Keeping Up With the Joneses

"Doctor, we've arrived!" Rose called down the corridor. She opened the TARDIS doors and grinned at the state of Martha and Mickey's flat. "Oh my god, it's like a bomb site!" she laughed, staying right in the doorway of the TARDIS as opposed to attempting to navigate past the multitude of toys littering the floor of her friends' living room.

Martha dashed out from the kitchen, then, cradling her two week old daughter to her as she smiled tiredly at Rose. "You came," she sighed happily.

Rose smiled back but bit her lip worriedly. "And a little late, it seems. Sorry, that's actually my fault this time. Still learning," she replied sheepishly.

"That's alright," Martha assured her. "Wouldn't've wanted you to see me right after, anyway – I looked a right mess!"

"Bet you didn't," Rose disagreed, smiling broadly. "Bet it was wonderful."

"And painful, and horrifying, and she nearly broke my hand, Rose!" announced Mickey, as he came into the living room, too. "But you're right. It was also wonderful." He smiled proudly at his wife and daughter, slinging his arm around Martha's shoulders.

"I'm so pleased for you," Rose said earnestly. "Why don't you come into the TARDIS for a bit? I've got cake and tea and biscuits ready in the galley. Figured we'd best play host seeing as you've got your hands full with baby," she smiled.

"Thanks, that'll be nice," nodded Martha. She tilted her head up to face Mickey. "Grab Chloe's bag, yeah?"

He pressed a kiss to her forehead and murmured, "Mmhmm, you go in, I'll just be a sec."

"Chloe? That's a lovely name," Rose said, as she ushered Martha and baby into the console room.

"Thank you," Martha replied. "We thought it suited her."

"Oooh, let's have a cuddle?" asked Rose, peering at the cute little bundle in Martha's arms.

Martha nodded and carefully handed Chloe to Rose. "That's it, hold her head like that, perfect," she murmured protectively.

Rose beamed down at the baby in her arms. "Oh, aren't you just the most adorable thing I've ever seen?" she cooed, rocking her back and forth gently.

"Sorry I was just fixing the - " began the Doctor, as he stepped into the console room; he subsequently stopped dead in his tracks as he took in the sight in front of him.

Rose and Martha whirled around to face him.

"Hi Doctor," greeted Martha.

"This is Chloe," Rose murmured, not taking her eyes off the baby as she walked slowly over to him. "Isn't she gorgeous?"

The Doctor stared at them both without saying anything, his eyes wide and his lips slightly parted.

At his silence, Rose glanced up at him. "You alright?"

He opened and closed his mouth a few times, but said nothing. The TARDIS doors opened and in came Mickey, hauling a baby carrier and changing bag along with him. He came over to stand by Martha, who whispered, "The Doctor's gone speechless." Mickey raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Doctor?" Rose prompted, nudging her foot against his.

He cleared his throat, then, and mumbled, "Yes, lovely, wonderful – tea, anyone?" before leading the way to the galley.

Rose frowned in bemusement, shrugged at her friends, and then they followed him.

Inside the galley, Rose sat down at the table and refused to relinquish hold of Chloe just yet. The Doctor now seemed determined not to look at her for some reason, chatting away at Martha and Mickey as he made the tea and sat down with them, barely given Rose a cursory glance as he handed her mug to her.

The Doctor was the model of curiosity, asking their friends all about the past two weeks, apologising for missing the actual day, blaming Rose's poor driving –

"Oi, it's you – the world's worst driver – who I'm learning from, remember," Rose interrupted, forcing him to acknowledge her for the first time in the last five minutes.

He pulled a face at her and then chuckled when she pulled one right back. Then the baby in her arms decided she was hungry and started crying, and Rose started shh-ing and cooing, and the Doctor quickly stared at the table instead of them.

Rose got up and carefully handed Chloe back to Martha, who mumbled something about needing to feed her and exited the room for some privacy. Before she went, though, she said to Rose that she could come with her if she wanted, and an eager and ever-inquisitive Rose took her up on her offer, oddly fascinated by the prospect.

Therefore, the Doctor and Mickey sat alone at the table. They had known each other for so long that Mickey was confused by the suddenly tense atmosphere. He couldn't remember the last time there had been an awkward silence between him and the Doctor; must've been a good decade or so ago. In a weird way, they'd become – well, friends. Not just because of Rose and Martha, but friends in themselves – good mates. Why the Doctor was acting so strangely was a mystery to him.

"You alright, Doctor?" Mickey asked.

The Doctor looked at him and nodded far too quickly. "Yeah, fine, yeah."

"Not you're not. What is it? Is it something about Chloe?"

The Time Lord shifted in his seat, evidently uncomfortable with the line of questioning.

"Doctor, do you know something? Have you like, seen into her future, or - "

Despite his sullen mood, the Doctor started to chuckle. "No, no, no, nothing like that. It's not about – it's not about Chloe. It's just, it's more about – about..." he trailed off, embarrassed. Tugging his ear, he lowered his voice and leant over the table to confide, "It's actually more about Rose."

