A/N: It's been a week since France, and during that week the Doctor, Rose and Mickey have stopped off at Cardiff to refuel and subsequently met up with Jack. This story is set in the TARDIS, primarily focussing on Rose confiding in Jack about her worries and the events of the week before, thus I haven't delved into the explanations regarding Jack's immortality and the Doctor's abandonment of him on the Gamestation etc; assume discussions of all that has already taken place. I just felt like writing some Rose and Jack interaction relating to the Doctor's...transgression...and thus I have bent canon and time to my will. Just a oneshot. Enjoy!
Who She Could Never Be
Rose swirled the wine around in her glass, staring at it thoughtfully. Their conversation had faded out into a natural and friendly quietness, and Jack suspected such a silence was a necessary recovery considering they'd both been giggling for the last half an hour nonstop. Now, though, Rose seemed pensive, all traces of her earlier humour wilting. Jack smiled at her gently and asked, "What you thinking about?"
She let out a long breath. "Nothing."
"Liar," retorted Jack. He leant forwards and put his glass on the table in front of the sofa, and took Rose's from her hand and put that down too. "Spill."
Rose couldn't meet his eyes. She focused on the two wine glasses and the empty bottles, and made her admission.
"I am never gonna be some...intelligent, dignified, accomplished, perfect woman," she said, her voice shaking.
Jack stared. "Huh?" he asked, baffled at her sudden confession of insecurities. What was she going on about?
"I can only ever be me," she continued. "A silly, ordinary little human, who makes mistakes...who's unladylike, clumsy...and sometimes, sometimes, I'm...crippled with this fear that he'll see that, one day, this wonderful man...he'll see that I'm just an...an insect, in comparison to him, and I...I'm so scared that he'll realise I'm not nearly good enough, and send me home. And then everything I thought we had between us would just...crumble."
Jack gaped at her in shock. "How can you think that, Rose?" he asked, his eyebrows drawn together anxiously. "How could you ever think he'd do something like that?"
She let out a bitter laugh. "Oh, I used to think we were so in love, and that it was just a matter of neither of us wanting to confess to it yet," she admitted, closing her eyes. A tear sneaked out and trailed down her cheek. Jack lifted his hand to wipe it away, and then wrapped his arms around her, drawing her into a hug. "But then he did something and I...I sort of woke up, I suppose."
"What did he do?"
Rose bit her lip uncertainly, wondering if she should tell Jack about this. She inhaled a deep breath and decided that yes, she should, seeing as she'd not been able to talk to anyone about the event. Not even Mickey. Of course, she and the Doctor had talked about it for all of half hour, and she hadn't managed to say any of what she really wanted to say in those thirty minutes.
"Last week. He, um...well, it wasn't all his fault, it was just...there were these...droids, clockwork droids, and they were trying to kill Madame de Pompadour, and...well, he sort of left me and Mickey trapped on a spaceship in the 51st century to jump into the past and save her, getting trapped there forever himself, to live the...the slow path with her. Except she found a way back for him in the end, so he got back alright, but...but he wanted her to come with us, and when he went back to get her, she'd died, and..."
Jack held onto her tightly as she spoke, fighting against a lump in his own throat.
"Well, the thing is, I don't know exactly what happened between them, but they had a connection, a deep connection, and I s'pose in the end it was over for them before it really had a chance to properly begin; but within an hour of them knowing each other she'd seen into his mind, seen his past, knew him, knew him better than I ever could hope to. And he let her."
"Rose..." Jack began softly.
"And I don't blame him for falling for her," she murmured, her throat tightening. "She was amazing, so clever and gorgeous and she had this way of speaking, this authority in her voice over her court, and she was nice; I mean, sure, I felt about two foot tall when she spoke to me, but she was nice. It's like, I felt inferior, but I don't think she intentionally wanted me to feel that way. I guess it was obvious to her what sort of person I was anyway."
"What do you mean?"
Rose didn't answer, but carried on speaking regardless of his question. "And you know, since I've known him I've never felt like I needed to change who I am, never been really unhappy with the way I look or how I speak, not anymore, but that day was the day I realised that as much as I'm okay with being me, I hate the fact that I can never be someone who he could, who he could..." she trailed off, choking back a sob. She took in a deep breath, trying to compose herself. "And it's not like I have any right to feel like this, he's just my friend, he's always been just my friend. It's not like I should feel betrayed by him when I've never even told him that I..."
