"I care," he said, pulling her heart to a sudden stop. "About you. That's why I asked. I'm happy if you're happy, Rose. Of course I'm happy."

Before she could even utter a word in response, he shot her a heart-wrenching look and strode off towards the console room. And then, before she could even begin to compose herself, the TARDIS took off and she had to hold on for dear life, because the Doctor seemed to be rather reckless that day.

She was being reckless too, she realized. She was being reckless with the one thing she'd hate to have broken.

She should know better than to give her heart away to a man that already had two of his own.


Slender fingers absentmindedly flipped through the glossy pages of a magazine before putting it away with a sigh. Her eyes went down to her fingernails, inspecting the slightly chipped red nail polish without interest... And then she sighed again.

He hadn't even noticed when exactly he stopped tinkering and started out-right staring. He must've been too engrossed in watching Rose; yup, that must be it, because the Doctor had a big, magnificent brain and he most certainly knew how to multitask when he wanted to. Well, apparently today was not one of those days, because he'd let the metallic contraption fall idly into his lap, while he observed his friend out of the corner of his eye, noting all the little things that a person who didn't know her as well as he did would likely miss.

Actually interpreting the signs though, that was another thing...

They've had more time to themselves during the past few weeks, since Jack had been spending a considerable amount of time on New New Earth visiting Ianto, and while they could've just gone forward in time until those visits were over, they always chose to travel in between instead, just the two of them. The Doctor made sure that their trips were entertaining, breathtaking even, and they really were. He took her to all the best places the universe had to offer and the wonder in her deep brown eyes was more than enough to make him want to steal her away to yet another place the moment they stepped back into the TARDIS. At the same time, he valued the quiet evenings spent in the library... Except when Rose seemed off, just like she did right then.

He kept a close eye on her, and an even closer eye on Jack. The so called Captain remained close to Rose when on board, rarely failing to make her laugh, and the Doctor wasn't oblivious enough to not realize that it was jealousy he felt when he was forced to watch Rose giggle at Jack's mindless antics. What? So maybe he wanted to be more fun than Captain Harkness. Nothing wrong with that! He wasn't used to not being the best at everything, you know. Nothing unusual there. Just slightly disconcerting! Aaanyway, back on track; he kept a close eye on the pair of them, but no matter Rose's feelings, Jack still ran off to Ianto once every couple of days, and the Doctor couldn't discern what Rose truly thought of it.

On the surface, she seemed alright, and just months ago he'd probably be satisfied with that finding. But in those months spent with Rose Tyler, he'd learnt a lot more about humans and the way they dealt with trouble... Or, to be more precise, he'd learnt a lot more about Rose. She was an object of constant study and he was a very eager student, soaking up every little change in her expression and storing it away in that brilliant mind of his. As a reminder, if nothing else.

He did think about her a whole lot, after all...

With such a collection of the many ways she smiled, frowned and played with her hair, he should've had an easy time finding out if she truly felt heartbroken about Jack. However, his research proved unsatisfactory, and when staring at her as she sat there in silence, he couldn't help but wonder if she wasn't feeling hurt about their mutual friend waltzing off into the sunset with Ianto.

He finally broke the lingering silence, albeit reluctantly. He wasn't sure what to really say.

"Rose?"

She looked up as if distracted from some sort of a daze and responded, "Yeah?"

"You alright?" he asked carefully, looking at her with unabashed concern and interest.

Rose sighed and looked down for a moment, but then finally met his eyes. His hearts most certainly did not skip a beat at that. Nope. Not a chance.

"Yeah, 'm fine. Jus' thinking."

Oh, he knew that thinking could mean a whole world of bad when it came to Rose; after all, you don't engage in just thinking unless there's something you really need to think about, do you? So, long story short, something had to be wrong. He'd bet it was that bastard Jack. Rose could hide it all she liked, but the Doctor still knew better. He wasn't blind, definitely not, he was most perceptive, Time Lord and all, and he knew.

If only she'd look at him instead of-

He held that thought before it made him flush and then hastily said, "Oh. Is that, err, entertaining enough for you?"

"It'll do, I guess," she muttered and fell silent for an instant. "I've been thinkin' about Jack and Ianto..."

Breath hitched in his throat at her admittance, because once again, it was Jack her thoughts revolved around. Never him. Never the Doctor.

He composed himself just enough to mutter a faintly interested 'Oh?', which, apparently, was enough encouragement to Rose, because she picked up where she left off.

"Yeah. I think it's getting serious between 'em, Doctor. I mean... I think Jack would really... I dunno, I think he'd rather stay there, y'know. With him."

