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Bouquets for a Cricket Match

Chapter Text

"So you'll do it then?" Borusa asked, voice crackling over the speaker system as his image on the viewscreen crackled. Deep space was such a poor conductor of good transmitter signal. The Doctor sighed and slumped slightly against the console at his back, feigning an indifferent smile.

"Oh, might as well. Not like I have anything better to do as of late." Borusa's countenance changed as his brow furrowed in concern.

"I say, if it's too much trouble-"

"Then I would have told you, wouldn't I?" The Doctor reminded, cutting him off. "I still quite clearly remember your rebuking me at school for my forwardness."

"...Are you all right?"

"I'm always all right." A flick of a switch and Borusa's call cut out, and he allowed his charming facade to crumble into despondent pain. "Yes, always..."

The task Borusa had asked him to accomplish wasn't a difficult one, merely tedious. But after the week he'd had... Well, it was more than welcome.

First Adric had- had- well. And then there'd been that awful bit with the Master and the TARDIS had managed to land at Heathrow in the proper time and place, and he'd waited. Oh, he'd waited a good twenty minutes for Tegan to come back. He'd allowed his hopes to be raised only to have them dashed, and he supposed it was his own fault really. Tegan had been complaining about his inability to correctly pilot them to her job interview ever since she'd come on board, so it was little surprise she'd stayed behind. It was where she'd wanted to be, after all.

Nyssa had been more surprising. She'd wanted to be left alone for a good week or so - or more accurately, she had told him to leave her alone for that long and they'd see if she wanted to travel with him after it - and the TARDIS was sorrowfully empty. His heartsbeat seemed to echo loudly down the deserted corridors and he wished there were someone, anyone, to talk to. Having work to do took his mind off of his loneliness.

The Doctor set the coordinates and took off to parts previously unknown, frowning when he reached the location of the anomaly. It was... nothing, really. A simple rip in the fabric of dimensional reality of the kind that was capable of establishing a connection to a parallel universe. Sighing unhappily, he set his measuring equipment up and then decided it was high time he prepared himself a cup of tea and something to eat.

The galley was dim when he entered in, and once again he felt a pang of longing for companionship. Until recently he'd had three people constantly pestering his waking hours - which were of far greater number than his sleeping ones - and now he was on his own.

The Doctor paused in heating up the kettle to stare quizzically at the ceiling as the TARDIS chirped excitedly in his mind. An interesting sound, really. He'd expected something mournful or sympathetic; the TARDIS liked having people on board as much as he did even if she tended to complain to him more often than not. But this wasn't it. This was... she sounded... excited.

"What are you up to?" He asked suspiciously just before the entire ship pitched to the side. A shout that had been building up in his chest was abruptly curtailed into an undignified squeak as the kettle, luckily full of barely lukewarm water, slammed into his diaphragm and pushed the air out of his lungs. "Ow!"

The very walls seemed to shudder, a cacophony of joyous wonder and stubborn determination pounding at the telepathic centers of his mind, when finally the temperamental ship gave an almighty lurch (which disturbed all the pans hanging from the rack on the ceiling and dropped them, predictably, onto his person) and settled with a sort of smug triumphant confidence before she fell silent.

Chapter Text

 

The first thing the Doctor noticed when he regained consciousness was the agonizing silence in the back of his mind. If he'd thought he was lonely before, the void where his people had once buzzed annoyingly yet pleasantly in his telepathic receptors was unbearable. Tears began streaming down his face as he reached out for the collective presence of the Gallifreyan species and came up empty, reaching further and deeper with mounting desperation until he was practically clawing at the insides of his own thoughts. Even the TARDIS was worryingly quiet, alarmingly muted along the bond between pilot and ship that should have been there until it eventually snapped with either one of their deaths. It was still there, still present, but so quiet and tenuous that it offered no relief. 

He couldn't think straight, even as he stumbled through the halls and corridors toward the console room and then pushed out into watery sunlight. Sudden terror of claustrophobia and the dark had been pressing in on him as a visual representation of the emptiness in his head and he couldn't take it anymore.

The Doctor blinked and scrunched his nose against a migraine at the abrupt shift in light and sighed in relief as humid mid-downpour autumn London air filled his lungs and replenished his bypass. He felt like his mind was clouded with cotton and none of his higher senses were functioning properly; the shock to his synapses had struck a cruel blow and it was eerily reminiscent of trying to read fine print without prescription glasses in his first incarnation. He didn't actually need reading glasses anymore, hadn't since his first regeneration, but he rather thought a pair of thin plain glass half-moons made him look a bit clever this time around. He wished he had a pair of aids for the twenty-two senses he was missing at present. 

Of course, he had a pretty good idea of why he was cut off from his people. The zeppelins made it rather obvious that he was presently in a parallel universe. His knees gave out as he choked a sob of relief at that. It was easily fixable, once the spare power reserves had cycled through and powered up the engines, to get back where he belonged. Back to the soft chatter of other minds of his species present but untouchable to comfort him in his solitude. 

Still, that left him painfully desperate for even the merest brush of his mind against someone else's while he was forced to wait a good twenty-four hours to leave. That meant heading farther into downtown London proper. Humans, while not telepathic, were a soothing balm in large proximity and it would do him good. He still felt as if his stomach were at sea and he was banged and bruised from the kitchenware assaulting him, but once he got to the shopping district his head began to sort itself out. Slowly, his more advanced senses returned and he grimaced at the wrongness of timelines that did not include himself. He was like a stone thrown into a rushing stream disrupting the current and he lamented on taking his home universe for granted. That was just the way of things, really. You never truly appreciated something until it was gone. 

Even though London proper was soothing his telepathic centers, his presence was continually pinging out looking for another member of his species. It was purely instinctual; he couldn't help himself even if he knew that no one was out there.

Dusk was falling by the time his tired feet made their wandering way to Westminster Bridge and he paused against the stone railing, staring out over the water to smile softly at the London Eye lighting up in anticipation of the dark. At least some things were familiar. It also gave him a better idea of what time period he was in; combined with the clothing and technology of those around him, he’d hazard a guess at the mid to late 21st century. Then again, parallel universe. 

He was getting a headache from the lack of telepathic communion now. As the sun went down so too did the number of people in the downtown area, and the Doctor was unpleasantly reminded of the fact that he had no money for food when his stomach growled somewhat insistently. 

Sighing, he slumped further onto the bridge railing and wondered what exactly he should do. Two things caught his eye at that moment; a moving sign advertising some sort of health drink called Vitex and with a pre-recorded message on it and a hastily-pasted poster curling at the edges urging people to pitch in and rebuild after the Cyberman attack of 2006. 

His stomach churned when he saw it, though this time not from hunger. His traitorous perfect memory was replaying what had happened with Adric just four days ago. And those soulless things existed in this universe too.

“Will I never be rid of them?” He muttered tiredly as he rubbed the space between his eyes. At that moment his subconscious sent out another ping and he stiffened, hearts hammering in his chest. There, in the yawning emptiness, was a small singular presence giving off tiny sparks of golden light through the cavernous void. 

Springing abruptly into a straight posture the Doctor ignored the confused exclamations from the humans around him as he blindly ran toward that other presence. That mind was Gallifreyan, and if one of his people had become stranded here permanently he owed it to the pain of separation from the Matrix to get them back to their home universe when he left. 

His feet took him on a solid run for the first ten minutes before he had to slow to a jog out of necessity, and after a further twenty minutes of that he stumbled into a walk and let out a rasping gasp of relief when a mansion became visible through the tree line. 

As mansions went it was on the small size, but the lawn was well-maintained and there appeared to be quite a party going on inside despite the chill autumn rain that had soaked him to the bone by the time he got there. 

Bypassing security was a relatively simple affair of vaulting the hedgerow, nearly hanging himself on the tall fence, throwing a handful of the driveway gravel against the side of the building to distract the two men asking for coats at the front door, and slipping inside when they went to inspect the noise. 

The Doctor was immediately aware of the fact that he was dripping quite substantially onto the marble floor of the foyer and that he was severely underdressed. The entire affair was black tie and there he was in his cricket whites, blond hair stuck to his head in all sorts of disarray. There were probably leaves and twigs in it from when he’d tripped over a tree root and landed in some bushes as well. Still, that presence was close now. 

...Getting closer all the time, now that he thought about it... 

Accepting a champagne flute when one was offered but not really interested in the contents, the Doctor meandered among the crowd of apparently very well-to-do individuals feigning casual chatter when in reality he was seeking out the source of that wonderful presence. Just being in proximity of it he felt his senses soothing and he relaxed in increments the longer it was there. 

A loud whistle pierced the air and painfully penetrated his sensitive eardrums, and wincing he turned to see a blonde-haired woman in her early forties standing on the steps of the large dominating central staircase. A balding man with strawberry blond hair stood beside her, her arm laid upon his where his free hand loosely rested on the proffered wrist. The woman was the source of the whistle, as evidenced by the fingers in her mouth from her free hand, and he idly noticed that there was a young blond-haired boy fidgeting on the stairs beside his parents pulling at the collar of his formal suit. 

The Doctor smiled at that before he felt his hearts stutter, because standing behind the boy was a young woman with soft golden blonde hair and whiskey-colored golden-brown eyes. She was wearing a form-fitting ending above the knee style of deep blue dress the color of the TARDIS’ paint, but this went largely unnoticed because it was her mind that caught his attention and completely stole his breath away. 

Soft, faint, Gallifreyan telepathic signature. Friend of the family, maybe? She seemed to be doing well, whatever the case. Either way, there couldn’t be any doubt that she could sense he was there. Who knew how long she’d been stuck there, suddenly having someone there again would be something she’d immediately recognize for what it was. But she hadn’t noticed him, and at the moment he was very noticeable seeing as he was dripping wet in Edwardian cricket garb standing amongst the penguin suits of the other guests. 

He reached out with his telepathic signature and brushed ever so slightly against her own signature, the long-distance equivalence off shouting hello from across the room, and frowned slightly when she didn’t respond. Not even the semblance of a reaction, not even a blink to show anything had registered. The Doctor’s confusion heightened when she was introduced as the older couple’s daughter, and he let out a sigh of disappointment when he realized that she was human. He didn’t know how that was possible, not really, but still. Human. He’d thought- but apparently he’d got it wrong. He’d never actually come across an advanced human telepath before as they were rare even in the far future, so many they registered similarly enough to his own people that he’d... His shoulders slumped in defeat and he felt every second of his age at that moment. 

She had been idly scanning the room with a resigned posture, resigned expression. Her gaze flickered over him like any other member of the crowd before abruptly riveting itself back onto him; her entire posture stiffening as her pupils dilated. Her lips moved ever so slightly, silently, but his hearts sped up into an uneven canter when he read what they were whispering.

“Doctor?” 

Chapter Text

 Rose hadn’t been feeling all that well the past few weeks. She’d woken up every single morning with a persistent headache that had only gotten worse the farther into the day she had progressed, and at night she needed to take pain medication so that she could sleep. She felt drained 24/7, as if her energy just ran out too quickly, and nothing sounded appetizing to eat. 

She hadn’t said anything about it though, so there was really no one to blame but herself when her mother told her in no uncertain terms that she would be attending the Vitex Fundraising Ball. It was more of a charity thing than anything else, but she never really fit in with England’s upper crust. Seven years since Bad Wolf Bay. Seven years since she’d been trapped on the other side of that stupid white wall. To this day she couldn’t look at anything that was pure white; snow, which had held so much wonder for her, brought only pain now and she couldn’t figure out how to tell her little brother why she didn’t want to build a snowman with him. 

The last thing she’d expected to see when she’d downed a few pain pills and put on her best smile was a version of the Doctor she’d never met before dripping on the floor of the foyer while her parents gave the ‘thank you for coming’ speech looking like a soggy, kicked golden retriever puppy. There was no recognition on his face, only an ample amount of curiosity, so this must be an earlier version of him than the ones she knew. But she did, in fact, recognize him. 

It was something to do with the eyes, Rose decided. Always the eyes. Anyone could pull off the Edwardian Cricketer look with the celery on the lapel if they really, really wanted to - or for that matter the flowing coat and suit with the electric hair or the leather jacket and jumper - but the eyes were the one thing that could never be faked. Whether they were fiery ice blue, melted chocolate brown, or now soft sky blue, they held eternity in them. Ancient eyes on faces of varying age all far too young to have seen what those eyes had seen. 

And the wet bloke pouting slightly in the corner with a completely untouched champagne flute had those eyes. 

In her mind, she was shouting as loud as she could. She was running down the steps and throwing herself into his arms regardless of whether he knew her or not. But in reality she was stiff as a post, a single word silently sliding through barely parted lips as he noticed that she was looking at him. 

‘Doctor.’ 

\^*?*^/

The Doctor only dimly registered that everyone was drinking a toast to whatever it was the hosts had said, and he ignored it in favor of watching the young heiress watch him. The music started back up again, the guests mingled, and before he could walk over to her she was surrounded by at least a dozen flashing cameras from tabloid agencies. By the time the glare ended and he could see again, he found that she had slipped away into the crowd. 

The hope that had been building in his chest abruptly deflated and he stepped backward into the darker alcove to watch the party with a melancholy attitude. 

Strong fingers gripped the crook of his arm and he let out a soft gasp of surprise as he was dragged backwards into the previously unnoticed coat closet. He turned his head to look at his attacker and froze, respiratory bypass kicking in when he realized how close they were with her nose mere inches away from his own. 

“What are you-” She effectively shut him up by clamping her free hand securely across his mouth before opening a side door half hidden by overcoats and lead him through a narrow hallway that eventually widened out into a larger one. 

“That was rude,” the Doctor spat once she let him go. He huffed slightly as he set his unwanted champagne on a nearby decor table and turned to give her his best 'the weight and judgement of eternity rests on my shoulders' stare but to his surprise this had the opposite affect he'd been hoping for. Instead of scaring her off it actually made her relax a bit more in his presence, as if it had confirmed something she'd suspected.

“That’s me,” Rose joked weakly despite knowing he wouldn’t catch the joke. “Rude and not ginger.”

“What does being ginger have to do with it?” He asked, now looking genuinely confused. She smirked, flashing him one of the tongue-touched grins she reserved for him and only him alone. It was gratifying to see his gaze flicker down to document the action despite it being one of curiosity rather than distraction, but she’d take what she could get. 

“Absolutely nothing at all.” Rose hesitated for a moment before sticking out her hand in greeting. “I’m Rose. Rose Tyler. You don’t know me yet, but you will do.” 

“...Ah,” was all he said in response as he accepted the handshake, realization dawning in his expression. “Might I ask, what are you doing here?” 

“That’s a really, really long story,” she sighed. They both flinched slightly as the loud popping noise of a champagne bottle being opened went off in much the same manner as a gunshot, and both blushed in embarrassment when they realized they’d gravitated toward one another at the sound. 

“I’d love to hear it,” the Doctor said pointedly, making it clear that he wasn’t leaving until he got his answer. 

“Not here,” Rose returned with a shake of her head. “Too many people too walk in on us and I don’t want to be here anyway.” 

“Fair enough,” he conceded, posture relaxing as he realized that she wasn’t trying to weasel out of anything. He flashed a somewhat encouraging smile that she swore made his eyes twinkle and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Anywhere specific?” She was about to reply when his stomach let out a very loud rumble and he blushed profusely, stuttering a reply in apologetic explanation only to see her shaking her head in amusement. 

“Family kitchen?” She suggested with a soft, fond chuckle that made him feel strangely warm for some reason. “I could do with a cuppa and we could get you a sandwich or somethin’ while we’re at it. You can eat while I explain, and then I fully expect you to do the same as to why you’re here,” she ended pointedly. He nodded sheepishly in response, truthfully quite glad she was offering to feed him because hors d’oeuvres weren’t very satisfying for a meal and he usually found pâté to be even less so in his current body. 

He followed her dutifully through the long corridors of the mansion until the party had long faded into the background, his stomach grumbling a few more times in anticipation of a decent meal. Rather than comment, Rose just let out tiny giggles each time that made him feel more at ease than they should have done. 

The kitchen in question was spacious but deserted and dark, the large window above the sink letting in plenty of silver moonlight but casting long shadows, and the Doctor obediently sat on one of the high-backed stools positioned at the island counter while Rose bustled about the kitchen as a woman on a mission. She set the kettle to boil, pulled two mugs from a cupboard - one, he noted, had a science pun on it and at least seven cracks while the other had a smooth surface and zig-zag stripe pattern. When the water was heated she poured the tea into the mugs, then fixed the cracked one the way she liked it and paused in front of his. He was about to suggest he do it himself when she held up a finger (silencing him for the third time that night, a record for anyone trying to get him to shut up for a minute) and smirked, eyeing him over carefully before mixing it for him.

“Try it,” she said with another tongue in teeth grin which he was quickly beginning to recognize as a signature smile. He raised an eyebrow at her dubiously but did as he was told, eyes widening comically when he set the mug back down and stared at her. “How close was I?” 

“How clo- how did you do that?” He stuttered incredulously. Rose shrugged, turning away from him but looking rather pleased with herself, and he resigned himself to not getting an answer to that question. He focused instead on savoring a proper (okay spectacular) cuppa and resolutely ignored his growling stomach as the tantalizing smell of grilled cheese sandwiches filled the room. He gaped at the mysterious woman before him when she reached over and plucked the celery off of his lapel, handing him a fresh one to replace it. Most people made fun of his celery. Here she was helping him keep it fashion savvy. 

