Five Times People Thought They Were A Couple, And Once Someone Didn't
1. The Little Girl in the Park
They were just taking a stroll through the park near Jackie's flat when it happened. And honestly, this particular thing happened quite a lot, so they shouldn't be surprised by it. But maybe it was the innocence of the remark, being as it was said by a child this time, which made him stop and think for a second...
"I don't care what you say," Rose grinned playfully. "There was absolutely no way you actually knew what he was planning. It was all just luck!"
"No such thing as luck in that situation," he retorted, swinging their joined hands between them. "I'm just very good at deducting. I notice everything. And that man made one single, solitary mistake that I picked up on."
"Ooh, get you, Poirot!" she laughed.
"I like to think of myself more like Sherlock Holmes."
"Do you play the violin?"
"Do you have a drug addiction?"
"Do you have a best friend called Doctor John Watson?"
He huffed. "Noooo."
"Then you don't sound like Sherlock Holmes to me," she giggled.
"I'm also not Belgian and I don't have a moustache, so I'm not exactly Poirot, either, am I?"
"Touché," she conceded, smiling up at him. She glanced across the park, over to where the playground area was full of children, and she sighed. "It's so annoying."
"What's so annoying?"
"I really want to go on that swing, but people would look at us funny if we went in there, what with all the kids."
He followed her line of sight and nodded in agreement. "Yeah. Maybe we should come back on a less sunny day, so that we get full use of the playground with no one else around."
"They've done it all up since I used to come here as a kid. Never used to have that big tyre thing. That's a new slide, too. We definitely have to try that out a some point, look how high it is!"
The Doctor squeezed her hand, chuckling. "You do realise that I could take you to parks across the universe that have far better slides than that, right?"
"Yeah, but this place is special, 'cos it's full of memories of my childhood."
"Is it really the same park, though, if it's all changed?"
"That tree hasn't changed," she pointed out. "That tree's always been there. Used to climb up it like every day until I realised that I was fourteen and probably shouldn't do that anymore, considering I'd started wearing skirts by that point."
He laughed and bumped his shoulder against hers. "Fancy an ice cream?" he asked her, nodding towards the ice cream van.
"Yeah, alright," she agreed, reaching into her pocket. She pulled out a fiver and gave it to him. "You get them?"
"Sure," he answered, letting go of her hand. "Meet me by that tree of yours."
She smiled widely. "Okay."
He glanced down at her denim skirt. "Best not climb up it, though. You might give those teenage boys over there a free show."
Rose whacked his arm playfully and told him to shove off and bring her back a nice ice cream.
Once she reached the old tree, she remained standing, leaning back against the trunk, watching the kids in the playground laughing and having fun. She smiled to herself. None of them realise how much their lives could change in an instant. She used to look like that, carefree and unaware of anything that didn't factor into her little bubble of existence. Her friends, her mum, going to school, bunking off school in the park...trying a cigarette on that bench over there, decidedly hating it and stamping it into the grass.
It all seemed so innocent, even that last thing, yet so, so exciting back then. Even those teenage boys over there with a few cans of beer who the Doctor had pointed out, they had no idea. No idea of what was really amazing in this universe. No idea that luck could lead you to be in the right place, right time, and meet a man who would change your life in unimaginable ways.
She remembered being at the top of the previous slide that had been in that park, scared to go down it. It was less tall than the new one, but at six, it had seemed like the tallest thing ever. Her mum stood at the bottom and told her not to worry, that she'd love it. And that wasn't the problem – she knew, even at six, that she'd love it, love the feeling of sliding down that surface so very quickly, feeling the wind rush past her ears.
She was just scared that no one would catch her if the thing she loved went wrong. Her mum was there, of course she was. But she wasn't an expert catcher, nor did she have the greatest reaction time, so what if she couldn't save her?
Rose frowned. What if she couldn't save her if this all went wrong? She glanced over at the Doctor, who was waiting in the queue for the ice cream van over the other side of the park. She had good eyesight, and could see even from here that he was rocking back on his heels impatiently, his hands shoved in his pockets. What if he got bored? What if he got bored of her and her stories about her childhood, and got bored of visiting Jackie and doing silly things like taking her to parks? What if she'd fallen so quickly into this life, this way of living, the adventure and the fun and the wonder, everything that she loved so much, that even her mum wouldn't be enough for her once she inevitably fell out of it?
