A/N: Really good excuse time. Started a new full-time job, suffered a life-threatening health crisis, and have had neither the time nor the energy to write. However, one year and nine months after the first chapter of Memento Mori was published, I have finally reached the completion of this story. As with most creations, this story of mine has been embarrassing and difficult and agonizing and a pain in the butt, but strike me with lightning if I'm not proud to have come this far. To all of you who reviewed and inspired me to keep writing, a massive thank you from the depths of my heart. When I had writer's block and thought I couldn't compose another sentence, you let me know that I was writing for someone. To my regular reviewers, you are ever so sweet and your encouragement has been crucial to the completion of this story. I've been utterly touched by your kindness. And to Castlephoenix, all my gratitude. You were always there with wisdom and knowledge to help me through the rough spots and provide the advice I needed to move the story forward.
Thank you all, and here is chapter twenty-five.
They moved the TARDIS to the Powell Estate the day after it happened. The Doctor, unable to bound from one control to another as he usually did, had quietly enlisted the help of all of them and soon they had landed in 2006. London. Home. It was crowded living in Jackie's flat but they couldn't possibly stay cooped up in the TARDIS for much longer. Jackie offered Jack her bedroom and took the sofa—he had initially refused, but she insisted—and the Doctor was in the guest bedroom, in the same bed that he had occupied when he regenerated last Christmas.
Not that he was confined to the bed; he was up and about now, still relying on the crutches but no longer able to hide in solitude. It was obvious to the rest of them that he was slowly going mad, stuck in one place as he was. He fixed the television set; made alarming amounts of tea for everyone, all the time, unexpectedly; tinkered with the plumbing (the kitchen flooded, but only briefly, as he pointed out); and took to flipping through TV channels ceaselessly, much to the annoyance of everyone else—that is, until he became frustrated and, losing his patience one day, fixed it so that it received broadcasts from nearby planets as well. It had been agreed that the Doctor and Rose would stay put in London until the casts were all removed. This agreement had, of course, had nothing to do with a particular argument between Jack and the Doctor about his well-being and the dangers of travelling in the TARDIS.
Everything would have been fine, had it not been for the fact that Rose wasn't eating. Nor did she sleep, a fact which did not go unnoticed. Ever since Adam's death she had been unusually quiet, neglecting to join in conversations and answering any questions directed at her with as few words as possible. She was withdrawn. From time to time she took walks by herself outside the estate and she frequently volunteered to do the shopping; there were four of them and they consumed more food than Jackie was accustomed to stocking in her kitchen. Jackie fussed over her, and when Rose wasn't looking Jack looked positively concerned, but they didn't know how to fix her. At Jack's insistence the Doctor had tried to talk to her about it fairly early on, to which she responded with a polite request to be left alone.
Once a day, the Doctor insisted on sitting Rose down and going over her cast with a funny metal rod. Osteo-something—she wasn't sure what he had called it. He claimed that it would speed up the healing of the bone, if used regularly. He then used it on his legs and put it away until the next day. Sometimes they talked briefly during these sessions. Sometimes they didn't. He made an honest effort to coax her out, to talk to him, offering her help with chores and asking after her health, and she for her part would smile briefly or shrug her shoulders.
Rose avoided no one. Not actively, at least. She was reserved, but not absent. Whereas the Doctor had quarantined himself to the Med Bay, refusing all help and company, she simply shut down. If she had thought she would be okay after Adam's death, that it would somehow make everything better, she was sorely mistaken. All the feelings that she had pushed deep down, all the fears and guilt and anguish, Adam had dug up and driven to the surface. Jack had been right when he warned the Doctor that she wasn't made for this kind of life, these kinds of situations.
The Doctor, too, was solemn, yet he knew that Rose's well-being was his responsibility and that he had brought her into all this in the first place. He had failed to keep her safe. He had allowed Adam's words to shatter the barriers she had put up since their escape. She was damaged because of him, and he would be the one to make sure that she was, and would be, perfectly all right. Jack and Adam had shown him that. No more could he hide away and pretend that she was impervious to the trials they had endured, as Jack had accused him of doing.