The sandwiches were soon cooked and she slid a plate across the island counter to him. He noted there were two of them cut into eight pieces and was about to make a comment on the matter when she thoroughly distracted him by hoisting herself onto the counter’s surface and sat cross-legged in front of him with a plate and sandwich balanced on one leg and her mug balanced on the knee of the other. Her short-hemmed dress slid up her thigh to reveal a pair of rather unattractive grey gym shorts and she laughed at the perplexed look that crossed his face. This was also when he noticed that she was wearing flats. 

“I like to be prepared,” she explained after swallowing a bite of her sandwich. “Y’know, in case we have to climb a lift shaft ladder or take off running or something.”

“But I’m not here, so why would you bother?” The Doctor asked, genuinely curious to hear the answer. He’d also surprised himself by how hungry he actually was and silently marveled at the woman’s ability to read his needs better than he apparently could. Rose shrugged.

“Got into the habit. ‘Sides, a certain Time Lord once told me that I set new records for Jeopardy Friendly.”

“Do tell,” he retorted drily as he polished off the first sandwich and eagerly started in on the second. 

“So it’s London during the Blitz, right? Now, I need to get onto a roof because I saw a kid up on it calling for his Mummy. I start climbing, grab hold of a rope to get up there. Turns out the rope was the tether for a barrage balloon. So here I am, dangling hundreds of stories above London hanging on to a barrage balloon, in the middle of an air raid. And to top it all off I was a living target, because I was wearing one of those full torso Union Jack tee shirts at the time.” She’d been watching his reaction to her little story with amusement; the comical widening of his sky blue eyes and the way his eyebrows shot into his hairline seemed to be a universal Doctor trait that carried through from one regeneration into the next. She was seeing a lot of her pinstriped Doctor’s subconscious mannerisms in this Cricketer one, of course it was actually vice versa, but still. She could also see her leather Doctor too, in the way his brow furrowed slightly or when he stuck out his jaw in a pout, and found that it was easy to be comfortable around this New New New (Older) Doctor. 

“That’s certainly impressive,” he said in a small voice before becoming infinitely more interested in what was left of his remaining sandwich than her. Rose smiled, sipping her tea and gazing out the window, when she felt that warm tickle in the back of her mind again. She wasn't sure she'd even felt anything back at the party, but it came off as the same. It was stronger this time, stronger and more like a cordial ‘hello’ in the way it felt than anything else, and she let out a small gasp before glancing back at her guest and seeing that he had been watching her expectantly with attentive eyes. 

“Was that you?” Rose asked, pointing at her head in emphasis. The Doctor nodded vigorously as he polished off the last of his sandwich and leaned back against the high backing of the stool with his cuppa loosely cradled in his hands. She rolled her eyes when she saw his gaze flick longingly to the remains of her own sandwich and sighed, sliding the plate over. He blushed adorably before enthusiastically finishing off the scraps. “When was the last time you ate?”

“A few days ago,” he admitted sheepishly. “I’m sort of traveling on my own at the moment and-”

“And you’re rubbish on your own even when it comes to properly looking after yourself,” Rose finished for him. She fixed him with a look saying that she was not to be trifled with and then leaned forward to lightly poke him in the chest. “You’re getting some sleep tonight, mister.”

“But-” the glare she leveled at him had the words dying on his tongue. Fourth time she’s shut me up tonight, he reflected as he subconsciously set up a running tally. “Fine.” 

“That... thing you just did, with my mind,” Rose began hesitantly, biting her lip nervously. “What was that?” 

“Sort of the equivalent of a telepathic calling card, I suppose would be the best way to explain it,” he replied glibly and noted that while she seemed to accept this well enough she was properly on guard now where she hadn’t been before. “Did you know you were telepathic?” He asked gently. She shook her head vigorously ‘no,’ then paused and nodded ‘yes.’

“I sorta... wondered,” she admitted. “I’ve had this headache since last month and it’s worse whenever I’m around a lot of people.” There was a pause. “Not you, though. Feels good, having you nearby.” 

“...Right,” he said, swallowing awkwardly before considering what else she had said. “It sounds like your telepathic abilities only developed recently. I have to ask: are you fully... human?”

“Wh- why would that make a difference?” She asked nervously, piquing his curiosity once more. “Both my parents are completely human, I swear,” she added almost defensively. 

“I didn’t mean any offense,” he said quickly, holding up both hands in a placating manner. “I was just curious. Human telepaths of your ability in this time period just don’t exist. And you feel...” now it was his turn to pause and nervously debate his next words. “You feel... Gallifreyan,” he finally said in a rush, tapping the side of his temple. “In here.” 

“I... What?” Rose murmured, simply staring at him. “You mean, I feel like one of... one of your people?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered, running a hand across the hair at the back of his head and messing up the damp locks a bit more than they already were. “And believe me, that’s heavenly right now. When I landed in this universe I was cut off from the collective consciousness of my species, and it was so extremely empty in my mind before I felt your telepathic presence in my peripheral field. You’re helping me in much the same way I’m helping you acclimate to your new abilities, I suspect, but without doing a scan it’s hard to say.” He then frowned, regarding his future companion more thoroughly and reaching out with his extra senses.

“Rose,” he began carefully, “I don’t mean to pry but you don’t belong in this universe, do you? Your timelines are like mine. Everything in this dimensional reality moves around you, seamlessly parting to allow you space, but doesn’t let you in.”

“I’m from the same universe as you,” Rose explained quietly. “So’s my mum, but not my dad or my brother.” 

“I get the feeling this has something to do with that long story you were talking about,” the Doctor muttered. His chest constricted with an odd feeling when Rose let out a somewhat strained laugh. Despite the tension, he fancied it was one of the most beautiful sounds he’d ever heard. 

“Yeah it is,” she sighed exasperatedly before hopping off of the counter and grabbing his hand. “Come on. I don’t want to stay up half the night in the kitchen going through all this, and you’re still dripping water onto the floor. You need a warm shower and some dry clothes, and I need a more comfortable place to sit.” 

“O-okay,” he murmured distractedly, stumbling along as she lightly dragged him through her house and staring at their linked hands as she did it. The last person who had allowed him to hold their hand without resentment was Sarah, and Rose was the one initiating it. He hadn’t realized how touch-starved he was until that moment.

If Rose noticed that his grip around her fingers tightened almost desperately she didn’t make any comment on it.

\^*?*^/

The Doctor was more than a little surprised to be led to an exterior door, and before he could open his mouth to ask he found that Rose was leading him across a wet lawn toward the massive detached garage. They went up a flight of stairs and he stood, blinking, at his new surroundings in mild confusion but appreciation for the decor. The ceiling was sloped and vaulted in the middle but low at the sides, and there was a skylight on one of said sides that acted secondarily as a sort of access out onto the exterior of the roof itself. Aside from the downstairs hall exit door at the back of the building separating this second story flat from the garage itself, the only other doors that he could see led to the bathroom and a small walk-in closet. Large windows were at the front wall of the space; at the front was a loft bed with a couch underneath it. The television was mounted to the far wall in the small kitchen nook (which had all the appropriate fixtures and a bar counter with two stools seated at it for sitting arrangements). The rest of the space was taken up by a desk along one of the lower side walls that had a laptop on it, and bookshelves lined every other available wall space. These either contained knickknacks, movies, or actual literary content, and despite there at first glance appearing to be absolutely no order to anything whatsoever there was in fact a method to the chaos that left him somewhat envious of her balance between the two. 

“Right, you get your warm shower and out of those wet clothes and I’ll pop back over to the main house for a moment to see if I can pilfer a set of jimjams off my best mate,” Rose said matter-of-factly after patiently waiting for him to finish cataloguing everything in his mind. The Doctor wanted to protest, to say that he was perfectly fine with what he had on, but in truth he was extremely uncomfortable in his wet clothes. Nodding, he walked into the bathroom and noted that the shower and tub were separate entities. 

 

 

Despite only wanting to take a quick shower the warm water felt immensely good as it seeped into weary limbs and he stayed under the spray for a longer time than necessary before doing a quick lather and rinse-down. The shampoo was Rose’s and he noted absently that it smelled like ‘wintergreen.’ Stepping out of the shower, the Doctor was pleased to note as he toweled dry and wrapped it self-consciously about his waist that Rose had thoughtfully left a care bag next to the cracked door instead of setting it inside and invading his privacy. 

Inside were a pair of soft grey cotton bottoms and a loose white tee shirt, items which he quickly scurried into because a towel didn’t leave much to the imagination and he could admit to himself that his current incarnation was much more conscientious of such things than his last one. Additionally present were an unopened disposable shaving kit of the kind one might find in very fancy hotel suites (which he made use of as he’d been on a bit of a lack of self-care bender and had stubble beginning to get uncomfortably beard-like on his jaw and cheeks) and a comb, which he utilized to tame his damp blond locks back into their shaggy but proper place. 

Feeling better than he had in days, the Doctor gathered up his damp clothing and walked back out into the main part of the flat. Rose was sitting on the couch with a book on particle physics open wearing a dark blue tank top and loose petal pink cotton bottoms. She smiled at him and nodded to the stair’s railing, where he noticed a clothes line that could be extended over the stairwell. Snickering slightly at the idea of someone coming up the stairs having to avoid damp laundry, he strung his clothes up to dry and joined her on the couch. 

Rose set down the book and bit her lip. She took a deep breath and then began to explain. 

 

In the end, she told him everything relevant about Bad Wolf, her birth father dying when she was a baby, meeting leather him and then getting to know pinstriped him, and then finally what had happened at Torchwood. This particular Doctor was much more patient with her than either of the other two would have been, she decided, because for the most part he was silent except when he wanted to ask clarifying questions. 

At the end of it the Doctor let out a tired sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. He felt Rose squeeze his free hand and glanced down in surprise, not sure which stunned him more: the fact that they had been holding hands the entire two hours she had been talking, or the fact that he hadn’t really registered when they’d begun holding hands at all until that very moment.

The physical contact was something he found he’d been craving with his entire being and when Rose went to pull away he gently tugged her arm closer. Seeming to understand what it was he was really needing - again having a better grasp on that than he did, the Doctor noted with an exhausted yawn - she pulled him into a tight hug and he let his head drop onto her shoulder.

“Who did you lose?” Rose asked quietly. 

“His name was Adric,” the Doctor whispered hoarsely. 

 

And it was like the floodgates had opened. He told her everything to do with Adric, with Tegan, with Nyssa. Once started, she couldn’t get him to stop. They talked long into the early morning until he fell asleep mid-sentence, something that prompted a quiet chuckle out of her, and as delicately as possible Rose pulled the couch out into the full-couch recliner it formed whilst marveling at the Time Lord ability to go for weeks without sleep only to crash and slumber through the equivalent of the apocalypse. That done, she pulled a blanket up to his shoulders and climbed the ladder to her loft bed above. She clicked the button on the remote she kept there for the lights and then drifted easily off into sleep.

It was the most peaceful either had had in years. 

\^*?*^/

The Doctor awoke late the next morning to find that he’d slept for a total of seven hours. Usually this irritated him because he felt like he was sleeping his life away, but on this occasion he couldn’t deny that he felt more refreshed than he had in ages. He noted with additional surprise that at some point the couch had been made into more of a bed-shaped piece of furniture and sat up, stretching pleasantly stiff muscles of the kind not associated with kipping on a narrow sofa all night and took in his surroundings now that it was day out. 

The windows were pulled wide open and a wonderful breeze ruffled the bunched curtains bringing with it the smell of damp earth and growing green things almost ready to go dormant for the winter; the trees on the edges of the property were already beginning to turn into an explosion of color. Something that smelled even better than the outdoors, however, was the scent of coffee mingling with frying breakfast meat and he hummed contentedly as he found the operating controls of the reclining feature and got the couch back into its accustomed state of being. Once freed of the furniture, he padded silently across the cool wooden floorboards toward the kitchen nook. 

Rose was already there, still in her pajamas and dancing along to a song unfamiliar to him on the radio while she made breakfast. Instinctively his mind reached out to make her aware of its presence and she paused in what she was doing, entire body stiffening. He bit back a curse at his stupidity in giving in to that baser instinct while the emptiness in his head made him desperate for telepathic contact and was formulating an apology when she turned to him with a strained but genuine smile.

"'s not your fault, you couldn't help it," she said sympathetically. "I'm just not used to any of that kind of thing so it startled me a little. 's different."

"Good different, or, or bad different?" He asked tentatively. Rose's face lit up in an odd mixture of pained nostalgia and happy nostalgia, so he assumed that would be something his future self had been want to say on more than one occasion.

"Just different," she said with a laugh before walking up to him and taking one of his hands in her own to squeeze it gently in reassurance. "But you? That feels good. Sorta... right, like you should be there with other people that feel like you." The Doctor let out a nervous chuckle and nodded at that before explaining. 

"Gallifreyans are touch telepaths, but there's a collective telepathic field we're all connected to. For the most part it's just a somewhat simultaneously irritating and reassuring thing in the back of one's mind, but when another member of our species is near that presence becomes clearer than the rest and helps us easily identify one another when off Gallifrey. We can't properly speak to one another without tactile contact, but we can give each other a nudge to say hello."

"Can... can you teach me?" Rose asked, biting her lip. His hearts faltered in their rhythm at both the insecurity in her voice and the amount of trust she was putting in him by making that request.

"It would be my absolute honor," the Doctor replied as he smiled at her. Rose's posture relaxed noticeably when he gave his answer and she let out a breath before flashing him one of those tongue-touched grins and returning to the kitchen. Instead of sitting at the bar counter he elected to follow her in. "Do tell, what is it exactly you're making?"

"Eggs, toast, sausages," she replied easily before a mischievous glint entered her eyes. "Unless you want to swap out the toast for banana pancakes by any chance..."

"You don't mind banana pancakes?" He asked, entire demeanor brightening even further than it already had been from a typical good mood to astoundingly happy. 

"Not if you make them," she retorted pointedly. "I'm rubbish at mixing fruit into batter, believe me neither of us wants that."

"You'd let me make banana pancake batter?" He squeaked. Rose laughed at that and nodded again. "Splendid!"

He bounced into the kitchen - which was a tad too small for bouncing, but she indulged him because he was obviously involved in something that brought him glee that he wasn't allowed to partake of too often - and set about mixing things up from scratch. She directed him to the equipment he would be needing when asked and focused on the protein part of the meal instead, and soon the tantalizing aroma of banana pancakes was mingling in the air with the coffee and sausages. 

They moved about the tiny kitchen with relative ease; the Doctor tried to be self-conscious of Rose's personal space but gave it up as unnecessary when she 'd reached across to grab something early in and had ended up with her ear pressed against his shoulder to do it, and he found that she'd adjusted seamlessly to his natural rhythm without much effort required. Before long they were seated at the bar counter tucking into their breakfast and he grinned proudly when she bit into a banana pancake and let out a whimper of happy pleasure. 

"Good?" He asked smugly. She rolled her eyes at him and then smirked. It was a look he was quickly coming to recognize meant she was about to do something that would throw him for a loop - and that she knew it would too. Sure enough, Rose reached over to one of the nearest cupboards and pulled out a jar of honey. He watched with fascination as she drizzled some onto her pancakes as if it were syrup and then proceeded to practically purr over her breakfast. 

"Ever had it with honey before?" She asked. He shook his head and she slid the jar over to him. "You should try it. 's good." It certainly smelled good to his sensitive nose, so he shrugged and did a test run before proceeding to apply a generous amount of the amber-colored viscous liquid and grinning when that got a laugh out of Rose. 

 

Washing up with relatively relaxed... up until the moment Rose blew some soap suds into his face, and then it was all over. It took a further fifteen minutes after the dishes were done to dry down the entire nook, and afterwards they both needed showers to get the suds out of their hair. His usual clothes had dried out overnight and he felt much more comfortable in them when he'd got out smelling like Rose's shampoo. 

The phone rang around noon and the Doctor unashamedly listened in on the one half of the conversation he was privy to. Rose told her mother that she was fine, she'd just been tired the previous night, and that she wanted a quiet day in unless there was something that desperately needed doing. Apparently there wasn't, because a few moments later she had joined him on the couch and was asking him to give her a crash course in telepathic etiquette before they even got in to seeing what it was she was capable of. It took all of fifteen minutes, really; most of it was general 'don't go into someone else's head without permission' and 'if that ever happens to you you should know that it is the physical equivalent of' type of information. He then promised her that immediately after assessing her abilities, the first thing they would do would be to erect some mental shields to keep her safe and once the TARDIS had enough power he'd grab some books for her to practice technique with. 

When that was done the Doctor leaned away from her, his expression nervous and - dare Rose say it - shy. He had moved to sit sideways on the couch with his legs criss-crossed in front of him on the cushions and was fiddling with one of his shoelaces.

"Okay, give," Rose sighed as she mirrored his position and then dramatically flopped backward so that her spine was pressed against the arm of the sofa. He gave her a tense smile in return and she sat up straight. 

"IfI'mgoingtohelpyousetupyourshieldsI'llneedtobetelepathicallypresentinyourmind," he said quickly, the words exploding out of his mouth as he let out a heavy breath. Rose blinked at him once, twice, three times, and he retreated emotionally into the safety of his thoughts as he berated himself for even suggesting it. 

