A/N This is a sequel to "Kings and Lords" and picks up almost immediately where the previous story left off. Apologies for the massive delay in getting this one started, but RL has kept me running at a mad pace. That, and I re-wrote a major chunk of the draft about halfway through which tends to slow things down.
But if you still remember "Kings and Lords" after these many months, then I hope you'll enjoy the sequel!
There was something about the available potential in that single word that was as thrilling as it was frightening.
It had been just two days since the Doctor and Rose had returned to the TARDIS after disembarking from the planet where their lives had taken such a profound turn. Though neither had anticipated this and it had certainly not been pre-planned, they were now husband and wife.
They had not embarked on their previous adventure foreseeing that it would end in a marriage of circumstance and unplanned bonding thereafter, by any means. It took them by as great a surprise as the crash-landing that had brought them there. Yet a series of dizzying events unfolded that finally culminated in the Doctor intervening to keep Rose from being forced into marrying another man. How did he accomplish it? She married him instead.
The reality still left Rose wondering if it had all been a mad dream. What was perhaps even more astonishing was that the Doctor, though initially in complete denial of its significance, had now embraced it and agreed to try and maintain this new and substantial facet of their relationship, despite a rocky start.
Knowing how to go about building such a marriage, however, was something neither was quite certain about. She was young and human and open to all life had in store, having only experienced a relative fraction. He was ancient and alien and bore centuries of brutally-inflicted scars that left him guarded and at times jaded. But they could take this slow. After all, that was one thing they were experts in.
And so this second day of new beginnings found Rose contemplating such thoughts as she stood in the Doctor's bedroom, a place that had now become a shared space between the two. She had just gotten dressed for the day in a pair of jeans and dusky-pink jumper, but lingered in front of the room's large standing wardrobe, gazing at the still-surreal sight of her and the Doctor's clothes hanging side-by-side. In spite of this romantic (if not domestic) sight and the two having made the choice to embark on this new journey, they weren't exactly in an enchanted honeymoon period just yet.
Oh, there had been more than one occasion of physically expressing their love in the most passionate of ways. Twice, to be exact. And it had been phenomenal. But afterwards they seemed to be, to a certain extent, back to the way things had always been. Upon returning to the TARDIS after leaving the planet Zobulan for the final time, the passion between them began to once again escalate, heading in a very promising direction before being cut short due to the TARDIS needing the Doctor's attention as she acclimated to being in the Vortex, still not quite back to full functioning capacity. He monitored the ship closely as they drifted in flight, careful not to tax the newly-restored systems now that the TARDIS was finally operational again after the crash.
This had been, more or less, where the Doctor's attention had been focused ever since. Not in need of rest, he had even worked all through the previous night, much to her disappointment. Rose had slipped into a rather sexy dark blue silk and lace babydoll with a matching dressing gown that barely reached mid-thigh. She had then sashayed to the control room and hinted about him coming to bed too, only to receive a lecture on the superior circadian rhythm of a Time Lord that did not require re-charging within every 24-hour cycle. Frustrated that he was oblivious to seeing the point (and her lingerie, apparently), she had gone to bed alone.
Rose reasoned to herself this was not intentional avoidance on his part. They had come too far for that now. He was not avoiding her. Certainly not.
Rose made an effort not to take offense at his absence. And yet, when going to sleep alone and being greeted by an empty bed upon waking, she couldn't help but wish for just a little more from him when it came to matters of tenderness and romance. A part of Rose inwardly wished for a proper honeymoon. A few weeks of romantic days and passionate nights and a Doctor who didn't want her out of his sight or out of his arms.
But that just wasn't who he was. He wasn't exactly an intergalactic Casanova, despite his penchant for flirting. And in all truthfulness she wouldn't want him to be, either. He was simply and complexly the Doctor. And though he might not have transformed into a wooing romantic, Rose was learning that the few times when he did focus his undivided attention on her fully and physically, there was certainly no room to complain. She tried to remind herself of that point when waking alone.
The Doctor had confessed his fear of losing what they'd previously had by taking this step, but Rose had assured him nothing would be lost, only gained; and that was true. The friendship they had shared before all of this had not changed. It was the switching gears and transitioning to the role of lovers that was seeming to be just a bit of a challenge.
