When Rose came back to the shop the following day, all was unusually quiet. Idris was over at the console, tightening bolts and screws, rather than banging away like they usually did. She waved her hands when Rose opened her mouth to greet her, signalling for her to remain silent with a finger to her lips, then pointed over at the worn out seats. The Doctor was lying across them, utterly passed out, with his long coat spread over him like a blanket. Rose suspected Idris had been the one to do it.
Rose smiled, listening to the soft, purr-like snores coming from him, and wondered how late he’d stayed up. “Do you have a kitchen?” she whispered to the other woman.
Idris nodded and motioned for Rose to follow her.
* * *
The Doctor took a deep breath in through his nose, slowly waking up. The scent of his favorite blend of tea filled his nostrils and he gave a slight appreciative moan as his stomach rumbled. Cracking his eyes open, he was startled by the sight of Rose’s face, quite close to his own. Instinctively, he reared his head back a little, then looked around to check where he was. He was still in the shop, but apparently, he’d fallen asleep on the jump seat. He looked back and she was still there.
“Hello,” he said, because it was the first thing to pop into his tired brain.
“Hello,” she answered with a smile.
His eyes dropped to what she was holding in her hand and saw that she’d been waving a cup of tea under his nose. He sat up and took it from her. “What a lovely way to wake up,” he said.
“I thought it might be gentler than shaking your shoulder,” she agreed, taking a cup for herself from the console.
He hummed noncommittally and busied his mouth with drinking before he could say he’d really meant waking up to seeing her face. Which brought to mind the reason for his late night. Gulping the tea to chase the cobwebs out of his brain, he set the cup and his coat aside and stood up. He placed his hands on his lower back and stretched backward, grimacing at the chorus of pops. He really must try not to fall asleep in odd places.
“It’s finished,” he announced.
He’d said it so suddenly, that Rose looked confused for a moment. Understanding dawned a minute later and her eyes widened. “So soon?” she asked.
He nodded and headed for his work bench with her trailing behind him. He removed the work cloth with a flourish and she gasped. Her heart, still held within the curls of the contraption, gleamed and glittered, whole and practically beaming with light.
“It’s beautiful!” she breathed, pressing her hands to her mouth. When she looked at him, her eyes were shining with unshed tears. “You did it,” she said, her voice choked with emotion.
He pressed his lips together, ducking his head. “So, then… It’s all yours,” he said, a bit perfunctorily. Leaning down, he released a catch and the metal curls fell away. He straightened, not touching the heart, but gestured for her to go ahead and take it.
Delicately, Rose reached out with both hands, lifting the heart from the mooring. It sparkled at her touch, as though recognizing its owner. A smile filled with awe hovered on her lips. “That’s amazing,” she said in a hushed tone. “I can… feel… everything! All the things I was too afraid to feel before.”
His eyes were full of happiness, but there was a sadness, too. Happiness for her… sadness for himself. Pulling on his ear, he said, awkwardly, “Then, if you’re satisfied with the work, would you mind… letting me have mine back?”
She looked up, half-startled, as though she’d forgotten. “Oh!” she said, leaning down to put her heart back in the holding contraption for a moment. “Of course, I’m sorry, you must be missing it.” She pulled the heart on her gold chain from underneath her clothes. He made to grab it quickly, but she frowned as she looked down at the heart he’d loaned her. “Oh, no!” she exclaimed and his stomach dropped.
He didn’t need to look to see what had her dismayed. He could tell from her expression that what he’d feared last night had already come to pass. Even so, he let his gaze drift to the golden heart in her hands… The center of it was shot through with a vibrant red.
“It’s all right, Rose,” he gently tried to reassure her, but she still held the heart in both her hands, not relinquishing it.
“Did I do something wrong? Have I harmed it?” she asked, deeply distressed. “Doctor, I’m so sorry!”
“It’s not your fault,” he said, reaching for her shoulder with one hand and for the heart with the other. “Just give it here.”
“But what happened?” she asked as she carefully placed it in his upturned palm. As with her own heart, it sparkled at his touch, but not as brightly.
He sighed, not looking at her. “It’s… a side effect, I guess you could say,” he said.
“Like knowing about the food you like?” she asked.
“This is… a little different.” He ran a hand over his face, then occupied himself with attaching the heart to the silver chain around his neck in order to continue avoiding her gaze. He supposed he should tell her the truth, even if it meant she wouldn’t want to see him again. “You normally wouldn’t see something like this because all human hearts are the same color. My heart has a bit of red now because…” He swallowed. “Well, because… it recognizes itself as partially belonging to you.”
