And Now, She Could Tell Him
They were sitting at the dining table, chairs closely pushed together after they'd finished their meal so that she could lean against him, relishing in the way his fingertips drew whispering patterns on her arm when he wrapped his around her.
"Jack told me he went to the Powell Estate and watched you grow up," the Doctor murmured conversationally.
"Yeah." He paused, and affectionately kissed the top of her head. "And it's...I...I almost did the same – oh, so many times. But I'd get there, and catch just a glimpse, or hear a whisper of your voice and I forced myself to get back in the TARDIS and go away. Because otherwise I would've stayed too long. And spoken to you. And probably enticed you away. I wouldn't have had the strength not to. Which would've caused all sorts of paradoxical problems and ruined your future, our future, and I couldn't do that. I couldn't take away all what we had together."
"Plus, I would have recognised you," Rose pointed out, shifting awkwardly away from him.
"Yeah. Maybe, when I, he, regen - " he cut himself off, and stared at her, watching in confusion as she shrugged his arm from around her shoulders.
"What?" she asked self-consciously, fiddling with the hem of her top.
"You tell me," he retorted, squinting. "You look guilty..."
"What? No. Why would you say that?" she said defensively, standing up to clear the plates away.
"Rose," he murmured, reaching out to grasp her wrist gently to stop her leaving the room. "Tell me. What's wrong?"
She swallowed thickly, and met his steady gaze. "Nothing's wrong."
"Well something must be because you've got tears in your eyes," he noted softly. He took the plates out of her hands and pulled her into his lap. "Tell me."
"I don't know, it's..." she started, letting out a deep breath.
He brushed a strand of her hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear tenderly. "What?" he prompted.
"I've...back when...I..." she stammered, huffing in frustration. Her nerves were palpable, and the Doctor ran a hand across her back soothingly.
"Seriously, whatever it is, you can tell me."
She just looked at him for a few moments, before sighing softly. "Well. Thing is," she began slowly. "I've...met you. The...the next you."
"What do you mean?" he said flatly, dumbfounded.
"Well, as a kid, yeah? I was in the park, and I met you. And I kept on meeting you, throughout my childhood. You were a bit of a stalker," she laughed uncertainly, wringing her hands in her lap. "But you told me jokes, or saved a cat, or saved me...silly things like that."
"I..." he gaped at her. "How do you know it was a future me?"
"I met you again, after I'd met my first and second you, and then I knew it was you. I hadn't remembered...you'd – he'd – made me forget, until I knew about regeneration, and that's when I realised that you'd – he'd - been there, in my life, all along."
His brow furrowed, and she smiled at his adorably baffled expression. "But...when?"
"Um. Okay, so...so don't get weird about this, but...it was during our time together, whenever we weren't together for some reason – like, the first time was when we were on New Earth, and I was in that cafe while you shopped for TARDIS parts. And this other time, I went to do the shopping on my own, 'cos you'd had an accident with some techno thing in the TARDIS and turned your hair blue? – the next you showed up so that I wasn't...without you." She pressed her forehead to his. "You're still not ginger."
He chuckled, and pushed her face away slightly to press a kiss to her lips.
"What was that for?" she asked, bemused, a faint blush tainting her cheeks.
"For being you," he said distractedly, looping his arms around her waist in a loose embrace. "What did you talk about?"
"Well, all sorts of things," she mumbled. "I asked why I wasn't with him anymore, if he was coming back to see me in our past."
"And he wouldn't tell you?" the Doctor guessed.
"Course not. So I just accepted it. He looked like he needed..."
"You," he finished softly.
"Well, I don't know about that, but - "
"But yes," he interrupted. "He would still need you. When things got tough. I don't blame him; I'd do it too, if I were him," he smiled. "So how long were his visits, then? How come I never noticed?"
Rose blushed then, and averted her eyes.
His lips quirked and he tickled her lightly. "What? Why are you blushing?"
"I'm not!" she denied, flushing a deeper red. She cleared her throat. "He did tell me one thing. He told me that we have a fantastic life together."
