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A Shop Girl With A Broken Fob Watch

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“Did they see you?” The Doctor had to shout to be heard over the clanging of the cloister bell. “Did they see your face?”

“Couldn’t have,” Rose shouted back, clutching to the edge of the console, slamming levers and pressing buttons as he instructed her while he dashed around, frantically trying to keep up their mad pace through the time vortex. “You threw your coat over my head and carried me back over your shoulder, remember?”

“Bit busy just now, we can reminisce later!” He rapidly turned a crank with one hand while simultaneously tapping the keyboard with the other. The Doctor’s dark brown eyes darted back and forth as he checked the readout on the screen, his brows furrowing low. “Not good, not good!”

“What’s not good?” she asked. “Can’t we lose them in the vortex?”

“They must’ve caught my scent,” he said, slamming his hand against the screen. A shower of sparks flew down from the ceiling and he glanced up once in mild apology before running to the other side of the console. “They’ll follow us anywhere we go now, anywhen.” He grabbed the bicycle pump and began depressing the handle, thoughts flying as he considered their options.

“So, what do we do?” Rose asked.

He looked up at the ceiling again and expelled a hard breath. “I hoped I’d never have to do this, but we’re running out of time.” He went back around to the keyboard and frantically began typing. “Rose, you remember the flying lessons?”

“Yeah,” she answered, tentatively. He’d begun telling her more about the workings of the ship ever since the incident with the daleks and cybermen. Intermittently over the last year, he’d started teaching her how to fly the Tardis, though she had yet to attempt it on her own.

“Good, because you’re going to have to land her.” His eyes never wavered from the screen, but he didn’t have to be looking at his companion to picture the shocked look on her face.

“What?” she squeaked. “B-but... What if I land us in the ocean or something?”

“You won’t,” he said, then winced slightly. “Well... you shouldn’t. If you’re careful.” He checked the readout, then went back to typing. “We’re going to be landing around your time...”

Her eyes went wide. “We can’t go to mum’s! I won’t have those hunters near her!”

He shook his head. “We don’t have enough power to get to London,” he said, for the first time admitting just how dire the situation was.

“You mean to tell me, we’re running from a bunch of hunters and we’re low on petrol?” she said, her voice climbing with every word.

“Should have topped off last time we were near Cardiff,” he muttered.

He glanced at his companion, seeing now how pale she was. He couldn’t afford to stop typing the lines of code into the Tardis, so he tried to infuse every ounce of command he had into his voice.

“Rose, listen to me,” he said, evenly. “We are going to have to hide. These hunters... they have very short lifespans. Like May flies. They live for about three Earth months, and then they die. They want a Time Lord so that they can use my life force to extend theirs. They have my scent, so I’m going to have to change my physiology to hide from them.”

“How’re you gonna do that?” asked Rose.

A piece of machinery lowered from the ceiling, looking like a kind of helmet with wires sticking out of it, connecting it to the Tardis.

“Chameleon arch,” he said, tilting his head at the device. “It’ll rewrite me, make me human.” He nodded at the screen. “I’m setting up the personality matrix right now, it’ll create a human persona for me, integrate me into the society where we land, which should be near...” He switched screens to check. “Dorset.” He shook his head. “Don’t have time to do one for you, you’ll have to... improvise.” He glanced at her apologetically. “Sorry.”

Rose was already trying to keep up with the complicated dance of landing the Tardis by herself. “Not really worried about that right now,” she said in a rush as she tried to keep the ship from pitching sideways.

A slot on the console opened up, containing a silver pocket watch. The Doctor grabbed it and fitted it into the arch. “I just hope we have enough power...” He looked at Rose, his face grim. “Rose, you’re doing great, just brilliant. Whatever happens, keep landing the ship.”

“What do you mean, whatever happens?” asked Rose, her eyes darting between him and the console.

“It’s going to hurt, this,” he said, taking the chameleon arch into his hands. “But no matter what, don’t be afraid, don’t try to stop it, it’s just doing what it’s supposed to. The arch will place everything about me that’s a Time Lord into this watch,” he said, tapping the fob watch in the circular depression before fitting the helmet onto his head. “Keep track of it, because the watch is me. Lose that, you lose the Doctor forever.”

He gazed at her for a few precious seconds, a soft smile on his face. Pride swelled in his hearts as he watched her run around the console. He was glad to have her distracted as another tender emotion flickered across his expression, one he usually took great care to hide from her. Fear surged up next, because he knew, in a few moments, he wouldn’t recognize her, and the thought of being without Rose terrified him.

He took a deep breath, his finger hovering over the button that would change him as he let the fear disperse. Rose would never let him be alone, he trusted that. “Rose,” he said at last and she looked up at him, meeting his gaze. “The Tardis will take care of the details, but I know it’s you who’ll keep me safe. Thank you.”

His last thought was of her brave smile as he punched the button and searing fire scorched through his body.

* * *

While not strictly a crash, the landing was still incredibly rough. Rose only managed to stay on her feet because she’d been gripping the console for dear life. The room instantly went dark, except for the dim light from the time rotor. A sickly whine emanated from the poor Tardis, and though Rose couldn’t understand her the way the Doctor did, she knew the time machine probably wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.

The Doctor’s screams were still ringing in her ears. Watching him use the chameleon arch had been one of the most terrifying things she’d ever had to endure in their time together, almost eclipsing the Year That Never Was. That had been a special kind of nightmare, being forced to watch as the Master tormented the Doctor and Jack, being unable to do anything to stop him, but this… Watching him go through the conversion, standing so near as he shook and screamed, clutching at the device... It had taken every bit of willpower she possessed not to go to him and yank the helmet off his head.

Reminded, she looked around the rotor to where the Doctor had been. The arch was swinging in the air from its cable. Her breath rushed out of her as she dashed around the console to find the Doctor lying on his back on the grating, his already pale face near white, his freckles standing out in stark relief. His chest softly rose and fell with his breath, bringing her some comfort. Falling to her knees at his side, she dove one hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out the stethoscope he carried. After fitting the earpieces to her ears, she quickly placed the bell gently at the center of his chest.

One heartbeat echoed back to her. It was eerie, like that Christmas years ago when he’d regenerated into his current body, and only one heart had been working. She still remembered leaning over him, pressing a cool cloth to his head as he shivered, eyes shut tight. How her nerves had made her hands shake, just like now. This was different, though. He had a human body now. One human heart.

Her brow furrowed slightly and she repositioned the stethoscope, listening more carefully. It sounded... off. There seemed to be a slight... rasping sound between the beats. That was definitely not normal for a human. She glanced up at the ceiling, wondering if the Tardis had had enough power to fully ‘convert’ him, or if something had gone wrong. With everything shut down, there was no way to tell. The only thing to do was hope that he’d be all right.

Rose removed the stethoscope from her ears and put it back in his jacket pocket, then frowned. She couldn’t send him out dressed in his usual pin-striped suit, which she knew had bigger-on-the-inside pockets that his human self wouldn’t understand. She took a deep breath. Time to stop worrying, buckle down, and get to work.

She stood up and made for the archway that led to the corridor... only to find that it had vanished, leaving only a smooth wall. The Tardis had, evidently, shut down the rest of her rooms while she was in recovery mode. Rose worried for a moment at not being able to reach her room or the wardrobe room, until her eyes fell on a set of suitcases near the railing.

Sending a mental thank you to the time ship, Rose went to the first bag, a carry-on sized black tote. It held a wide array of men’s toiletry products, a hairbrush, toothbrush, shaving kit, as well as a laptop, and, most importantly, a wallet that held the Doctor’s new identity.

She was surprised to see the silver badge next to the identification naming him Alec Hardy. Apparently, the matrix had made him a Detective Inspector. It fit, somehow, that he’d still want to be in a position to help people, even as a human, though Rose couldn’t help wishing he’d made himself a boring Maths professor or something similar. Keeping an eye on a DI would definitely be a challenge.

The wallet also contained a bank book and debit card, along with a roll of notes, for which she was immensely grateful. She didn’t see any car keys. DI Hardy would either have to walk or rely on police cars and cabs for transport.

In the larger rolling suitcase, Rose found a large assortment of clothing. All suits, just like normal, but in drab black, gray, and navy colors. There was nary a pin-stripe to be seen, no whimsically printed ties. There were two sets of sturdy black shoes instead of battered chucks. The Doctor must have kept it simple when creating his human self, not that he’d had a lot of time to key in wider personality flourishes.

She pulled out a navy jacket and matching trousers and set to work. She left him in his white Oxford and pants, no pockets to worry about there. She made sure to take the sonic and the psychic paper from his jacket, sticking them into the pocket of her hoodie, as she thought they would probably come in handy. She knew, if nothing else, the psychic paper would provide her with whatever credentials she’d need for procuring a job, and could be used as a credit card in a pinch.

Again, she was reminded of Christmas as she tugged the trousers up his legs, remembering when she’d changed him into Howard’s striped jim jams. She knew he still had them. Occasionally, he’d join her in the media room for a movie marathon while wearing them. She smiled, even as she grunted with the effort of lifting him up into a sitting position to get the jacket on his shoulders.

That done, she began the monumental task of getting him out of the Tardis. Wouldn’t do to have his human self wake up inside the time ship. She wrapped her arms under his armpits and began dragging him toward the doors.

“Blimey, you’re heavy for such a skinny bloke,” she gritted out through her teeth.

She leaned him against the railing and poked her head through the doors to see where they’d landed. Thankfully, it appeared to be a back alley, completely deserted. Grabbing him under the arms again, she backed out of the Tardis and placed him against the wall of the building nearby. She went back inside and grabbed his tote bag and suitcase, setting them next to him.

Lastly, she returned for her own luggage, in matching pink. She paused next to the console and retrieved the fob watch from the arch. The metal was cool in her hand. As she ran her thumb across the circling design on the cover, a whisper drifted to her ears.

“Rose.”

She startled. It was the Doctor’s voice. She clutched the watch in both hands, bringing it to her lips, as she squeezed her eyes shut. Already, she missed him, despite the fact that his body was sitting right outside. She knew it wasn’t the Time Lord she’d come to love, he was trapped inside this bit of metal. The man outside was a disguise, someone else wearing his face.

An ironic smile twitched at the corners of her mouth as she thought back to visiting New Earth, when the bitchy trampoline had taken over her body, squashing Rose into a tiny corner of her own mind. It just figured that the first time she kissed him, it wasn’t really her, and now, the second time she kissed him, it wasn’t really him. He’d told her what happened on the Game Station, of course, but since she couldn’t properly remember that kiss, she didn’t count it. She did feel the occasional bout of disappointment that he never seemed to want to repeat the incident. The kissing, not the dying and regenerating.

Placing one last kiss to the watch, she put it into her pocket alongside the sonic and psychic paper. Everything that made up the Doctor, held in the pocket of her hoodie. She ran a hand across the console, lovingly.

“I’ll come back to check on you, old girl,” Rose promised. She wasn’t sure what she could do to help the time ship along, but she knew she would miss the Tardis during this three month stint. She kissed her fingers and touched the time rotor before hauling her luggage outside.

She knew a moment of panic when she saw that the Doctor-- DI Alec Hardy, she reminded herself-- was no longer where she’d put him. His luggage was gone as well, but she saw track marks on the pavement where he’d rolled the suitcase through a puddle. She ran, following the trail, and stopped at the mouth of the alley. He was a little ways down the road, a taxi coming to a stop next to him at the curb. She breathed a sigh of relief as the cabbie helped him with his bags. He would be all right for the time being, he’d probably go to the police station first, which brought to mind finding a job for herself.

Rose went back into the alley and checked to make sure the doors to the Tardis were firmly locked. She knew the perception filter would help the ship blend in, so she wasn’t worried about anyone coming across it. Then she put the strap of her pink tote on her shoulder and extended the arm of the rolling suitcase. Filled with determination, she headed for the street.

Chapter Text

A few weeks later…

He was sure he could hear the ocean. Some moments, he thought he was back on that beach. Suspects in a row, down at the water line, but they all sort of blended together as the tide came in, dissolving everything. Other moments, fuzzy faces drifted in and out of his line of vision, accompanied by scorching pain and a weight on his chest... And then that would fade, and he was in a large room filled with golden light, a tall glass column at the center glowed green, and a warm humming surrounded his mind. It was... comforting. Like being home. But it made no sense...

The next thing he was aware of, he was lying in a bed, weak light coming in from a window across the room. Was it morning? There was a steady, consistent beeping that annoyed him at once. He blinked a few times, bringing the surroundings into better focus... A hospital room. Why was he...?

A heavy sigh to his right caught his attention and he turned his head-- God, why was moving so painful?-- to see a young girl in a pink hoodie and jeans sitting in a chair next to the bed.

“You’re all right,” she said in clear relief. She slipped something small and metallic into the kangaroo pouch of her hoodie, too small to be a firearm. A piece of jewelry, maybe?

“Who--” He stopped and cleared his throat, but the raspy quality wouldn’t go away. “Who are you?” he tried again.

Something flickered in her eyes briefly, but she shuttered her expression before he could discern what it was. “I’m Rose,” she said.

She didn’t ask for his name, which wasn’t surprising. Everyone in town knew who he was. She seemed familiar, but he couldn’t place her. Most likely, he’d seen her about town or might have even questioned her in the course of the investigation and then forgotten her face. His brain tended not to dwell on things he considered unimportant details, Miller was forever rolling her eyes at his inability to remember anyone in the precinct’s name.

“What happened?” he asked. “Why are you here?”

“I, um... I have the room below you at Trader’s,” she said, fidgeting with her fingers. “I don’t want to embarrass you or anything, but I can hear you moving around sometimes and last night there was this loud bang, then nothing.”

Dimly, he began to recall coming back to the hotel after having dinner at the Miller’s, being short of breath, the pain, the tunnel vision... He must have passed out and fallen.

“I was afraid something might have happened, since I didn’t hear anything after that,” she went on. “I asked Becca to check on you. We both went up and found you on the floor.” She took a deep breath, clearly upset but holding herself in check. “You hit your head.”

That explained the headache. For once, he was grateful for the poor insulation that resulted in his slightly echoing footsteps at the hotel. If Rose hadn’t heard him, he might have lain on the floor of his ensuite all night and bled to death.

“Becca had to stay at Trader’s, so I came with you in the ambulance.” She bit her lip. “I told them I was your wife. Not sure if they believe me, but they let me stay.” She wasn’t able to hide the worry in her eyes as she looked into his. “The doctors say you’re in a bad way. That anymore stress on your heart could kill you.”

He grunted his acknowledgment, his gaze sliding away from hers. He couldn’t worry about his heart condition now, there was too much to do. “Where are my clothes?” he asked, not seeing them.

Rose was on her feet in an instant, grabbing his hand when he would have started pulling the monitoring cables off of himself. “You can’t go yet, D-- Detective Inspector,” she said, her voice rising. “Please, your heart... At least rest until they can fill your prescription.”

He paused, looking at their joined hands. He made no move to pull his free, he marveled instead at how well they fit together. Like her hand had been made to fit with his. He found himself leaning back against the pillows. Well, he needed the new medication, after all. Might as well wait.

“All right,” he gruffly conceded.

She sighed. “Thank you.” She smiled at him, and it was like the sun coming out, warming him from the inside.

While they waited, he thought she would try to fill the silence the way everyone in town seemed to do. Instead, she sat back down in her chair, leaning an elbow on a knee, but keeping her other hand in his. It should have felt awkward... It didn’t. It felt... companionable.

“You’re not from around here,” he found himself saying, not to engage her in conversation, but to satisfy his detective’s instincts. She didn’t quite fit here in Broadchurch, and as such, she was a puzzle he wanted to solve.

“Neither are you,” she said. She touched her tongue to the corner of her smile and his stomach tightened involuntarily. He looked back up at her eyes.

“Glasgow,” he said.

She nodded. “London,” she returned. “Arrived about the same time you did.”

“Really?” he said, surprised. Most of the people in town had lived in there all their lives, everyone knew everyone else. Why a young girl like her would leave a big city like London for a sleepy beach town like Broadchurch was mystifying. It tugged at him, made him want to know more about her.

“Everyone was talking about you. The handsome new copper,” she said with a cheeky grin.

He groaned, shaking his head slightly. “Now I’m sure you’re lying to me.”

“Are you going to arrest me?”

She was teasing him, no one did that. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it. “Only if it impedes the investigation.” He squinted at her, suspicion creeping through his gut. “Have I talked to you about it? You seem familiar.” She hadn’t given him any cause, but with the murder, he couldn’t discount any coincidence.

“Not you, but I did answer some questions. A constable came by the shop,” she said.

“Which shop?”

“The one across from the station.”

Now he knew where she worked and where she lived, the pieces that made her up coming slowly together. “I’m surprised I haven’t run into you before,” he said.

She shrugged. “No one remembers a shop girl.”

“I’d remember you,” he said, then looked away, embarrassed. He cleared his throat again. “What made you come to Broadchurch?”

She bit her lip slightly, her gaze sliding away. He could tell she was deciding whether or not to tell him the truth. Not sure why he did so, he squeezed her hand. Her eyes darted back to his.

“It’s all right,” he said, trying to soften his normal impatience as he could sense this was difficult for her. “You can trust me. I’m a DI.”

She gave him a little smile. “I know.” Her eyes went up toward the ceiling as she exhaled sharply. “Well... I was sort of traveling, yeah? And the... car broke down in town. It’ll be a few months before it’s up and running again.”

“Sort of traveling?” he repeated, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“I was,” she said, “but it turned into running.”

“From what?” he asked, hard on the heels of her sentence. If there was trouble on the way, he needed to know, there was already far too much going on as it was.

“I’m not really sure who they are,” she admitted. “They want something that I have. Something valuable. Nothing dangerous,” she added, quickly. “But they’re looking for it. I don’t think they know I’m in Broadchurch. Not yet, anyway.”

