Author's Notes: This fic is a thank-you to Onabearskinrug for organizing help for someone else in need. Her request: iSuper fluff, any rating/i. Her prompt: How about Ten and Rose end up accidentally stowing away on a luxury tropical cruise? It takes a while, but Ten finally loosens up and starts to have fun, and Relaxed!Ten is very amorous. I don't often write pure fluff, so I have endeavoured mightily to fluff this up as much as possible. Please take heed.

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.

A Trace of Stars

A shadowy black blur shot past the hostess, up the gangplank and onto the cruise ship. The hostess gasped and clutched at her clipboard wildly, but no sooner than she had collected herself, another, bigger, blur appeared.

'Gangway!' hollered the Doctor and, flashing his psychic paper at the startled hostess, pelted up the gangplank.

'I'm with him,' called Rose as she too ran up the ramp, narrowly missing the hostess who tried to close the way with a chain.

The Doctor threw a glance back at her without missing a step. 'I've always wanted to say "Gangway" on a gangway!' He ducked into a doorway.

Rose followed him into the sudden dimness. The next thing she knew, the Doctor had jumped down a narrow spiral stairway, both feet and hands up on the utilitarian metal railings. He zipped down and around the spiral, hollering "Gangway!" as he went. Rose scrambled down as best she could, feet on steps.

When she reached the bottom, a wide-eyed porter merely pointed to the right. She nodded gratefully at him and ran through the service halls, dodging personnel and carts. More stunned reactions and gestures, like a wake from the Doctor's passing, continued to steer her in the right direction.

When she burst out through a door into a passenger cabin on the opposite side of the ship and came skidding to a halt, the Doctor was standing next to the creature, talking animatedly to it while applying his sonic screwdriver to the porthole window.

Now that they weren't chasing it, Rose could see it more clearly. Clearly, that is, considering the creature seemed to be a constantly shimmering, changing, silver-glossed shape between human and fish.

'Ah! There you are,' cried the Doctor happily. 'This is an allomorph from Grix. Splendid chaps are allomorphs. Bit far from his home, but the dolphins will help him get back.'

'The... the dolphins?' she stuttered.

The porthole glass popped free of its moorings and, without missing a beat, the allomorph flowed through it. Almost immediately, Rose heard a splash in the water far below. The Doctor poked his head out the window and smiled. He waved his fingers down at the water and then withdrew back into the room.

'Um... if it's so splendid, why didn't it just go over the side at the dock?' she asked. 'Why go onto the ship?'

The Doctor fitted the glass back into its hole and applied the screwdriver once again. 'Allomorph code of ethics. The black blurry shadow thing was its camouflage. It would have had to change back to the silvery form to enter the water. But it couldn't do that in front of all the people on the dock. Revealing its existence to humans? Nope. Not good. A shadowy blur is easier for humans to explain away and forget about. Of course, when it realized who I was, it changed back instantly. And there you are. He's happily swimming with the dolphins now.'

'And we're just going to leave it there?'

'Oh, yes! Good chaps, allomorphs. At least, the ones from Grix. It'll have a good visit with the dolphins and leave when it can, Earth none the worse, or wiser, for its presence.'

Rose grinned. 'A friendly alien! That's more like it.'

Footsteps pounded down the corridor behind them and abruptly stopped at the door. The hostess and a uniformed crewmember cautiously peeked in.

'Did you catch it?' the hostess asked.

The Doctor straightened. 'The situation is under control. You have nothing to be concerned about.' He grinned. 'Ooh, I like that. I sounded official. Official! Hah!'

'Where is it?' the hostess persisted. 'I couldn't see it properly, but there was definitely something weird.'

The Doctor paused and then rummaged in his pocket. He pulled out a large skein of some odd, fine shimmery black cord knotted into a mesh. 'Appearances can be deceiving,' he intoned solemnly. 'For example, if a seagull were to be tangled up in this-poor thing scuttling to safety in a panic...'

'Oh,' chorused both the hostess and the crewmember, nodding their heads rapidly. The Doctor stuffed the net back into his pocket. By then more crewmembers had crowded behind the first two, questions and demands filling the air.

