Rose clutched at the Doctor's hand as he led her through the cavernous and dark hallways of a room in the depths of the TARDIS. Their footsteps echoed on the cement floors and a breeze ruffled Rose's hair, her mind briefly wondering what could cause a draft of air indoors before realizing such questions are useless on the spaceship. The answers tended to reveal themselves in time, anyway.
Twenty minutes earlier, the Doctor had announced it felt like spring and that he absolutely must take her to his one most favorite place in all of the universe to visit during the springtime. But to Rose's surprise, rather than jump to the ship's console and begin throwing levers and slamming buttons, the Doctor grabbed her hand and began pulling her through the labyrinth of the TARDIS.
Before she could work out of it actually was spring in London during her time, the Doctor was pushing open a large green door with a pair of funny little red stockings painted on the front.
Now inside the room, Rose was beginning to see faint light streaming in at the end of the cement hallway and the breeze hit again, this time carrying a fragrant grassy scent. Rose smiled as she inhaled — it certainly smelled like spring — and she jogged to keep up with the Doctor's quickening pace.
They were in a full-out run by the time they reached the end of the hallway and suddenly they were no longer in an enclosed space, but in an expanse of grass and dirt and steel and sky. Rose stopped in her tracks and dropped the Doctor's hand, slowly turning to take it all in: the diamond-shaped stretches of dirt carved into the grass, the thousands of empty seats, the glow of the evening twilight.
"Where are we?" she called out to the Doctor, who was grinning atop of mound of dirt in the middle of the diamond. "Some sort of stadium?"
"It's Fenway Park, Rose!" he shouted, motioning her closer. "Welllll, an exact replica. It's the best baseball park in the whole universe, even better than Zygat Memorial Field on Crypton 4. Fans have been coming here to watch the Boston Red Sox play since 1912, even though they hardly ever win the championship. Humans, such a loyal bunch," he chuckled.
"A replica? Why not go to the real thing?" she asked, eyebrows shooting up, ignoring his last remark. "You do have a spaceship, you know."
The Doctor chose to ignore the sarcasm in her tone.
"Because this is the most perfect night to visit — opening day the year the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, the first time they'll do so since 1918. There's energy in the air, so much potential," he said, beaming, gesturing broadly with his arms. "Can't you feel it?"
"I guess," Rose said, smiling, glancing around like the potential might have taken form at its mention. "But why not just travel back to this night whenever you feel like?"
"Well, you know sometimes the TARDIS's navigation system isn't always… accurate," he said, glancing away from Rose as she rolled her eyes. "Trust me, you don't want to be here when the rain is coming down in sheets, or when there's three feet of snow. So instead, I asked the ship to build a room where it's always Fenway Park, April 4, 2004."
"Well then now that we're here, what do you want to do?" Rose asked, glancing around the empty ball park.
"Have you ever played baseball before, Rose?" he asked, waggling his brows.
"Course not! I mean, I've seen it in films and stuff, but I've never actually played."
"Well, Rose Tyler, that is a sentence you will never be able to say again!" he exclaimed, taking her hand and leading her to the edge of the diamond.
"Doctor, do I really have to wear a helmet?" Rose asked, pushing the hat-shaped plastic off her forehead.
"Safety first," the Doctor replied, reaching out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear before rapping on the top of the helmet with his knuckles. Rose groaned, but he could see the humor in her eyes.
"Now, show me your stance," he said, handing her an aluminum bat and tugging on her hips until her feet were inches away from the pentagon-shaped white mat. "We're at home plate, which is where the batter stands — that's you!"
Rose gripped the narrow bottom of the bat awkwardly, bending her elbows at shallow angles, extending her arms toward the plate.
"No, no, no!" the Doctor exclaimed, just dodging the bat as Rose let it drop suspiciously near his shins. "You're not playing cricket! Here, let me show you."
He carefully walked behind her, keeping an eye on the bat in her hands in case it tried to make contact with his legs again, and ran his fingers along her arms, from her shoulders downward, until his hands covered hers. The Doctor heard Rose sigh softly and he smiled — he had hoped she'd be rubbish at proper baseball form just for this very reason.
Though they had crossed the line from best mates to something more weeks ago – when he impulsively kissed her against the TARDIS console and couldn't, wouldn't stop – he found himself continuing to seek new excuses to touch her, even though all sorts of touching was now allowed.
Still, it was a game he wanted to keep playing, the anticipation driving him mad, and, judging by the fact that Rose matched his moves every step of the way, he was pretty sure she got off on it, too.
Pushing the front of his body flush against the back of hers, the Doctor extended Rose's arms until she was holding the bat at the correct angle. He turned his head so she could feel his breath on the back of her neck and bent at the waist, forcing her stiff body to relax and lean over the plate.
Slowly, he began to move her arms forward, keeping the bat level over the plate before angling upward during the follow-through, rotating her hips with his own.
"Feel that?" he asked, lips ghosting her neck, bringing her arms back to their starting position. "That's how you swing."
Rose cleared her throat.
"Okay, I think I've got it."