"Rose, you may not think so, but you tell that man every minute you are with him that you love him. And I don't know what the hell was going through his head that day, but he loves you, he loves you, Rose - "
Rose shook her head. "You don't get it. It was just my stupid naivety that made me think me and him were heading for somewhere. Seeing too much in his every action towards me, hearing too much in each word he said."
Jack scoffed under his breath. "Rose, you've no idea - "
"What's worse is, I feel so guilty about all the people I've hurt because of him. Leaving my mum, and Mickey. Not demanding to know exactly what had happened to you straight away after the Gamestation. Putting them and you, the people who really do love me, through all that, just so that I could be with the Doctor." She sighed shakily. "Reinette said that he's worth the monsters, and she's right, he is. But I don't know if he's worth living a life with him only to push everyone else away and never feel loved."
Jack pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "He does love you," he tried again, but she still wouldn't hear of it.
"He's so selfish without even realising, you see. It's not his fault, he just is. His vanity and his eagerness to please, to impress...he wants us all to adore him, and you know what? We all comply, because he's so easy to fall in love with. But he's so bloody hard to be in love with." She paused, swallowing thickly. "I don't know how long it took for all those before me to get out, and I've always told him he's stuck with me forever, but...but can I really do that? Can I really spend my whole life with him, unaware of what random thing he's gonna do next which will shake my very knowledge of him, my faith in him?"
Jack's heart started beating a bit too fast, scared on the Doctor's behalf that she was thinking of leaving him. "Listen, Rose...once you've had some sleep, once you've sobered up, you'll be able to think more clearly on this. Let's not make any hasty decisions tonight, you've...you've been drinking, maybe you should just, you know, sleep it off, eh?"
"And I can't talk to him about any of this," she continued, apparently not hearing Jack. "About any of what I'm really scared of. So he has no clue. We're all just particles of dust to him in his long, long life, and Jack, I don't want to be forgotten. I don't want to want too much from him, too much that he can't give - but equally, I don't want to invest my entire life in him, like he wants me to, for him to just forget me a few decades down the line. I know that he's a Time Lord and I'm just a human, an insignificant little shop-girl, but I can't – I can't...I don't know what to do." Her face crumpled and tears started falling in earnest then. "I...Jack, I..."
He rocked her back and forth, rubbing his hands across her back soothingly, murmuring for her to stop crying, to get some sleep. But then he lifted his head and froze. Rose didn't notice that he'd tensed up, and carried on crying in his arms.
But standing in the doorway with his eyes fixed on her was the Doctor, and Jack didn't know what to say. Partly because he knew Rose would be mortified if she realised the Doctor had seen or heard at least some of this; mostly because the Time Lord looked grief-stricken, and Jack was unsure how to deal with that.
The Doctor stepped forward, and Jack shook his head slightly at him, telling him not to come any further. He didn't pay this any attention, because he wasn't looking at Jack, and carried on walking until he was standing by the sofa and reaching his arms out for Rose. Jack swallowed hard and relaxed his hold on her, and before she realised what was going on, the Doctor had pulled her from Jack's arms and turned her to face him, holding her shoulders tightly.
Rose gasped and lifted a hand to her face, half-heartedly wiping at her cheeks and nose, wishing to be anywhere but in front of the Doctor whilst she was looking like she was breaking down. He was staring at her intensely, his eyes glistening, his jaw working as though to attempt speech, only to close his mouth and swallow against a lump in his throat, unable to get words out. Rose watched him in confusion, letting out an exhale of disbelief when he blinked and caused some of the moisture in his eyes to overflow, just a couple of teardrops slipping down.
"Rose," he eventually rasped out. His hands moved from their tight grip on her shoulders to grasp her face between his hands, his thumbs softly stroking across the apples of her cheeks. "Rose," he repeated, his voice cracking.
Jack gingerly stood up, moved out of the room, and sat down outside the door to listen. His movements went unnoticed by the Doctor and Rose.
