He grabbed her hand from where it was resting casually on her thigh. He needed to hold onto her; she grounded him, always had. "Rose, this is all very unusual, I know."
"Unusual? For you or for us?"
"Both. I mean, I've never had to deal with this spontaneous and unyielding event before, and you've certainly never had to see me like this, so...out of control."
"You don't give yourself enough credit," she told him, smiling warmly. "You're still perfectly in control, you know. Sure, you want sex. But so what? It's not like you've gone insane with desire or whatever. You're not randomly humping any person you..." she trailed off, realising belatedly that they were alone on the TARDIS. She was, effectively, the only person he could be randomly humping at this moment in time. She tried to shake the thought from her mind.
"Rose, I'd never force you into anything," he filled in the silence determinedly. "Just because I..."
"I know you wouldn't," she interrupted quickly. "I just meant, you're not as out of control as you think. Yeah, it feels weird for you because you usually have to initiate feelings like this on purpose, but...is it so bad? Seeing how the other half lives, so to speak?" she smiled.
He thought about that for a moment. "Rose, do you?"
"Do I what?"
He scratched the back of his neck with his free hand. "Do you get these spontaneous...feelings, occasionally?"
"Course I do," she answered calmly, sensing her face was heating up but determined to make him feel relaxed about this. Determined to make herself feel relaxed about it. She'd never had such a long and frank conversation on the topic of sex before, not even that time when she'd quizzed Jack about all things sexual. But the Doctor was her friend and he needed help, and she'd been fine with talking about this with him up until now. She just had to get over the slight embarrassment she felt now the conversation had turned on her. For both their sakes. Besides, it was kind of liberating, being so open about the often tabooed-in-space-and-time topic.
He nodded, trying not to let his mind flit back to what it had stopped him still over, in the corridor, when she'd mentioned the – the self-pleasure, and he'd said that for humans it was natural and ohhhkay now he was thinking of it again: her, doing what was natural. Blimey. He looked down at himself, wondering if this would ever go away. Knowing that with the amalgam of thoughts currently running through his mind, it was unlikely. Unless. Unless he did what she'd suggested. He flushed at the thought.
He decided to speak in order to distract himself. "So...you. Obviously, I mean, you..." No, no, no this was no good, this wasn't distracting him at all, he couldn't - wouldn't - ask her about this, nope, nope, no sir, he couldn't -
"Yeah," she mumbled her answer. "Yeah, obviously I...like you said. For humans, it's natural."
Okay so she was talking about it, right, well, it didn't count then did it - it wasn't his fault if it was her talking about it, so it also wasn't his fault if he continued to think about it, because really it was all completely her fault and well –
"Doctor, earlier, you seemed to have an epiphany," she said carefully. "What was it? What was it you thought of that suddenly made sense? What caused all this to begin with?"
"I – I can't, Rose," he whispered.
"Look, it's just me, yeah? You don't have to be embarrassed. Anything you say can stay within this library, alright? Just you and me."
"That's not helping," he muttered under his breath. He groaned loudly in frustration and tilted his head back, closing his eyes. "You might not like it," he admitted.
Rose's heart sank as she contemplated that possibility. "Oh," she murmured, deflated. It was a person, then. Someone who wasn't her. Right. Okay. Well, she was his friend. She could deal with that. Sure, she'd hoped...but at the end of the day, they were just friends. Best friends. Only ever could be. "Well, tell me anyway," she continued, steeling herself against the inevitable. She could deal with this, she told herself. The niggling voice in her head didn't stop, though; the niggling little reminder that told her he'd break her heart if he said a certain name.
He opened his eyes and looked at her desperately. "You really want me to?"
"Yeah." But please don't say her name, she thought to herself, unable not to. Please let this not be about her. Anyone, anyone, but her.
"Okay," he exhaled roughly. He gave her hand a quick squeeze then started to explain. "You asked me what I was thinking about, when," he nodded towards his crotch. "This unfortunate thing happened."
"Yes." She swallowed hard. Don't say Reinette, don't let it be Reinette, please not her.
"Right. Well, you see, I was simply thinking about – about - " he hesitated.
"Yeah?" she prompted.
"Certain...feelings," he continued, his voice going up an octave in his reluctance to admit to this. "Feelings that I have about – about a certain...person."
Rose's heart thumped so hard in her chest that she seriously hoped he could not hear it. "Okay, so...have you thought about these feelings before?"