"You sure?" he asked, unable to resist planting a kiss on the patch of skin where neck met shoulder.
"Well, maybe you can show me one more time," she drawled, rolling her hips backwards, pushing her bum against him. The Doctor's breath caught and Rose smirked, but he recovered quickly, guiding her arms in a swinging motion once more.
Planting a quick kiss on top of her dusty helmet, the Doctor jogged out to the pitcher's mound and pulled a worn brown leather glove and several baseballs from his pockets. He dropped the balls on the dirt by his feet and reached back into one pocket, rummaging around in the transdimensional depths. Finally, his face lit up and he withdrew a tattered red and white baseball cap, complete with the same red socks that were painted on the door.
Rose rolled her eyes. She should have known — he probably had enough kit in there to outfit an entire team.
"Ready?" he called, placing the cap on his head and running two fingers across the brim.
"Yep!" Rose replied, pushing the slipping helmet back off her forehead again and taking up her stance, tongue poking out the side of her mouth in concentration.
The Doctor lobbed a ball perfectly over the plate with an underhanded pitch. Rose's arms didn't move an inch as she watched the ball float by.
"Oi, what on earth was that?" she yelled, dropping the bat down with a thud on home plate.
"What do you mean?" the Doctor asked, eyebrows flying up. "That pitch was placed perfectly."
"But you threw it wrong!" Rose retorted, hand coming to rest on her hip. "I've seen this played in movies, yeah, I know how you're supposed to throw it."
"I thought I'd give you an easy one on your first go," the Doctor laughed, shaking his head. Leave it to Rose to get angry at him for trying to go easy on her.
"Oh no, if I'm gonna do this, I'm doing it right," she said, taking up her stance once more. "Show me what you've got, Doctor."
Tugging the brim of his hat further down toward his eyes, the Doctor picked up another baseball and turned sideways on the mound, eyeing Rose so seriously she had to stifle a giggle. Collecting herself, she narrowed her eyes, lifting the bat up over her shoulder and shifting her weight to her right foot like the Doctor had showed her.
The Doctor suddenly raised both arms above his head, left knee lifting off the ground, before his right hand wound up and soon the ball was hurtling in a straight line toward home plate.
Rose gripped the base of the bat, eyes following the path of the ball, tongue caught between her teeth. Holding her breath, she swung with all her strength.
"Bollocks," she groaned, kicking the dust with her trainer.
The Doctor couldn't help but laugh — he relished Rose's competitive side, especially when she became enthusiastic about something she wasn't particularly interested in participating in a few moments ago.
"That was good, Rose!" he called out from the pitcher's mound. "Nice, strong swing. Come on, let's try again." He picked up another ball.
After a few more missed swings and a couple foul tips, the Doctor picked up the one remaining ball at his feet.
"This one is going into that bit of grass there!" Rose yelled cheerily, using her bat to point at a stretch of field over the Doctor's left shoulder.
"Okay, Babe," he chuckled, wondering if Rose was channeling the spirit of the player who had once called this ballpark home.
"Did you just call me 'babe?'" Rose asked, mouth falling open with bemusement.
"Never mind," the Doctor grinned, reading to throw. "If you hit this one, I've got a surprise for you."
"Alright, then," Rose replied, raising her bat above her shoulder, now completely comfortable in her stance.
The Doctor bent down and picked a tuft of grass from the ground, floating it in the air and studying the direction it took downward.
"Oh, get on with it!" Rose shouted, and he smirked, winding up his arm once more. Soon the ball was in the air, spinning its way toward Rose.
Biting her lip, Rose tightened her grip and swung with all her might and — TWACK— connected with the ball, sending it flying toward the Doctor. He leaped upwards, stretching with his gloved hand, shirttails coming untucked from his trousers, but it was no use; the ball flew over his head, directly into right field, just as Rose had predicted.
Rose shrieked and threw her arms in the air, sending the bat and the blasted helmet flying. The Doctor couldn't help but notice the flash of skin that was exposed around her bellybutton when she raised her arms.
"I did it!" she cried toward the Doctor, whose smile stretched so wide it was nearly intruding on his ears. "That-a girl!" he called, shucking his glove. "Now run!"
"You've got to run the bases to score! This way, come on!" The Doctor grabbed her hand and together they rounded the bases, giggling as they went.
When Rose leaped onto home plate, trainers scuffing the white base, the Doctor spun her around, one hand gripping her waist the other threaded through her tangled hair. He held her like that for a moment while they beamed at each other, panting.
"This my surprise?" she breathed.
"No," he replied, lids hooded, moving his lips toward hers. Rose closed her eyes in anticipation only to feel the Doctor suddenly tugging on her hand once more.
"Come on, this way!" he said, leading her to the center of the field. Rose sighed and followed him dutifully, looking at him with a question in her eyes as he stopped them in the middle of the field and gestured broadly. "Thirty-seven thousand and sixty five."
"That's how many seats there are in Fenway Park — 37,065. And you, Rose, get to choose any two that strike your fancy for us to sit in," he grinned as if he'd just given her the Hope Diamond.
"And that's my surprise?"