"Do you have children?" a little girl asked Rose suddenly.
Rose jumped in surprise, jolting out of her thoughts. She looked down, seeing a little girl staring up at her with wide, green eyes, and shook her head. "Nope," she answered. "I don't have children, no."
"But you're married," she stated.
"To that man over there," she continued, pointing towards the ice cream van.
Rose laughed. "No...what makes you think that?"
"Isn't that what people do when they love each other?"
She swallowed hard. "What makes you think we love each other?"
"I was at the top of the slide, waiting for my turn, and I was watching you walking along the path together," the little girl informed her. "Also, I hold hands with Bobby at school because I love him. I don't hold hands with any of the other boys, because they're mean."
Rose stared at her. "Right."
"So are you going to get married?" the girl persisted.
"What's your name?" asked Rose.
"Well, the thing is, Abby," Rose began, and then stopped talking abruptly because she suddenly realised the Doctor was coming back with their ice creams, and he was within earshot. "Never mind," she muttered.
"Here you are," he grinned as he stepped up to her, handing her the ice cream with one scoop.
"Oi, hold on – how comes you get the biggest one?" she frowned.
"Because I went and got them," he answered, in a tone of voice that said that should have been obvious. He licked his double scoop – one chocolate, one strawberry – lavishly.
"Yeah, using my money!"
He shrugged, a cheeky twinkle in his eye. "You can share mine too, if you want."
Rose screwed her face up. "But you've licked it now!"
"So?" the Doctor asked, just as Abby said, "But it's just like kissing."
The Time Lord looked down in alarm. "Oh. Hello! Who're you? And aren't you a little young to know what kissing's like?"
"I'm Abby," Abby answered, at the same time as Rose muttered, "She's Abby."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows and looked back at Rose. "Making friends again?"
"She just came up to me and started chatting away," she murmured, her lips twitching.
"You have that look about you," the Doctor nodded.
"What look about me?" Rose retorted.
"People look at you and think, 'Oooh, bet she'd be nice to talk to!' So they do," he informed her.
"You're weird," Abby piped up.
He briefly looked down at her again. "Thank you," he replied. He held his ice cream out to Rose. "Go on, Rose. Take a lick. It's just like kissing, apparently," he said, waggling his eyebrows.
"No ta, don't want to catch any Time Lord germs," she muttered, contenting herself with her own ice cream.
"I find that highly offensive," he remarked, then confided to Abby, "She's too cheeky, this one. You see, this is why I don't kiss her."
"You don't?" asked Abby, her eyes widening.
Rose arched an eyebrow. "Doctor."
"Don't encourage her," she replied.
"What do you mean?"
"Why don't you kiss her, Doctor?" asked Abby. "You're gonna have to kiss her when you get married."
His eyes widened. "I'm sorry?" he choked out.
Rose went crimson. "I didn't say we were getting married!" she assured him quickly. "She just...I dunno, assumed or something!"
"Bobby kissed me on the cheek yesterday," Abby informed them boastingly. Then she wrinkled her nose. "But he'd just eaten an ice lolly so his lips were sticky. If you two kissed now your lips would be sticky from your ice cream, wouldn't they? Maybe you'd better wait until later, then," she pondered.
"Yeah," the Doctor squeaked awkwardly. "Maybe."
"Um, Abby, shouldn't you go back to your parents or something?" Rose asked hurriedly.
"Oh, they won't notice I've come over here," she said dismissively. She pointed at a couple across the park, who looked like they were having a heated argument. "That's them, there. They're fighting."
Rose bit her lip. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," the little girl said brightly. "They always make up after. In fact, Daddy calls it Making-Up Time in the evenings, which is why I have to go to bed early sometimes, for some reason."
The Doctor and Rose tried not to giggle. "Oh, okay then," replied the Doctor.
"Shall we sit down?" asked Abby.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows and glanced at Rose, who shrugged. They simultaneously sat down, cross-legged, in a little circle on the grass, with Abby chatting away in the way kids do, about nothing and everything.
During her monologue wherein he and Rose nodded and inserted, "Oh," and "Hmm," in the appropriate places, the Doctor focussed his gaze on Rose. She was looking at Abby, so she didn't notice him staring, which was good, because he was thinking, and when he was thinking he often thought about Rose, and when he often thought about Rose, his thoughts slid into one of two different directions, depending on the situation.