“Did I hold onto it for too long, is that it?” she asked.
He shook his head. Despite everything, he was proud of her for asking the right questions, for wanting to understand properly. “No, Rose.” He sighed again as he tucked his hearts safely beneath his shirt. He looked at the ground, then turned to face her, his expression serious, too carefully neutral to be natural. “When you love someone, they take up residence in your heart. With or without your permission.”
“Oh.” Her eyes widened after a moment. “Ohhh…” There was greater understanding in her tone. “You mean--”
“I didn’t intend for it to happen,” he said, quickly. “I’m sorry.” His breath hitched in his throat on the apology and he turned toward the hallway, waving a hand in her direction as he moved away. “Just forget about it. I’ll be fine.”
Before she could say another word, he was running, his long legs taking him into the hall in no time. Seconds later, she heard a door slam shut.
“What--” she asked, helplessly, then exhaled the rest of the question that never came.
Idris emerged from behind the console where she’d been quietly observing the scene. Rose looked at her with eyes searching for answers.
“He loves me?” she asked.
Idris nodded. “Yes. He was afraid this would happen. It’s why we worked all night. He wanted to give your heart back to you before you noticed that something was different about his.”
“But I don’t understand,” said Rose. “Why is he so upset? Am I--” Her face crumpled. “Is the thought of loving me so terrible?”
“Oh, no,” said Idris, coming closer to take her friend’s hands in hers. “Just the opposite. He believes he’s not good enough for you.”
“Why? Because I’m a lady?”
Idris’ face held a deep sadness. “It’s more than that.” She pulled Rose toward a sofa. “Come over here. I need to show you something.”
They sat down together and Idris took a deep breath, then pulled on the silver chain around her neck. Rose gasped as Idris carefully revealed her heart.
The same golden color as the Doctor’s, it was plain that Idris had once had two hearts, but now they were haphazardly fused together, forming one over-large, slightly misshapen heart, connected by delicately working clockwork parts.
“We’re the only two left,” she said, softly. “Our planet… it was under attack. He was supposed to go to the fight with the rest of our family, but…” She shook her head. “He took me and we stole a ship and left instead. He didn’t know how to fly it, we crash landed here.” She tilted her head over at the console they were always working on. “That over there? It’s what’s left of the ship. We keep hoping that one day we might go back… See if anyone else survived.”
Rose looked at the console, at the various cobbled together pieces, but under all that, she could see now what might be steering hydraulics and inputs for coordinates. She wondered how she could have overlooked it before, but then, she didn’t know much about space ships either.
“The landing, it was… rough.” Idris said the word like it was the best she could come up with without going into specifics. “He survived with a few scrapes and bruises, but me, well… A part of the ship collapsed on top of me.”
Rose covered her mouth with one hand, trembling just at the thought of such a terrifying ordeal. “How did you recover? I mean…” She glanced over the other woman’s body, which appeared not to have a scratch anywhere. “You look fine.”
She smiled lightly. “It’s because of the Doctor I’m alive. He saved me.” She paused. “I mean that literally, he downloaded my memories and thought processes as I was dying. He built me this body.” She poked a finger at her cheek. “Pretty good, isn’t it? You’d never know it’s a poly-prosthetic material. It's why he's so good with Clockworks... because I pretty much am one. Except for what's here.” She nodded down at her heart. “He fixed this, too. They were already a bit broken, what with losing our family and… everything.” She swallowed and cleared her throat before continuing. “But a few pieces shattered on impact. Well, you know how fragile they can be when they’re damaged. He did the best he could with what he had.”
She smiled up at Rose. "I lived in the ship's computer while he built my body and fixed my hearts, well, heart, I suppose." She looked up at the domed room with a fond expression. "I think we still might be a bit connected, this old ship and I."
Tucking the patchwork heart back under her dress, she looked over at the hallway. “He doesn’t think I remember being completely whole, but I do. I pretend so he can forget his guilt, at least for a while.” She looked back at Rose. “Do you see? That’s why he doesn’t think he deserves to love you, doesn’t think he should be able to reach for happiness. He’s plagued everyday by his cowardice, by the fear that led him to abandon our planet. He blames himself for what happened to me, even though there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. I hope that one day, he’ll be able to see that he saved my life when he saved his, and that even losing my real body was worth being able to live.” She leaned forward, taking Rose’s hands again. “I think you can help him with that, Rose.”
“Me?” she asked. “How?”
“If you can love him, too.” The dark-haired woman tilted her head. “You do, don’t you? I see it in your eyes when you think he’s not looking.”
