Summary: Of all the traits he'd absorbed from Donna Noble, the last thing he'd expected to inherit was a desire to get married.
Author's Note: My brother got engaged on Boxing Day, so I've had weddings and proposals on the brain! I'm a bit nervous about this one, so constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.
Disclaimer: Don't own it; don't sue me.
The first time was something of an accident.
It had been an eventful day. They'd located a brood of Fiogron merpeople who had been living in the River Thames and luring fishermen and passers-by into the water to feed on, and had managed to thwart their plans and send them packing back to Fiogross. The Doctor and Rose had both fallen into the river in the process, and as soon as they could get away, they retreated to the small apartment they shared to dry off and warm up.
Elated by his first alien encounter since arriving in this universe five months ago, the Doctor couldn't stop talking. He babbled away about the primitive society of the Fiogross people as Rose draped a blanket over his shoulders and placed a large mug of hot tea in his hands.
His chatter turned to recounting other adventures they had lived through together, the excitement of running with her, hand in hand. The events of the day had somehow broken the strange, frozen silence that had existed between them since the other him had left them on the beach together - she was listening and nodding and laughing and interjecting just like she used to, smiling at him in a way that made him believe that she had finally come to accept him. His single heart swelled at the sight of that smile, and soon enough he found himself saying:
"... It'll take some getting used to, being human, but I think I like this. You and me, defenders of the Earth. Human, with everything that goes along with it - marriage, kids, growing old together. What do you think?"
The words tumbled out of his mouth before his brain caught up with what he was saying, and he was sure that his expression mirrored the one on her face: complete and utter surprise.
Of all the traits he'd absorbed from Donna Noble, the last thing he'd expected to inherit was a desire to get married.
"What?" was all she could manage.
"Oh. Well." He stammered, trying wildly to backtrack and finding that he couldn't quite make it. "It would be... nice, wouldn't it? You and me. Would you like to? Marry me, I mean. We don't have to. But we can... if- if you want."
He could hardly believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. Him, the Doctor, the Human/Time Lord Metacrisis who had coolly defeated an entire race of Daleks and had, in a sense, spent ten lifetimes running across the stars, avoiding exactly this kind of life.
But here he was, talking about marrying Rose Tyler like it was the most natural thing in the world. And the most shocking part was that it actually was. He really did like the idea of living this life in the right order the way the other him never could, with every domestic and apparently mundane detail that went along with it. He loved Rose. He was pretty sure she loved him. Marrying her made perfect sense.
Rose blinked, brow slightly furrowed. He watched her, hardly daring to breathe.
"I think," she said slowly, "that you aren't really... yourself right now. You must be tired. It's been a long day."
"Oh." He could actually feel his face falling, so he took a big gulp of tea to mask his disappointment.
Maybe it was too soon. Maybe she was still getting used to the fact of him, his very existence with his Time Lord brain and human heartbeat. Maybe she hadn't yet been able to let go of the other him, still striding the stars in another universe. Or maybe she just didn't want to marry him.
He forced a smile. If nothing else, he was still excellent at putting on a cheerful face. "Yeah. You're right. Never mind me, I'm just tired. Don't know what I'm saying. Human bodies react much more strongly to fatigue, should've realised."
She was still peering at him as if she was afraid that his dive into the river had involved a head injury that had somehow gone unnoticed. "You sure you're alright?"
He gave her his best reassuring smile. "I'm fine, Rose. I just... need sleep. And so do you, probably."
"Yeah." She considered him for another moment, lips parted as if she was about to say something, some emotion he couldn't quite name just barely masked on her face.
This is different, her face seemed to be saying. This is all too different.
"Good night, Rose," he said, breaking the silence so she didn't have to.
"Good night, Doctor."
He watched her get up and walk towards her room, giving him a small, quick smile over her shoulder. The smile he gave her in return remained in place until she had left the room.
He sighed into his tea. The next time he mentioned marriage, he decided, he would do it properly.
The second time, he was drunk.
Whatever else might be said about Jackie Tyler (and the Doctor had a lotto say about Jackie Tyler), she certainly knew how to throw a party, and especially so now that she had Pete's money to back her extravagant tastes. Their anniversary celebration had been a veritable who's who of celebrities and important business people, all getting very, very tipsy on the finest spirits money and influence could obtain.