"That's what you're all bothered about?" She finally asked. He ducked his head and nodded. "It's not a big deal, not really. You've done it a couple of times before, I know what to expect." He raised his head to stare at her incredulously and she squirmed uncomfortably under his gaze. "What?"

"Do you know, I've had companions who needed some telepathic help before for a faster, safer recovery and I've never offered?" He said slowly, softly. Rose felt her face heat as she understood the meaning behind that statement and suddenly found great interest in the ceiling to avoid making eye contact in case he figured out just what their confusing mess of the sometimes-amorous friendship they had. "You're something special, Rose Tyler."

"Thanks?" 

"Well on that note..." The Doctor raised his index and middle fingers to both of her temples and gestured for her to mirror that action; they sat facing one another and leaning in slightly to reach the other's temples. They both closed their eyes and concentrated. 

The moment Rose touched his temples she became aware of his mind literally within her reach, and she waited patiently for him to make the first move just as she had on other occasions. His presence was familiar as it hovered on the edge of her awareness, all shades of silver chrome and rich navy, and she could instinctively tell based on the way the colors shifted what his emotional state was. She wasn't sure how she was doing that, but she was. Ingrained instinct. And right now he was all kinds of tense verging on panic.

"Relax," Rose said soothingly, removing one of her hands from his temples to gently massage one of his at the side of her own head until she felt the muscles ease into a calmer state. She then did the same to his other hand and heard him let out a few deep breaths when she returned to the position he'd asked her to assume.

"I just... haven't done this before with a companion, much less someone who actually wants me to be doing it," he admitted softly. 

"Not even with Susan?" Rose asked, and she could feel his surprise faintly echoing back to her through their temporary link.

"I told you about Susan? I don't- oh. Well, I mean I did, but my telepathic abilities were so weak in my original body that we only did it when she was developing her abilities as a child on Gallifrey. And at that I wasn't a particularly active participant; I was there to moderate while one of her tutors properly instructed her how to do everything, because I was so useless," he said morosely. Rose sighed and decided the only thing for it was to open the metaphorical door wide open before he'd asked. The moment she sensed his surprise she spoke.

"Well look at this as your opportunity to make up for that then," she said patiently.

The Doctor tentatively entered her mind and let out both a telepathic and audible gasp. Instead of the typical hallways he usually told people to envision and the resulting doors that contained, he was standing in the TARDIS' library. Memories lined the shelves as books and the furniture was gone save for a few astrally-projected cushions on the floor in front of the fireplace, but still. And, aside from a single glass-fronted padlocked shelf - behind which he could easily guess was any future knowledge about himself he wasn't supposed to see - she was open to him. Nothing else was hidden. 

«I trust you,» Rose’s mental construct said honestly as she plonked herself down on one of the cushions. 

«This is a beautiful mindscape you have here,» the Doctor commented mildly as he mentally made himself at home sitting across from her on the cushioned floor. Rose snorted at that and he cocked his head slightly to the side. 

«That’s because the first time we did this you made a comment about how my mind was as messy as my room,» she said exasperatedly. «The TARDIS decided to take pity on me and leant me a few books on constructing one’s mindscape. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the look on your face the next time we did this.»

«Cheek,» the Doctor retorted with a laugh. Rose grinned smugly at him and then stilled, waiting patiently for him to make the next move. He cleared his throat and nodded. «So, the first step in this process is to envision the strongest walls you can think of and then focus on keeping them strong. I’m going to try and break through it, all right? We’ll start off easy, and then I’ll slowly get more insistent. I’ll stop if I sense I’m hurting you, okay?» Rose nodded and they withdrew from the mindscape to take on a more intangible presence. 

Rose wracked her memories looking for the most indestructible thing she could think of and suppressed a whimper as the White Wall came unbidden. She focused on shoring it up, telling herself it wasn’t actually that wall, but traumatic moments can rear their heads in the oddest moments and the correlation left no doubt that it would on this occasion.

‘Rose! Hold on!’  

Her walls crumbled and she broke away from him to slide onto the floor of her flat, sobbing. The pain of the disconnect of the telepathic conference was nothing to what she was feeling in her heart. The Doctor’s arms were suddenly wrapped tightly around her as he pressed two fingers to Rose’s temple and projected as much comfort, affection, and sense of security that he could toward her and she twisted slightly to bury her face against his neck and cried. 

“Rose, I’m sorry,” he said anxiously in a panicked voice as he moved one of his arms up and down her back and pressed frantic kisses to the top of her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean- I didn’t-”

Well, that just wouldn’t do. Rose made an astounding effort to pull herself together - the fact that the man she’d loved and lost was currently cradling her against him blaming himself for hurting her because he didn’t understand helped - and she pulled away just enough that they could look into one another’s faces.

“It’s okay,” she choked. “Not your fault.” 

“Rose, I hurt you,” he said brokenly as he brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “I pushed too hard on your shields.”

“Didn’t,” Rose argued. He opened his mouth to protest and she held up a hand to tell him to wait while she got her breathing back under control. He absently added to the running tally and remained quiet. “You didn’t,” she continued. “I made the mistake of choosing the wrong building materials when I started.”

“What?”

“What did you see?” 

“A... a white wall,” he said slowly, relaxing ever so slightly but not enough for her liking. “I thought it was an odd choice. Drywall isn’t known for its durability.”

“It’s not what it’s made of that’s strong,” Rose sighed shakily as she bit back another sob. “‘s what it represents. That wall... that wall stood between me and our home universe as the only tangible proof that... that I was separated from you. That we were worlds apart and nothing could break down that wall once it was sealed for good.” She dropped her gaze to the floor and nuzzled into his chest, her next words coming out muffled. “You said picture the strongest wall you can think of and... and I should have known better, I really should have, but I decided to use that anyway, and it just brought it all back...” 

“We’re done for the day,” the Doctor said quietly as he traced soothing patterns across her back. Rose’s entire body tensed before she squirmed her way out of his grip and crossed her arms at him. 

“I need to learn, Doctor,” she argued. “And honestly? If I can’t get over what happened then who’s to say it won’t be used against me in the future?” Her eyes were large and scared, but they were determined, and he felt all of his excuses and arguments dissolving like a fine morning dew in the summer sun. “I need this.”

“Fine,” he sighed, moving to touch her temples again as she mirrored him. 

 

They worked long into the afternoon; Rose kept setting up her barriers and gradually strengthened them, and each time the Doctor upped the ante to build her tolerance and broke through her white walls to reach her and envelope her in a comforting, encouraging embrace. 

Chapter Text

“We should tell them,” the Doctor said softly as he traced patterns across the bare skin of her arm. 

“Tell who about what?” Rose mumbled as she struggled to rise to the world of the living. The Doctor shifted his weight on the ladder leading up to her loft bed and continued to make featherlight touches up and down her arm, sincerely hoping this would get her awake more quickly but wouldn’t involve her throwing a lamp at his head like his attempts the previous day had. 

The TARDIS had been repaired for three days now and the Doctor had moved his beloved ship into the narrow space of Rose’s walk-in, the logic being that they had the wardrobe room to pick from for clothes, and despite having a perfectly good room on board he had elected to kip on the reclining sofa whenever Rose made him take a short sleep (which had been every other evening so far), and when he wasn’t spending one or two hours sleeping he was working on doing an overhaul of the worn TARDIS systems. 

During the total four days he’d been in the parallel universe he hadn’t once been formally introduced to Rose’s family, and quite honestly he wasn't sure how he felt about that.

“You know who I mean,” he said pointedly as she swatted lazily at his tickling efforts to get her out of bed without violence. Rose grimaced and reluctantly sat up. 

“My mum’ll just freak out, and Mickey won’t be happy either,” she complained. “I’d rather not tell them until we’re ready to go.”

“We can go now if we want,” the Doctor argued. “I’d just rather hedge on the side of caution and make sure your telepathic shields are strong before we set out back to the home universe. It may take weeks or months for us to locate the future incarnation of me that you travel with, and studies show that adapting to telepathy is far easier in a familiar environment.”

“Doctor, if you’re not ready to let me go yet that’s okay,” Rose said understandingly. The Doctor deflated somewhat, conceding that she’d touched on the actual matter that counted rather than taking his flimsy excuse at face value. He was still terrified over what would happen when he went back for Nyssa, and each night that he got a few hours’ fitful sleep he awoke shouting after Adric in nightmares that forced him to relive his worst failing yet over and over again in agonizing detail. 

“I’ve always had to come up with excuses, it seems, to keep people from leaving me,” he sighed. “No one wants to put in any real effort to getting to know me well enough to even want to genuinely stay.”

“I did,” Rose mumbled sleepily, leaning forward until the tips of their noses touched. Just as had been the case the last few times she’d done that, the Doctor felt his breath hitch and his hearts begin pounding erratically. Rose Tyler had a way of fogging his mind up without putting any real effort behind it, and he was starting to suspect that Rose’s cumulative scent of mingled shampoo, deodorant, natural oils perfume (she told him she'd started wearing it because her previous brand had played havoc with his olfactory senses), and human hormones was a Doctor-specific drug. He couldn’t get enough of it and he found it more intoxicating than a full bottle of ginger beer mixed with hypervodka. 

The fact was, he'd known her less than a week and he had no idea how he was going to let her go at the end of all this even if it was to bring her back to a version of him where she could stay. He was the Doctor, always running, and he was able to leave to his next adventure at any time but he stood still for her. 

It probably had something to do with the strange, fuzzy feeling in his chest every time she smiled at him. 

"When do your sick days run out?" He asked as she finally gave up trying to roll over and go back to sleep. He'd pestered her into wakefulness, something he counted as a small achievement.

"I haven't taken one once since I started working there so... sometime next month?" Rose replied cheekily, lightly shoving him in the shoulder so that he'd hop off the loft bed ladder and let her out. He obliged, happy that the pink and yellow human was finally awake after pacing the flat for the better part of the evening while she slept. "Did you make breakfast?" She asked as she took in the flat. "And... clean?"

"I... got bored," the Doctor explained sheepishly. "And the TARDIS kicked me out because my tinkering got on her nerves." Rose muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'undomesticated hyperactive Time Lord' and plodded off to grab her morning cup of tea. He grinned and followed. He noted the suspicious glance she threw her toaster - which admittedly was looking more beat-up than it had previously - and decided to ask something that had been bothering him for the past few days. "Would I be a terrible flatmate, do you think?" 

Rose choked on her tea and he rolled his eyes.

"Oh, I suppose I got my answer then," he muttered sarcastically, taking a particularly aggressive bite of the toast he'd made up. 

"No, no, I just-" Rose was laughing now. "You've done pretty well. I think the first version of you I traveled with would be okay for at least a week depending on if he could tinker with things or not, but the second version..."

"Climbing the walls after two hours regardless?" The Doctor guessed with an amused smile. Rose smirked, nodding.

"I mean he got cabin fever if we spent two straight days in the TARDIS so yeah." She leaned forward against the bar counter and smiled at him. That fuzy feeling was back. "Speaking of which, I was gonna go in to Torchwood and turn in my last reports so that I don't leave loose ends. 's not fair to my team to do that. 

"Team? You haven't actually said anything about what it is you do there."

"It's a slightly more militaristic version of U.N.I.T., but that's only because this universe's Earth has been invaded a few times and you weren't there to take care of it." The Doctor grinned at the comment. "Wanna come with? I could get you a visitor's pass and then 'accidentally' lose you while you mysteriously end up in the acquired artifacts room to see if anything overly dangerous needs to disappear or not."

"Rose Tyler, are you suggesting espionage?" He mock gasped, leaning forward. Rose mimicked his pose until their faces were mere inches apart. 

"I think I am, Doctor. Interested?”

"Immensely."

\^*?*^/

Torchwood hadn't been at all what the Doctor had been expecting. They'd arrived at Canary Wharf to a beautiful lobby of large windows, sleek chrome, and a color palette of whites and blues and looked more like a techno-company than a military-based operation. This theme remained present with the glass lift and the floors they passed on the way up to roughly the middle. 

"Bit different, yeah?" Rose asked with a knowing smile as he paused to examine his immediate surroundings.

"Just a bit," he replied distractedly, startling when a lanyard came out of nowhere and landed over his head. "Were you trying to play horseshoes or something?"

"If I were I'd be winning," she snarked with a cheeky grin. "That's your visitor's pass, so don't lose it. There's a big difference between being escorted out for disturbing the peace and being apprehended on suspicion of sabotage when it comes to these blokes and I'm not keen on filling out all the paperwork that'd generate.” 

"Duly noted," the Doctor retorted with a purposefully sarcastic and incorrect salute. She smacked him on the arm and then walked toward one of the larger offices on the corner of the building. "Oh, you're high up on the food chain." To his surprise Rose blushed.

"Yeah, well, I had to work for it despite what some people think. I might be the Director's daughter but I hold my own." Her voice took on a fairly bitter tone. "Doesn't mean tongues don't wag." 

"Mm." Rose glanced up from her paperwork and suppressed a fond sigh. The Doctor was indulging in his eternally-present curiosity by exploring the contents of her office and was currently examining the two diplomas on the wall. "When did you get these?" He... sounded impressed. One was in quantum physics at Cambridge, the other in foreign language at University of London. 

"Sorry?"

"Loving the duality. Quite impressive indeed."

"Thanks. I never finished my A Levels in our home universe so I sat through those here, then... I wanted to be able to get back to you, so an understanding of quantum theory was a given. The second one was because I wanted to travel." 

"Yes, and the certificate of mastery in the baguazhang martial arts form?" Rose shrugged.  

"They told me that if I were to qualify for field work I needed training. I was on an Avatar: The Last Airbender binge and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Very pretty fighting style. Mostly defense and using the opponent's strength against them."

"What languages did you study?" The Doctor asked, sitting on the edge of the arm of the only extra chair in the room instead of properly on the cushion. 

"Esperanto - which is the second-most spoken language in Europe here - Latin, and Arabic. I had a lot of missions in Egypt dealing with Osirians two years ago and was in the region for months."

"That is..." He was looking at her as if she'd hung the stars, fully aware that he was, and not ashamed in the slightest. "You are quite incredible, you know that right?" 

"I learn better if I have a goal to work toward," Rose murmured as she blushed in embarrassment. "And I needed to be distracted."  

"From what?" He asked, though he had a sinking feeling he already knew. The pain from old wounds flitting across her face was a good indicator as she took a steadying breath and explained.

"When I first got here, I was depressed. Insanely depressed. Then, three months later, I get a message from future you and we followed the signal to Norway. Thought I was going home, but... the universal walls were too unstable, and you couldn't get through without both realities collapsing. So you said goodbye, burned up a sun to do it, and I decided I wasn't gonna take this lying down. Was going through field training for Torchwood when all that happened and applied myself. Then I studied and sat for my A Levels. Got good marks. Surprising what you can pick up when you listen to what your time traveling friend says. It got me into Cambridge, anyway. I had to really fight for that quantum physics degree. Math and science aren't exactly my cup of tea, but I'm too stubborn for my own good and had a reason to pursue it. No honors, but I passed with a reasonably decent score. 

"By that time I was part of a field team investigating extraterrestrial occurrences on Earth and my Captain wanted to retire, so I applied and got the job. That meant I traveled all over the place, so Esperanto and Arabic were a good choice. Still learning Mandarin at the moment, actually."

"And... the Latin?" He asked curiously. Rose smiled weakly. 

"The Latin was because it sounded fun. It wasn't fun, but it was worth it considering how many languages are offshoots. But uh, yeah. I kept myself busy, never stopped running from one thing to the next. Bit of a workaholic, really. My mum told me my headaches were the result of an impending mental breakdown. Which, thank you very much, it wasn't, but still." 

"You didn't cope well with being trapped away from home, did you?" The Doctor asked quietly. Rose's expression turned sad and soft as she stood from her desk and walked toward him, stopping in front of him as she cupped his jaw and gently stroked his cheek with the pad of her thumb. He forgot to breathe.

"I didn't cope well being trapped away from you," she corrected. That fuzzy, warm feeling was back in his chest and for once he ignored what his head was telling him to listen to his hearts. Slowly, giving Rose ample time to back away if she wanted to, he leaned forward and pressed a light kiss to her lips. She didn't react immediately, but after a few seconds she returned pressure. It was short and chaste but affectionate and genuine and neither felt particularly awkward when it was over. She smiled at him, which made his brain fritz out for a second, and then linked their fingers together before leading him out of the office.

"Come on, Doctor. Let's go shopping in the archives."  

 

They'd just gotten to the lift when Rose's mobile rang. She frowned at it but, upon seeing the caller id, she sighed.

"I need to take this. Louise, hi. What's up?" The Doctor tried leaning in to listen to the other half of the conversation but Rose fixed him with a look and walked a good few paces away. He pouted but took the hint. The call lasted for two minutes and thirty-seven seconds (and twelve milliseconds, but he wasn't counting or anything) and during it Rose's comments became more and more concerned while her expression changed from annoyed at the interruption to worriedly reserved. 

"...Right," she finally said at the end of the call. "I'll check it out and get back to you." More chatter. "Ye- no, NO. Don't approach it, because if it's what I think it is no one else should go near it. Yea. Bye." She then turned to the Doctor. "We need to go check something out.” 

"'We'?" He questioned innocently, hoping desperately that his expression didn't show how pleased he was by the automatic and subconscious inclusion. Rose just rolled her eyes and nodded. 