Rose felt a little off balance with this. On the one hand, all she had to do was look at him now and suddenly the only thing she could think about was keeping him in bed for at least a week. The Doctor, on the other hand, seemed to be in complete control of his desires if the previous night's solitude was anything to go by. She supposed that was to be expected after 900 or so years of restraint. But when he was in the moment, he was unstoppable and intense and more than she had ever fantasized of. It was just a matter of getting him in that moment. The rest of the time he was his typical Doctorish self, as if nothing between them had changed.
A part of her loved that — loved him just as he was and would not want him to change. But at the same time, she was rather keen to express that newly-confessed love, and getting this alien to read her signals was looking to be a challenging learning process. She was certainly willing to put in the effort, though.
Already craving his nearness and that look in his eyes when his gaze met hers — that unmistakable flash of intensity — Rose left the bedroom to join him in the console room. She suspected he would be there, tending to the TARDIS in its final stage of recuperation.
As Rose emerged from the corridor and reached her destination, she saw the familiar sight of white scuffed Chucks sticking out from under the console, attached to long, pinstriped legs. Wires were strewn about in what appeared to be a haphazard fashion, but the Doctor no doubt had a purpose for the placement of each one.
She approached softly and stooped down near his feet, angling her head to get a look at the man underneath. He was muttering to himself as he worked, engrossed in repairs. He took a calculated upward swing with a mallet to a board of circuitry, followed by a colorful string of Gallifreyan expletives as a small shower of golden sparks emitted in protest near his head. The Doctor and the TARDIS had a unique love affair, seeming the most content when winding the other up.
Rose reached out a hand and placed it on his shin in greeting. There was no tingling tremor felt between them at the contact. She had learned this could sometimes be the case when they touched, now due to the bond they shared. The effect was only felt during a mutual state of arousal, though, and the Doctor was obviously preoccupied at the moment. But her touch did get his attention, and he pulled himself out and sat up quickly once he realized she was up and had come to join him.
"Rose! You're finally awake, I see," he said by way of greeting, absently rubbing a hand across the top of his head to be sure his artfully tousled hair had not been singed by the TARDIS' display of pyrotechnics.
A soft smile pulled at her lips just in seeing him, all brown eyes and exuberance, this man she loved. Rose reached out to trace a finger over a faint smudge of soot on his left cheek. She felt the tiniest little crackle of energy at the contact. Even without voicing it, the brief look shared between them spoke volumes of the new territory they had so recently covered. A pleasant warmth passed through her at the thought.
"I figured you'd be in here," she said in reply. She wasn't going to make an issue of the fact that she had gone to bed alone and woken in the same state, with him having yet to stay in bed with her and actually sleep till morning. This was simply who he was. And considering she was now waking in his bed, this was at least considerable progress.
Rose sat herself down on the metal grating, stretching her legs out alongside his as they sat facing each other. "So, how is the TARDIS now? Almost back to having as much strength as before?"
The Doctor glanced back at the console, tipping his head to peer up at the central column, healthy and glowing. A far cry from the charred state she had been in just weeks before. "Just about. She's much better now, but she's been through a lot and still needs to take it easy for a bit." Rose briefly thought that maybe the same held true for the two of them. He indicated a tangle of wires and strewn components to her left. "Give me a hand with re-aligning the drive circuits?"
Rose nodded, settling into this more familiar shared routine. It might not be a honeymoon, but this was their life, and she'd signed on for the long haul.
Comfortable silence occupied the space between them as the work resumed. Rose idly untwisted one of the wires in her hand as she pondered the rest of the day that lay ahead for them. They obviously were not going to be doing any universe-wide hopping from planet to planet or time period to time period just yet.
Maybe they could ease the TARDIS back into travel with a visit to just one planet, though. A certain planet in particular.
Rose had been thinking a lot about her mum recently throughout all that had taken place on Zobulan. She knew that Jackie really should be told about her daughter's marriage to an alien at some point. She winced a little at the thought. Her mum had never been ecstatic about the Doctor whisking Rose away into this unconventional life. Just how would her mum take this kind of news? And how would the Doctor react to the suggestion of such a visit? She didn't imagine he'd be bouncing on his heels in excitement. But regardless of either of their reactions, it needed to be done. The sooner they got this next hurdle over with the better.