One evening Jack pulled Jackie aside under the pretense of folding laundry.
"You know her best," he said. "What can we do?"
Jackie picked up a sock and absentmindedly turned it over in her hands before setting it back on the pile of clothes. "I don't understand it. Shouldn't she be happy he's dead? He can't hurt her." Yet she knew she was being naïve, that there was so much more to it than that.
"He said things to her." Jack didn't bring up the fact that Rose had killed, that her life and everything she was had been threatened and twisted. Jackie didn't need reminding.
As for Rose, she rather thought she had been holding it all in until she knew they were safe, keeping it together for her own sake and the others' in order to be able to handle their final trial. With Adam dead, with all of their tormentors dead, the dam had broken and the flood had swept through it. Now she couldn't cram the waters back in.
In addition to the nightmares, she began to have horrible daydreams. In one of them, the TARDIS had just materialised inside the hospital and the Doctor was shouting at Rose to get the door, to keep Alan and Paul from getting in, but before she could reach it they had pushed her aside and barged inside. In another Paul was bringing a long knife down on the Doctor's wrists, and the Time Lord held up his bloody stumps to her before staring helplessly at the TARDIS controls.
The Doctor, too, was changed. No miraculous healing had taken place after the death of Adam. There was no peace of mind. Jack and Jackie found that sudden movements made him jump, and they were careful to make their presence known so as not to startle him. He left the door of the guest bedroom open at all times when he was inside it, tension marking him whenever a door in his vicinity opened or closed. From time to time he insisted on sitting outside in the nearby park, borrowing Jack's coat to wrap around himself as protection against the bitter January cold as his own long coat had been left in the cellar, discarded after the whipping. The open space did him good, though it was a struggle to get up and down the staircases of the Powell Estate with both legs still in casts.
On one particularly good day, Jack returned from a long absence with a knock at the door. Rose and the Doctor were seated on the sofa, quietly studying respective hands of cards in the middle of a long and mindless game of Rummy. Both looked up at the sound, though they knew it to be Jack. Within moments Jackie bustled in from the kitchen where she had been putting away newly purchased groceries, heading to the door; a gust of cold air blew in and they heard her exchange a few words with the American, his voice identifying him, and then there was a moment of quiet.
"Doctor," Jackie called from the door. "There's somethin' here for you."
The Doctor looked up, surprised. He slowly set his cards on the table, face down so Rose couldn't look at them, and heaved himself to his feet. His crutches were leaning against the sofa and he gathered them up, still unable to walk unassisted. With even steps he hobbled to the door and Rose watched him go. Unable to retain her curiosity, she too got up and walked to the door to see what was going on.
There in the doorway stood Jack, his arms behind his back and a wildly mischievous grin on his face. Jackie stepped aside and with a flourish Jack revealed the most beautiful thing any of them had seen in days: the Doctor's long coat, its chestnut colour and soft fabric indescribably familiar and comforting, like a piece of home long lost.
The Doctor crowed happily and took the coat from Jack, shaking it out and admiring it while he leaned against a wall for balance. He turned it this way and that before looking back over his shoulder at Rose with a twinkle in his eyes that she had dearly missed; his glee was infectious and she soon found herself smiling back. He held a hand out for her and she obediently stepped into place beside him, and he braced himself with a hand on Rose's shoulder as Jack helped him into the coat one arm at a time, transforming him in seconds. He seemed to swell with newfound confidence and pure glee, hardly aware of his surroundings as he gazed down at his coat for a long minute, swishing it happily around his legs.
Finally he looked up at Jack. "You retrieved it," the Doctor beamed.
"I couldn't leave it," Jack replied, still grinning from ear to ear at the success of his gift. The Doctor beckoned and Jack stepped forward for an embrace, both clapping each other on the back and the Doctor laughing at the treasure that Jack had returned to him.
