Author's Notes: The very first interchange (7 lines) between Rose and the Doctor, and the very last (2 lines), are from Fear Her and Army of Ghosts respectively.
Disclaimer: This story takes place within the Doctor Who universe. This story is a way of re-interpreting concepts and ideas already present in Doctor Who. All Doctor Who characters within belong to the BBC. This story is for fun and for sharing, but not for profit.
Something in the Air
Hand in hand, they strolled slowly down the street, Rose's shoulder bumping gently against the Doctor's arm with each step. Fireworks suddenly exploded over their head in circles and plumes of brilliant blues, greens and pinks.
Rose looked up at the Doctor and saw his face lit up by the brilliant colours. The starry pinpoints of cascading light were reflected in his eyes.
'You know what?' she said, revelling in the feeling of celebration, triumph and good cheer. 'They keep on trying to split us up, but they never will.'
The Doctor looked down at her, suddenly and oddly somber. 'Never say "Never ever".'
'Nah, we'll always be okay, you and me.'
He didn't answer and she frowned, looking up at him questioningly. He looked away from her then and instead peered up into the dark sky as if searching for something.
'Don't you reckon, Doctor?' she pressed.
'Something in the air,' he mused. 'Something coming.'
Rose faltered. 'What?'
More fireworks burst overhead and the Doctor stared at them.
'There's a storm coming,' he mused.
Rose shivered. There was an edge to his voice-not harsh, but with a frisson of deep belief and portent even though he spoke the words mildly. She shrank to his side and he looked back down at her. As if coming out of a revery, he suddenly focused on her and put his arm around her, pulling her against his side.
She rested her head against his shoulder as they slowly ambled on, leaving the sounds of celebration and chatter behind them.
'We'll manage it,' she said. 'Like we managed today.'
His arm squeezed her for a moment then relaxed. 'True!' he said, abruptly cheery and he swayed just a little, rocking her back and forth. 'Sussing out Chloe...the patch in the tarmac... Brilliant! That's what I like about you, Rose Tyler. Always sussing things out. Using that human brain of yours. You sussed out the Devil himself!' He muttered happily to himself, 'Suss, suss, suss.'
He was solid and reassuring, and she couldn't imagine that anything could make him disappear permanently. However, he sank back into silence as they made their way back to the Tardis. When they rounded the last corner and saw the familiar blue box nestled between the massive containers, he once again roused himself from his thoughts.
'Yeah,' he suddenly said. 'After all, anyone who can join with the Vortex-' He stopped then, just as abruptly.
'Sorry?' Rose pulled back slightly to stare up at him.
He shook his head a bit like a dog coming out of water. 'Never mind. Just rambling.' He laughed loudly-quickly merry again. 'Becoming a scribble must have addled my brain. Never mind me!'
Rose grinned. 'Doesn't take a scribble to addle your brain!'
They stopped at the Tardis. The Doctor pulled out his key and unlocked the door. 'Thanks,' he said with a mock injured air. 'Good to know you have such faith in me!'
They crossed over the threshold without parting and walked up the ramp together.
'I have faith in us,' declared Rose, happy that the Doctor's funk seemed to have disappeared. 'Slitheen, werewolves, cybermen, the Ood... they all tried. Couldn't do it!'
'True!' He smiled at her proudly. 'Not against Rose Tyler!' He let go of her then. 'Knock on wood,' he added. 'Or so you humans say.' But before Rose could comment, he shrugged off his coat and threw it over a branch of coral. 'Right then! Where shall we go next?' He bounded towards the console.
She thought for a moment. 'Somewhere with cats,' she answered slowly.
'What?' The Doctor stopped mid-stride, overbalanced and hopped in a rather undignified manner before he righted himself. 'Cats?'
Rose came up to him and waggled her finger. 'I saw how you reacted to Mr. Ginger Tom today. You used to like cats. I know you did!'
'Rose,' he whined. 'Cat nuns! Cats in wimples. Not a memory I care to indulge in.'
'I'm not asking to go to a planet with cat nuns,' she patiently answered. 'Just cats. Ordinary house cats. Is there a place where you can see lots of them? Friendly ones?'
The Doctor scowled at her. 'Yeah,' he muttered. Sulkily, he twisted a knob and pulled a lever, and the rotor began to bob up and down.
~ o ~ O ~ o ~
Birds trilled and the sun shone bright in the early morning. Dappled shadows lay before them as they walked down a path from the Tardis. The ship was nestled in the corner of a high brick wall surrounding a garden. Ahead of them stood a large square house with a raised veranda surrounding the second story. Arched windows lined each level and palm trees waved their fronds overhead.
