"That should do it," he said, emerging from the TARDIS machinery and brushing off his hands.
"That's it? Time's restarted?"
"Go check," he said with a grin.
She let out an excited noise and jumped up, running out of the room and down the corridor without waiting to see if the Doctor had followed. The hallway was shorter than she expected, leading right into the console room, which was noticeably brighter than it had been the last few days. The hum was louder, too. Bolstered, Rose ran right down the ramp and out the door, rocketing through her living room and into the hallway.
Jackie looked up as Rose tore towards her, smiles spreading across both their faces.
"Hold on, Bev, I'll call you back. Rose is here."
She'd just replaced the towel on its shelf when Rose knocked into her, wrapping her arms around her mother's shoulders and laughing. Hanging up the phone, Jackie placed it on a shelf in the linen closet and wrapped her arms around Rose, squeezing her tight.
"Oh, look at you! Didn't say you'd be stopping by for a visit!"
"Love you, mum," Rose said, and hugged her so hard that Jackie made a little 'oof' noise, a paper crown fluttering off of her head onto the floor and escaping her notice entirely. Rose clenched her eyes shut, until Jackie pulled away, watching her.
"What is it?"
Rose shook her head, smiling, even as her eyes filled with tears. Jackie raised an eyebrow, cupping Rose's face in both hands.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?"
"Just happy to see you."
Jackie narrowed her eyes. "And where's himself?"
Rose swallowed, shifting her weight. "In the TARDIS."
"Good. Then you can tell me what's wrong without us being interrupted."
"Nothing, mum. S'fine, really. Just had an issue with the TARDIS, but it's all sorted now. And it is so good to see you."
Jackie's focus drifted from Rose's face to some point behind her and she dropped her hands, placing them onto her hips. Rose turned and saw the Doctor, hands in his pockets, sheepish expression on his face, lingering in the doorway between the lounge and the hallway.
"Hello, Jackie. Mind if we stay for lunch?"
Jackie's eyes flickered between the Doctor and Rose, expression shrewd.
"I'll see what I have in."
"Yes, I understand that, but I assure you there was really no other-" The Doctor frowned, moving the cordless phone away from his ear. A tinny voice yelled out incomprehensibly. He shot a look of bewilderment at Rose and Jackie, who sat on the sofa. "There's no need to raise your voice. Honestly. I've left you a brilliant scooter. That alone should be compensation for any-" He paused. "Take it from my accounts, then. There should be more than-" He looked up, his face the picture of perplexed innocence. "They hung up."
"Can hardly blame them," Rose said, crossing her legs at the ankles and taking a sip of her tea. "Imagine what that was like for them. All of a sudden, half the place's blown to bits, and they haven't even blinked."
"Well, there's still no reason to shout."
Jackie snorted. "If it were me, I'd do a lot more than shout."
"I can only imagine," the Doctor said, hanging the phone back on its cradle and leaning on the TARDIS. His hands were stuck in his pockets and his eyes drifted along the top of the wall, out the window, and back again, refusing to fall low enough to make eye contact with the women in the room.
"What do you think, Rose: ham or tuna?" Jackie asked, getting up from the sofa and heading towards the kitchen.
"Ham and pickle, ta. And don't mind the bread, we packed ourselves a few sandwiches while things were frozen; that's why there's pieces missing."
"It's always something mad with you two," Jackie said, grasping Rose warmly on the shoulder as she walked by.
They were silent for a moment. He stared ahead at nothing, she looked between him and the tea in her mug.
"Did you call the - um, the inn, too?" Rose looked up at him, chewing on her thumb.
"What?" He looked at her, eyes wide, and put a hand in his hair. "No. What could we even tell them? 'Sorry the bed's been slept in, time was frozen and we were a bit knackered, so we helped ourselves'? They're not UNIT; they don't have any idea who I am."
"No, I know, I just meant… I think we still have their room key."
He frowned, rummaging through his pocket, until his hand stilled. Raising his eyebrows with a shrug, he said, "I'm sure they have a spare."
She nodded and the room grew quiet again, the occasional clangs of Jackie rummaging through the kitchen punctuating the heavy silence between them.
They spoke at the same time.
"Well, I'd better-"
"You're really just going-"
They both stopped.
"What?" he asked.
"Um. You're really just going to just give them the scooter?"
