This is my first fanfiction for Doctor Who - just your basic Doctor/Rose fluff, with mild smut as well. Set after The Satan Pit. Enjoy, and reviews are welcome.

Hell Before Heaven

They were alive. Alive, alive, alive. For God's sake - if there even was a god, after what they'd been through - how was it even possible that they were still standing here and breathing? He should have been smothered by the pit. She should have been in pieces scattered across space.

But they were safe.

It was only thanks to their combined resourcefulness and intense stubbornness to give each other up that it was so. Even now, Rose sat huddled against the door of the TARDIS, shaking uncontrollably despite the thick afghan wrapped around her. The image of those gleaming red eyes burned in her mind, permanent as diamond, present since they had been staring at her in reality. Adrenaline had taken over at that point, but it was gone now, and she was reduced to coping with the sheer horror of what she had been through.

Not five meters away, the Doctor pressed buttons and pulled switches on the TARDIS console, but his usual enthusiasm was gone, replaced by a dark seriousness Rose had never seen from him. He had told her nothing of what he had seen underground, but it was haunting him too - the beast staring at him malevolently, a triumphant leer on its demonic face, and worst of all, the icy fear that had consumed his hearts when he realized just where the real beast was. The fear for Rose, the girl he loved. The fear that he would lose that cheeky grin forever, doomed to lonely wandering once more. And worse, the fear of having to tell Jackie when he found his way back, he thought wryly with a grim smile. Lucky his sense of humor was still intact.

He wasn't sure about the rest of him, though. After he and Rose had reunited, a grave silence had overtaken them, and Rose had collapsed against the door without another sound or even glance. When he had seen her shivering, he had gone off to find a blanket, wrapping it around her securely before making sure that the TARDIS was as far away from the pit as was possible. It was the best blanket on board, made from the wool of the flying Birutian sheep on the planet Plynte. Normally he would have told her every single detail about it, about the odd mating habits of the sheep and the less-than-legal circumstances under which he had acquired the afghan. But this wasn't normal, and after tucking it around her, there were no words to describe the hollowness that had overtaken him.

She watched him erratically, looking away whenever her traitorous subconscious placed those awful black symbols all over his face and neck. What if she had lost him? She'd have been stuck on that rocket ship on a distant planet for the rest of her life, slowly overtaken by the demon that had cunningly accompanied her. No more stars. No more time. No more Doctor.

She couldn't stand that. Shakily, uneasily, she stood, clutching the blanket close as she walked to the console. Careful not to look at him, she asked, "So where off next?"

He took a moment. "Dunno. Didn't really think about it." He paused. "I wasn't really wanting any adventures for a bit, you know?"

She bit her lip. "Yeah, I got that. But they're not all bound to be adventure planets."

He considered. "Guess that's true. Maybe some . . . quiet wouldn't be bad." He pressed a few buttons on the console, and when Rose dared a quick glance, his brow was furrowed in thought. "You know, we could go try this lovely little place on Belle-Dubreau. Haven't been there in years - centuries, actually. Right on a cliff over the ocean, and it's by a little village called Macille. It'd be nice."

She nodded. "Sounds good. Just, you know, hurry."

He didn't know what made him do it, because reason was screaming at him to leave her be, but gently, comfortingly, he laced his fingers through hers. "Gotcha, Dame Rose."

He set the coordinates for Belle-Dubreau, keeping a tight hold on her hand the entire time, and they set on their way.

"You really want rooms tonight, sir?" the clerk asked doubtfully. Rose regarded her curiously. The Belle-Dubreauvians were humanoid in basic structure, but they ranged in height from six to eight feet, and they were impossibly thin as well, all with huge reflective eyes and small puckered mouths. They were certainly beautiful, but in that strange alien way that Rose was still getting used to.

They had landed on Belle-Dubreau in Marcille, which turned out to be as quaint as the Doctor had implied, with small little quirks to mark the differences from Earth. The streetlamps were full-fledged chandeliers, for example, and instead of wind chimes, certain homes had small mobiles of metal birds that fluttered and sang sweetly. Rose immediately loved it. She could stare straight down the multicolored stone path into the bluest ocean she had ever seen, even against a threateningly gray sky. The Doctor had smiled when he registered her admiration, glad that she was slowly easing out of her fear, though for some reason, she still seemed unable to look at him from time to time.

He had led her to the little purple-gray house he had remembered, perched almost precariously over the impossibly sapphire sea. Out of all the worlds he had travelled, Belle-Dubreau had by far the most beautiful ocean: the one that stayed blue no matter what the weather, even in this Cardiff-like climate. Once inside, the clerk had been puzzled at their arrival, most likely not expecting customers because of the impending storm.