Rose and Jackie looked on and smiled, and when the two men had broken apart they oohed and aahed over the coat and marvelled over how well he looked in it, how happy and healthy and strong. And it was true, he looked himself for the first time in a long time. He seemed taller, braver, the fears of the past knocking more and more softly on his inner walls. But long after everyone else went to bed that night Rose tiptoed into the entranceway and took the coat from its new, proud place on the coat rack, returning with it to her bedroom. For an hour or longer she held it tightly, her fists curled in the fabric as she breathed in its familiar scent, her body curled around it and under it, trying to hold on to moments past.
The Doctor wore his coat nonstop after that day. If it weren't for the crutches, he might have strutted. In time the novelty wore off but he continued to wear it all day long; he seemed less nervous with it on, the weight around his shoulders a comfort to him. Rose, in the meantime, became steadily more nervous. It had occurred to her, more than once, that she was no longer certain of whether she wished to continue a life in the TARDIS with the Doctor. Perhaps, her mind whispered, she was not even capable of it anymore. She could stay put, go to work each day just like everybody else, paying rent and carrying on without the fear of pain and death and danger and loss. The time was approaching when she would have to make a choice.
She told no one else of her struggle. It had been decided that she and the Doctor would move on once they were healed and she had remained silent, neither contradicting the decision nor introducing doubt that she would return to life in the TARDIS. There was no use in worrying anyone until she had made up her mind. Still, she thought perhaps the Doctor knew. She had promised she wouldn't leave him, though that had been a different Rose speaking, a Rose who had harboured illusions that dealing with Adam would free her mind from the darkness. She didn't even know if she was strong enough to leave the Doctor, or rather to let him leave her behind; she loved him and she was almost certain there was a part of him that loved her too, if he could admit it. Even now, after everything, there was still room in her for love.
There was an awful lot of sitting around from day to day, which the four mainly filled with television, board games—Jack clearly let the others win at Monopoly, though he insisted otherwise—and whatever else they could find to do. It didn't take long for the Doctor to realise that his human friends had never played or heard of any of the board games that were immensely popular intergalactically and he quickly set about righting this wrong, rummaging through the depths of a storage room in the TARDIS before emerging at last, setting before them a small stack of games. With all the patience of a human teenager he explained to them the rules of each game, watching and correcting their attempts to master them.
The house favorite was one involving small hologram figures that actually walked around the board, though on one gloomy day the Doctor pulled out a two-person game called Chutsal and asked Rose if she would like to play it with him. "No offense, just—two people," he explained to Jack and Jackie with a shrug. With nothing else to do, Rose agreed, and the two of them settled themselves around the small table in the sitting room, he with his legs stretched out in front of him and Rose seated on the floor with a blanket around her shoulders.
She learned slowly. There were a number of shiny metal airships of various sizes to move around the board, which was made up of a color-coded grid with numbers lining the borders. The Doctor patiently pointed out various strategies, giving tips and alerting her when she made an unwise move, and soon she began to feel that she had something of a handle on the game. Jack, who was quietly reading the newspaper in the kitchen, listened as the Doctor taught her the ropes.
"Bring the Q'itsal to the corner space."
Rose slid a particularly large ship in her possession to the square the Doctor indicated. He offered her a smile—real or forced, Rose couldn't tell anymore. "See, now you've taken the ship and you can begin to amass a fleet."
He stretched slightly and indicated a path along the grid, explaining some feature of the game, and though she nodded she was only partially listening. Being together like this, lounging in her mother's sitting room and playing a game, felt almost like a normal life. Was that what she wanted? A normal life? And he was living it with her, staying still, letting time pass at the snail's pace that it did for the rest of them. The domestic approach, he would have called it. It was something he would never do if it weren't for their injuries and the respite they desperately needed.
Her indecision was tearing her apart, and she thought he could see it. She caught him looking at her several times during the game. Short glances were one thing, but he was watching, examining, calculating. His eyes flicked back down to the board every time her eyes met his but there was a wrinkle in his brow that didn't go away and she wasn't fooled.
