After an hour or so, the three time travellers bade farewell to Jackie and boarded the TARDIS again. Mickey requested a trip to the planet Agoao, which the Doctor had mentioned to him earlier on. Apparently there were massive futuristic computers there that let you physically enter some virtual reality – like a super-duper video game, or something. Rose wasn't really listening. She wasn't that interested, to be honest. She was far too caught up in how her real life was going to pan out over the course of the next few days. Already she was day-dreaming about the Doctor abandoning their go-slow policy and taking her to bed –
"Rose?" repeated the Doctor, wiggling his fingers in front of her face.
"Oh! Sorry, were you, um, talking to me? I was in my own world for a sex – sec, I mean – I was in my own world for a second there. Was what I meant to say. Don't know why I said...yeah. Anyway." Her cheeks were pink, and she cleared her throat firmly.
The Doctor just raised his eyebrows. "One day," he said slowly, "I'm going to take you to meet Freud."
She pulled a face at him and sat down on the jumpseat. She glanced around her. "Oh. Where did Mickey go?"
He couldn't help but grin smugly. "Did you forget about him again, Rose Tyler?"
"Shut up," Rose muttered. "No, I didn't. I just didn't really realise he'd left the room."
The Doctor rolled his eyes, flipped a lever on the console, and came and sat beside her. "He announced, quite clearly, that he was going to grab his camera. He'll be back in a mo." He stretched his arm out along the seat. "So. What were you thinking about, just then?"
His thumb brushed her shoulder briefly. Then not-so-briefly and in a more sort of stroking pattern. Rose let out a long breath. "Nothing interesting," she replied hastily.
"No?" he asked, sounding dubious. He tilted his head towards hers. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," she squeaked, and jumped up to put some space between them. "So this planet, then. Has it got any shops?"
"What, don't fancy partaking in a bit of virtual-world gaming?" he grinned, lifting his legs and cross his ankles on the console.
"Not really," she said, wrinkling her nose. "I much prefer reality as it is, thanks." She couldn't help but run her gaze down the length of his stretched-out body.
"Do you?" he smirked, running a hand through his hair absently.
"Mmhmm," she assured him, swallowing hard. Jesus. What was wrong with her?
The Doctor suddenly sprung up, advancing towards her. "Did you know, though," he began, in that voice he used to tempt her into doing things. "That on Agoao, you can sit in these technological seat things and put on this special headset thing and - "
"Sounds sexy," she muttered, already bored.
He scowled at her and continued as though she hadn't interrupted, "- and let your imagination run away with you, creating a world around you, which lets you act out any aspect of your life that you want to relive, or conjure into existence. You could walk through an old memory – or make a new one." He lowered his voice, leaning closer to her. "Enjoy a cinematic experience of any of your deepest, darkest desires."
Rose's breath hitched. They stared at each other in silence for a moment, pupils dilating.
Then Rose found her voice. "Why would I want act out my desires in my head when I could do it for real?" she murmured.
The Doctor's lips twitched into a smile. He closed the distance between them somewhat, pressing her against the console as he leant in and brushed his nose against hers affectionately. "That's a very good point," he whispered. His hands sat comfortably on her hips. They both closed their eyes.
Their lips had barely touched when the flash went off.
"Mickey!" Rose exclaimed, her cheeks flushing red as she quickly pushed the Doctor away.
"Photographic evidence for Jackie," Mickey joked, shaking his camera at them.
The Doctor tugged on his ear (the wonky one, according to Rose), a bit embarrassed that they'd gotten a little carried away. "Ahem, right, off we go then..."
Rose declined the offer of partaking in the virtual reality experience. She didn't need to get any more frustrated than she already was. Thankfully, the Doctor agreed with her, and they let Mickey join a group of aliens playing at being footballers whilst they went to visit the local market.
After literally three minutes of wandering the stalls, the Doctor seized her hand in his and entwined their fingers. The short delay between the time they were away from Mickey and the time he picked up her hand was due to the overwhelming tension that had suddenly arisen between them. Luckily it wasn't a bad sort of tension – just the sort of deliciously challenging tension that made him want to pull her towards him and resolve things right there and then, in the middle of a market square. So he'd refrained from holding her hand at first, a little worried he'd be unable to resist touching her elsewhere; but three minutes was long enough for him to realise that he couldn't break a habit of a lifetime, as it were – for this whole life as his new new self he had been holding her hand at every plausible opportunity, even more than before his regeneration.
Rose let out a breath of relief when he squeezed her hand reassuringly, a familiar sensation, and looked up at him with grateful eyes. However, she couldn't help but point out, "Now that we've both acknowledged that, um, it's gonna happen at some stage, it's gonna be impossible to act like we were before. You know. Just friends and that."
He sent her a wry smile and murmured, "I don't think we've ever really just been friends."
His words sent a frisson of pleasure through her. Just hearing that he'd always felt more for her than she'd ever assumed made her feel…fantastic. "I like it when you say stuff like that."