"How... how much did you hear?" she whispered, her heart feeling like it was galloping out of her chest.
His jaw clenched in unhappiness as he recalled her words. "All of it, I think," he whispered back. He cleared his throat and dropped his hands from her face, only to seek out her hands instead, and entwining their fingers, squeezing hers as though he were frightened she'd slip away from him. "I, er. I wanted to see what you and Jack were up to. I'd seen him sneak some alcohol in here earlier and was worried he was trying to ply you with it," he murmured, the corners of his mouth twitching at his earlier worry, but the half-smile soon faded. "For what purpose, I wasn't sure. Half of me thought maybe he was trying to get, you know, close to you; the other half assured the first half that he knew the boundaries and was simply trying to get you to spill your secrets to him."
"Boundaries?" she questioned curiously. "What boundaries?"
He glanced away awkwardly. "Due to a few misunderstandings and misconceptions you evidently have, this is going to sound very hypocritical, but once you know the truth, you'll understand."
She swallowed. "Go on," she prompted.
"I told him how it was to be the first time he travelled with us," the Doctor confessed quietly. He tugged on his ear. "Without even asking you if you'd want it, I told him that he was not, under any circumstances, allowed to get, um...involved with you."
"What?" she whispered.
"Two reasons for me doing that. One, you know what Jack's like; I didn't want him to be with you then break your heart. Two, I..." he trailed off, gathering his courage as he inhaled a deep breath and let it out again. "I didn't want to share you."
Rose's eyes widened. "Oh. Right."
The Doctor bit his lip, unsure of where to begin in correcting her aforementioned misconceptions. "Okay, so the thing is, Rose..." he started, blinking quickly to clear his blurry vision. "Well. I suppose, the first thing I ought to remind you of is that I'm an idiot and a coward."
Her lips twitched slightly. "Goes without saying," she murmured, a bit teasingly, and the Doctor's hearts leapt at her tone of voice and hope curled in his veins. Because maybe he hadn't messed everything up too completely.
"Yes," he agreed. "The next thing I want to say is that due to those characteristics of mine, you are utterly, utterly wrong in your subsequent conclusions regarding my...er, behaviour."
Rose frowned but remained silent, prompting him to continue.
He sniffed and took in a deep breath. "Okay, I'm going to address this point by point. Firstly, I never want to hear you talk about yourself the way you just did again, alright? There is no way in the universe that I could ever see you as an insect, Rose Tyler, nor a 'particle of dust.' No way. You are my best friend and there is no one better than you for me. No one in the entire cosmos knows me like you do. No one is more perfectly human than you. And there is no one I'd rather live and travel with than you."
"Stop it," she whispered, glancing down at their joined hands. "I don't want you to say all this. Not when it's not - "
"It is true," he pre-empted, moving even closer to her on the sofa. "Remember all that time ago, when you told me that this life is better with two?" She nodded half-heartedly. "Well, you were right. It is. It's better with two; specifically, us two, the Doctor and Rose. The Doctor and Rose." He raised his voice slightly, knowing Jack was eavesdropping, "No offence, Jack."
Jack lifted his eyebrows and called back. "None, er, taken."
"But you invited Mickey," Rose protested. "And you invited Reinette. If she'd...if she'd been able to come with us, there would have been four of us on the TARDIS, plus Jack when we got him back. It's hardly just us two, is it? Not anymore."
The Doctor sighed regretfully. "I'm not explaining this properly," he murmured, mostly to himself. "I'm awful at this, I'm sorry. Hopefully if I keep talking and talking something sufficient will come out of it. Let me ramble."
"Always do," she said softly, and he gave her a small smile.
"Yeah. You do," he replied. He tilted his head forward to meet her gaze. "I meant what I said that day you met Sarah Jane. You really can spend the rest of your life with me. I...I want you to."
"I know you meant it. That's not the problem," Rose murmured. "The problem is - "
"That you think I'll take you for granted," the Doctor filled in, nodding.
"No, I just..."
"Yes, Rose. I heard what you said to Jack. You think I'll let you stay here forever but never give you what you want. What you need."
