Rose took him to her local pub, and removed her hand from his as soon as they stepped inside. She'd never been the sort of girl to partake in public displays of affection, especially not with strangers, so she felt a little odd at having let him hold her hand all the way here. Now that she was somewhere familiar, with people she knew inside, she thought it best she return to normal. He didn't seem to mind too much, and simply shoved his hands in his trouser pockets until she led him over to a table in the corner and told him to sit down.
"I'll get us some drinks, yeah?" she said. He nodded amicably. "What would you like?"
"Um..." he pondered. "I dunno, really. You decide."
"Okay..." she said slowly, and left him sitting there staring after her while she stepped up to the bar.
As he watched her order them both a bottle of beer, he ruminated over the conversation they'd had on their journey here. He considered that while they had chatted about a variety of things, and laughed quite a substantial amount more than he was used to laughing these days, he still didn't know very much about her. And of course, she knew next to nothing about him, seeing as she was still unwilling to believe he was actually an alien.
He thought perhaps he might let her think whatever she wanted to think about him, considering he was trapped on Earth for half a year anyway. He might as well have a go at playing human for a change. That everyday sort of life, meeting in a park, going for a drink in a pub, dating and dancing and...stuff...well, he was getting ahead of himself a bit, maybe, but he'd never had that adventure, and it certainly seemed like it would be an interesting adventure to have with this particular young woman, who was now walking back to him with their drinks in either hand and a wide smile on her face.
"So," he began when she sat down opposite him, realising that he really did want to get to know this girl, "Tell me about yourself."
She took a sip of her beer. "Well, there's not much to tell, really. Um... I work in a shop. Henriks."
"Yeah, you know, the big department store?"
"I don't really go shopping," he shrugged.
She arched an eyebrow. "Right...so, what, you get your mum to do it, do you?" she teased.
He tilted his head, contemplating that. "My mother lives very far away. I haven't seen her for awhile, actually. I ought to rectify that..." Except I can't, even if I wanted to, what with them disabling my precious TARDIS, he grumbled internally.
"Where are you from?"
He sighed. Technically he'd already told her, but...well, if she didn't believe him, maybe he should just make something up. "Um...Scotland."
"You don't sound very Scottish," she commented.
"I can change my accent really easily," he replied, adopting a Scottish accent.
Her eyes widened and her cheeks tinged a little pink. "Oh," she said, on a little exhale of breath. "That's..." She cleared her throat. "So why do you change your voice, then?"
He shrugged, and changed his accent back to answer, "I like change. I change a lot."
She looked puzzled. He decided to move the conversation along. "So, um, how old are you?" he asked.
She gave a half smile. "It's rude to ask a lady that," she said.
His eyebrows raised in surprise. "Is it?"
"Mmhmm," she affirmed. She took another sip of her drink then leant forward over the table slightly and murmured, "Good job I'm no Lady, eh?"
He'd just taken a sip of his own beer, and choked a bit as she spoke. He coughed awkwardly. "Uh..."
She laughed and leant back again. "I'm twenty," she answered seriously.
He let out a long breath.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said instantly. "It's just..."
"You're so young."
"Did you think I was older?" she asked, sounding a bit worried.
"No, not at all," he replied honestly. "It's just, knowing for certain how young you are, as opposed to me just estimating...it just makes it more..." he floundered for words. "Real."
He cleared his throat. "Yes."
"Age isn't a problem for you, is it? I mean, you don't look that much older than me. You're what, thirty-four, thirty-five?"
Nine hundred and one, to be exact. "Yes. Thirty-five," he lied. If there's a Hell, I'm going to it.
She shrugged. "Fifteen years difference is okay."
Yeah, but eight hundred and eighty one isn't. "Yeah, I s'pose so."
"Although, my Mum might have something to say about it," she giggled.
His eyes bugged out of his head. "Blimey," he murmured.