The Doctor forced his gaze to remain locked on hers, even though he wished to look the other way. He had to look and see just how hurt she was - just how much he'd have to punish Jack for hurting his Rose - but he couldn't find a trace of hurt in the way she worried her lip, only a strange sort of distraction.

"I wouldn't be so sure. Jack's not really the type to, err, restrain himself. Actually, he's quite the... Quite the opposite, yup." He shuddered at the memory of the man coming on to him, numerous times, but deep down he'd warmed up to Jack enough to be able to laugh at his flirtations... if not for the fact that clearly, through his flippant nature, the man managed to break Rose's heart. That was the one offence the Doctor could never forgive.

Rose chuckled softly. "No, you're right, he's not," she agreed, "But I think Ianto's got him hooked."

"I don't think... I think he'd..." The Doctor struggled to find the right words to cheer her up. "He wouldn't just leave you like that, Rose. He can't," he growled, expression stormy and reserved.

The look of surprise on her face didn't go amiss, but no matter the reason, he felt pleased with himself, because she started giggling. As long as Rose felt better, nothing else truly mattered, did it?

"Are you still on about that? Seriously? Doctor, you really need to stop that. I don't like Jack. I mean, not that way. Honest."

"Then what..." he mumbled, not knowing how to finish that sentence. He didn't believe her; he wouldn't be swayed by her bravery, he knew better than that.

Unfortunately.

"I'm happy for him. Really, I am. I'm just thinkin'... I mean... It's gotta be nice. To, you know. Have someone."

Well, the conversation took an unexpected turn. A flash of images ran through his mind; images of what humans referred to as having someone, only his brain supplied him with visions of Rose and himself rather than some picture perfect couple from one of those daft romances Rose always felt inclined to watch.

He shook his head ever so slightly. It seemed that the lack of sleep was finally beginning to catch up to him; rest averted him as of late, rarely allowing him to fall asleep.

"You've got plenty of people, don't you?"

"Yeah, but not like that. I mean, I've had Jimmy and then Mickey, but it wasn't... Y'know. It wasn't like this whole... Fairytale thing."

He observed her with interest. She rarely spoke of her ex-boyfriends and he rarely brought it up, but he found himself harboring a foolish wish to know more. Selfishly, hearing that it wasn't all that brought him pleasure he could hardly even begin to understand.

"Not that I want something like that," she went on without any further prompt. "I jus' want someone who gets me. Someone who'll put up with me and... I dunno, really want me. Not just to be with somebody... To be with me. D'you know what I mean?"

Could be me, he thought before he could stop himself.

"Not really," he lied with a grin, but then added, "But I don't see why you wouldn't find that, Rose. You're a rather charming person! And that's coming from me. I'm quite the charmer myself, don't you think? So, take it from me. You'll have anything you'll set your mind on. And I know you lot say that aaaall the time and never really mean it, but I'm a Time Lord. Time Lords don't lie! Weeell, not often. Not in this case. Definitely not."

He winked and she chuckled, seriousness all but gone from her features, aside from her eyes, which still watched him intently... Until she blinked, and the spell they'd been under was gone.

Not for the Doctor, though; he realized that quite clearly when his hearts just wouldn't settle, apart from the moments where she looked his way. At those times, his hearts would stutter like a broken record, a constant reminder that he was going through something he didn't know how to deal with. He didn't even know what it was, not really, but he could hardly pretend that it was nothing anymore.

And it had a lot to do with Rose. It had everything to do with Rose.

"What 'bout you, then?" she asked, startling him out of his distracted thoughts.

"Me? I just said! I'm quite the charmer, don't you think? Could use a little muscle, but the hair-the hair's pretty nice, I think. And I've been practicing back-combing; it's a very good technique, Rose, you should try-"

"No, I mean, having someone, y'know. You keep saying you're like a thousand years old, that's a bit past the marrying age, yeah?"

Oh. It dawned on him that she was relating to the previous subject, the whole having someone thing. And that one question sent his memories into overdrive, bringing him a flash of images from his home, from his childhood and the many years that followed. Silver trees and an orange sky that dipped into gold, adorned by twin suns...

Time was a different concept for Time Lords than it was for humans, obviously. Rose and others of her kind had a very short, limited lifespan, whereas he'd likely live for thousands of years, and some of the other representatives of his race lived much longer, due to the fact that not one of them was quite as adventurous as the Doctor.

Or rather, they would have lived much longer, if not for the War...