'Hemingway House,' murmured the Doctor.
'Hemingway,' repeated Rose. 'Writer, yeah?'
'M-hm,' he confirmed. 'Nice chap. Complex fellow, though. Doesn't live here anymore. Just keeps it for visits.'
As they approached the house, an older man in overalls came around a corner trundling a wheelbarrow. He caught sight of them, but his eyes quickly widened from suspicion to pleasure.
'Doctor!' he called.
The Doctor nodded and held up his hand in greeting.
'Back door's unlocked,' the man said.
'Ta,' the Doctor called.
The man walked off to a smaller building a short distance away, and the Doctor led Rose to the back of the house. As they went inside, Rose looked around her. The rooms seemed empty and the house unused.
They climbed the stairs and walked through another empty room to a door. They emerged onto the veranda Rose had seen earlier and the Doctor leaned against the railing. Rose looked about. The veranda was equally devoid of any furnishing.
'Why are we here?' she asked.
'Wait and see,' the Doctor merely replied, his voice an odd mixture of anticipation and displeasure.
Rose joined him at the railing and leaned over it. At this spot of the house, trees grew nearby, the sunlight illuminating their leaves and making them glow. Shafts of sunlight fell on the veranda and through them Rose could see motes of pollen and busy insects darting about. Even though it was early in the day, she could feel the heat and humidity in the air.
As she gazed about, she suddenly became aware of movement at first in the rustle of the trees and then on the ground. Small shapes were moving over the grass. Suddenly from behind them, a querulous meow sounded and a furry body wound itself between her and the Doctor. The cat rubbed itself against his trouser leg.
The Doctor scowled, but he stepped very carefully away and removed himself from the offending feline. He put a few feet between them and sat down with his back against the solid house wall. He stretched his long legs out in front of him.
'Go to Rose, moggy,' he said. 'She's the one who wants to see you.'
The cat ignored his instruction and instead picked its way up on to his lap.
He sighed in resignation. 'Well, if you must.' He kept his arms rigidly by his sides. The cat began to purr.
Rose sat down beside him and, as she did so, another cat bounded around the corner of the balcony and trotted over to them, its tail waving high in the air. It picked its way over their outstretched legs and sat upright between them. Rose looked down and saw the biggest paws she had ever seen.
The Doctor saw her glance. 'Polydactyl cats,' he said. 'Extra toes. Loads of them here. Cats, I mean. Not toes. Well, loads of toes too, I suppose. But on the cats. Not off.'
Rose grinned. She stroked the cat between them and the creature arched its back and broke out into a mighty, rumbling purr.
At that moment, a loud rustle came from the branch of a large tree almost directly in front of them. A slim, black cat gathered itself, judged its distance and then leaped on to the metal railing of the veranda. As its paws landed on the metal, a soft, echoing note travelled the length of the railing. The cat wobbled slightly, but, sure-footed, it calmly balanced itself and then leisurely stretched, hind quarters up with elegant tail curling and waving, and head almost to the railing. Forepaws stretched out in front. Ebony fur shone in the sun. Finished with its calisthenics, the cat straightened and with delicate steps picked its way along the top of the railing until it was directly opposite them. It sat down, still on the narrow surface, with paws placed just so to ensure its balance. It stared at the Doctor with round, green eyes.
'"Cats are the dancers of the universe",' murmured the Doctor. 'Or so someone said once,' he added carelessly.
'I like that,' said Rose. She continued to stroke the cat beside her who likewise never stopped its throaty sounds of pleasure.
Two cats emerged from the doorway and, at the same moment, another one jumped from a lower branch of the tree and with precision landed between two of the vertical railing supports. Without missing a beat, it wove its body through and happily came to sit on the Doctor's knees. The two from the doorway took up flanking positions and gazed up at him adoringly.
'They love you,' whispered Rose, not wanting to startle the cats and ruin the tableau in front of her. 'Do Time Lords give off some sort of cat attraction smell?'
'Smell?' he asked, somewhat affronted. 'Time Lords do not smell. I used to visit them, I'll have you know. Cats have excellent memories and pass them down to their kittens.'
Rose stared at him. 'You used to visit them?' Abruptly, she scooted over and laid her head against his shoulder. The cat that had been enjoying her ministrations mewed slightly in protest as its spot between them disappeared, but it simply shifted and, now that she was right against the Doctor, it settled its soft weight on her lap with paws outstretched on the Doctor's leg.