The Doctor grinned happily. "Well, it's true. We will. You know, I was just thinking that it's a shame I'll never find out what that me's like, but then it occurred to me, quite blaringly in my head, that actually, I don't really care. 'Cos sure, I won't get to regenerate anymore, but it is an awful pain anyway, getting to know a new jawline with the razor and all that, and actually, I am rather fond of this one. We've had all sorts of fun, haven't we, with me like this? After all, it's this one that you snogged and seduced, and that just about makes this the best one ever, really, don't you think? And actually, when you think about it - " he cut himself off again, noticing that Rose was still as red as a beetroot and biting her lip to hold in laughter. "What is it now?" he asked, exasperating good-naturedly.
A giggle escaped her and she coughed meaningfully to try and disguise it. "It's just..." she started.
She looked at him, smiling warmly. "Now, don't get jealous, but..." she trailed off, tilting her head. "I sort of..."
"What?" he urged, confused again. He hated being confused. And this woman was probably the only person in the universe who could make him so twenty billion times a day. It was highly infuriating. "Jealous? Why would I be..." He watched her gaze flit down to his lips and back up, and suddenly, he thought he understood. "Ah. Right."
Rose broke into laughter at his tight smile and darkened eyes. "Hey, I said don't get jealous!" she teased, playing with his collar affectionately.
"I'm not," he bit out, his jaw clenching.
"How was I to know that you'd split into two and would not be, strictly speaking, exactly the same from that point on?" she defended.
"You weren't. I don't mind," he insisted.
"You do mind, 'cos you're annoyed you won't ever have that memory," she informed him sagely. "But you're forgetting one very important thing."
"Am I?" he grumbled.
"Of course you are. 'Cos that's all he gets," she said sadly, and he immediately felt guilty. "All those times...well, soon they'll be no time left for him to visit me at. They're last chances, for him. And this - " She cut herself off to demonstrate, kissing him soundly. "- is definitely not the last time for you," she finished, bumping his nose with hers playfully.
The Doctor swallowed thickly and tightened his arms around her. "No?"
"No," she agreed. She kissed him again, and he shifted her in his lap so that she was pressed closer into him, her legs either side of his. "See?" she whispered breathlessly, when she broke the kiss.
"Rose," he murmured quietly. "Thank you."
"For making it alright for him, in the end. Do you know, he'll probably be walking around his future with a silly smile on his face after each time going back to see you..."
"Mmmhmm," Rose agreed against his lips, kissing him again.
When she started unbuttoning his shirt, he held her hands still, realising something. "Um, Rose...?"
"Did you and me – future me – him-me, oh, you know what I mean...did you..." He waggled his eyebrows.
She sighed. "Doctor, I've loved you for...oh, longer than I can remember, probably. I loved the next you, too, just like I bet I'd've loved each of your regenerations, would I have met them. So I -"
"Mmm," he pondered. "Bet you'd've liked the one before your first. He was quite the dandy. And there was one young-looking one with blonde hair that you'd have taken a fancy too, I reckon. Glad I never took you to meet them – actually, no I'm not, 'cos I would've liked to have met you back then, too, that would've been wonderful - "
"Doctor," she interrupted impatiently.
"Ah, right. Sorry. You were saying?"
"I was saying that I couldn't exactly...not...do, uh, that. You looked nice, in a young sort of way."
The Doctor furrowed his brow. "Wait, what? I look younger next time? How much younger? Does he suit you better? Because really, Rose, this me was made for you, you know, so - "
"Doctor, relax. I mean yeah, I still fancied you, but..." She ran her hands through his hair. "I prefer your hair like this."
"Yeah?" he grinned smugly.
"Yes," she nodded.
He smirked at her then, looking decidedly naughty. "What about - "
"No, Doctor. I am not going to compare your...capabilities. At all. Ever."
He pouted. "But - "
"At least give me a bit of a hint - "
"But this me's better, right?" he persisted. "It is, I know it is. Best sex I've ever had, in this body."
"Maybe that's just me," she teased. Then she frowned at him. "Hang on, unless you're implying that you've been with other people, with you looking...like this..."
"No!" he exclaimed, outraged at her suggestion. "No, of course not. Only you, Rose Tyler. Only ever you."
"Very good," he grinned. "Now...bed?"
She grinned back. "Of course!"