It took a while for the hostess and the first crewmember to calm the newcomers, adopting the Doctor's manner of being in the know without giving any details. Once the group were assured that there was no longer cause for alarm and nothing untoward on the ship, they dispersed back to their stations.

'I have to go and report to the Captain,' said the original crewmember. 'He'll have heard of a disturbance by now.'

'Excellent!' said the Doctor. 'We'll just make our way out of the ship. No need to show us the way.'

The hostess looked at him with an odd smile. 'I'm afraid you can't do that. You came up the very last gangplank still open. I'm quite sure the ship has left the dock by now.'

'What?' spluttered the Doctor.

It was true. By the time they emerged onto the deck back on the other side of the ship, there was a broad expanse of water between them and the dock at Miami.

'We need to get back to shore.' The Doctor squinted his eyes against the bright sun.

'Sorry,' said the hostess. 'We're on a tight schedule. There's no turning these ships around.'

'Lifeboat? Dinghy?' prompted the Doctor.

She solemnly shook her head.

'Swim! We can swim back!'

'No, we can't,' said Rose sharply. 'Florida? Even I've heard about the sharks here.'

The hostess laughed. 'Sorry, sir. You're coming with us. Don't worry. Your services were appreciated. I know we have empty cabins, so you will be made comfortable. We have wi-fi, so you can contact your superiors, and we'll be happy to confirm the situation should you need it.'

Rose laughed at the Doctor's crestfallen expression. 'Stuck on a cruise ship? There are worse fates.' She bumped him playfully with her shoulder.

'Not many,' he glumly returned.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

Rose marvelled at the efficiency of the hostess. Within ten minutes, she had located a free cabin, coincidently the same one the allomorph had taken refuge in, and issued keys to both Rose and the Doctor.

The cabin had bunk-beds, a detail which pleased the Doctor, and he promptly bounded up the ladder and flopped on the top bed, his head hanging over.

'Bunk-beds! Brilliant! Always liked bunk-beds.'

Rose sat on the lower bed and grinned when she came almost nose-to-nose with the upside-down Doctor. She shook her head. 'We're actually on a cruise-ship, and the only thing you like is the bunk-beds!'

Not much else pleased him. Even the vast shopping malls, fountains, pools and lounging decks held absolutely no interest for him. Even when Rose brandished pamphlets and pointed out all the services and activities they could take advantage of, her efforts only earned a sniff of disdain.

Secretly, she suspected that he simply didn't like been carried away from his Tardis. He didn't like not being in control. However, as she gazed around at the hordes of passengers, the glossy and perfectly appointed furniture, the scores of shops hawking the latest fashions, her heart sank. It really wasn't the Doctor's milieu at all.

A day passed. Most of the time, Rose wandered around, fascinated by the lavish lifestyle. The Doctor made himself scarce, and she learned later that he had been sniffing around below decks, poking his nose into service ways, talking to the members of the crew who rarely interacted with the well-heeled passengers. At night, he chattered away, sharing bits and pieces of stories he'd gleaned from those he had befriended.

Rose admitted to herself (though never to him!) that his stories did seem more interesting. She resolved to spend the next day with him, exploring the hidden parts of the ship.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

Rose's resolution came to nought, however, when the Doctor found out that the first port of call was Cancun. He especially perked up his ears when he heard that the cruise ship's schedule included a return visit in a week.

'Yucatan peninsula,' he crowed happily. 'Mayan ruins. You've got to see them, Rose. Amazing things!'

The next thing Rose knew, the hostess (who seemed to have become rather a fan of the Doctor) had them set up at a resort. At a prompt from him, and thus a call she made to UNIT (code name: Doctor), she had not only secured a week's stay in a lavish suite but some spending money, courtesy of accumulated back pay from his time as his third incarnation. His apparent status with the mysterious military organization in the UK had further impressed the hostess, and she had arranged for a contact person at the resort to arrange all their needs.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

And now they were at the resort. But the Doctor quailed at the sight of the amassed vacationers. And so he took Rose's hand and, with many a grin, engaged in dodging every convention of the vacation.