"What," she finally said.
"You're staring at me," she said.
"I'm not," he said, picking up a silver airship and moving it two squares to the left as though to demonstrate how very uninterested he was in staring at her.
"Alright, yes, I was looking at you," he admitted, raising his eyes to hers. "You don't seem particularly all right."
The blanket fell from Rose's shoulders. She gave him an incredulous look. "And you do?" She stood suddenly to prove her point and he flinched. Instantly she felt badly for having done so and sat back down slowly. With shaky hands she pulled the blanket back around herself and gazed miserably at the board.
"That's not what I meant," he said quietly. "That's not how I meant to say it."
Rose shrugged. She still didn't look at him. "I get it. Everyone's worried."
From the kitchen Jack overheard the change in the conversation and he stepped outside the flat to give them privacy. Rose looked over her shoulder as the door shut, if only to grasp at a distraction from this conversation.
"The tables have turned, huh," she said humourlessly, allowing a bitter smirk to twist her face.
"I wouldn't say that," the Doctor said. He cleared his throat and fiddled with one of the game pieces.
"No?" She looked up.
"Well, I assume you're referring to my apparent ability to cope with all this while you steadily fall apart. In which case, the tables haven't turned at all. What's that Earth saying? 'Fake it 'til you make it'? Come on, now, Rose Tyler, you ought to know this is all a façade. You've always known that." He gestured at his face, his posture, his being, everything.
She didn't know what to say, so she stayed silent. He continued. "I'm just as messed up as you are. My hands shake sometimes. I can't concentrate. I avoid looking in the mirror. I always keep one eye on an exit and I've been leaving all the doors open. It's just harder for me…." He swallowed and looked at the ceiling. "It's harder for me not to pretend. It doesn't mean I've moved on." She saw his discomfort as he spoke, in the way he licked his lips and the rigidity of his shoulders, his eyes anywhere but on her, his voice strained.
"So don't worry about me, then. You've got yourself to worry about."
"You know that's not how this works," he told her.
"How what works?"
"I pretended," she admitted. "For you. I pretended for a long time, in the TARDIS. Takin' care of you. Or maybe I, I pushed it down because I had someone else to look out for besides myself. Worryin' about someone else instead of about me."
"Then maybe we should focus our worrying on each other," he suggested with a touch of humour.
He became serious and he looked her full in the eyes this time as he spoke. "There's something else, isn't there?"
Rose blinked. "What do you mean?"
"Something else bothering you. Something that isn't Adam Mitchell and the others. What is it?"
She couldn't tell him. She couldn't possibly admit, while he was so concerned and honest and bare, that she was considering staying behind. "There's nothin' else," she lied.
"That's it?" His eyes bored into hers, not unkindly but in such a way that she was sure he knew.
"Yes," she said emphatically.
He licked his lips. "One more thing."
"Your mother is terrified that you're starving yourself. Eat a bit more, will you? For all of us? I feel like your mum just asking, but—" He shrugged. "Never someone I wanted to feel like," he added as an afterthought.
"Yeah. Fine. I'll try," she said.
Her vagueness didn't bother him. "Attagirl," he said kindly. One step at a time. Overcoming one tiny challenge, then another, then another.
They left it at that and finished the game as though nothing had been said. Eventually Jack came back inside and Jackie, who had been visiting Beth, returned and regaled them with stories of her day. It wasn't until late that night that Rose, tossing and turning in bed, decided she could keep it in no longer.
She sat up and swung her legs over the bed, rising quietly. In her bare feet she crept to the guest room; the door was open and she shut it softly behind her, not wanting to disturb the others. She thought he wouldn't mind the door being shut, so long as she was there with him.
