New Year's Eve

Part 1

-x-

The tall, dark and handsome man who the Doctor was watching carefully was someone who's name began with 'g,' he thought, and he was not sure what followed the 'g,' but really, that didn't matter in the slightest because what truly, truly mattered in this particular situation was the fact that the man, whoever he was (perhaps the Doctor ought to just call him Hmph, for that was all he was probably worth being called in any case) was currently standing right next to Rose Tyler.

And really, that shouldn't be an issue, should it? It was perfectly alright for Rose to stand and converse with a man who wasn't him. Perfectly alright. After all, the Doctor had only just walked into the room; couldn't expect Rose (who, incidentally, was looking ravishing tonight; but then, didn't she always?) to have been standing around not socialising with people just because he'd been absent for the first half hour of the party.

No matter that the man who wasn't him was exactly her type. No matter that the Doctor had seen him chat to Rose at work several times this past week. No matter that he was the sort of person who was very good at his job and kept getting pats on the back by their co-workers whereas all the Doctor got when he saved the world were slightly strange looks. No matter that the stupid bloody man had perfect hair that the Doctor was intensely jealous of.

Except, even from this distance across the room from them both, the Doctor could quite clearly sense that the vibe between Hmph and Rose appeared a little more than friendly chit chat.

In fact, Hmph had now leant in close to Rose and said something that made her laugh in that entrancing, pretty way she did when someone was flirting with her. The Doctor's eyes widened and he realised his presence there was now required instantly.

He tried to make his walk across the room look as casual as possible. Once he reached the pair, he coughed meaningfully and intercepted them. "I, uh, think this is my dance," he said, levelling the other man with an essence of the Oncoming Storm stare.

Rose raised an eyebrow and smiled apologetically to Steven, before letting the Doctor sweep her into his arms and sway her to the music, away from the other man.

"That was a bit rude," she told him, looping her arms around his neck. "He was telling me about that sighting over in Guernsey - "

"Rose," he whispered into her ear, interrupting her. "No one talks about things like that when they are looking at you like he was looking at you. At least, if they are, they aren't thinking about the same thing they are talking about. Believe me; I know these things from experience. Remember all those times I just babble on about nonsense? That's what you looking gorgeous does to a man, Rose Tyler."

"What are you going on about?"

"He was standing very, very close to you and thinking inappropriate thoughts. I could tell."

Rose rolled her eyes. "Don't get all jealous," she giggled, then declared dramatically, "He means nothing to me!"

The Doctor chuckled and tightened his arms around her, resting his cheek against hers and closing his eyes. "You are just..." he trailed off helplessly. He was never very apt at vocalising the utter wonder and love he felt for her at any and every given moment of the day. No words seemed sufficient, somehow.

He used to try and show her his feelings by taking her to the most beautiful places in the universe, where crimson trees would sing and where twin amethyst moons would light up her eyes and where they could walk hand in hand amongst frozen, frothy waves. Now that he was Earth-bound and part-human, he sometimes wondered how he would ever begin to show her how much she meant to him. How he would ever consistently keep that smile on her face. That was what scared him the most about this life. Not simply the no-TARDIS thing, not the no-Donna thing, and not the no-regenerating thing. Not even the new domestic thing, or the consultant-of-Torchwood thing, or the attending Jackie's parties for the rest of his life thing. No. No, what was really scary was his innate fear that one day, he'd stop making Rose Tyler happy.

A sudden lump had formed in his throat, and he squeezed her to him as close as possible in compensation.

"You feeling okay?" she asked him curiously, sensing the tension in his shoulders, trying to pull back a bit to look at his face. He utterly refused to relinquish his hold on her.

"I'm perfectly fine," he replied, and then added, "You smell delicious; is that the perfume I bought you for Christmas?"

"Yeah," she confirmed, still sounding suspicious.

"Really, Rose," he assured her, pressing a kiss to her neck. "Everything's fine."

Her fingertips gently played with the hair at the nape of his neck and she let him guide her steps to the music. "Thanks for this, by the way," she murmured.

"For what?" he asked.

"For coming to the party."

"I always come to your mother's parties," he said, then sighed mock-heavily. "The things I do for you, eh?"

She rested her head in the crook of his neck and smiled into his shoulder. "I think you secretly like them. After all, plenty of nibbles, lots of people to chat to – even an imminent invasion seeing as most of Torchwood's here and not at work...right up your street. Perfect place to be."

"Best thing of all, though," he continued for her, "Is that I get to dance with the most beautiful woman at the party."

"Don't be silly," Rose mumbled modestly. He could still make her blush, even after all this time. Take that, Hmph. "Sandra's the one with all the attention."