The contact person arranged a car for them and they drove out to Chichen Itza at dawn. The first ones admitted to the grounds, the Doctor took Rose past all the shops and vendors opening up to hawk their wares.

He stood her in front of the central pyramid, a hundred feet back from the flight of steep stone steps, and he told her to clap slowly. They did it together, and Rose heard the high, falling chirring tone of the reverberating echo that bounced back clearly and powerfully.

'Wow,' she whispered, and she clapped again. Even the immediate sound of her own clapping seemed louder than it should in the open air.

'Isn't it brilliant?' he enthused. His eyes were sparkling. 'The Mayans were amazing mathmeticians. Each step was measured exactly-each rise exactly the same height. The sound carries up along each one precisely at the same interval in turn. They knew the importance of time.'

'Aren't they the ones that did that calendar?' she asked. She clapped again and the pyramid steps chirred back at her. 'The one where the world comes to an end in, um, 2012?'

He scoffed. 'They certainly made the calendar. Predictions of the world ending? That's just nonsense. The only reason it-the calendar, that is-is ending next year is because their calculations came to an end in a logical sequence. Nothing more.'

'Ah,' she said.

The temple of the skulls made her shiver (but not too much-she had seen worse on her travels in the Tardis), as did the formidable football court where the losing team were reputedly decapitated by the winners. The Doctor had his doubts.

'Where would they find opponents for future games if they killed them all?' he wondered.

They escaped, laughing, hand-in-hand as the first of the massive touring buses disgorged its passengers.

They made their way to a cenote-an underground cavern where water had carved out a swimming hole 150 feet below the earth. No one was there, so, after stripping off their clothes, they gleefully jumped into the mirror-still pool of dark blue-green water. The echo of the splashes magnified and the Doctor howled as if he were a wolf baying at the moon. The howl bounced back from all around the circular cavern. Rose howled too, her clear soprano echoing and mingling with his. He looked at her then, with a small, secretive smile, but when she looked at him, he pushed away from the side and swam across the pool and back. His lithe body cleaved through the water as swiftly and easily as a fish, but when he returned, he splashed at her noisily. She splashed back, and their noise rang throughout the cenote.

Another day, they stood by the Mayan temple at Tulum and looked over the ocean with its ever-changing, blue, aqua and turquoise stretching out, out, out into the Caribbean.

They wound their way through markets just outside Cancun and the Doctor bought Rose a pareo-turquoise with rich Mayan embroidery and beading. She bought him a loose white cotton shirt with dark blue embroidery down the front. He consented to wear it provided that she wouldn't expect him to change his pinstriped trousers for a pair of shorts.

'Those things aren't shorts,' he said disdainfully, when he saw a rack of them in a store. 'Self-explanatory, a word like "shorts." They are short. These things here are more like stunted trousers!'

They wandered through the hotel zone on the long, thin island of Cancun and ate lunch at a colourful, noisy outside restaurant-bar which mischievously claimed to be the filming site of the film 'Cocktail' with a small 'not' scrawled on the sign.

'Shareen would have loved this,' Rose said. 'She always liked Tom Cruise.'

And, so, at dinner, margaritas in hand and ridiculous, oversized, sequined sombreros on their heads, they had a waiter take their picture. Later, it was delivered to their table, complete with a cheesy frame emblazoned with cartoonish pictures of iguanas wearing their own sombreros.

'She'll like that,' said Rose.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

They never did fully adjust to the local time. In fact, it felt as if they were still on the Tardis. They'd sleep at odd times, often during the hottest times in the afternoon, and enjoy the soft heat and mystery of the evenings. Then, Rose would occasionally steer the Doctor towards the hot tubs to soak. He soon learned to like it, especially late in the evening when the other vacationers had left for bed and he and she could sit side by side, Rose leaning her head on his shoulder. All remaining wariness had disappeared, and it seemed to her that he not only had accepted the vacation forced upon them but was actually enjoying it.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

One night, they lay on towels on the sand as the gentle ocean waves lapped at their feet and the Doctor pointed out constellations.

