*Additional note: Chapters one through four are T-rated, chapters five and 6 are M*
A/N: Hello! Been a while, sorry for that. Been busy. ;) This is one of two short pieces I started ages ago. It's going to be two chapters, so there's a nice cliffy! I'm planning on continuing "Devil in the Garden" soon, but I wanted to write some nice in between thingies first - to get back in the saddle, so to speak! A million times thanks to the wonderful T'Kirr for beta-ing. Babe, without you this would merely be a sad collection of words sitting in a dusty corner of my computer! x :-)
Momentum and Impulse Connection
As Rose recalled later, everything started out quite ordinary.
No running. No saving worlds.
The Doctor lay on his back on the sofa, shoeless feet propped up on one of the armrests; glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, a book in his hands. Next to the sofa was a whole stack of books with a plate of cream-cakes precariously balanced on top; every now and then the Doctor's hand would trail down to the plate, searching for another treat, his eyes never leaving the pages.
Rose glanced over the top of her own book for what seemed like the millionth time, irritation growing and concentration crumbling like the Doctor's snacks. He kept making noises. Little snorts of laughter and other echoes of approval, before noisily flipping another page and sighing over whatever he was reading about. He was so engrossed, he hadn't even noticed her coming in earlier. Sitting in her comfy chair opposite the sofa, she watched as his eyes roved the pages, like a ravenous man bent on devouring each word.
She noticed there was only one cake left on the plate. Not that she had any desire for it, but it was sitting there by itself, all plump and sugary. On cue, the Doctor reached down and picked it up, letting it hover in front of his mouth for a moment before sinking his sharp white teeth into the soft, creamy cake. Rose gawked. This wasn't fair. Nothing that innocent should make her feel the way she did. She ducked back behind her book, intent on ignoring any thoughts of cakes or mouths or lips, or anything involving a certain type of fantasy really. Not like she wasn't used to doing that anyway, she thought huffily. When she next dared to glance his way, she immediately wished she hadn't. Lord. He'd finished off the cake and was now lazily licking away remnants of the cream, attacking the palm of his hand first before moving his attention higher up, bringing his thumb and index finger to his mouth and carefully swirling that pink tongue of his across each digit, then quickly flicking it over the soft skin in between. Rose watched with near-inhuman restraint as he took his sweet time to finish the task, going back and forth, and… Rose dug her nails in the armrest, suppressing the urge to whimper out loud and instead concentrated on her inner mantra. Just ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore… No good. She couldn't tear her eyes away. Finally, apparently satisfied that every last morsel of cake had been taken care of, the Doctor let the offending hand drop to his chest and continued reading in blessed silence. Rose breathed a sigh of intense relief and closed her eyes for a moment. Then he laughed. A perfectly drawn out, high-pitched giggle.
Rose's eyes flew open.
"Enough!" she barked.
The Doctor jolted, his book flying nearly a foot in the air before he managed to recover it. He turned to look at Rose, dark-rimmed glasses reflecting his companion's wide-eyed stare. "What?" he blurted out.
Rose embarrassedly shuffled her feet. "You… you keep reacting to what you're reading. It's… annoying." And there should be a law against you handling cream cakes, she added silently. Tilting her head a little, she attempted to spy the title of the Doctor's book, now face-down on the sofa. "What are you reading anyway?"
To Rose's surprise he snatched up the little pocket book and clutched it to his chest tightly, hiding it from view.
"Nothing. Just... stuff," he muttered, his cheeks and the tips of his ears turning a distinct shade of pink.
Rose's mouth fell open. Was… was he blushing? He looked so caught out, she almost felt sorry for snapping at him. Then memories of the cake's final moments returned and any remorse evaporated. Finding her curiosity roused instead, she stood and walked over.
Watching her approach, the Doctor leaned back further into the cushions. Looking around the room, his brows knitted together. "Don't you think it's rather stuffy in here... Heating might be off. I'm sweltering," he added casually, and started fanning himself with the book, fixing Rose with a hooded stare, like a big cat contemplating some tiny furry creature.