"Only 'cos everyone else except that Gary bloke know better than to try anything on with you," he muttered.

"His name's Steven."

"Oh. Well, whatever."

Her smile grew. "You're so possessive," she teased, stroking her hands through his hair.

He playfully buried his face in the spot where her neck met her shoulder and caught the skin gently between his teeth. "And you love it," he almost growled, knowing it would making Rose laugh.

She did, and he loved the sensation of her giggling against him. He guided them away from the rest of the party, dancing her over to a quiet corner near the doors that led to the terrace. They stood there for a few moments, whispering together, hands quietly wandering. "You really are, though," he told her, his fingertips trailing down her spine, making her shiver.

"Hmmm?" she whispered back, affectionately bumping her nose against his.

"Weeelll, maybe I'm biased - but in my humble opinion, Rose Tyler, you are the most attractive bunch of atoms I've come across in my entire experience travelling the universe and some such, and ooooh; that sounded far dirtier than I intended, I do apologise. Mind you, I know you...you like a bit of innuendo," he chuckled.

"Mmhmm," she agreed, then moved against him purposefully and whispered, in her best faux-seductive voice, "Doctor, is that a banana in your pocket or..." She waggled her eyebrows. "Just your sonic screwdriver?"

"Definitely neither," he replied softly, his hands slipping down to her bottom to tug her more firmly against him. She giggled in response to his hands' nefarious journey, and mumbled something about it being a good thing their secluded spot was shrouded in darkness. "Yes, well," he replied, nuzzling her neck, "Perhaps soon we'd better find an even more secluded spot."

"Doctor, the party's only just started," she laughed.

"Yes, and we dutifully turned up; so now let's...you know. Slip away quietly."

"You were half hour late," she pointed out. She arched a suspicious eyebrow. "Where were you, anyway?"

"D'you have to know my every location and movement?" he asked curiously, pressing kisses along her jaw.

He was only joking really, but Rose grew a little defensive. "I wasn't nagging," she replied.

"I know you weren't," he replied earnestly, surprised when Rose pulled back from their embrace and folded her arms.

"I wasn't," she insisted, looking him squarely in the eye.

He laughed and placed his hands on her shoulders, drawing her back towards him. "I know."

"I just...I don't want you to think that that's what I'm gonna become," she mumbled, glancing at the floor. "I was just wondering where you were, that's all. And I mean, it's a bit hypocritical of you, if you think I'm the one who nags, when I can't even have a conversation with someone when you're in the same room without you going all..."

He dropped his hands. "Going all what?" he demanded.

"Well," she shrugged.

"Jealous," he filled in for her. "No, more than that. Clingy?Am I...am I clingy, Rose?"

"Doctor," she sighed, shaking her head. "Just leave it."

"Rose, what's...what's this about?"

"What's what about?"

"This little argument we're having?"

"It's not an argument," she retorted.

"Well, it kind of is," he replied.

"No it isn't."

"A tiff, then. Spat? Disagreement, at least."

"Doctor," she sighed, raking a hand through her hair.

"What's wrong?" he asked her, his solitary heart beating a little too fast. And not in the fun way. More in the anxious she'd-better-not-leave-me way.

"Nothing," she mumbled. "I just..." She let out a long breath and pointed to the doors. "Can we go outside for a bit?"

"You'll freeze out there in that dress," he answered. "It's bloody winter."

"Well, if you were a gentleman, you'd offer me your jacket and it wouldn't be a problem," she muttered.

He rolled his eyes. "I was going to do that, but then that wouldn't solve the problem of your legs getting frostbitten," he pointed out. He gazed at said legs for a moment and mumbled absently, "That is a very...uh, short dress, after all."

"Well, I need some fresh air," she told him firmly, and walked past him and out onto the terrace. He sighed and followed her, shutting the doors behind him. She was standing facing the garden with her arms folded, shivering slightly. He instantly shrugged out of his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders. She offered him a grateful smile and clutched the jacket closed with one hand, keeping it in place. "Thanks," she whispered, her voice catching. Tears filled her eyes and the Doctor looked alarmed.

"Rose, please tell me what's wrong," he asked her desperately. "I thought...you seemed...earlier, you seemed fine, teasing and happy and you, and now...what is it? What have I done?"

She shook her head quickly and placed her free hand on his arm as she turned to face him properly. "No, you haven't...it's not you. Not really. Well. Sort of. But not really. Sorry that I'm being such a cow. I just..." She blinked quickly, a few tears overspilling her eyelids, and the Doctor well and truly sunk into panic mode as he wiped at her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.