'See that?' He pointed up almost directly overhead. 'Orion-with his belt and-'

'I know!' interrupted Rose. 'His sword. And those two are his shoulders, and... and...' She hunted lower. 'Those are his knees. Or his feet.'

The Doctor solemnly considered this. 'His knees. He'd be awfully short otherwise.'

She giggled, but then she furrowed her brow. 'Isn't Orion lower?'

He looked at her quizzically.

'In the sky. Maybe half-way up.' She pointed to where she meant.

'Ah!' He smiled proudly. 'Right. Well, show me Polaris?'

'Show you what?'

'Polaris. The North Star. All the stars rotate around it.'

'The North Star!' Rose hunted around the sky. After a moment, she confessed. 'I can't find it.'

'You're looking too high. Look closer to the horizon.'

She frowned but obeyed. 'Wait... That's the Plough over there, isn't it?'

'Yep! Plough, Ursa Major, Great Bear, Big Dipper, Three Leaps of Gazelle... Loads of names. Can you find the North Star from there?'

'Wait... Um... yes!' She triumphantly pointed it out. 'But it's so low.' She turned over so she was leaning on one elbow, facing him. 'What's with that?'

The Doctor followed her move and propped himself up on one elbow, facing her, almost nose to nose. 'You've never been this south on Earth before. London is at a latitude of about 51 degrees north. Cancun is 23 degrees. You are seeing the stars from a different angle. Orion is higher and the North Star and the Plough are lower.'

'Cool,' she said softly. The Doctor's face was only inches from her own. His eyes were earnestly staring into hers, pools of darkness in the night. She smiled. 'Sort of seeing you from a different angle too.'

'Suppose so,' he said with a quiet chuckle. 'What declination would you say I'm at?'

'I don't know about declinations,' Rose whispered back, 'but I know my inclination.'

He looked impressed. 'Nice word play!'

'Shut up!' She laughed and pushed him over playfully. He was on his back. She leaned over him, straddling his chest with her arms. 'I don't have your gob, but I know my language!'

'You do,' he agreed solemnly. 'Sorry! What's your inclination?'

She looked down at him and caught her breath. Inches away from her, his eyes were candid and gazing at her, utterly interested in what she had to say. His long eyebrows, spiky fringe and rich brown hair framed his face in a such a familiar and well-beloved way. Rose shifted her weight so that she could reach up one hand. She touched one of his sideburns with a fingertip. It was a little rough and she could feel the individual hairs as she stroked them.

'Mmm,' murmured the Doctor.

Emboldened, she explored his eyebrows next. Her tracing followed from near his nose, up over his eye and down to his temple. He sighed and then smiled, crinkles at the corners of his eyes forming under her fingertip. She stroked the wrinkles that softly arched downward to the sides of his cheeks.

'I love your face,' she whispered.

'Mmm,' he said again. 'I love you touching my face.'

'Really?' She reared her head back and studied him. 'I didn't think you were... well... into that...'

'Into that?' he echoed.

'Yeah.' She turned her attentions to his other sideburn and he sighed again. Gently she wriggled her fingernail through the bristles.

The Doctor shivered.

Rose paused. 'What was that? Was that a good shiver or a bad shiver?'

'Oh! Good! Most definitely good. In fact, excellent, I must say!' He looked up at her hopefully.

She did it again and she could have sworn that he writhed.

'I know your secret,' she murmured. 'You're like a cat. Stroke you in the right places and you're putty in anyone's hands.'

'Correction,' he whispered. 'If iRose/i strokes me in the right places. Cats are slightly less discriminate.'

'Oh!' Rose considered this and she could feel a big smile spreading over her face. 'Right then. Is it just where you have hair, or can I try something else?'

'Like what?'

She ran her fingertip over his nose and then, softly, ever so gently, touched his upper lip. 'Is this okay?'

He smiled. 'You're Rose,' was all he said.

She grinned. 'Hang on.' She turned herself around so that she lay on her side but leaning against him, propped up by an elbow, her head on her hand. She saw his face in profile.