He sighed, closing his eyes briefly. “You should have brought this to the attention of the police when you first arrived,” he said, a slight bite in his voice.

“I was going to,” she said at once. He didn’t know if he believed that. “But then everything with Danny happened and...” She trailed off, but he understood. She hadn’t considered her situation to be as important as a murder investigation. She should have let the police make that distinction, but at least she was telling him now. “Listen,” she said, leaning forward, her hazel eyes wide and intense. “If you see anyone acting differently, like, really out of the normal, please be very careful.”

His brows came down low on his forehead as he frowned at her. “I’m a fully trained officer of the law,” he said, tersely. “I’m far better trained than a civilian in matters such as these.” She didn’t respond, but looked at the hospital room and then back to him, pointedly. He huffed, irritated. “Of course, I’m careful!” he conceded. He groaned and took a deep breath as his chest started to pain him.

“Should I--?” she asked, her finger moving toward the nurse call button.

“No,” he bit out, eyes shut tight. He focused on his breathing and waited for his heart to slow back down. As the pain subsided, he exhaled slowly before continuing, making an effort to be calm. “It’s good that you told me.” He paused, taking another breath. “What is it that they want?”

She hesitated before reaching into her pocket and pulling out a silver fob watch with a modern design on the cover. She cradled it carefully in her free hand, keeping it close. He could see that it was obviously important to her, but couldn’t understand why anyone else would want it. It looked so... ordinary.

“That’s it?” he asked, a touch of disbelief in his tone, but his mind was already racing ahead, wanting to solve the mystery.

She nodded, her eyes soft as she looked at the time piece. “It belonged to someone... very important.”

That accounted for the value, then. “I could take it to the station,” he offered, but she shook her head.

“I promised I would look after it. It’s--” She sighed, her expression conflicted. “I promised.”

“All right,” he said, seeing that the idea of being parted from the watch worried her. “The offer stands.”

“Thank you,” she said as she put the watch back in her pocket.

“Thank you,” he returned, feeling awkward for not saying it earlier, especially since she’d stayed with him all night. “I, ehm... It seems I might owe you. For finding me earlier.”

She looked down, her cheeks tinged pink. “I’m just glad you’re going to be all right... For the time being.”

“Please don’t tell anyone,” he said, shifting uncomfortably. It went against everything within him to ask someone to keep a secret for him and something in his tone must have alerted her because she tilted her head at him, her gaze sharpening. He sighed as he explained, “If the station learns about my heart problem, they’ll take me off the case, medical me out.” He shook his head. “I can’t leave yet. I have to find out what happened to Danny.”

She looked at him for a moment, her lips pursed, then she nodded, her brows drawn together in seriousness. “I won’t tell. Just be careful, yeah? It might not be me that finds you next time.”

That thought was definitely sobering. He had to solve this case. A child had died and the murderer was roaming free. He couldn’t let that go, couldn’t let someone remove him, especially not for some irritating physical weakness. There had to be justice. Determination hardened his resolve. He had to find the killer. Before his time ran out.

* * *

She saw him safely to the interior of a taxi, his coat pocket stuffed with new heart medication, and waited until the car was out of sight before sagging against the exterior wall of the hospital. Squeezing her eyes shut, she fought against tears, pressing a hand to her forehead.

He’d almost died. Could have, if she and Becca hadn’t found him. The thought of losing the Doctor to this man’s carelessness made her both angry and frantic at the same time.

Of course, it wasn’t all his fault. The Tardis hadn’t had enough power, leaving him with a heart that wasn’t entirely functional. The doctors had explained it to her, giving it a medical term that she didn't remember, but the concept was basically that his heart would randomly speed up or slow down, and could even stop completely for several moments. In some people, it was harmless. In others, and in Alec Hardy's case it was likely, it could lead to a heart attack.

Beyond that frightening thought, it had been harder than she had anticipated, talking to the man wearing the Doctor’s face. She’d kept her distance these past few weeks, watching him from afar at Trader’s as they came and went, passing each other as they went to work, him to the station, her to the bookstore across the street. It was bizarre, seeing him do the ‘normal’ thing, like any other bloke. When she’d seen him the first time, letting his beard grow out, his hair laying almost comically flat on his head, she practically hadn’t recognized him.

She’d passed her spare time mostly talking to Jack, Martha, who was freelancing for UNIT now, and her mum on her mobile. She had made a few acquaintances in town, but most people were reluctant to trust her since she was new and the murder had everyone on edge.

Rose mostly kept Jackie in the dark about what was going on, she didn’t want to have to explain about the Doctor’s sudden ‘amnesia’ or the fact that they were being hunted. Mostly, she was just grateful to be able to talk to her at all. Rose had discovered months ago via an accidental pocket-dial that her super phone was still time-locked to Jackie's mobile. Apparently, the signal was able to filter through the miniscule cracks in the universe without fracturing anything. As much as she wanted to be with the Doctor forever, it was still a relief not to be completely cut off from her mother, and nice to get to know her pseudo-father and half-brother over the phone.

Martha was concerned for Rose and the Doctor's well-being, of course, and told Rose to contact her if UNIT was needed, but said she would keep the knowledge to herself for the time being. Both women agreed that a military presence in the town should be a last resort.

Jack, of course, offered to come to Dorset if she wanted him to, and she had assured him that she would tell him if she thought it was necessary. She didn’t think Broadchurch needed Torchwood complicating things and she could just picture DI Hardy’s grumpy face if something should impede his investigation. If the hunters showed up, however, that was another matter entirely. She told Jack everything she knew about them, which wasn’t much, and he said he and his team would keep an eye on the readouts for the area. If there was so much as a blip, he’d let her know.

Rose hadn’t realized what actually talking to Alec Hardy would do to her. That rough Scottish brogue almost reminded her of her first Doctor, with his Manchester accent. She had nearly burst into tears at the DI’s first sentence. Still, it was certainly a far cry from her current Doctor’s lilting estuary tones. She hadn’t known until that moment just how much she’d missed his voice, and this man couldn’t even give her that. He was so... abrupt. All those short sentences. His conversation was so halting and awkward, when he wasn’t asking questions as the hard-hitting DI.

One thing was certain. Alec Hardy was nothing like the Doctor.

‘And yet...’ a tiny voice in her head whispered. She couldn’t deny that him wanting to finish solving Danny’s murder, even to his own detriment, was very Doctor-like behavior.

She put her hand into her pocket, needing the reassuring feel of the watch in her palm. She’d nearly opened it when she thought the doctors were going to lose him. Only her fear of the hunters finding them had stopped her.

The hunters had been following them through the vortex, but just like when Rose and the Doctor had been chasing the Mauve Alert that had eventually led to meeting Jack, they could have landed weeks behind or ahead of them. She had no way of knowing with the Tardis still running on emergency power and most of her programs shut down. There were still a little more than two months to go before the watch could be safely opened.

She’d never been more aware of how slow the ‘slow path’ really was.

Chapter Text

Alec went back to Trader’s for a shower and change after discharging himself from the hospital, then right to the station, dragging himself along as his body pleaded for sleep. He ignored it. He only half listened as Miller nagged him about coming in late. He avoided her questions and took the new paperwork from her, then sequestered himself in his little bubble for the day. Cups of tea substituted as his breakfast and he barely looked up as Miller tossed a wrapped sandwich on his desk well after the lunch hour.

The sun had long since set by the time nearly everyone had gone home for the day. A soft knock on the open glass door of his office made Alec look up from his files, mouth open to ask what Miller wanted. The words died in his throat when he saw, not his partner, but the girl from the hospital. What was... Rose. That was her name, Rose. What was she doing here?

The blonde girl smiled tentatively as she stepped over the threshold, a plastic shopping bag in her hands. “Hello,” she said. “Erm... I guessed you’d be working late. Thought I might drop by before heading back to Trader’s.” She stopped awkwardly in front of the desk, biting her lower lip. “How... how are you feeling?”

He bit back the ‘fine’ he’d been telling everyone else. She’d been there, she’d seen him at his worst, there was no reason to lie to her. “Tired,” he admitted. “But I can’t go yet.” He nodded at the papers in front of him. “Too much to go over.”

She shook her head slightly. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me,” she said, which surprised him a little. He’d automatically justified his behavior to her without thinking about it. “I figured you wouldn’t go rest, just because someone else thinks you should.”

His brow furrowed a bit. How was she able to read him so well? They’d never even spoken before today. He tapped the end of his pen against his desk. “Did you... need something?” he asked, already feeling awkward at the attempt for normal conversation.

“Oh, right,” she said, tucking her hair behind an ear as she set the plastic bag on the end of the desk. She rifled through it for a moment and began pulling food items out, placing them in a neat row. “Like I said, thought you’d be working late and that you might need some dinner. Chippie’s the only thing open this time of night and you shouldn’t eat that. Not that there’s anything wrong with chips, love them myself, but they aren’t exactly heart-healthy. So, I picked this up at the grocer’s during my lunch break.”

He looked down at the container of spinach salad with tomatoes, asparagus, red bell peppers, and chunks of salmon, the small accompanying tub of dressing that was marked as a red wine vinaigrette, another container of sliced cantaloupe, and a small bar of dark chocolate, along with a large to-go cup with scribbling marking it as tea. He suspected she might have done a bit of research on her computer or phone, she’d clearly put a lot of thought into this. When he looked back up, she was twisting her earring around and staring at the crumpled bag in her other hand.

“Sorry if this isn’t enough or if you think I’m butting my nose in--”

“No, no, no,” he instantly denied. He nodded at the food then back at her. “This is good, this is really good, I wasn’t expecting--”

“No, I know you weren’t,” she broke in. They looked at each other for a moment before chuckling nervously. They were so anxious not to offend the other, they were stepping on each other’s sentences.

“If-- If I have to have someone butting their nose in,” he said, hesitantly, “I’m glad it’s you, Rose.”

She smiled, a flattering blush gracing her cheeks. “Well, I’ll just, um...” She pointed to the door, beginning to back away. “Don’t work too hard.”

He found the corner of his mouth twitching. Was he actually trying to smile? It was an odd sensation. He grunted in acknowledgment of her statement, but made no actual promises.

As Rose disappeared around the corner, he set the paperwork aside and grabbed the plastic fork she’d left with the food, tearing the film covering off of it. It wasn’t until he’d seen what she’d brought that he’d realized he actually was hungry. He was liberally sprinkling the dressing over the salad when a discreet cough near the door informed him he wasn’t alone.

Looking up, he saw Miller watching him with an eyebrow raised as she leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed.

“Who was that?” she asked with a slight smirk on her face, obviously curious as to who would bring her gruff partner dinner besides herself.

“Do you have the results from today’s door-to-door?” he countered. He didn’t want to discuss personal matters with Miller, especially not at work when they had a case to see to.

“Just finishing the report,” she said. “Was that your girlfriend?” She sounded utterly amused at the prospect.

“Don’t be daft,” he said, spearing some spinach and a ripe tomato on the fork. “She’s just a nice girl who works in the shop across the street. I know her from Trader’s.”

“And she just happened to bring you dinner because... why? She’s nice?”

“Seems that way.”

“Maybe she’s sweet on you,” said Miller, grinning.

Alec stuck the loaded fork in his mouth then shrugged. “Then she’s bound to be disappointed,” he said. “Too busy to have a girlfriend.” Internally, however, he felt a bit smug. The shop girl... sweet on him? Surprisingly, he found he rather liked that idea.

“Right,” said Miller, rolling her eyes as she pushed away from the door. “Too busy. Thaaat’s the reason.” Under her breath, she added, “Couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you’re an insufferable git...”

He heard her. He didn’t really care.

* * *

Rose worried her lower lip as she left the station and headed for the hotel. She’d bought DI Hardy dinner because she was worried that he wasn’t taking care of himself and there wasn’t anyone else to make sure he ate right.

Then he had to go and be so adorably awkward. She smiled, remembering how he’d hardly known what to say, so unlike her Doctor with the unstoppable gob. And that was the problem. She found herself liking the prickly DI and he wasn’t real. He was a story, someone the Doctor had made up. He was going to disappear in a few short weeks.

She sighed, concerned. She hadn’t expected to develop feelings for the man, not while she loved the Time Lord. Already, she felt guilty at the prospect of opening the watch, erasing Alec Hardy as though he’d never existed. He was touching people’s lives as he worked his investigation, people were depending on him. Perhaps the abrasive personality was on purpose, so people wouldn’t want to get too close to him, so that when he was gone, he’d leave as little impact as possible.

Rose wrapped her arms around herself as she walked. She missed the Doctor fiercely, missed his hugs and holding his hand. She rationalized that was the reason she liked being near DI Hardy. She’d accepted long ago that the Doctor was only ever interested in being best mates, and she was fine with that, even if she longed for more. What scared her was the possibility of falling for the story of Alec Hardy as well.

Neither the story nor the reality could have a fairy tale ending, of that, she was certain.

* * *

The next day, Alec entered Broadchurch Books. He’d never gone inside the shop before, it was one of those posh bookstores with a coffee shop inside it. He could see several teenagers sitting at the little tables, tapping away on their laptops. He shoved his hands into his pockets, his skin crawling at the thought of asking someone if Rose was about. As it was, it would be all over town that he’d stopped to talk to her by the end of the day.

Thankfully, he spotted her toward the end of a row at the back of the store, reshelving a cart of books. She glanced his way and did a double take, surprise written all over her face as she realized it was him. He walked toward her, the corners of his mouth curving up, finding it easier to smile when his chest wasn’t killing him.

“Hello,” she said. “Can I help you find something today?”

“No, thanks,” he said, coming to a stop on the other side of the cart.

She cast a look around them, then asked in a low whisper, “How are you doing?”

Appreciation for her discretion bloomed in his chest, near the organ she was inquiring about. “Better,” he answered. “Medication’s helping.”

“Good.” She looked relieved, bringing to mind Miller’s comment that she might be ‘sweet on him.’ He tried to ignore the fluttering sensation in his stomach at the thought.

“Listen, I want to thank you, properly, for helping me,” he said, pulling one hand out of his pocket to rub the back of his neck, his eyes on her trainers. “But I honestly I have no idea what people do here, even less of an idea what you might find appropriate.”

“You don’t have to,” she said, turning away to place books on the shelf in front of her, her hair sweeping forward, almost hiding her pink cheeks from his view.

“I want to,” he said. “Please. Assuage my guilt.”

She turned toward him again, one eyebrow lifted as she gave him an assessing look. Seeming to come to a decision, she suddenly asked, “Do you like pool?”

“Pool?” he repeated, feeling stupid.

“The game with the fifteen colored balls that you hit with the end of a stick,” she said, giving him that cheeky tongue-touched grin.

“Er, yes, I know it.” He tried to recall when he’d last played... Probably sometime before he entered the academy. Yes, that sounded right. “Haven’t played in a long while, though.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not any good either,” she said. “The pub at the end of High Street has a table and my evenings are free. When’s good for you?”

“Tomorrow night? Say... meet there around six?” His heart was pounding a little harder than normal and he fought to keep his breathing even. No tunnel vision or dizziness accompanied the sensation this time, however.

“Sounds great,” she said, smiling.

“Great.” He paused, and they looked at each other for a moment before he aimed his thumb back toward the front of the shop. “I’ll just... go, then. See you tomorrow.”

“See you,” she said, giving him a little wave.

He nodded, then turned and walked out, his heart slowing to a normal pace as he took deep breaths of salty air. He couldn’t, however, lose the feeling of excitement curling within his belly, which was ridiculous. It wasn’t like they were going on a date... This was him, expressing gratitude towards a nice, helpful, pretty, very pretty, young--

Pausing outside the station, he shook his head, but he couldn’t shake the picture of Rose loose from his brain. He was attracted to her, he realized with a punch of adrenaline to his gut.

‘Fan-bloody-tastic,’ he thought. This didn’t bode well for their... meeting tomorrow. He didn’t have time to entertain thoughts like Rose, no matter how tempting. Besides, she deserved better than some bitter detective with a faulty heart.

He sighed. He would just have to try his best not to let things get out of hand. Shouldn’t be too difficult. He was used to keeping people at arm’s length.

Satisfied, he went inside. Miller lifted an eyebrow at him, but said nothing. He closed the door to his office without a word.

Chapter Text

Early the next evening, Rose stood in front of her bathroom mirror for a long time, frowning at herself. She’d gotten permission to come home from the bookstore before the end of the shift in order to have a wash and change before meeting Alec at the pub. Now that she’d dried her hair, leaving it in loose waves around her shoulders, and applied a bit of makeup, she was trying to decide what to wear.

‘This isn’t a date,’ she kept telling herself. ‘I should not be hoping that it is, even though I’ve wanted to go on a proper date with the Doctor for years, Alec is not the Doctor.’

That brought another thought to mind. Was she allowed to call him Alec? It seemed a bit weird to call him ‘Detective Inspector’ while at a pub, playing pool. She’d have to ask. Another awkward conversation.

She sighed and went to the wardrobe where she’d hung up most of her clothes. She reached for a comfy, oversized green jumper, but then her eyes fell on a soft tank top in cream silk. Her fingers were caressing the fabric before she even knew what she was doing.

It was the kind of thing she had taken to wearing around the Doctor. This current body of his was so tactile. Once he found out she was wearing something soft or fuzzy, he’d find any excuse to hug her or just randomly pet her arm. She remembered it had taken two washings and an entire lint brush to get all the fuzzies off of his suit after she’d worn that turquoise angora hoodie. She wondered if Alec Hardy had any of those tactile impulses...

She sighed, tired of agonizing. “Sod it.” She pulled the silk top off the hanger and paired it with some well-fitting jeans. Her companion might not be exactly the Doctor, but that was no reason to treat the situation with kid gloves. Tonight was about having fun, and she intended to do so.