One direction was the direction he was decidedly not thinking about at the moment, considering they had company and were in a public place (though granted, this didn't always stop those thoughts, but seeing as said company was a child in this case, his mind did behave accordingly and steered clear of such things.)
Which left the other direction, the slightly sombre direction. Watching her interact with Abby, watching her look around them at all the couples and families in the park, a strange sense of fear crept up on him unexpectedly. Swallowing hard against the lump in his throat, he started to think about what he would do if she left. What if one day she realised that the way she lived her life with him wasn't what she wanted anymore?
What if one day she realised that she wanted a life back here, on Earth, where she could witness the changes to her favourite places as they came, instead of popping in and out and finding things gone before she even thought to say goodbye to them? What if one day she'd want to sit in this park, not with the Doctor but with someone she...someone she...
The Doctor shook his head at himself, trying to focus on what the little girl was saying.
"Then I told Bertie he was the best dog in the world anyway, so it didn't matter that he'd chewed up my favourite toy," Abby continued. "But my brother Tom doesn't think so, 'cos he also bit into his video game...but anyway, what was I going to say? Oh yeah, the Summer Fayre! Well, my Mum's on the PTA, so..."
What if Rose wanted a dog? he thought next. What if she wanted a dog, and a little girl like Abby, and a little boy like Tom, and...and...a husband and a house and Summer Fayres that happen linearly and holidays in Spain and...
"Doctor, are you alright?" Rose asked suddenly.
He blinked, and found his voice to answer, "Yes, why wouldn't I be?"
"You're not eating your ice cream," she pointed out pragmatically. "It's melting. I've already finished mine and usually yours is gone far before mine."
He glanced at it. "Oh, yeah." He cleared his throat. "I'm not so hungry anymore."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Give it here, then. Don't waste it."
"Thought you didn't want Time Lord germs," he mumbled, but handed it to her anyway.
"I think I'm okay with your Time Lord germs," she replied, smiling cheekily at him as she ate his ice cream. "Just yours though, 'cos you're special."
"Am I?" he wondered.
"Everyone's special," piped up Abby.
"That's true," agreed Rose, who looked back at the little girl to avoid the Doctor's eye. "But not everyone's special to me."
"Now Rose," he began, his voice faltering slightly. "That's not true - you like everyone. You try to help everyone, even those who've been rude to you or have previously tried to kill you!"
Rose smiled at Abby. "He still doesn't understand that he's my best friend," she confided, mock-whisperingly, before finishing his ice cream.
"Actually, I do understand that, thanks," he argued gently. He reached forward and swiped his thumb across the corner of her mouth, wiping away traces of his chocolate ice cream. Then he licked it off his thumb, and realised she was staring at him. "What?"
She shook her head, trying to keep a straight face. "Nothing," she murmured.
They looked at each other for awhile, until the sound of a woman calling Abby's name made them glance across the park.
"Oops, I'd better go," said Abby, jumping up. She beamed down at them in that happy, childhood way. "Don't forget to get married," she told them seriously, then bounced away to join her parents.
"Rose," he murmured roughly, into the awkward silence. She met his intent gaze. This was one of those Significant Moments, he realised, gulping audibly. What he did now could potentially change everything. And oh how he maybe sort of wanted to. "Rose - "
"What was wrong, earlier?" she interrupted him.
The Doctor continued to look at her, confused as to what she was referring to. The other sorts of thoughts were now arriving, starting to mess up his rationalisations. "Hmm?"
"Earlier, what was wrong?" she said quickly. "When Abby was talking, you zoned out and looked a bit...odd. I was worried that maybe you..."
"Well, were you bored?"
He shook his head. "No."
"Were you thinking sad thoughts?"
He half-smiled. "Perhaps."
She frowned, and uncrossed her legs to move closer to him. "Any way I can help?" she asked gently.
He stretched his legs out and laid down on the grass, and Rose did the same. They turned their heads to look at one another, their faces very close. Their empty hands between them found their partners, and blimey, he never wanted to lay here, like this, with anyone else, and he never wanted her to lay here, like this, with anyone else. "Yeah, there is," he answered her finally. "Stay with me."
She nodded, and the grass tickled her nose. "Always," she answered confidently, because as long as he wanted her to, she would. And she knew that even long after he left her, she'd still want to. So it was near enough the truth.