Chapter 17 - Incomplete Lullaby

When you stopped and held me close
Inside I nearly froze
Your touch is almost healing
You left me feeling

Could not close my eyes
On fire
But frozen inside
To run or to hide?
My words would not melt
I wanted to shout
Without you I felt

Like a setting sun
Like a lost goodbye
Like an Incomplete Lullaby

- Lisa Mitchell, "Incomplete Lullaby"

The Doctor had just finished picking everything back up when he hears a soft knock on the door. His hearts leap.

He walks over to the door and slowly opens it, afraid if he seems too eager he will scare her away again.

He steps back to allow her to enter. She steps just inside the door.

"What happened?" she asks him.

"A trap set by the Master. It was pretty stupid looking back now. I really should have seen it coming. He made it seem like he had you in a motel room on the planet Krypton, yes it's a real planet. We can go there if you'd like. I should have realized something was off. When I opened the door I was sprayed with a mist. Some sort of poison. Never bothered to find out what it actually was. I think it was meant to kill me but as soon as I opened the door I knew something was off and quickly got out of there. I wasn't sprayed with enough to completely kill me but had to regenerate."

He would have gone on, but then he realized how much he was talking. His new tongue has a habit of not stopping when it should. This problem increases when he was nervous. He looks at Rose. To his surprise she is almost smiling.

They stand there in silence for a moment as she looks him up and down. She takes a step forward. He stands completely still. She straightens his bowtie.

"Really? You wear a bowtie now?" she asks him mockingly.

"Bowties are cool," he responds, although not in the defensive way he will become known for saying that line. It is more tentative. As he is afraid that she is still in the process of accepting him.

He stands completely still as she runs her hands through his long hair and over this face, memorizing his new look.

She definitely smiles as she plays with his hair. "But you're still not ginger."

"Tell me about it! How hard is it to become a ginger? I'll tell you Rose next time-" He's doing it again. Talking too much. But she's still there. Mere inches from him.

Then she does something he isn't expecting. She wraps he arms around him, buries her face in his chest, and takes a deep breath. He is still too nervous to move.

When Rose finally picks her head up she says, "You still smell the same. I was overwhelmed and confused before. You're my Doctor. I know you're my Doctor." She pulls away just far enough so she can look into his eyes. And he looks into to hers.

Then it is his turn to do something neither he nor she is expecting. Caught up in the moment, he leans forward and presses his lips against hers. Lightly. Gently. He is afraid she will pull away. But she doesn't. Rather the opposite actually. She slides her hands up his body and cradles the back of his neck, pulling him even closer. He snakes his arms tightly around her waist. The pressure between their lips increases.

That is when he notices tears are streaming down his face. This is the Rose he knows. The strong woman able to handle anything and everything thrown at her. And after all this time, after everything that she has been through in the past several months, she is somehow still able to care for him. She still trusts him and feels safe with him.

Rose breaks away from the kiss to take a breath with her eyes closed and a small smile on her face. When she opens her eyes and sees the tears in his eyes, her smile fades and she asks, "What's wrong."

"Me," the Doctor replies. "I'm what's wrong. I don't deserve you like this. I let you down so many times recently. I couldn't protect you enough to keep the Master from hurting you. I didn't find you soon enough to keep you from all the terror you went through. I really should have noticed that you'd been hallucinating for months."

He would have gone on, but Rose silences him by pressing her lips against his again. Only briefly.

When she pulls away she tells him, "You need to stop blaming yourself for all that. How many times do I ever actually listen to you when you tell me to do something? I ran in the opposite direction of you because I wanted to. I thought it might confuse the Master for long enough that we could both make it back to the TARDIS safely. And you know him well enough to know that he never would have let you find me before you did. You saved me soon enough that I am still alive. And if anyone should have noticed I was hallucinating, it should have been me. Now that I know the truth, I remember seeing all the signs and it seems so obvious. And you," she steps closer to him so that her body is pressed right up against his, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You have done so much for me. You have been with me through everything. You've calmed every fear. Soothed every nightmare. You're the reason I feel safe at night."

He knows everything she is saying is true. It will take a while for him to fully believe it, but he knows she will help him. Even if she doesn't know she is doing it.

