"Just...out of interest, sweetheart," began Jackie cautiously.
Rose looked up from her magazine. "Yeah?"
"Don't take this the wrong way, I'm just curious..."
"What is it, Mum?"
Jackie glanced at the Doctor to check he was still asleep, then looked back at her daughter. "Is he alright?"
Rose nodded. "Yeah, he's fine. He's just a bit sleepier than usual 'cos of getting over the regeneration thing. He'll be back to normal in no time."
"Well, you agreed that you're going with him again, didn't you?"
Rose bristled. "Yeah. Why, don't you think I should?"
"I didn't say that!" Jackie protested. "If the travelling...if he makes you happy, then, well. It's up to you. I suppose I was just wondering if you were having doubts. Either of you."
Rose's brow furrowed worriedly. "Why would you think that? What's he said? Has he said something to you?"
"No, no, darling," Jackie reassured her hastily, putting her mug on the coffee table. She leant forwards and rested her elbows on her knees, as though conferring on the issue. "But it's been two weeks. Two whole weeks of having you home, and don't get me wrong, I'm loving it! I love having you here again. But it's not like you two to stick around so long..."
"We made a deal," Rose told her.
"What do you mean?"
She leant forwards too and spoke quietly in case the Doctor woke up. "He was pretending to be in perfect health, but I think the whole Christmas thing after just regenerating took it out of him. He needed to recover and slow down a bit. Plus, I thought maybe..."
Rose bit her lip nervously then whispered, "Well, I wanted to test him. To see if what he said at Christmas...to see if he meant it. About wanting me to go with him still."
"And..." Jackie prompted.
"So I tested him. With a deal. I told him I wasn't gonna go with him if he didn't stop here and take a holiday for a bit. Part of me didn't think he'd accept it, so as soon as I'd told him that I regretted it 'cos I thought he might just go without me."
"But he didn't," Jackie murmured.
Rose smiled slightly. "Nope. He negotiated. Said that in that case I had to take him out for adventures around London." She giggled slightly at the memory. "He told me to take him to the places I love and hate."
"Why hate?" Jackie's eyebrows drew together in confusion.
Rose glanced over at him fondly and her smile widened. "To make nicer memories there."
"So where have you shown him that you don't like?"
"Remember that school trip to the Natural History museum when I was about fifteen? Well, I always hated that place after 'cos I completely embarrassed myself there."
"Really? You never told me that! How did you embarrass yourself?"
Rose blushed. "Doesn't matter. What matters is, the Doctor and me went there and he told me about all the stuff and that he was going to take me to see it all in real life, in the past, and it was..." she trailed off wistfully.
Jackie couldn't help but smile. "So…what do you think of this new Doctor then? Is he meeting the old one's standards?"
Rose shrugged. "That remains to be seen," she murmured elusively. "But I think I'm convinced, you know, about him being the same man and everything."
"Yeah? Why's that then?"
"Well, he still – we still – it's hard to explain."
Jackie raised her eyebrows. "You still fit together?"
She tilted her head to the side, contemplating that. "I guess we do, yeah." She saw her mother's smirk and rolled her eyes. "Not like that. It's – it's never been like that."
"It hasn't?" Jackie asked, sounding doubtful.
"Mum, I've told you this over and over again. We're just friends."
Jackie nodded. "Yes. Alright. Well – do you want to know how I knew he was the same man?"
"All you had to do was whisper 'help me' in his ear and he jumped up and rescued us." Jackie stood up to clear their mugs away. "And I'll tell you something else. He looks at you the same." She started to walk towards the kitchen.
"What?" Rose murmured, turning around. "Mum, what? What do you mean?"
Jackie dropped the mugs into the sink then returned to the living room. "He looks at you the way he's looked at you from the start. Right from the time he was standing in here and I was accusing him of all sorts."
"When you slapped him?" Rose grinned.
"Yeah, when I slapped him." Jackie sniffed proudly. "And I stand by that - he did deserve it, bringing you back so late, well, taking you off without so much as a word in the first place. But – and now I dunno anything about aliens and whatnot – but I know one thing for certain about himself over there." She nodded towards the Doctor, who, as Rose had shifted around to face her mother, had subsequently moved closer to her in his sleep.
"He never wants to lose you. Ever." Jackie paused, then continued softly, "He needs you, Rose. Perhaps even more than I need you – and that's - " She swallowed thickly. "That's hard for me to say, but blimey, I can see it right in front of me. Every time you're together. Even poor Mickey sees it. 'Cos it's a different sort of love, isn't it? And you might be telling me fibs when you say it's not how it looks, or you might be telling the truth – I s'pose it's none of my business. Either way, the man's in love with you, and I've never seen two people make each other more happy than you two do."
Rose bit her lip, unable to offer a vocal response to Jackie's observations, and glanced at the Time Lord in question. His head was inclined towards her shoulder, as though waiting for her to shift back around so that it could rest there again. His shirt was a little rumpled, his tie askew. His fingers twitched against her leg, palm up – waiting.
She smiled at her mum, then turned around again, her hand slipping into his, his head dropping to her shoulder. She let out a sigh of contentment. Jackie retreated to the kitchen to do the washing up. All was quiet for a few moments, so Rose thought things through.