It was very dark. She made out the Doctor's prone form on the bed and padded to his bedside. In the quiet of nighttime his breathing was loud, loud and fast: she looked and saw that he was agitated, quivering on the bed and covered in sweat that gleamed in the dim lighting from the window behind him. "Don't," he mumbled in his sleep. "Nngh. No." He flung his arm out, hitting Rose's leg, and she took a step back.
"Doctor," she whispered. "Doctor."
He twitched, the furrow in his brow deepening. Rose placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. "Doctor."
He awoke with a start and a strangled cry, impulsively shielding his face with his arms, eyes staring blindly about him in a panic. In the darkness he couldn't see who was next to him and he stared at the shadowy figure that was Rose. Cowering. His chest heaved, pyjamas dampened with sweat, the weak odour of his perspiration filling the room.
"Who's there?" he whispered through dry lips. His voice cracked. He tried again. "Who's there?"
"It's Rose," she replied softly, wishing he would put his arms down. She hadn't meant to frighten him and didn't like to see him like that. It brought back unwelcome memories.
The Doctor gulped for air and she saw him relax slightly. He lowered his arms and wiped sweat from his brow. "Sorry," he said. He took several deep breaths.
"I shouldn't have woken you up," Rose whispered, still standing at his bedside.
"No, I'm glad you did." He shivered and used a wad of his shirt to mop up the sweat on his chest. Budging over on the bed, he told her, "Sit down."
She complied, sitting on the edge of the bed while he lifted himself into a sitting position against the headboard. There was a small desk lamp beside the bed but neither of them moved to turn it on. Instead they peered at each other in the darkness. Both felt more comfortable obscured from view, Rose because she didn't want him to see her face when she said what she must, the Doctor because he was ashamed to have been caught in such a state. He thought he must look terribly pale and cowardly.
"What's the matter?" he asked her. They spoke in hushed tones, trying not to wake the others. Even in the darkness, she could see some combination of concern and apprehension on his face.
Once faced with actually saying it out loud, Rose found herself entirely unable to speak. She opened her mouth. Closed it. Started again. "I—" But she couldn't possibly say what was on her mind, what was keeping her up at night and causing her guilt during the day.
The Doctor looked at her and she carefully chose a set of words that she hoped would hurt him the least: "I don't feel safe anymore."
He rubbed a hand across his face. The look he gave her was one of grim understanding, of empathy, which she felt she did not deserve. "None of us feel safe," he said.
Her insides squirmed. She had to say it. "That's not what I mean. I don't feel safe— I don't feel safe...travelling with you…in the TARDIS."
His face crumpled, the precise sight that she had been dreading. "I understand," he said, which somehow was even worse.
Practicing this in her head beforehand had made it no easier. Everything she had thought to say had somehow slipped her mind as she faced him at last. It was that face, that betrayed, heartbroken face that he tried so hard to hide behind an impassive mask. But Alan and Paul had opened him up and toyed with his insides, and he was no longer the man who could smile and dance at the world while his hearts ached away. She couldn't say these things to that face, those downturned lips, the deep brown eyes that looked at her with such hurt.
But then something in her slotted into place, like a clock striking the hour, and words were spilling from her and she was telling him everything while she looked at her hands in her lap. How she couldn't see anything the same way again. How she didn't know who she was anymore. How she was afraid, afraid of the outside worlds and stars, afraid of herself and what she had done and what she was capable of doing. Afraid of what she wasn't capable of doing. Afraid of the next Adam, the next Alan, the next Paul. And the distance, the horrible, uncomfortable distance that had arisen between herself and the Doctor.
He listened patiently, his expression undergoing several changes along the way, his mouth opening at one point before lightly closing again as he waited for her to finish. Finally she ran out of words and hunched over, suppressing a sob and the onset of what she knew would soon become full-out hyperventilation if she didn't halt it then.
"There's no shame," his voice murmured at her side.
She looked over at him. Her heart fluttered, mostly painfully, and she resisted the urge to bury her face in her hands.
"It's your choice. I won't tell you what to do. But know that I would love to have you with me and that you are always welcome in the TARDIS."
"Yeah," she said quietly.