* * *

Alec hadn’t been extremely productive that day, for which he felt profoundly guilty. He couldn’t help it, he’d had a surprisingly vivid dream about Rose the night before and his mind kept returning to it instead of focusing on his work. In fact, if he concentrated, a lot of his dreams lately had figured a curvy blonde, he just tended to forget the details once he woke up. The one last night had been so detailed, he’d written it down in his laptop, and the blonde was unquestionably Rose. The rest of the dream had featured strange, alien creatures and spaceships, but he didn’t think that was important. Too many late night sci-fi movies on telly.

He suspected that her active role in his subconscious had something to do with the attraction he’d noticed yesterday. He’d gone to sleep with her on his mind and woken up the same way. It worried him. He’d already said he didn’t have time for the complication of a relationship, but it seemed his body wasn’t listening. Already, he felt adrenaline pooling in his gut, ready to surge up whenever he thought about meeting Rose later. It made him distracted and snappish with the other officers all day, not that they probably noticed much of a change in his demeanor.

When five o’clock rolled around, he tried to get away as surreptitiously as possible, but of course, no such luck. His partner stopped him before he could even get out of the bullpen. He supposed he should have expected it, he’d been staying late every other night. But he hadn’t had plans then and now he did and he wanted to go back to Trader’s to change beforehand.

“Leaving already, sir?” Miller asked, the picture of innocence.

He grunted. “Plans,” he said, moving around her. “See you tomorrow. If something comes up, ring my mobile.”

“Philips said he saw you at the bookstore yesterday,” she said, following him toward the door. “Did you happen to run into a certain shop girl?”

“You can stop with the cute routine, Miller, it doesn’t work with you,” he said as he tugged his gray overcoat on. “Not that it’s any business of yours or anyone’s, but yes. She helped me out with something and I wanted to say thank you.”

“So you’re taking her out tonight? That’s sweet.”

“Excellent deduction. Can I leave now?”

“Sure, sure,” she said, hanging back as she lifted her hands in surrender. “Mind you buy her something nice.”

“What?” He stopped and turned around, confused. “Why would I do that?”

Miller shrugged and gazed at the ceiling, as if she had no idea. “Girls like that sort of thing.”

Thoroughly flummoxed now, he walked back to her. “Like what sort of thing?”

“Oh, you know, flowers, wine, chocolate... Depends on the evening, really.”

They were going to a pub to play pool. He supposed chocolate and wine were out in that case. Which left flowers. Which meant another stop along the way. He checked his watch. He really needed to leave. “All right,” he said, distracted. “Thanks, Miller.”

As he turned to go, he missed his partner’s smug smile. “No problem, sir.”

* * *

After a record time shower and a change of clothes, Alec rushed down to the local flower shop. The lady at the counter greeted him with a sickeningly huge smile that filled him with dread. Bloody small towns with their bloody small town gossip. He was surprised Miller had waited until he was out of sight to pull out her mobile.

“Good evening, Detective Inspector!” she said. “What can I help you with today?”

“Erm...” He looked around at the staggering amount of flowers in the shop. He had no idea what to get. “I need flowers,” he said, hoping that stating the obvious would get her to be a bit forthcoming with suggestions.

“Who are you buying them for?” she asked. He suspected from her knowing look that she knew exactly whom the flowers were for, but he said nothing. He needed her help.

“Ah... A girl.” The woman lifted her eyebrows, expectantly. He sighed. “A... nice girl.”

“What’s the occasion, then?”

“Er... No occasion, really.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking around at the flowers again, as if they would tell him the answer. “She, ah... she helped me with something.”

“Gratitude, then,” said the woman and he nodded at once.

The woman went to the large refrigerators holding buckets of flowers and set to work pulling together a bouquet. He let her choose, not really paying much attention, as he checked his watch. It was already after six. He hoped Rose was running late, too.

He startled slightly when a cellophane wrapped bunch of pink roses was thrust under his nose. He blinked. Roses. Indecision seized him. What if she hated them, because of her name? “Erm...”

“Pink roses mean gratitude and appreciation in the language of flowers,” the woman said with another smile.

Not knowing what to say to that, he took the bouquet and silently paid for it because he didn’t have any better ideas and he was already late.

* * *

When he made it to the pub, he saw Rose was already waiting for him. She was seated in a booth, sipping a glass of red wine, another on the other side of the table. She’d ordered for him, how... modern. She turned her head and caught sight of him then. When she smiled and waved, he had to stop for a moment.

She’d clearly put some effort into her appearance. She was still wearing jeans, but instead of a t-shirt or hoodie, she was wearing a sleeveless cream colored top, made out of some kind of shiny material that draped in the front, giving a hint of her cleavage. His fingers twitched as he was seized by a mad urge to test the softness of the garment.

It wasn’t just her chest he was fixated by, luckily. Her face completely drew him in. He couldn’t stop staring as he prompted his legs to keep moving toward her. He realized he’d had this problem before, the staring. Something kept his eyes returning to her face. What was it?

Her mouth. That smile. Her mouth was wide, with full lips that were utterly kissable and made him think about-- he swallowed hard-- oral sex.

No, no, no, that couldn’t be it. Plenty of women had nice smiles and he hadn’t given them a second look. Maybe it was her eyes. They were an odd sort of hazel, a light brown that changed depending on the lighting or maybe her moods. Yesterday, at the shop, they’d looked like the color of almonds. Tonight, they were a smokier amber.

Ah, he was close enough to see her eyes. She had stood up from the seat and said something, but he’d missed it completely. Idiot!

“Erm...” He held out the bouquet of flowers, awkwardly. “Sorry I’m late.”

She took the roses in both hands, lifting them to her face. “I wasn’t expecting this,” she said, genuine surprise in her voice. “Thank you.”

He shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets. “The woman at the store said it’s the flower of appreciation or some such... She picked it out.”

“Well, they’re beautiful,” she said, warmly. “No one ever gives me roses! I guess it’s because of my name. You’re the first.”

Something about being the first man to give her the flower of her namesake resonated within him and he smiled, pleased. She tilted her head at the booth.

“Shall we...?”

They sat down on opposite sides of the table and she gestured at the glass of wine in front of him. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said. “I read that red Cabernet is supposed to be good for... well, good for you.”

She’d been doing more research on heart-healthy eating. To be honest, he’d been doing his fair share of Googling since she’d brought him dinner the other night, and she was right. The red wine was better than the ale he’d normally have at a pub. She was incredibly considerate. Besides the creative intelligence he saw in her gaze, it was that warm compassion that really drew him to her. He had no doubts now that he wanted her. Badly. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and took a sip from his wine glass.

“You look so casual, without the tie,” she commented.

He looked down at himself. He’d opted for not wearing the tie when he changed his suit back at Trader’s. His top two buttons were undone, and he supposed he must look a bit rumpled. Well... more rumpled than usual. He ran a hand through the scruff on the side of his face. He just didn’t put much stock in vanity. What was the point in having a shave, or putting ridiculous amounts of product in his hair? It wasn’t as though he was trying to impress anyone...

At least, that was what he’d thought until he’d sat down across from Rose, who looked absolutely beautiful. “I suppose I should have shaved,” he muttered.

She shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “I kind of like the bit of scruff.”

She had her tongue in the corner of her smile again. Combined with what she’d said about him, he felt a pulse charge straight through him. There was chemistry between them, of that, he was certain. Suddenly, his reasons for not wanting to get involved with anyone were starting to evaporate.

“This is kind of an odd question,” she said, hesitantly. “But... do you want me to call you Detective Inspector tonight? I mean, I know that you’re probably used to that, but... I don’t know, it seems a little weird.”

He had to admit, her calling him by his work title in this sort of setting was on the wrong side of bizarre. “Suppose you could call me Alec,” he said, unable to help making a face at the suggestion.

She grinned. “What’s wrong with ‘Alec?’”

“Never really liked the name.”

She burst out in giggles, then waved one hand. “Sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t laugh,” she said, trying to stifle her laughter.

He sniffed, glancing away. Though he didn’t appreciate being the subject of her mirth, he couldn’t help liking the sound of her laughter.

“How about ‘Hardy?’” she asked, finally.

He considered, then shook his head. “Doesn’t sound right, coming from you,” he said.

“What about your second name?”

He sighed. “You know, this whole name thing really isn’t even necessary,” he said in a rushed breath. “If I’m looking at you, you know that I’m talking to you, I don’t have to say your name just to prove that I know it. Your name isn’t who you are.”

She looked surprised, blinking at him for a moment.

“And it’s James,” he muttered, to soften what he’d said.

“You’re right,” she said. “Your name doesn’t matter.” She smiled. “I’m fine with ‘hey, you’ if you are.” With a tilt of her head toward the center of the room, she said, “Shall we play, Alec James Hardy?”

He looked at the empty pool table, then back at her. “Want to make it interesting?” he asked before he could think about it.

She grinned. “What did you have in mind?”

“If I win, you have to tell me your full name.”

She laughed, exposing the column of her neck as she tilted her head back. “All right. And if I win, you buy me dinner.”

His mouth fell slightly open as she went to rack the balls. Still reeling from the implications of her chosen ‘prize,’ he stood and shrugged out of his coat and jacket, laying them across the seat. He began rolling the sleeves of his Oxford up his forearms, then forgot what he was doing as he caught sight of Rose, leaning over the pool table to center the rack. She gently cupped each ball as she positioned them according to number in the wooden triangle.

Alec was beginning to sweat. He’d never seen pool as a sexual game before, but now, as he watched Rose pick up a house cue and sight down the shaft, he was beginning to see it that way. He’d never played the game much, and he’d certainly never played aroused before, so he had a feeling he was about to lose in spectacular fashion.

She carefully lifted the rack, leaving the balls perfectly in place on the table, and hung it on a nail in the wall. “Have you got a coin?” she asked.

“A coin?”

“To flip. To see who breaks.”

“Oh. Right.” He was losing it, and fast. He dug into his trouser pocket and pulled out a 50p coin. “Your call.” He tossed it over the table, letting it fall onto the green felt, as he didn’t exactly trust his reflexes.

“Heads.”

The coin dropped heads side up and he gestured for her to break as he finished rolling up his sleeves. He stood to the side and just behind her as she leaned over the cue, lining up the shot. She wiggled her arse as she concentrated on the cue ball and his mouth went dry. He had to hope that she wasn’t interested in him, because if she felt any attraction at all, his plan for staying focused on his police work was in serious trouble.

She managed to sink a solid ball on the break, but missed the follow-up shot. She shrugged, good-naturedly, as she passed him to grab her wineglass from the table. “Your shot,” she said.

He concentrated on finding his next move so he wouldn’t look at her sipping from her glass. He was just grateful she hadn’t ordered a beer. If he’d had to watch her wrap her lips around a beer bottle, he might have needed another trip to A&E. That mouth of hers ought to have a warning label: Not to be observed by those with heart conditions. Too many suggestive thoughts were already curling their way seductively around in his brain, and worse still, those dark eyes of hers seemed like they could read him all too clearly. She’d most likely had plenty of practice, spotting the lust in a man’s eyes. She probably had pretty boys fawning over her all the time.

The thought irritated him. He definitely was not the fawning type. He was only there out of gratitude. Right. That was why he was gazing at her mouth and thinking about oral sex. Real smooth, Hardy.

With a monumental effort, he focused on the pool table and lined up a shot. Miraculously, he managed to sink a striped ball, and even had the good fortune to land the cue ball in position for another easy shot.

“Uh-oh, have I started a game with a ringer?” she teased as he moved around the table and sunk the ball. “You’re not bad. You have a good, steady rhythm.”

He closed his eyes briefly. He really did not want to turn everything she said into a sexual reference. “Thanks. It’s just basic geometry, really.” But he missed his next shot by hitting the cue ball too hard. He winced. That’s what he got for showing off.

He tried not to watch Rose move as she made her next shot. He seemed to be strangely tuned to the sway of her hips, the way she bit her lip when she concentrated, and especially that little wiggle she did when she leaned over. The jeans she wore accentuated her bum perfectly. He bit back a groan of frustration.

They fell into an easy back and forth, Alec making more shots than Rose did, on average, but she didn’t seem to mind. He appreciated a woman who didn’t throw a tantrum when she wasn’t winning.

He wasn’t sure when one glass of wine had turned into two, but he found himself loosening up a bit, and laughing at her cheeky teasing. He started missing shots on purpose, just to prolong their game. It wasn’t until Rose sunk the eight ball that he realized he’d missed too many times and subsequently lost.

“I have a feeling that you let me win,” she said, hanging their sticks up on the cue rack.

“Maybe I just want to take you to dinner,” he said, the wine making him brave.

“You didn’t have to throw the game just to secure another date with me,” she said, heading for the booth to pick up her jacket.

“Oh, really?” he said, following her and grabbing his own coat and jacket. He didn’t care that she’d called their game a date. He might not have intended it to be one at the start, but it definitely was now. “Come along then, let’s get you fed.”

“Right now?”

He nodded. “Why not? I was going to suggest dinner another night, but now that I have it on good authority you’ll say yes, I’ll just take you out again.”

She grinned. “All right, then.”

He didn’t even think about pulling away when she grabbed his hand.

Chapter Text

“You are utterly confusing,” Alec said later, halfway through dinner.

Rose paused, wineglass halfway to her lips. They were each nursing their third glass of wine for the evening, but apparently, Alec was something of a lightweight and was buzzed enough to say what was on his mind. He wasn’t suddenly spewing every thought that came into his head, but he was certainly a lot more forthcoming than he had been. Rose lifted an eyebrow. “I’m sorry?”

“You’re so completely different from everyone here.” He made a sweeping gesture, encompassing the rest of the restaurant and Broadchurch in general. “I was expecting you to ask me all kinds of questions tonight, the way women do. They want to know things, they always want to know. But not you. Why?”

She couldn’t tell him, of course, that it was because she knew anything he told her about his past would be made up. She shrugged lightly. “Prefer to dwell in the present,” she said.

“I guess that’s fair,” he said. His Scottish accent was coming through a bit stronger and Rose fought the urge to giggle, since he wouldn’t understand why she thought it was funny. “Tell me something about you, then.”

She pretended to consider for a moment. “Marion Tyler,” she finally said.

“Who’s she?”

She did laugh, then. “That’s my second and last name. Rose Marion Tyler.” She toyed with the stem of her wineglass, looking up at him from beneath her lashes. “I suppose now you can find out everything you want about me.”

“I would never abuse my position with the police for personal reasons,” he said, sniffing. “Besides, I respect you too much to do that.”

That surprised her a bit. Alec Hardy wasn’t the type of man to bestow respect easily. “Thank you,” she said, genuinely.

He lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. “You’re keeping my secret. You can tell me yours when you’re ready.”

A twinge of guilt pricked her conscience. “You’re so sure I have secrets, then?”

“All women do. They hoard them. Like shoes.”

They laughed together and she smiled at him. Reaching across the table, she laid a hand on his. “I promise. When the time’s right. I’ll tell you.”

He turned his hand over, letting their fingers fall loosely together. “Looking forward to it.”

* * *

Rose made sure to follow Alec upstairs to his door when they returned to Trader’s after dinner. She knew he wasn’t sloshed, but didn’t think she could be too careful, not after finding him on the floor of his loo.

He smiled at her when she made for the stairs, rather than go to her own door. She rolled her eyes at him in return.

“Down, boy,” she said, tucking one hand into his elbow, her other carrying her bouquet. “I’m just walking you to your door, that’s all.”

“I thought I was supposed to do that.”

“You’re the one who lives on the second floor,” she pointed out. “I won’t have you tripping over the steps and falling to your death. That would be on my head. No, ta.”

“I see, you have a responsibility to get the old, broken man to his room, how kind.”

Rose giggled. He had no idea how old. “That’s not what I see when I look at you,” she answered honestly.

“Ah, this I have to hear,” he said as they reached the second floor landing. “Tell me, what does Rose Tyler see when she looks at me with her cinnamon colored eyes?”

“Apparently, a closet romantic,” she said, laughing.

“Don’t tell anyone,” he said, pulling his face into his most grumpy expression and wagging a finger at her. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

“No worries, I doubt anyone would believe me.”

When they stopped in front of his door, he slid his hand back, catching hers as it fell from his elbow. “Really,” he said, a half-smile lingering at the corner of his mouth. “Tell me. Do you really see more than a bitter, old copper?”

“Must do,” she said, touching her tongue to her teeth, “I’m here, aren’t I?” When he groaned and dropped her hand, she relented. “To be perfectly honest, Detective Inspector... I see so much more. I see someone who is steadfast and stubborn to a fault. Someone who doesn’t give up. You know the world is so much bigger, but you don’t let yourself get lost, you dig right in and make the small part of it that you occupy better.” She ran her fingers along a lapel, seeing in her mind’s eye, not a bland navy, but brown with tiny blue pin-stripes. “The world is better, because you’re in it.”

He rested one hand lightly over hers, capturing it against his chest. She looked up at him, stunned by the soft look in his dark brown eyes. She had seen a similar look on the Doctor's face before, but he would always look away, deflect the attention, or shutter his expression before she could be sure. Alec Hardy wasn’t hiding from her.

“Thank you,” he said in a low voice. “For tonight.”

He leaned down to her and her heart pounded wildly in her ears. Indecision pulled a violent tug-of-war with her heart for a moment that lasted forever and an instant. At the last second, she turned her head and Alec’s lips brushed the corner of her mouth.