"Oh, come on, now," he said with a smile. "You and I both know this old place'll stand through anything. Just for a couple nights."

"If you say so, sir," the clerk said hesitantly. "Dinner is at eight o'clock, but since there are no other guests, that can be adjusted to suit your needs. Breakfast is available for delivery to your rooms whenever you wish it. Miss, your room is the first on the left. Sir, yours is the one directly across. Should you need anything, simply ring the bell by the bed."

"Thanks," Rose said over her shoulder as she started up the stairs. The Doctor followed, noting with sadness that Rose had not looked directly at him once through the entire conversation.

Once upstairs, Rose opened her designated door and would have laughed had it been two days earlier.
The room was done up in a dusty pink color, and it was obvious that the theme was roses. The bedspread, the curtains, the subtle wallpaper design, even the fresh flowers on the nightstand. They added a pleasant fragrance to the room, and when she looked out the window, the ocean twinkled at her merrily, its waves deceitfully calm in the face of the oncoming tempest.

"Roses . . . not ironic at all." Rose whipped around to see the Doctor leaning casually in the doorway. "Like the place?"

Keep your eyes on him, she told herself. Look at him. Come on, old girl, you love him. What could possibly be wrong with the Doctor? But despite her stubborn thoughts, the Doctor's face began to disappear, overtaken by labyrinthine symbols older than time itself, and those warm brown eyes were slipping into . . . Rose dropped her gaze, unable to take it anymore. "Yeah, it's great. Lovely view." She stifled a yawn. "But I'm gonna need to sleep for three days straight."

She'd done it again. What had he done in the pit? Why couldn't she keep her eyes on him? But he asked no questions. "Whatever you need. Take your time. Got all of time and space, you know, no hurry. Sweet dreams."

She raised her eyebrows, still determinedly facing the floor. "I'll need those."

Once he closed the door behind him, Rose collapsed onto the bed without a second thought, kicked off her shoes, dove into the scented covers, and passed out.

The Doctor surveyed his own room rather absentmindedly, taking five minutes to even register the ivory bedspread. He had apparently been given the Lily Room, an assumption he verified when he saw a vase of them sitting by the bed. Lovely. He sighed, and did the same as Rose - within two minutes, he was fast asleep.

The evening wore on, and the Doctor and Rose were only just able to rouse themselves for dinner. Both of them were still horribly unrested, their dreams plagued incessantly by their memories. Rose had found herself tangled in a heap of blankets on the floor when she awoke, inexplicable tears streaming down her face. She stumbled into the bathroom to make herself more presentable, wincing in distaste when she saw the dark rings under her eyes and her haystack hair. "Clothes . . . " she mumbled. "Okay then." Crossing her fingers, she walked over to the wardrobe, flinging its doors open to find, miracle of miracles, light, comfortable clothes. In her size, even . . . rummaging through, she picked out a soft blue sundress and a cozy gray cardigan. Her hair she put in a simple French braid, and she freshened up with a quick face rinse before following her nose down to dinner.

Their hosts had left steaming platters and tureens on the table in the dining room, along with complete place settings, but the Belle-Dubreauvians were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Doctor stood alone at the sea-facing French windows, watching as the setting sun set the oncoming clouds on fire. Rose stood beside him, watching in awe. To see something so beautiful after something so hideous was truly
moving. Shades of crimson and gold swirled together in a collage of fire and rain.

"Won't last," the Doctor remarked. "The storm'll set on us in a few hours. Should be a fun night."

"Yeah, well, it was going to be that already," Rose replied bitterly. The Doctor turned to her in concern.

"You didn't have much of a nap, did you?"

She shrugged. "It wasn't what I'd hoped for."

He sighed. "I can understand that. Wasn't easy for me either. Can still feel that fire burning around me, that searing heat just reeking of certain death, you know, the usual." His flippancy was completely transparent, but she still would not look at him, merely nodding her agreement. "Hey," he said pressingly. "What's that about, huh? Did I grow an extra nose down there in the pit? A few hairy warts?"

She bit her lip, hesitating over telling him, but it would be shit to lie to the Doctor. "Those eyes," she whispered. "They're following me. If I look at you too long . . . "

"Here now," he said softly, tilting her chin up. "What's this?"

"Don't you get it?" she exploded. "It's you, Doctor, it's you I can see with those ugly tattoos and those gleaming red eyes. It's you with that evil coming out of you like it's some sort of disease - I can see it, every time I look at you, and it won't leave me alone - "

She broke down into shuddering sobs. The Doctor, overwhelmed with emotion for the one person in all of space and time he loved, did what instinct dictated: he pulled her into his chest and held her as she cried. "Shhh," he murmured into her hair. "Rose, it's over, and I'm never going to let something like that happen. I'm here and I'm not about to change that."