The Doctor tried to remember exactly what had made the party so fun as Rose and Jake helped him out of the ballroom. There had been dancing. And a lot of banana daiquiris. And Rose, in that fabulous silvery dress, and if he was leaning on her a little heavily, her body pressed against his to support him, it was really her fault for looking so good in that dress, and it had nothing to do with the (seven? Eight?) cocktails he had consumed over the course of the past six hours.
"What a party!" he proclaimed loudly in Rose's ear. "Wasn't it a brilliant party, Rose?"
"I can't believe nobody knew how to do the Mangovan Dance of Prosperity!"
"Well, they do now, thanks to you."
Jake made a snorting noise and the Doctor dimly wondered why Rose shot him such a poisonous glare. They came to a stop in front of one of many limousines parked out the front of the Tyler mansion. Suddenly finding that his legs weren't working properly, he wobbled precariously against Rose while Jake opened the door.
"I think I might fall over," he announced dramatically.
The two of them helped him clamber into the car, and he found to his surprise that as soon as he was seated, the world began to tilt and shift in a most alarming way. He slumped over with his head against the window while Rose said goodnight to Jake, slid in next to him, and gave the driver their address.
"How're you feelin', Doctor?" she asked him, rubbing his shoulder. Drunk as he was, he could still detect the hint of mischievousness in her voice.
The noise that came out of his mouth was somewhere between a yawn and a moan. "Rose," he said seriously, still leaning against the window.
"I think the last cocktail might've been a bad idea. Or poisoned."
she laughed, and the sound of it made him turn slightly from the window so he could catch her smiling.
"I think the last four might've been a bad idea," she pointed out.
"Sometimes," he said, eyes widening as the revelation hit, "I have bad ideas."
"Sometimes," she agreed.
"You weren't a bad idea, though," he told her decisively. "You were my best idea."
Abruptly, he sat up and leaned towards her, suddenly animated with excitement at a new and incontestably good idea."You know what we should do, Rose Tyler?"
She shook her head. "What?"
"We should get married! Right now! Isn't that a brilliant idea?" He grinned eagerly at her, reaching out for her hand but missing and getting her knee instead.
Rose gently pressed him back against the seat. "No, I don't think so, Doctor."
He blinked at her, pouting, suddenly hurt. "Why not? Is it because I'm so rubbish at weddings?" He leaned over, almost bumping against her nose, giving her his best 'wounded puppy' impression. "Because I'd try really hard for our wedding, Rose. I'd wear a tux and everything. I'm even wearing one right now!"
She pushed him back again, the ghost of a smile playing about her otherwise serious expression. "I'm sure you would. But we're not gettin' married. We're goin' home and puttin' you to bed."
"Why don't you want to marry me, Rose?" he asked her plaintively, head lolling back against the seat. "Is it 'cause I grew out of a hand? And also Donna. But I thought you liked Donna. And me."
Rose took his hand and the familiar gesture soothed him. "I do like Donna," she said, matching his gravitas, though her eyes seemed more amused than serious. "And I do like you. But you, Doctor, are completely off your face, and gettin' married when you're drunk is never a good idea."
"So it's not because you don't love me?" His eyes searched her face earnestly.
She paused for a moment, and the Doctor, interpreting her hesitance as rejection, began to withdraw his hand from hers. But she leaned over to kiss him lightly on the lips - a touch that was no longer tentative, but not yet habitual.
"It's not because I don't love you," she told him, squeezing his hand.
"Oh. Good." He closed his eyes, suddenly feeling very, very tired. And ill. Very, very ill. But before he succumbed to the effects of his human metabolism, he had to tell her something vitally important.
"I think you'd look beautiful in a wedding dress," he mumbled.
A squeeze of his hand was the only reply she made, and he suddenly remembered something else very urgent that he needed to tell her.
"I think I'm going to be sick."
He woke up the next morning with a raging hangover and a painfully patchy recollection of his antics in the limousine. As he swallowed yet another aspirin and groaned at the pounding in his head, he vowed that the next time he asked Rose to marry him, he would do it properly: sober, and on his terms.
The third and final time was Jackie's fault.
"What is wrong with you?" Rose demanded, as soon as her family had left and she had shut the door behind them.
"I'm sorry!" The Doctor carefully positioned himself so as to keep as much furniture between them as possible. "She took me by surprise; I didn't know what else to say!"
"How about 'Sorry, Jackie, but it's not really any of your business'?" She folded her arms and glared at him. "Or 'We haven't actually talked about that yet, thanks'?"