He kisses her again. More passionately than he had before. When he lifts her off the ground, she squeaks slightly in surprise, and then wraps her legs around his waist. He spins her around and lays her on his bed.

Nothing really happens. Well, nothing besides the most intense snogging session either of them has ever experienced. And although neither of them will admit it to the other just yet, they have both been waiting for it for a long time.

But Rose isn't ready to do anything more than that. She still has the occasional flashbacks to the Master on top of her.

The Doctor follows her lead and doesn't try to push anything she doesn't initiate. Now that he knows everything, he knows to be gentle with her. To go slow. It's the only way for her to know she can fully trust him, and eventually he is sure she will be ready to be with him in every way.

After what feels like eternity and yet not long enough, Rose pulls away from him and lies against his chest. They lie there and cuddle and talk about nothing and everything for the rest of the night. Sometimes they just lie there in silence, just enjoying being this close to one another, both physically and emotionally.

After a while, Rose falls asleep. And for the first time in a longer time than either of them can remember, she sleeps without nightmares. Instead, she dreams of the Doctor and everything they will do together.

When Rose wakes up, her head is still resting against the Doctor's chest. She listens to his hearts. They're beating slowly. She glances up and sees that he is still sleeping. She quietly slips out of his bed and heads towards the bathroom.

She looks at herself in the mirror and really takes in what she sees for the first time in months. She has gained back most of the weight she had lost. She looks healthy again. Her hair is starting to get back to the length it was before she was abducted. But the most noticeable difference is the smile that will not leave her face.

The Doctor walks up behind her and she smiles at his reflection in the mirror. He wraps his arms around her waist. She leans back into him and places her arms on top of his. She's not exactly used to his new appearance yet, but she's getting there.

"You look good," he tells her as though he knows what she is thinking. "Happy. Healthy. I would even go so far as to say that you look beautiful, Rose Tyler."

She spins around, wraps her arm around his neck, and kisses him, lifting up onto her toes a bit to reach his lips.

"All thanks to you." She smiles at him and he smiles back.

He places his hand on the side of her face and strokes her cheek with his thumb. She places her hand on top of his and leans into his touch. He looks deep into her eyes.

"I remember the day I found you. I looked into your eyes and you weren't there. There was a stranger behind those eyes. A scared, broken little girl. I wasn't sure there was any of you left in there. I didn't know if I'd ever get you back. But here you are, Rose Tyler. The strong woman I met all those years ago working in a shop. But there's so much more now. You're more confident. Wiser. And stronger than anyone could have ever imagined. Even after everything. You've survived what most others couldn't have."

He tucks her hair behind her ear. She smiles at him.

"Now, what do you say we get the rest of those drugs out of your system before you start seeing pink elephants flying around the TARDIS?"

She laughs. She had actually almost forgotten about the Gallifreyan drugs still in her system after last night. They walk hand-in-hand all the way to the medical lab, their shoulders constantly bumping into each other the entire way. She watches as he intently mixes a bunch of chemicals together. When he is finished, he turns to her and she gives him her arm to inject it into.

"If you really want to see flying elephants, I can take you to a planet where there are some. Mind you, they're not pink, they're green. But green flying elephants will have to do." He finishes plunging the syringe. "There. We'll have to do this every day for the next week, and then we'll run another blood test and go from there."

The Doctor sits on his favorite couch in the library, reading a book he hasn't read before. Rose sits next to him, leaning her back against his side. She's close to the end of the fantasy novel she is reading, the last in a series. A few minutes later she closes the book and puts it back on the shelf. She slowly walks around the shelves glancing at all the titles, trying to decide what to read next. The Doctor gets distracted and just watches her as she peruses the aisles, pulling out a few books here and there to read the descriptions, but not committing to anything.

"Need a recommendation?" he asks her.

"What is your favorite book in this entire library?"

He smiles, closes his book, and walks over to her. He grabs her hand and leads her up a flight of stairs and past many different rooms to a shelf in the very back. Most of the books in this part are dusty. He walks right over to one particular shelf, pulls out a book, and hands it to her.

She turns it over in her hands. It isn't a huge book, just a couple hundred pages. It looks old. The cover is gold with sapphire symbols inlaid on it. It's in Gallifreyan.

"What's is about?"

"It's about a Timelord who falls in love with a human."

