2

::

After reading the letters and crying on him for half hour or so, Rose had excused herself to go and have a shower, needing to clear her head and wash the tears away. Now, she felt a little refreshed, though still emotional, and walked back into the sitting room with a nervous feeling she was used to perpetually existing in the pit of her stomach. She watched the Doctor quietly for a few moments. He'd dozed off on the leather sofa, and was drooling onto it quite adorably. Her lips curved into a small smile and she tentatively touched his shoulder.

"Doctor?" she murmured. As he stirred awake, blinking blearily up at her, she continued, "I'm all done in the bathroom. You can have a shower if you like. Get out of this awful blue suit – where'd you find it, eh? Remember what I told you that time? You never, ever purchase clothes without hearing my advice first." She offered him a teasing grin, and though he did not reply, he reached out his hand to cup her cheek gently. And his sad eyes told her, but you weren't there.

She cleared her throat and squeezed his shoulder. "Come on then, up you get." He did as she asked and stood up. "I've left, um, some clothes in a pile on the chair in the bathroom for you to look through; decide what you want to wear for now, 'til we can get you a nicer, browner set of pinstripes, yeah?"

He smiled. "Not gonna force me to wear jeans all the time, then?"

She shrugged. "Not gonna force you to wear anything. But we'll go shopping sometime and I'll probably talk you into buying some jeans just to see what they look like," she grinned.

Something seemed to occur to him, then, because his brows furrowed. "Hang on - "

Rose rolled her eyes. "Before you ask," she interrupted him. "No, the clothes I've left out for you don't belong to another man; I picked up a few things in the clothes section while we were in that little shop at the airport."

He visibly relaxed, his lazy smile reoccurring on his features. "Thank you," he said sincerely.

She shrugged again, telling him it was no problem. A few moments passed where the two of them just stood and stared at each other in silence; neither far apart nor really close, a sort of respectable distance kept between them. Both wondered when exactly in the next minute or so that respectable distance would diminish, as it always did and should and would where the Doctor and Rose were concerned.

Rose coughed awkwardly and gestured behind her. "Right, well...I'm gonna go get some sleep, then. Um...once you've showered, feel free to do whatever. Sleep too, if you need it – how much will you need, now?"

The Doctor's expression told her, how do I know?

She smiled sympathetically. "Well, okay, so...sleep if you can, or grab some food..." She looked over at the kitchen, then shook her head, letting out a nervous, embarrassed laugh. "Actually, don't think there's any food in those cupboards at the moment." A thought struck her suddenly. "Books!" she announced, pointing over at her bookcase, which was crammed full. "I've got lots of books, should keep you busy. Or there's my laptop, you could, I dunno...surf the net or whatever. Or..." She floundered, running out of ideas.

The Doctor got the distinct impression she was trying to tell him something by offering him this list of possible activities. "Rose," he said softly.

She looked back at him instantly, her breath hitching slightly as she felt his fingers brush hers, requesting for her to let him hold her hand. Their hands entwined perfectly, like always, and she felt comforted somewhat. "What I mean is, just don't...don't leave the flat 'til I'm awake, yeah?" she whispered uncertainly. "Sorry, it's just...I don't...I don't..." She let out a shaky breath. "I don't want to wake up to find you gone, not knowing where you are."

He squeezed her hand reassuringly. "I'll be staying right here," he promised her.

"Thanks," she mumbled, wincing internally at her own clinginess. She hastily withdrew her hand from his and started stepping backwards towards her bedroom door. "Okay, then, I'll get some sleep, and...see you soon, yeah?"

He smiled, and when he replied, he ignored the lump in his throat that made his voice crack with emotion, "See you soon, Rose Tyler."

::

She stared up at her ceiling in frustration, unable to sleep despite how tired she really was. Goodness' knows when she'd last had a decent night's sleep, but she couldn't seem to switch off. She was physically and emotionally drained, but she just couldn't fall asleep. Lying silent in bed, she listened out for the sounds of the shower switching off. She wondered what he would actually do, now he'd finished. Would he keep his promise and stay inside the flat, or would his restlessness lead him to venture out into this strange world that was neither his nor hers to take his first careful steps of a new life without her?

She shook her head at herself. He wouldn't leave. He'd keep his promise. She had to stop worrying.

The sound of her bedroom door creaking open made her startle, her heart beating a little faster in her chest.

"Rose?" he whispered.

She turned her head to face him and squinted into the light of the doorway. "Yeah?"

