Pete Tyler was waiting in the flying saucer, guiding the gang inside.
"Nice to see you again, Doctor," he had greeted.
"Meta-crisis Doctor," Rose corrected as she brushed past. "Real one's back home."
The Doctor looked dejected, but Rose didn't turn around to see it.
Now, they are seated side-by-side, Rose at the window and the Doctor beside, strapped into large, metal chairs with plush, red cushions that look all-business despite their surprising comfort level.
Rose spends most of the trip staring out the window and chewing her fingernails. The Doctor keeps glancing over at her, half-hoping she'd look back and half-hoping she wouldn't.
"How's Pete and Jackie?" the Doctor finally chalks up the nerve to ask.
"Fine. Married. Baby. Fine," Rose answered without breaking her gaze with the clouds.
"How's your new home?" he presses.
Rose drops her hand from her lips and folds them into her lap. "Nice little place. Well, it's not exactly little, actually. It's pretty nice. My parents are rich now, after all."
"Oh, that's nice."
"Yeah, I s'pose."
"Not to be forward," the Doctor begins, "but is there any reason you aren't looking at me?"
Rose hesitantly brings her face up to his.
"Give it to me straight, Rose, am I really that painfully hideous without the other heart?"
Rose chuckles lightly. "No, it's just weird still."
"If you had to guess?" she says. "Life, right now, is weird. Life ever since I met him."
"You. Old you. Leather-jacket Doctor. Whatever."
Suddenly, and completely without warning, Rose sniffles.
The Doctor's eyes widen at her. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, fine," Rose replies shortly. "And I mean that this time."
Rose is a crier and has been since the Doctor has known her, but she always bucked up and got herself together. Every single time. If he waits, it will pass. He is almost certain of it.
But he comforts her anyway, like a reflex.
"What's wrong?" he asks gingerly.
Rose wipes her nose with sleeve. "It's . . . it's been a long day."
"Tell me about it," the Doctor agrees. "I was just spawned."
Rose chokes out a chortle. "I didn't even get to say goodbye to Mickey. I thought I'd be able to see him again."
"Mickey doesn't need you," the Doctor tells her.
Rose shoots him a rather confused look.
"Yeah, I worded that wrong," he frowns at himself. "I mean . . . Mickey's fine. He's a big boy."
"Yeah, I'm sure he is," Rose agrees. "I guess I'm just a little selfish. I wish I could see him again, you know?"
"I know just how you feel," the Doctor mutters.
Rose looks up at the Doctor at the statement. They lock eyes, and don't say anything, don't smile or frown, for a long while.
The ship lands outside the Torchwood facility, where land transport was provided to the Doctor, Rose, and Jackie, with Pete doing the driving in a jeep that could brave mountainous terrains and stretches of desert, and therefore does satisfactorily on the paved streets.
"Is transportation always this slow?" the Doctor comments from the back seat across from Rose.
"It's not like we haven't tried building a TARDIS," Pete responds.
The Doctor scoffs at the notion. Rose lets out a small smile of her own at the ridiculousness.
"So Tony!" the Doctor pipes up in that cheery way of his. "Tony! The little boy! How is he? What's he like?"
"Oh, he's wonderful!" Jackie beams. "Knows how to throw a fit, though, just like his favorite sister."
Rose flushes, slumping into her seat.
"Doctor, not to be forward," Pete cuts in, "but do you have any plans for the future?"
The Doctor and Rose lock eyes again, but their gazes dart away quickly. "Why do you ask?"
"I was wondering if you'd like to join Torchwood in their work," he offers. "We could use a mind like yours."
The Doctor frowns. "I'm not really fond of repetitious, organized, routine . . . work. Or staplers. Staplers seem hazardous. Surely there's a safer way to attach papers to each other."
"Torchwood is hardly cubicle work," Pete explains. "It's quite nerve-racking, actually."
". . . I'll think about it, maybe."
Like Rose said, her house is near the Torchwood facility. It is a decent-sized place, wide and one story and several windows with the curtains decidedly closed.
"Here's where you two get out," Pete announces as the car comes to a halt.
"Actually," Rose begins nervously, "I thought he could stay with you two. Your house is bigger, after all. Lots more room. And he could meet Tony."
"If you say so, dear," Pete shrugs obligingly.
"Thanks," Rose smiles kindly, sliding out of car and trotting towards the door.
"Oh, and Rose!" Pete calls after her.
Rose turns back to them.
"I didn't tell you earlier," he begins, "and I know you wanted to make it back over there and all, but I'm so glad you're here instead."
Rose purses her lips together into a thin line. She nods as acknowledgment for the affection, but doesn't reply otherwise. She starts off toward her front door again.
"That's funny," Jackie muses. "I thought we'd have to pry her off of you to get you two separated."
The Doctor runs a hand through his messy hair and drags it down his face, a sign of perplexity that goes unnoticed as Pete drives toward his and Jackie's home.
"So Doctor, I must admit, I'm a bit confused," Pete calls back to him. "Why are you here instead of Rose being there? And where is your TARDIS? And what does meta-crisis even mean?"
The Doctor sighs.
~End of Chapter~
Would it be horrible if I asked you to please stick with me? I've got big plans, but I feel like I'm starting slow.
Anywho, thanks for reading and have a lovely day.