“I-- I don’t know…”
Rose had spent so long trying not to feel anything, she wasn’t sure what it was she was feeling for the Doctor. As she looked down at the whole, gleaming heart on her golden chain, she felt the emotion surging through her… Strong, powerful… It made her stomach flip over and tie itself in knots. Made her feel like she could do anything and yet, terrified at the same time. Awe-inspiring, that was the term she’d associate with this feeling. Was that love?
She did know that she wanted to find out if it was. He deserved that, especially if it would help him. Anything for the Doctor, the man who’d come to mean so much to her in the short time they’d been acquainted. She looked up at Idris, whose face was full of hope, and nodded at her, a determined look in her eyes. Patting her friend’s hand, Rose stood up and walked purposefully into the hallway.
It didn’t take long to find which room he’d gone into, it was the only door that was shut. She hesitated for the barest moment, long enough to take a steadying breath, then she knocked.
“Go away, Idris!” came the Doctor’s irritated, muffled voice.
She bit her lip. Clearly, he didn’t want to be disturbed and also thought she’d left the shop, or at least, that she wouldn’t be the one to beard the lion in his den. But she had to know. “It’s Rose,” she said, lifting her voice enough to be heard through the door. There was a long silence. Eventually, she tried again, “Can I come in?”
Another pause, then the door opened and he stood just on the threshold in his shirtsleeves. He looked unwell, to say the least. His face was pale, but his cheeks were scrubbed raw, and his eyes were red. “I thought you’d gone,” he said, his voice hoarse now that she could hear it without a barrier between them.
“No, I, um…” Her stomach turned over, nervousness churning within, and suddenly the courage she’d felt moments before fled. “We never discussed payment.”
“Oh,” he said on an exhale, looking away. “Nevermind that.”
“No,” she insisted. Remembering what Idris said, she told him, “You saved me. You deserve payment. What can I give you?”
He released a shuddering breath as he looked up at her, his expression flickering between helplessness and something else. Guilt? Perhaps he was thinking he had no right to ask for anything, not after the ‘sin’ of loving her. But after a moment, he lifted a hand, palm up, between them. Gently, she placed hers in it. He glanced once at her face, then leaned down and placed a lingering kiss to the back of her hand. He breathed in and out as he did so, the air warm on her skin. Goosebumps chased each other up her arm.
Straightening, he pressed her hand between both of his, rubbing lightly. He sketched a strained smile by clamping his lips together and nodded. “There. Payment.”
She blinked and tightened her grip when he would have released her. His chocolate eyes flicked to hers, askance. “But it is you who kissed me,” she pointed out. “Should I not be the one to kiss you, if this is to be your payment?”
His mouth worked, but nothing came out. She smiled, pleased to have flummoxed him, at least momentarily. She pulled on his hand and he came a step closer to her. She placed that hand at the curve of her waist, then one of hers on his shoulder and the other at the nape of his neck. She moved slowly, allowing him to see what she was doing, what she intended, but he didn’t stop her, didn’t move away. He stood, passively letting her position them the way she wanted, but she noted that he was trembling just the faintest bit, his chest rising and falling faster than before.
Gently, she pulled him down towards her and pressed her lips to his. He made a soft sound through his nose, like a sigh, like a man dreaming. It sent a frisson of sensation down her spine, something that doubling in intensity as his mouth moved against hers, no longer content to be acquiescent. The fingers at her waist gripped her more tightly, their touch a burning brand through her clothes. His other arm, which had been hanging loose at his side, came around her back, almost able to touch his own ribs, he was holding her so close. Her hand at his shoulder traveled upward, joining her other so they could tangle in his hair, the strands softer than a dove’s wing.
Their mouths opened for one another almost at the same moment, and when he moaned against her, something bloomed inside of Rose, an answering sound rising up, mingling with his like their tongues and breath. The emotions coursing through her unlocked a deeper understanding that both enlightened her and created even more questions. But she knew the Doctor held all the answers. For each touch, each caress, there was a corresponding flutter in her heart. She responded, recognizing in him her other half, something she couldn’t even see before he made her whole again.
When at last they pulled back, him resting his forehead against hers, their breath coming fast, shared between them, she clutched at her heart which was dangling against her abdomen on its chain. She’d forgotten to tuck it away in all the emotional tumult. She looked down, knowing what she’d see, smiling when it was confirmed.
The red gem was shining brighter than it ever had before, lighting their immediate area a deep red… And through its center, a glowing golden star, sparkling with hidden depths in its cloud-like swirls. The Doctor was staring at it like he couldn’t believe his eyes, blinking rapidly, as though he believed it would disappear.