His eyes drifted down to the carpet. He didn't mean to avoid her question, having nothing to hide in that department, but the weight of his solitude always weighed on his shoulders, like a heavy rock dragging him into the water, his whole body submerged, no relief for his lungs, no hope of ever breathing fresh, unpolluted air again; free of guilt and all those memories, nightmares and flashbacks.

No, he'd never be rid of those, but at the same time, Rose was as close to a cure as he could ever hope to get.

"'m sorry, you don't have to say anything if you don't want to," she clarified hurriedly when he remained silent for a tad too long. "I was jus', you know, curious I guess... I mean, if you've lived a thousand years, you must've had a wife? Kids? Grandkids? Grand-grand-grand-grand-grand kids?" She smiled teasingly, and if there was a hint of uncertainty to her smile, he didn't dwell on that.

He shrugged off the persistent memories and threw away the contraption that still rested in his lap, then left his arm chair in favor of flopping down on the couch next to her. She shot him a surprised glance, but soon relaxed when he sprawled his arms across the back of the sofa, one hand just barely brushing her shoulder.

He'd move away if she showed any indication of wanting him to, but she didn't, so he remained, fingers tingling from something so small as a feather light touch; the pure sensation of skin on skin, no matter how insignificant, still never failed to surprise him.

"I actually haven't," he muttered after a brief reprieve, looking at the fireplace instead of at Rose, but still allowing his fingers to lightly tread across her bared skin without even taking conscious note of the action. "Told you I was a bit of a loner, didn't I? 'sides, a thousand years old is still very young for a Time Lord, Rose! I'm not an old man, you know, not for my standards. You, on the other hand, are basically an infant! Tiny little mewling thing, that'd be you. We ought to get you a dummy!" He chuckled at the thought.

She looked up to meet his eyes and bit down on her lip. He didn't even realize when instead of running tiny little circles across her arm, he pulled her in for a hug, so close that she was now pressed against him on the sofa. He wasn't planning on that, 'course not! It just sort of happened. Tends to happen quite a lot when it comes to Rose, actually. Well, maybe not a lot. He still had nothing on Jack when it came to being... free with Rose. He wouldn't embrace her like that in company, but he could hardly hold himself back at times, when it was just the two of them and nobody else around.

It was quite disconcerting how her presence alone was enough to make him do things without noticing it. How the mere sight of her could make him stop thinking and start acting in a way he normally never would.

She broke yet another of their - by now quite familiar - intense moments and a playful gleam snuck into her lively brown eyes.

"Don't need one. Already got you," she chided, poking him in the chest with a wide grin.

"Oh, is that right?" he asked with slightly exaggerated interest. "I wasn't aware of that. Pretty sure no one's got me, Rose. Think you got a couple of things wrong there, but what can you do, I understand! Really, I do. Human and all, can't expect you to keep up with a Time Lord."

"Say what you want," Rose murmured, "But I've got you wrapped around my finger, Doctor, 's how it is."

He looked to the side and downwards, meeting her gaze as she stared at him with a smirk. If he wasn't so reluctant to use such words, he'd likely describe their current position as cuddling, but friends don't cuddle, no they don't, and Time Lords don't cuddle, definitely not.

Suddenly, for some strange reason, he forgot that she was kidding and he dove right into those mesmerizing eyes of hers and his heartbeats raced against one another in a strange, feverish fervor and...

And...

And his face was mere inches away from hers, but she was seemingly unmoved by that, although visibly content with the current state of their affairs all the same. The Doctor wasn't good enough at human interaction to be able to tell if she was pulling his leg or being serious, but he also wasn't oblivious enough not to recognize that for some people, all of this would've been considered flirting. Not that she'd ever flirt with him, 'course not, that's plain ridiculous! Absolutely, completely, entirely nonsensical, yes, tota-

He reflexively pulled her even closer, her body pressed flush against his, and the fact that she relaxed against him, as if melding into the embrace, took him by surprise. It's not like they usually did this! And why they were hugging that day of all days was beyond the Doctor's knowledge, which may have been vast when it came to science, but faltered slightly when it came to the emotional side of things. Slightly. Oooonly a little tiny bit. Just a tad.

Emotions... That this was related to emotions, he had no doubt. Because it was pure feeling that swelled inside his chest in response to their proximity, the way she smiled with pure trust, teased him and even mocked him; it was friendship, that's what it was, but even a loner like him would know that friends didn't exactly feel that way when sharing an embrace, however intimate it might be.

He shouldn't look at her like that, as if she was the most... The most fascinating creature on the planet, and he shouldn't desperately search for a second meaning behind her innocent jesting, but he did.

He did.

Not once before, but now...