"My Doctor," she whispered through her tears, and she could feel the top of her head growing damp with tears of his own. Of course. It was a miracle for him to be so stoic the rest of the time. For a Time Lord, his emotions were so wildly human, and he was having a human reaction to their ordeal.

The storm clouds knit themselves over the inn with determinedly dark implication.

Thunder rolled right above her, and Rose knew she wouldn't be able to sleep all night.

It wasn't just the storm, the torrential rain that slammed against the little house in angry tidal waves, the howling wind that beat the waves, the lightning that flashed a neon purple just outside the window. Toby's twisted features in her memory were far more oppressive to Rose, even after the Doctor had held her so close earlier. This was never going to leave. These disgusting, horrible images were going to haunt her until the day she died, unless she did something about it and she did it right now.

Rose deliberated for a moment, tucked up in the cozy pink room even as the elements bombarded the walls just outside. If this went wrong, it could distance her from the Doctor for god knew how long, and that was easily the last thing she needed. But she couldn't stay alone tonight, and whether he loved her or not, he was the one she needed right now. As her friend, he should at least be willing to stay with her for the night.

She slipped out of bed silently, her bare feet padding against the floor noiselessly. Her silk pajama tank top and shorts were hardly any insulation in the cold house, and she wrapped her arms around her as she darted across the hall into the Doctor's room.

And there he was, fast asleep.

She bit her lip and looked at him fully, her mind ceasing its tricks for a moment. He looked peaceful, calm, for once, not in a hurry like always, or scared for his life. His hair stuck up all over the pillow, and his arms were thrown every which way. He even snored a bit, which she couldn't help grinning at. Finding herself unable to disturb him, she took a seat in the ivory chintz armchair by the foot of the bed, facing the window. The window rattled as she observed the tempest, but she only looked on it contemplatively, feeling no fear for now.

"Didn't really expect you'd be asleep," she said softly, unsure why she was talking to a sleeping Time Lord, but comforted nonetheless. "Seems you never sleep, you, always hustling and bustling 'round the TARDIS without slowing down or stopping. Just the way you are, I suppose. Not so much a man as a force. Which makes sense, you know, you being a Time Lord and all." She wasn't even looking at him now, even though her words were still mainly for him. Her eyes were riveted by the storm. "Never thought I'd see that change, either." Here her voice broke just a fraction. "But it did - today. When we faced up to things bigger than you, or me - bigger than us. Bigger and scarier and god, so much more powerful. Things little shop girl me never dreamed she'd see in her lifetime. But there I was, and I didn't just see it, you know, I stopped it. Because I knew, no matter what, I couldn't give up on you." Now she cried freely. "And then - at dinner tonight - when you just held me, like that, like nothing could touch us, for once, like even though we had all of time and space at our fingertips, there was nothing in this whole bloody universe except you and me . . . Doctor, that was when I knew, when I knew that I never want to be anywhere without you, because I love you, and even if you don't love me, I'll stay with you, because no one, even after the shit we went through today, is ever going to make me feel as safe, or - or alive - as you."

"Well, that's brilliant, isn't it?" Rose whipped around in combined shock and terror, finding that the Doctor was standing right behind her, and probably had been for some time. But he was beaming. "Bloody brilliant, Rose Tyler, because here I was, thinking I was the only one, and you were going to dancing right back to old Mickey Smith and - "

"You mean - " Rose's heart stopped. She got up swiftly to face him, brown eyes boring into brown eyes.

He tilted his head and examined her with a puzzled look on his face. "Oh - I love you. I thought it was obvious - you know, I tried to tell you before I went down into that pit, and once I came out, I figured, 'If I go one more day without telling her straight out - ' " He shrugged helplessly. " 'She'll never know for the rest of her life.' "

She could hardly breathe as he leaned in so, so hesitantly to only just brush his lips against hers.

Without a second's thought, she kissed him back, winding her fingers in his hair and pressing herself against him. He held her to him, deftly tossing off her pajama top while moving his lips to her neck.

From there it was slow, deliberate, though both of them had waited far too long for each other to even dream of this kind of patience. It was only the memory of their ordeals that kept them savoring every touch of their lips, every brush of their fingers, every hint of friction when they met in places they had only dreamt of exploring within each other. It was the combined horrors they had shared today that led them away from hasty, passionate sex to gentle, languid lovemaking. The Doctor had never been so sure of anything - anyone - in 900 years of living as he was of the beautiful creature he had right now, this simple human girl who had changed his entire life in the very first moment he had known her. And even after all the shit he had put her through, he knew she would only ever be happy as long as she was by his side.