'Your upper lip is narrow,' she murmured. She delicately traced its edge from end to end. 'Perhaps you are a stern Time Lord and if I'm naughty, you will punish me.'

'That tickles,' he said, though it didn't sound like a complaint. 'And... er... punish?' He cocked his head.

'Never mind,' she said hastily. She touched her finger to his lower lip. 'But this one's different. Mmmm... so soft. One end,' and here she touched one corner of his mouth, 'to the other,' and she trailed her fingertip along the lip to the other end. He sighed again. 'But if I trace this way...' she murmured. Her finger followed the short distance from the top, over the middle, and to the bottom, straight edge of his lower lip. The curve of her fingertip nestled into the soft dent underneath.

'Mmm...' he said. 'Tracing. I like tracing. Are you going to trace any more? I mean, well, you're quite right-my upper lip is narrow, so tracing is probably not terribly interesting for you, though I don't quite understand why that would make me stern and want to punish you. Punishing Rose... Nope. Definitely don't like that. Besides, on Treekix 13, narrow lips are quite coveted and those who have them are considered lucky and desirable. Does that make me desirable here? Probably not if I'm supposed to be stern. But you say my lower lip is different and soft. Does that make me opposite of stern? What would you say... a wuss? Isn't that the word nowadays? Or is that out of date. Can't be sure. At any rate, it's awfully arbitrary to assign characteristics to people based on physical appearance. No connection whatsoever. But perhaps you're fantasizing. Oooh! Fantasies! Right! Shall I be a stern wuss? Or a wussy stern... something?'

'Shhhh,' whispered Rose. 'You're babbling. You wouldn't know what to do with fantasies anyway.'

'Of course I w-'

She laid her finger over his lips and he hushed obediently.

'I'm gonna trace more,' she murmured. 'Like this.' She levered herself up once more with hands planted on either side of his shoulders, and cautiously, slowly (for she expected him to squirm away at any moment), touched her lips to his.

'Rose,' the Doctor protested and indeed he did squirm a bit. 'That's not an efficient way to trace. You need a finer implement. Like your finger. You can't say you're going to trace with something as large as what you're tracing.'

'Oh. Sorry.' Rose sat up and looked away. 'Yeah. Of course. You're right.' She blinked hard and gathered herself to stand.

'No, no, no!' He scrabbled to sit up, sand flying in all directions and water splashing at his feet. 'No-I didn't... Rose! Wait-I like your tracing. I do! It's just calling it tracing didn't make sense. We could call it something else. After all, tracing describes a very specific action. What about another word. What would you say you were trying to do?'

Rose blinked again. 'I was trying to enjoy what I was doing. I didn't want new words.'

The Doctor stared at her and then smacked himself in the forehead. 'Stupid, stupid,' he muttered. He grasped each of her upper arms and held on tight. 'I love your tracing,' he said solemnly. 'Or...or... Ah! Caressing! How about caressing?'


'Ack! Tracing! Please trace. Trace any way you'd like. Rose tracing. Being traced by Rose. Mmmm!'

'Shut up!'

Miraculously, he shut up and promptly lay down.

Rose wavered, but he looked up at her so hopefully that finally she relented and returned to her former position. 'Shut up,' she whispered again, and she touched her lips to one corner of his mouth. Softly, she moved up and over, never breaking contact, to the other corner and then kissed him there.

'Mmmm...' The Doctor reached up and cradled her shoulders in his hands. 'Mmmm.'

'Mmm,' she answered, and traced a path of butterfly kisses down his chin and under.

The effect was electric. He gasped and then arched his head and neck under her. Rose grinned to herself and moved to his throat just under his left jaw, never stopping the soft movements of her lips against his skin. She felt his fingers spasm and grip her shoulders hard. But when she moved to the other side of his throat, he soon squirmed away, and scrambled to his feet.

As Rose stared up at him, her mouth open, he nodded rapidly.

'Wow! Tracing!' He bounced up and down on his toes. 'Wow!' He flashed her a manic grin, eyes alight, and then took off running up the beach.

