke, and so she glanced away again, blinking furiously.
The Doctor flopped down onto the sofa next to her and took her hand, squeezing it between both of his. "I have a few confessions," he told her, trying to ignore the ache in his chest that he felt at seeing her trying not to cry.
"Oh?" she asked quietly, then giggled to try and stop herself being so irrationally emotional, "Thought it'd be a few more than a few, what with nine centuries and all that."
"Weeelll," he drawled, lifting a hand to tug his ear. "I've got to save some for another rainy day, so I'll just confess a few for now," he offered. As he lowered his hand from his ear, he casually dropped his arm to the back of the sofa, so that it was partially around her but not quite touching. A thought occurred to him, and he coughed awkwardly. "Where's Mickey?"
"He's at his flat, picking up a few things," she answered. The flicker of her eyes to his arm told him that she'd noticed his maybe not-so-subtle-after-all movement. But he did not withdraw his arm from its position half-around her, for she didn't seem opposed to its location.
On the contrary, he was pleasantly surprised when Rose suddenly tumbled forwards and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tight. His arms subsequently – and rather instantaneously – hugged her back, and he exhaled in relief that they were hugging again. The last couple of days, she'd moved away whenever he'd tried to initiate one. It had consistently put a lump in his throat; one which he hadn't been able to dislodge until now.
The Doctor laid back a bit so that they were in optimum cuddling position on the sofa, then buried his nose into her hair and murmured, "I invited Mickey along with us because I thought some distance between me and you would be useful, and I thought that he and you might get back together. I am also a complete idiot on occasion and thus within the first ten minutes of him coming on board – you remember, when he sat in my seat at the kitchen table? Next to you? – I realised that I cannot in the slightest deal with that possibility, nor do I in any way, shape or form feel any different towards you despite my attempt to give myself some space to just, sort of, well, recollect that rational, uninterested, somewhat asexual Time Lord I used to be before I met you."
Rose made a few sounds against his chest, and the Doctor wasn't sure whether she was crying or laughing or both. "Rose?" he ventured hesitantly, gently putting his hand beneath her chin to lift her head up to face him. She tried to blow her hair away from her eyes but it stubbornly fell back, so the Doctor helpfully tucked the loose strands behind her ear for her, finally able to see her clearly. There were a couple of tears on her eyelashes, but she was smiling, and a giggle burst forth from her lips while he surveyed her.
"What's so funny?" he murmured, his own lips tugging into a smile in response.
"You're just..." She shook her head in amazement. "So daft."
"Oh." His smile slipped a bit. "Thanks."
Her expression grew more serious too, and she shifted so that she could rest her head on his shoulder but still be able to look up at him. "You can't keep trying to manipulate me by trying to force me into feeling things I don't want to feel anymore - "
"When have I manipulated you into that?" he interrupted petulantly.
"You just said it!" she replied. "Trying to get me back into a situation with Mickey. It's not fair on any of us, especially not him. Me and him were over, and then you go and do all these things and now he half-thinks it'll be possible for us to get back together, but I don't want him, Doctor. God, I know it's so selfish but I just...I just can't be with him like that, not anymore. I still need him in my life, I still need him to be my friend, but I'm not in love with him."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor murmured earnestly. "I am. I just thought...well. I didn't really think, I s'pose."
Her forehead scrunched up in thought. "What would you have done, anyway?"
"Say I just...left. Told you now that I was gonna give things a go with Mickey again, and stay here on Earth. What would you do? Would you let me go without a word? Or would you try to stop me?"
"I..." He closed his eyes for a few seconds, taking in a deep breath. It hurt just to think about it. Then, he stared down into her eyes, and answered honestly, "I would do everything possible to persuade you to stay with me."
"Would you, though?" she asked, still doubtful.
"I told you that you could spend the rest of your life with me. I meant it. You could. And I want you to. And I hope you will. But in one split second I was presented with a way to alleviate this, this, this thing that we have between us by inviting him, and foolishly I thought I could do it, that I could stand around and watch you fall back in love with him."
"And you can't?"
"Why?" she prompted.
The Doctor sighed heavily then admitted in a rush of breath, "Because it's utterly impossible for me to ever fall out of love with you."