He shrugged again. "It's harmless, relatively speaking. You saw all the tech they had - it'll just be gathering dust amongst the other 'artefacts.' They know not to abuse it." He paused, tilting his head. "Well. They know they can't take it out and play with it, at least. And there's no way they'll be able to reverse-engineer it, not without a whole sub-branch of nuclear physics that won't even be theoretical for another several centuries."
"Oh," Rose said, fiddling with her mug. "And what was it you were saying?"
"Yeah." He looked at her, eyes careful. "I have a few other things I need to take care of. TARDIS things. So, er... I'll give you some time with your mum."
"You don't have to," Rose said, placing her cup on the coffee table. "Think she's making you a sandwich, too."
He pushed himself off the side of the TARDIS with one foot and stood up straight, walking around to its entrance and disappearing inside. She frowned, eyes fixed on the closed door. Even though he'd closed it quietly, the gentle click was like a door slamming, the sight of his retreating back like watching him run away.
It only took a second for her to follow him inside.
He stood at the console, suit jacket unbuttoned, studying the monitor. She walked over to him, leaning forward to watch the monitor, too, which displayed a picture of the bustling Powell Estate from the view through the window of Jackie's flat.
"Back to normal, yeah?"
"Mm." He switched the monitor off, eyes straight ahead.
"Okay, you're being weird again." She stood next to him and laid a hand on his forearm where it rested on the console. "Doctor."
He flinched slightly, eyes on her hand, but didn't speak.
"What, you feeling a bit let down now the action's over?" She grinned, toying with the edge of his sleeve, but he stayed silent. Biting her lip for a second, she went for it before she could second-guess herself. "Look, if you regret what we-" She stopped, took a steadying breath. "If you'd rather we were just mates. If that was a - mistake - that's fine. That's fine with me. But please don't shut me out."
He placed a cool hand over hers, still looking down, and was silent for another long moment. She waited, her hand growing clammy between the rough cotton of his sleeve and the slight weight of his hand, nerves fluttering in her stomach, in her chest. When he spoke, he still didn't raise his eyes to hers.
"I think you should stay here."
"Stay here?" She toyed with a lock of hair. "Reckon mum's got a date tonight, actually. Did you see she had her hair done all nice? Not much point hanging 'round past tea, I don't think."
"No, I mean, I think you should stay here." He dropped his hand and fiddled with a knob on the console, loosening it and tightening it, again and again.
Dread settled in the pit of her stomach, heavy and hot, and her face started to burn. "Why?"
He clenched his jaw. "It would be… better."
"Better for who?"
"For who-" He exhaled through his nose, shaking his head. "For you. Don't you see? How many times have you nearly been killed because of- And then we're stranded. Twice, we're stranded, and-"
"And we fixed it!"
"Every time! We find a way and we fix things. That's what we do."
"Every time, so far. But there are only so many times before-"
"Doctor, this is the life I want. On the TARDIS. With you." She stepped toward him, but he turned, positioning himself away from her, spreading his hands wide on the console and leaning forward, head bowed.
"And it's going to get you killed, Rose. Or worse."
"It won't. You and me - we always find a way. That's what we do."
"Until our luck runs out."
"It's not luck, it's-"
"It's luck. It is. And when it runs out-" He swallowed. "You wouldn't be the first person who's died travelling with me."
She flinched. "I'm sorry. I am. About everything you've lost. But - you showed me there's a better way of living. I can't go back to- nine to five and retail and beans on toast. I don't want to go back. I want to stay with you."
"And I want you to be safe."
She nodded, and now her face felt cold, her chest tight. "And, what, my staying or leaving - that's your choice?"
He cleared his throat, unable to meet her eyes, fingers digging into the console.
She laughed, bitter, and folded her arms. "No, I don't think so. You don't get to decide that."
"I'm not leaving you."
"Do you think I could live with myself? When it goes wrong. The next time we're stranded, and we're not so lucky. The next time you're in danger, and I'm not quite fast enough. Have you thought, what that would do to me? I couldn't-"
"That's not going to happen. You don't need to worry about that."
He shook his head. "I do. All the time, I do."
"So that's it, then? You're leaving? You've changed your mind?"
Rose waited for a moment, but he remained silent.
"Why don't we talk about what this is really about, Doctor."
"I don't know what you-"
"You kissed me!" She stepped forward, further into his personal space, and stared up at him, forcing him to meet her eyes. "You did more than kiss me. And you're just so scared to let me in that you'd rather-"
"Of course I'm scared!" He reeled on her, eyes wild, the glow of the console casting harsh shadows across his face. "How could I not be scared, nearly getting you killed every other day? I've been scared, and now that I've…" He pursed his lips. "I can't lose you."