"Well, I didn't really want to get slapped -" He cut himself off when she made a movement as if she was about to bound across the room, leap over the couch and the coffee table, and slap him herself. He attempted to placate her in his most soothing tone.
"I can fix it," he said, holding his hands out in a gesture better suited to calming an angry tiger. "I'll - I'll tell her it was a mistake."
At dinner, Jackie had asked them when going to get their act together and get married, and, not knowing what else to say, the Doctor had told her that they would be getting married at the end of the year - despite the fact that he and Rose had not actually broached the subject since that drunken limousine ride five months ago. Jackie had been over the moon with excitement. Frankly, it had been a little bit terrifying. Just imagining her probable reaction to discovering that he had simply been talking without thinking made him wince.
Rose sighed, frustrated, and sank heavily onto the couch. "It's too late now," she pointed out. "You saw her - already sortin' out caterers and plannin' her outfit." With another frustrated sigh, she turned her eyes heavenward and murmured, "She's gonna want roses everywhere."
The Doctor waited while she mumbled to herself, watching her carefully, hands in pockets.
"Rose," he tried quietly when he thought her anger had subsided enough to attempt a proper conversation.
"What?" It wasn't said quite as calmly as he'd hoped for, but she didn't sound particularly upset anymore, so he came around and sat on the edge of the coffee table, facing her.
"Would it really be so bad?" he asked tentatively, wondering when he started sounding so pitiful. She blinked at him in mild confusion, and he continued in a rush. "Getting married, I mean, not your mother wanting lots of roses, because I think we can both agree that her taste isn't really our taste, and-"
He shut his mouth with a snap and waited, trying not to look as apprehensive as he felt.
Rose unfolded her arms and began to pick at the edge of the couch cushion. "I s'pose it wouldn't be bad. I just don't think we need to get married." She lifted her eyes to his. "It's always gonna be you and me. We don't need a piece of paper or a ring for that. And we definitely don't need my mum plannin' a big wedding. Why couldn't it just stay like this, just you and me? It's how it's always been."
Not quite, he wanted to say. It hadn't always been like this: both of them with single heartbeats and single lifetimes, living each day in the right order, no TARDIS to take them across the stars.
Some small part of him still wondered if she would have chosen that other him, the Time Lord him, if the choice had been left to her. If she would still choose him now if she could.
She moved closer and rested a hand on his knee, and he could tell that she was concerned by his uncharacteristic silence. His automatic response was to smile and pretend that everything was fine, but the part that wondered if he was her second choice decided that pretending was not going to fix this one.
"It's not really the same," he told her. She blinked at him, surprised and probably confused by his bluntness, the sudden shift in tone.
"We're still you and me," he went on, covering her hand with his, thumb slowly caressing her skin. "But... we're living a different life now. It's not the same. We're not the same."
"I know, but-" she tried to interrupt, but he silenced her with a finger to her lips.
Taking both her hands in his, he gazed earnestly into her eyes and hoped that somehow she would understand what he couldn't quite say. For all the differences Donna's humanity had made in him, he was still a man who couldn't - or wouldn't - admit his vulnerabilities out loud.
"I love you, Rose Tyler," he said, relishing the way those words sounded in the air between them. "And I would like to marry you, if you'll have me. If you want me."
They stared at each other for a long, long moment. The Doctor couldn't see his own face, but he had a feeling that his expression was one of fear and apprehension and painfully optimistic hope. He prayed he didn't look as pathetic as he felt.
"Is this you proposin' to me? Properly?" she asked him slowly, and his heart leapt at the smile that was spreading over her face.
"Well, that depends," he returned, a smile of his own now growing as rapidly as his confidence. "Are you accepting?"
There was another long pause, and then she grinned and said "Yes," and he had never heard the word sound so perfect before. "All right. I give in. We can get married."
"Really?" Her laughter rang out at his obvious surprise, and he sheepishly ran a hand through his hair. "Sorry, it's just... you seemed so against it, I didn't really think you'd-"
"Oh, come here, you."
She pulled him towards her and kissed him, long and soft and sweet. "I love you," she murmured when their lips parted. Her eyes met his, and when she added, "It's you I want," he knew that she had understood.
He was aware that he had a silly, dazed grin on his face, but he didn't care. As he kissed her again, he realised that Donna had had the right idea about marriage proposals after all - persistence really was the key.