“Yes, ‘we.’” They picked up an energy signature in Edinburgh.”

“And that’s bad because...?” 

“The type of energy signature is consistent with ion storm drives,” Rose said as she slid her hand back into his and tugged him along. “I’d say ‘let’s take the TARDIS’ but the less amount of moving around we do the better, yeah?”

“Unfortunately,” the Doctor sighed. He leaned slightly against her arm as they walked and pretended it was absolutely normal behavior to be that close when he got odd looks for it from the people around them. “So what’s our mode of transport then?” 

“Train. Should be there by late evening, but it doesn’t leave for another hour. In that time, we need to go shopping.” 

“Oh, do we have to?” The Time Lord whined. Rose snickered. 

“Yes. I don’t fancy sitting next to you on a train for that long an amount of linear time when you have nothing to do but fidget.” 

“Now that’s something I take high offense to,” he sniffed. “I’ll have you know I’m a complete joy to have around on long road trips.” 

“Does joy mean the exact opposite in Gallifreyan than it does in English?” Rose commented innocently, laughing at the mock-offended look on his face. “Come on. I don’t own a copy of The Brick and I figure it’ll take even you a couple of hours to read that out loud.”  

“To be clear, we’re going shopping for things to keep me occupied on the train?” He asked with a raised eyebrow as he willingly let her drag him out of the building and down the pavement toward the retail district. There was a bookstore right next to them and they entered in. She nodded and he blinked. “...Oh.” 

“What?” 

“People really don’t... buy me things,” he explained, ruffling the back of his hair again. “They assume I don’t need anything or that I wouldn’t be interested in anything they might think to get, but that’s just not true.”

“Future you told me the Christmas before we got separated that he’d never actually participated in one before,” Rose murmured sympathetically as she bit her lip. The Doctor’s grip on her hand tightened and he steered them into an alcove where they could talk freely, staring at her with wide soft blue eyes. His back was to the hallway and Rose angled herself so that he blocked the view from there. 

“You let me have Christmas with you?” He whispered in such a vulnerable voice that her heart broke a tiny bit for him.  

“Yeah. Complete with alien invasion to keep things interesting, but we did Christmas dinner and presents and everything,” she said. “My mum, who doesn’t like you very much by the way-” 

“I gathered.”

“-couldn’t believe it when you told her and she made sure me and Mickey did everything properly since it was your first one. Declared a Christmas truce and all.” Her voice lowered to a shy murmur as she scuffed the floor with the tip of her boot. “You seemed to like the glass dragon figurine I got you on Demekta.”

“You bought me a Demektan glasswork?” The Doctor gasped. Rose nodded. The grin that brightened his face seemed to brighten the world to her. “They have some of the best craftsmanship... oh, Rose thank you!” He darted forward to encase her in a heartsfelt hug and she wanted to melt when the all-too familiar phrase passed his lips as he pressed a kiss to her hair. “Thank you, precious girl.”  

The hug lasted a little longer than was platonic and they were interrupted by a cough from the desk monitor.

“Sir, ma’am, I’m going to have to ask that you not engage in public displays of affection with your significant other in the store,” she said both parts equally apologetic and awkward. 

“Right, yeah, of course,” Rose breathed as she and the Doctor bolted out of sight and took refuge behind a series of well-stocked shelves. Neither looked at the other as both their faces were flaming with blush. Rose then made a show of clearing her throat rather loudly (which received several annoyed shushes from the other patrons and unintentionally broke the tension) before tapping him on the shoulder so that he would turn to face her. 

“What’s your favorite genre?” 

 

That was how they ended up with the entire Harry Potter series in hardcover special edition as it came to pass while they were browsing that he had absolutely no idea what that was (yet). He still looked confused when she paid for them and swept out of the store, an act which left him to hurry after with the heavy bag in hand. They were about to get into Rose’s car when she froze, nostrils flaring slightly. The Doctor eyed her in concern. 

“Rose, are you all right?” He asked worriedly. Rose nodded, her gaze still detached and far away.

“I can smell chips.” 

“...What...?” The Doctor lifted his head slightly and tilted his chin upwards trying to catch the scent and when he couldn’t he frowned. “I don’t smell anything.” 

“That way,” Rose said pointing. She took off at a fast clip and the Doctor sighed before following after her. He was surprised to find that there was, in actuality, a chip shop nearby and pondered on the likelihood of a human smelling that out when he couldn’t before his attention was drawn to the sound of Rose moaning in ecstasy before purring as she plopped a chip into her mouth. Things slotted into place and he couldn’t stop the puzzled frown on his face from turning into a knowing smirk as he leaned forward to steal one of the golden delicacies. 

Rose actually growled at him. 

“Please?” He said in what he well knew was a begging voice, making sure to flash her the kicked puppy impression with the wide eyes and slightly pouting lips. It was interesting to watch Rose physically melt at the action and just managed to catch the softest ‘awww’ that she let out before shoving the chip basket squarely in between the two of them. The Doctor linked his right hand with her left and enthusiastically tucked in to his allotted half of the newspaper-lined basket. He soon noticed, however, that Rose wasn’t grabbing any. She was staring at their intertwined fingers with an indecipherable expression and he suddenly worried if he’d overstepped an unspoken boundary. 

“Is this okay?” He asked quietly, indicating their hands. Rose seemed to shake herself out of whatever reveries she’d been invested in and flashed him a tongue-touched smile, caressing his hand with her thumb.  

“Yeah, ‘course it is. I just noticed... we always fit,” she explained clumsily, repeating his earlier motion of their joined hands. “I’ve known three different versions of you now, three different bodies, but our hands always... fit.” She inhaled sharply and scooped up a few chips before plopping them into her mouth. “Anyway.”  

The Doctor found himself reflecting on their joined hands while Rose used her remaining one to drive back to the estate in her car. He took note of the way their fingers meshed all-too perfectly together, the way their palms lined up just right so that the exterior curve of her smaller one sloped into the interior curve of his larger one. The general shape that prompted their wrists to arch toward one another and thus bringing the entirety of their lower arms that much closer together in the grand scheme of things. How he didn’t much care if it were practical; he didn’t want to let go if it was unnecessary to do so. 

They pulled the car into the drive, the gravel crunching underneath the tires, and got out. Both were almost to the door of her flat above the garage (and he was just now realizing he’d never asked the reason for that) when a sharp voice made them freeze in their tracks. 

“Rose?” 

“Hi Mum,” Rose said nervously, uttering an alien expletive under her breath that made the Doctor wince for its offense level. 

“Who’s himself then?” Jackie asked casually whilst assuming a stance that was anything but. The Doctor just gave Rose a look silently asking for permission; this was her mother after all, and he didn’t want to make things worse somehow by saying anything that would get Rose in trouble. He’d didn’t want the last thing she remembered of her mother to be a fight. In response, Rose shook her head ever so slightly and then spoke.

“I went to the office to file my reports before they’re late and got a call in from Louise, something huge going on in Edinburgh, and I need to get packed to head out this afternoon. He-” here she nudged him lightly in the shoulder- “is coming with for scientific expertise and we didn’t see any point in me having to go back to Torchwood before heading to the station. In and out, Mum, five minutes tops.”

“And what’s your name then sweetheart?” Jackie asked with a guarded smile. 

“John,” the Doctor said promptly, reaching out to shake her hand which she warily accepted. When she still looked expectant her racked his brains looking for any surname not ‘Smith’ as she probably knew he went by that pseudonym and finally settled on one. “John Lambert. Pleasure to meet you.” He made a show of glancing at Rose’s watch and frowning slightly. “We’re going to miss the train.”

“Right yeah, let me just get my overnight,” Rose said hurriedly as she flashed him a grateful glance and darted up the steps to the flat. This left the Doctor and Jackie awkwardly smiling at one another as they waited before her voice carried through the window she’d just opened. “John, can you come up here a moment? I have some case files I need to pack for this.”

“Coming!” He called before flashing another smile at Jackie (which faded when she frowned in response) and then dashed upstairs to help her. “Which files?” He asked as Rose dashed about the flat.

“Figured you might want to pack some things before we head out,” she explained distractedly. “‘Sides, I kinda wanted to ask before automatically assuming that I could borrow one of your trans-dimensional tote bags from the TARDIS.” 

“Oh by all means go right ahead,” he said easily. “And any clothing you find in the wardrobe room as well that you like. I’ll be in my room grabbing some extra clothes and scientific equipment we might need.” Rose nodded and they stepped into the police box together before going their separate ways. 

The Doctor spent a good ten minutes gathering everything up and stuffing it into one of the aforementioned totes before heading back out to the console room and was pleased to note that Rose was already there.

“Ready to go?” He asked. Rose nodded before biting her lip and he frowned slightly before glancing at the viewscreen and seeing what she was looking at. “Ah. I can turn the TARDIS invisible if you want, though I suggest you also lock the door to your closet just to be on the safe side. That way if anyone curious decides to snoop around there will be less chance of discovery.”

“I really, really like that idea,” Rose admitted. He nodded and went about making her invisible before they left, and she securely locked the closet itself after they were out. Hefting their respectable totes they went back down to the ground level and once again locked up, passing Jackie as they moved to Rose’s car. He offered to take her tote and dutifully put both in the boot before sliding into the passenger’s seat and waited. Rose and Jackie seemed to be having a heated conversation; it wasn’t an argument per se but it was close, and he couldn’t help but wonder what it was all about.

Rose pulling open the driver’s door with more force than necessary startled him out of his thoughts and he opened his mouth to ask what was going on when she beat him to the explanation. 

“She’s accusing me of being a workaholic and not looking after myself,” she muttered shortly. The Doctor nodded, jaw clicking shut as teeth hit teeth, and let the matter drop. The engine roared to life and they pulled out of the driveway, Rose absentmindedly going through the motions, and he could tell that she was lost in her thoughts without even having to wonder what they consisted of. The last few days, let alone years, of her life were more than sufficient. 

 

The train left on time... for once. Rose had told him that it was usually late by a good half hour sometimes and he wasn’t keen on that. Despite being in first class (thanks entirely to Rose being an heiress, he was sure) it was still crowded. 

Their seats were side by side with a table in front of them and two other people sat directly across. The halls and open spaces in general were narrow, and grimacing slightly Rose leaned away from the aisle to avoid getting smacked in the head as people walked past. The Doctor had offered to switch spots with her but she had outright refused, something which had confused him greatly. 

Their quad neighbors (being the persnickety elder woman and bored-looking teen boy) ignored them in favor of putting in earplugs and earbuds respectively, and after they’d been traveling for a good few minutes Rose shifted in her seat until she was leaning against him with her head resting against his shoulder.

“Read to me?” She asked quietly. The Doctor stared down at her for a few moments with wide eyes before shifting in his own seat so that his back was against the window. This made it easier for him to hook an ankle on the support beam of the table and stretch out, and Rose hummed approvingly as she snuggled more comfortably against the side of his now-partially reclined body. He picked up the first book in the series and carefully broke the spine in before clearing his throat, and he began reading. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense...” 

As he read, the Doctor noticed that the boy sitting across from them had pulled out one of his headphones and was making quite the effort to pretend he wasn’t paying attention. So were the people directly across from them in the aisle (as they had a little girl with them). He paused in his narration and smiled at each of them in turn, ignoring Rose’s slight chirp of confusion from where the top of her head was angled into the curve of his jawline where it met his neck. 

“Do you want me to read louder so you can hear better?” The Doctor asked kindly. The boy hesitated a few moments before nodding sheepishly and both parents of the little girl chuckled when she let out a squeak that sounded a tad bit like a yes. “All right then.” 

 

In total it took him the entire train ride when one factored in bathroom breaks and his pausing every so often to take a swig of water or pop in a piece of fresh peppermint gum to soothe his throat by the time they rolled in to Edinburgh late at night. 

“I love Scotland,” Rose breathed happily as they gathered their two totes and walked toward the hotel the rest of the team were staying at. She leaned against his side as they walked and the Doctor smiled down at her when she did so, twining their fingers together and swinging their hands slowly back and forth in a lazy manner. 

“What about it do you love?” He asked softly, genuinely curious. He’d rarely ever been there after Jamie had been so cruelly forced to leave the TARDIS unless it was a favor for U.N.I.T. or an accident of landing and got the feeling based on that comment that Rose might just be showing him the sights for once instead of it being the other way around. 

“I’m always reminded of the first time I came here,” she explained before adding conspiratorially, “you still owe me ten quid for the bet you lost.”

“And what bet was that?” 

“On whether I could get Queen Victoria to say ‘we are not amused’ when we ended up at the Torchwood estate in the highlands and we got chased by a lupine wavelength haemovariform.” 

“...Sorry?”

“Space werewolves,” Rose laughed when he just looked confused. “We got knighted and then exiled from the English Empire in the span of five minutes.” The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her as he attempted to figure out if she were joking or not and they paused at the doors to the lobby for a moment before they both burst out laughing. He tapered off, only to dissolve into badly-suppressed giggles when Rose mimicked a wolf howl, and this was the way he presented when they walked into the lobby and the Torchwood team was waiting for them.

“Ah, hello,” he said with a cough as he tried to pull himself together. 

“It’s him, isn’t it?” One of them asked curiously. There were four in total; two men and two women. 

“Yep,” Rose said happily, popping the ‘p’ and flashing the group a smile. The Doctor abruptly sobered when he realized that there was no hint of her tongue caught between her teeth when she smiled for someone other than himself (and couldn’t help but remember all of the times he’d noticed prior to that moment but it never registered). He had a Special Smile that she gave him. Grinning like an idiot at that knowledge he tightened his grip on her hand and leaned in a bit more into her personal space. She nudged his arm gently with her elbow and then gave the introductions.

“Team, this is the Doctor. Same one that was here for the Cybermen, but. He hasn’t done that yet, so don’t bring it up too much okay?”

“But how can- oh, time travel,” the older of the two men began to ask before he interrupted himself and then continued mumbling under his breath about quantum theory. 

“Doctor, this is Dr. Malcolm Taylor, our scientific advisor,” Rose continued as if Malcolm hadn’t spoken. “His protégé Petronella Osgood (who abruptly adjusted her glasses upon seeing him and took a swift inhale of her inhaler before stuffing it back into the pocket of a pinstriped pantsuit), and the head of tactical sciences Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.” 

The Doctor stiffened at the name and eyed the older of the two women closely, noticing the familiar deep warm blue eyes and curve of the nose that belonged to his friend. He couldn’t help but wonder if Kate existed in the home universe and if she did how involved he’d been as she grew up. He hoped at least a little bit but suspected that was likely not the case.  

“And what am I, used goods?” The younger of the two men who had spoken when they’d first arrived joked. He had short, spiky platinum hair and a cocky attitude that belied a good nature. 

“That nuisance over there is Jake Simmonds,” Rose retorted with a snort. “I’ve authorized the Doctor to help us on this case, yeah, so don’t give him a hard time.”

“I’ll try my best to drive him bonkers,” Jake promised cheekily. The Doctor couldn’t help but smile in response. “Now, it’s late and most everyone had to come in from London or Cardiff, so I say we all retire to the suite and start planning tomorrow yeah?” 

“You read my mind,” Kate groaned as she rubbed at her eyes and walked toward the elevator. 

The suite was on the top floor near the fire escape and was one of those main sitting areas with the bedrooms attached of the kind used for large business conferences and the Doctor noted that there were three bedrooms in total. 

“Have to shack up together mate,” Jake said apologetically as he walked past the unexpected guest to flop dramatically on the large sofa in the main room. “Good news is that we figured Mickey would be joining us so there’s a bed made.” He then frowned slightly. “Hey, why didn’t he come Rose?”

“His grandmum’s funeral was yesterday,” Rose reminded the man kindly. 

“...Right.”

\^*?*^/

Rose was mostly asleep when she heard a soft knock on her door. Groaning, she rolled over to stare at the clock and growled. So much for being left alone by having her own room (not because she was team Captain or anything, oh no, but because she was notorious for being horrible as a room companion due to not appreciating waking up in the morning). A moment later the knock sounded again and she heard a voice that made her smile despite herself.

“Rose?” The Doctor whispered tentatively. Shaking her head, she answered.

“Come in.” The door creaked open slowly and the Doctor stood uncertainly in the entry. “Well, close it behind you if you’re gonna stay.”

“I just... Malcolm snores very loudly and I don’t need any sleep tonight so I thought I’d continue reading the Harry Potter series you got me, but I don’t- that is to say, I felt guilty about reading it when you weren’t there?” 

Rose frowned slightly at that but allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness. As her vision cleared she noticed that he was still fully dressed (but sans coat and shoes) and clutching Chamber of Secrets to his chest with a hopeful expression on his face. On said face, perched on his nose, were a pair of half-moon reading glasses with delicate golden frames and she highly suspected they were there only for aesthetic. And oh, did they make him look entirely, innocently adorable in much the same way she’d found the pinstriped Doctor’s specs dead sexy. Smiling, Rose grabbed the long decoration pillow off the floor and dumped it squarely in the middle of the king-sized bed before reaching over and patting the now-segregated side invitingly. The Doctor beamed at her and crossed over to sit on top of the duvet. A moment later his voice carried gently through the room and Rose was asleep in less than ten minutes.

 

The Doctor noticed that his future companion dropped off almost immediately and nodded satisfactorily to himself. He’d been out in the main room reading on his own (he hadn’t lied about feeling guilty while doing it though) and had heard her tossing and turning for the better part of the hour once they’d all settled in for the evening. It had been a split-second decision to help her drop off to sleep by reading a bit aloud, and once she was out he went back to doing so silently. 