A wave of unrestrained want washed over him and his conscious thoughts slipped, letting go of the voice of his reason and clinging to something entirely different. He'd been holding it at bay for too long, and it's not like it's easy to keep these things to yourself. He wouldn't have known before, but ever since he met Rose, he became painfully aware of the fact that not all of your feelings can be concealed, sealed, shipped away and forgotten.

On a wild impulse, he chose to stop thinking and start acting, and everything from then on happened rather... quickly.

"Is that so? Who said that, if I may ask? I think I've got a few things to clear up with them. Were they from the planet Amargo by any chance? Everybody that lives there is a liar, Rose, don't trust them! Weeell, not unless they bring a peace offering, and let me tell you, those are rather, err, peculiar... Usually a piece of their very own ear. Imagine that, cutting off your ear to prove you're being honest! Now that, that is dedication."

"I said that," she responded with a giggle, although the way her eyes grew darker did not slip his attention.

"Really?" he challenged.

"Really."

"So you've got both me and Jack? That's a bit unfair, Rose."

She exposed her teeth in a smile that was borderline sultry, and if the Doctor wasn't concerned about preserving his dignity, he'd likely be gasping for breath at the sight. Rose was... Well, she was quite alluring and she was... She was so close...

He had to remind himself that no matter what she said, she most probably liked Jack, not him, and also that it's not wise to get attached, it's actually very stupid, because he-

"No, I'm good. Don't want Jack. Ianto's got Jack, Doctor. Stop trying to set me up with him," she muttered patiently with a smile, her head tucked somewhere in the crook of his neck, resting on his shoulder. She seemed comfortable with him, as he was with her, but at the same time the endless charged energy that flew back and forth between the two of them was close to driving him mad. It was as if he was programmed to pull her closer, to want more, even where he knew he shouldn't.

Knowing and doing the right thing are two different subjects, however...

"You don't?" he asked yet again, the silent want Jack lingering in the air between them.

He was looking down to meet her eyes, she - looking up to meet his, and as if constantly pulled by an invisible magnet, he had to fight off the urge to lean in and bring their faces even closer. It'd be very, very unwise to do so, and he was the Doctor, he didn't do unwise things, at least not things that could leave him a messy heap of pain one day, and-

"I don't," Rose murmured in reply, eyes boring into his.

This wasn't cuddling anymore, and the Doctor wasn't sure what it was, only that he couldn't seem to put an end to it now.

"Oh."

"How about-" she started, but then held back, dropping her gaze back down to her lap, fidgeting nervously in his tight embrace.

"How about what?" he urged her, way past the point of being able to turn back.

"'s nothing," Rose mumbled, pulling away from him ever so slightly.

Remember how he said he chose to stop thinking and start acting? Weeell, by now, he could do nothing else than act. And when he acted, it was on instinct.

His fingers reached out to tilt her head back towards him, thumb slowly caressing her cheek as he did so. He could feel the temperature of her skin rising rapidly at the touch, and he longed - he longed - he needed - he...

He...

"How about what, Rose?" he repeated insistently, voice low and the slightest bit husky, finally catching her gaze with his, two pairs of brown eyes connecting; his dark, glazed, hers much the same.

She sighed before speaking, now seemingly unable to relax into his, so very unusual, touch. "I was gonna say..."

"Say...?" he prompted impatiently. He didn't know why he was being so set on hearing whatever she was holding back. He didn't know why he ended up so close to her.

He didn't know why his hearts were almost beating their way out of his rib cage at having Rose this close.

He only knew that he'd never felt that way before, and however wrong it may have been, he could no longer say no. Not unless she did.

It wasn't right, he knew, but this magnetic pull he experienced from that very first day in the lift, he couldn't comprehend it, couldn't fight it, he just couldn't-

"How 'bout you, then?" she finally asked. "D'you... You know... Want... Anybody?"

His breath had been stolen away from him with that one question; the fingers on her face stilled, as he didn't dare to move even an inch, instead choosing to simply look at her.

Rose Tyler. Blonde hair, brown eyes, one of the widest, most sincere smiles he'd ever seen. Not too tall and not too short, quite feisty, extremely caring, stubborn, so very human. Rearranged his whole life, she did. Nine hundred years of living and only two events truly shook him to the core. Losing everything he had and finding something new to become his everything in its place.

Or rather, someone new.

Rose...

"Maybe I do," he whispered, and there was no way back.

Rose's eyes widened at his admission, and in the looming silence around them, he heard her heart skip a beat, a single, lonely beat. Rassilon knows his own two hearts were running wild at the time, impossible to stop, impossible to hold back.