"Did I wake you? Sorry," he murmured, stepping into the room.

"No, it's fine," she assured him, sitting up. "You alright?"

"Yeah." He smiled slowly, seeming a little nervous. "Um. I just wanted to say, you did well with the picking my clothes thing. This t-shirt fits perfectly."

Rose let her gaze flick across the length of his body, admiring him with a small smile. "Boxer shorts fit perfectly too?" she asked, unable to resist returning a bit of banter to their discourse.

"Oh yes," he chuckled, stepping closer to her bed. "Good eye for measurements, you."

She giggled and it felt good, so she giggled again. She couldn't remember the last time she'd giggled.

"That's nice," he said quietly, as he sat down at the bottom of her bed. The light from the sitting room streamed in through the doorway and lit him up for her, so she could see his face. His eyes were shining brightly. She thought perhaps they were tears, that perhaps he was trying not to cry.

"What's nice?" she whispered, wanting to crawl over to him and comfort him with a hug.

"Hearing that giggle of yours again," he answered. "I missed it." He cleared his throat, then. "Do you think..."

"What, Doctor?"

"Would you mind if I, er...slept in here?" He tugged at the duvet nervously. "I mean, if you want some space, then that's, um, that's fine, I'll just – the sofa, that's quite comfy, really - "

"The sofa's not at all comfy," she retorted, seeing through his lie. "Dunno why I bought it. It's horrible. We'll buy a new one." She lifted the duvet up in invitation. "Come here."

The Doctor sighed in relief and got in beside her, laying on his side. A respectable distance was resumed...for all of three seconds, when he couldn't resist any longer and wrapped his arm around her waist, tugging her in against him. She let out a surprised but happy gasp, and then settled her head on his chest, listening to the thump thump of his single heart.

"Rose," he whispered. "I know you think – well, you...you might still think I'm not him, but...please believe me when I say that I am. In all the things that matter, I'm exactly the same, despite the one heart and the one life thing."

"I know," she whispered back. "Memories, thoughts, feelings. The things that make a man. You're the same."

"And you've...you've read his letter, you know that he didn't want to abandon you, that it wasn't - "

"I know, Doctor," she repeated firmly, with all the conviction she felt in her heart. "He's given us a...well. A gift."

"Yeah," he breathed out roughly.

She turned her head slightly to look at him. "One thing I don't get, though. Anger and revenge? In you? I don't see it yet. You're the calmest I've ever known you to be. Is that just 'cos you're tired? Will the anger and whatnot kick in once it's sunk in that you're trapped here?"

He huffed a little at her question. "Firstly, don't call it trapped, that's just...that sounds awful. I'm not trapped here; I'm with you, right where I want to be. Secondly, I don't know, maybe you'll have to fix me again, make me better again, just like you did before – or maybe you've already done that, just by holding my hand again. Thirdly, I'm calm because for once in my long, long life, I'm content to just...stay still. With you. In my arms."

"You're...content? Right now?" she repeated, swallowing thickly.

"At the moment? Yep," he replied, popping the 'p' sleepily. He tenderly stroked her hair, guiding her head back to rest on his chest. "Gonna get to live the rest of my life with you. And seeing as that's the thing I've dreamt about for, well, years, it looks like I got a pretty good deal here, if you ask me."

She smiled into his chest and pressed a soft kiss there. He felt her lips through the thin material of his t-shirt and secretly wished he'd forgone the garment so that he'd've felt her lips against his skin.

"You know what I'm looking forward to?" she said quietly. "Quitting Torchwood."

He was silent for a moment, then said, "You want to quit? Definitely?"

"I want it to be just us again. Me and you, finding our own trouble. Course, they can always ring us if they've cocked things up and need to call the experts in," she grinned. "But I reckon we ought to stay away from them most of the time. Them and their guns and their short lifespans."

"Ah. Yes, that's a good plan," he agreed. He kissed the top of her head. "That's my girl," he whispered.

Rose's heart felt like it contracted painfully at his words. "You see, that's just it," she murmured in sudden realisation.

"What's that?" he asked, a little worried and more awake now, as he felt her tense up in his arms.

"I think...I think..." she tried, but her throat clogged up with emotion and she choked back a sob.

He ran his hand up and down her back, stroking soothingly. "What is it, Rose?"