He pulled back, putting distance between them. “Right, no, sorry,” he said in a rush. “I shouldn’t have-- That was--”

She stopped him with a hand on his mouth. His brows lifted up in shock and then down in confusion. She lowered her hand, biting her lower lip. Her mind still roiled with conflict. She didn’t want to hurt Alec, but at the same time, didn’t want to be unfaithful to the Doctor. Even if the alien didn't love her back. The alien... who was not entirely the man before her. Or was it the other way around? She was so confused...

“Not tonight, yeah?” she said, softly. “It’s... too soon.” Two more months until the watch could be opened. If he still wanted to kiss her then, she’d be all for it, but she couldn’t take advantage of him this way. Just because Alec was offering, didn’t mean it was what the Doctor wanted.

Alec nodded. “Can I... see you again?” he asked, the awkwardness coming back in the wake of the sobering last few minutes.

“I’d like that,” she said, smiling. Impulsively, she lifted up on her toes and placed a swift kiss to his cheek. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Rose.”

* * *

The following week was a nightmare. With the onslaught of reporters that descended on the town, Alec only had time for them to see each other once, and it was because DS Miller invited them both to a dinner at her house.

Ellie (she insisted Rose call her by her first name) had invited Alec over once before, and took great pleasure in telling Rose how he’d brought flowers, wine, and chocolates. Rose giggled, seeing in the story that Alec was not so far removed from her daft alien, who claimed to know so much and yet occasionally became confused by the most mundane things.

Rose found she liked Ellie. The woman was closer to her mum’s age, but she had a youthful spirit that showed in flashes throughout the night. She was kind and clearly loved her family dearly, something Rose identified with strongly. Dessert hadn’t even been served before they were promising to meet for coffee and Joe was ribbing Alec about the women conspiring against them.

Rose walked Alec to his door again that night. He paused, watching her face as though her expression would tell him all the answers to the universe.

“Do you want to... come in?” he asked, hesitantly.

She looked at the door, her mouth open to answer him, but the words dissolved like dust on her tongue, choking her. Her face crumpled as she looked at Alec’s carefully neutral expression, his hands tucked protectively under his crossed arms.

Her Doctor had worn that very same look, held himself the same way, just after he’d regenerated. Still wearing the leather jacket and jumper, he’d put them on a course for the Powell Estate because she’d wanted him to change back and he couldn’t. She had no idea at the time how much that had hurt him.

“Not tonight,” she said, gently placing a hand on his arm.

He nodded, turning away to unlock his door, then looking at her once more, his eyes slightly narrowed. “I have to ask... Did something happen to you, Rose? Are you... afraid to be alone with me?”

She recognized the detective flexing his instincts and shook her head. “I’m not, I promise. It’s... something more complicated than that.”

He uncurled from his defensive stance and took her hand. “Do you want to talk about it? I’m not the best at that sort of thing, but...” He cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable at the thought of having the conversation, which made Rose smile for the offer.

“No, that’s all right.” She ran her thumb across the back of his hand. “Can you be patient with me?”

He heaved a long-suffering sigh, which made her giggle. “I suppose,” he said. “But only because you’re worth it, Rose Tyler.” He carefully kissed her cheek, which sent butterflies winging around in her stomach.

* * *

Then came the horror of newsagent Jack Marshall’s suicide, and opportunities to see Alec turned from slim to none. They had next to no communication, other than the odd text where he assured her he was eating healthy and at least getting some sleep and she assured him that she didn’t think he was the ‘worst cop in Britain.’ They would see each other at Jack’s wake, but Alec would be working, looking for suspicious behavior, and anyway, neither one of them wanted to turn that into a date. It was too strange, to look forward to something as bleak as a funeral.

Rose took the time to go back to the alley where they’d first arrived to check on the Tardis. It had been about a month and Rose was hoping the old girl was feeling better.

The perception filter was working, she had to come close for the time ship to come into focus, and then she suspected she still only saw it because she was expecting to. Thinking back to that first day, the filter was probably why Alec had just wandered off with his luggage. He hadn’t seen the Tardis sitting there and most likely thought he’d passed out from heart trouble in the alley.

With a quick look around to ensure she wasn’t being watched, she unlocked the doors and slipped inside. A warm hum all around and inside her mind greeted her and Rose smiled as the lights flickered on. The happiness she felt at being home was reflected back to her, the Tardis had missed her.

She came up the ramp and touched the console. “I know you miss him, too,” she said, and the humming took on a mournful tone. “Two more months. That’s barely a blip for you, old girl.” The Tardis gave the equivalent of a haughty sniff and Rose giggled. “Come on, you know what I always say. You can’t be truly old if you’re still beautiful, and you, lovely thing, are beautiful.”

The lights around the console flickered in a chasing pattern, something the Tardis did when she felt pleased, making Rose smile. The time ship truly was a lady in that regard, something Rose had learned when they’d traveled with Jack. She responded well to compliments. Jack had undoubtedly been the Tardis’ favorite traveler then.

Rose caressed the computer screen before tilting it up to her eye level. “Mind showing me your diagnostics?”

The readout was still all in Gallifreyan. The Tardis wasn’t programmed to display English or any other language, since it was expected that a Time Lord would be her pilot and he would obviously know his native language. Rose had wanted to learn, even before the Doctor had started teaching her how to fly the ship, but so far, she only had a grasp of the basics. She knew the circles were read counter-clockwise, beginning at the bottom, and she knew how to recognize the end of a sentence. The rest was a good deal more complicated, even relying on mathematical algorithms to determine how one word related to the next in the series.

However, Rose had found a way around it, as she was prone to do whenever she reached a roadblock. She’d done research on her own in the Library and discovered a series of books, hidden away toward the back in a dusty corner, that were the equivalent of a Gallifreyan primer. On each set of pages, there would be a passage in Old High Gallifreyan, a language which was a lot more like hieroglyphics, and then the same passage on the opposite page in a different language. It had taken some searching but she’d found the one for English.

The Doctor had told her when she asked about the books that when he was a mere Time Tot, he’d excelled in languages, something his mentors had declared useless, as all time capsules came equipped with a translation circuit. But he’d enjoyed learning them and they were happy to let him do anything that was unlikely to lead to explosions.

Pulling the primer out from under the jump seat, Rose asked the Tardis, “Please switch to Old High Gallifreyan.” The monitor flickered and changed to the different variant of the language she was programmed in.

Using the index in the back of the book, Rose located the words she needed. It took a while, but with the Tardis supplying her with graphs for a visual aid, she was able to sufficiently deduce that the Tardis’ power supply was slowly building back up. She was relieved to see that nothing she’d done with her rough landing had hurt the time ship. By the time the three months were over, they should have enough for a quick jaunt through space over to Cardiff. They could see Jack again and tell him all about their time in Dorset while the old girl filled up.

She sighed, closing the book. She wondered what Jack would say about her ‘dating’ Alec. Granted, they’d only had the one date, but they both wanted to see each other again. And that night had made her feel so happy, particularly when Alec had started loosening up. It was almost, almost like being with the Doctor again.

That is, until he’d gone for the goodnight kiss and the guilt had settled in her stomach. She was letting what she wanted from the Doctor color her decisions with Alec and that wasn’t good. It wasn’t fair to him, either, but she didn’t know what to do.

Time to get some advice. Resolved, she pulled her mobile out of her pocket and sat down in the captain’s chair.

Jack answered on the second ring. “Rosie!” he cried, happily. “How’s everything up in beautiful, downtown Broadchurch?”

Rose giggled lightly. “Overcast and slow. How’s Cardiff?”

“Wet.”

“Sounds normal.” She paused. “As long as we’re talking rain and not, I don’t know, a flood or tidal wave?”

“I think you would have heard about a tsunami hitting Wales, Dorset isn’t that far removed from the civilized world.”

She rolled her eyes, thinking of all the reporters that had arrived, en masse. “It really isn’t, though I could do with a little less of the national news at the mo.”

“How’s the Doc?”

“That’s actually why I’m calling. Nothing’s wrong with him,” she hastened to say, “it’s just... well, there’s an issue.” Rose explained about Alec, going on the date, and wanting to see him again. “It’s so confusing, Jack, but how can I let Alec make a move when I know it isn’t what the Doctor wants? What if he comes back in two months and is disgusted with me? What if he immediately takes me home? I might want more from him, but I’m not willing to lose his friendship over it.”

Jack was silent a moment, then heaved a long, drawn out sigh. “We really shouldn’t have this conversation over the phone,” he said at last. “We should be sitting down with a bottle of hypervodka between us.”

“What conversation?”

He sighed again. “Give me a second.” There was a shuffling sound on the other line and a minute later, Rose heard a door shut. “Okay, I had to go to my office for some privacy. There are some things no one else should hear.”

Rose worried her bottom lip between her teeth. “Jack, you’re being really serious and it’s kind of freaking me out, to be honest.”

“The year on the Valiant,” he began, and a shiver chased itself down Rose’s spine. “You remember what the bastard did.”

“How could I forget,” said Rose, her voice choked. “He made me watch. He always made me watch.”

She blinked rapidly as visions of that time came back to her; the flash of a blade, the sizzle of electricity, the whirring of power tools, the sound of screams, the smell of burning hair and flesh and blood. Cold, metal plates on either side of her face making effective blinders, keeping her faced forward. The zap of an electric shock if she closed her eyes for longer than a full second, but the shocks were nothing compared to what the Doctor and Jack endured, day after day.

“But he never touched you,” said Jack.

“No,” she said.

“He never tortured you because the Doctor made a deal with him,” Jack said in a low voice. “The Doc took every torment intended for you. And as long as you watched, the bastard had promised him not to tell you why you went unharmed.”

Rose’s breath slammed out of her. “No...”

“He made me swear I wouldn’t tell you.”

Tears welled in her eyes, blurring her vision. She pressed a shaking hand to her mouth. “Why?... Why would he--?” A sob escaped her, cutting off her words.

“I know he mostly talked in their language whenever it happened, but there was a word he said often. Over and over. Do you remember what it was?”

Her brow furrowed. The memory was dim, as she tried not to think about that time, but she did remember the Doctor muttering something, a word the Master would often throw back at him in a mocking tone. “Are-key... something?”

“Arkytior,” said Jack, trying his best to imitate the Gallifreyan inflection. The word sounded something like 'ark-ye-tio-ir,' with the r's rolled similarly to the French. “I asked him what the word meant. At first, he said it was the name of his granddaughter, one of his Loomed ‘cousins’ that went with him when he first stole the Tardis. But I could tell that wasn’t all.” He paused. “One night, when he was half-giddy from forced sleep deprivation, he told me that, in High Gallifreyan, ‘Arkytior’ means ‘Rose.’”

She gasped. “But--”

“He loves you, Rose,” Jack insisted. “I saw it before when he was all big ears and leather. It’s even more obvious now, or I thought it was. The thing that drives him is making you happy, knowing you’re safe. And if anything, this little human vacation he’s taking just proves my point.”

“How?”

“First, tell me what he’s told you about the Time Lords. Not the ones of legend, the ones he grew up with.”

Rose sniffled, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her jacket. “Well... He talked sometimes about how stodgy they were, all obsessed with rules. How they had a ‘convenient morality,’ bending things to make them fit their idea of what was right. And that they considered themselves above all other species, how he would have been ridiculed and possibly exiled for slumming it with us puny apes.”

“See?”

“Um, no.”

Jack gave an exasperated sigh. “Rose, you are just as oblivious as he is. He locked what makes him a Time Lord away in that watch. All those rules, and all his guilt. But he didn’t lock away what makes him love you. Take away the Time Lord, and what is he left with?”

Rose’s eyes grew wide, her heart beating wildly in her chest. “So, then... He might... When he comes back, he might...”

“And she finally gets it,” said Jack, but Rose could hear the smile in his voice. “My advice? Try not to feel guilty about liking the Doc’s meat puppet.”

“Oi!”

Jack laughed. “If anything, making a move on Alec Hardy might spur the Doc into making some moves of his own once you open the watch.”

She still didn’t feel too sure about that, but hope was warm in her heart. “Thanks, Jack. I really appreciate you telling me all this.”

“Just don’t let him throw me into the Vortex if you tell him I told you.”

She grinned. “I won’t. Talk to you later.”

“Love you, Rosie.”

“Love you, too.”

The last thing she did was to ask the Tardis to do a scan for alien tech, breathing a sigh of relief when she recognized the symbols of a negative result. The hunters hadn’t found them yet.

Chapter Text

Rose had donned a conservative black dress with plain black flats for the funeral. She saw Alec standing off to the side with Ellie as she joined the long line of people trudging into the church. He nodded at her and she returned it with a slight smile. She automatically ducked her head, letting her hair fall in front of her face as she walked past the reporters, a trick she’d adopted from her first Doctor. Having your picture taken when you were a time traveler got sticky, sometimes.

Once inside, she sat near the back in the same row as Becca. Alec took a seat in the row behind her when he came in and she turned her head to look at him. He had shadows under his eyes, a kind of haggard look. He pressed his lips together in the gesture of a smile, but she could tell he just didn’t have it in him to try harder than that. She nodded her understanding and turned back around as Reverend Coates took the pulpit.

Everyone gathered at Trader’s afterward, with Becca constantly working the tap. It seemed everyone wanted to lose their guilt, grief, or both at the bottom of a glass. It wasn’t long before some of the men were laughing amongst each other, the sound over-loud even in the midst of all the conversations.

Rose lingered near the fireplace in the main foyer, sipping soda through a straw. A few people said hello, but for the most part, left her alone. She watched Alec and Ellie comb the crowd with their eyes, their focus as sharp as a needle, as they looked for anything suspicious. Anyone calling him the worst cop of anywhere obviously had never actually seen him work.

Suddenly, time seemed to slow as she watched Alec pause, his eyes closing, and he tilted to the side. She was darting forward the same instant he started falling, catching his arm just as his opposite hand hit the table near a doorway. She helped bring him to his feet, her eyes on his face that had dropped a shade paler.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” he muttered to the people who stepped toward them, waving them away. He looked down at Rose, something wordless passing between them, and she moved them toward the door together.

She set him down on a bench in the courtyard, then stood in front of him with her arms crossed as he took deep breaths through his nose. “What happened?” she asked.

“Heart slowed,” he said, his voice low, his eyes on the slate pathway. “Felt like I wasn’t getting enough air for a moment.”

She said nothing, but her tapping foot probably gave her away.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said.

“Then, you know that I think you’re going to get yourself killed.” She stepped closer to him when he would have gotten off the bench and probably gone back inside. “And I know you don’t want to hear it, but you are scaring me.”

He blinked up at her. “You barely know me.”

She laughed, but there was little humor in it. “How long do you have to know someone before you hope they won’t die?” She exhaled sharply, dragging a hand through her hair. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound... clingy, or whatever. That’s not it.” She looked at him, sadly. “You’re a good man. The world shouldn’t lose another one so soon.”

Rose turned and went inside the hotel then, carefully stepping over the Sea Brigade boys gathered on the staircase, and went to her room. Kicking off her flats, she flopped down on the bed and threw one arm over her eyes, hoping she’d gotten through to Alec.

* * *

When Alec went back inside, he saw an opportunity to speak with Tom Miller about Danny’s relationship with Paul Coates, but the conversation was cut short by Joe. He stayed on the staircase landing for a few minutes after Tom and Joe wandered away, his mind returning to the talk with Rose outside.

He’d been ready to say that it wouldn’t matter if he did die, as long as the case got solved, but then she’d said she was scared. That had startled him. Not because they had only had one date together plus dinner at the Miller’s, even though that was the reason he’d given. It was because he hadn’t thought Rose Tyler could become scared. It didn’t make sense, his mind had just automatically built her up as brave, like it completed the picture of her. Of course, being brave didn’t mean being without fear, he knew that, being part of the police.

Rose being scared told him just how far he was pushing himself. It made him nervous.

He looked around at the guests, seeing that many of them had already left. He looked up the next flight of stairs and got to his feet, climbing up to the second floor. He hesitated for a long time in front of Rose’s door, stomach churning, before knocking.

She opened it a moment later. She remained silent and just looked at him, waiting for him to make the first move.

He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand before speaking. “It’s been a long time for me... since someone really cared whether or not I lived,” he said, his tone gruff as he looked at the pattern of the wallpaper in the hallway. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, his eyes moving to hers. “You make me want to care, too.”

She pressed her lips together, her dark eyes shining. She hadn’t taken her eyes off of him, but it almost seemed like she was seeing someone else, from the emotion flickering in her expression. Then suddenly, her arms were around his neck, her face turned into his collar. Instinctively, his muscles locked. He had to consciously relax as he brought his hands awkwardly round to her back.

“I know you won’t understand this now,” she said, her voice muffled against his clothing, “but you’re not alone. There’s me. So, please... Care.”

He tilted his head down, his scruff catching strands of her hair. As nonsensical as it was, as hard as he was to everyone else, when he held her in his arms he found he didn’t have it in him to tell her no. “I’ll try.”

* * *

They went out the next night, just for a late dinner, Alec was obviously tired from interviewing suspects that day and staying late at the station. When Alec realized he’d given all his pocket money to Miller earlier, Rose paid for both of them, cheekily calling him a cheap date. He didn’t mind her teasing, it took his thoughts away from his failure to make progress on the case.

As they walked back to Trader’s hand in hand, he revealed that he’d talked to Rev. Coates that day, and might have judged the man harshly.

“Problem is,” he said, “I don’t know if he deserves it, or if I’m just lashing out because it’s been almost a month and a half and I’m still no closer to finding Danny’s killer. Because people turned to him instead of to the police when they’re afraid.”

“A pacifist is an easy target,” said Rose.

“Playing Devil’s Advocate?” he asked.

“Maybe a bit.”

“I can’t understand him,” said Alec. “Or people like him. With their faith in the intangible. He said that all I have is suspicion, that I have no concept of faith.”