With that thought in mind, Rose decided to finally broach the subject with him.
"Doctor?" she started in a few minutes later as she handed him the gravimetric aligner.
His response was muffled, the sonic screwdriver held between his teeth and hands full of mechanical bits and bobs as he sat cross-legged beside her. "Hmm?"
"I was just…thinkin'."
He removed the sonic from his mouth to aim it at one of the components held in his hands. "A very worthwhile activity, that. Thinking is high on my list of recommended pursuits." He paused. "Except on the planet Cogitate, that is. They're a genius race with one downfall: They have the brainpower to blow a hole in their atmosphere if they collectively…well…think too hard. So it has to be regulated at certain specified intervals. Thinking regulated…," he mused. "Imagine that!" He then added with a sniff, "That's why it's best that I stay away from there. I'd hate to rip a hole all the way to their stratosphere with my unmatched brain power alone. Again."
Rose shook her head, trying to remember just what it was she'd been trying to say in the first place. "Well, I don't think I'll be ripping holes in anyone's atmospheres with this thought. But…well I…" She trailed off, trying to figure out the best way to word this so that maybe he'd actually agree to the suggestion.
The Doctor looked up at her then, and it was obvious he was still trying to figure Rose out, despite their recent substantial closeness. His questioning eyes were that of a man wondering if he had done something to muck things up between them yet again. They had both been trying very hard not to mess things up, but maybe that was the problem. Trying too hard. Both would admit that their relationship had been, in some ways, much easier in the past.
"Rose, what is it?" he questioned.
She cleared her throat. "Do you think the TARDIS is well enough to take a trip back to Earth? To see Mum," she added, cautiously gauging his reaction. "We…well, we're gonna have to tell her about…us at some point. And I just thought…"
The Doctor's face bore a look of clear and sudden displeasure. He sat aside what he had been working on and stood. He paced animatedly once on his feet, as if trying to stay one step ahead of that perilous suggestion now hanging in the air. Rose brushed off her jeans and stood with him.
"We don't want to rush this. Pushing the limits of the TARDIS' capabilities, I mean. There will be plenty of time for visits…later. Some other time. I still haven't checked to be sure all of the rooms are back in order after having to reduce her dimensions while recuperating. That inspection alone could take us weeks. We could start with the squash courts, one through fifteen, and—"
"Can the TARDIS handle the trip or not?" Rose asked directly, knowing he was going to try to wiggle out of this if at all possible.
He stopped his pacing but wouldn't quite look at her. "It's…it's not simply a matter of…of…"
"Doctor, can the TARDIS make the trip or not?"
"Well, she can…I suppose. In untested theory. But the final repairs I'm trying to make…"
"Can wait for a little while, yeah?"
He swallowed and finally looked directly at her, conceding. "I'll take you to your mum's if that's what you'd like."
She could hear the additional words he wasn't saying behind that grudgingly-agreeing statement. "And you'd stay here, right? Is that what you're thinking? Check up on the all-important squash courts?"
The Doctor appeared to be weighing his options for giving a response. He may not be an expert in relationships, but he knew what Rose clearly wanted here. "You want me to come, too," he stated flatly.
Rose took a calm, even breath before responding. She did not want this becoming an argument. "Doctor, I'm not trying to force you to do anything here. But I think this is something we should do together, don't you? What's Mum gonna think if I tell her something like this and you don't even bother to be there with me?"
"Does it even matter what she thinks?" He flinched as the words were spoken, clearly wishing he could stuff them back in that impulsive gob of his. Rose looked as if she wouldn't mind doing it for him.
So much for this not becoming an argument. "She's my mum! Yes, it matters what she thinks! She matters, and deserves for us both to tell her this."
The Doctor raked both hands through his hair, that same look overtaking his face that he had on Krop Tor at the mention of sharing a mortgage. The look that said he was far out of his comfort zone with this — on the verge of a domestic row over a domestic issue. "I didn't mean it like that," he tried to amend. "I…I've told you that I just don't normally…do this sort of thing. And this…this…talking with mothers about…"
"Too domestic for you?" she questioned dryly, failing to see why he had to make such an issue of this.