Rose’s breathing was deep and steady, the rhythm comforting to him as it ebbed and flowed on the other side of the pillow wall she’d erected, and the Doctor couldn’t help but smile softly as a piece of hair fell into her face and got blown gently into the air every time she exhaled. As he reached over to move it back behind her ear she made a slight sound of contentment and nuzzled against his fingers; his hearts constricted and it took great effort to not murmur something back to her in response. That fuzzy warm sensation in his chest felt bright and heavy as if his hearts couldn’t contain it and he marveled.

He was smitten, he realized quite suddenly as Rose sighed in her sleep and snuggled deeper under the blankets. Completely and totally besotted. He wasn’t even sure how that had happened when he’d known her less than a week, but- oh. 

Long-forgotten text in his Gallifreyan poetry class at the Academy suddenly (for the first and only time) made itself useful. The words rolled off his tongue in wondrous awe in lyrical chiming Gallifreyan as he gazed wide-eyed at the woman sleeping nearby.

“And for a time when I was young

I knew not what love could entail

But for a brief moment of Star-crossed bliss

I brushed souls with my future

Only to realize that this Thread of Fate

Had been woven also into present and past

 

Though separate we are one

Though unformed the Bond persists

Though shadow they may be 

Though prior to meeting I forget

 

My beloved walks beside me always

Until I breathe my very last.”

It was a poem that came from a time where love on Gallifrey meant unconditional surrender of the separate entity to become joined in mind and soul with those that held one’s hearts and it had been picked over and analyzed in the clinical tendency of the modern era to speculate that the deep-seated passion of true love had the capability of echoing back from the future and into the past. It suggested fate, destiny, even the concept of soulmates, and had been publicly discounted to be the wildly inaccurate ramblings of a lovesick fool. 

Naturally, it had become the Doctor’s favorite poem just to spite the professors. 

Yet sitting there that night the Doctor decided that there was a significant grain of truth to the words, and gently humming an Irish ballad he brushed a few more strands of hair out of Rose’s peaceful face to kiss her lightly on the forehead. 

“Sleep well, my hearts.” 

\^*?*^/

The next day dawned bright and early and heralded a thick cloud cover intent on downpour later in the afternoon. They were told their duties and split up to accomplish them; Rose moved light-footed down the street with the Doctor close on her heels, her advanced stun gun strapped to her hip though she highly doubted she would use it. Hadn’t before, probably wouldn’t ever. The Doctor had protested its mere presence until she’d shut him up by explaining that she wasn’t allowed out in the field without it and that the safety was always on though he’d still grumbled - this time at the system and not at her. 

The ion storm engines they’d detected with the equipment were a small part of a rather large black market operation underway being run by a species that Rose jokingly called the Ferengi. It was somewhat unfortunate that they had large, pointed ears that rippled and twitched with their emotional patterns or that their actual species name was ‘Felsenthyee’, which was just close enough to stick. The Doctor shook his head at the reference, chided her for being a geek, and blushed when she’d given him a tongue-touched grin and told him in no uncertain terms that he was merely the pot calling the kettle black. 

A week into the investigation they discovered a weak point in the operation and had set about exploiting it. Two weeks in saw them crouched behind a set of large crates while extraterrestrial beasts of burden were filed onto and off of an auction stage.  

“Those are almost extinct,” the Doctor growled, shifting against Rose on accident as he tensed and deliberately restrained himself from racing out and having a few heated words with the auctioneers. He stilled as she put a hand against his leg and allowed himself to be soothed by her presence.

“They’re extremely common in this universe,” she whispered soothingly back. He blinked. It had been all too easy these past several days to forget that he needed to go home eventually. And, more importantly, that he had to drop Rose off with his future self and forget about her until it was safe to remember once again. The thought made him shift even more closely to her as they waited to make their move and he ignored the inquisitive look she shot him in favor of memorizing the already-deeply ingrained features of her person. 

They heard their cue and went to complete their part of the plan. Of course, that was when things went wrong. 

A firefight erupted between the black market private security and the Torchwood team, the animal pens bursting open as the beautiful and strong work animals stampeded. In the confusion the Doctor had to leap out of the oncoming path of severely sharp antlers only to flatten himself against a wall to avoid being trampled and the chaos made it difficult to spot where Rose had got to. He was so focused on not getting killed and making sure she didn’t get killed that he didn’t notice the Felsenthyee aiming a matter redistributer at him.

Rose’s scream made him whip around just in time to see the barrel raising, the flash of the muzzle as it went off. Less than a second later Rose was slamming into his body as she dragged him to the ground and, in true hypocritical fashion, the Doctor cursed fluently as he fumbled for Rose’s stunner and fired four shots into their attacker’s chest. The alien grunted, dropping to the ground and taking in several deep labored breaths. 

“Everyone all right?” Jake shouted. The fighting had simmered to a halt. “Kate?”

“Fine!” 

“Malcolm?”

“I’m alright!”

“Osgood?”

“Shaken but not stirred!” 

“I’m fine,” the Doctor called before Jake got a chance to ask. 

“Doctor...” his blood ran cold at the pain in Rose’s voice before he turned to see her crouched on the ground clutching her abdomen. His eyes widened in horror when he saw the dark wet patch slowly spreading on her shirt. 

“Rose?”

“Doctor, I don’t feel right,” she choked, coughing up blood. He took several steps toward her before freezing as her hands started to glow. She met his gaze and looked to see what he was staring at before her expression turned to one of terrified confusion. “But- but I’m not like you! I can’t- uh.” 

“Rose? Rose hang on,” the Doctor begged as he moved in as close as he dared. “It’s going to be okay.” The words tasted foul in his mouth and he internally cursed at them because he had absolutely no idea if Rose’s human body would be able to accept what was about to happen, much less why it was happening in the first place. 

“I’m scared,” she whispered before gasping in pain again. “Is it always this hot!?” She growled, sweat beading on her brow. 

“Your cells are burning love, I’m so sorry,” The Doctor whimpered as he sank to the ground and waited. He’d gone as close as possible without getting caught in the energy blast she would be emitting, and not for the first time he wished he knew what was going on. Rose nodded, then collapsed onto her side and curled into a ball as a ripple of temporal energy shot through her body. She screamed. 

“Doctor, what’s happening!?” Jake yelped. “What’s wrong with her!?” 

“Everyone stay back, keep away!” The Doctor ordered as Malcolm darted forward to inspect her. The rest of the team froze in place and just watched, horrified and feeling useless. 

Another wave of energy passed through Rose’s body and she writhed onto her back before her spine arched. She panted out one last cry of agony before she exploded with bright golden energy. It faded quickly, too quickly to be a full Regeneration - he would know, he’d been through it enough times - and when all was said and done she didn’t look any different aside from the fact that the visible skin where the weapon had blown through her shirt was clean and healed. The Doctor rushed forward and gingerly scooped her into his arms, curling his legs underneath him and staring down into her unconscious face with apprehension.

“Somebody call a med-evac!” Kate shouted. Osgood startled, reaching into her pockets to do just that. 

“Doc, is she okay? Will she be okay if she isn’t?” Jake fretted. He repeated his questions a few times over but the Doctor was no longer listening to him. His sensitive hearing had picked up on a new sound. 

Combined with a distinct change in Rose’s scent as her hormones and bodily chemicals changed was a stronger feeling of her presence in his telepathic perception. 

More importantly, he could hear the strong beating of two hearts. 

Chapter Text

“We need to get her home,” the Doctor murmured tiredly. “She shouldn’t be in a hospital. In Edinburgh.”

“It’s not safe to move her,” Malcolm argued. “We have no idea what happened to her and-”

“She regenerated. It’s a natural process my people go through when we’re about to die. I’ve done it myself four times now already.” 

“Yeah, but Rose is human.” The Doctor felt his throat constrict as he pushed a piece of hair off of Rose’s face. She looked so innocent and peaceful in her sleep. 

“Not anymore.” 

The tests had been extremely conclusive. Blood samples indicated all the Gallifreyan markers and the physicians working on her had been about to section for a contagion when he’d allowed them to take samples and tests of his own physiology to compare. All of them matched for species recognition aside from the obvious gender difference and he was itching to take her back to the TARDIS to run more thorough scans.  

But no. They were in Edinburgh until a positive change could be seen in Rose’s condition, and no amount of the Doctor’s telling them that she was in a healing coma or that it was perfectly natural after a Regeneration could convince them to release her early. 

So, instead, he sat by her hospital bed and read Harry Potter aloud to her knowing perfectly well that in her condition she could still hear him and process the information. The family had been notified. Mickey Smith, Rose’s childhood friend and ex-boyfriend, had arrived early ahead of everyone else.

Those introductions had gone... poorly. 

\^*?*^/

“So what, I’m just supposed to pretend that a total species change is normal?” Mickey had asked without preamble. 

“Beg pardon?” The Doctor had retorted, turning in his seat and peering over the tops of his specs. The mystery man in question had been leaning against the door with a resigned expression on his face. 

“You promised us Rose was safe after what she did with that whole Bad Wolf thing,” Mickey continued as if he hadn’t heard. “But no. No, if this is your definition of safe I really gotta wonder what you think the definition of ‘at risk’ would be.”

“I don’t- I don’t actually know who you are,” the Doctor apologized as he set his book (he was on Goblet of Fire now) down on the nearby table. “I’m going to assume you’re the Mickey that Rose has told me so much about, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t met you yet. I’m an earlier version of the Doctor you know.” 

The young man had looked surprised at that before huffing a sigh and slumping down in the only other available visitor’s chair available. 

“Figures,” he muttered. “You never do anything by halves.” At the raised eyebrow he received in response Mickey rolled his eyes. “I traveled with the pair of you for a few months, s’all. Then we ended up here by accident and I sorta... found my calling, helping these people fight the Cybermen. My gran was alive here while she wasn’t in our home universe, and the parallel version of me died while we were visiting. I couldn’t leave her for anything, not after missing her so much.”

“Rose said something about her funeral being a week or two ago?” The Doctor asked carefully. Mickey nodded, his expression turning even more crestfallen. He then smirked. It was a dangerous smirk, full of dark promises of things to come, and the Doctor wasn’t sure what to make of it.   

“Jackie’s gonna be here in two or three days,” he said smugly. “I suggest telling her immediately that you haven’t actually met us yet, because otherwise she’s going to smack you into your next body.”   

“Ah,” the Time Lord breathed as he ruffled the back of his hair and frowned contemplatively. 

 

True to Mickey’s word, Jackie was in a right state when she swept in to the hospital room. The Doctor barely had time to register she was there before he saw cartoon stars and ended up getting intimately acquainted with the floor, the left side of his jaw aching and his left cheek stinging with fire. The woman had one Hell of a slap. 

“I knew it!” Jackie shouted as he slowly, gingerly picked himself up and shakily stood whilst clutching at the side of his face. He hadn’t realized such a thing was possible, but Jackie Tyler was more terrifying than an entire fleet of Daleks. “I knew, when the two of you pulled up to the house, that something was going on. I just knew that it was you! Did you think it was funny, tricking me with that fake name? Have a laugh when I didn’t recognize you off the bat? Do you even know what it did to my daughter when you said goodbye? She went to that beach thinkin’ you were there to take her home! She told you she loved you and you couldn’t even say it back! And now you show up here, all blue-eyed puppy dog, just when she’s started to get back on her feet-”

“I’m a bit reluctant to tell you this in case you slap me again, but I’d never met you before that afternoon,” the Doctor interrupted as he inched farther away from the angry woman. He was trying resolutely to ignore how his hearts had stuttered to a standstill when he’d heard that Rose had said she loved him. Jackie blinked, her tirade spent, and simply stared at him.  

“What?”

“I’m not a new version of the Doctor you met, Mrs. Tyler. I’m from that man’s past. I landed here by accident on a survey assignment from the Lord President of Gallifrey and will have to send out a message to my fellow Time Lords to open a breach so that I can get back when I leave,” he explained. To his surprise the words ‘fellow Time Lords’ made Jackie’s beet red livid complexion turn as pale as ash. A few seconds later she was hugging him so tightly he found it hard to breathe.  

“Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” she murmured.   

“For... for what?” He stammered weakly, entirely terrified by this unpredictable turn of events. Jackie sniffled and buried her face into his chest. 

“Just am.” She then sighed and pulled away, ignoring his dumbstruck expression to look worriedly at her comatose daughter. “Is she okay?”

“Yes, for the time being,” the Doctor muttered as he composed himself. “She’s in a healing coma and should be out of it in the next day or so. Both of her hearts are beating strongly and there appear to be no post-regenerative complications. In short, she’s ridiculously healthy and just needs a good amount of rest.”  

“She’s like you now, isn’t she?” Jackie whimpered. Pete, her husband, came forward and hugged her close so that her back was flush with his chest as he rested his chin on the top of her head.

“...Yes. I’m sorry, I know this is a shock. Truthfully, I don’t even know how it was even possible. When she gets released from the hospital I need to bring her back to my TARDIS to run more thorough tests.” 

“See that you do,” Jackie muttered hollowly as she sank into the seat by Rose’s bed and took her daughter’s hand in her own. She startled slightly at the touch and looked back up at him with tears in her eyes. “She feels so cold now...”

“Her ah, my species has a much lower internal core temperature than humans do,” the Doctor assured her softly. “She’s... her temperature is right where it should be, that’s not a result of the coma.”   

Jackie just nodded and dropped her head to stare at her daughter’s peaceful face.  

\^*?*^/

Rose groaned softly as she came to. Her entire body hurt, it felt like, and it took a few moments to figure out where the sense of wrongness was coming from. She felt... different. 

Her vision seemed sharper, somehow. The scent of the hospital room was bold and clinical and she was suddenly aware of other people in the room because she could smell them. She could hear their heartbeats. Most were single, slow in comparison to the fast-beat double samba going on inside her own chest (and wasn’t that unsettling, having two heartbeats), but there was one... it was another double heartbeat, much faster than the rest, and she could smell Time and a different set of bodily chemicals on that person.  

Shifting slightly in the bed she glanced over to see that the Doctor was unconscious he had his head resting on crossed arms on the edge of her bed looking terribly rumpled and unkempt, breathing slow and soft. He was passed out, and Rose wondered how long it had been since he’d last slept. Or when he’d last eaten or engaged in any form of self-care. For that matter, how long had she been asleep? The answer came to her almost immediately

Two weeks, six days, nine hours, and forty-five minutes. And twenty-four seconds. 

She somehow doubted he’d moved much during that time. Subconscious memories floated to the surface; even in a healing coma, her now-advanced and quite impressive Gallifreyan brain - and that was what she was, she realized with a sick feeling in her stomach, she was a Gallifreyan Time Lady - her impressive brain had processed the sensory input of the room around her while she slept. He’d read to her almost non-stop when they were alone and he was nearly done with Deathly Hollows.  

And while she’d been able to sense him telepathically before her- oh, yeah, she’d Regenerated- his consciousness now felt stronger and more like they were compatible somehow. That made sense, she supposed. They were part of the same species now. 

That thought struck a cruel blow to her. She was now part of an endangered species. There were only the two of them left even if this younger Doctor didn’t know that yet. But he wouldn’t be alone. Never again. She could actually give him that forever she’d promised all those years ago.  

Unbidden, Rose reached out to gently run her fingers through his hair. Texture felt weird with these new nerve endings and she supposed she also had a slightly different composition of skin cells to further change the way she felt things. Regeneration. Did she look different, sound different? Was her personality different too? She caught her reflection in the darkened window and heaved a sigh of relief, startling somewhat as she felt the air in her lungs leave in its entirety and a new, stored set of air (Time Lords had respiratory bypasses, she remembered him saying once) began to be expelled too.  

Rose experimented with her new organs a bit by getting rid of the store before inhaling deeply, replenishing it. She was all too highly aware of feeling the bypass replenish its supply, of how her diaphragm moved to accommodate her lungs, of the way her other internal organs responded to being oxygenated. The way her blood moved through her veins, carrying with it the supplementary nutrients from the IV in her arm. The feeling of her stomach almost idling as it had nothing to process, the rapid pulse firing of the neurons in her brain. 

She seemed to be aware of everything now. 

Timelines swirled and danced almost in the subconscious of her vision; as if, if she focused, she could see them clearly, but they were just always there in the periphery. The sound of the electricity zapping through the cables of the equipment was a steady and increasingly irritating buzz and Rose focused on the sound of the Doctor’s heartsbeat instead.  

She ran her fingers through his hair again and he startled, sitting bolt upright and staring at her with wide blue eyes. She was suddenly all too aware of the eternity there. Her human mind that couldn’t see in the fourth dimension hadn’t been able to understand the depth it saw, but her Time Lady mind certainly could. It was both beautiful and terrifying, ageless yet ancient, and she swallowed thickly before dropping her hand from the back of his head to his shoulder.  

“Hi,” she whispered hoarsely. There were two other people in the room. One was her mother, asleep in the chair in the corner, and the other was a nurse that hadn’t noticed she was awake yet. 

“Hello,” the Doctor whispered back. Her hand slipped from his shoulder to his arm and unthinkingly he reached out to twine their fingers together. The moment he did so she felt a bright spark of empathic awareness and she shivered at the unexpected connection. The Doctor’s face turned a rather vibrant shade of red as he abruptly dropped her hand in embarrassment and leaned backward in his seat. “Sorry,” he added quickly.  

