A/N: Ten/Rose and Four/Rose, and I'll explain how that works in my A/N at the bottom in case it escapes you. But time-wise this is anytime in between New Earth and Army of Ghosts. Even if you haven't seen any old Who with Four (as portrayed by the lovely Tom Baker), you can still read through and get something out of it…at least that's what I've been told. Please enjoy! It has been developed for your liking...
"You almost ready, Rose?" The Doctor called from around the corner.
"Almost," she called back from the wardrobe.
He was muttering to himself and fiddling with his bow tie when she emerged. He was rendered speechless. Literally. In an emerald green ball gown, she was stunning. He knew he was gaping like an idiot, but he couldn't seem to care as his eyes traversed her from head to toe and back to her pleased smile. "You look-. You look-." He couldn't seem to find the right words.
"Thanks," she grinned knowingly and tightened his tie before taking his hand and leading him out to the masquerade.
The party was in full swing when they stepped out of the TARDIS. The Doctor's brow furrowed as he stared around at their surroundings. "Hmm," he frowned. "There's something frighteningly familiar about this place."
Rose only half heard, as she began to sway back and forth with the orchestra music, entranced by the vision of graceful dancers in bright, beautiful costumes.
"It's like I've been here before," the Doctor spoke in a concerned tone. "But it's like I can't…quite…place it."
She patted his chest. "If you have happened to have been here before, we'll know soon enough." She turned and stalked thorough the doors with a sly grin.
The Doctor began fiddling with his tie, managing to loosen it once again. "What's that supposed to mean?" He started after her. "Rose," he called. "Is that a reference to my accidental inability to go anywhere without disaster following close behind?"
Rose smile as she waited for him to catch up. Yes, she had been referencing that, but he'd had it coming for 900 years now and counting.
He appeared behind her. She felt his breath on the back of her neck. "Care to dance?" And his low voice warmed her insides.
"Oh, yes," she breathed.
They took to the floor hand in hand. It wasn't long before her head was resting against his chest. She sighed contentedly. Might as well enjoy the moment while it lasted. Moments like these were hard to come by and always short lived for them what with the type of life they led. The song ended, confirming her thoughts.
"Oh, nibbles!" The Doctor exclaimed suddenly. He pointed. "Want some?"
She grinned and shook her head.
"Don't know why I feel I've been here before," he muttered as he walked away.
She swayed from side to side as she waited at the edge of the floor for him to return. As she did so, she contemplated him, this new new Doctor. It hadn't been long since he'd changed his face, but already he'd managed to leave dents in her heart. First Sarah Jane, then the French aristocrat, and the absolute assurance she heard in his voice when he told her it couldn't last. This new Doctor…she liked him. He really wasn't that different after all, but… Sometimes she found herself comparing the Before and After. Before, he hardly ever left her side. She'd always been the one wandering off. Now… It pained her to think of the all the ways in which he went swanning off. She knew she should be glad. Half of it was due to his confidence in her. He believed so deeply in her that he knew she could take care of herself. But another part… He was missing whatever it was he'd had before that had stopped her dancing with Jack. Oh, he still danced. But it hadn't been the same since.
She sighed deeply. Knowing him and the trouble he could get into, he'd be awhile. Her eyes wandered to the stairs that curled up to a dark balcony overhead. She wandered over and ascended. She could wait for him there. She skirted the large, plush arm chair and leaned on her elbows on the banister.
From above, the scene was even more beautiful. Dancers twirled gracefully, their shiny apparel reflecting the lights majestically. Their glittering masks hid their faces, adding intrigue to an already appealing scene. She remembered suddenly her own mask. They were at a masquerade after all. She held it out, running her fingers over the elaborate green and blue beads, the glossy black feathers. What a frilly thing it was. She'd never worn something like it before. Never would have without the Doctor. And, as she hooked the mask over her face, she knew…that was why it didn't matter that he could change his face. In the end, no matter what he looked like, he was the same person to the core. He was still fantastic and brilliant and she still…well, he could turn into Dr. Jekyll, and her feelings, whatever they were, wouldn't change when they came to him.