"The whole matter of domestic, Rose, it's not about preference. It's about who I am and the nature of my life."
His timeless eyes locked on hers then, and she could understand what he was trying to say just a little more. Though he might have appeared it on the outside, the Doctor was far from being an ordinary man. He was an alien and the last of an ancient race. He burned at the center of Time and could bring down entire governments with the power of his words alone.
And he did not seek approval from someone's mother in regards to a relationship, the likes of which he had avoided for centuries as it was.
Rose began to wish that she hadn't even brought up the subject. At least not yet. They were still trying to get their bearings in this relationship, and the last thing she wanted was for the Doctor to feel like she was trying to change the nature of who he was, even though in her mind he was highly overreacting in this regard.
The Doctor stood silently at the controls of the TARDIS, his fiddling with buttons seeming to be a tactic of avoidance. The ship bumped and rattled, and Rose assumed he was testing the function of the drive circuits as a distraction from this topic.
"Look," she spoke up, drawing in a deep breath before continuing, "If you feel that strongly then just forget I mentioned it. We can just…"
"We're here," he interrupted, with a nod of his head indicating toward the doors.
"Where…?" she queried, trying to keep up with this ever-shifting conversation.
"Earth. London. The Powell Estate. The middle of your mum's flat about two meters left of the couch, to be precise."
His reply was not spoken begrudgingly, but with a small, apologetic smile. This went against his grain and very nature. But he had also told Rose he was willing to try and make this relationship between them work. He was making the effort for her.
Rose walked towards him and took his hand in hers, squeezing gently. "Thank you," she answered softly. "But you don't have to do this if you're really that uncomfortable with this sort of thing."
He inflated his cheeks then blew out a puff of air. "Well, now you tell me," he said, only half-joking. "But just enjoy this face of mine while you can, because I have a feeling your mum is either going to mar it beyond all recognition or slap me into my next regeneration entirely."
Rose let go of his hand only to wrap her arms loosely around his neck, delighting in that slight shift in the pupils of his eyes that said all of this was quite possibly worth it to him, regardless of uncomfortable, domestic interactions with her mum.
"Well, for now we can just play it by ear," Rose appeased. "We don't have to tell her everything right away. We'll sound her out and see how it goes, yeah?" A sultry glimmer formed in her eye as she swept her gaze over his face. "I wouldn't want to risk one of your lives. Especially since I sort of like this version of you."
His hands settled low on her waist, such a perfect fit she wondered how they had not found their resting place there sooner. "This version of me sort of likes you, too," he replied back. And though it wasn't exactly the most romantic sentiment they had ever shared, the look in his eyes and tone of his voice made her heart skip a few beats.
Predictably, it was short lived, though, as he switched modes and threw her for a loop with his next out-of-the-blue statement of significance. "Weeell, that's not to say that this version of myself would necessarily change with regeneration. Some Time Lords could control exactly who they became next. It's a dodgy process, that; and not something I've ever really practiced. But I do know the process is subject to influence by those near me if I allow it. Well, obviously, considering the way I came out this time around, thanks to you."
He gave her a lazy smile, and Rose just gaped at him. "You're telling me that the next time you were to regenerate, you…you could stay the same as you are now?!"
"Possibly," he said with a casual shrug. "In many respects, at least. Unless I were to choose to let go of who I am now and change entirely."
Rose's jaw hung open, and the Doctor's easy expression shifted to one of uncertainty upon noting her reaction.
Seconds later, the muffled sound of Jackie's voice could be heard from outside.
"Oi! Either the two of you come out and say a proper hello, or else stop takin' up half the parlor as if it's a carpark for that daft box."
He looked to the doors, swallowed, then looked back at Rose. "Umm, I'm guessing another thing I have to learn is not to drop somewhat meaningful bits of information out of the blue during inopportune moments?"
Rose shook her head slowly, clearing the haze and filing away what he had just told her for later processing. "Let's…let's just…go talk to Mum for now. And don't go droppin' the news about us on her in the same way," she warned.
Rose turned from him to head down the ramp. The Doctor hung back, following with slow reluctance. "Don't worry. I'm not planning to say anything more than is strictly necessary."