She smiles and eyes him suspiciously.

"I'm serious!" he tells her. "But it's not the plotline that I love so much. Although I haven't read it since I met you, so the story's probably more relatable than it was before. But what I really love is how accurately it describes and portrays life on Gallifrey. If I ever miss my home, I just pick up this book and it's like I am there again. Do you want me to read it to you?" he asks Rose eagerly.

She shakes her head 'no' and places the book back in his hands, but doesn't let go.

Looking slightly disappointed, he say, "Oh, okay," and starts to turn to put it back on the shelf, but stops when she realizes she won't let go. He looks at her, puzzled.

"I want you to teach me to read it." She smiles.

He smiles back, excited to share this huge part of his life with her. Unable to resist, he leans down and kisses her.

"You know, it takes a while to learn a language well enough to read a book like this."

"Especially if we keep getting distracted." She smiles at him and bites her tongue. It's the first time he has seen her do this since before. He lifts her up as she says, "Well then it's a good thing we have all the time in the universe, isn't it?"

The Doctor keeps kissing her as he carries her, still holding onto his favorite book, back to the couch. He sits down so that her legs are on either side of his, with her arms wrapped around his neck. They both laugh at nothing before she slides off of him and sits beside him as he begins to teach her the basics of Gallifreyan.

That night, they are lying in the Doctor's bed. Rose is facing towards him. Her eyes are closed. She is breathing slowly. The Doctor watches her sleep, his face mere inches from hers. There is not a moment that goes by where he is not impressed by her strength. She has survived so much. Too much, he would argue. He often wonders what would have happened if things had been different. If she had never been broken. If he didn't have to watch her struggle through every day, searching for a reason to keep going on. Would he have ever developed the courage to make that first move? Would she have?

He reaches a hand out and pushes the hair of the sleeping girl behind her ear. "I love you," he whispers.

That's when he realizes that she is not sleeping at all. He can faintly see a smile pass her lips as he feels her hand reach out for his.

She opens her eyes. "I love you too." She scoots closer to him so that their noses just brush against each other. Their legs intertwine as she kisses him softly.

This all catches the Doctor off guard. He's not sure he would have said what he said if he knew she was awake. Not that he doesn't mean it, because he means it more than anything else he has ever meant. Nor does he regret saying it to her and her saying it back to him. In fact, right now, he is probably the happiest he has ever been. But he is scared. What happens when she continues to age and he doesn't?

And then there is the thought he doesn't want to think about, but cannot escape. Eventually, Rose will die. Time will slowly steal her from him, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. This is what has kept him from going after her a long time ago. He fell in love with her in the first form in which he met her. Two regenerations later, his feelings have only grown. He had hoped he would be able to keep enough distance from her to be able to handle the pain that would eventually hit him. Or maybe even push her away from him. She deserves more than he can give her. She deserves someone who will grow old with her, holding her hand until the very end of both of them.

But now he knows there is no chance of that. No one else will ever be able to understand what she has been through, both the good and the bad. And when he sees how happy she is traveling with him and how her eyes light up whenever they step foot on a new planet, there is no way he could ever take that away from her without completely hating himself.

So no. He will not try to distance himself from her or pull away. He won't try to do anything that might ease his pain down the road. He will do the only thing he can. He will dive head first into them. He will give her everything he possibly can. As far as all of his doubts and questions, they'll just cross those bridges when they come to them.

Rose's hand loosens its grip on his as she falls asleep for real this time, but it does not completely fall out of his grip. He tilts his head up and kisses her between her eyes. He rests his forehead against hers and closes his eyes before drifting off to sleep as well.

AN: Sorry that took so long to post. I've been distracted by a Clara fic that popped into my head that I've been writing but am not sure I will publish.

Here's the deal. This is where this specific fic ends. I know it leaves a lot of loose ends still blowing in the breeze, but for me this story was always more about the characters than the plotline. I know that this might upset some people, but the chapter is titled "Incomplete Lullaby" so what did you expect? (Also, great song. You should check it out.) However, I do have so ideas for a sequel to this story that will tie up those loose ends. I do not, however, have any timeline as to when I will be inspired to actually write said story. So I am going to apologize now for a) how long it will take me, and b) the things I plan to do in that fic. It will not be pretty.