She rested her chin in her hands and gave a long deep sigh that turned, halfway, into a smile when she spotted him gleefully downing what suspiciously looked like a banana daiquiri. Tears sprang, unbidden, to her eyes. She tried to wipe them from beneath the mask, but they kept coming until soon her shoulders were noticeably shaking.
She was interrupted by a cough and a hand that reached over her shoulder to dangle a brown and blue plaid handkerchief in front of her face. She took it with a grateful nod without turning around and managed to use it to dry the tears that were already there.
A dry male voice spoke up from behind her. "I can't imagine what it takes to make someone who had only just looked so happy…sad enough to cry the Tiber over a ball room."
She turned to see a man leaning against another similar banister to her right. She hadn't noticed him before, or he'd only just gotten there. He was dressed strangely, even for a masquerade, in a brown velvet coat with a ridiculously long scarf that trailed to the floor wrapped around him. His hair drew her attention more than anything, elaborately curly. It looked silky. She'd have run her hands through it if she thought she could get away with it. She wiped a stray tear in what she hoped was a casual manner. She chuckled, but it only came out sounding sad. "Who wants to know?" She sniffed.
"Only me," he promised, holding his hands up to show he was alone. "And I don't bite."
"Well, that is what you'd say," she half teased.
He feigned hurt. "I wouldn't hurt a fly. Besides, look at these teeth. They're best suited biting through jelly babies."
She couldn't see the harm in speaking to a perfect stranger, especially when he seemed so familiar. "Have I met you before?" She asked suddenly.
"Anything's possible," he retorted in his satiric manner. "But I know I've never met you. I'd remember."
His eyes were on her so intensely that she had to look away. He a moved a step closer. "But you do seem familiar," he said softly. "As if I've seen you…"
"…in a dream," she finished with him, nodding, entranced once again by his gaze.
He gave a sudden silly smile that threw her off. "No matter. If I didn't know you before, I do now."
She returned the smile almost unwillingly. She couldn't seem to stop it. But her dark thoughts surfaced, pulling her under again.
"I do wish you wouldn't frown." He raised a hand as if to touch her face but dropped it and took a step back when he seemed to realize what he was doing.
"Why?" She really was curious. Who was this man? And why did she feel like she'd known him her entire life?
"Because it rather detracts from that lovely smile." He paused a beat. "Yes, that one. Those lips," the tip of his index finger was suddenly perched on her lower lip, "…were made to smile." He seemed to catch hold of himself again and snatched his hand away.
She opened her mouth to speak, to say something that resembled sense again when he spoke before she could. "Dance with me."
She didn't hesitate. "Alrigh'."
He stretched out a hand, and she looked at it tentatively before gingerly placing her fingertips in his palm. His hand curled around hers, enveloping it in warmth. "Déjà vu," She laughed sweetly.
He smiled. "Isn't it wonderful?"
She didn't know, so instead of answering, she slid her hand up his strange velvet jacket until it came to rest on his shoulder.
His other hand moved towards her waist slowly, almost as if asking permission. Her eyes granted it. She couldn't take her eyes from him as they moved slowly back and forth from side to side. She didn't think she could ever give a name to what it was about him that enchanted her so. He wasn't particularly handsome, but one of the most important things she'd ever learned was that handsome wasn't everything. Sometimes it wasn't anything. Cleverness and kindness mattered more, but while he seemed to have those, it wasn't that which held her so spellbound. No, she couldn't name it. It was as mysterious as him.
At first, they danced, distance between them. But bit by bit, he was pulling her closer, or else she was orbiting towards him. Regardless, they were suddenly close enough that Rose could comfortably rest her face on his chest, but she didn't. That would have robbed her from getting to stare into his unapologetic gaze.
"Who are you?" She asked, and the awed tremor in her voice made her blush.