“Well, he’s wrong about that.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because faith doesn’t have to be in a God, a supreme being who holds the keys to a cloud-laden paradise,” she said. “Your faith can be in a higher power, an ideal, something you uphold above all else. You believe in justice, don’t you?”

“Yes, but you can’t always find it.”

She shrugged. “Believers don’t always see God either, particularly in difficult times like this. That’s why they go to people like Paul Coates, so he can point it out for them. People need hope, they’ll seek it wherever they can.”

“What do you believe in, Rose?”

She thought about it for a moment. “I read something once... ‘Rare as is true love, true friendship is rarer.’” She smiled up at him. “I think I believe that.”

She kissed him on the cheek at the door to his room, her lips lingering as her fingers trailed through the scruff near his ear. When she rocked back on her heels, she bit her lower lip, looking up at him through her eyelashes. Her hand moved like she was going to reach for him, but stopped mid-motion.

“Good night,” she said, before turning to go downstairs.

He was sure she’d been about to say something else... He sighed. He supposed he could wait to hear whatever it was, as long as his shower kept up a steady supply of cold water.

* * *

Rose had the next day off from the bookstore and took the opportunity to lazily sleep in. She awoke in the late morning to her phone chirping. There was an odd text from Alec: Have you seen a mid-size dark brown dog anywhere?

She typed back Sorry, no and didn’t hear from him again for the rest of the day. She tried going by the station around lunchtime, but one of the officers told her Alec was questioning a suspect. Not wanting to disturb him, she left a message with the man to say she stopped by and went back to Trader’s to do her washing and call her mother. The day ended uneventfully and without a call or text from Alec.

She woke with a start the next day, just as the early morning sun was starting to stream through her window. She looked at the light coming in, then checked her mobile for the time. It was just after six. Still no messages.

‘Alec didn’t come back last night,’ she thought, her heart starting to pound. She knew because, no matter what time he arrived from the station, he always woke her up at least momentarily when he shut the door to his room upstairs, it made her window rattle. But she’d slept the night through, undisturbed, which meant something was wrong. She could feel it in her gut.

Flinging off her covers, she got dressed in a hurry, dragged the brush through her hair and put it up into a messy bun, then she jammed her feet into her trainers and hurried out of the hotel.

* * *

Alec and Ellie looked up as Rose dashed into the hospital room, breathing like she’d just run a marathon. She looked between the two of them, then glanced at the large baggie of grapes sitting innocuously on the bed next to Alec’s thigh, then back to Alec.

“Mind telling me what the hell is going on?” asked Rose, still gulping for air, but apparently not going to let a little thing like breathing get in the way of her anger.

Alec groaned and turned his face away. He didn’t want to admit that he’d failed her, too. He’d said he would try to be careful and he couldn’t even do that.

Ellie sighed, answering for him, telling Rose that he’d collapsed last night after running, without telling her the details that would compromise the case. “The doctors are saying he had a mild heart attack.” She glared at him. “And that he might not survive the next one.”

Rose ran both hands down her face, pausing once she reached her mouth, as though holding in all the words that she really wanted to scream. “I can’t believe this,” she said, muffled through her fingers. She let her arms drop to her sides, fire flashing in her dark eyes. “I can’t believe you! You promised you would take care just two days ago!”

His mouth tightened. “I said I would try, I never made any bloody promises!”

“And ‘trying’ includes running the bloody hundred metre sprint, does it?” she asked, sarcastically.

“I think you should both calm down,” said Ellie, attempting to be the voice of reason.

“How am I supposed to be calm when this idiot is bent on killing himself?” said Rose, pointing at Alec.

“Oi!” he burst out, resenting her remark, especially when he was a sitting duck in the hospital bed, unable to get away from her railing at him.

Her eyes snapped back to him. “You’re already in danger!” she cried. “You don’t need to go adding more to it!”

“What do you mean, ‘already?’” he asked.

Her eyes widened and she backed away from him, one hand up as if to fend him off. “I can’t do this,” she said suddenly. “I can’t be around you when I’m like this.” She headed for the door, but turned back at the last moment, her mouth in an angry frown. “I am going to go calm down. And the next time I see you, it better not be because you’ve gone and bloody died!”

She stalked out, muttering the words “Jeopardy friendly” in an bitter tone, leaving the two detectives staring after her.

* * *

Rose marched down the street, her hands clenched into fists at her sides, muttering almost but not quite under her breath, “Unbelievable, insufferable, idiotic, NOT-alien twat!”

She kicked a trash can on her way into the alley where the Tardis waited, just barely stifling a scream, not from pain but frustration. She keyed her way into the ship, letting the door fall shut behind her.

“The Doctor’s counting on me to keep him safe!” she yelled at the ceiling. “How am I supposed to do that if he won’t bloody let me?!”

The Tardis hummed sympathetically. Rose sighed, leaning both hands on the edge of the console, letting her head fall forward despondently. “I know it’s not your fault, old girl,” she said, more quietly. “You didn’t have the power.” She smacked the rough textured coral. “But would it have been so hard to take two seconds to key me in as someone he knew and trusted? Someone he might bloody listen to?”

She collapsed on the jump seat, letting herself fall onto it sideways and tucking her feet up, the way she often did when the Doctor was tinkering. She wished he was there now, lulling her to sleep with the sound of his voice. She squeezed her eyes shut. She wouldn’t cry. Not for herself, anyway.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the fob watch, bringing it close, pressing the cool metal to her cheek. It hadn’t made so much as a whisper since the first day, but holding it made her feel better. A tear for the Time Lord within the device slid down her face.

“You were wrong, Doctor,” she said, softly. “I can’t keep you safe. I tried, and it didn’t make any difference.” She sighed, folding the watch between her hands and resting them against her forehead. “If he dies, I’ll never forgive myself.”

* * *

Rose awoke on the jumpseat to the sound of her mobile ringing. Groggily, she reached into her pocket and pulled it out, putting it to her ear, leaving it resting on her head so she wouldn’t have to hold it.

“‘lo?” she mumbled.

“Where are you?” It was Alec. He was obviously irritated, but his voice was gravelly and tired as well, she could hear him breathing roughly through the speaker.

She held the phone and sat up, dragging a hand through her hair as she fought to wake up a little more. “What time is it?”

“You carry around a watch, don’t you know?”

She looked down at the fob watch, still clutched in her other hand. “It... doesn’t tell time.” She couldn’t tell him she’d stopped wearing a watch a long time ago. It didn’t matter when she had someone who was a living, breathing timepiece.

“It’s ten in the morning,” he said. “I went back to Trader’s after leaving the hospital--”

“You left?” she interrupted. “And they let you?”

“--and you weren’t there,” he went on as though she hadn’t spoken. He sighed. “I wanted to apologize.”

That brought her up short. “What?”

“I did say I would try and...” He exhaled hard. “I shouldn’t even be telling you this... Miller and I were running after a suspect. I wasn’t thinking about my heart, I was concentrating on solving the case. It’s not an excuse, but--”

“It’s all right,” she said. “You’re never thinking of yourself, I shouldn’t expect you to do so in the heat of the moment.” They were both silent for a few seconds. She marveled at the level of trust he’d just shown her. “Where are you now?”

“I just got into the station. I have to make as much progress on the case today as I can, the super’s making me leave at the end of the day. I won’t have time to talk to you. I just--” He paused. “I couldn’t leave things the way they were between us. I’m sorry, Rose.”

“I’m sorry, too. For the yelling. It wasn’t fair.”

“You were scared.”

“Yes, I was. I still am, to be honest.”

“You scared me when I couldn’t find you this morning,” he said, surprising Rose again with the openness of the statement. “I thought you might have left town, but Becca said you hadn’t checked out. Where did you go?”

She looked up at the ceiling of the Tardis with a half-smile. “I have a place I go to when I want to be alone.”

“You shouldn’t be running off when there’s still a killer out there,” he said, but his tone was milder now. “Look, I need to go. Can I see you tonight when I’m done here?”

“Of course. Give me a call. And good luck.”

“I will. Thanks.”

Rose sighed as she ended the call, folding her arms across her chest. Alec was worse for wear, but he was still alive. And he’d have to stop working at the end of the day. Things were looking more promising. “I might be able to handle keeping that man safe, after all,” she said to the Tardis.

The time ship’s responding hum sounded hopeful as well.

Chapter Text

bc1

The news, when it came, sent a quake through the community about as subtle as a Jackie Tyler slap in the face. A lot of businesses, including Broadchurch Books, closed for the rest of the day, it was as if the town couldn’t cope with the weight of the truth. There seemed to be two extremes that people ran to; either gathering together for solidarity and comfort, or isolating themselves, not knowing whom to trust. Rose saw more and more people heading up the hill to the church and figured Paul would have his hands full.

She waited, not wanting to call Alec or Ellie in case she interrupted something important. She sat on the edge of her bed at Trader’s, flipping through the channels on telly, but not really watching anything.

It felt surreal. Like being five years old and seeing your parents putting Christmas presents under the tree, the rug is ripped out from underneath you. You know the truth, but you don’t want it to be real. Rose had sat down at a table with Joe Miller, had eaten dinner that he had cooked, laughed at his jokes... How could it be possible that he was responsible for the murder of a child that had divided a whole town?

It was nearing sunset when Alec called her and she picked up on the first ring.

“Rose, I need a favor,” he said, his voice softer than she’d ever heard it. He didn’t just sound tired, he sounded drained.

“Sure, anything,” she said.

“Can Ellie stay with you at Trader’s tonight?”

Rose blinked at his use of Ellie’s given name, something he’d never done before. “What about the boys?”

“Her nephew is going to take them, and he’s under strict orders not to ask them any questions, but Ellie doesn’t want to see her sister right now and I don’t want her to be alone tonight.”

“Of course,” said Rose. “Yeah, no problem.”

“I’m taking her to get some things together, and then we’ll be by.”

“I’ll be here.”

He sighed, a sound ripped straight from his heart, making her own constrict painfully. “Thank you, Rose,” he said before ringing off.

* * *

Rose went down to the bar and bought a bottle of wine from Becca before Alec and Ellie showed up. Well, she had intended to buy it, but the inn keeper just gave it to her with a somber expression on her face.

When the two detectives arrived, Alec had an arm around Ellie’s shoulders and was rolling her suitcase behind them. Ellie, who had been smiling and happy the last time Rose had seen her, looked ashen, her eyes dull. Rose pulled her into a hug and the woman clung to her as Alec situated the bag in a corner, then stood nearby, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.

“Becca gave me a bottle of wine,” Rose said, nodding toward the desk where it sat next to some plastic cups. “Night cap?”

The three of them sat in silence, Rose and Alec each nursing a cup of the wine, Ellie mostly just holding hers and staring at the floor. They startled when she finally spoke,

“Thank you for this, Rose,” she said, quietly.

“Of course,” said Rose.

Ellie set her cup aside and stood up from the bed where she’d been perched. “I think I might have a bath, call the boys, and then go to sleep. I just...” She closed her eyes briefly, rubbing her forehead. “I need to...” She didn’t finish. Rose suspected it was because she didn’t know what she needed.

Rose gestured to the door to the ensuite. “It’s all yours,” she said. “I’ll walk Alec up to his room and come back.”

“No rush,” said Ellie. “I’ll take a pill. I won’t... h-hear you come in...” She ran into the loo and they heard the lock click a second later.

Alec sighed, then downed the last of his drink and stood up from the desk chair. “Come on, she could probably do with a moment to herself,” he said, holding out his hand for Rose, who took it, lacing their fingers together.

“That’s the first time you’ve called me ‘Alec,’” he said as they approached the stairs.

“Did I?” she said, then shook her head. “I wasn’t really thinking about that, I was just concerned for Ellie. Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” he said. “Doesn’t sound so bad when you say it.”

She ducked her head and gave him a little smile. “I didn’t know you could be charming, Detective Inspector,” she teased.

“I’ll deny it if you tell anyone,” he said, a grin playing at the corner of his mouth, before fading entirely as he sighed again. “Doesn’t feel right, does it?”

“What, behaving normally? No, I suppose it doesn’t. I’m not sure when people will start to feel normal again, after all this.” She glanced up at him as they climbed upstairs. “What happens next?”

“Well, there’s going to be a memorial for Danny on the beach tomorrow night,” he said. “Heard about it from Reverend Coates. Ellie wants to go, so...” He sniffed, looking ahead. “Thought we might go with her. You and I, I mean. Together.”

Rose couldn’t help a smile. He was still so awkward. “Sure. But I meant, what happens for you next?”

“Oh, the super’s making me see a doctor,” he said, off-hand, though Rose could tell he was bothered. “They’ll take me off active duty, put me in a consulting position or some other kind of desk job.” He made a face. “I might consider early retirement, rather than face that kind of monotony.”

They stopped in front of his door and Rose leaned against the frame while he fished out his key with his free hand. “Might not be so bad,” she said.

“Leave it to you to look on the bright side,” he grumbled, unlocking the door to his room. He put the key back in his pocket, leaving the door ajar, and turned toward Rose.

“I’ll be here,” she pointed out.

“Well,” he said, drawing out the word the way the Doctor did and her heart skipped a beat as he smiled at her. “I guess that’s one for the ‘pro’ side of the list.”

She returned his smile and squeezed his hand. “Good night, then.”

He tightened his hold on her fingers when she would have turned to go. Her eyes were questioning as she looked up at him. He took a step forward, invading her space, leaning his head down until his lips could almost brush her forehead.

“Come inside,” he said, his voice a low, raspy breath, warm, with the tang of the wine.

She flattened her free hand on his chest. She could feel his heart beating. Fast, too fast. “I shouldn’t--”

“I won’t kiss you, I promise,” he said. “Just come inside. Stay a while. I just want to hold you.” His other hand snaked around her waist, pulling her closer, and she let him. She looked up into his hooded eyes and his lips hovered over hers. “Just one kiss,” he breathed. “Just a few kisses.”

Rose hesitated, but she could feel that resolve slipping. Because, as impossible as it seemed, Alec Hardy and the Doctor were melding into one person to her. One person that she found herself yearning for with all her heart.

“Please,” he said, his voice rough. “I need you.”

She swallowed, running her tongue along her lower lip. “A few kisses...” she repeated. “And then what?”

“And then... we’ll see what happens.”

Longing speared through her. But she couldn’t let herself fall without attempting to be a little honest. “I’m going to tell you a secret.”

That caught his attention and he pulled back, but only enough to see her eyes.

She took a breath for courage. “I’m in love with someone.”

Surprise and disappointment flickered across his face. His hands slackened their grip on her. “Oh...”

“But I don’t really know how he feels about me,” she went on. “We’ve been best mates for years now, and I know he cares, he’s just never said anything to me directly about... wanting more.”

He sniffed. “Then he’s a fool.”

She leaned forward, hiding her smile against his jacket. “It makes giving in to you... very tempting.” She took a shuddering breath. “But what if you regret it?”

He briefly chuckled. “Me? I’m not the one in love with someone else.”

“Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, but... someday. What then?” She shook her head, closing her eyes. “I don’t think I could bear it.”

“Rose.” He moved his hands to her arms, rubbing them up and down, until she leaned back to look up at him. “As far as I’m concerned, anyone who would say no to you is either blind or an idiot... or both.” He offered a half-smile. “Should I be asking you this when your heart is conflicted? Perhaps not.” He tilted his head down, lips brushing her ear. “Or perhaps I have enough confidence to think I might sway you away from an idea, a possibility, and towards a certainty, a man who wants you now. Here.”

He kissed her jaw near her earlobe, his beard scratching her sensitive skin, and Rose’s knees almost buckled. She’d wanted the Doctor for so long and now she wanted Alec. There he was, offering himself to her, maybe just for the night... maybe more. Was it wrong to give in, to take what he offered, knowing that it wouldn’t last? On the other hand, how could she say no? How could she refuse the man she’d come to care so much about? What he was feeling right then, was that not real? He placed another soft kiss near her chin, but hesitated over her lips. His eyes were impossibly dark as they searched hers.

“Rose? I need you to tell me.”

She sighed, hoping with everything she had that he wouldn’t hate her for this. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down towards her. “Yes,” she whispered, just before she pressed her lips to his.

A groan that was practically a growl rumbled in the back of his throat as he fell into the kiss. He backed into the room, pulling her with him, and she kicked the door shut. Rose's hands drifted upward into his hair, raking her nails across his scalp, and he released her lips suddenly as a moan escaped him. She smiled, pleased by his reaction.

"Where do you keep your heart medication?" she murmured.

"Trouser pocket," he said, his voice strained. "Why?"

"You're going to need it," she said with a cheeky grin. "Condoms?"

"Bedside table."

"You take care of the first, I'll take care of the second."

He chuckled lightly. "Are you always this efficient?"

She gave him a heated look. "Only when I've been fantasizing about something for a long time."

He groaned, closing his eyes briefly. With great reluctance, he parted from Rose and went to the loo to take the medication as she hurried to the bedside table, kicking her trainers off along the way. She found the small box next to his mobile charger, still unopened. Ripping open the side, she dug her fingers in and retrieved a couple of the foil packets, just as a pair of arms wrapped around her from behind.

A whimper escaped her as his lips touched the curve where her neck met her shoulder. His hands were moving higher, pushing up the fabric of her t-shirt, his fingers skating along her rib cage until he cupped her breasts over her bra. He hummed in pleasure and Rose reached down to grab the hem of the shirt, tugging it over her head. Working in concert now, Alec focused on the tiny hooks of her bra and unfastened them. She let the garment fall to the floor before turning to face him.

She started on the buttons of his Oxford as he touched her breasts again, but had to stop when he bent to take one nipple into his mouth. Rose moaned, her eyes falling shut, as his tongue manipulated the tight bud, the scruff on his face only adding to the sensations, and his fingers teased the opposite one, sending minute shocks straight through to her core. When he switched to give the other nipple the same attention, Rose tugged impatiently at his jacket. He never stopped his oral ministrations as he shrugged out of it.