“‘Sorry?’” Rose echoed, confused. If it were possible, he blushed further. 

“Touch telepathic,” he reminded her gently. “Most species it’s impossible to form any sort of connection without touching the temples, even when you were- Ah, human we had to do it that way, but because we’re the same species now...” 

“...Right,” Rose murmured as she felt her own face flush. They both startled when the nurse noticed she was awake and let out a loud squeak of surprise, the high pitch suddenly painful to Rose’s newly sensitive ears. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Doctor wince as well and felt a little bit better knowing that she wouldn’t have to deal with this alone.  

After that it was a flurry of activity and poking and prodding and at the end of it Rose looked to her mother with tears in her eyes. Jackie leapt immediately into protective parent mode and shooed them all out (save for the Doctor despite the look on her face that very much suggested she would have liked to). When they were alone Jackie helped Rose to stand and they made their way into the the attached unisex bathroom so that she could get changed out of her hospital gown. There was no mirror in said bathroom so she made do with inspecting the area she’d got shot and resolved to make liberal use of the full-length mirror she had at home. At present she was wearing a soft, roomy cranberry sweater with loose-fitting grey jeans and a pair of worn trainers.  

\^*?*^/

Rose had been quiet on the train back to London and hadn’t spoken a word even when the Doctor had offered to drive in her place, simply acquiescing by tossing him the keys before sliding into the passenger’s seat. He was beginning to get a bit worried, truth be told. 

“You all right?” He asked quietly. Rose nodded.

“Yeah. ‘s just a lot to process, a lot to take in,” she murmured.  

“You can talk to me about it,” he offered. “I won’t judge.”

“I know you won’t. I plan to. But...” 

“But...?”

“But I’d like to do that when you don’t have to focus on the road,” she finished pointedly. “I kinda want your full attention, selfish as that seems.” 

“It’s not selfish,” he assured her. “Your body went through a traumatic experience and I’m the only person that comes even relatively close to understanding what it feels like. Tell you what, when we get back to your flat we’ll order takeout and then we’ll talk. Deal?”

“Deal,” she said with the ghost of a smile.  

“Wonderful.” He paused for a moment before giving in and asking about something that had been bugging him for a while. “Why don’t you live inside the mansion?” 

“The first time I visited there there was this party and the parallel version of my mum got upgraded by the Cybermen,” she explained. “I couldn’t live in that house. I don’t feel safe sleeping there at night because-”

“Because...”

“Because I don’t feel safe without you anymore,” she finished on a whisper. 

“...Ah.”

Neither commented on their mutual increased hearts-rates even though both heard it.

 

The Doctor was as good as his word. He got them back to the estate and Rose jogged up the stairs of the flat to jump in for a shower only to find that the water pipes had burst down at the garage level. She headed deeper into the TARDIS in search of an en-suite and let out a soft coo of happiness when her full bedroom from the future appeared before her. 

As she let herself soak for a leisurely long time in her tub she gently explored her newfound senses and physical abilities. 

Holding her breath underwater with a bypass? She hit ten minutes before she started to go spare. Crank the water up as hot as it could go? She literally felt her body temperature adjust to make that bearable and comfortable. 

A soft chuckle of amusement whispered in Rose’s mind as she drained the tub and hopped into the shower for her rinse and to shampoo her hair. She paused, soap only half-lathered, and her eyes widened when she realized that that was the TARDIS communicating with her. Rose sighed softly and let TARDIS sing soothingly in her mind as she washed. 

Meanwhile, on the Doctor’s end of things, he’d parked the car and dropped by the house proper to alert Jackie to the fact that her daughter was home before going back to the flat. He then ordered pizza and took notice of the note Rose had left for him saying that the water was broken so she was in the TARDIS and smiled at the smiley face she’d drawn before deciding that a change of clothes and a hot shower wasn’t all that bad an idea himself.

Entering the console room his eyes widened, expression going slack. He could feel Rose and the TARDIS telepathically conversing and gasped at that, because that was something only pilots bonded to their ships could do. He’d never heard of a TARDIS bonding with more than one pilot at a time before and was about to send out a mental inquiry when the TARDIS beat him to it with an explanation - a series of images pertaining to Rose opening the TARDIS’ heart and then an almost smug montage of the two of them actually insufferably adorable together. 

Bond, she was saying. Bond

He just wasn’t entirely sure if she meant that they would be bonded in the future or if she was telling him to make a move. 

Once he’d got his shower and changed into a pair of his preferred jimjams he went down to the garage level to accept the pizza and pay for it with the wad of paper money Rose had left out on the counter. The contents smelled absolutely delicious as he walked back into the TARDIS and closed the doors with his foot, setting the boxes down on the console and asking the ship to kindly tell him where Rose was as well as move their food into the media room or library - whichever one the ship thought would make Rose most comfortable for their impending conversation.  

The soft, happy chirp he got in response made him smile softly in thanks before he followed his ship’s directions. They led him to a white door with a golden-embossed rose carved into it and he gently pushed it open. 

He froze, berating himself for not knocking, when he stumbled upon her standing in front of her full-length mirror in her regular pajama tank top but missing the bottoms twisting and turning every which angle.

“I thought that something might have, you know, changed,” Rose said quietly without looking at him. “But I look the same.”

“If you could see inside you wouldn’t think so,” the Doctor commented mildly as he valiantly resisted the urge to stare at her legs and instead handed her her jimjams to change into whilst keeping his gaze fixed on her face. She nodded and pulled the pants on without making eye contact, suddenly embarrassed. 

“Where are we going?” She asked a little too casually as they walked side by side barefoot down the hallways a few moments later. “The galley?”

“What makes you think the food’s here already?” He asked just as casually, just as falsely. Rose considered for a moment before her expression turned sheepish.

“I can... um... smell the lingering scent of pizza on you,” she said awkwardly. The Doctor grinned at the answer and chuckled. 

“Media room or library. Which would you rather talk in?”

“Media room,” she answered immediately. “I’m gonna wanna watch something while we eat just to relax and de-stress after the day I’ve had.”

“Like what?” The grin he got back was full of mischief.

“They made Harry Potter into movies,” she said in a song-song voice. 

“Really?” He gasped.  

\^*?*^/

It turned out that she didn’t really want to watch a movie at all while she ate. Or maybe she did, but that wasn’t all she needed right then. Within twenty minutes of the opening credits Rose had moved from the opposite end of the couch to him to snuggling against his side and ten minutes after that she had her face pressed against his neck. Uncertain of what it was precisely that she felt she needed at that moment, the Doctor hesitantly wrapped her in a tight embrace and rested his chin on top of her head. 

A few minutes later she started shaking ever so slightly and her hitched breath alerted him to the fact that she was crying. He began humming a soft Gallifreyan lullaby under his breath as he ran a hand up and down her spine in slow, comforting movements and her arms snaked around his torso to hook into the fabric of his sleep shirt at the back. 

“You feel so warm now,” she murmured in between gasping hiccups. His grip tightened momentarily before relaxing and he changed from his humming to whispering soft words of comfort instead. His voice seemed to soothe her, so he skimmed through the facts in his mind before alighting on something that he could talk for hours on without running out of material. 

So he told her the history of Gallifrey. 

 

The next two months were a series of two steps forward and one step back. Most days, Rose did quite well in adjusting to her new physiology. On those days the Doctor taught her of their species’ heritage and broke out textbooks he hadn’t laid eyes on in centuries. Higher mathematics and temporal physics were a bit of a challenge but she was used to viewing them as such. History fascinated her to no end and learning about Gallifrey’s culture seemed less like a chore for her than a higher calling. Languages were a breeze and the Doctor was somewhat jealous of her gifted tongue; learning Modern Gallifreyan had taken little to no time at all despite its complexity and while Old High Gallifreyan was more difficult she seemed to be enjoying herself.

Then there were the days where he could tell she was getting overwhelmed by everything. He would find her in the library or media room with her legs drawn up against her chest staring off into space, and it was on days like that that he decided to ease off the schooling to do something a little more fun. Whether that meant their leaving the estate to have a wonder about London for a few hours or just exploring the depths of the TARDIS - something he’d never really taken the time to do despite being her pilot for a good few centuries - he was always careful to not mention her change in species or lecture. 

The latter of the two was much harder to do than the first but he made an effort and, for the most part, succeeded. 

Rose was in charge of her progress; he let her determine when she was ready for something or not. And since she’d regenerated they hadn’t done any further work on her telepathy even if it was now extremely important, but that was much more intimate and heralded a clearer reminder that she was no longer human. She’d come to him when she was ready for that part. 

The Doctor had scanned her to the moon and back the morning after her breakdown in the media room and they’d both been relieved to note that she was completely healthy. Something that had given him pause was the Artron energy in her system, though. Her levels and advancement of her physiology suggested that she was on the equivalent of her ninth Regeneration, or her tenth body, and he’d been hesitant to ask about that. It had taken him a good week to work up the nerve, actually. But ask he did and her face had flushed bright red at an internal realization she’d had. 

Apparently the version of him she’d been separated from was at the same point in his Regeneration cycle. 

They avoided each other for the rest of the day when she told him that, both too embarrassed by the implication to address it.  

 

Autumn passed into winter and before they knew it Christmas was fast approaching. The Doctor had finally made peace with the rest of Rose’s family; he guessed it had something to do with the heated conversation he hadn’t been meant to hear where Jackie was talking low of him and Rose had responded tartly that he was the only thing keeping her sane at present but didn’t want to pry and get out of Jackie’s good graces. Whenever something broke in the mansion he was called in to fix it and he tried not to linger on the fact that they were doing it to help prevent him from becoming bored. 

Was he restless, yes. Did he want to get back to the stars, of course. But Rose all but painted galaxies for him and the increasing frequency of his catching himself trailing after her like a lost puppy gave him a clear idea as to the reason why he wasn’t going stir crazy yet. 

He just wasn’t sure if he could tell her. If it was even his place to, when she would be going back to a future version of him when it was all said and done. 

A week before Christmas Rose got roped in to going shopping with her mother. The Doctor seized the opportunity to enlist Mickey in helping him find the perfect gift for Rose; he’d never participated in a true Christmas before (U.N.I.T. Secret Santa back in his Third Incarnation didn’t count as far as anyone including himself was concerned) and was a bit confused about how to go about it. 

He must have searched every store in the greater London area before he found what he was looking for. 

In contrast, picking up token gifts of appreciation for everyone else was much easier.

 

“I want to move out of the flat above the garage,” Rose said one morning. It was one of those weekend moments when the pair of them trekked through the snow to the main house and had a large family breakfast with everyone else, and the comment left them stunned. 

“You sure sweetheart?” Jackie asked cautiously. She knew full well why Rose didn’t live in the mansion full time. Rose, who had been in the effortless process of simultaneously impressing and concerning Mickey by the sheer amount of food she could now shovel in in one sitting due to her highly superior Gallifreyan metabolism, swallowed and nodded.  

“Lisa made a comment about her stepdad kicking her out and I thought you could lease it to the staff when they need somewhere to be to help them land on their feet. Besides, I do all of my living in the TARDIS now that she’s fully recovered from her little trip across the Void and it wouldn’t be too much trouble to land her in my spare bedroom here.” She glanced at the Doctor for confirmation and he nodded, heartily agreeing with her statement. Whether she recognized it or not her ability to move beyond what had happened in her past without forgetting it was a sign of major healing he hadn’t thought he would be able to help her achieve and it warmed his hearts to see her doing so well with all of the changes in her life. 

Jackie shot him a glance that he realized meant she felt the same way he did and then smiled.  

“Oh, that’s great. Do you need any help packing what you want away, or has that already been done?”

“It’s all in the TARDIS already so the only thing remaining to do would be to get a lease plan set up,” Rose assured her. “Thought that’d be a nice Christmas present for her.” 

“That reminds me,” Pete said as he leaned back from his plate with a contented sigh. He frowned at Tony as the growing boy snatched one of his remaining sausages but didn’t call him out on it. “Due to... certain circumstances, we’re not hosting the Vitex Christmas event this year.” A meaningful glance at his daughter. “Figured we could all use a break.” 

“Thanks dad,” Rose murmured with quiet appreciation. She was still tetchy about people mentioning her species change to her unless it was the Doctor and she was slowly gaining progress but it was taking time. 

 

Three days before Christmas the Doctor woke up from a short nap and frowned when he got the impression that the TARDIS was laughing at something. Following the feeling to the source of her amusement he stepped out of his ship and meandered about the large house until he came across Rose in the family kitchen they’d shared their grilled cheese sandwiches in all those months ago. She was covered head to foot in splotches of flour (in varying degrees of dryness after mixing only partially with the wet batter for cookies) and glaring daggers at the counter where a huge, lumpy mess of dough (if it could be called that) was waiting to be rolled.

“Uh... what are you doing?” The Doctor asked politely. Rose turned around and sighed. 

“My brother wanted cookies for Santa and I thought I’d be a really great big sister and make them from scratch for him,” she explained. “Unfortunately I forgot one very crucial fact.”

“Which is?” 

“I’m rubbish at baking.” He burst out laughing and she swatted at him with her spoon, a motion which he dodged effortlessly. “I’m serious! I can cook reasonably well, you taught me how, but I can’t bake to save my life!”  

The Doctor had sobered somewhat at the admission that his future self had taught her how to cook, that tiny spot in his chest he’d decided to go ahead and reserve specifically for ‘fuzzy warm Rose feelings’ filling up once more with emotion before he made a split second decision. Rose squeaked when he pulled off his cricket jumper and rolled up the sleeves of his oxford, rinsing his hands and clearing off the mess on the counter with gusto.

“Baking isn’t all that different when it comes down to it,” he assured her. “I can teach you if you want.” Her eyes were sparkling with something he hadn’t seen directed specifically at him before as she nodded in excitement. “Come on then. Where’s the recipe got off to?” 

“Uh...” they looked around the kitchen and Rose burst out laughing. The Doctor smirked at the complete and total chaos. “It was here a minute ago, I swear.” 

“Of course it was,” he snickered. “Of course it was.” 

They found the recipe... eventually. It was buried under two cookie sheets and a sack of sugar, half drowned in milk, but they found it. 

“It’s ruined, I can’t read anything on this,” Rose complained. 

“Just think back on it and you’ll remember,” the Doctor encouraged. “You have an eidetic memory now.”

“...I do?” She asked in a very small voice. He paused as he took in her reaction. Today was a bad day, it seemed.

“...Yes. But never mind. I have a far better recipe, I promise. It was handed down to me by a very insistent Irishwoman who used it as a sort of currency exchange for services rendered when I happened to pass by and fix her television on accident with a signal emitter. Shall I teach you?” 

“I only believe half the things you tell me and the other half is on a ‘if I can see evidence I’ll believe it’ basis,” Rose teased, recovering some of her good humor as she smiled with the tip of her tongue poking between her teeth. He was finding it more and more difficult lately to suppress the urge to shove it back into her mouth.

...Preferably with his own. What was he supposed to be doing? Oh. 

“But cookies,” he exclaimed, pointing a finger at her as he danced around the island counter to grab ingredients. “Not too difficult to make, and I can assure your mother that there is absolutely nothing alien about this recipe whatsoever. Now, first for the dry mix...” 

They spent the afternoon making batch after batch of cookies together. It was all terribly domestic and he didn’t mind in the slightest. When she asked him how to roll the dough he came up behind her and absently wrapped her arms around her waist, resting his palms on her knuckles as he set up a soft back and forth motion with the rolling pin going first one direction and then another to try and get a perfect rectangular shape. 

It took a few moments to realize that she’d stopped breathing and that her respiratory bypass had kicked in and only then did he comprehend the position they were in. Abruptly springing backward the Doctor whirled to grab the cookie cutters, one in each hand, and presented them to her.

“Which one do you want?” He asked with a smile. Rose rolled her eyes and he saw her consciously get her blush under control - another improvement with her new physiology - before pointing to the one that looked like a snowflake. 

“Excellent choice milady,” he added as he handed it to her with a flourish. They worked in tandem - she with the snowflake and he with the one that looked like a pine tree - and slowly the trays filled.  

“...Those rows are really, really straight,” Rose commented mildly as she took in their handiwork. 

“...Our species as a general rule is very neat and precise when it comes to lining things correctly using the naked eye,” the Doctor said slowly as he placed the trays in the oven, trying to gauge her reaction. “We have a natural tendency toward perfectionism. Some, of course, less so than others especially where I’m concerned, but-” when that didn’t get a laugh out of her he knew it was a very bad day indeed. 

“I’m sorry darling, I know this has been hard on you,” he sighed as he wrapped in his arms and leaned back against the counter. Rose made no sound other than a soft sigh as she buried her face in his chest and he dropped his chin on top of her head. After a few minutes she pulled away enough to see him clearly and he reluctantly loosened his grip. 

“Sorry I can be such a pain sometimes,” she muttered. “‘s just... I’ll be doing really, really good and then I just get overwhelmed and- and...” 

“The first time I regenerated I got thrown into a Dalek conspiracy,” the Doctor said offhandedly. Rose’s eyes grew huge.