"Doctor," Rose interrupted firmly. "I have no doubt in my mind that I would be happy for the rest of my life if I got to stay with you. Because you do make me happy. You do. I'm just...it's just hard, that's all, to see you...to see you...that way, with someone so much cleverer than me, I - "
The Doctor shook his head quickly. "Stop it," he said abruptly. "You need to stop thinking that you're so inferior to other people, to...to Reinette. You're not. I'm so achingly sorry that she or I made you feel that way, because it is not true. Do you hear me? It is not true."
"But it is," Rose laughed self-deprecatingly. "Why else would you fall for her and not me? I don't believe for a second that it's because she's prettier and sexier than me - even though she obviously is - because you're not like most men. And that's actually what hurts the most; I could deal with it if you just fancied her because of her gorgeous looks, but the fact is, you find people attractive because of their minds, and, well, come on – let's be realistic here: how am I ever gonna compete with all the amazing people in the universe that we could meet over the years - "
The Doctor let out a noise of frustration in the back of his throat when it was apparent she wasn't going to allow him a word in edgeways, and he stopped her speaking the only alternative way he could think of. He unwrapped their fingers from each other's and grasped her head in his hands, pulling her forward to kiss her full on the mouth.
In reflex, she gasped, and he seized entire possession of her mouth, snogging her incessantly, realising in the back of his head that this was probably not the best way to go about showing Rose how he really felt for her but doing it anyway, because now...now, she'd recovered from her surprise and was kissing him back and it was truly the most wonderful feeling, really, knowing that the person who meant everything to you, who you had to earn forgiveness from, was at least letting you attempt at making it up to her through a fantastic, playful bout of tongue wrestling. He'd never pretend to understand how she could make him feel this way, she just did, and he didn't know why or how but she did, and that was all that mattered, because she was Rose Tyler, clever, beautiful, wonderful Rose Tyler, and really, the truest fact of the matter was that he -
He got distracted, then, by her exponentially enthusiastic participation. It was as if now they'd started, she didn't want to let him go. Perhaps she feared that if they stopped, just for a moment, he would end all this madness before it could truly begin. For that was what it was – madness. He had a whole collection of reasons why this, kissing Rose Tyler, was crazy. Not wrong, never wrong, not with her, but...but it was definitely mad and crazy and frightening and he'd once told himself that he'd never let himself kiss her, never ever. He should've known that he should never ever say never ever.
Her lips had gone from static beneath his to frenzied motion, as had her hands, which she slowly slid into his hair and used to tug him down with her as she leant backwards onto the sofa. He trailed his hands down her sides and rested them on her waist as he leant over her. Eventually, he pulled his mouth away to let her breathe, and scattered kisses down her neck. To reassure her with his words as well as his actions, he started to murmur against her skin as he did so.
"There is no competition," he said softly. It startled even him how true his words were. And maybe he was biased because she was underneath him and looking so exquisitely Rose, his constant, now, his present, his anchor; or maybe she was an illusion, sent to comfort and trick him into thinking and feeling in ways he hadn't thought he could think and feel, not anymore, maybe not ever; or maybe he was simply forgetting everything else that existed because she'd muddled up his brain by snogging him senseless.
But whichever scenario was the case, this felt like the truth, and it felt like he'd been waiting for her all his life, and he couldn't fathom why he'd tried to deny all this for so very long, tried to deny it by placing various obstacles in his own way, denying them both what they wanted all this time. He sighed shakily against her neck, and whispered, "If I had the power to choose anyone to be kissing right now and for the rest of my life, anyone in the past, present, future, whole of time and space, I'd choose you."
He trailed kisses all the way back up her jaw until he found her earlobe and tugged on it gently with his teeth. "You've no idea what you mean to me and that's all my fault, and I'm sorry," he whispered into her ear. His thumbs slipped beneath the hem of her t-shirt and stroked against her skin; he pressed his forehead against hers and closed his eyes.
"If you promise to never leave me, I promise I will cherish every second I have with you. You will never feel second best again because you aren't second best, you're the best, and I need you to forgive me, Rose, for being such an idiot, because you're the only one who can, and I need you, I need you more than I've needed anyone, and I know you think I'm so very bad at saying the words that really matter but that's because every word I say to you matters, every random thought I share with you matters because I want to share it with you, and every time I've taken your hand and hugged you and kissed you and told you how glad I am that I've met you, how scared I am that you'll leave, that you'll die, how much I love travelling with you, what I really mean, all those times I do and say those things, what I really mean is that you are the most beautiful, compassionate, wonderful bunch of atoms in creation, and I adore you."