Because he did want her. Rassilon, he wanted her more than anything else in all the universes. Not just now. No, from the start. From day one. And he knew, oh, he knew, he-

Seconds later, Rose pulled him down by the neck and his lips crashed onto hers, joining them in a kiss that should've never had an end.

It was tentative at first, a question, a greeting, but quickly deepened into something they both had no control over. Rose's lips were soft against his, soft and intoxicating, and it only took him a second to start kissing her back, a few more seconds to allow his tongue to slip past the zip of her mouth, relishing the little sound she made at the back of her throat at this newly discovered caress. Their hurried breaths mixed, hers warm on his skin, as they refused to put a definite end to the kiss, exploring each other's mouths in a frantic daze.

He was all senses, all touch and smell and taste and a little bit of sight, because he pulled away for a brief second to look at her, see her swollen, red lips and eyes glazed with what his distracted brain could only identify as a mirror of his very own desire, and then she, she came up to his lap, straddling him, and her whole body was pressed flush against his, and on instinct his arms went around to embrace her, pull her even closer, as her fingers were tangled in his hair, pulling at the messy strands, and-

And it was all the energy he'd felt from the very start, only so much more intense, and he couldn't stop, not now, not ever, not-

"Doc! Rose! I'm home!"

At first, the Doctor didn't recognize the sound; he paid no mind to it actually, too focused on Rose and that thing she was doing with her tongue, but then the fog that encompassed his brain cleared slightly, reminding him that yes, he did park the TARDIS in an alley on New New Earth, knowing that they'd be picking Jack up the next day, and they decided to just spend the night there.

It was by far the worst decision ever made. Weeeell, perhaps not quite the worst, but it was up there with all the other bad decisions in his life.

Both Rose and the Doctor were left panting for breath, foreheads pressed against one another, eyes locked. He could see the questions in her eyes, and he wanted to answer - truly, he did - but now that they were both becoming coherent again, he felt fear creep inside his thoughts, slowly but surely, as he held her in his arms, whole body tingling with pleasure from what just transpired between them.

At long last. He wanted this for a long time, he knew.

But was he right to want it? Was he allowed to? No, absolutely not! This was a - this was wrong, and-

Rose must've spotted the change in his eyes, because she leaned in to give him a soothing kiss, but he didn't reciprocate, too aware of the fact that they were no longer alone.

"It's Jack," he mumbled awkwardly.

"Just lock the door," she whispered, not even bothering to hide the plea in her voice.

Rassilon, he wanted to. To stop thinking again and just act.

He wanted to, but he couldn't bring himself to, not now when they were no longer alone, when this stolen moment of bliss would've had to be shared with somebody else.

Not now, when it dawned on him that he wasn't supposed to be doing any of this in the first place. Why would he, the man who'd done more wrong than good in his life, deserve someone so pure, someone so beautiful as Rose? She deserved better, one of her kind, someone who'd give her the whole deal, a family, a home, a future, not him, not a Time Lord, not-

"Doctor..." Rose begged quietly; he saw it in her eyes, the way she asked him to stay, to not let go of this, not distance himself right now, but he couldn't. He shook his head slightly and watched the way her heart broke, all through her eyes.

He hated himself at that moment more than ever before.

"I brought a guest!" Jack called right outside the door, and Rose hurried off the Doctor's lap, a hurt look on her face, rushing to conceal whatever just happened between the two of them.

When the door to the library was flung open fifteen seconds later, Rose and the Doctor both sat at the opposite ends of the sofa, slightly disheveled and flushed. The Doctor mentally ordered the TARDIS to turn down the lights in order to hide their questionable appearance, but he knew that a keen eye would still spot Rose's pink cheeks, the two buttons of his shirt that mysteriously went missing, and the way they refused to look at one another.

"Hey Doc, hey Rosie," Jack beamed as he stepped inside. "Look whom I brought."

The Doctor expected to see Ianto; wouldn't be the first time, but no, the person that followed Jack was a human female. She had long, blonde hair reaching past her waist, a figure that was curved in all the right places, and modern clothing that did very little to hide it.

The Doctor's eyes opened up wide, the sight of the visitor finally shaking him out of the daze he'd been in ever since Rose's lips touched his.

He knew that woman. Her name was Jeanne-Antoinette.

To her friends, she was known as Reinette.

~oOo~

The Doctor had seen his fair share of the universe. He knew that it was unpredictable, filled with chance meetings, sudden goodbyes and unexpected reunions. But to meet the same person twice, in the whole wide universe, without planning on it? No, that rarely ever happened. Especially if you'd consider that you'd been trying to avoid meeting said person for quite some time.