Rose sat, stunned. He didn't return, though, so she slowly got to her feet. A memory came to her of a friend's cat. She had been petting it for quite some time and it had been purring and rolling happily on the floor. Suddenly the creature had stiffened and then leaped out from under her caresses and shot out of the room. The friend had explained it as "overstimulation".

The Doctor hadn't hissed at her though. If anything, he looked excited and happy. Rose shook her head and wondered if this was some Time Lord characteristic or if it was merely a Doctorish quirk. She returned to the resort.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

The Doctor hadn't gone back to his room. He didn't turn up until late morning and when he did, he did not mention the previous evening. Rose didn't push him; however, that day, despite his protests, she managed to half-pursuade and half-blackmail him into having a massage. She had been trying since they arrived, but only now did he agree.

As reluctant as he had been, he quickly grew pliant under expert hands. He had begun his usual patter comparing massage techniques on different worlds, but he quickly subsided. Several times she heard him sighing in contentment as she too lay on her table and strong hands kneaded and stroked until she felt she were melting into a puddle of goo.

After their visit to the spa, Rose found the Doctor missing at odd times-never for very long, for he'd turn up again almost before she realized he was gone. His answer to her queries was always the same: 'Oh, just walking about.'

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

Late on the last night before the cruise ship was due to return, she found out what he had been up to.

They had woken early again, only a few hours after a late night swimming under the full moon. The soft, gentle heat seemed to carry over and it felt to Rose as if it were the same night. It was, of course, but there was none of that feeling of rising for a new day. No. The night merely continued, the ink black sky again full of stars.

The Doctor wore his new cotton shirt, and Rose wore her pareo, knotted over a new bikini.

He took her out to the beach and down past the end of the hotel building and out of sight of the windows. They walked further on past a run-down house with the ribs of the roof support clearly showing through the patchy, drooping, thatched covering. Further on they reached a rocky outcropping that led almost all the way down the beach to the water. In the middle of this, there was a small clearing filled with the smooth, silky-soft sand of the Yucatan. In the middle of that were some beach towels laid out with smooth, rounded stones holding down the corners.

'What's this?' asked Rose. 'Looks to me like someone came out here and planned something.'

'One point to Gryffindor!' crowed the Doctor. 'We're going to stay here and practice my favourite new hobby: Rose-tracing!'

'Again?' asked Rose, amused.

He shook his head. 'No, no... not really. Strictly speaking, what you did the other night was Doctor-tracing which was brilliant. Now, I want to do Rose-tracing. My new favourite hobby, see?'

She didn't, though her heart beat a little faster. 'You haven't done that before. How do you know it's a favourite?'

'Ohh, I know.' He nodded rapidly in confirmation. 'I always know.'

'I see,' she said. She kicked off her sandals and lay down on the towels. 'Oooh... there's Orion right overhead.' She watched the Doctor out of the corners of her eyes.

He promptly laid himself down on his side beside her, much like she had done the last time, propping himself up on one elbow. 'He is, indeed.' He regarded her solemnly. 'Two stars for his shoulders,' and here he lightly touched the top of her forehead twice, once on the right and once on the left. 'Three for the belt,' and he stroked her eyebrows and dabbed a spot in between.

'Three for the sword,' she continued, and his grin lit up his face.

'Oh yes!' He stroked three small lines down her nose, the last on the tip. 'And two for his knees.' He paused and then lightly touched each corner of her lips.

Rose felt her breathing quicken. 'Those knees are important,' she said.

'Oh, yes,' he agreed. 'Absolutely. Couldn't get anywhere without knees.' He cocked his head. 'Do you remember the brightest stars?'

Rose furrowed her brow. 'Beetlejuice?'

'Close. Betelgeuse.' He pronounced it beh-tell-jeuhz, with the 'j' a soft, caressing whisper. His breath ghosted over her cheek and she shivered. 'And Rigel. Very important stars. Betelgeuse is his top right shoulder.' He leaned over and carefully kissed the top of her forehead at her hairline. 'And even more important is Rigel, his left knee.' He cradled her chin with his fingers and kissed the left corner of her mouth.

'Very important,' Rose agreed. 'Maybe you should mark it again.'