Once they'd settled into the narrow seats Rose had chosen a few rows back from the third baseline, the Doctor reached into his pocket and withdrew the sonic screwdriver.
"Now, for your surprise," he said, eyebrows waggling, as he pointed the sonic off into the distance.
Suddenly, the large screen above the scoreboard lit up. A few seconds later, their faces appeared on the screen, surrounded by superimposed pink and red cartoon hearts.
"We're on the telly!" Rose laughed, pointing toward the screen with one arm and linking the other through his. "But what's with all the hearts?"
"It's the Kiss Cam!" the Doctor exclaimed. Rose could see him smiling at her in the screen and turned to face him, matching his grin with her own. "Whoever the camera focuses on absolutely must kiss."
"Or else what?" Rose asked, cheeky tongue poking through her teeth.
"People will boo," the Doctor said, turning in his chair and placing a hand on her waist.
"But there's no one here," Rose replied, shifting to move closer.
"Then I'll boo," the Doctor chuckled, nuzzling her cheek with his nose.
"You know Doctor, if you wanted a snog all you had to do was ask," Rose breathed against his lips.
"But this way is so much more fun," he said lowly, the end of the sentence muffled by her lips.
The Doctor couldn't ignore the jolt traveling down his spine when their lips made contact, that excitement of feeling her plush, warm skin against his, of learning their movements, of memorizing their design. Rose was never satisfied with the simple initial touch of skin for long, it seemed, as she was always the first one to run her tongue along his lips, to grasp the hair at the back of his neck.
As her small tongue slid into his mouth the Doctor's need for mapping and memorizing dissipated, replaced by a deep-seated desire that had been born the first time he saw her in that musty shop basement. Moaning into her mouth, the Doctor tightened his arm around Rose's waist, wrapping the other under her leg, and skillfully pulled her over the armrest between their seats and into his lap.
It was cramped — people were a lot smaller when they built the ballpark (well, the original park) nearly 100 years ago — but the Doctor relished the feel of her shoulder pressing into his chest, of her bum snuggly fitting in his lap.
Clutching her to him, the Doctor ran his tongue along the roof of Rose's mouth, eliciting a gasp. He took her bottom lip between his teeth, tugging lightly before pulling away. Rose's eyebrows furrowed questioningly, her face beautifully flushed.
"What's wrong?" she asked, panting slightly.
"I've got one more thing to show you."
The Doctor spread his trench coat out on the grass in right field, feet away from where Rose's first hit had landed. She rolled her eyes as he offered her his hand but took it, settling down on the jacket, the Doctor following suit. They both lay on their backs, staring up at the muted purplish sky, legs intertwined.
"Do you remember the last time we did this?" the Doctor asked.
"Of course," Rose smiled, keeping her eyes on the night sky. "New new Doctor. All we need now is apple grass."
The Doctor tucked his arm under Rose's head and pulled her in close, planting a kiss on her temple.
"They're all there you know," he said after a while. "The stars."
"Why can't we see them?" Rose asked.
"Light pollution," the Doctor said, pointing off to their right. "Outside of the real Fenway Park there are a bunch of skyscrapers and other buildings giving off so much light it drowns out the stars. Of course, I didn't have the TARDIS build the skyscrapers in here — that would be silly — but I did keep the color of the sky, for authenticity's sake."
He paused, dropping his hand back down to rest on Rose's stomach.
"They're still there, though."
"What?" Rose asked incredulously. Only the Doctor would find it wasteful to build replica skyscrapers, but fill the sky with thousands of invisible suns without a second thought.
"The stars are all up there," he said quietly. "Just as they should be."
With that he rolled on top of her, pressing the length of his body against hers, and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear before cupping her face. As Rose smiled up at him, arms wrapping around his back, the Doctor could see the flush preemptively begin to fill her cheeks.
"Kinda like us," she said softly, as the Doctor's hand slipped under her t-shirt.
"How do you mean?" he asked, nibbling below her ear.
"Well, you're always there with me," she said, gasping as his tongue ran over a sensitive spot on her neck. "Even if I can't see you, I know you're there. Always."
The Doctor stopped what he was doing to look Rose in the eyes and was immediately dumbstruck by loving look emanating from them. She meant it; his perfect, lovely human had told him forever, had meant it with all her heart and, in doing so, smoothed his rough edges and filled in all the cracks in his soul that had been keeping him from wholeness.
He knew he couldn't live up to all that she deserved, and that forever was a lie, at least for them; but a part of him hoped that as the false words slipped past his lips they would accumulate over time, gathering and multiplying and maybe, hopefully, possibly, forming a particle of truth. An inkling of salvation.
"Always," he breathed, covering her mouth with his, repeating it as he kissed every inch of her skin, collecting false words in this false place.
When the Doctor didn't have any more breath for words, he told Rose with his body, moving at a pace and rhythm that made her gasp and cry and moan, the sounds echoing throughout the empty ballpark, reverberating off all 37,065 seats.
She wrapped her legs around his waist, one hand digging into the grass, the other cradling his face as their eyes lied to each other.
And as she came, Rose swore she could see each and every star.