"I might ask you the same?" he spoke in a deep tone.
"Oh, I'm nobody special." She was thinking of the man she traveled with. How could she even begin to compare?
He scoffed, laying her second hand on his other shoulder and placing his now free hand at the other side of her waist. "Liar," he hissed through a grin.
She looked down bashfully.
"Come with me," he said suddenly.
"Where?" She asked, startled.
"Anywhere." And there was no smile this time, just a blaze in his brown flecked eyes.
"I can't," she whispered, dropping her head finally onto his chest just over one part of the scratchy scarf.
"Why ever not?" He seemed incredulous.
"I'm with someone."
"Ah," he replied as if he'd already known, then paused. Then, "Is that who the tears are for?" And he used a bit of his scarf to dry her face.
She gave a half laugh. "No. And…yes. But…oh, it's too complicated."
"I'm extremely clever," he provided.
"You sound like him," she grinned.
"Him…" He repeated, then stopped moving. "When you say with someone…?"
"I don't know," Rose answered the unasked question with a laugh, resting her forehead on his jacket.
"That's most unusual." He observed.
"Tell me about it, mate." And she was really laughing now.
He took her chin in his palm and tilted her face, running his thumb over her upturned lips. "I do like it when you do that."
"What?" She asked, being coy.
"Smile." He smiled himself.
"I am." She told him, her hand covering his.
"I know, and it's brilliant. You should be with someone who makes you smile."
The smile faded. "He does. All the time."
He pouted. "But I meant me."
She laughed, but there were fresh tears. "I promised him I'd be with him forever."
He caught a tear with his thumb and rubbed his fingers together. "Sometimes forever can mean a very, very long time. There's no such thing as forever when you're mortal." He whispered.
Her eyes closed in pain at that. "I know."
He tilted her chin up, and she opened her eyes. "Do you believe there's someone for everyone?"
"Sometimes," she whispered back. "Do you?"
He lowered his head and placed soft kisses over both her eyes. "I didn't," he answered.
"And now?" She asked.
He paused and made sure she was looking at him. "I don't dance with just anyone."
He caught her lips in a blazing kiss, and she let him. She cried, not because she was happy or sad but because maybe, just maybe, he was right. Maybe there was someone for everyone. But…if that was true, was her one the one waiting for her below or the one she couldn't tear herself away from now? She kissed him back because, maybe, just maybe he was her one.
He pulled back when he began to taste her tears, too many now for her to hide. He caressed her face then surprised her yet again. He pulled her back with him until he was sitting in one of the plush arm chairs with her in his lap. And after a moment, they were both wrapped warmly in his scarf. And he held her until her tears subsided.
"I do wish I could see your face," he ran a finger down her mask. She began to remove it. He stopped her. "Am I going to see you again?" He asked.
Afraid she'd start crying again if she spoke, she simply shook her head. "Then leave it, you'll be my mystery peacock. I do like a good mystery."
She nestled into him and asked a one worded question. "Why?" She didn't have to elaborate, she knew. She didn't know why she knew. She just did.
He understood what she was asking. "I don't know." He really didn't. "But I suppose things like this only happen once in a million years. I wouldn't expect it to be anything less than a mystery." He paused. "I really don't dance with just anyone."
She sniffed. "Good."
He laughed. "What am I going to do?"
"What do you mean?" She sat up to study his face.
His arms wound around her, holding her close. "I mean, how on earth am I going to let you go? I've only just found you."
"Don't you have someone?" She asked in a choked voice.
"Not like this," he murmured.
"I'm sorry." She rested her head on his chest again.
"Don't be. You never know. We could always find each other again."
"Yeah." But she didn't believe him.
Something in his pocket began to beep. He groaned and pulled out some sort of electronic device. She barely got a glimpse of it before he was replacing it. "Time. There seems to be so much of it, but it's always against us, isn't it?"
She tried to hold back new tears as she stood. He let her, but he didn't let go of her hand as he stood beside her.