Rose let out a breathy giggle. "No one's ever called me a wonderful bunch of atoms before." He opened his eyes and stared into hers, relieved when she lifted her hand and stroked his sideburn with her thumb. "Thanks," she whispered.
"Rose, I mean it," he insisted, hoping she was taking him seriously. "And what was all that nonsense about me forgetting you?" he remembered, swallowing hard. He gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "How could I ever forget you," he breathed out roughly. He closed his eyes and shifted so that he could lie next to her on the sofa, pulling her into his arms. "Please, please don't leave me," he whispered.
"I..." she trailed off, and heaved a sigh. "I've drunk so much wine this evening," she tried to explain. "I get emotional when I'm tipsy. I never meant to confess all those things to Jack, and I certainly never meant for you to hear them."
"But you meant what you said, every word. And that's my fault. And I'm sorry," he murmured back, letting his hand softly stroke through her hair. "You haven't been yourself all week, and I was so very scared to question things, in case what I feared was true."
"What did you fear?"
"That I'd hurt you, irreparably," he whispered. "And I know I did. Because Rose, I've seen you when you're tipsy, and you don't get emotional in the slightest, you get giggly, and just now, you were not giggly at all. Which means you really have been hurting deeply, and..." he trailed off nervously, his eyes still squeezed shut. He tightened his hold on her reflexively. "I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to go, but please don't. I'll get better at all this, I promise. I'll make things right. I'll get better."
She snuggled against him somewhat, feeling exhausted. "Better at what?" she mumbled tiredly.
He was silent for a few moments, then answered, "Telling and showing you exactly what you mean to me." He closed his eyes and sighed. "How much I need you. Most of all, how much I..." He paused, sensing a change. "Rose? Rose? Oh, fantastic," he muttered sarcastically. "She goes and falls asleep right at the most important part."
He nuzzled the top of her head affectionately and sighed again. Then, he looked towards the doorway, and saw Jack poking his head in. He looked relieved.
"Good save," his friend told him, with a pleased nod, and the Doctor offered him a half-smile back.
"I think I'm going to wait until she sobers up and see what she can remember of tonight's conversations; then I'll be able to verify whether she'll forgive me or not."
"You've been such a daft idiot, you know," acknowledged Jack softly. He gestured to Rose lying asleep by the Doctor's side. "She's everything you need. I've seen a lot in the last couple hundred years. I've seen a lot of couples. The most successful, wonderful, loving ones are those which are built on something very special and important."
"Trust?" the Doctor guessed, biting his lip uncertainly. Would Rose ever trust him again? Rassilon, he hoped so.
Jack shook his head. "Friendship," he corrected him. "And, perhaps even more than that, laughter." He smiled. "You two usually have that in spades."
The Doctor smiled fondly and ran his hand through Rose's hair again. "I don't think I ever giggled until I met her. That's one of her secret super powers, I think," he murmured thoughtfully. "To turn my laugh into a giggle." He shook his head, marvelling at her. "Baffles the mind, she does. Funny, I reckon she thinks I'm the enigma! She's just as bad."
Jack nodded in agreement, then cocked a curious eyebrow. "What are Rose's other secret super powers?"
"Oh, weellll," the Doctor drawled. "Many things. Half of which I haven't even discovered yet." His eyes twinkled playfully for the first time all week, thanks to the hope now ignited in his mind that Rose would re-establish their easy, wonderful way of being with each other soon enough. "I'm looking forward to making such discoveries."
Jack smiled and told him, "Let me know when these discoveries are discovered," before exiting the room.
The Doctor closed his eyes again, and fell asleep with his arms wrapped around her, hoping that when she woke up, she would a) not forget where she was and roll off the sofa - last time she'd done that he'd been seated in the armchair opposite and had, thankfully, had just enough reaction time to throw a cushion beneath her before she landed, so that she didn't hit her head too hard - and b) not punch him for taking such a liberty as to hold her through the night, after all he'd put her through.