"And, you know, I could…modify things. Your memory. Erase it or…or change it. You don't need to live with all the things you went through."
"And what about you?" Rose queried.
"I'll remember everything," the Doctor replied with a shrug, feigning nonchalance.
"Yeah." He attempted a carefree smile. It slipped from his face in a second.
"Then I don't want it," she said firmly.
The Doctor blinked at her. "It's up to you," he said, and mixed with the surprise in his voice was what may have been relief, or it may have been gratitude.
That was the precise moment when Rose made her choice.
The Tyler household was a place of festivity. Christmas lights had been draped over counters and cupboards in the kitchen. Jack appeared one evening with a fir tree that he had somehow procured in spite of the lateness, having heaved it up the flights of stairs by himself. Gradually, small, wrapped gifts began to appear under it, each one labelled with a to and from. They spent a day baking, and Jack taught them all how to make wonderful gingerbread cookies that fairly dissolved in their mouths. The Doctor had discovered streamers and balloons at a nearby shop and he spent a gleeful hour decorating the flat, despite the others' happy protests that these were hardly Christmas decorations. All in all, it was a cheerful holiday spirit that filled the flat.
Their Christmas was on a Saturday—"Everyone likes Saturdays," the Doctor reasoned. Having missed both Christmas and the New Year, they went overboard: Jack and Jackie cooked for hours and a dozen delightful scents wafted throughout the flat enticingly. Every so often an "ow" could be heard from the kitchen as Jackie smacked the Doctor's hand away from a pot of this or that; he had been meandering through at odd intervals sticking his fingers into their sauces and casseroles and popping them into his mouth with satisfaction. Finally Jackie had to ban him from her kitchen and he was exiled to the sitting room, where he pouted before joining Rose in tidying the place.
The first gifts of Christmas were given just after dinner, when everyone had gorged themselves on all manner of food and were feeling fat and warm and content. They settled themselves on the sofa and chairs, all of them squashed together, and in a manner most ceremonious the Doctor reached into his inner jacket pocket and procured the sonic screwdriver. Smiles broke out on every face. Jackie actually clapped, embarrassing Rose and making her blush.
"Ladies first?" the Doctor offered, looking at Rose with twinkling eyes.
A wave of excitement rushed through Rose, straight to her fingers and toes. "If you insist," she said from the sofa, grinning at him. He beckoned and she stood to join him beside his chair, extending her left arm. With the briefest of looks at each other, they stilled and the Doctor braced her wrist in his long-fingered hand as with his other he pointed the tip of the sonic screwdriver at her cast.
She held her breath when he pressed the button, reveling in the whir that she hadn't heard since a much less fortunate day at the Torchwood base. The Doctor ran it the length of the cast and as it passed over the plaster a faint puff of plaster dust rose in a line. Entranced, Rose stared at the deep fissure that formed.
"Ready?" His eyes flicked up to hers. In excitement she bit her lip and nodded.
The Doctor replaced the sonic screwdriver in his inner pocket and again took her wrist, digging his fingers into the fissure and prying it wider and wider until the whole thing cracked open, exposing the skin underneath.
The instant fresh air touched the previously imprisoned flesh, Rose shuddered with pleasure. The coolness of it caressed the skin. He broke the cast from her, let it drop to the floor, and she breathed a blissful sigh of relief. "Oh my God," she said in a voice that was too close to a moan for her liking.
"Feels good, huh?"
"You have no idea," Rose replied. She flexed her wrist. Rotated it. Surely nothing had ever felt this good. And she could itch it, finally, after weeks of unreachable itches beneath that blasted, hot, sweaty plaster. This she did without hesitation. "Oh my God," she repeated.
"Blimey, can you tone it down a bit?" the Doctor grumbled good-naturedly. "You're killing me."
"Absolutely not," she said wickedly. From the sofa Jackie laughed. The Doctor threw her an annoyed look, if only in jest.
"Rose—can you—Rose, stop it for a second and do mine. Honestly."