The odds were that he'd never see Reinette again, but he should have known better than to trust them.

There she was, standing next to Jack, but she only had eyes for the Doctor; ice blue eyes that regarded him as though he was a trophy to be achieved. That, apparently, hadn't changed in the last four years.

She was still young, not yet thirty, and she looked good no matter which way you spin it. But the Doctor remembered - he never forgot - and because of that, he remained wary.

"Hello, Doctor," Reinette said in a smooth, feminine voice, completely ignoring Rose.

"Hello to you too," Rose muttered, seemingly too upset to even look at the newcomers.

The Doctor noticed how Jack's eyes immediately went towards Rose, how concerned he looked for her well-being, and that told him that she must've looked very downcast. For his own part, he did not dare to take another look at his... His... Not really a friend anymore, was she? After that, that-that thing there-not a friend, no, not so much, not quite a friend, but... Well.

But that wasn't the right time to ponder any of it, not the right time to drown in such fresh memories, because there was nothing he could do about it at the time. Not with others around. This was strictly between him and Rose.

Then again, if they never showed up, would he have been able to stop? No, likely not. Even now he felt something attempt to draw him closer to her. He wanted to erase the pain in her eyes that spoke of feeling rejected, because he'd never reject her, but he shouldn't-he couldn't-he simply didn't deserve her, and-

If he was to stop himself from kicking the Jack and their unwelcome visitor out and apologizing to Rose profusely, he had to act fast. He willed his body, still so dazed from the kiss of a lifetime, out of the sofa and plastered on a fake smile to cover his dashed hopes and disappointed dreams, not to mention the knowledge that he alone was the one to destroy the happiest moment he's had in centuries, even though Rose begged him not to.

He was a fool, such a fool. Nearly a thousand years and he was still-

He groaned inwardly and spoke up. "Well well, if this isn't a surprise! How'd you two come about, then? Not so surprised about Jack, 'course not, but you, Reinette?"

"I like to keep you on your toes," the woman responded with a suggestive smile.

"Hold on, you two know each other?" Rose asked from the sofa, and although the Doctor did not look at her, he heard her get up and join him at his side.

"I met Reinette out on the town with Ianto," Jack explained, "And we got talking, and she said she'd love to see you again, Doc. Apparently you two have quite the history." He winked at the Doctor.

He shot Jack a glare, because this really wasn't the right time for making such suggestions. Rose's eyes drifted towards him and he had to force himself not to look back, in fear of just pulling her into another kiss and explaining everything.

His lips still tingled from the soft caress, he could still taste her on his tongue...

No, Doctor. Just no. Not now.

"Not really," the Doctor dismissed Jack. "But we do know each other! At least a little bit."

He offered the woman a smile as casual as he could muster, but underneath that exterior, his emotions were brewing. He remembered; oh, he remembered all too well, of course he did, he rarely forgave and never forgot, and Reinette Poisson was not an exception to that rule.

"I live here now," Reinette said with a secretive smile. "All thanks to you, my Doctor. When I had the good fortune of meeting your friend last night, I knew I had to see you again. It has been much too long."

Her voice was polite and even, as if she was reading a script, and the Doctor gritted his teeth at the mere sound of it. Always one step ahead; everything rehearsed ahead of time, that was Jeanne-Antoinette, and the Doctor was more of a supporter of spontaneity than various scheming.

"Yes, well, it's great to see you, but I think we're about to head off, isn't that right, Jack?" He shot the man a glare that was met with a look of surprise. Clearly, the Captain didn't expect to upset his friend by bringing a beautiful blonde along.

"Actually, I wanted to say somethi-" Jack tried, only to be interrupted.

"Oh, don't you always want to say something! Humans, doing nothing but babbling your heads off, that's what you do! Rose, d'you mind starting up the engines? Jack, help her out. I'll be there in a jiffy, just going to see our guest out."

He didn't actually look at Rose while speaking; his eyes remained fixed on Reinette, shooting daggers at the woman. He couldn't afford turning to face Rose at the time, but he still felt her gaze burning his skin, heard the silent questions she wasn't going to ask while they were in company, and it all felt so wrong. It was wrong of him to kiss her, and it was wrong of him to stop. It was wrong of him not to tell her, and it'll be wrong of him when he doesn't let her know his feelings, because he won't, he can't, he shouldn't.

"Yeah, I... Um, yeah, alright," Rose muttered, "C'mon, Jack. You know that I dunno how to work that thing."

Both of his hearts sank at the sullen tone of his best friend's voice, but before he had the time to turn around and lose all of his control, he heard shifting and the quiet sound of the door being closed behind his two companions, leaving him and Reinette on their own.