He had to be kidding, right? Rose was about to give a snappy retort when she noticed the beginning of a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. She bit her bottom lip and smiled, eyes flicking between the Doctor's grin and the book; oh, if that was how he wanted to play it, he was in for a treat.
She crossed her arms and gave the Doctor an indignant look, before discreetly edging closer to the sofa. "So, you think just because I didn't finish my A-levels I won't understand that alien drivel you're always mucking about with?"
He looked at her dumbfounded.
She took another step.
"Think old Rose is stupid, do ya?" She pointed her chin up in mock-offence. "Mmm?"
The Doctor had been honestly taken off guard, but now he really couldn't help himself. He lifted the book in front of his face and snorted with laughter. "Rose, you're brilliant and I'd never think anything of the sort," he panted, trying hard to regain his composure.
"No I'm not, and yes you would," she retorted, then launched herself at him in one smooth move. The Doctor was quicker though. Before Rose's body inelegantly connected with the cushions, he'd already swung his long legs and rolled off the sofa, accidentally knocking over his book collection in the process, the plate on top crashing to the floor.
Ignoring the mess, the Doctor jumped up and darted away from Rose, wicked grin plastered on his face. "Maybe you should lay off the chocolates for a while. Excess sugar affects reflexes…"
"I'll show you reflexes," Rose hissed, scrambling to her feet.
The Doctor turned to flee, only to stub his toes on the leg of the sofa. He gave a loud yelp and grabbed his foot with one hand, several rather rude-sounding alien exclamations hurtling from his mouth.
At the sight of her decidedly less-then-dignified Time Lord hopping around on one stockinged foot and swearing like a sailor, Rose started giggling.
"Nononono – don't, don't. Rose, stop..." he pleaded.
She actually tried but couldn't hold back laughing, tears beginning to streak down her face.
"Oh, you…" the Doctor growled, then apparently changed his mind. "Want this?" he taunted and waved the book in front of her, kindly reminding his companion that their little game wasn't over yet.
The Doctor danced backwards nimbly. "My, Rose, you're a very aggressive young lady, anyone ever tell you that?" He waggled the desired object above their heads, just out of reach, eliciting another squeal of protest from his pursuer.
"Give. Me. Now!" She made another frantic grab, losing her balance and nearly crashing into the Doctor's side. He dodged and spun on his heels. Taking advantage of his distraction, Rose deftly snatched the book away from him. "Teach you to hide things from me!" She laughed and swung around, protecting the prize with her body, then shrieked in surprise when a pair of lean arms caught her from behind.
"Do you now," came the Doctor's voice from somewhere close behind her left ear, his arms tightly around her waist, pinning her against him.
"Let go!" She struggled a bit to show him she wasn't putting up with this kind of manhandling. Not too much, though; he might believe she was serious. And this was just too good to be true.
Standing so close against him, Rose's rational thoughts began fleeing from her mind in an alarmingly rapid fashion. It felt so good to be near him like this, all snug and warm against his chest. She slowly quieted down, although her rapid breathing and increased heartbeat had to be very noticeable beneath his hands. Also, she was becoming extremely aware that all that was separating those hands from her bare skin was a thin layer of cotton shirt. They were always pushing the boundaries of their friendship, he a little bit more than she to be honest, and she wasn't always sure what that meant. Continuing like this, she was sure that whatever she was feeling now would become very recognizable to him very quickly. She felt his grip relax a little. Did he expect her to step away? Much to her surprise, he lay one hand on her shoulder and with the other brushed aside her hair in a strangely seductive move. His fingers ghosting over the back of her neck caused hot and cold shivers to run down her spine and she swallowed heavily. It was beyond tempting to just turn around and kiss him for all she was worth. They stood there for several long moments in the silent room. Not speaking, not moving.
"Rose…" The Doctor's voice was no more than a low whisper.
"Can I please have my book back?"
Rose gasped, then whirled around and without a word shoved the book into his hands.