"You leave me here, you already have."
"It's not the same."
"No," she said, voice low. "It's worse. If you and me fail? We don't save the day, or we die doing it? At least that means we were brave enough to try. I thought you might tell me you regret kissing me, or you didn't mean it, and we'd go on like we always have, but this…" She laughed, shaking her head. "Telling me to stay here for my own good? That's a joke. Cause it's never gonna happen."
"No. If you're not brave enough to take a chance on us, that's fine. We can go on being best mates, and I'll never hold it against you, not ever, even though we both know how it is we really feel. But I won't just let you decide you're too scared to let me go on living the life that I want. That's not fair."
She held his gaze, chin raised, arms stubbornly folded. Something shifted behind his eyes, the quiet desperation turning into something darker, and he brought a hand to her face. Cupping her cheek, he lowered his face to hers, pushing his lips roughly into hers. She kissed him back, threading an arm around his neck as he circled his around her waist and pulled her close. When he slid his tongue along the seam of her lips and pressed her up against the console, grinding his hips into hers and sliding his hands under her arse, encouraging her to jump onto it, she broke the kiss, pulling back and placing a hand on his chest.
"No. Not till you're sure what it is you want," she said, fingertips digging into his oxford. He backed away, her hand slipping off him, and ran a hand through his hair, his eyes on the floor.
"I'll give you some time to think, but don't you dare leave."
"Yeah." He cleared his throat, voice hoarse.
When Rose walked back into the lounge, she found Jackie sitting on the sofa, chewing, leaning over the several crustless, halved sandwiches laid out on a tray on the coffee table.
"He's staying in that ship of his?" she asked around a bite.
"Yeah. Um. Thanks for the sandwiches, mum. I'll bring him one later." Rose gave her a small smile and sat down on the sofa, grabbing a half of a sandwich off the tray and taking a bite.
"Mind your crumbs," Jackie said, switching on the telly, and Rose rolled her eyes.
They ate in silence for a few moments. Rose grabbed her second piece of sandwich, nibbling on a corner, when Jackie muted the programme and fixed her with a firm look.
"All right. He's obviously not coming back for a while yet. Tell me why he's hiding."
Rose swallowed her bite. "What makes you think he's hiding?"
Jackie rolled her eyes. "Normally, he follows you 'round like a lost puppy. Now he's running here and there, on the phone, back into the TARDIS, and he won't look me in the eye? Come on, sweetheart." She put a hand on Rose's knee. "Just tell me what happened."
"We, um…" Rose trailed off, cheeks growing warm.
"Shagged? Finally?" Jackie asked with a gentle smile. "It's all right, you can tell me. God knows he's a better choice than Jimmy, even if he is an alien, but you'd better be using protection, the last thing we need's an alien preg-"
"Mum! We didn't shag," Rose said, voice sharp, ignoring the fact that her words weren't precisely true. "Besides, the Doctor gave me this… injection, when I started traveling with him. Don't have to worry about that."
"Gave you an injection, did he?" Jackie huffed. "I'll bet."
"Not like that," Rose said, looking away. "And, at any rate, that's not the point! It's just… We... I don't know. When… when everything was frozen, he kissed me. And - it was nice. It was sweet. But then…" She sat up, placing the half-eaten sandwich back on the tray, and folding her arms. "I dunno. He did it again, only he was… Upset, sort of? And then we…" She swallowed. "And he just… again, right after he was saying I'd be better off leaving him, and now I'm not sure what's gonna happen, with him being all weird ever since…"
"He's probably just scared, love, now he's made a move. Anyone can see that barmy alien's arse-over-elbow for you."
"I dunno. When we… he said we'd talk after. Only…" She tugged a throw pillow onto her lap and fiddled with the trim. "I don't think he expected there to be an 'after.'"
"Then he underestimated you, he did."
"Underestimated himself," she said with a little laugh. "I told him I'm not staying here." She paused, glancing at Jackie. "Sorry."
"And, anyway, I don't think he'll leave me behind, but…" She frowned. "Where does that leave us? Ever since we… It's been weird, and I dunno how to get through to him. What's gonna happen if he's second guessing me being with him all the time? How can we go on like that?"
"I'm telling you, Rose: there's no way that man's letting you go." Jackie sat back on the sofa. "He's just figuring it out, how to act, now he's admitted how he feels."