He didn't know how much time he had left with her. It could be forever, like she had said. She could be gone tomorrow. But they had tonight, and as they rose to and fell from the height of pleasure time and time again, he couldn't help but think that should he live 900 years more, tonight would be enough.

"Aren't you freezing?"

The Doctor smiled before he turned around, inwardly laughing at Rose's typically human question. His binary cardiovascular system kept blood flowing through his body no matter the temperature. Still, the post-storm temperatures on Belle-Dubreau were low, and he was grateful for the wool blanket and two mugs of tea Rose was bringing with her.

"Probably not as much as you." He took the blanket from her and stood behind her, wrapping it snugly around them both as they stood looking on the clear blue sea. His arms were tight around her.

"Mmmmmm," she sighed, closing her eyes. He kissed her cheek and put his head on her shoulder. They stood on a solitary, thin, stony cliff right over the ocean, the inn only a short distance away. Though the storm had abated, the sky was still steely gray. Violet-colored birds that were easily Rose-sized swooped and soared over the waves. "How long are we going to stay, you think?"

He shrugged. "Long as you want. For once, I'm not in much of a hurry."

"Me neither." She laughed. "But, you know, we do have to visit my mum at some time."

"Oh, must we?" he mock-groaned.

"Yes!" Her grin was wide, but it softened quickly. "You ever think - that time we were talking, before everything happened, but the TARDIS was gone - "

"Finding a planet," he repeated. "Settling down." He sobered. "Rose, you know I couldn't."

"I know . . . I know." She sighed as the waves broke to foam beneath them. "But don't you ever think sometimes - that if you ever did - if we - "

He ran a hand through her silky blonde hair. "I do," he told her softly. "I do. That if I ever settled down, it would be here, and now, with you . . . get married, I suppose, find a place in Marcille. Let the universe pass me by." He sighed. "But there's only so long it could last, you know."

She bit her lip. "Yeah, I got it." She sipped her tea. "I suppose we'll have to call my mum sometime soon."

He deliberated. "Yeah, guess so."

The next day, they were leaving.

Rose had called Jackie only to find that some moron had gone and tried to trick her out of information, hurting her feelings in the process. Rose, of course, couldn't let that slide at all, and the Doctor was grimly amused that it was Rose's need to kick ass that was pulling them away, not his. Ironic. Something inside him made him wonder if she could ever really settle down either. He sometimes felt he had changed her too much for that.

After their conversation on the cliff yesterday, they had gone into Marcille - shopping, eating, talking, holding hands, just generally acting like a normal couple. It had been one of the best days of his life, especially as the night following was a repeat of the night before. But it was ending now. The careful illusion they had set up was slowly breaking apart. He watched her packing up from the doorway, taking things she liked from the wardrobe as the innkeeper had instructed her, her hair tucked back in two French braids.

"Knock knock," he said quietly, and started, turning to face him. He noticed her red eyes with a stab of pain. "Almost done?"

"Almost." She turned her gaze away from him, leaning into the bedpost.

He walked toward her and took her face in his, forcing her eyes back. "Look at me," he said. She snorted. "No, Rose, look at me." She did, and he could see the new tears pooling up. "We're leaving because neither of us can stay. You know that. But it doesn't change anything." A sob broke out. "No, Rose, it doesn't, because anywhere, anytime, no matter what happens, I will always love you. Do you understand me? Always."

She buried her face in his shoulder, tears flowing freely. "You better mean that, you know," she choked out. "Always."

He kissed her softly. "Look," he murmured, drawing something out of his jacket pocket: a little white cloth bundle, tied with a silk dusty pink ribbon. He placed it in her hands. With a wondering glance at him, she opened it up, finding inside a silver ring set with a bright blue stone - TARDIS blue. The design around the stone was worked into crashing waves, curving around the stone to make it look as though the ocean had hardly wanted to give it up. He took the ring from her hand and placed it on her left ring finger without a second's thought. "You let that be your promise, Rose," he whispered. "This is a venustone. As long as it's blue, that's what's telling you I still love you. No matter how far apart we are. I swear to you, you will never see that color fade."

She cried into his shoulder. "I - " But it turned out she could only get her point across by kissing him again.

Years later, Rose Tyler stood before a complicated device, an enormous gun in her hand and a fierce expression on her face.

"You sure about this, Miss Tyler?" Her Torchwood associate, the one manning the cannon now, eyed her worriedly. Ianto, wasn't that his name?

She took a deep breath, knowing that she might never see her mother, or Pete, or Mickey, or even baby Tony ever again. It was a risk she was willing to take.

The venustone on her left ring finger glowed as vibrantly blue as the day it had been given to her. She smiled and rubbed it. The Doctor was waiting for her. Without hesitation, she faced the dimension cannon.

"Never been surer about anything in my life."