Rose smirked and paused her itching to take the sonic screwdriver he offered her. Already seated as he was, he stretched his legs in front of him, rolled his joggers up to the knees, and waited.
Everything was delightful. The way Rose's tongue poked out from the corner of her lips as she surveyed his casts. The cozy atmosphere inside the flat. And above all, the overwhelming freedom when the casts were pried from his legs, one by one.
"Ohhh." His moan was nearly orgasmic and he made no effort to hold it in.
"How come I've never managed to get that noise out of you, Doc?" Jack joked.
Eyes closed, the Doctor shook his head. A blissful expression graced his face. As Rose had done, he stretched and tested his newfound mobility. His bare feet rested on the carpet and he dug in his toes.
"I am going to walk better than anyone ever walked," he declared to the room, looking down at his legs in delight. "I will be the best walker in the universe." He wiggled his toes again. "Oh, I'm going to run. Right across this galaxy. Sprint all the way around Saturn's rings."
"Dance!" Jack called, hands cupped around his mouth. They looked at him and he pointed from Rose to the Doctor and back.
The Doctor chuckled awkwardly. Rose combed her fingers through her hair, her face again going pink. "Like a teenager, you are," the Doctor said to him.
"What, like I haven't seen you two dancing before?"
"Atrophy. Another time," the Doctor mumbled, fighting a grin.
The moment avoided and the first gifts having been given, the four of them turned to the presents under the tree and passed them around, Rose taking her place cross-legged on the floor between the tree and the Doctor. Jack insisted that Rose and the Doctor start with a rectangular package no bigger than Rose's hand, which was addressed to both of them. Tearing open the paper, the Doctor revealed an ordinary cardboard box containing a tiny bottle of silvery liquid. It shone as he held it up to the light, like translucent mercury.
"What is it?" Rose asked. The Doctor passed it to her and she turned it around in her fingers, examining the slightly shimmering contents.
"It's an aphrodisiac," Jack spoke up. "My team collected it a while back and it's been in storage ever since. Not getting used," he added pointedly.
"Jack," the Doctor said, raising an eyebrow. "This is outlawed on at least seven planets."
"Not on this one. This one's never heard of it," Jack said with a wink.
"You don't actually expect either of us to use that, do you?" said Rose.
"Either of you?" Jack exclaimed in mock astonishment. "Definitely not! Both of you."
Jackie, seated next to him, elbowed him in the ribs and he cackled. Rose gingerly set the bottle aside with a dubious expression.
For the Doctor, Jackie had bought two flamboyantly patterned neckties, and in return he had bought her several jugs of laundry detergent. "For when we come visit," he said slyly. There was also a beautiful silver necklace that he and Rose had picked out for Jackie together, the Doctor having soniced himself a rather impressive bank account at a cash machine. ("Temporary," he had told Rose in his defence. "Rupert Murdoch won't miss it.") Jackie gasped at the sight of the necklace and Rose was certain she saw tears well up in her eyes. "Oh, you shouldn't 'ave," Jackie breathed. "Wait 'til Beth sees me in this. Envy of the whole street, I'll be."
"So really we should have," the Doctor muttered to Rose under his breath.
"I can almost hear Gollum," Jack joked. Jackie, overwhelmed and entranced, took no notice.
For Jack, several neon-coloured water pistols with the note, "For our brave captain, in defence of the Earth"; two pairs of thick, patterned wool socks; and an exquisite fountain pen.
Jack in turn had bought a giant white teddy bear for Rose ("For when I'm not around to provide hugs, etc."), and for Jackie a rather impressive pile of romance novels. More impressive was the effort he had clearly made to choose solely books with heavily-muscled, shirtless men on the cover. They all got a laugh out of that, passing the paperbacks around and admiring each absurdly testosteroned cover. Someone suggested Jackie read a passage aloud and soon three voices were demanding that she do so, giggling uncontrollably when Jack took over for her and grabbed one of the books, flipped through it, and began a dramatic reading.