When he straightened, there was a frenzy of motion as Rose’s fingers frantically attacked the buttons on his shirt and Alec worked to get her out of her jeans. She shoved his shirt over his shoulders and while he pulled his arms free of the sleeves, Rose pushed her jeans and knickers down in one go, giving a little wiggle as she stepped out of them.

His eyes swept over her naked form, his breath coming hard and fast. She furrowed her brow, then placed a hand on his chest, pushing him backward until the backs of his knees hit the bed they were standing beside. He sat down on the mattress, looking up at her as she followed him down, crawling over his body. He scooted back on his elbows until he lay fully on the bed. His hands found the curve of her waist as she pressed another kiss to his lips, they groaned together as her breasts brushed through the small amount of chest hair he possessed.

Slowly, Rose moved lower, her blonde hair sweeping his chest as she laid fervent kisses to his skin. Her tongue dipped into his navel as her fingers went to the fastenings of his trousers. She could feel his length there, straining against the fabric, and she unconsciously licked her lips.

She pulled off his trousers with his pants, carefully holding the waistband away from him, and then taking off his shoes and socks when she reached his ankles. Finally, he was completely bared to her. Rose took a shuddering breath as she allowed herself to look her fill.

“See something you like?” he asked, his expression an odd mixture of smug and uncomfortable, maybe a little hopeful.

“Oh, yes,” she breathed.

Placing a hand on either of his legs, she raked her fingernails through the manly hair there, placing a kiss to the inside of his knees, his thighs. His breath hitched as she paused over his cock, watching it twitch and stand away from his body. A deep groan fell from his lips as she gave him one long lick from base to tip.

“Rose,” he bit out, his hands fisting in the duvet. “Oh, fuuuu--” His back arched off the bed as she took him in her mouth, slowly moving down, then back up, her tongue sweeping along the sensitive underside.

His hand threaded through her hair of it’s own accord as he fought the urge to thrust up into her mouth. She moved in a smooth rhythm for several passes before sitting up. His hand fell from her hair, back onto the bed, as she ripped open the condom packet and quickly rolled the latex over him. Then, Rose took him in hand, lining him up.

“Wait, I--” The rest of his sentence was eclipsed by their twin moans as she sank down onto him, engulfing his cock in her heat.

“Fuck, Rose,” he groaned. “You’re so wet... I haven’t even touched you...”

She shook her head, her eyes shut tight as she settled herself on her knees. “Wanted you for so long...” she murmured.

Alec’s head fell back onto the bed as she began to move, her hands on his chest, lifting herself up and sinking down in slow, measured movements. When his hands found her hips, she managed to open her eyes, only to lose herself in the fire of his gaze. He thrust upwards while pressing her down, his fingertips digging into her arse, and her back went rigid as a spasm rocked her.

They moved together on the next thrust, and her clit dragged against his pubic bone. Rose threw back her head and cried out, beginning to move faster as she leaned down over him, a hand on either side of his shoulders. She rode him fast and hard, chasing after the climax that shimmered on the not-too-distant horizon.

She could feel the tremors in his arms as he held her, feel the rapid beat of his heart against her breast, but Alec didn’t seem interested in slowing down. One of his hands left her hip to cup her head, bringing her mouth to his in a sweeping kiss, making her forget everything but the taste of him, the feel of his body moving with hers. She was so lost to the kiss that she didn’t realize his other hand had moved between them until his fingers slid against her clit and she moaned into his mouth.

Her inner muscles contracted as her orgasm hit and he released her lips on a groan. Rose fought to keep steady as waves of pleasure rolled over her. With a shudder, Alec buried himself deep as he followed her with his own climax.

Shock jolted through her as her eyes met his. There was heat and passion, of course, but something else as well, something more, far greater than just the physical intimacy they’d just shared.

Did he see the same emotion reflected in her own eyes? How could she help it, her feelings for Alec had mingled irrevocably with those for the Doctor. To her, they were the same.

His eyes closed then as he took a deep breath, his orgasm winding down along with hers. After a moment in which she gathered her wits, she eased off of him.

He made a disappointed sound, his hand reaching for her blindly. “Rose?” he mumbled.

“Shh,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”

She hurried to the loo and cleaned herself up, then grabbed a handful of tissues and returned to Alec, taking care of the condom. His eyes stayed closed, but a little smile hovered on his lips as he hummed his appreciation. With that disposed, Rose returned to the bed, curling up against his side as he brought his arms around her. Her fingers splayed across his chest, she could feel his heartbeat slowing down to a normal rate. She exhaled softly in relief.

Rose thought he might fall asleep right then, but he surprised her by leaning down to kiss her again, sweetly, without deepening it.

“You’re scaring me, now,” he said when he pulled back from her lips, his voice thick.

“How’s that?” she murmured.

“I’ve never felt this out of control.” He buried his face against her neck, inhaling deeply. “Rose, I want you like no other. You make me want to say things, do things, that go beyond anything I’d ever thought of before.”

She couldn’t help but smile, feeling her cheeks heat up. “Worried you’re becoming obsessed?” she teased.

“Maybe a bit.” He paused. “Does wanting to rip your clothes off whenever I see you count as obsessed?”

She giggled. “You really want to do that every time you see me?”

“Every time. Particularly that silk number you wore when we played pool.”

“At last, the mystery is solved,” she said, grinning. “DI Hardy is grumpy when he doesn’t have sex on the regular.”

He pulled back to frown at her, but then his expression turned a bit sheepish. “Seems that way, doesn’t it? At least, when it concerns you.”

“Well, then I take your grumpiness as a compliment.”

He chuckled, settling his head down on the pillow and wrapping his arms around her more securely. “I know you should go back down to Ellie, but... I can’t seem to make myself let you go.”

She smiled. “I’ll wait til you fall asleep. That’s how the blokes do it, yeah?”

“Not this bloke.”

Chapter Text

It seemed like most, if not all, of Broadchurch had amassed on the cliffs as bonfire after bonfire down the edge of the coastal town was lit. Rose blinked back tears as the Latimers nodded at Ellie and her boys. They weren’t quite ready to resume their previous relationship with each other, but that little motion conveyed the understanding Ellie needed. Forgiveness would come, eventually.

Rose stood beside Alec, their hands clasped tightly. Her other hand was in her pocket, holding the watch.

A loud gasp from someone rang out, answered by many people in the crowd as they pointed at the night sky. Rose looked up in time to see a streak of green falling to Earth.

“A shooting star,” said Ellie on Rose’s opposite side.

Rose’s heart thudded. She didn’t think it was a shooting star. Coincidence and random happenstance were rare when you traveled with the Doctor. And whatever it was looked like it had come down awfully close to the town.

“Hey,” she said, looking up at Alec, “I, um... need to go check something.” She knew it sounded lame the instant she said it, and Alec’s eyes narrowed at her. Avoiding his gaze, she barreled through, hoping he’d just let it go. “I’ll meet you back at Trader’s, yeah?”

“What do you need to check?” he asked, following her when she let go of his hand and began to move away from the crowd.

“Just...” She gestured vaguely off in the distance. “It’s probably nothing.”

“You’re not making it sound like nothing,” he said, keeping pace with her as they walked down from the cliffs.

She sighed. “You’re going to keep asking me, aren’t you?”

“Until you tell me the truth, yes,” he said, frowning. “What’s gotten into you, Rose? I thought we were past this.”

“It might be nothing,” she said again.

“And it might not?” he said, deducting from what she wasn’t saying more than from what she was. “Where are you going?”

“I need to know what fell just now,” she said.

“The meteorite?” he said, his brow furrowing in confusion. “Why? It couldn’t have fallen and hurt anything, it looks close, but they’re miles off when they get burnt up in the atmosphere.”

She rolled her eyes, knowing he didn’t realize how much like the Doctor he sounded sometimes. “And what if it wasn’t a meteorite?” she asked.

“What else could it have been?”

“That’s what I have to find out.”

“Why? You’re not making any sense!”

She huffed an exasperated breath and stopped moving, turning to look at him. Her lips pressed into a flat line as she tried to come to a decision. Alec squirmed under her intense gaze.

“What?” he finally asked.

She grabbed his hand and began pulling him down the street. “All right, come on.”

Surprised, he still managed to keep up with her. “Where are we going?”

“You trusted me, so I’m returning the favor,” she said, her voice low and determined. “I’m going to attempt to make sense of things for you. Because if that flash of light means what I think it does, we’re in for a lot of trouble. I just hope you can handle it.”

* * *

Rose knew that Alec didn’t see the Tardis until she was standing right in front of the blue doors, unlocking them with her key, because he suddenly blinked up at the police box in surprise. His brows came down and his mouth parted slightly. For someone as observant as him, he was probably wondering why he hadn’t noticed it.

“What’s a police call box doing here?” he asked, glancing around the alley as if it would give him a clue. “And why do you have a key that opens it?” He blinked a few times, then took a step back. “Wait a minute, wait,” he said, putting one hand to his head in disbelief, then pointing at the blue box. “I know this... I had dreams about this.”

Rose’s eyebrows lifted nearly to her hairline. “You did?”

He shook his head. “Mad things, about space and aliens. I stopped watching late night films because of them, but they kept coming. And always... there’s this box.” He gestured at the Tardis. “The names and faces change, but... the box is the same.”

She smiled, sadly. “I wish you’d told me before,” she said before pushing the door open and stepping inside.

Rose hurried up the ramp and tilted up the computer screen. “Please scan for alien tech,” she murmured, then turned back toward the entrance.

Alec had stopped just inside the door, in the middle of the ramp. The console room was brightly lit and the Tardis was humming happily, obviously glad to see him. Rose waited to see if he would say something, maybe even the ‘bigger on the inside’ bit that everyone did, but Alec just stood there with his mouth hanging open.

“In those dreams you had,” she said, slowly walking back towards him. “Do you remember her name?”

“Her?” he said, his voice choked.

“This ship,” Rose clarified. “She has a name.” She moved to stand in front of him, the room at her back. “And so do you. Alec Hardy isn’t who you really are. That man in your dreams... he’s the reality.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out the sonic, holding it up so that he would look at it. “Was this in your dreams, too?”

* * *

Slowly, Alec reached out and took the silver device in hand, running his thumb across the buttons and slider, but not pressing them. Suddenly, he flipped the device into the air and caught it without looking. He was surprised... He hadn’t expected to be able to execute the move he did so easily in his dreams.

His heart was racing, he felt like he could hardly breathe, and he hoped he wouldn’t pass out again. He looked up at the girl in front of him, surrounded by the interior of the time ship. It should have looked incongruous, but Rose fit into this setting, his mind automatically accepted her as a part of it.

“Beautiful,” he blurted out. The lights around the glowing green central column chased each other around in a circle. He hadn’t meant to say that... Impossible would have been a more fitting choice, but Rose giggled as she watched the lights.

“You told me that was the very first thing you ever said about her,” she said. “That she was the most--”

“... the most beautiful thing I had ever known,” said Alec, softly. He looked back down at Rose, feeling like his stomach had dropped down to his toes. “It’s true. All of it. All those impossible things.”

The machine in the middle of the room beeped and Rose turned around, going to what looked like a flat-screen computer monitor. She sucked in a sharp breath when she saw what was displayed. She glanced up at him, then flipped a switch.

“Alec, hang onto something,” she said, curtly, moving around the center structure at a fast pace, pushing buttons and switching levers.

A wheezing, grinding sound filled the air and the room pitched to the side, violently. Alec grabbed onto a rough support column with both arms. “What’s happening?” he yelled above the strange sound.

“I’m flying us to the crash site,” said Rose, her eyes never leaving what she was doing.

“We’re in flight?” He watched as Rose had to grab onto a nearby railing as the ship flung her about. “Do you even have a pilot’s license? Where’d you learn how to fly this thing?”

“From YOU!” she shouted, moving back to her position at the controls and hanging on.

With a thud, the wheezing noise stopped and Rose took a deep breath as she stood up straight once more. Tentatively, Alec let go of the column and moved closer, wanting to see what she was looking at on the screen.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“She’s displaying what’s outside,” Rose said. The monitor currently showed a field, where a small section of grass was on fire. “The spaceship’s exhaust engines must have lit the grass,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“Spaceship?” he sputtered. “There’s nothing there.”

“You just don’t see it.” She pressed a button and the screen switched to another display. He couldn’t read any of the writing, but he knew a heat signature when he saw one, and it wasn’t just from the small fire. A large egg-shaped blob was lit up in red and orange, even though he hadn’t seen anything there before.

He reached into his coat for his mobile. “Well, we should call the authorities and--”

“No!” Rose exclaimed, turning anxious eyes to him. “We don’t want anyone near here, there are vicious hunters inside that ship!”

“Rose, the field is on fire!” he said. “At the very least, that needs to be contained before it spreads!”

Even as he said it, the sound of sirens pierced the air and Rose switched the screen back to the outside view. “No, no, no!” she said as the Broadchurch fire and rescue team rolled onto the grass. The fire engine was followed by an ambulance, per protocol, and-- Alec groaned-- The Echo’s news van. Ollie was with Tom and Fred, so only Maggie climbed out of the vehicle, but still.

“I’ve got to stop them,” said Rose as she moved around the console and headed for the door.

“Stop them from what?” asked Alec, following her.

“From getting too close, who knows what could happen.” Noticing that he was right on her heels, she turned back, both hands up. “No, you should stay here,” she said.

“That’s not gonna happen!” he said, firmly.

“You incredible prat! Can’t you listen to someone else for once?” said Rose, exasperated. “Whatever is inside that ship is after you! I have to keep you safe!”

“And who’s going to keep you safe, eh?” he asked.

“Never stopped you, did it?”

The sound of a chorus of screams interrupted their argument and they both dashed out the front doors. Two of the firefighters, an EMT, and Maggie were crying out in pain, falling to their knees, each of them engulfed by a cloud of green smoke. Alec started toward them, but Rose grabbed him by his jacket, not letting him move.

“You can’t help them,” she said. “It’s too late!”

Slowly, the four people got back on their feet. The other firemen were asking them questions, but they were ignored. They were looking directly at Rose and Alec, unblinking. They stood abnormally still and as one, took in deep breaths through their noses.

“Time Lord,” they said.

Rose gasped and pulled Alec back toward the blue box. “Come on, back in the Tardis!” she cried, pushing him through the doors and slamming them after her.

She leaned against the white panels, breathing hard, one hand to her forehead. “We’ll be safe in here,” she said in a thready voice. “The Tardis has a kind of shield against forceful entry. The assembled hordes of Ghengis Khan couldn’t get through those doors.” She smiled as though sharing a private joke with him, but let it fade when he didn’t return it.

Alec had one hand on the railing, his mind racing with all he’d just had to accept. “You knew this all along,” he said finally, his voice low. “That’s why you always turned up whenever something was wrong with me, why you said I was already in danger. You didn’t mean my heart you meant--” He blew out a breath, betrayal a bitter taste in his mouth. “You were looking after him. The man I am in my dreams. And you let me-- You made me care for you and it wasn’t real--”

Rose stepped forward, grabbing his arm. “Don’t say that! Don’t you ever say that!” she said, her eyes bright. “Yes, I love the Doctor, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about what happens to you. Caring for you is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, knowing what was going to happen. It was always going to end. I could have told you no, I could have kept away from you. I didn’t. Because Alec Hardy is real to me. You are real. It wasn’t a story that found Danny’s killer and made me love him, it was you, who you are right now.”

He moved away from her and she let her hand drop from his sleeve. He approached the apparatus in the middle of the room, staring down at all the knobs and buttons and miscellaneous bobs, not knowing what it all meant, but feeling like he should.

Turning, he sat down on the worn seats nearby because he had to, feeling dizzy as his heart raced. He set the slim silver device she’d handed him earlier on the seat beside him. He scrubbed his hands down his face, bowing his head and staring at the grating. “Who am I?” he finally said.

* * *

Rose followed him up the ramp and walked over to the jump seat. She knelt in front of him, placing her hands on his knees. “You’re the Doctor,” she said. “You’re a Time Lord. You’re nine hundred and three years old. You’re from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. You’re the man who took my hand and told me to run. You told me you could feel the turn of the Earth. And you are everything to me.”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the fob watch. “We were running from those hunters and you hid yourself away in here so they wouldn’t find you. They want a Time Lord’s essence in order to prolong their lives, otherwise, three months and they die.”

Alec swallowed. “This Doctor,” he said, struggling to speak through his rough breathing, “he at least have a properly functioning heart?”

Rose smiled, sadly. “Actually, he’s got two.”

He exhaled hard. “Two hearts? And he couldn’t bloody well give me just one that works?”

She shook her head, fighting the urge to giggle, even though she knew he was trying for humor. It seemed disrespectful, somehow, of all the Detective Inspector had done while fighting for his health. He’d accomplished so much, and with so little, compared with the Doctor’s resources.

* * *

There was the sound of a mild explosion, followed by a crack and sizzle as the Tardis shield absorbed the fire from some kind of pulse weapon. Rose and Alec turned their eyes to the monitor, which showed the firemen all huddled together, the four people boxing them in.

“Come out, Time Lord!” shouted Maggie. “We’ve got a good number of hostages out here to play with if you don’t show yourself!”

“What did that fog do to Maggie and the others?” Alec asked.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about the hunters,” Rose admitted. “But if I had to take a guess, I’d say that they took over the bodies of those people.”

“So, are they still alive, or what?”

“I don’t know.” Rose looked at him, sadly. “The Doctor would know.”

Alec exhaled, looking down at the watch, still in Rose’s hand. “And so, you expect me to die.”

There was another shot from the pulse weapon, and this time a scream accompanied it. One of the firemen on the monitor lay motionless on the ground.