Avoiding his eyes, she started gathering up the other books scattered across the floor, putting them on the table one by one, while the Doctor stood alone in the middle of the room, watching her in profound silence. She could feel his stare at the back of her neck and made an effort to block it from her mind – acute embarrassment and anger dominating her conscious thought. How could she have been so stupid, thinking anything might change through one silly game?
She picked up another book and slammed it down on the table. Harder this time.
Another game. Like the Dungaree-skirt incident after they got back from Scotland. She felt her face flush at the memory. Or the time on that water planet – what was it called? Argo something? She remembered what happened all too clearly. Everything lovely. The Doctor flirting with her shamelessly, her playing along. Him suddenly panicking, causing them both to end up face down in some muddy bog. Getting pulled out by a passing hunting party, only having to escape and leg it back to the TARDIS within the hour because said hunting party turned out to be slave traders who wanted to sell her at the local market, wearing nothing but a necklace and a loincloth. And was that her fault? No. Come to think of it, what did she ever do to deserve being the object of every damn red, green or blue-blooded alien's lusty thoughts, except the right damn alien? Okay, technically from his point of view she was the alien, but that didn't give him the right to play hot-and-cold with her now, did it?
Behind her, she heard the squeak of the Doctor's trainers as he moved towards the door. Sneaking off, was he? Well, let him, she thought indignantly. She unceremoniously plunked herself down on the carpet and started fidgeting with a lock of hair. Right now she didn't give a crap about being brave or clever, or even mature. She wanted to cry.
Two whole bloody years. Frankly, Rose wasn't the sort of girl to pine after a man – she certainly wasn't going to push her affections where they weren't welcome. But wasn't that the bloody problem? He always acted like he wanted more, but when push came to shove he chickened out – provided he had ever been aware of her like that in the first place. The thought sobered her up for a moment. Could a nine-hundred year old really be unaware of such feelings? What if everything they did together, the hugging, the flirting, the game-playing, was just that? - innocent? Of course, it wasn't the first time this particular line of thought had crossed her mind. Two years was very long, even travelling in a ship that defied time itself. The soft hum of the TARDIS had become comforting over the years, and now sometimes she couldn't even sleep without its presence. On darker nights when other things kept her from falling asleep she often sought out the Doctor, usually tinkering away on one of his eternal projects. They would talk and then... nothing. She sighed. The uncertainty felt much worse than simply being rejected. She could handle romantic rejection. Damned if she would let a single unrequited crush ruin her chance to see the countless wonders that were still out there, waiting to be discovered. Places to go, people to see. All that.
Pushing up from the floor, she slumped right down on the sofa and grabbed a cushion, digging her face in it and pulling her knees up beneath her chin. Thoughts of chips crossed her mind.
So they would continue on in the TARDIS while she grew older, and older, and one day she'd look in the mirror and see some ancient, haggard face staring back at her, and people would start asking the Doctor if she was his Gran. And then he'd take another good look at her and suddenly realize he'd forgotten to replace her when she was still fresh. And she would have spent her whole life travelling from planet to planet seeing the most amazing things, having saved a billion alien species from annihilation, and still feel like a child at heart; bawling because she wasn't allowed to have the one thing she wanted. The one thing in the universe she desired above all else.
The word just slammed into her head like a truck hitting a wall.
The cushion dropped to the floor as she sat up with a jolt. The realization was almost luminescent in its clarity. She gripped the side of the sofa and dug her nails in. To hell with the uncertainty, the misery and the heartache. She was Rose Tyler, and if there was one thing she'd learned in the past two years, it was that she could manage her own destiny. Even if the Doctor didn't want her and was too kind or cowardly to admit it, she still had a right to know. She deserved more than to be defined by another's fear or doubt. Even if that other was brilliant and wonderful and... At the very least she could tell him it didn't matter. That she wasn't going anywhere and they could move past all this oblique behaviour. Maybe it would even be a relief to him knowing his friendship was enough for her.
She got up slowly and took two steps in the direction of the library door. Walking felt odd and seemed to take forever, but the next two steps were easier and the ones after that took her straight to the console room, as if she knew he was in there without a shadow of a doubt. There was one other thing she was sure of. Whatever happened, after tonight everything would be different.