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. So here I am, newly-regenerated and despite having heard all about it at the Academy you can never truly be prepared for what it feels like, and the Daleks come trundling in pretending to be on the side of the human colony we happened to land at. So I’m mistaken for an off-world inspector who died- my own fault really it was somewhat stupid to pin his badge on my coat in hindsight- and my companions will not be persuaded that I’m who I say I am.” 

“And lemme guess, you didn’t tell them at all beforehand yeah?” Rose asked with a small knowing smile. 

“I take it from that comment that you have experience. But no, not really. I think until the moment I changed they weren’t even convinced I was anything other than human, really.” She bit her lip and rolled her eyes before moving farther away and he ached for her warmth.  

“We need to get started on the icing,” she reminded him pointedly.

“...Ah, yes of course.”  

While they were mixing the icing the cookies finished baking and, as he pulled them out of the oven and set them on the counter, Rose began whisking. Perfect collision ended up with a spritz of it all over his face. She squeaked and immediately hurried over to wipe it off. He took the opportunity to get some on his finger and dab it squarely on her nose. 

There was a long moment of tension before the Doctor dove behind the island counter and Rose came after him with the flour. She sorely missed her mark and he retaliated by springing up and catching her hair with the powdered sugar before retreating to safety.

“I’ll get you for that!” She threatened. Never one to back down from a challenge much less refrain from responding to it with a witty retort, he popped his head up and caught a mouth full of brown sugar. This left him aggressively spitting it out and Rose seized the opportunity to try again with the flour, dumping it squarely on the top of his head so that it fell into his face. He sneezed.  

Rose started snickering as she ran for the door and growling playfully the Doctor swept up behind her to wrap his arms about her waist and pull her off the ground.

“Get off!” She laughed. 

“Oh not likely,” he retorted good-naturedly as she squirmed in his grip. “I might turn my back and you’ll be standing there with the cream!”

“I would,” she admitted without sounding very apologetic, maneuvering so that her lower arms were braced on his shoulders and she was looking down at him. “I would.” Their laughter trickled off as his hold slipped and brought their faces closer together. He gently lowered her the rest of the way to the floor and let go. Seeming to hesitate for a moment, Rose pressed their lips together and waited for his response. 

The tentative return of light pressure made her smile before she stepped back to a safer distance.  

 

They made dinner for the entire family that night and every time Jackie tried sneaking in to suss out what it was they chased her out. She sent Tony in as a spy on one occasion but they bribed him with chocolate milk and he didn’t reveal anything either, much to his mother’s chagrin. 

It turned out that they’d made spaghetti from scratch. Homemade meatballs, red sauce, and noodles were set out in front of them and then topped with freshly-grated Parmesan, and the Doctor didn’t bother putting his cricket jumper back on or rolling down his sleeves. They were still a bit of a mess from the cookie fiasco earlier that morning but looked decent enough.  

Still, Jackie tutted as Pete took a generous helping of the fresh garlic bread and reached up to fix the Doctor’s hair from where it was sticking up all over the place. The action had both of them freezing for a few moments before he tilted his head downward to allow her better reach and she finished up with her mothering.

The meal passed with quiet ease, light chatter about nothing much at all dominating the table talk, and when it was over they cleared the dishes and set them in the sink. 

 

“Domini de Temporis,” Mickey remarked quietly as he and Jackie watched Rose and the Doctor fall perfectly in sync as they did the washing up. He was laughing at something she’d said, up to his arms in warm sudsy water, and she flicked the end of the drying rag at him with a smirk before setting a plate on the rack. “Apud domestici totalis.”

“I swear sometimes that you took Latin when she did,” Jackie muttered. He shrugged. 

“She gave me her textbooks when she was finished. Not like she needed them anymore. It means-”

“I get the gist,” she sighed. “Never thought I’d see the day.” 

“Not bad though?” 

“...No,” Jackie murmured, considering the oblivious objects of their interest. “I don’t think it is.” 

\^*?*^/

Christmas morning had Rose opening her bedroom door at two in the morning to see both the Doctor and Tony pacing directly outside. 

“Can I help you?” She asked sarcastically, leaning against the frame and narrowing her eyes at them. Both Time Lord and human child whipped their blond heads round to beam at her and she sighed. “Word of advice. It’s no use trying to wake Mum up before at least six. Believe me, I spent the first fourteen years of my life trying.”

“Maybe, but I wanna plug in the fairy lights on the tree,” Tony said as he bounced up and down on his toes. Rose pretended to consider for a few moments. 

“Okay. Why don’t you turn on the lights and pick out two Christmas movies okay? We’ll be there soon.” The boy skipped off down the hall and Rose leaned in toward the Doctor as they followed more slowly after. “Please tell me those cookies are missing from the plate.” 

“Want one?” He whispered back as he stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a brown paper bag. Rose rolled her eyes and smiled. “Not particularly a milk drinker, this incarnation, but I took one for the team.” 

“My hero.” 

“I should certainly hope so. I try hard enough.” She punched him in the shoulder. “Ow!” 

“Come on, you. Tony’s liable to start a riot if we keep him any longer.” 

“Mm...” the Doctor cocked his head slightly and smirked. “Toddlers wait for neither time nor tide, eh?” 

“Well, six year olds, but yeah I guess,” Rose laughed. 

“Rooooose, Doctoooor,” Tony whined. They exchanged a chuckle at the impatience in his tiny voice and picked up their pace. 

Tony had selected two of the Rankin Bass children’s Christmas films that Rose had loved when she was a child and had snuggled into the couch under a thick blanket, slumping against Rose’s side. She shook her head in amusement and snuggled in against the Doctor (who had settled himself in the furniture’s corner in the hopes that just such a thing would occur). 

About halfway through the first movie Rose noticed that the Doctor was shifting a tad restlessly. She was about to comment on it and suggest he maybe go for a walk or something when she realized that he was moving ever so slightly along to the music of the song (the one about being misfits before heading off on their own, of course he would love that) with a happy grin on his face. 

He was so utterly relaxed and content that Rose wished she’d known about this particular trick to put him at ease when they’d been traveling together. She couldn’t remember ever seeing him happier and paused at that, wondering why her perfect memory was failing her before realizing that her memory hadn’t been so perfect when she’d made that particular set of them. 

Rose couldn’t quite pinpoint the moment she’d stopped getting used to her new physiology and had started accepting it, but the revelation that she was finally acclimatizing put her in a definite good mood. She leaned more heavily against the Doctor’s chest to whisper low enough only he could hear. 

\^*?*^/ 

“I’m a Time Lady,” Rose whispered so softly the Doctor barely caught it. There was a confidence and acceptance in those words that she hadn’t exhibited before and he felt his hearts falter in their accustomed rhythm. A soft, happy hum issued from his mouth as he smiled and kissed her hair before she refocused her attention on the film. He spent the rest of the time watching her. 

 

When Jackie and Pete woke up at 7:00 they found that the reason for their uninterrupted sleep was that a movie marathon had been going on in their absence.

“Rose sweetheart, what are you doing up?” Jackie yawned. “He must have got you up at an ungodly hour to have gotten through those films.” She made no mention of the Doctor; for all she knew he never slept. Rose shrugged in response.  

“I don’t need to sleep that much anymore,” she said casually. Jackie eyed her daughter curiously at that and spared a glance for the other Time Lord Proper in the room. He was looking so proudly at her when he thought no one was looking and it took the older Tyler woman’s breath away to see the unguarded affection hidden in the depths of those soft blue eyes. 

“Presents?” Tony begged eagerly. Rose smiled and went to sit by the tree next to the presents. She tugged on the Doctor’s pajama pants leg and he startled slightly before glancing down and taking the hint. Tony jumped up on the couch and squirmed; he couldn’t sit still. 

“Come on then,” Rose laughed. “Someone go and rouse the Lump from hibernation, yeah?” 

“Already threatened to pour coffee on ‘im if he didn’t rouse himself,” Jackie huffed. Jake came prancing into the room with extremely damp hair and a thousand apologies but there was still no sign of Mickey. 

“Right, that’s it,” Rose grumbled. She stood and moved down the hall. Mere seconds later Mickey came sulkily into the family room. Rose settled herself back down by the tree and the Doctor leaned in to whisper. 

“What did you do to him?” He asked. 

“Threatened to expose dark, embarrassing secrets,” Rose replied with a smirk. “Privileges of being childhood friends and his ex.”

“Right,” he murmured, trying not to let his jealousy show. It was irrational, really, but he couldn’t help but feel possessive. Rose’s scent was all over him and his was all over her, and in any other society with a more advanced olfactory sense the message would have been clear. Typical human social structures, based on he-said she-said and terribly confusing visual cues. As if sensing his thought process Rose nudged his shoulder as Pete finished off saying something to Jake and Mickey.  

“Knock it off,” she chuckled. “It was over between us the moment I got in your box and flew away.” 

The time for presents was upon them. Rose instructed the Doctor how the hand-off process went as they moved around the group and soon enough everyone had a small pile beside them (even the Doctor, and he kept staring at it as if uncertain whether or not it was real). 

Among the more notable gifts were a set of custom made calligraphy pens for Jackie as she’d recently taken up the art, a photo album for Mickey filled with pictures of himself and his Gran, a premium grade toy lightsaber for Tony (of course), an inscribed pocket watch for Pete (a not-so subtle hint that he spent too much time at the office from Jackie), and a family photo for Jake that included him in it with a written note from Pete. 

The Doctor beamed when he pulled out a reverse-colored version of the cricket vest he had on; it was crimson with a white stripe on the chest and the black trim had been replaced by a sewn-on string of brightly colored Christmas lights. These lights appeared to be mini-TARDISes on the string with the top light and windows glowing. He immediately wriggled out of the current jumper and replaced it with his present sporting it proudly- if his smoothing it out every four minutes was any indication whatsoever that is. 

Rose gasped as she pulled out a Sonic Pen. The tip was crystalline rosy pink and the metal rose gold, the sides carved with petals and leaves and the clip was in polished chrome. There were stifled ‘oohs’ around the room and she turned to stare at the Doctor, jaw on the floor. 

“You like it?” He asked softly. The response he got was Rose throwing herself into his arms and he let out a yelp as they became buried in wrapping paper. 

“I love it!” 

“Well, if you’d just- Rose, it, there’s more,” he stuttered, laughing. “Look underneath!” Rose fumbled for the box and - after carefully extracting her Sonic - looked underneath the foam pad it had been resting on. She snickered as she pulled out a Sonic Screwdriver. The casing was bulkier and silver with a white stripe on it and a black neck leading to a hooped red tip with a nub inside it, but it was still obviously recognizable as a Sonic Screwdriver. Tossing it to him she asked, 

“Is this because I kept nagging you?”

“Yes,” he sighed over-dramatically as he flopped back among the paper, tucking the Sonic in his upper left breast pocket.  

\^*?*^/

The Doctor groaned as Rose shifted against his extremely uncomfortable stomach and let his head drop onto the backrest of the Tyler Mansion’s media room couch. It’s A Wonderful Life was on but neither paid it any mind.

“You gonna live?” She asked, and he opened one eye to a slit to see her teasing him with her tongue in teeth grin from where her head was resting mere inches away on his chest. If he actually felt able to move he might have chased after it.  

“You should have told me that I wasn’t expected much less required to eat the five servings of turkey your mum gave me,” he accused, wincing as the movement of his diaphragm as he breathed seemed to make him more uncomfortable. 

“I warned you that there was dessert too!” She laughed, though the movement of her stomach muscles seemed to have a derogatory effect. “Ooh...” she curled tightly into a ball, jostling him once again, and they both groaned at the unwelcome movement. 

“Yeah? What’s your excuse for eating way too much?” 

“It all looked so good and I don’t really have a good handle on how much I can eat in one sitting yet,” she murmured sleepily. 

“Fair point.” He raised an eyebrow as he heard soft laughter by his side before yawning. “What’s so funny?” 

“We’re a pair,” Rose said in a tone that he reckoned sounded slightly delirious from turkey over-exposure. “Look at us. Pair of ‘superior’ Time Lords, felled by Human Christmas Dinner.” The Doctor snorted at that and groaned again. 

“Ugh, this is unpleasant.” 

“Mm. Ditto.” 

Lethargy was winning out over the physiologically-reduced need for sleep and they both relaxed into an easy if physically uncomfortable silence. Rose was humming a carol without any real aim behind it and gently moved her arm out from where it was trapped against her chest and his shoulder to let it rest on his chest. Slowly, it dropped down lower as she went to wrap it around his waist. He met her eyes fearfully when she smirked somewhat wickedly, then squeaked in discomfort when she pressed down on his upper abdomen. She started laughing again.

“I think you’re distended,” she chuckled. He pouted at that and poked her in the torso.  

“Oh, as if you’re not rock-solid too,” he muttered. The resistance he met when he pressed his finger against her usually-soft stomach made it his turn to smirk. She swatted at him. “But case in point. The dinner was lovely, but I’m not especially keen to relive the after-effects of bad portion management again anytime soon.” 

Hesitantly, the hand that had been soothing his bruised ego by drawing patterns on his bursting stomach moved back up to his chest. It hovered near his temple and his eyes widened when he realized what Rose was suggesting with that.

“This okay?” She asked, suddenly immeasurably shy. 

“Of course,” he whispered as he brought his own fingers up to her own temple to mirror the posture. They both sighed as the temporary link was established. It had been far too long with far too little telepathic activity in the Doctor’s mind and Rose’s was still developing her abilities so she craved the contact even more so.  

«Feels good,» Rose murmured telepathically. The Doctor responded mentally as well.

«I was starting to get worried when you didn’t resume our lessons,» he admitted. Rose’s signature blossomed with heat and he got the impression she was blushing. 

«I didn’t want to assume you’d still want me in your head since, you know, since I changed. Was worried I might feel different or something.»

«Telepathic presence remains the same from one Regeneration to the next,» he assured her. «It’s one of the reasons my species bonds for life rather than depend on a certificate ceremony.» 

«...What?» The Doctor mentally winced at his slip. 

«Right. So, I’m talking about marriage here Rose,» he began gently. «Gallifreyan marriage was telepathic. A bond, like the one we’re using to speak right now, but imagine having one permanently with one single person for the rest of your life until one of you dies. One where you can always feel what your significant other’s emotional, or empathic, state is and you can communicate effortlessly to one another over great distances without touching. Now, I want you to picture if you can, a society where much of the population regenerates into someone entirely different externally periodically. If marriages were based solely on the exterior characteristics the way they are for humans how many of them would fall apart? But if the telepathic signature never, ever changes...» 

«...You’ll always recognize your lifelong mate,» Rose summarized, catching on. «But what if you meet your... What was it you said, ‘Bond Mate?’ Before they’ve met you?»

«Bonds are studiously proven to exist at the pan-temporal level,» the Doctor answered. «They exist always. It isn’t just telepathic for Gallifreyans. Our provisional, or engagement, bonds are. But lifelong bonding actually weaves the two separate timelines together so tightly that they merge into one path for their length of eternity. Where one goes, the other follows. One soul existing in two bodies, they so fall in sync. Something that major echoes back along the timelines, and the two people entering the union imprint upon one another even so far back as infancy to be someone they completely trust and care for.»

«My planet calls that ‘soulmates,’» Rose replied. «That’s basically what you’re suggesting, right? That two people are meant for each other because they complete one another?» 

«...In a sense, I suppose I am yes,» he conceded after mulling it over for a little bit. 

 

If anyone were to look into the mansion’s media room they wouldn’t have even imagined such a sensitive and important topic was being carried out. The two Time Lords were curled against each other on the sofa, eyes closed and foreheads resting together, breathing deep and steady. They looked to be asleep. 

\^*?*^/ 

He kissed her again at New Years’. Or maybe she kissed him. It was all a little hazy; Jackie, after discovering that while alcohol didn’t inebriate Time Lords unless they consumed more of it than was present in her impressive cellar but that even a thimbleful of ginger could make one tipsy depending on their tolerance, had spiked the punch bowl with ginger beer. Neither the Doctor nor Rose had noticed until it started affecting their cognition and by then it was too late.  

Feeling exceedingly buzzed and lacking his more natural inhibitions as a result, he somehow got it in his mind that it would be a spectacular idea to kiss her when the clock struck midnight and the calendars turned over as per planetary traditions among his favorite species. The plan went no farther than that. So, as people began to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, he tugged her flush against his body and tilted her chin upward for a proper kiss.  

It quickly progressed into a snog, wherein he sought to find that pink tongue that had been teasing him for the better part of four months but was somehow elusive in that instance. He found it exploring the ridges of his teeth and the kiss deepened. 

He spent the next two days hiding from her after waking up with a bit of a hangover alone in his bedroom on the TARDIS and remembered what had happened, horrified at the very idea that he had somehow taken advantage of her infamiliarity of the side effects of ginger on their species. 

Rose promptly rooted him out from underneath the TARDIS console on the third afternoon; the Doctor had thought that he would be safe being in such an exposed area considering she was supposed to be shopping with her mother, but that had been an obvious lie. So Rose had hooked her foot around his ankle and tugged as hard as she could, dragging him into the open to snog him within an inch of his life and leaving no doubt whatsoever in what was left of his brilliantly fogged mind that she had quite enjoyed his so-called ‘mistake’ at New Years’. 

Hence the uncertainty in who kissed who that evening.  

Telepathic lessons resumed in force and the Doctor had a harder and harder time not projecting his ever-deepening affection for her into their connection. There were times he was certain he felt Rose tamping down on some intimate emotions of her own but wirhour asking he couldn’t be certain, and despite the TARDIS beginning to make fun of him over his obvious ‘schoolboy crush’ as she put it he refused to do anything about it. She had to go back to his future self when they left. That was how it had to be.