'Then why do you hate them now?' she asked.
'I told you. Cat nuns.' His voice was sullen, but slightly softer.
'Sorry, mate,' Rose said firmly. 'That's not enough. These little guys are nothing like them. I don't think it's just being chased by the nuns. It was what they did to those poor humans. The guinea pigs.'
'Experimenting on them. Their only reason for being alive.' The Doctor's voice was harsh again.
'Yeah, but if there's one thing I know about you, Doctor, it's that with you, it's always about choices. What choices people make. Not about who they are.' At that, Rose could feel his head turning to look down at her. She kept resolutely on. 'You like humans, even though the...' she cast about. 'The... Nazis did what they did. Most humans never choose to do things like that.'
She felt him nod. 'So why hate the poor cats?' she asked. 'Even other cat nuns. You're judging them on their looks. Not what they've done. That's not the Doctor I know.'
The Doctor went still.
'Seems like you're being prejudiced,' she said softly.
Minutes passed but the Doctor said nothing. Rose waited. Cats continued to arrive. From beyond the balcony and out in the heat of the garden, the cicadas began to sing.
And then it happened. Slowly the Doctor stretched out an arm and he stroked the head of a cat beside him with the tips of his long fingers. The cat exploded into loud purrs. The Doctor scratched around the base of its ears and the cat leaned its head hard against his hand, its eyes squeezed shut in ecstasy.
The movement acted as some kind of call, for immediately cats that had been hanging back slightly rushed to him and wove their bodies all around him, stepping over and on him. More clambered onto Rose until the two of them were nearly covered in a writhing mass of mewling fur. Both of the Doctor's hands were busy, stroking here, scratching behind ears there. Heads shoved and butted their way to his hands, owners eager for the Doctor's long fingers to send them into feline paroxysms of delight. The purrs and meows rose in a clamour.
Rose looked up at the Doctor. His expression had softened and a faint smile was on his face. She kept quiet, though, not wanting to break the spell. Even when an errant tail waved itself under her nose, she didn't bat it away.
The Doctor continued to stroke, scratch and knead, and the cats continued to jostle and writhe and press themselves against the Time Lord.
~ o ~ O ~ o ~
They managed to close the door of the Tardis without trapping an eager paw. Once safely inside, Rose began to giggle.
'You looked like the Pied Piper, stalking back to the Tardis with all those cats following you. And the two on your shoulders!' she gasped, one hand on the railing around the console platform as she nearly bent double with laughter.
Despite his best efforts to remain aloof and to look busy at the console, a small smile tugged at the corner of the Doctor's mouth, and then the corners of his eyes crinkled.
'Happens every time I come here,' he admitted.
'All right,' said Rose. 'Confess. You actually love cats.'
He shrugged, but then he looked over his shoulder at her. 'Yeah,' he said softly. 'Just took you to remind me. You know. You always know.' He straightened and turned to face her, leaning his bottom against the edge of the console. 'How do you always know?' He watched her, marvelling. 'You even knew about that Dalek. You stopped me from...' He looked away.
Rose came up to him and hugged him. Immediately, he wrapped his long arms around her, holding her close, and he rocked her slightly.
'You always know what to do,' he whispered in her hair.
~ o ~ O ~ o ~
'So tell me again where you'd like to go? And don't say "puppies". We've had enough of the cute and furry for one day.'
'Come off it,' she protested. 'Bet next time you see a basketful of kittens, you won't be able to resist picking one up.'
He gave her a wry smile. 'Yeah,' he said, nodding resignedly. 'So! Where?'
'Somewhere amazing,' Rose answered promptly. 'One of those places you're always describing to me. Somewhere fantastic!'
He grinned at her, eyes sparkling and mischievous, and he reached over the console to yank on a control. 'Fantastic it is!'
~ o ~ O ~ o ~
And 'fantastic' it was. Great misshapen arches thrust themselves into the sky, scattered over the jagged and rocky landscape as far back as the eye could see. The rocks and cliff were made of some dark, mottled rust and brown stone-colours that were just a bit off from that of Earth. Wind whistled through the huge holes in the rock faces and the sky was grey overhead. And yet, as desolate and grand as it was, it did not feel overwhelming. Instead, it invited Rose to explore. She could feel that eager tugging of desire for adventure.
They stood near the Tardis looking down a wide valley between the rocks. Although the wind keened, the temperature was not uncomfortable.
'This is marvellous!' she said. 'And no-one lives anywhere on this planet?'