"Well, it's true." He stopped walking and drew her to a stop too, turning to face her properly. "Rose."
"I want to make you happy, and I want to do whatever you want regarding our…relationship. We can wait for whatever length of time you want before we – well. Just know that I don't want to rush you."
"Why are you - " she began, wondering why he was saying all this in that moment – for she already knew that he'd respect her wishes to go slowly. But she broke off abruptly as he tilted his head towards her. "Oh," she murmured instead. "Are you saying all that because you don't want me to misinterpret your actions?"
"I'm saying it because I know that however much I want you, however much I sometimes feel like I won't be able to resist making love to you for another moment, I completely do have the strength to hold back until we're truly ready. What I mean is, I want to kiss you, and I think we could do that, couldn't we? That comes under the definition of going slowly, surely, starting off with kissing and things and waiting for the other stuff?"
"So this is your long-winded way of asking for a snog?" she smiled.
"I suppose it is," he smiled back.
She let go of his hand and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Then by all means, snog away," she replied cheekily.
The Doctor's arms came to rest around her waist, securing her firmly against him as he pressed his lips gently to hers. It was a good while before they drew back for breath, and when they did, they gave each other a shaky smile.
Then Rose announced, "I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this, because apparently I'm stubborn like that when it comes to sticking by my own decisions, but…I think maybe we should just go back to the TARDIS and - "
The Doctor pressed a finger to her lips, making her pause. "Wait a moment. Are you really ready? Last night you did say that this is all happening rather quickly - "
It was her turn to interrupt him. "Ah, but then you effectively said, earlier, that we've always been heading for this. Plus, Mum reckons we should just go for it."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Oh and we must listen to Jackie talk about our love life, because that is completely normal."
"Hey, me and mum are close, we tell each other everything."
He raised a dubious eyebrow, pretty sure that they didn't, then leant forwards, bending his head to whisper in her ear, "Well I reckon that you won't tell your mother a single thing about what's going to happen later."
Rose shivered and grinned. "Is that right?"
"Oh yes. There are some things that a mother must not know about what her daughter gets up to."
"Promises, promises," she teased.
"On the contrary, Rose Tyler," he said, drawing back to his full height. "I have detailed, detailed plans that are most definitely able to be brought forward, if you really want. Otherwise, like I said, we can wait."
"Yeah, I don't think I can," she admitted, now uncaring about her pride. It had been…well, a long time. And now that she knew that he loved her, properly loved her, and evidently wanted her as well, she didn't want to waste any more time.
So she did what she always did in front of the Doctor in order to persuade him in some way. She tilted her head and smiled up at him, swaying on her feet slightly. That was all she ever needed to do – eyelash fluttering wasn't even required, although sometimes she did that too just for the fun of it.
His steady gaze darkened and he exhaled roughly. "If you're sure," he murmured.
"I am," she said definitively. "I love you and I want to - "
Unfortunately, that was the moment when Rose was interrupted by an untimely scream. It wasn't very loud, sounding like it came from a distance away, but nonetheless they heard it. They both turned around in alarm, the Doctor's hearts beating incredibly fast in a way that was more to do with the fact that Rose Tyler had just told him she loved him than any pre-emptive adrenaline caused by the scream of distress.
"What was that?" Rose asked hurriedly. "Is someone in danger?"
Other people in the market square had started to look in the direction that the single scream had come from, but most shrugged it off and went back to selling and buying their wares. But the Doctor and Rose felt uneasy.
"I don't know," he murmured. "But that wasn't a happy scream."
"There are happy screams?" Rose asked distractedly, as they started to walk forwards.
"Of course there are," he replied, giving her a sideways glance. When she still didn't pick up in what he meant, he coughed awkwardly and then muttered for her ears only, "You'll be doing so later."
"Screaming happily?" she asked, frowning, and then widened her eyes as she realised what he meant. She stifled a laugh. "Oh my god. Someone could be in trouble and you are seriously still thinking about ways to get me to scream your name?"
He shrugged non-committally and grabbed her hand, tugging her into a brisk jog. "Let's see what's going on, shall we? The noise came from this building, I reckon."
"Yeah, I think so too," she agreed. They tested both doors of the warehouse-like building situated about half a mile away from the market, but to no avail. "Sonic it," Rose whispered.
"Yes, ma'am," the Doctor murmured back, and unlocked the door with his sonic screwdriver.
"Perfect," she complimented cheekily, as they entered the abandoned room. "What do you think this used to be, then? Some sort of recreation centre? Like a youth club or something?"
He pondered her words as he took in the still-present games. Something to this planet's approximation of a dartboard was located in the corner, and a billiards-like table with purple balls the size of oranges was in the middle of the room, surrounded by various other games and activities; all covered in dust. "How odd," he murmured.
Rose glanced across the other side of the room, and noticed another door, chained closed. "Oh, there's another room," she started to say.
And then they heard another scream, only this one was very loud, and very, very close.