The Doctor gave up any act of politeness now that they were left alone, allowing his rising anger to show through his eyes. The Oncoming Storm, they called him, and a person who had failed him as badly as she did deserved nothing less than the very essence of that look.

"How nice of you to dispose of them so that we could have some privacy, my Doctor," she said cheerfully, stepping closer to him; much, much too close. He remained rigid as her fingers took hold of his tie and started playing with it. "Didn't you miss me?"

"As a matter of fact, nope. Not really. Rather the opposite, I'm afraid," he responded coldly before finally snapping and grabbing her wrist to put an end to her ministrations. His grip was strong, perhaps too much so; strong enough to bruise, but he didn't care in the least.

"Liar," Reinette muttered, unbothered. "I'm sure you never forgot me, my lonely angel."

"You see, you're quite right," he responded before giving her a slight push, freeing himself from her grasp. "But not in the way you think."

"Oh, let it go already! I had no choice. I wanted something better. Isn't that what you always say? Don't give up on your dreams?"

"People died because of your dreams, Reinette!" the Doctor growled, running his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture, storm brewing in his dark brown eyes as they remained locked on hers.

"Perhaps that was their fate."

"Fate doesn't exist!" He didn't even realize when his voice slipped from anger to plain shouting. He never forgave and never forgot, not in her case, but he didn't think of it for the past years, tried not to ponder all the things he did wrong because of this woman... But now they all came crashing down on him, stifling the fresh memory of bliss with Rose, covering it with all these ugly scars from the past, reminders of all of the various mistakes he'd made along the way.

"But it does," she said sternly, "I just happen to make mine."

"I think you've gone and made whatever it was that you wanted," he muttered in response, suddenly feeling weary, heavy under the weight of both the past and the present. "So it'd be best if you leave."

In a flash, she was right in front of him again, pulling him down by the lapels to look him closely in the eyes.

The Doctor was never violent, but it took all of his patience not to shove her away.

"It was no coincidence that I ran into that half-wit friend of yours, my Doctor," Reinette whispered. "I have been looking for you. You need to remedy something I was unfortunate enough to lose."

"I am not helping you again." It was a statement, strong and bold, but Reinette remained unwavering.

"Are you sure?"

"Ye-"

At that point, her fingers lightly brushed his temple, just for a second, but long enough to plant an image inside his mind. Reinette, despite being human, was a telepath just like he was, even if on a much smaller scale. Her abilities allowed her to hold wordless conversations and she often used them to her advantage during their previous encounter years ago.

What came first were flashbacks from the past. He'd met Reinette and thought she was just as innocent as she looked.

Thinking so was the first of his many mistakes, and the moment he attempted to save her was a moment he'd always regret.

She didn't dwell on what already was, though, and chose to show him what would happen if he did not bend to her will. What he saw momentarily made his hearts sink, only to fill up to the brim with white hot rage.

She showed him one of the buildings in New New Jersey, the Mayor's quarters in fact, and took him on a little tour all along the little nooks and cupboards where she must have hidden explosives, each of them with a ticking clock attached, mercilessly counting down time. By the looks of it, there was barely twenty minutes left on each timer.

"You wouldn't," he growled.

"Do you want to take that risk?" she asked with a smirk.

He remained silent, weighing the options inside his mind. He could pretend to go along with her plan and make sure everyone was alright, then try and serve some justice to the woman who did not have a single thought that didn't revolve around her own well being. He could deny her his help and endanger all these people, but then, he was fast; he may have a chance to save them, he didn't want to help her, not again, not ever-

Yet another pair of fingers brushed his finger to disrupt his indecisiveness, bringing him an image that shook him to the core.

Rose, cold and without breath, laying disfigured on the hard floor of the console room. His Rose, his whole universe...

Rose!

He scoffed, if only to conceal his fear. Irrational, of course. Rose was perfectly safe on the TARDIS, and no matter what he'd end up doing, he would make sure that she'd remain unharmed. He'd take her home if he had to, out of this timeline and out of Reinette's reach.

"You see, that might've worked, but only if you'd disregard the fact that my good old ship, my good old TARDIS, happens to be one of the safest places in the universe! Overlooked that, did you?"

She did nothing but smile at that, and then yet another image ran through his mind; the inside of Jack's pocket, in which yet another device ticked down the seconds. Tick, tock, tick, tock...

"I've come prepared," Reinette gloated.