"Oh god, will you just tell me what it is before my heart gives out?" he whispered frantically.

She giggled uncertainly and tried to reassure him by intertwining their fingers tightly. "It's nothing, really, I'm just...I'm just being silly."

"Rose," he said warningly.

She sighed and resigned herself to telling him. "It was just...it was something that Sandra said to me, yesterday."

"Sandra?"

"Yeah. You know, that blonde woman from work? With the red dress that all the blokes were salivating over in there," she explained, jerking her head in the direction of the party.

"Oh, her, right," he replied, nodding in realisation.

"Well, that's promising," she smiled crookedly.

"How do you mean?"

"It's just she said that you..."

"What?"

Rose exhaled roughly and started over. "The other day, when you and me were helping them out with the Tuskog mission."

"Yeah?"

"Well, Sandra was part of their team that night, so she was there, and I don't think I spoke to her much at the time, busy finding aliens and all that, but yesterday, she told me that you...well, that you..."

"That I what?"

Rose couldn't meet his eye, so she looked out over the gardens again. "She said that you mentioned us. Me and you. Well, me, specifically."

"I did?" he asked curiously. Then he smiled. "Weeelll, sometimes I can't stop talking about you, Rose Tyler. It's quite a predicament, really, because it makes me awfully distracted - "

"It wasn't exactly a complimentary thing," Rose mumbled. The Doctor's eyes widened in dismay. When had he ever said anything about Rose that was negative? If he had done, surely he'd remember, because he'd hate himself for it.

She continued, "And I don't know if you meant it, or if she interpreted it wrong, or maybe she simply made it up 'cos she fancies you, but..."

"Rose, what did she tell you I said?" he prompted.

She met his intent gaze and replied, "She said that you told her that I was acting more like a wife every day, what with all the ordering you about that I do."

"Ohhh," he replied, then laughed, remembering. "Oh yeah, I think I did say that. Don't know that I was specifically talking to her though. Probably just talking to myself." He smiled at her, as if all this was perfectly fine.

Rose stared at him in silence, and let go of his hand.

"Rose?" he prompted. He looked very confused, and felt it, too. "Rose? What's wrong with me saying that?"

"Seriously?" she replied, her throat tightening with emotion.

"Woah, wait a second, I didn't mean it as a bad thing!" he insisted.

Rose raised her eyebrows. "Then why say that?" She paused, searching his eyes. "Do I really order you about? I mean, I just...didn't I just tell you to meet me at the other end of the warehouse and stuff? I didn't mean that as an order, I just, it was just, I dunno, a plan, or something. But then Sandra said yesterday that maybe as the man in the relationship you didn't like me taking charge, but that's not – you're not like that, that's just sexist, and you're not like that. Besides, personally I thought I had it on good authority that you like me taking charge sometimes in certain areas, so - "

"Rose, stop, stop," he interrupted her, trying to get a word in edgeways. He chuckled slightly and wrapped his arms around her, both because he wanted to feel her against him again and because he seriously needed to gather some of her body warmth; after all, it was December and he was part-human and jacketless and outside in the cold. "Listen to me. Sandra is talking rubbish."

"But she said that if I already start nagging you now – which I really don't mean to do, by the way – then you'll never want to - " Rose cut herself off abruptly, her cheeks flushing red.

He rested his forehead against hers. "Never want to what?" he asked softly.

She swallowed hard. "I don't know. She didn't finish her sentence," Rose lied.

He rolled his eyes at her, not believing her for a second. "Rose..."

"Nothing, it doesn't matter anyway. I just...I just want you to know that firstly, I don't mean to constantly nag or boss you around or whatever, and secondly, we should be equals in this relationship and - "

"Rose," he interrupted again, nearly laughing at the absurdity of their conversation. "You don't constantly nag and boss me around. Perhaps you politely instruct me how best to do things, sometimes, but that's a good thing. After all, I'm learning here. Learning to be human. Learning to be the best man I can be for you. And sometimes I do daft things and you need to tell me off for nearly burning down the kitchen because then I learn, see, that putting tin cans in the microwave is not a good idea..." He grinned at her sheepishly and she started to giggle. "And, well," he continued, waggling his eyebrows. "As for in the bedroom - "

He stopped speaking as the doors to the terrace slid open and Paul from work poked his head out to ask them, "What are you two lovebirds doing huddled together outside in the freezing cold? Come back to the party, you're missing Steven doing karaoke – he's brilliant, he is. Should go on X Factor or something."

The Doctor grumbled something about how he might've known Hmph could sing as well as stand around looking pretty and being an action hero. Rose simply smiled politely and told Paul they'd be in a few minutes.