"Sort of, but I haven't had this spontaneous reaction. I think, maybe, it was because it was the first time I kind of admitted something to myself, rather than trying to just explain it away."
"I see. Okay. So...?"
"I, um. Blimey this is difficult. Okay." He let out a long breath then started again. "Right. You know what we were saying, about the repression of attraction?"
"Right, well, I'd been doing that for a while. Until recently."
"Repressing an attraction?" she repeated, just to be sure. Her words nearly lodged in her throat. Jesus, why did she feel so scared? Jealousy, she supposed. But seriously, it wasn't as though she was in a life or death situation here. Yeah, her heart could break by the end of the evening, but, well, hearts could heal. Or so people said, anyway. And she wasn't exactly gonna let her jealousy come between them. She never had before. Besides, it wasn't like he owed her anything in a romantic sense - as far as he was concerned they were best mates, and that was all. Right?
"And then you stopped repressing it?"
"Yes, because, like I said earlier, I realised that it was ridiculous to try and pretend it wasn't there. What I could pretend wasn't there, however, was something...deeper. Because you see, I thought that if I allowed myself to acknowledge the attraction, then I wouldn't have to acknowledge the deeper thing for what it was, because I could just explain it away as a simple fascination, a – a – fixation or a, I don't know, what do you humans call it? A crush, based on the attraction that I felt."
"A...crush," Rose echoed. "Right, yeah, okay, I'm with you so far."
"Except it isn't just a crush, and this evening was the first time I properly allowed myself to actually think the words."
"The words, 'this isn't just a crush?'" she asked.
"No, the words, 'I'm actually in love with her,'" he corrected, then went very still.
Rose's eyes widened. "You're...you're in love?" The Doctor didn't respond; he appeared to be frozen and speechless after his previous words had left his mouth. Rose continued speaking, to fill the uncomfortable silence. "Okay, and so...and so you saying that, in your head or to yourself or whatever, that...triggered this? What, because being in love transcends the need for you to flip your turn-on switch?"
The Doctor swallowed thickly, finally mobilising again. "Um. Well, I s'pose...it sounds silly, doesn't it, but in a way, I s'pose it sort of makes sense. I mean, Time Lords were said to not have the capacity for impulsive, unprompted sexual desire, but then, it was also said that they couldn't fall in love. Which, well, is evidently not the case. So perhaps me accepting the fact that the latter has happened in spite of everything I was brought up to think, enabled me to let go of the need to control that aspect of my being too. And it wasn't like it was a really quick redirection of my blood flow – I was sort of pondering over the matter for a few minutes, and it was only then that I realised I'd, er, reacted. So anyway, letting go of that need to control my emotions and my reactions to certain thoughts – although a rather nice feeling, actually, if I'm completely honest - is somewhat problematic."
"Because she isn't here with you?" Rose guessed, feeling like a lump of coal was settling in her chest, making it a tad difficult for her to breathe properly.
"What? Who isn't here with me?" he asked, confused.
"The person you're in love with," she clarified.
"Oh." She didn't get it yet. Right. Okay.
Rose hurried on, "So, are you gonna, you know. Tell her? Or just, keep this to yourself and do what I suggested earlier, and sort that out yourself?" She nodded towards his lap again.
He half-smiled. "What do you suppose she'd want me to do?" he asked softly.
She held her breath for a moment, and pretended that one didn't hurt like a punch to the stomach. Slowly, she released it, and offered her support, "Well, I think you ought to tell her. Everyone deserves to know when someone's in love with them, right?"
His smile grew. "Oh, you're so..."
He sighed wistfully. "Nothing." Then he shook his head. "No, wait. Yes. Everything."
"What?" she repeated.
"You're everything. I mean, figuratively speaking. Well, no – I mean – oh, I'm rubbish at this. But people say that, don't they? They say, 'Person A, oh, she means everything to me' – people say that, right? When they – when they love someone?"
Rose nodded. "Yeah, I s'pose."
"Well there you go then."
She squinted at him, not understanding.
"Oh," he realised. "You don't – you still don't get it?"
He laughed nervously. "Oh blimey. Okay. So now I'm going to either make an even bigger fool of myself or make you irrevocably happy; currently, I can't tell which, because you, Rose Tyler, are a closed book when it comes to this particular emotion."
"Doctor, what are you going on about now?"
"The same thing I've been going on about all evening," he retorted. He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, then tugged on an ear for good measure, blushing as he spoke, "Rose, this, um, this is for you."