"Don't you think talking about meeting your mum is a bit...soon?" He wasn't sure what the human custom was about this, but he was certain he'd never met a mum in his life. Mind you, that was probably because he'd never really had what humans would refer to as a 'girlfriend.' It wasn't a very Time Lord-y thing, that.
He wondered whether she would want to be his girlfriend, if he were human. He wondered whether he'd want her to be, if he were human.
His eyes scanned her face, his left heart jumping a bit at the sight of her smile.
Yes. Yes, he would.
"Did I say anything about that?" she replied, looking confused. "I just meant, when I tell her about the guy I met today."
"But what?" She took another swig of beer.
"But what will you say, about me, to your mum?"
She shrugged, unconcerned. "Haven't made my mind up yet. We've known each other about an hour, after all."
"Right. Yes. Of course."
"Why, what would you say about me?" Her tongue touched the corner of her mouth as she smiled cheekily at him. He felt his hearts speed up a teensy tiny bit more. He didn't know what the hell was wrong with him today, but he kind of sort of liked it.
He tugged his ear nervously. "I..."
I'll probably tell the TARDIS to check me over and make sure I've not inhaled some sort of dodgy chemicals that are for some reason making me think of you potentially in terms that don't simply include 'friend' or 'companion.'
She took pity on him, and didn't press him for an answer. Instead, she said, "What do you do for a living, then?"
"I'm a sort of...freelancer. Scientist. Adventurer. Sometimes work for the government, as a, uh..." Alien specialist. "Consultant on..." Extraterrestrial..."International relations."
"Sounds exciting," she smiled.
"Yeah, sometimes." He looked at the bottle in his hand for a moment. "It gets a bit..."
He swallowed, and finally admitted something he'd been trying to ignore for the past few years or so. "Lonely."
"Don't you have people you work with? People to help?"
"I used to have friends along," he answered, still not making eye contact with her. "Back in the day I was always travelling with someone or other. They each wouldn't stay long, of course, but that was okay. I soon enlisted another as my assistant," he gave a short laugh, "Whether they wanted to be or not."
"Then what happened? Why don't you have someone travelling with you now?"
"As I've got older, I've realised...well. My work, well, it's...it's dangerous. I can't keep putting people through that. They always go, or I always make them leave, before they get killed or something. But once or twice that hasn't worked out. I started feeling too guilty, kept wondering whether today would be the day they would die because of me, because of my actions."
He glanced up at her and winced when he saw her wide eyes and mouth hanging open in surprise. "Like I said. It's dangerous." He hoped that it wouldn't put her off him.
"What kind of work is it, that you do?" she mumbled uncertainly.
He smiled wistfully, and was grateful when she held his gaze and didn't look away from him in horror. "Saving people. Sometimes the whole World. That sort of thing. But for every person I try to save, there's someone who doesn't want me to save them, for whatever reason. Those are the people who make things difficult. The people who kill." He sighed. "And I can't save everyone. No matter how hard I try. I don't think there will ever be a day where everybody lives."
"You can't know that for sure," she murmured, reaching forward and placing her hand atop his. She squeezed gently, and he swallowed against the lump in his throat that was inexplicably put there by her simple act of comfort. "It must be difficult, taking on that sort of responsibility by yourself. But shouldn't the government get a team together to help you, or something? Then it wouldn't be you feeling guilty for getting someone to help, it'll be them doing their jobs, just like you do."
He shook his head a little, but smiled at her astute suggestion. "No, I work better alone."
"I don't think that's true," she disagreed softly. "'Cos if it was, you wouldn't feel lonely, would you?"
"Suppose not, no."
"And I bet it's not all doom and gloom, is it? You must get to travel around a lot, with this international relations thing. It can't all be about death and destruction; not everyone hates us British, do they? So you must get to see some fascinating places."
His smile grew to a big grin. "Yeah, I do. I really do."
"Doesn't that make it worth it, for some people? 'Cos I think I'd rather travel and see everything there is to see, than stay stuck here forever with absolutely zero excitement."