Alec stood up, his instincts telling him to act, even as he fought against it. “It’s me or those people out there,” he said.

Rose nodded, getting to her feet as well. “If they kill all of them, they’ll move on to the town. I don’t even know what kind of weapons that ship would have, but odds are, they’re better than the guns the police have access to.”

“They’ll keep killing until I go out there.” He inhaled sharply, looking back at Rose with sudden inspiration. “What if we just give them the watch? Then they can leave and I can stay as I am.”

She sighed, her eyes glassy with tears. “Then it all ends in destruction. Those creatures would live forever to breed and conquer. War across the stars. I know you wouldn’t allow that anymore than the Doctor would.”

He was silent for a moment, until another shot from outside rang out, and then he took a deep breath. “You’re not going to leave, are you?”

“How can you ask me that?” she said.

“We could have had a life here, Rose,” he said. “One thing I remember from the dreams is feeling that you deserve better, that you deserve a human life. You and the Doctor... you have such adventures, but he can’t give you the one thing I can.”

She shook her head. “I cut my ties to this planet ages ago, when my family was sent to a parallel world.” She lifted a hand, indicating the Tardis. “This is my home now.” She reached out and touched his cheek. “You are my home. Wherever we go, as long as we’re together, that’s where I belong.”

Alec reached out and took her other hand in his, touching the watch. They both gasped as energy zinged through them and their vision went white, filling a moment later with rapid-fire images that were clear as day...

...numerous adventures across the stars, saving civilizations, stopping power-mad despots, and sometimes making the hard choices, not everyone always gets to live, but always being there for one another...

...a young blonde girl calling him ‘dad’...

...Rose pushing him out of the way, taking a shot meant for him, telling him she loves him with her last breath, then being engulfed in a shining, golden light, healing her completely, her eyes opening, her mouth forming the words ‘Bad Wolf’...

...he and Rose atop a frozen wave in the middle of a frozen ocean as they each wrapped a length of ribbon around their hands, Jack, Martha, the blonde girl, and Donna, the redhead from that past Christmas, standing nearby, smiling happily at the couple, Rose telling him ‘forever’...

...holding a tiny baby boy with wild brown hair, Rose looking up at him, exhausted but ecstatic...

...Rose staying with him through another regeneration, and then the next, always together...

When Alec came back to himself, Rose’s face was streaked with tears. “Did you see?” she asked.

He nodded, swallowing past the lump in his throat. Another shot from outside, the hunters shouting for him.

“What will you do?” she asked.

“There’s only one thing I can do,” he said, taking the watch from her hand. “I can’t let them kill anymore people. And now that I know I’ll still have you... Well, I suppose that makes dying not quite so bad.”

She laid a hand on his arm. “You’re not dying,” she said, suddenly. “Because you’re him. Everything that the Doctor is and was and will be, you’re capable of that, too. You’ll still be Alec Hardy, inside.”

He took a moment to look at her, to feel his heart laboring in his chest, savoring his last few moments before he would surrender to the unknown. “Remember me, Rose,” he said, his fingertip on the latch of the watch.

She grabbed the lapels of his jacket then, and pulled him down to her in a passionate kiss. His eyes closed and he wrapped his arms around her waist, lifting her up against him, opening for her and allowing their tongues to tangle and entwine sweetly. He tasted the salt of her tears, or were they his?

He pulled back sooner than he wanted to, because the hunters were still outside, still threatening the people of Broadchurch, and he couldn’t allow it. He set her back on her feet, reluctantly letting go of her. Rose nodded, her hands pressed to her lips, tears still falling from her eyes, as Alec released the catch and the watch opened, filling the air with brilliant gold motes of light.

Chapter Text

When the man before her opened his eyes again, Rose saw in their fathomless brown depths that the Doctor had returned. She could see there, amid the affection and pride shining for her, all the sadness of the universe. And... something else. Something she had dared to let herself hope for.

His mouth spread into a wide grin, looking so incongruous on Alec Hardy’s unshaven face, right before he swept her up into a hug. She clung to him, turning her face into his collar, breathing him in. That indefinable scent of time had returned.

He pulled back, holding up his index finger when she opened her mouth, to forestall any discussion. “To be continued!” he said, his voice back to a smooth South London accent, then he rushed to the jump seat and picked up his sonic before moving to the console.

She couldn’t help but smile. The Doctor was back all right, and he would handle the problem they were facing, but she appreciated him taking that small moment to show she wasn’t forgotten.

* * *

The hunters were dealt with in short order. Locking the Tardis onto the magnetic frequency of their weapons, he reversed the polarity, making them backfire and rendering them useless. With the hunters unarmed, the hostages took the opportunity to run. Having them out of the way, the Doctor stepped outside the Tardis, the wind ruffling his flat hair, his mouth in a grim line.

“This town and it’s people are under my protection,” he said, his eyes full of smoldering fire. “You’ve killed three of them, plus the four that you’re currently inhabiting, but I will still offer you this chance.” He paused, looking each of them directly in the eyes. “I can take you away, to an uninhabited planet where you can live out the rest of your lives in peace. You won’t get another warning.”

They laughed at him. “Why should we listen to a Time Lord who ran away and hid himself from us?” asked Maggie.

“I’m not just any Time Lord,” he said. “I’m the last of the Time Lords. I’m the Doctor.”

The four hunters gasped at the infamous name, the name whispered across the scar of time. “Killer of his own kind,” said the EMT, clutching at the arm of one of the firemen. “Why would the Doctor run from a fight?”

“I was being kind.”

He held up his sonic, leveling it at the invisible ship behind them, and pressed the button. The high-pitched whirring connected with the machinery, and the engine’s exhaust ports fed themselves back into the workings of the ship, bypassing the hydro-cooling system, making it overheat. Before the hunters could make so much as a move to counteract the Doctor’s sabotage, a small, controlled explosion hit the front of the ship, and the cloaking device failed, blinking the ship into view as noxious fumes began pouring out of the open doorway.

“I will also give you another piece of information,” the Doctor said, conversationally. “My companion, inside my Tardis, is on her mobile with Torchwood. They’ll be on their way presently to dispose of your ship, but they’d be more than happy to deal with you as well.” He flipped his sonic into the air and caught it without blinking an eye. “And they probably won’t be nearly as accommodating as I would be. Well, you know how humans are when you’ve threatened their own.”

The hunters looked at each other, then back at the Doctor, knowing they’d been beaten.

* * *

Rose and Jack stood at a distance while the former time agent’s team dismantled the hunters’ ship in the early morning light. The entire area was under quarantine, with a little help from the psychic paper, effectively keeping the citizens of Broadchurch away.

The Doctor was dropping off the family, for that was what the hunters were, a mother, father, brother, and sister, on a remote planet. They would have resources to survive their remaining month of life, without the risk of them killing any more people to prolong their time. He would then skip ahead the thirty days to collect the bodies of the Broadchurch residents, in order to give them back to their families.

“Nice of him not to reduce the whole thing to scrap this time,” said Jack, regarding the decommissioned ship. “We might actually get some useful technology out of this.” He turned to look at Rose. “How are you doing?”

She nodded. “I’m fine. We haven’t really had time to talk yet about... everything. I don’t even know if he remembers what all happened.” She gave him a brave smile. “No matter what though, we’ll be fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yes,” she said, playfully shoving him in the arm.

The sound of the Tardis drew everyone’s attention as the ship materialized a few feet from where Jack and Rose were standing. The Doctor emerged a moment later, leaning against the doorway.

“All taken care of, then?” Rose asked.

He nodded, his eyes distant. “Just back from the Broadchurch morgue.”

Rose went to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. He leaned down into the hug, with a hand at her waist, closing his eyes briefly. He took in a deep breath as he straightened, looking over at Jack.

“Can you handle things from here?” he asked.

“Been handling it, in case you haven’t noticed,” he said, with a nod toward his team. “You gonna come by sometime without me calling Rose and begging?” He lifted an eyebrow. “Or do you like the begging?”

The Doctor rolled his eyes. “Stop it.”

Rose giggled, then went to Jack, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll make sure we come round. At least for Christmas, yeah?”

“You’d better.”

Jack watched as two of the people he loved most in the universe disappeared into their blue box, the sound of the time vortex displacing echoing in his ears and in his heart.

* * *

“So, you’re leaving, then?”

Ellie paused in the act of clearing off her desk, recognizing her former boss’ voice behind her. Though his Scottish accent sounded a bit... lighter than usual. “Yeah, fresh start for me and the kids,” she said, turning around. She visibly startled when she caught sight of Alec, clean-shaven except for his sideburns, his hair artfully tousled, and wearing a brown pin-striped suit with worn white trainers. “Whoa...” She looked him over again. “This is a... new look for you.”

He smiled, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Well... Decided it was time for a change.”

“What about you, then? Heard they took you off active duty.”

“Yep,” he said, popping the ‘p’ to her further surprise. “Decided to retire from police work. Do a bit of traveling with Rose.”

Ellie smiled. “I’m glad you found Rose. She’s done you good.”

The look in his eyes was tenderly soft. “More than you could possibly know.” He pulled his hands from his pockets to search for something in his jacket. “Hold on, I’ve got something for you... Ah!” He came forward and dropped a silver fob watch in her hand. “A shop girl gave this to me,” he said with a fond smile, “said it would show me a different side of myself.”

“I think she was right.”

He tilted his head at it. “Maybe it’ll do the same for you.”

She shrugged. “Maybe.”

With a nod, Alec turned to go, but before he opened the door, he looked back. “Just do one thing for me, will you?”

“What’s that, sir?”

He pressed his lips together in another smile. “Have a fantastic life. Because you, Ellie... You are brilliant. Never let anyone tell you different.”

“Thanks,” she said, too stunned by his praise to say anything else. And then he was gone.

Ellie looked down at the watch in her hand, then opened the cover. She frowned, holding it up to her ear and shaking it. “Some present,” she said, closing it. “It doesn’t even work.” Even so, she put it in the pocket of her trousers. Perhaps it would bring her some luck.

* * *

Rose was sitting on the jump seat, swinging one leg with the other tucked up underneath her, when he came back to the Tardis. She smiled and got to her feet as he approached the console.

“Say goodbye?” she asked.

He nodded. “Yep.”

“You don’t often do that.”

“She deserved it.”

“You collected her and neither of you even knew it,” she said, touching her tongue to her teeth.

“Collected?” he said, eyes narrowing. “Are you implying I pick up strays, Rose Tyler?”

She shrugged, lifting her eyes up toward the ceiling, innocently. “If the Converse fits, Doctor.”

He pressed his lips together, the lower one sticking out at her, before turning to the controls to begin the dematerialization sequence. To Rose’s surprise, he only sent them into the vortex. She looked at him with raised eyebrows.

“We’re not going to Cardiff?” she asked. “I thought for certain you’d want to fill up after our emergency landing.”

“We’ll go there soon,” he said, standing back from the console and sticking his hands in his pockets. “I thought you might appreciate having this conversation somewhere I couldn’t run away.”

Two seconds passed before Rose’s mouth fell open. She knew they needed to discuss what happened, but... Was the Doctor actually suggesting they have a talk, one where he would really open up to her and not attempt to deflect or distract, in the relative privacy of their home?

He looked away from her and sniffed. “Don’t look so surprised.”

“Can’t help it, really,” she said. “I thought I’d have to coerce you into talking about...” She blushed. “How much, exactly, do you remember about being Alec Hardy?”

“Everything.” He pulled one of his hands free and tapped his temple. “He’s still up here. I didn’t disappear for two months, Rose, I just had most of me stored away. Alec’s memories are my memories, his actions... my actions.” He glanced at her and she caught a flash of heat in his gaze that made her shiver.

She rubbed her hands up and down her arms. “And you still want to talk about it?”

“Perhaps being human rubbed off on me,” he said, scratching the back of his head.

“No, human blokes run away from this sort of conversation, too,” she said.

“Then maybe I’m just tired of running,” he said, looking at her. His dark brown eyes smoldered with intensity. “I’ve run from you for so long, Rose Tyler. I’ve been such a coward. No more.” He held out his hand to her and waited.

She started to reach for him, then hesitated. “And you’re not just doing this now because a little wolf told you I can stay with you for your forever?” she asked, with a slight lift of her eyebrow.

He tilted his head to the side. “That might have something to do with making this easier on me, yes,” he conceded. “And don’t think I’m not going to run a few tests on you later.”

“Oh, I’d expect nothing less,” she said with a little grin.

“But even if you couldn’t,” he went on, seriously, “even if I had to spend the rest of my regenerations mourning your loss after your human lifespan ended, I would still want this with you.”

His hand still hovered there in the space between them. The man who never wanted to stay put waited with infinite patience. His expression was as open and unguarded as she’d ever seen it. He was still afraid, it hovered there in his eyes, fear of losing her, fear of her rejection. But courage wasn’t the absence of fear. Maybe being Alec Hardy had taught him that.

“You daft alien,” she muttered as she closed the distance between them, grabbing his hand and wrapping her other arm around his neck as she pulled him down for a kiss.

His hand tangled in her hair as he kissed her back, pushing her against the console, growling hungrily as though he wished to devour her. His tongue delved within, seeking out every place he remembered from before and learning them anew. When he licked at the roof of her mouth, she moaned and it was his undoing.

He yanked up her shirt and cupped her breasts in both hands, kissing and biting where they spilled from the lace of her bra. He reached behind and fumbled with the hooks of the garment for a moment as Rose pulled the shirt over her head, letting it fall to the grating. With an exclamation of triumph, the bra came loose, and he brought his mouth to first one nipple then the other, lavishing each with attention, then pushing her breasts together in an effort to fit them both in his mouth. She giggled softly, but it turned into a moan as he nipped at her skin in retaliation.

Straightening, he took her mouth again, kissing her deeply as he maneuvered her away from the console to the jump seat. When her knees hit the edge of the chair, both of their hands went for the fastenings of her jeans, their fingers bumping, hindering their progress. With a growl of frustration, the Doctor grabbed Rose’s wrists and held them together with one hand, his other hand tugging his tie loose.

“Your hands,” he said in a rough voice that made her shiver, “are in my way.”

Pushing her down onto the chair with his body, he pulled her hands above her head and fastened them securely to the railing behind the jump seat with his tie. He hummed appreciatively as he saw how this position made her breasts jut out and leaned down to lick and nibble at them while his agile fingers made short work of the button and zipper of her jeans.

He fell to his knees in front of her, pulling her knickers off with her jeans. Hooking his arms under her legs, he tugged her forward until her bum was perched on the very edge of the seat. She whimpered as he pushed her legs apart, opening her to his heated gaze.

Laying hot, wet kisses to the inside of each knee, he moved higher, closer to where she throbbed for him. “You, Rose Tyler,” he said, his voice muffled against her skin, “are a very naughty girl.” He nuzzled the curls just above her apex, breathing in the heady scent of her arousal. “You denied me something I’d dreamed about, fantasized over for ages.”

She moaned as he blew a cool breath of air over her most sensitive area. “Didn’t want... oh... to overwork your heart, then,” she said, her voice high and thready.

“Ever so considerate,” he said. “But now I have two fully functioning hearts and here is where I show you just how magnificent a respiratory bypass really is.”

She cried out as he delved within her folds then brought his tongue up to her clit, circling around the swollen bud and then sucking on it, before returning inside. She’d imagined he’d be good with his tongue, what with him licking things all the time, but even so, the most fervent fantasy couldn’t live up to the reality. There was something utterly erotic in the contrast of her being naked with him still completely dressed, except for his tie.

He moaned against her, a hungry sound, and the vibrations triggered an answering groan from Rose. His eyes were shut tight as he feasted on her, and she couldn’t look away from him, his long eyelashes brushing his cheeks, his brows drawn down in concentration, he was so beautiful. She wished her hands were free so she could card her fingers through his hair, bring his tongue up to that throbbing bundle of nerves and keep it there instead of letting him tease her with little licks and flicks. She wiggled and squirmed until he brought his hands up under her legs to her arse, holding her still.

As if he could hear her thoughts, he suddenly concentrated on stimulating her clit, Rose threw her head back and screamed, the orgasm ripping through her and she trembled helplessly in his hold. He continued to lap at her center while she came down from the dizzying high he’d given her. When her muscles completely relaxed, he sat back with a filthy grin, his lips and chin shining with moisture and she moaned softly, her core clenching, wanting him inside.

He stood, his eyes never leaving hers as he unfastened his trousers and freed his cock from his pants. Already hard and straining, he stroked himself idly as he looked down at her flushed body, glistening with sweat, his eyes black with desire.

“Please,” Rose whispered, straining against the tie holding her fast, every nerve ending crying out for him.

“Oh, Rose,” he said, resting his knees on the edge of the jump seat and hooking her legs over his forearms. He leaned down, pressing his forehead against hers, softly caressing her nose with his own. “Your wish, as always, is my command.”

He kissed her again, their twin sounds of pleasure mingling together as he sank into her. He grabbed the back of the chair, pushing her legs higher, so that when he withdrew and thrust back again, he seated himself even deeper than before.

Each of them lost to sensation, the Doctor set a punishing pace for them, with Rose arching as best she could from her position, trying to match each of his thrusts, and finally settling for hanging on for the ride. His lips found the curve of her neck, the swell of her breast, sucking and laving with his tongue, leaving a trail of dark red marks behind, marking her as his own.

“Mine,” he grit out over the sound of his body slapping against hers. “My Rose... Say it!”

“Yes,” she gasped. “My Doctor, all yours!”

“Mine,” he said again, his eyes burning into hers.

Freeing one of his arms, he reached between them and traced circles around her clit with his thumb as her keening increased in volume. Knowing she was close, he applied direct pressure and she cried out, her inner muscles clenching around him as she came. The sensations tipped him over the edge as well and he went rigid against her as his cock twitched and pulsed in time to his dual heartsbeats.