'Not anymore,' he said. 'They either left or died out eons ago.' He took her hand and held it in both of his. 'You really like it?'
'Oh, yeah,' she said breathlessly. 'It feels so old. So... as if there were important things that happened here, but no one knows anymore because no-one is left to tell the stories. Sort of... as if... if someone did know all the stories, they'd be old and wise and powerful.'
The Doctor's eyes were wide as he stared at her. 'You feel all that?' he asked in a hushed voice.
'I do. Yeah,' she answered. 'It makes me think that... maybe your planet was a bit like this. Old and powerful.'
The Doctor continued to stare at her, and Rose could not tell if she had upset him or not.
'I'm sorry,' she said and she held out her hand as a peace offering.
'Don't be,' he whispered. He took her hand in both of his own and brought it up to his lips. He kissed it reverently. 'No one is left to tell the stories of Gallifrey,' he murmured. 'No-one, that is, except for me.'
'Can you tell me?' she asked. 'I want to hear about your home.'
His lips parted in a shy grin. 'You really want to hear all that?'
She nodded. 'Yes, I do,' she said, looking into his eyes. 'These are your stories. Your own, and... and... they are a part of you. A part of the man I lo-'
She stopped herself then, for she was afraid to see the deer-in-the-headlights look he sometimes wore when she veered too close to the personal. But something had changed. The shy and pleased grin broadened into a brilliant smile, all teeth, and crinkles at the corners of his eyes, and brown eyes bright with something she couldn't quite decipher.
He whispered something then, and she couldn't understand it, but the soft, fricative and liquid consonants and pure vowels wove themselves as if in a low, thrilling melody that caressed her and spoke to her in such a way that she felt breathless and anticipatory and excited all at once.
'Your language,' she whispered back, not wanting to break the spell with the harsher sounds of English at a normal pitch.
'Yeah,' he said, back to shy once again.
'What did you say?' she asked.
'Oh, well...' he hedged and scuffed the ground with his trainer.
'Doctor,' warned Rose. 'None of that, you hear?'
'Sorry,' he responded meekly. He cleared his throat. 'You honour me for you wish to know me. I cherish you for I do know you, and I wish to know you more.' He harrumphed slightly. 'Or something like that.'
Rose turned to face him. 'Doctor, was that a...a proposal?'
Startled, he peered down at her. 'Would you like it to be? Er... something like a proposal, I mean? Well, perhaps not a marriage proposal. That would be rather sudden. Maybe like a... something more proposal? Perhaps an I-like-you-and-you-like-me and maybe something more because we-'
'Yeah,' she said softly. 'Any of that.'
'Really?' His voice rose in pitch like a little, excited boy. He stared at her again, this time in awe, and she took a step closer to him. 'Really,' he repeated, more to himself. Looking intently at her, he cradled her face in his hands, fingers caressing her jawline, and he gently tilted her head up. When she gave no resistance, he lowered his head and cautiously, delicately, touched his lips to hers as if terrified that he was giving offence. Instead, she wound her arm over his shoulder and cupped the back of his head with her hand. Emboldened by her move, he deepened the contact.
Rose closed her eyes. His touch was warm-cool, for he was warmer than the air temperature, but cooler than her. His lips were both firm and soft, and his touch both tentative and desirous. She shivered in delight.
He drew back his head. 'Er, all right?'
She smiled and brought up her free hand. Delicately, she traced his lips with her fingertips. This time it was his turn to shiver happily.
'Oh, yes,' she said softly.
'Oh, yes!' he breathed and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight to him. She did the same, her arms encircling his waist. She pressed the side of her head against his chest, the tip of her nose resting against the edges of the lapels of his jacket and coat. The gentle pressure of his arms around her back spoke to her of safety and a promise and new things to come. The double heartbeat through the thin shirt under her ear thrummed a rhythm unique to him.
He rocked her back and forth gently. 'Oh, yes,' he said again and Rose smiled to herself, her eyes closed.
They stayed like that for several minutes, but at some undeterminable point the Doctor's gentle rocking became more pronounced and Rose reciprocated until, suddenly, it became silly.
They broke apart, laughing, their eyes sparkling. The Doctor harrumphed with mock dignity and managed to compose himself. But there was a new contentment in his eyes. He stuffed his hands in his pockets as if sternly telling himself to behave and he faced forward. Rose grinned and turned so that they were side-by-side, gazing out to the jagged rock arches in the distance.
'How long are you going to stay with me?' he asked lightly. But Rose could sense the need for confirmation. She turned her head and he met her gaze.
'Forever,' she said.