She turned to gaze up at him. "I-." She faltered, her lips trembling. He swept her close to him. "I'll never forget this. Forget you, I mean."
"I should think not," he grinned. "Then I'd better leave you with something memorable."
Her eyes grew bleary at the word 'leave.' "You already have."
"Still," he took her chin in his palm once more. "Doesn't hurt." And he pressed his lips to hers once. Twice. A third time. He swept his hat onto his head and turned on his heel. The curtain swayed and then settled into place as he disappeared from sight.
Rose let go of a shaky breath, finally releasing the tears of misery she'd been holding back. She bent her head when suddenly her face was jerked up, and a pair of familiar lips were crushing themselves to hers. His arms were around her tightly, and she couldn't see, couldn't think, couldn't breathe.
After a long moment, he pulled back breathing heavily. "And that's how you say goodbye." He was gone after another moment, for real this time, she knew. But now she was smiling and crying.
Ten minutes later, she had taken her mask off and dried her tears. She knew, later, when she was alone, she'd think over it all again and have herself a good sob. For now, the last half hour was like a dream. When she found him, the Doctor, he was looking for her, his brow creased with worry. But when he saw her, he smiled brightly, took her into his arms and resumed dancing.
"That was a hell of a party," he was saying later as they closed the TARDIS door behind them.
"I know," Rose agreed. "And I can't believe nothing catastrophic happened, what with you around n' all."
"Well, I guess we just got lucky."
"Yeah," Rose murmured, remembering a commotion they'd heard earlier that had disappeared as fast. "Ever figure out why you thought you'd been here before though?"
"No," he seemed to be deep in thought. He shrugged suddenly. "Oh well, I probably ended up having too many banana daiquiris."
She laughed. "Sounds like you." He grinned softly back. "Well, I'm gonna go change."
"Kay. Hurry up. You don't want to miss Jardinia at sunset."
"Good way to end the day," she called back as she headed towards the wardrobe.
Entering the humongous wardrobe, Rose undressed and hung the beautiful dress back in its place. Jardinia, he'd told her. She dug her hand under a pile of discarded clothing from earlier, looking for her undershirt. She pulled it out to find one of her nails was caught on something. So she half slipped the shirt over her head and half pulled out whatever it was she was caught on. The shirt covered her face, and she couldn't see what wooly thing she'd managed to grab. She pulled the shirt on completely and gaped at the sight that awaited her in her own hands.
It was a scarf. But not any scarf. It was the very one she'd cleaned her tears with only minutes ago. She gaped, still in disbelief, absolutely certain that had been a one of a kind scarf. So she pulled on it to prove it by its short length or a changing pattern. But no…she got to the end of the hall, and the scarf was still half buried. The pattern was the same. For the tiniest second, she didn't know what to think. Then she exploded in a rage of fury that sent her flying across the TARDIS to the console room, dragging the monumental scarf in her footsteps.
She stopped inches from where he'd turned to stare at her from where he'd been tinkering with the TARDIS. Upon first seeing her, he'd clutched the back of his neck in embarrassment, trying not to look down. Now he saw her face as it was and worry etched across his face.
"Rose, what is it?" He asked carefully, eyeing the way her fist was tightened around the scarf that brought back memories.
"How could you?!" She spit at him. He couldn't help but flinch. She'd never been this mad at him before.
He held his hands up and spoke gently. "Be fair. I don't even know what I did."
"How could you?" She repeated, ignoring him. She had begun to shake terribly. She brought the hand with which she was clenching the scarf to her forehead. She held it there. "How could you? How could you? How could you?" She repeated over and over.
"Rose." He took a cautious step forward, but her glare stopped him.
"Everything you've said…how much of it is true?" Her face was twisted in fury as she yelled at him like she never had before.
"Rose, I don't-."
She had a mask, the one she'd never worn at the ball, in her right hand. She swept it up to her face. Something in his memory tugged hard, something trying to be remembered. She tilted her head at him and spoke with a mocking tone. "I'll never forget you."