“I’ve discovered something,” she said, catching his attention and he looked up expectantly. In his expression was a wonder that told her she’d done the impossible for him. “Having nearly broken my heart in the past, I don’t believe I should give it away to just anyone.” He nodded, watching as she removed it from the chain. “It should only ever be handled by someone who knows what they’re doing… Who knows what its been through and takes care to look after it.” She took his hand and transferred the red and gold heart into his keeping, curling his fingers around it. “Someone it can belong to… as if it were one of his own.”
A slow smile spread across his face, not missing the reference to his double hearts so there could be no doubt in his mind. Even with this reassurance, he asked, “Are you certain? I’m not going to stay here forever, Rose, I have to go back someday, to my planet.”
“To see if you can find others, I know.” At his surprised look, she angled her head toward the console room. “Idris told me. I think you may want to have a talk with her about… well, everything that happened. And when you go, I’ll go with you. Now that I don’t have to be afraid of breaking my heart, the idea of travel sounds wonderful. Maybe I’ll even learn how to fly the ship!”
“I just… don’t want you to ever regret it,” he said. “I can’t provide the kind of life you’re accustomed to.” He blew out a breath, shaking his head slightly. "And I have no idea what your parents will say..."
“I don’t care,” she declared, passionately. “No one makes me feel the way you do, and I want that for always.”
“And…” he said, drawing out the word as he gazed at the heart he held in his hands then back at her. “How exactly do I make you feel?”
She gestured at the heart, as though it should be obvious to him. “I think it’s plain to see that I’m in love with you, Doctor.”
“I can see it,” he said, unable to hold back his grin. “I needed to hear it. I believe I’ll need to hear it every day, perhaps even several times, before I can really be truly sure.”
She giggled. “A kiss or two to accompany the statement probably wouldn’t go amiss either.”
“Oh, you’re brilliant, you are.”
Carefully, he pulled his hearts from beneath his shirt and attached hers, then removed the heart she’d so recently been lent, and handed it to her… This time, for good. She smiled as a little shudder passed through her, as though she were chilled, but in reality, warmth suffused her entire being. The heart, exchanged for her own, felt right, felt as though it had ‘come home.’
With a bright smile, he wrapped her in an embrace once more, her feet leaving the floor as he swung them into the hallway together. Laughter bubbled up and fell from her lips, unable to be contained.
"Oh, Rose, I love you," he said, his lips against her hair. "If you can love me then perhaps... perhaps I can be redeemed."
She sighed, shaking her head, as he set her back on her feet but didn't let her go. "I don't think redemption ever entered into it, but you're entitled to your feelings." She traced the collar of his shirt, her eyes soft. "Just know that you have people who love you, regardless."
"Thank you," he said, burying his face against the crook of her neck. She smiled, stroking his head.
"All sorted, then, Grandfather?" came Idris' voice from the direction of the console room.
The Doctor sighed and said "Yes," at the same moment Rose looked at him in shock and exclaimed, "Grandfather?!"
He scrunched up his face, waggling his head back and forth. "Welllllll, not technically... We're more like cousins. The term is really just her being cheeky about my age."
"Just how old are you?" Rose asked as they started walking toward the front of the shop, their arms wound around each other.
He just smiled, almost apologetically. "I have a lot to tell you about."
She couldn't help but return it with a tongue-touched smile of her own. "Well, good thing you've got forever."
He squeezed her and leaned down for another kiss before turning a frown on his... granddaughter? Cousin? TA?
"And you!" he said, sternly, pointing a finger at Idris. "What's with you letting me think you'd forgotten about everything?"
She grinned at him, smugly. "You're welcome."
When he let go of Rose, it was to embrace Idris, his face eloquent with the gratitude of a man who'd found a small piece of the home he thought he'd lost. He came to Rose again, taking her hand, their fingers naturally entwining, and it was a connection completing. He would always find his home, wherever she was.
Rose held a hand to her middle, her fingers finding the edges of the heart that was overflowing with love. "Is it always like this?" she wanted to know. "So... all-consuming?"
He rubbed the back of his neck, ruffling his hair, as he looked briefly at the ceiling. "I'm not completely certain," he said, honestly. "From what I've learned from others, it can be overwhelming at first, but it won't always be at the forefront. However, it will always, always, be there when you call upon it." He reached out and brushed a stray hair from her cheek, tracing his fingers along her soft skin. "How about we learn together?"
She held his hand to her face and nodded. "I like that idea."