He rolled his eyes. "Are you completely daft or are you just doing this in some weird attempt to not hurt my feelings?"
"The former, I think, 'cos I'm now really lost."
"Rose, who, exactly, do you think I could possibly be attracted to in this universe?"
"Well, lots of people, I should imagine," she muttered, totally not pleased with this question.
He raised his eyebrows. "Oh, you think that, do you? Well. Not true, but whatever. Alright then, let me narrow it down for you: who, specifically, do you think I could possibly be attracted to on the TARDIS?" She blinked at him. He sighed and specified further, "In this very room? Right now? Sitting in front of me?"
"Well, yeah," Rose said slowly. "I mean, from your reaction in the corridor earlier I figured you think I'm kind of...acceptable, or whatever, but that's just 'cos I'm here and you're turned at the moment, right?"
"What?" He let go of her hand to run both of his through his hair in frustration. "Rose," he said impatiently. "Have we or have we not been flirting since the first day you stepped aboard the TARDIS?"
"We have?" She considered that a moment. "Well...yeah. Yeah, I s'pose we have."
He nodded in agreement. "Yes, we have. Okay, so, next question. Have I or have I not ever looked at you a certain way prior to the thing in the corridor earlier on?"
Rose's lips twitched. "What, you're saying that I've not just been projecting?"
"Yeah, you know, just – wish-fulfilment. Seeing what I want to see, sort of thing?"
"So you wanted me to be looking at you in the I-fancy-you-very-much sort of way?"
"Well, yeah," she admitted, twiddling her earring shyly.
He gave a small giggle of delight. "Well, then. That's handy."
"Yeah?" she said, her smile widening at his obvious enthusiasm.
Rose glanced down, finally letting herself process his words. "So...wait. Hold on a sec. You're in love with me?"
"Yeah," he breathed out roughly.
"And acknowledging that love basically, when all is said and done, caused that?" she whispered, once again nodding towards the source of this entire conversation.
"Yes," he whispered in reply.
"Oh my god."
"You totally didn't need to go through this rigmarole of a conversation, Doctor," she murmured breathlessly, meeting his gaze. "All you had to do was tell me this earlier, and..."
"And...?" he prompted.
She swallowed hard. "And we could've solved your problem already."
He kept his gaze locked on hers. "Or amplified it."
"Well, who knows, maybe once I've had a sample I simply won't ever be able to stop," he smiled slowly, sheepishly, making her giggle.
"For a moment there, I really suspected that I was gonna get my heart broken tonight," she murmured.
His eyes widened. "What, you seriously thought that after all we've been through, after all this time with you, after doing the impossible with you, I could really fall for someone else?" She shrugged, and he shook his head. "No, it's...it's always been you, Rose. Always." He leant closer, holding her gaze, hoping she believed him. "Even when you might've had reason to doubt it, I..."
Rose smiled in relief. "Okay."
"Yes." Then her smile turned a bit naughtier. He kind of loved it. "So, would you still like me to teach you how to - "
"Hold that thought for later," he murmured, interrupting her. "First, I'd rather something else."
"So you're ready to let go then?" she asked, leaning towards him. "Let go of all your control and just...give in to instinct?"
He chuckled. "Yes," he answered confidently. "Yes, I suppose I am."
"Okay then," she whispered, her lips hovering over his. "Let go."
He did, but not in the way she'd expected. She'd expected him to seize her lips in a fiery passion what with his current state of arousal, but he gave her the sweetest, most tender kiss she'd ever had, slowly easing her backwards on the sofa. He braced himself above her on his elbows, giving her a lazy smile as he pulled his mouth away from hers. "I have a confession," he whispered. "Because, well, I don't want to lie to you."
"Tell me," she murmured back, her expression open.
"I don't need you to show me how to, uh...you know."
He was blushing, and she found it adorable. "So...are you saying that you do do that?"
"I have done, once or twice, or maybe, er, a bit more than that, these past few months. I knew what I was capable of feeling, should I act on my attraction to you, so I stupidly thought that if I just flicked the switch and imagined and...well. I thought it'd get it out of my system." He leant forwards and touched his nose to hers playfully, before confiding, "It didn't."
"I'm glad," she beamed. Her hands slid beneath his jacket so that she could get a firm grip on his shirt, and then she pulled him closer. "Let's potentially amplify this problem of yours, Doctor."
"Yes, let's," he agreed with a chuckle, and touched his mouth to hers once more.