Those Occasional Insecurities
"So," murmured the Doctor, looking uncharacteristically shy. He cleared his throat, so she waited patiently for him to continue, but he said nothing further, only sent her a furtive glance. His hands were busy twisting and turning things on the console.
Rose arched an eyebrow at him curiously. "Are you alright, Doctor?"
"Yeah," he replied instantly. He shrugged a shoulder, the leather sleeve crinkling as he did so. "I just..." His voice was gruff so he cleared his throat again. "I was just wondering..."
"Wondering what?" she prompted, starting to get a bit impatient.
"Jack," he said slowly, "How are you and he getting along, then?"
She smiled. "Oh, he's fantastic! I'm glad you gave him a chance. I think he's really learnt from what happened, you know? Like, he seems a better person now. I know it's only been a month or so, but still, he's – why are you looking at me like that?"
"Like what?" he retorted, folding his arms.
"Like...I dunno, all...disapproving. I thought you liked him now. You two seemed to be getting along great!"
"Yeah, he's alright," he shrugged. "I s'pose I've warmed up to him, anyway."
"And I bet you're glad to have someone around who actually understands half the things you say," Rose pointed out cheerily, but the Doctor could tell there was a hint of insecurity hidden in her tone.
"I s'pose," he said carefully. He unfolded his arms and came and sat beside her. He bumped his shoulder with hers. "Don't do that, though."
"What?" she replied, still smiling.
"Think you're, I dunno, less significant or something just because you haven't experienced years travelling the universe. And don't pretend that you're okay with thinking that."
"I don't know what you - "
"Rose," he murmured, his hand inching towards hers of its own accord. He didn't take it, though, just sort of hovered nearby. "The other day you joked with me that you thought you're totally out of your depth. In case I didn't make it clear in my reply, you aren't, Rose."
She let out a long breath. "I guess I have felt even more unintelligent than usual these last few days, listening to you two talking technical about the TARDIS and the history of the planet Veerux and stuff. But that's, I mean, it's to be expected. I didn't even do my A-Levels, so - "
"Stop it," he said gently. "More to being clever than A-Levels. Thought we proved that with your Adam's little jaunt."
"He wasn't my Adam," she sighed, rolling her eyes.
"Besides," the Doctor continued, ignoring her interruption. "I didn't pass my exams, either. I'm only the cleverest being in the universe because I'm one of the oldest beings in the universe."
Her eyes widened. "You didn't pass your exams?"
"I was rubbish at school, me. Too excited about getting out and adventuring," he grinned. "Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, you're not unintelligent at all. Maybe you didn't do your A-Levels...so what? You could've done. It was circumstances, not lack of intelligence, which diverted your path. And you should give yourself more credit, Rose, because you are really smart. As Hermione would say, there are more important things than books and cleverness – friendship, bravery..."
She giggled. "You're a Harry Potter fan?"
He snorted. "Of course I am. Isn't everyone?"
She grinned at him and then winced theatrically. "You're gonna hate me for this, but I've never actually read them."
"Never read – oh dear, Rose Tyler," he replied, shaking his head in bafflement. "We'll have to rectify that as soon as. You're missing out."
"Maybe we could read them together," she suggested.
He beamed at her, that grin of his that never failed to make her feel a little warm inside. "That's a fantastic idea!"
She smiled back, but then murmured, "You do realise that it doesn't help my self-esteem much when you go around calling me a 'stupid ape?'"
His grin dropped off his face and he looked very alarmed. "Rose, I didn't mean it. I didn't."
"Still said it though." She raised her eyebrows. "Repeatedly."
"I'm sorry," he said sincerely.
Rose blinked at him in astonishment. "Oh. Thanks."
"What, think I can't give an earnest apology?" he grunted.
"No, I just..." She shook her head, dismissing the thought. "Never mind."
He felt her hand enclose over his and looked down, turning his palm over so that she would entwine their fingers like she often did. Usually she grounded him by doing so, kept him calm. Occasionally, though, in the quiet moments like this, his pulse would quicken and he'd feel the overwhelming sense of profound awe for her, for this young woman who held his hand, a human who was such an important part of his life.
"So," he murmured once more. "Returning to my original line of questioning..." He had to ask her. He just had to. Had to make sure. "Jack hasn't been bothering you or anything?"
"No, course not. Why?"
"No reason, I was just... I thought maybe, over time, he'd – wait. Does that mean that he hasn't prepositioned you or that he did and you don't mind?" Then the colour drained from his face. "Or that you've already been...?"