"Even though it's dangerous with me, and safe here, with your job in a shop and buses and beans on toast?"
"You know, sometimes I think I'd rather danger than boredom," she laughed. "Like...okay, so I've never told anyone this, but you're practically a secret agent anyway so I'm gonna tell you – I watch James Bond films obsessively, and really, really want to be a Bond girl. In real life, I mean, not an actress playing one. And not one of those useless ones that are just there to look pretty and shag James, but one who actually does something and helps him and is all action-hero-like herself. I mean, me - I've never been anywhere, never done anything remotely exciting. Oh, except that school trip to France when me and my friend Shareen sneaked off from the Louvre and got the shuttle to Parc Asterix. But that doesn't really count, 'cos then we got sent home, so that kind of backfired. Anyway, that's hardly James Bond, is it? Bunking off from looking at paintings to go on a few rollercoasters..."
As she was speaking, the Doctor had started to laugh. Proper laughter, too, that only escalated the more she spoke. He wasn't quite sure why he found what she'd just told him so funny, but it suddenly seemed the most hilarious thing ever, and his shoulders shook with mirth. Seeing him laugh so much set her off giggling too, and before they knew it they were wiping their eyes and trying to control their hysterics so that someone didn't come over and tell them to shut up.
"You," he said emphatically, once he'd stopped laughing so hard, "Are perfect."
She stared at him for a few moments, digesting his words. He did the same, wondering why on Earth he'd said that to her.
(Just because she was maybe a bit perfect for him and he kind of liked her, did not mean he was going to entertain the notion of her coming with him when all this playing human thing was done and dusted. Because he would not ever want to see this girl in danger of her life because of him. No. No way.)
Then she spoke. "So, is this where you invite me to be your assistant, Mr Bond?" She grinned at him daringly.
And then, staring into her excited young eyes, he realised something. "Oh, I don't think you're the sort of girl who could be anyone's mere assistant."
"I'm a sales assistant at Henriks, remember."
"Yeah, but that's you making do. I bet you could be a hell of a lot more than that, if the opportunity arose."
"I didn't even do my A Levels. Left school as soon as I could, at sixteen."
"So that you could start earning money to help your mum, I expect."
She shrugged. "Partly, yeah. Partly because of this stupid idiot called Jimmy Stones who reckoned him and his band was gonna make it big within months." She giggled, and leant forward conspiratorially. "They didn't."
He smiled sadly, and leant forward too. "I don't want you to get hurt."
"Then you'll just have to save me, won't you?"
"But what if I couldn't?"
"Then I'd die helping you. Doesn't seem a bad way to go, really."
He turned his hand over so that he could entwine their fingers. He squeezed her hand tightly. "Don't say that. You don't even know me."
"I'd like to get to know you," she countered.
"Stop it," he murmured, but he leant forward another inch.
"Stop what? I'm not doing anything," she replied innocently.
His thumb brushed over the back of hers. "You're trying to tempt me."
Everything. He swallowed. "Into asking you to come with me."
"So what if I am? Can't help it if it feels like an opportunity, to me," she murmured. She moved her beer out of the way and leant closer, so that there was barely a couple of inches between each of their noses.
"You could be anything you set your mind to be," he whispered. "Don't let me ruin you."
"You won't," she whispered back. "You'll make me better."
He tilted his head slightly. She did the same. His hearts beat fiercely against his chest and he really, truly, honestly didn't know what he was doing but it felt as if it would be so, so good if he just leant a little closer...
Her breath ghosted over his lips and he parted them involuntarily. He was sure he'd quite possibly lost his mind, but he was equally sure that nothing in the World would stop him kissing this (too young) beautiful, wonderful girl –
Then the pub shook as its inhabitants heard a BANG.
- except maybe that great big explosion outside.
They jumped back from each other in shock, their hands letting go of each other's, and they turned their heads at exactly the same time to look out of the window at the newfound chaos of an ordinary London street.