"What about her?" Mickey asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Well. For a while, now – over the last year or so..." He paused and swallowed hard. "Well, Rose has been quite...I dunno, it seems...well." The Doctor shook his head and restarted. "There have been several situations recently where Rose has acted sort of...motherly. She took care of this little orphaned girl we met in some English village in nineteen-ninety-something-or-other last year - whilst we were stranded there after the TARDIS got sick - until her Aunt arrived to look after her. And there were these children that we met on an adventure on Saarandeling, who'd been separated from their parents in a conflict – she was, oh she was brilliant, looking after them until we could reunite the family. And they weren't even human! She just – she took to it, so quickly, that kind of...nurturing thing. Other things, too - last month, for instance, when we visited Sarah Jane and the two of them chatted about Sarah's kids growing up and all that and – and Rose got this look on her face, sort of wistful, but she shook it off as soon as she realised I was watching her, and..." The Doctor sighed, coming to a stop. He looked at Mickey seriously, who was watching him ramble in contemplation. "What?"

Mickey shrugged. "Could be that she's just being her normal compassionate self, you know. She's never wanted kids. At least, when we were together, she told me she never wanted them."

The Doctor bit his bottom lip thoughtfully. "But things change, Mickey. She's older, now. Maybe..." he trailed off again.

"Doesn't exactly fit with your lifestyle, though, does it?" Mickey pointed out, grabbing a biscuit from the tin. His brow furrowed thoughtfully as he chewed. "Look, Rose might like kids a bit more than she used to when she was younger, but it don't necessarily mean that she wants one of her own."

The Doctor nodded slowly, before murmuring, "Oh."

Mickey raised his eyebrows. "'Oh?' What does that mean? 'Oh?'"

The Time Lord bristled. "It means 'oh.' Nothing. Just, 'oh.' Like, 'okay.' What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Because I've just realised something."

"What?"

"Rose isn't the broody one; you are."

The Doctor sat up straight in alarm. "No I'm not!" he retorted hotly.

Mickey chuckled. "Yeah, you are."

"I'm not! Like you said. Children – they aren't, you know, suitable. In my line of work." He sniffed pointedly. "This...lifestyle, as you put it, isn't conducive to raising children. I know that. Besides, I'd be...I'd be a terrible father. Again. And – and Rose, she'd – well, I secretly suspect she'd be brilliant, actually, at, you know, being a mum, but neither of us would want to give up the TARDIS and the – the running, not for something so...domestic."

Mickey tried not to grin too widely. "Doctor, you do realise that as you said all of that, you sounded so reluctant that anyone listening in would've thought that you were being forced to say the words due to having a gun pointed at your head or something."

"Mickey," he said disapprovingly at his friend's conclusion. Then he gasped. "Bugger, she'd better not be eavesdropping," he muttered, jumping up and poking his head around the galley doorframe. Luckily, Rose didn't seem to be anywhere in sight. He sat back down with a relieved sigh. "Listen, Mickey, I'm really not interested in any of that, it's just – with all these babies and kids springing up in our lives recently I thought that maybe she was getting ideas. And I worry that, if she is, she's thinking that it'd be impossible for us to have a family together, so she's thinking of leaving to have one with someone else. That's all. That's...that's all."

Mickey looked doubtful. "You were struck speechless, earlier. When you saw Rose holding Chloe."

"Weeelll," the Doctor drawled, trying to shrug it off, "Babies are fascinating, wondrous things. Doesn't mean I want one. Especially seeing as they are also demanding, time-consuming, smelly, noisy and boring."

Mickey shook his head. "You can't convince me. You saw them and you thought how beautiful and natural she looked holding a baby and you thought, you and her could have that."

The Doctor opened his mouth to voice further denials, but Mickey arched an eyebrow knowingly, so he closed his mouth again and swallowed hard, before muttering a quiet, frustrated, "Oh bollocks."

"Hey, no language like that around such young ears," Rose chided playfully as she entered the galley again, followed by Martha and Chloe.

As she passed the Doctor, Rose ruffled his hair affectionately, before sitting down next to him. Realising how tense he looked, she placed her hand on his thigh comfortingly, stroking her thumb against the fabric of his suit trousers, and murmured, "What's wrong?"

He turned his head to regard her carefully. "Rose."

"Yeah?" she smiled.

There was a long pause wherein they just stared at each other, and Mickey and Martha shared an amused glance.

"Doctor?" Rose prompted.

He placed his hand over hers and squeezed gently, before clearing his throat to murmur, "It's okay, it – it can wait. I'll tell you later."

"Alright," she nodded, her eyebrows drawing together for a moment. Raising his hand, his fingertip traced the small wrinkle in her forehead that her confused and somewhat anxious expression had produced, then dropped his hand to her cheek, cupping it gently.

"Nothing to worry about, Rose," he whispered.

But that only made her worry even more. Still, out loud, she accepted his words, "Okay."

And their day went on.