"You experiencing Captain envy again?" She smiled slowly, that smile with the tongue and the corner of her mouth and she really had to stop doing that, it was driving him mental in all the best possible ways, which was subsequently very bad indeed because she shouldn't. She shouldn't make him feel this way. It was...impossible. Impossible for him to feel like this even in the first place, but more so, impossible for him to ever act upon it, ever give her what she wanted and deserved. He couldn't help but feel jealous of the Captain, but he certainly wouldn't stand in their way if he could make her happy.
"No, no, just checking you're alright, that's all."
"I'm fine," she assured him. "And you, mister, have nothing to worry about." She used her free hand to poke him in the chest.
"Right, right, none of my business, I know," he muttered, feeling a little hurt by her words. She rolled her eyes, adding insult to injury. "What?" he scoffed.
"That wasn't what I meant, you daft Time Lord," she murmured.
"Oh," he replied, just as quietly. Dare he even hope?
She flattened her palm against his chest, right in the middle, her fingertips feeling the double beat beneath them. "Doctor - "
She was untimely interrupted by Jack entering the console room in a daring and dramatic way, as usual; this time, it was via jet-powered roller skates.
"What the hell?" Rose said, jumping up in surprise. She placed her hands over her ears to try and dull the thundering sound of the jets.
"These are AWESOME!" Jack bellowed over the noise.
The Doctor rolled his eyes and stood up, ready to exert his somewhat wrathful exasperation. "Jack, take those off before you damage my ship, or worse! You can't steer yourself in those things all that well and I won't have you running Rose over!"
As Rose watched the scene unfold, she began to laugh. The Doctor glanced over at her, and upon seeing her expression and hearing her snorting giggles, he felt the compulsion to laugh with her. She met his gaze as her laughter faded into a soft smile.
Jack finally managed to figure out how to switch off the jet-powered roller skates, and sank to the floor in exhilarated exhaustion. "Those things are knackering, but a hell of a lot of fun." He frowned, though, when he realised that his comment had gone largely ignored. His frown soon vanished, however, when he subsequently realised why his comment had gone uncommented on. The look those two were sharing made him grin in delight. He'd give them some privacy if he were able to move; he hated to break their moment, but really, there was only one way out of this position, and it required additional manpower.
He cleared his throat. "Sorry to interrupt you two staring at each other, but would you mind helping me up and out of these things?"
The Doctor and Rose both jumped slightly at his question and turned to face him. "We weren't staring at each other," the Doctor grumbled, at the same time as Rose muttered, "Why do you have to make everything a thing?"
"Looked like staring to me. And it isn't me who makes everything a 'thing,' it's you two being a 'thing' that makes everything a 'thing.'"
"We're not a 'thing,'" Rose huffed.
"We're just – us. The Doctor and Rose. Friends."
"Rose and the Doctor," she corrected teasingly. "And that's best friends."
The Doctor grinned. "Well that's a bit fantastic."
Jack glanced between them, back and forth, a few times. He then snorted loudly and purposefully. "Shall I tell you what's more fantastic? Sex. You should have it. But first, can you please help me stand up?"
The Doctor shook his head, shaking away the less-than-pure thoughts that Jack's comments, combined with the way Rose was, well, Rose, had instigated. They both stepped over to Jack and placed a hand under each of his shoulders. "Ready? One, two, three, heave!"
"I resent the implication that I am heavy," Jack muttered.
Rose squeezed his bicep playfully once they'd gotten him to his feet. "With all that muscle? Course you are."
Jack smiled dazzlingly. "Well, I guess there is that."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. Rose caught him doing so, and sighed faux-exasperatedly before placating him. "Doctor, I'm sure you have lots of muscle as well." She smiled, tongue-twixt-teeth, as she reached over and poked his arm, too.
"Quite right," the Doctor replied.
It took a while, but eventually Jack was free of his jet-powered roller skates. The three of them settled in the kitchen for a cup of tea.
Jack pretended not to notice the way the Doctor's hand crept over to Rose's beneath the table, or the way their fingers entwined tightly, or the way they kept sharing these little looks between them, little heated looks that held so much promise and speculation and unbidden joy in one another's presence. He decided they deserved some privacy, now that he suspected they were at least heading in the right direction.
The following day, however, was the unprecedented beginning of the end, which brought a halt to that movement in the right direction quite spectacularly. The halted movement would, thus, not be restarted for quite some time, when the Doctor was, for all intents and purposes, quite another man.