"I think I forgot that a bit, when I was stuck here on my own," she finally whispered. "I forgot how to be that girl. I want to be her again, Doctor. Carefree and fun and in love." Tears spilled from her eyes in streams down her face, which she then buried in the Doctor's chest, her arm tightening around his middle. He held her tighter, too, wondering what to say to comfort her. "Instead of this, this," she continued, "This person I've become who forgets to eat, forgets to sleep, does paperwork instead of going out, buys uncomfortable leather sofas that she doesn't even like just 'cos she thinks it'll be more practical to clean! I mean, who's that? That's not me, that's not...that's not the Rose you fell in love with."

He nuzzled her hair softly, whispering, "Rose - tomorrow, we'll go get chips."

Rose sniffed, and stopped crying. "Hmm?"

He continued, tears in his eyes but that contented smile on his face, "Then we'll wander, explore, and laugh in the sun. Holding hands. Just like we used to. And then we'll rediscover who we are." He paused, and kissed the top of her head again. "Together."

"Yeah?" she whispered, lifting her head.

The Doctor leant forward and brushed her lips lightly with his own before pulling back and nodding. "Yes. Because you know what? You are still that girl. But you are so much more, too. You're as brave and beautiful as you've always been, but you've been through so much. Already I can see how much you've matured, and those changes, Rose - they aren't necessarily a bad thing. Although, I do strongly oppose the fact that you forget to eat and sleep; that must be rectified. As for the paperwork...well, if you're not going to work for them any more, that's that solved. Anyway, the point is, you are the same but different, and I -"

"You?" she prompted, her lips twitching in amusement as he hesitated.

"I still, you know."

"Still what?" she said, grinning now.

He cleared his throat. "You know," he insisted.

"This about what you said at the beach, then?"

"Well, yes. But also..."

"Also what?"

He lifted his arm from around her so that he could tug on his ear uncomfortably. "I still, um."

"Still what, Doctor?"

He scowled at her playfully because he was so very aware that she was trying not to laugh at him. He dropped his arm back around her with a sigh, and tugged her closer. "I still want to be with you."

"Be with me? Or be with me?"

He rolled his eyes. "A bit of both."

"Just a bit?" she queried, raising an eyebrow.

"Stop it."

"Stop what?" she laughed.

"You know I'm not good at this."

"What? Talking about...making love?"

"Yes."

"That's okay. Plenty of time for you to get used to it."

"Is that so," he smirked.

"Haven't you heard? We're stuck here now. Nothing to do but travel and run and dance."

"Well, then. Tomorrow, we'd best get started."

"Well maybe one step at a time, yeah?"

"Are you saying you don't want to run and dance with me, Rose Tyler?"

"I'm saying that maybe we should take things slow. I mean, where's the rush?"

He gave a half-shrug. "No rush."

"Or can't your new human hormones handle it?"

"They can handle it perfectly well, thank you." He paused. "Or at else they will be able to, once I've learnt how to control them. Which, admittedly, might take a bit of time."

She smiled sympathetically. "I just think that seeing as we've been apart so long, we'll need to adjust. And, well, you're gonna have to acclimatise to your new surroundings and stuff."

"Pretty sure that's not how the customary reunion is supposed to go, you know," he said cheekily.

"Oh and you've done extensive research into those have you?" she smirked back.

"Well, not personally, no. Well, apart from the times we were parted before, but those were really very insignificant periods of time apart compared with our most recent stint of not being in the same universe as each other and everything. But when two people have been apart for so long on the telly - "

"On the telly most people don't have to deal with the emotionally traumatising (though briefly inspiring) experience of watching their...significant other...divide into two."

"That's...okay, fair enough. But, point of objection: I didn't divide into two. I'm still a whole person, you know. There's just...another whole person who is also me."

"Yeah I know."

"Say, hypothetically speaking, there was a situation like this on the telly. How long do you suppose it would take the couple in question to patch themselves back up after the, er, traumatic experience, and be emotionally ready to - well."

"Doctor, for someone who doesn't find this matter easy to talk about, you're being very persistent with this line of questioning."

"Yes, well, that's at least partly your fault. I wasn't even thinking about that, much, until you started stroking my back."

Her hand abruptly stilled when she realised. "Was I stroking your back?"

"Yes."

"Since when?"

"Since I was very complimentary about you."

"Oh."

"It's okay, you didn't have to stop."

Rose giggled and lowered her hand to pat his bum once or twice. "Night, Doctor," she grinned, and burrowed herself into his arms.

The Doctor smiled, and closed his eyes. "Nighty-night, Rose Tyler."