He gasped as an explosion of memories flooded his brain, and each and every one was of an experience he'd long since repressed of the happiest and saddest thirty minutes of his 900 years. "You." He managed to gasp.
She dropped the mask on the floor and glared at him. "All this time. All this time, you knew what was going to happen and you never said."
He tried to tell her, but he was still trying to get a grip on the memories. He remembered it all now. He remembered why the masquerade had been so familiar. Because he'd been there before. In his fourth form, he'd been there. The hostess had been possessed by an alien of incorporeal form. She'd needed cleansing. So he'd waited it out in the alcove above the ball room. There he'd been, innocently twirling his scarf, when someone had interrupted his loneliness. A blonde woman whose face he'd never seen but who'd stolen him, head and heart, all in the same night. That someone had been Rose. And he'd never known because he'd made himself forget. He'd left her because the alien was ready to be taken to its home planet, but he'd never wanted to go, but he knew he never could go back. So he made himself forget just how wonderful he could feel after all.
"Do you know how much I've suffered? How much I've been suffering all night?" The anger had subsided to pain now.
"I didn't know." He murmured taking a tentative step forward. When she didn't try to stop him, he stepped to her and took her waist in his hands. "I'm so sorry, Rose. I didn't know."
He thought back to the way she'd been acting all night. She'd tried to hide her misery from him, but he'd seen right through her. Now he knew why. He'd been looking for her all over, and she'd been off gallivanting with some-. Wait a minute…was he experiencing envy of himself? His past self? He shook the feeling away, concentrating on her now.
She was hiding her face behind a hand. "I really didn't know."
"I know," she murmured suddenly, shaking her head.
"I know. I know. Of course you didn't. How could you? You never saw my face."
He smiled now. "That was my loss." But she still wasn't smiling. "No, I didn't. And-." He stopped himself.
She sniffed. "And," she prompted.
"And I didn't know because…I made myself forget."
She paused. "What?"
"I couldn't…I didn't want to remember what I couldn't have, so I forced myself to forget. You only just now reminded me. Literally."
She was starting to look mad again, which made him nervous. "You made yourself forget?"
"You have to understand, Rose. The way I feel…it isn't anything I could even begin to explain. Do you remember the way it felt to say goodbye?"
A tear escaped her eye, and she nodded.
"Well, imagine having to feel that every second for the rest of your life as if it were only just happening."
She took a shaky breath. "I can't."
He nodded. "That's the way I see the world. That's the way I remember." He stroked her cheek. "I never forget."
"Unless you want to," she provided.
"No," he shook his head. "Have to. I had to. It was killing me."
She was contemplating everything now. "So…that was really you? This is really yours?"
He grinned. "That was really me. And this," he took a part of the scarf into his hands, "is really mine."
She smiled up at him. "You found me after all."
He laughed lovingly. "Oh yes."
There was a brief pause, during which Rose could feel everything was settling back to normal. No, things were different now, and they always would be, but they'd remain unspoken. At least for now. "So…Jardinia." She was trying for that bit of normalcy.
The Doctor smiled brightly. "Jardinia." He took her hand excitedly, and then was suddenly frowning. "But-. It's just… I mean… You-."
"What is it Doctor?" Rose asked worriedly.
"It's just…I mean…well…Rose, I hate to point it out, but… Well, you-. You're in only your knickers."
He expected her to flush in embarrassment and flee the room stuttering. As ever she did, Rose Tyler surprised him and smiled cheekily, holding up the scarf. "Wanna bet?"
A/N: Hehe, down Rose. Get it? Two different time lines for the Doctor: one way back before he met Rose in his fourth regeneration, and he was only at the stupid ball to defeat a stupid alien, which is why they had no catastrophic problems. See, the Doctor had taken care of those problems a long time ago. Second one with Rose, as you saw. Brilliant, you say? I know! Now review please!