"But he didn't admit how he feels, he just-"
"Rose, the man goes on and on and never says a thing. Him shutting up long enough to shove his tongue down your throat's as good as a handwritten love letter, it is."
Rose shook her head, chuckling, as she felt her cheeks heat up again.
Jackie shifted closer, wrapping an arm around Rose's shoulders and pulling her in until she sighed and rested her head on Jackie's shoulder. "Give him some time, sweetheart. He'll come 'round."
She'd showered, changed, and made it through four episodes of a marathon of The Vicar of Dibley with Jackie when the Doctor reappeared, head popping out of the entrance of the TARDIS, looking around the room like a turtle hazarding a glance outside its shell. Rose lifted her head off of Jackie's shoulder, watching him, until their eyes met. His shifted away, but by the way he raised his eyebrows and jerked his head back in an invitation to come inside and join him, Rose figured he may have been avoiding her mum's stare rather than her own. With a last, hopeful look, he disappeared again, shutting the door.
"Go on, then," Jackie said, giving her a squeeze.
Rose sighed, standing up and stretching her arms high over her head. She smiled at her mum, giving a little shrug. "Wish me luck, I guess?"
"Mmhm." Jackie stood, grabbing the leftover sandwiches and heading back towards the kitchen. "By the way, I'm staying at Howard's tonight. So you two'd better just plan on spending the rest of the evening without me."
Rose shook her head, smiling. "See you later, then."
"Knock some sense into him, or I may have a go."
He was waiting for her on the ramp of the TARDIS. She passed him, feeling him stir the air as he followed, and when she reached the centre of the console room, she turned. He was right behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist as soon as she faced him, pulling her into a tight hug.
"I'm sorry. About being a coward."
"You're not a-"
"Oh, I am, there's no question. When it comes to what I…" He shook his head, a sardonic smile spreading across his face. "I'm definitely a coward, Rose. But I'm also sorry."
"Good. Cause I'm staying."
"Yeah. 'Course you are."
She moved back, looking up at him, but staying close enough for him to keep his arms wrapped snugly around her. "What'd you think, anyway? That I'd find myself another shop to work in if you dropped me off?"
"Well…" He tilted his head, looking up towards the ceiling with narrowed eyes.
"Y'know, Doctor…" She shot him a grin. "I reckon I'd make myself quite useful here, if I had to."
"Find trouble, you mean," he said, a smile growing on his face.
"Yep, and with no Doctor to save me."
He tilted his head, watching her. "Think I'd be worse off with no Rose to save me."
"I do tend to save your sorry bum a lot these days, don't I?"
"Mm. Better we stick together and save each other then."
She laughed, squeezing his midsection. "Definitely."
They lapsed into a comfortable silence. She buried her head in his neck, letting out a deep breath and closing her eyes, letting relief wash over her.
"And… there's something else," he said, after a moment.
"Yeah?" She looked up at him. His face was very close to hers.
"I know what it is that I want." He sniffed. "I… I want to try."
"Yeah?" she whispered.
"Yeah." He closed his eyes and kissed her forehead before moving downward and pressing more slow kisses to her temple, her cheek, and the corner of her mouth. Finally, he dipped down, brushing his lips gently across hers. She kissed him back, sweetly, enjoying the light touches of his lips on hers even as emotion welled up inside her. When she pulled away, she offered him a watery smile.
He nodded, and when he spoke his voice was quiet, scratchy. "You were right. About how I feel… and I think it's time I was brave."
A smile bloomed across her face and she tugged him in for another kiss by his lapels.
Fingers entwined, they made their way to Rose's bedroom, stealing glances, smiling at one another. Rose felt just a bit giddy, like she'd eaten too much sugar, or like she was standing at a tall, craggy shore, the sensation all the more disorienting since it was coupled with being well and truly exhausted. She caught the Doctor's eyes on her and they were warmer than she'd ever seen them, holding barely a trace of the tension she was used to seeing behind his gaze.
"You sure you're tired?"
"Totally knackered," she said, grinning.
"Oh, good." He got ahead of her and tugged her through the doorway, into her room. "Me too."
He pulled her close, kissing her, and she giggled into his mouth, twining her hands through his hair. He walked forward, forcing her to step backward, until her legs hit the bed and she fell onto it with a squeak, taking him down with her. He cushioned his landing on his arms, elbows on either side of her head, her hair fanning out against the duvet and the sleeves of his shirt.