'I concur. First magnitude stars should always be marked most carefully. Orion has two first magnitude stars. At least from Earth's perspective.' He reached up and kissed her forehead again-'Betelgeuse is first magnitude.'-and then returned to his former position. 'Rigel...'

Rose closed her eyes and felt the cool touch of the Doctor's lips at the corner of her mouth. 'Mmmm,' she said.

'And there's another important star nearby,' he whispered. 'Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus.' He kissed her left cheek. 'And beyond that are the Pleiades-the Seven Sisters.'

Rose felt his fingers tuck her hair behind her ear and then... and then... the softest, most delicate touches came, on her earlobe and around the rim of her ear.

'Ohhhh...' She clutched at his arms. When she could form a coherent thought again, she added, 'I like these Seven Sisters.'

'So do I,' he answered. 'But something I like even more is the Winter Triangle. Look up at the stars.'

'I don't want to,' she whimpered. 'I want more Seven Sisters.'

'Ah, but Rose Tyler,' he said a little sternly, 'if you attend properly, you will discover more of the delights of the night sky.'

She opened her eyes. His face was hovering close to hers, almost nose to nose. But as soon as he saw her eyes cross, he moved aside.

'See Orion?' he asked. 'Where is Betelgeuse?'

She promptly pointed out the bright, slightly reddish star at the top left of the constellation. 'His right shoulder,' she said dutifully. 'My forehead,' she added.

He chuckled. 'Right! Now, if you look down and to the left, can you see two more bright stars that create a large triangle with Betelgeuse?'

'Yeah, I can,' she said. 'I remember that. I always liked that triangle. Isn't one of them the little dog? Or the big one?'

'Both,' he said, grinning. 'The upper star is Procyon, in the constellation of Canis Minor, or the Little Dog, as you call it. The lower star is Sirius in Canis Major, or the Big Dog. Both of them are stars of the first magnitude, but Sirius is the brightest star in the sky.'

'Yeah,' she said. 'I remember that.'

'Right! So, we must be very serious about tracing Sirius.'

He scrambled over her to her other side.

'Close your eyes,' he said sternly.

She promptly obeyed.

'Two stars of the first magnitude,' he murmured. 'First, Procyon. We must be serious about him too since he is a part of the Winter Triangle, the most easily seen asterism in the winter sky.' He nuzzled at her ear.

Rose giggled, but he followed with a soft nibble to her earlobe. She clutched his arms once again. 'I like being serious,' she breathed.

'So do I,' he mumbled, and he kissed the inner rim of her ear. 'Terribly important, these stars.' He shimmied down a few inches. 'Now Sirius.' He kissed her throat under her right jaw, finishing a perfect, equilateral triangle.

'Ahh...' Rose turned her head to the side, allowing the Doctor better access. 'Don't you think Sirius needs a little more than that?'

'I concur.'

He nuzzled under her jaw and the next thing she knew was the feeling of a very slightly rough swipe of a tongue followed by gentle, tentative nibbling. It tickled a little, but she didn't care. Actually, the tickling was really rather nice. Very nice.

'Oh, yes,' she breathed.

'There,' he said and promptly kissed the spot again. 'Properly traced.'

'Mmm,' said Rose. 'Um... are there ever any other bright stars in Orion... between his knees?'

'You mean between Rigel-' and he kissed the left corner of her mouth, '-and Saiph? Saiph, poor chap, is only a second-magnitude star, but he could become a supernova at any time and then he'd be very bright indeed.' The Doctor caressed the right corner of her mouth with his thumb and then brushed his lips against it. 'And we'd have to become very serious about him.'

'Isn't there anything we could be serious about now?' pleaded Rose. She opened her eyes and saw his big, brown eyes gazing at her thoughtfully.

'Well...' He thought for a moment. 'There is a nebula in Orion's sword, but that would be the bridge of your nose.'

'Nope,' said Rose firmly. 'Gotta be between Rigel and Saff...Salph.'