Entirely by chance, Jackie and Rose gave each other very similar presents: for Jackie, Rose had bought a large black handbag studded with rhinestones. From her mother she received a spacious travel bag, on which was embroidered several pink roses, as well as a gift card to H&M ("Mum, how am I supposed to use this?" Rose asked. "They don't have H&M in space").
The Doctor received a disturbingly large amount of hair gel, courtesy of Jack, and with the last of her savings Rose had bought him a deep blue suit to go with the neckties from Jackie. "You always wear the same suit!" Jackie said, having consulted with Rose on his stylistic preferences prior to purchasing the ties.
The final offering was to Jackie from Jack: a hefty cheque, which she initially refused until he managed to reason with her. "Jackie, please. You've hosted us for weeks. Let us give back." At this point she became quite overcome with emotion and had to excuse herself from the room.
Rose casually glanced under the tree for her present from the Doctor but saw nothing. Eyes glittering, he handed her a small red envelope, which she shyly accepted and tore open with her thumb. Within was a card, on which the Doctor had scrawled, "Gift on TARDIS." She shot him an excited look. He nodded for her to go and she did, scurrying to the guest room where the Doctor had managed to squeeze the TARDIS. To her slight disappointment, all she saw on the TARDIS was a little yellow Post-it note stuck to the door. The words written on it were too small for her to read from the doorway and she stepped closer, bracing a tentative hand against the door to lean in.
"Anything you want," the note said.
"Anything." Rose spun around. The Doctor had followed her in and was leaning against the door frame. He hobbled to her, wobbly on his new legs.
"And what if what I want is something I can't have?" she asked him.
"Anything," he repeated.
She looked at him, saw every feature, every inch of what she wanted. And she made a decision.
"This," she said, and with a fluttering heart she reached a hand out to him and guided him gently to her by the lapel.
"What are you doing?" he said.
"I need a kiss to make it all better," she murmured, and before he knew what was happening her lips were on his and she was kissing him and he was kissing her back and he had to remind himself to close his eyes because he was too shocked to think properly. He put his hand on her face and she curled hers around the back of his neck, two people in trouble and in pain with nowhere to go but towards each other.
"Rose, wait. Stop," he said, pulling away. "We can't do this."
"Why not?" she said, bewildered.
He hesitated. Then: "To hell with it. Yes, we can."
And then he had grabbed her and their hips brushed as he pulled her close, bodies pressed tightly together, hands entwined in hair and grasping at the other's back and neck and waist. His breath was hers, lips on lips, pressing, gasping, tasting, taking.
This was where they were meant to be. This was who they were meant to be. The Doctor and Rose, together, bringing each other what peace they could.
They left the next morning. Jack was heading back to Cardiff that afternoon to rejoin his team at last, and Jackie would soon have the flat to herself again.
It was an emotional set of farewells in the sitting room; Jackie cried a little and each of them was sorry to part with the others, the lot of them having grown very close over the last few weeks. "Like a family," the Doctor had said, making Jackie cry harder. Yet all of them knew that it was time to move again, live again, and so they said their goodbyes.
"Be safe, sweetheart," Jackie said to her daughter tearfully. "You too, love." She bestowed a hug and a kiss upon Rose and the Doctor, holding them both a little too long and a little too tightly. She released them to wipe at her eyes.
"Next time you want to visit me, find a subtler way of getting my attention," Jack said to them, shaking both of their hands before planting kisses on their cheeks as Jackie had done.
More embraces were exchanged, more farewell statements and well-wishes, expressions of gratitude, promises to return, and when they were finally able to drag themselves away the Doctor and Rose made their way to the guest room, where the TARDIS was waiting. The Doctor held the door open for Rose and they stepped inside, into the cavernous, dimly-lit machine that was home. The TARDIS hummed in contentment at their presence.
With a light, tender touch, the Doctor trailed his hand along the console. "Welcome aboard, Miss Tyler," he said.