"Hi." He leaned in and pressed a quick kiss to her jaw.
"Hey," she whispered.
He shifted off of her, rolling over and pulling her into his side. When she looked up at him, his face was so close to hers that she kissed him without even lifting her chin. He sighed, hand travelling down to her waist, tracing the bare patch of skin over the waistline of her shorts.
Heat throbbed down into her stomach and between her legs. He deepened the kiss as his fingers slipped beneath her shorts and traced a line along her hip, his short nails tickling her on every down stroke, the pads of his fingers soothing the sensations on the way back up.
She slung her leg over him, kissing him for several long moments, until that wasn't enough, and she rolled fully on top of him. Clasping his hips between her thighs, she arched her back as she ground into him. He broke away, hissing out a breath, and grabbed the hem of her shirt, glancing at her face, waiting for her nod, before peeling it off her. She tugged at his shirt buttons, helping him undo them one by one, her starting at the bottom and him at the top until they met in the middle. He half sat, his bared abdomen flexing, forcing Rose to balance herself on her knees, and he pulled his shirt off, tossing it across the room.
She kissed him again, rubbing herself against his lap, feeling him harden through his trousers and the thin fabric of her sleep shorts.
"We should probably should take things slow," she said.
"Right." He grabbed her hips and ground into her. "Definitely."
She reached down and unbuttoned his fly, letting her palm slide over his erection as she unzipped his trousers. Leaning on her knees, she pulled his trousers and pants off of his hips and down his legs. He kissed her, ragged and sloppy, and kicked off the clothing when it reached his ankles.
When she settled on his lap again, he unhooked her bra, tossing it to the side and leaning forward to capture a nipple between his lips. He worried it with his tongue, his hand teasing its twin, moaning with her when she cried out.
She cursed under her breath, lifting her hips up, and pulled down her shorts and her knickers, his hands steadying her as she nearly tipped over. Angling herself so she was centred over his erection, she slid against him and groaned. Dropping her head into his neck, she focused on the way his cock rubbed slickly along her clit with every stroke, moving her hips faster. He whispered her name, fingers pressing hard into her hips as he aided her in her movements. When he began sucking a spot just under her ear and brought one hand around, reaching underneath her arse to plunge two fingers into her wetness, she seized up, her centre fluttering around him. She squeezed her eyes shut, moaning, hips bucking, and he cursed, pumping his fingers and rutting against her until she slowed.
She kissed him, still moving lazily along his cock, and he broke away, flipping her over and settling himself on top of her.
"Slow, right?" he asked.
He kissed her again, tangling a hand in her hair.
"Is this slow?" he asked as he moved his cock to her entrance.
"It's not, is it?"
She keened, moving her hips, seeking friction, and her outer lips parted around him. He let out an 'oh,' and stilled.
"Please," she said, lifting her hips
"Are you sure?"
"Fuck. Yeah. Fuck."
He groaned, sliding his hands under her hips and pushing inside.
She moaned and he buried his face in her neck, kissing her there, pulling out almost all the way before thrusting back in. He released a shuddering breath and sped his motions, bringing his hand down to rub her clit. He kept his thrusts long and deep, speeding it up until she began clenching around him.
Heat spread through her core, tingling into her limbs, and she arched up, linking her ankles around his thighs, grinding her clit against his pubic bone. He moved his hands to grip her under her arse and lengthened his strokes, making sure to rub against her clit with every thrust, pushing her higher and higher until she came apart again, arching into him as she cried out. He followed and the muscles in his back seized under her fingertips as he emptied himself into her.
When they stilled, he dropped his forehead onto her shoulder, breathing hard.
Rose waited for her own breathing to calm and, after a moment, let out a laugh. "So much for slow."
He laughed, too, rolling onto his back and tugging her so she lay with her head on his chest.
"Ah, but just going for it, that's brave, right?"
"Mm, very brave." She sighed, nuzzling her face into the hollow of his neck.
A smile spread across his face. "Think you might be up for another act of bravery some time soon?"
"Mm. Yes. Absolutely. Later."
"But think of the gallantry… persevering now, against all odds, when we haven't a shred of energy left."
She lifted her head to give him a nip on the chest. He yelped, laughing and pulling her tighter to him.
Peeking up at him with one sleepy eye, she said, "Wake me in six hours and twenty two minutes."
"Hmm." He dropped a kiss onto the top of her head, pulling the duvet over them a little tighter. "Think I know just how to do it."