His hearts stopped as he realized that not only Jack but also Rose, his Rose, was in real danger, and as always, it was his fault. His and nobody else's. He was the one that chose to let Reinette go when he'd last seen her, he was the one that allowed himself to be manipulated, and he was the one that just sent Rose away with Jack without making sure they'd both be safe.

As it was, their life rested in her hands now, and he could do nothing to change that; hands tied with fear that doing something rash would make her pull that trigger and...

No, he couldn't even think of that, couldn't allow such a thought. She'd be fine, they'd both be fine, whatever it took, he'd do it.

Reinette noted the change in his expression with satisfaction.

"I see you've changed your tune, my Doctor."

"What do you want?" he growled in response.

"First, we have to seal the deal. You help me out, I leave, everybody lives. Trust me, we will have a most splendid time."

She licked her lips as the Doctor scowled at her, mind racing with options, possibilities and all sorts of different outcomes, only one thought leading the way for them all: keeping Rose safe.

"What do you want, Reinette?" the Doctor demanded.

"Do we have a deal, Doctor?" She shot him a confident smile, hands playing with the hair at the back of his neck, sending unpleasant chills down his spine.

He didn't want to say it, but for the time being, he'd just have to play along. Until he found the controller and made sure everybody would be safe, he had to let that despicable woman remain in control.

He forced himself to nod with a grave expression.

"Then we'll have to seal that deal properly," she said and before he knew it, the fingers at the back of his neck gripped him tight and pulled him down into a kiss he didn't want and didn't enjoy; in fact, it made his skin crawl.

He stood there motionless, not responding to the way the woman's lips moved against his, so different from just a short while ago when it was Rose he was kissing, when he wanted it, yearned for it with the entirety of his being. His mind was much too pre-occupied now, thinking up plans and just as he was about to break the unwanted kiss, something else took him by surprise.

The door to the library was flung open yet again.

"Doctor, we can't get the engine thing to work, d'you think you-"

He shoved Reinette away at the sound of that voice, his favorite voice in the whole universe, uncaring as to whether he'd hurt the blonde woman before him or not. He escaped the kiss as soon as he could and it only lasted half a minute to begin with, but he was not quick enough.

When he turned towards the door, he caught a glimpse of Rose. She seemed frozen, eyes darting between the pair of them, mouth slightly agape. Her brows shot up and her lip trembled, hurt so evident on her face that he'd have to be blind not to see it.

"Never mind, 's okay, you just... You just... Yeah."

She was gone in a flash, and he wanted to rush after her, to stop her, to explain, and most of all, to keep her safe.

"Rose!" the Doctor called after her, but she ignored him, and before he managed to escape the library, Reinette grabbed him by the wrist.

"No, Doctor," she said, "For the next few days, you're mine. And if you go after her now, you will regret it."

He turned towards the woman, desperate to rush after Rose, filled with disgust at the sight of Reinette.

There was no good way out of this. Rose was in danger, thousands of people were, and he was the Doctor.

No matter how much it hurt, he'd have to focus on his task... On keeping everybody safe.

"What do you want, Reinette?" he growled again, devoid of all hope, filled with the memory of Rose's lips on his, now powered by the knowledge that he'd likely never get to feel that again, not after everything he'd done to her.

His Rose...

Reinette flashed her teeth in a smug smile.

"Come along and see," she said as she reached into her purse and produced a small device, then pressed the button located right in the middle of the round, hand watch-like contraption.

For a moment, everything was white, blinding, confusing and he closed his eyes to shelter them from the light.

When his lids flew open once again, he was thousands of miles away from the TARDIS, on the other side of New New Earth, in France.

Thousands of miles away from Rose, and even farther away from the happiness he thought he might have found.


A/N: I'm sooo sorry for the delay (again). I love writing this story, but my new job is DRAINING. As in, at the end of the day, my mind is so blank that I can't form a coherent sentence most of the time, let alone get (mildly) creative. :( This chapter is a product of many weekends, so I hope it's not too patchy and that you liked it. Too much drama or was it okay? Also, would you want the next chapter to be Doctor's PoV again or Rose's? Please let me know - your encouragement keeps me writing when I'd rather be staring at a wall or sleeping!

So, to clear up the confusion: yes, I changed the Doctor's back story a little, as in he was never a father in this story and was more of a loner than in the show. As for Reinette... This story needed an antagonist and who'd be better than the famous Girl in the Fireplace? :p I'm sorry to all the fans of Reinette (if any of you read Ten/Rose fanfiction). I don't hate her, but she seemed like the perfect choice. The back story will be explained in due time! ^_^

Thank you so much for being patient with me and for reviewing my stories - I'm sorry that I haven't been able to get back to you, and I promise to get better. I love you all! :D