Fact number one: she'd never heard her mum speak so nicely of the Doctor before.
Fact number two: the Doctor was drooling on her shoulder.
Fact number three: what her mum had said was a bit too massive for Rose to completely accept at the moment.
Fact number four: the Doctor just let out a little snore, which was going to be excellent teasing material for later.
Fact number five: god, she loved him.
Fact number six: fact number five was very, very awkward right now, because it was way too soon, he'd only just changed - and besides, he was a nine hundred year old Time Lord and she was just a shop girl for goodness' sake.
Fact number seven: the Doctor sitting beside her, drooling on her shoulder and snoring a little, was the same man who had taken her hand and told her to run; the same man who had weighed the fate of the world up against losing her across a table in Downing Street; the same man who had, as Jack had secretly confided to her once, told the Captain to back off. The same man whom she'd chosen over her Mum, over Mickey, over this life on the Powell Estate.
Fact number eight: she wanted to be with him for as long as possible. Preferably forever.
She felt him stirring beside her and glanced down. His eyes blinked open slowly, and when they focussed on her he beamed. "Hello," he murmured, voice slightly husky with sleep.
"You finished drooling on me, then?" she asked, with an arched eyebrow.
"I wasn't - " he began to protest, then glanced at her shoulder. "Ah. Sorry about that." He gave her a sheepish grin and his eyes briefly flickered to her lips, though she could have been just imagining that last bit; it was hard to tell what with the Facts running through her head right then. "I was having a nice dream."
"Were you now?" she replied instantly, and really, she hadn't meant for it to sound so suggestive; she was simply picking up on his tone of voice.
He glanced at her lips again – she was pretty certain he did, anyway – and then smiled. "Yeah."
"Oh, just New Year's Eve." His eyes were bright with mischief, and he was fully awake now, though he still seemed to be leaning against her a bit, which was a little disconcerting - and also a little wonderful.
Rose's cheeks tinged a bit pink. "What about New Year's Eve?" she murmured.
New Year's Eve had been rather fantastic, really – everyone had come round to Jackie's for a party, and the Doctor had actually made an effort to socialise with all the Tyler friends and family, charming them with jokes and chitchat. Well, until he'd popped upstairs to the roof for a bit of fresh air, just before midnight. Rose had gone searching for him, not wanting to ring in the New Year without her best friend.
"Thought you might be up here. Needed to escape the mad house, eh?" Rose called out to him, as she crossed the roof to where he stood staring up at the sky, coat billowing gently in the wind. "Bit human for you, I s'pose."
He turned to face her once she reached him. "Actually, I came up here 'cos I knew you'd follow."
"Hmm?" she murmured, then shivered; she hadn't thought to bring her coat with her due to her haste in finding him before the clock struck twelve.
"You're cold," he replied softly.
"Well I am wearing a short black dress in the middle of Winter – why'd I do that, again?" she laughed.
"I don't know, to be honest. It's lovely and everything, but you'd look just as nice in a big woolly jumper, so…" He shrugged casually.
"Yeah?" she smiled, blushing a little at the rare compliment.
"Of course," he smiled back. "Look nice in a bin bag, you would."
"Well now you're just being daft," she giggled. She shivered again.
The Doctor reached forwards and guided her into his arms, wrapping his coat around her, effectively trapping her against him. "Warmer?"
She swallowed. "Yeah."
"I want you to know something," he whispered, his breath mingling with hers due to their proximity.
"What you did. Coming back to me like that, after I sent you away to keep you safe. I…thank you. I mean, it was terribly dangerous and everything, and you really shouldn't have bothered, but thank you. It meant – means – a lot to me."
"Well I couldn't just let you face them on your own. Not again."
She sighed sadly. "You'd already had to face the Daleks on your own, during the – the Time War. I didn't want…" she trailed off, and met his gaze.
He was looking at her with something like awe in his eyes. He opened then closed his mouth.
Rose added, "You showed me a better way of living my life. That's how I explained it to Mum and Mickey, when they tried to get me to stay. You showed me a better way. Standing up and doing what's right. Going back to you – that was me, standing up and doing what was right. Yeah? Besides. You would've died. Well – I s'pose…I s'pose you still did, but - "
"I'm right here. I'm right here, alive, because of you."
"Yeah but I also cost you one of your regenerations."
"Well I couldn't just let you burn up after coming all that way to save me. Had to stand up and do what was right, eh?" He gave her a tender smile. "I need you very much alive, Rose Tyler. You know that."
She nodded. There was a slight pause in their conversation, but then she heard him whispering, "Ten. Nine. Eight…" Rose smiled. Of course he could tell when it was nearly time. "Five. Four. Three - "
"Doctor," she murmured, on 'Two.'
"Rose," he whispered back, instead of 'One.'
It was the space of another breath before their lips met in a brief, chaste kiss.
"Happy New Year, Rose Tyler," he whispered against her cheek as he pulled his lips away. Their noses bumped gently and he swallowed hard.
"Yeah," Rose breathed out roughly. "Happy New Year."
They stared at each other for a second or two, still so closely wrapped up together in his coat, the fireworks going off across London, as far as the eye could see. Their heads turned to watch them, but they didn't let go of each other for the longest time.