Rose’s eyes were still closed when she felt the tie at her wrists come loose, the Doctor gently bringing her arms down to her sides. He rubbed her hands and her wrists, laying soft kisses to her fingers. He eased himself out of her then, and she whimpered in disappointment at the loss. When he kissed her temple, she could feel the smile on his lips.

She wanted to open her eyes, to tell him how much he meant to her, what being together with him meant, but utter exhaustion stole her words. She heard the rasp of his zipper and moments later, he was sweeping her into his arms. Nuzzling her nose against his collarbone, she was content to let him carry her wherever he wanted.

Dimly, she was aware of them moving through the Tardis, of a door opening and then shutting once they were inside the room. Then, she was being laid on smooth, cool sheets, sinking into a soft mattress. He moved away from her then and she frowned, finally managing to crack her eyes open.

“Doctor?” she mumbled. He was standing next to the bed, shrugging out of his jacket. She noticed that they weren’t in her pink bedroom, but somewhere she hadn’t been before, done in deep reds and dark blues.

“I’ll be right there, Rose,” he said, softly, as he started on the buttons of his shirt.

“Mmm,” was her response, her eyes drifting shut again.

It was only a short while before he joined her in the bed and she fairly purred as he pulled her against him. He’d shed all of his clothing and the feeling of skin on skin was pure luxury, sheer sin. One of his hands cupped her head, his thumb tracing the apple of her cheek.

“I want to-- I need to tell you something,” he whispered. “But the words...” He sighed. “There aren’t words for it. At least, not in a language anyone remembers anymore.” His fingers brushed against her temple. “May I?”

Her eyes fluttered open again. “You want to go inside my head?”

He nodded. “I won’t look at your thoughts, I promise. I just want to show you mine.”

“All right,” she said. “I trust you.”

He closed his eyes and she let her own follow suit. There was a brief moment of silence before Rose felt a tiny flicker, a tickle, a whisper begging entrance to her mind. She knew he didn’t have to do that, but he was easing her into having his presence in her thoughts.

Suddenly, she began to see a myriad of images, all of herself, but from the Doctor’s perspective and along with the pictures came a wealth of emotions that were not her own. When she saw herself standing up to authority or showing compassion or asking the right questions, she felt a sense of pride. She saw an image of her tongue tucked between her teeth, followed by one of her in the overall dress and another of her in the corset she wore in Cardiff, those were accompanied by a surge of arousal, which made her blush.

When he showed her pictures of herself laughing and smiling and holding his hand, it was followed by an overwhelming rush of happiness and love, but also the feeling of being unworthy, of being so old and so broken, that he could never deserve the love of such a magnificent human being. He showed her images of the birth of a star, the formation of a universe, flying in the Tardis, all of these things paled compared to what he felt for her. He showed her himself after the Time War, feelings of being so alone, so wracked with guilt, and how she changed him.

“You are my Doctor, Rose,” he said directly to her mind. “You make me better. I never thought I would know happiness again after the war. That’s why I was so afraid. I was terrified that the universe would rip you away, because it’s never been so kind to me. And I never want to know another moment where you and I are not together. You are my Kui’La.”

The word shimmered in her mind, he pronounced it ‘koo-in-lay,’ the tone was musical and soothing, strangely beautiful. “What does that mean?” she asked aloud, not quite sure how to speak to his mind.

“In a simple translation, I called you ‘my love,’” he said. “But to Gallifreyans, the word means so much more than just the emotion of loving someone. It implies that the person is the other half of yourself, that you are incomplete without them. That I am lessened and fragmented if you are not with me. You are not just my equal, I hold you higher than myself.” He paused, the feelings of boundless love wrapping around her. “And to speak the word directly to someone’s mind... It means that there is no one else, ever, eternally.”

Rose’s heart thudded, her love for the Doctor overflowing in her heart. “I wondered why you never said anything... about what we are to each other,” she whispered around the lump in her throat. “It didn’t occur to me that you found English woefully inadequate.”

His soft laughter in her head was a gorgeous sound. “It is, Rose. There are at least fifteen different languages that express the emotion better than English.”

“But Gallifreyan means the most.”

“For obvious reasons. In Earth terms, I essentially asked you to marry me.”

She could feel his nervousness now, the mental equivalent of holding his breath. Tears were forming behind her eyelids, she couldn’t believe he could think she would reject him after all this. Wanting it to mean as much to him as it did to her, she furrowed her brow and concentrated on the golden tendrils of thought wisping around her brain, mentally reaching out for them. “Kui’la,” she thought, hoping to reach him.

The Doctor gasped. Beside her, his body trembled and her arms held him tighter. “Doctor?” she said, out loud. “Are you all right?”

“Rose,” he whispered to her mind, “you-- I heard you--” A sob escaped him and she opened her eyes to see tears streaking his cheeks. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. “That place in my mind has been so empty for so long.”

She moved her fingers to his temples at once, mirroring his position. “Teach me,” she said.

“I may not have to,” he said, unable to hide his building excitement. “I heard you so clearly. Try again. Please.”

Once again, she focused on reaching out to him, grasping for those shimmering strands of gold on the edges of her mind. This time, he let himself slide more deeply into her thoughts. Rose shivered, the sensation was like silk on bare skin.

“I can feel you,” she thought to him and a rush of pleasure came to her over the link.

“Rose,” he said, the word full of every emotion he attributed to her. “Arkytior, Vrayda’Eupaet, Thia’Meim’Idne, In’Kui’Lan.”

She giggled as the beautiful melodic words drifted through her mind with brief impressions of their circular equivalents. She had no idea what it all meant, of course, but the sound of his voice allowed her to get the gist of the meaning. “All right, Time Lord, slow down.”

Embarrassment trickled from him to her. “Sorry... I can’t believe I slipped into that so easily.” His fingers slipped from her temples and she opened her eyes, dropping her hands as well. “Are you still tired?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No. Too happy,” she said, smiling.

He grinned, then jumped out of bed. “Come on!”

She sat up, surprised, as he threw on his old blue dressing gown. “Where are we going?”

He reached into a tall, oak wardrobe and pulled Rose’s pink robe from it, which he tossed to her. “Thanks, old girl,” he said to the Tardis, winking at the ceiling. He turned his smile to Rose. “Infirmary!”

“Why?”

“Because there are some very good questions I would like the answers to, and you know how I am when I don’t know the answer to something!”

She rolled her eyes, climbing out of bed and tugging on her robe. “Poke it until you find something out?”

“Exactly!”

Chapter Text

Many tests later, the Doctor confirmed what their glimpse of the future had hinted at. Rose’s moment as the Bad Wolf time goddess had bound her physiology with that of the time vortex. Not only that, but the Doctor taking it from her and passing it back to the Tardis had created a basic bond between them, which was why it was so easy for him to receive her thoughts when she projected them.

“So, what does it all mean?” she asked. “Break it down for me.”

He looked over the screens with her test results, scratching the back of his head and rubbing his neck. “Well... Essentially, it means you’re Gallifreyan now. Though I don’t know how exactly that will work for you, since you started out human.”

“What?” She blinked, then patted her chest. “But I’ve still only got one heart. No respiratory bypass and all that either.”

He shrugged. “Well, neither did I, until I had my first regeneration. Did I never tell you that Time Lords start out with one heart? We were a lot more like humans until Rassilon came along, started mucking about with everything in his quest to make us the most superior species.”

“So, when I die, I’ll come back beating out my own samba?” she said, teasingly, but he frowned.

“We’re not going to go testing this out, now,” he said, seriously. “I still want you to be careful, like always.”

He left the work station and came to where she was sitting on one of the infirmary beds. Moving between her legs, he wrapped her in his arms, resting his cheek against the top of her head. “Don’t misunderstand, I’m ecstatic at this news. I can’t wait to teach you how to expand your new telepathic abilities. But now that I have you, I will never let you go, Rose.” He leaned back, tilting her chin up with one hand to look into her eyes. “You once told me forever. Well, that’s considerably longer now, and I’m selfish enough to take you at your word.”

Rose shook her head, sighing. “What makes you think I would ever let you leave me?”

He smiled, cupping her face in both hands to kiss her. “In’Kui’Lan,” he whispered against her lips.

“I love you, too,” she said, grinning at his gobsmacked expression. “I guessed right?”

“Rose Tyler,” he said in that way he had, as though her name was the most precious thing to fall from his lips, “you are brilliant.”

* * *

They did eventually make it to Cardiff. It had been a week in linear time since Broadchurch, so they were able to visit Jack and verify that Torchwood had neatly tied up all loose ends. The former time agent mentioned that something seemed different about Rose and the Doctor, making Rose blush and the Doctor run off to examine their new acquisitions. Jack eventually managed to pry out of her that they’d taken the next step in their relationship, which led to some impromptu dancing around the Hub.

Just before they went back to the fully recharged Tardis, Jack said, “Be good, you two. And if you can’t be good, be careful. And if you can’t be careful, name it after me.” The Doctor had glared at him before disappearing into the ship.

With her cheeks still pink, Rose fidgeted with her fingers near the console while the Doctor sent them into the vortex. “He brings up a good point,” she said, eyes on the grating.

“What?” asked the Doctor.

She ducked her head, letting her hair fall forward, hiding her expression. “Well, we didn’t exactly use protection yesterday, did we?”

His battered Converse came into her line of sight, stopping just in front of her. She peeked up at him, her heart thudding at the soft but serious look on his face. “No, we didn’t,” he said. “Do you want to? I mean, quick trip to the 53rd Century, they give you a shot and you’re taken care of until you ask for the counter-shot.”

Slowly, she shook her head. He took a step closer to her, putting his hands on the railing behind her on either side of her waist. “Why not?” he asked.

“I think you already know why,” she said, still looking at their feet.

“I want to hear you say it.” He tilted his head down, brushing a kiss across her cheek. “Tell me, Rose.”

She looked up and his face was so close, his dark eyes so intense. She shivered. “Those moments we saw when we touched the watch...”

“It was an extension of my time sense,” he said. “An essential part of a Time Lord. When we both touched the watch, we saw snippets of a time line in which we are together.” He shrugged lightly. “Time can always be rewritten, of course, so not everything we saw may happen, but... It’s just as likely that it will.”

“We saw a baby,” she said, softly. “Our baby.” Her eyes shimmered with emotion. “I want to meet him.”

His slow smile melted her heart. “I do, too.” He swept in to kiss her, reaching out with his mind to touch hers, sharing the joy and gratitude he felt across the link, feeling her excitement and nervousness in return. Each touch between them was a promise.

It had been a week since then, filled with whirlwind trips to beautiful planets, indulging themselves with love-making in exotic hotel rooms and secluded beaches and caves. Rose’s telepathic abilities were progressing by leaps and bounds, to the delight of the Doctor. He seemed to be leading up to something, but he wouldn’t say what when she asked him, he’d only grin and tell her “all good things to those who wait.”

When Rose woke up that morning (well, morning was relative on the Tardis), there was a set of clothing laid out for her at the end of their bed. The time ship had helpfully moved all of Rose’s things into the Doctor’s more spacious bedroom the day after he’d made love to her on the jump seat.

She frowned as she looked at the dark blue jeans, pale pink camisole, and darker pink hoodie. A distant memory tickled her brain, but she couldn’t quite place it. Then she spotted the note propped up against her white trainers: “Come to the console room” was written in the Doctor’s looping handwriting.

A smile teased at her lips as she rolled her eyes. Just what did her daft alien have up his sleeve this time? Quickly, she went through her morning routine and dressed in the clothing he’d left out for her. She trailed her fingertips along the wall as she made her way to the console room, but the Tardis was oddly quiet.

She opened her mouth to call a greeting, but the control room was empty. As she approached the time rotor, however, she found another note, this one simply saying “Outside” with an arrow pointing at the doors. She looked and saw that they were slightly open. Smiling, she went to go see where they were.

The Tardis was parked on a tall, wide rooftop, the gravel crunched underneath her trainers. It was nighttime, and London, by the sounds and smells. The light pollution only allowed for some stars to shine down, but there was more than enough ambient light to see what waited for her.

The Doctor was standing there with his hands in the pockets of dark jeans, his feet encased in hard black boots. He had on his old leather jacket over a maroon jumper. The memory from earlier clicked... They were each wearing what they had the night they’d first met. He looked almost exactly as he had when he’d regenerated, a new body and face in familiar clothes. A slight breeze ruffled his hair, a bright smile on his face that she couldn’t help but return.

“Do you know where we are?” he asked.

She had a sneaking suspicion, but walked to the edge of the roof and looked over anyway. Several stories below, she saw a familiar street and a little ways down, an intersection she used to cross nearly every day going to and from the bus. They were on the roof of Henrik’s.

“It must be 2005 or earlier,” she said, coming back to him.

He gazed at her like he always did when he was proud of her and nodded. “As a matter of fact, tomorrow night, a blonde shop girl will go down into the basement of this building and will nearly be attacked by a horde of shop window dummies. Except a man will see her just in time. He’ll grab her hand and tell her to run.

“That should be the end of it. Except this shop girl is no ordinary shop girl. She asks the right questions, shows extraordinary bravery, and it helps that she’s incredibly gorgeous.” He grinned as Rose blushed. “She impresses this man. And he falls head over heels for her, even as he tells her to forget him.”

She gaped at him in shock. “All the way back then?” she asked.

“Probably even before, if I’m honest, but that was when I knew for certain,” he said. “Anyway, don’t interrupt my story! I’m getting to the good bit.” He cleared his throat. “By the time this shop girl saves this man’s life, he’s so in love with her that he asks her to come with him. She says no, of course, they’ve only just met, it’s too bizarre, too different from the life she knows. So, he leaves. Travels alone for a while.”

“You did?” She smacked her palm to her forehead. “Time machine, of course.”

He grinned. “He can’t get her out of his head. He’s never asked someone twice before, but he will for her, because already, he’s given his hearts over to her keeping. Completely without his permission, very rude, and he’ll spend ages in denial over it, because his love for her will make him reckless and selfish, but he can’t do without her. So, he’ll come back, seconds after he left the first time, and give her the best chat-up line he can come up with.”

“‘Did I mention, it also travels in time?’” she quoted, catching her tongue in her smile. “It’s a beautiful story.”

“It isn’t always,” he said, seriously. “The story of my life is a very long one, and the details are not always pleasant.”

“I know,” she said.

“I always put your safety first, regardless of what you wanted,” he said. “Locking you in the Tardis, sending you away... You always found a way to come back, because that’s who you are, Rose. You are determined to be by my side, keeping me safe.” He reached out, taking both of her hands in his. “I should have realized before that that’s where you belong, not hidden away. You have so much strength and courage. You help me make the right decisions, you make me human in the best sense of the word. It’s the human in me that wanted to bring you here tonight.”

He sighed and leaned forward, pressing his forehead to hers. “Kui’Laian, my love,” he said, his words echoing within her mind. “You honored me by using my language and my people’s method of communication to accept my suit.” His overt formality would have made her laugh any other time, but the love in his tone kept her mirth at bay. “Now, I want to honor you by using the ways of your people.”

Her breath caught in her throat as the Doctor dropped to one knee in front of her. Letting go of her hands, he reached into the pocket of his leather coat and withdrew a small red velvet box.

“Oh, God,” Rose whispered, one hand covering her mouth as tears began to gather in her eyes.

He smiled up at her. “Rose Tyler,” he said, rolling the syllables around in his mouth as though enjoying the feel of the words. “I love you. It would mean everything to me if you would consent to join with me in the manner of Gallifreyan bond-mates, and in return, I would love to marry you in the way of the people of Earth.”

He pulled back the halves of the box lid, revealing a beautiful custom ring fashioned from pink gold, the delicately carved petals of a rose holding what appeared to be a flawless diamond. Looking closer, however, she could see a faint, blue, miasma-like iridescence that bespoke an extraterrestrial origin.

“I can tell you more of what the bonding entails if you--” he began, but she cut him off by cupping his face in both hands and leaning down to kiss him.

“I don’t care,” she insisted passionately.

“Even if it means sharing our thoughts, regardless if we’re touching?” he asked, wanting her to know what she was getting into.

“If it means being completely and totally yours, then I want it,” she said. She knelt down so they were at the same level, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I want everything with you, especially now that our lifetimes are the same. I’ll never have to say goodbye.” She bit her lip. “I know you’re not sure about the whole regeneration thing for me, but I want to tell you now... If I change, and if you change again, that doesn’t matter. Every me will love every you. Forever.”

When he leaned in for another kiss, he heard her voice in his mind, “In’Kui’Lan, Doctor.” His hearts soared.

He reached for her left hand and slid the ring onto her fourth finger. A rush of pride surged through him, seeing Rose wearing proof that she belonged to him. He fished in the pocket of his jeans for a moment and pulled out a plain band in matching rose gold. “I, erm... took the liberty,” he said, holding it up on his palm for her.

She grinned and took it, placing it on his finger and pressing a kiss to it. “Now, you’re mine, Doctor,” she said, cheekily.

“Oh, Rose,” he said, shaking his head. “I always was.”

* * *

Years and many adventures later, after meeting Donna again, there was an interesting development involving a generated anomaly that resulted in them gaining a fully grown daughter and Rose experiencing her first regeneration. The Doctor’s theory proved true, Rose came back with two hearts and slightly altered biology but with the same lovely features since her original body had been human.

They eventually had their human wedding ceremony on Woman Wept, witnessed by their friends, their family. It was just window dressing by then, having been bonded ages ago, but he figured he owed it to the memory of Jackie Tyler to marry her daughter ‘properly.’

A short while after that, Rose and the Doctor delivered their beautiful newborn son. He had wild brown hair and large hazel eyes.

They named him Alec.