'Saiph,' he corrected absently. Then he brightened. 'On the other hand, the sky is teeming with stars. Everywhere. Some could be as bright as Rigel and Saiph if they were nearer. So... to express their magnitude and the tiny amounts of light reaching us down here, tracing would have to be...' and he brushed his lips against hers in a feather-light touch, 'like...' and he nibbled her centre lower lip for a fraction of a second, 'this.' He cradled her chin in his hand and dropped butterfly kissed over each and every spot of her mouth.

'That's more like it,' whispered Rose between each tiny touch. 'What about planets? They're bigger, right? Couldn't they go between Rigel and Sa...iph?'

'Sorry,' the Doctor said brightly. 'They only travel along the ecliptic... more or less. But not through Orion.'

Rose growled and the Doctor started. 'What would happen if Saiph went supernova,' she demanded.

He pondered. 'From here, he would outshine any star or even planet. He would be a brilliant point in the heavens.'

'Good,' said Rose. She reached up and grabbed his head. 'He's just gone supernova. So has Rigel.'

'But Rigel won't...'

'Fine! Betelgeuse then!'

'Ah. Yes. That could happen-it would result in light brighter than the moon. A thousand times more serious.'

'Then shut up and start tracing!'

The Doctor happily shut up and obliged.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

Rose looked up, up, up and through the waving lattice of the curving golden-green palm tree leaves that waved gently in the soft breeze. The clear azure sky stretched overhead.

'Yellow and green,' she murmured. 'And blue,' she added, for this was of great importance.

They had fallen asleep on the sand hours earlier. After they had thoroughly traced the effects of Saiph's impending supernova upon each other's lips, Rose caught sight of a meteor and then another one. Captivated, they cuddled side by side and watched as more came. The Doctor triumphantly remembered that it was the right time for the Orionids-a meteor shower that occurred in the fall of Earth's northern hemisphere, and began to teach her the cause. That is, he attempted to before she began to trace on his skin each meteor that fell. He quickly forgot what he was saying and enjoyed the event, both celestial and earth-bound, instead. Gentle touches and gentle murmurings, punctuated by soft kisses in the dark under the bright stars, with the rhythmic shush-shh of the waves lapping at the shore below them lulled them gradually to sleep.

At least it did Rose. She could never be sure about the Doctor. But now she could feel the Doctor move at her side, his fingers playing with a strand of her hair.

'Yellow,' he agreed. 'And pink.'

Rose turned her head and studied him. 'Pink? Sunrise is over.'

'Ah,' he said, sounding a little more alert. He looked up at the sky. 'Yes. Very blue.'

'The ship comes back today,' she said mournfully. 'I don't want to leave here.'

'We have the Tardis,' he reminded her. 'We can always come back whenever we want to.'

'Yeah, but only if there's some alien invasion or something,' she mumbled.

His fingers stopped playing with her hair. 'No,' he said and sat up. 'Not for invasions. For Rose. Only for Rose.'

She couldn't stop what she thought must be the goofiest grin from spreading over her face. 'Only for me?'

He nodded. 'Yeah.' He cupped her face in his hands, leaned in and touched his lips to hers-a brief but tender pressure-and then he straightened again before gathering her to him in a fierce hug. 'Only for you.'

~ o ~ O ~ o ~

The hostess met them at the bottom of the very same gangway where the allomorph had made a dash for freedom.

'You two certainly look like you enjoyed yourself,' she said cheerfully when they reached her. 'I have the same room for you-the one you liked with the bunk beds.'

The Doctor scratched his head. 'I don't suppose you have another one-one with a double bed?'

As Rose turned to him, her mouth open in shock, the hostess smiled broadly.

'There aren't any doubles available, but we just had one with a queen-sized vacated today if you'd like that.'

'Molto bene!' He beamed. 'We'll take it.'

And as the hostess led the way up the gangway and Rose and the Doctor followed, he turned to Rose and whispered, 'After all, we only mapped out one small part of the night sky last night. To finish the rest of it, I will need to be much more... thorough. With a larger canvass. And more seriously. And with much more effective supernovae-for which I'll need you to train me.'

And so Rose scrambled up into the ship, never so eager in her life to receive, or give, an astronomy lesson.

The End