It was just a question of when he felt he would be ready to go back, because Rose was becoming more and more comfortable with her new physiology with each passing day. The closer she came to being perfectly at home in her own skin, the more anxious and tense he got at the thought of having to let her go and forget about her until the memories unlocked permanently in his own personal future.  

When he wanted to torture himself, the Doctor liked to imagine what it must feel like the fall in love with someone all over again knowing that there was an infuriating sense of dejá vu but never being able to put one’s finger on the source of that itch. Or, even worse, having to watch Rose collect pretty boys - human boys - because she hadn’t fallen for him yet and still somehow feeling that he had a right to call her his. 

He didn’t even have that right now and it made his blood boil whenever another male even glanced at her while they were out walking the city. 

Ah, time travel. Such an exquisitely torturous set of probabilities and complex unsolved loops striving painfully for completion. 

 

Rose’s ability to see and interpret timelines surpassed his own, and the Doctor was disturbed more than once over breakfast when she accidentally tapped into her precognition and told him something that would happen to one of the family during the day only for it to have come true by the evening. The only thing that eased his frustration over their increasingly-complicated relationship was that she couldn’t read his timelines. 

He’d explained to her the possible reasons for that - including that they traveled together so he was involved in her life to a certain degree and that made it difficult - but made sure to stress the suggestion that bond mates could never see one another’s timelines once the relationship had progressed enough to be a solid certainty of fulfillment hoping she’d get the hint and openly ask him if he thought they were bonded in the future. He couldn’t read hers either, after all, and had said so. 

She never asked but he could tell she wanted to. He hoped she could tell that he wanted her to as well. 

 

Time Lords felt things very deeply, sometimes more deeply than humans, and as a result they had to practice hard at keeping a cool and level nature until it became instinctual. Rose was struggling with that and the Doctor couldn’t blame her; he never ascribed to that level of detachment either, so instead he taught her every single self-control tactic he had learned over the years that could be used to trigger their brain’s autonomic release of emotionally-inhibiting neurochemicals to take over when things got far too intense to think clearly. 

And yet...

“And yet,” the Doctor sighed as he worked on making a puppy-sized version of K-9 for Tony’s impending birthday in his lab, “there’s this little thing called love...” 

The fact of the matter was that he was hopelessly in love with Rose Tyler and he was fairly certain it might just end up killing him one of these days.  

 

Learning to control her emotions had probably been the hardest thing arose had had to learn yet. She’d taken a lot of time to study Vulcan culture from Star Trek in the hopes that some of that would rub off by virtue of default, but the carryover was slim. The thing was, there were some emotions she wasn’t certain she wanted to contain.

Rose had been in love with the Doctor since the words ‘I could save the world but lose you’ and she’d only properly realized it after he’d taken her back to see her father. Those feelings had only intensified once Jack came on board; the former Time Agent’s presence seemed to bring out a somewhat competitive side when it came to securing her affections and Jack had openly confided after two days of posturing that he was only doing it so that the Time Lord would get frustrated enough to make an open move. She’d appreciated that Jack was on her side in this and they’d developed their friendship into something more like doting big brother, impressionable little sister, as he attempted to give her relationship advice and stayed up late into the night chatting on her bed while he read the futuristic version of Playboy and she painted her nails. 

That was the one emotion she never wanted to contain: how she felt about the Doctor. Even this new new new (older) Doctor who had quite literally fallen into her life had swept her off her feet. It was the one thing she could never live without. This tiny little thing called ‘love.’ 

The fact of the matter was that she was hopelessly in love with any version of the Doctor and she was fairly certain it might just end up killing her one of these days. 

Chapter Text

Things wouldn’t have been close to correct if it didn’t stand to reason that Rose and the Doctor failed to manage avoiding some sort of major trouble when they had been beside each other for such an extended period of time. If one were to weigh the statistic possibilities of that happening when a trouble magnet and jeopardy friendly stood side by side, they would be amazed at the fact that something hadn’t happened sooner. Rose had been coming to terms with the concept that she might have lost her penchant for finding trouble and the Doctor had dared begin to hope that his ability to attract trouble had packed its bags when Jake and Mickey arrived panting on the steps of the mansion one morning looking pale as ghosts and for all the world as if the hounds of Hell had been snapping at their heels.

It turned out, they had.  

A team from Torchwood was on its way to ‘collect’ Agent Rose Tyler and her scientific consultant ‘The Doctor’ for help on a matter of potentially life-changing scale. 

Now, whenever the Doctor heard those words he got antsy. When they were coupled with ‘your presence is required’ he tended to head for the proverbial hills. For Rose’s sake, however, he stilled his tap-dancing feet and fell obediently into line by her side. There was no reason to be concerned, he told himself. Her father was the Director of Torchwood and she was respected among the community. The team from Edinburgh had been told in no uncertain terms that if word of what had happened got out it would mean she could end up dissected, and they were all good morally-conscious people who would never wish that on a colleague much less friend no matter how interesting a case it could prove.  

But as the lift descended deeper and deeper into the sub-basements of the Torchwood building and Rose’s hand reached out to squeeze his a little too tight, he felt unease broil deep within the pit of his stomach. 

\^*?*^/

The Doctor woke up strapped to a metal examination table entirely naked and reeling from the pain of multiple deep and open wounds upon his person. 

The room was empty save for the recently-sterilized tools associated with autopsy and a workbench off to the side that he realized with a sickening jolt had samples of bodily fluid, bone marrow, and small tissue samples lined up on a rack ready to be analyzed. While this wasn’t the first time this had happened to him it most certainly wasn’t the most humane (if such a word could be applied to the situation and he submitted a strong argument that it couldn’t) and the sooner the heavy sedative wore off and his mind could properly function again the better.  

He winced, testing the restraints on his wrists and ankles, before letting his body relax back onto the metal table. 

There were things he needed to do to get out of here. He needed to escape, then find his clothes and items of personal interest, and destroy the samples they’d already taken. Next stop would be to find his companion...

Who was his companion again? Adric was dead, Tegan had been dropped off at Heathrow, and Nyssa was off at a convention for a week wanting nothing to do with him at present. So who-  

“Rose,” he breathed, mind abruptly clearing of the post-sedative fog as panic set in and adrenaline flooded his body. If he was being dissected then so was she. “Rose!” 

The Doctor tested the restraints again and managed to summon enough strength to snap one. Typical human arrogance, really. He looked like them on the outside so they automatically assumed he wasn’t any stronger than them. But he wasn’t like them, not in the ways that mattered physically, and the second restraint snapped under his frantic efforts. With both arms free he was able to sit up and reach down to pull at the ones on his ankles.

Making quick work of those he shot to his feet, ignoring the pain of his injuries, and scoured the room for any sign of his belongings. Nothing. Oh, well. He’d find them eventually; first he needed to destroy the samples.  

Ten minutes later he was stumbling through the underground halls of the Torchwood base (or nightmare, as he decided it should be called) highly self-conscious of the fact that he was exposed in more ways than one. A room with a sign identifying it as ‘Inventory’ showed up on his left and he stepped inside, huffing a breath of relief when he saw his coat and jumper sitting on top of a bundled pile of items inside a bin. As he pulled his clothes on and did a quick stock of what was missing and what was not he cast his gaze around the room, fixating on another bin with Rose’s belongings inside of it. 

Gathering her things up the Doctor raced through the halls. He was actively seeking out the spark of her telepathic signature against his, something he wouldn’t have been able to do save for the fact that they were the only two Gallifreyans present in this universe, and he stumbled to a halt outside of Lab 12 when he heard raised voices inside.  

Suddenly immeasurably grateful he’d taken her advice and made himself a new Sonic Screwdriver he raised it to the nearest security sensor before making it think that there was a fire in progress. He then flattened himself against the wall as the door burst open and the scientists fled toward the closest exit. When they were all gone he slipped inside. 

What he saw broke his hearts. Rose was still unconscious on the table; she had tubes drawing blood and other fluids while very deep gashes had been opened up along her abdomen and arms. Some of them were still seeping blood even if they been sewn back up already and he growled low in his chest.  

It might have been easier to use the Sonic to open her restraints but he felt he needed the physical tension release of ripping them apart. Studiously avoiding anything that wouldn't preserve her modesty he ge extracted the tubes and stitched up the still-open cuts he then made quick work of destroying the samples. Rose whimpered as he gently placed a blanket over her and cracked open bleary whiskey eyes. 

"Doctor...?" She murmured, mewling in protest as she tried to sit up. She froze as the rough fabric of her covering brushed against bare skin and clutched it more tightly to her body, pupils blowing wide as adrenaline flooded her system and wiped away the last of the sedative. "What happened?" She demanded.  

The Doctor leant against the edge of the examination table and sighed tiredly, pinching his nose.  

"The last thing I remember is the team that escorted us in drugging us," he admitted. "The rest I inferred." Rose was silent for a long time. "Please say something." 

"'If it's alien it's ours,'" she muttered under her breath and winced when he finally dragged his gaze up from the floor to stare at her with wide eyes. "We have a Torchwood in the home universe, that was their slogan, but this Torchwood wasn't like that," she sighed, brow furrowing as she tried collecting her light-speed thoughts to form a coherent theory. "Unless this is the moment in this universe's history where they have a power change..." 

"Is that a guess or are you reading the timelines?" He asked patiently, aware that while her ability for precognition was exceptionally high she still struggled interpreting what she saw.

"Yes?" She replied, obviously confused before sighing. "We need to get out of here."

"I'll pull up the building schematics to find the best route out of here while you dress," The Doctor offered. Rose sent him a grateful if watery smile in response and eased herself gingerly from the table, blanket clinging to her curves, before gathering up her clothing and moving to the other side of the room. 

When she was dressed she came over to study the building plan and they carefully crept out into the underground halls. Fluorescent lights hummed irritatingly in the background and every footfall, while silent as a stalking panther to any human nearby, was deafening to their ears. 

"What do we do?" The Doctor whispered when they ran out of any options not pertaining to stepping into an exposed space. He was leaning over her shoulder to get a good look at the restricted hallway filled with security cameras and personnel and Rose sucked in a breath as she told her mind to ignore the combination of aftershave, Time, Gallifreyan hormones, shampoo, and engine grease that screamed Doctor into her brain and made it short-circuit as the beautiful scent overpowered her olfactory sense. 

"I'm gonna make a call," Rose whispered back. "I stole a mobile from one of the personal items bins the people dissecting me put their stuff in and I should be able to contact the Edinburgh team-"

"Rose, wait," he cautioned and she paused, finger hovering over the call button. "How did they find out about us in the first place, hmm? Think it through."

"I trust them, Doctor," Rose replied quietly. "Malcolm is so strictly against violence that he refuses to eat any form of meat and Osgood had the chance to sell out an extraterrestrial that landed in her backyard. Instead she nursed it back to health and we only found out about it once she'd helped it get back home. And as for Kate... she shot herself in the shoulder rather than allow the Silurian being held hostage from getting killed. Mickey and I picked that team ourselves, Doctor." 

"...All right," he sighed. "Make the call."

Rose sighed in relief as she heard Malcolm's voice explode over the phone speaker and ignored the Doctor's pleased hum as she leaned against his chest so that he could listen in properly. 

"Rose, lass! Are you and that Doctor fellow all right?" He asked worriedly.

"Yeah- well, not really but-" 

"There's a new woman on the scene named Yvonne Hartman," Malcolm explained, steamrolling over her in his panic. Rose felt her blood run cold and gently rested her temple against the Doctor's temple to rapid-fire show him the memories she had of their universe's version of the woman, guessing by his sharp intake of breath that he had definitely put the puzzle pieces together.

"She ran the Cardiff base until recently when she transferred to London, and since then she's been sticking her nose into places it doesn't belong. Osgood noticed her skulking about with your file a few weeks ago and she, Kate, Mickey, Jake, and I have been following her movements ever since. But she's crafty. We only found out just yesterday that she traveled to the hospital in Edinburgh that treated you and got her hands on yours and the Doctor's samples-" 

"I thought those were supposed to have been destroyed," Rose interjected sharply.

"She got to them while you were still in recovery, apparently," Malcolm sighed. He sounded exhausted. "This isn't a new development. The longer we keep digging into her history the more and more we see that she's practically been stalking you and yours ever since you got here from the- the you know what." There was a pause. "Rose, she wants to get samples from Tony..."

Twin growls erupted from the Time Lords' throats at the very idea of Hartman going after a small child. 

"Let her try it," Rose snapped. "She lays a finger on him my Mum'll rip her limb from limb, and then she'll get to deal with me." 

"I appreciate the sentiment lass, but this is bigger than a single person."

"How do you mean?" 

"Before Pete Tyler stepped in Torchwood was more militaristic. Much of the Old Guard want to go back to that, and after the Cybermen invaded there's been public unrest when it comes to interacting with our alien visitors in a peaceful manner. The added complications brought about by the Human-Silurian planet-share pact have made the situation worse. Yvonne's a bugle-blower, but she's someone to get behind. This isn't just a dark project gone wrong by a power-hungry lunatic. This is a coup."

Rose swore colorfully in both Gallifreyan and Old High Gallifreyan and the Doctor raised an incredulous eyebrow at her, blanching at the selection.

"Would you believe me if I told you that your TARDIS has quite the telepathic sailor's mouth and that she loaned me a book devoted entirely to Gallifreyan profanity?" She whispered sheepishly, hand covering the mobile's receiver. He groaned softly in response but nodded. She turned back to the conversation with Malcolm. "What should we do then?"

"You need to return to your home universe," Malcolm replied. "Whatever that Doctor friend of yours did to get here, there's a tiny crack just big enough to send a few people through with the hoppers. Mickey and Jake are bringing your family up to Edinburgh; we've got everything set up here as we speak. If you could-"

"We need to take the TARDIS," The Doctor interrupted sharply. "She's my ship, and I'm not abandoning her for anything." 

"Not suggesting you should sir," Malcolm replied tersely. "But there's a problem, you see. Torchwood's got the Tyler estate. If you could tell us what it looks like we can bring it up to Edinburgh; we're a small base and rarely ever fully staffed so it's just those of us still loyal. As soon as your family gets here we're going to send them over, no telling how long that crack will stay open. You can't take public transport though, not openly, and your car's been confiscated. However, I've got a cousin in the Zeppelin cargo business who owes me a favor. He could definitely get you as far as Peterborough, and he's got a friend of his own who owes him a favor who could stow you away on one of his private freight cars along the rail lines. Should take a few days all told, maybe even a week or two, but we should be able to get you here safely."

"It's the best we're likely going to get," Rose murmured as she exchanged a glance with the Doctor. "The TARDIS is a large blue box sitting in my bedroom that says 'Police Public Call Box' on the top; if you drive up to the west side of the mansion you'll see a very large double-hinged opening window that you could easily get it through. The windows are unlocked. I used to sneak off to the garden when I slept there without my mum knowing and never kicked the habit." 

"Right, good. We'll get your ship up here in due course when the mansion guard shifts. Will update, but we should keep contact as little as possible. Sending you the information for my cousin; he knows to look for you. And Rose? Good luck." 

"Bye," Rose said weakly as she turned the phone off and removed the battery. Her breath came in shaky burst and the Doctor briefly pressed her to his chest, kissing the top of her head and murmuring soft reassurances that he didn't really believe. 

"We need to get out of here," He whispered gently. 

"I know. I just..."

"They'll be okay," he soothed. "You were right to trust your team. They're loyal, and they care about what happens to you." 

"The timelines are tightening," Rose whimpered. "Can't you feel them, like a noose around our necks?"

"Yes," he admitted. The potential paradox was drawing to a climax. If he died here he'd never meet Rose, and if he never met Rose she would never end up here. If she never ended up here then he never had a reason to show up to bring her home, and if that never happened then she'd never Regenerate, and thus he wouldn't die, thus enabling him to repeat the broken cycle over and over again until their timelines obliterated themselves. "But right now we need to focus on getting out of here, get to that Zeppelin, get to Edinburgh. Get home. Can you do that for me, darling?" 

Rose inhaled deeply before she turned so that her chest was flush against his, their hearts thundering against one another's and both found that it was strangely comforting feeling evidence of the other's lifeblood pumping against their own. She nuzzled against his jumper so that her head arched into the curve of his jaw and neck. The Doctor's breath came out in a hiss as she pressed a kiss to the tender and slightly ticklish skin just under his left ear, her words tingling as he received them.

"I love you," she murmured before gently extracting herself from his now shock-slackened grip. "Just wanted to tell you that before we go out there."

"Rose..." he croaked, eyes wide. He opened his mouth to say more but couldn't get the words to form properly enough to come out.

"I know." With that she composed herself and opened the door a crack to peer out into the high-security hallway, timing the cameras and wincing when she realized that their overlap was too efficient. 

Her fingers slipped into his. They ran. 

Alarms sounded as the shutters began to drop over the exterior windows, the agents in the reception lobby whirling around with their weapons already drawn and firing. The glass cracked but didn't shatter as the bullets thudded into it, and both Rose and the Doctor drew their Sonics to let out pulses large enough to finish the job before leaping over the sill and out into the street before the shutters had a chance to get too low.

For the first time in a long time the Doctor let himself run at full speed. Without a human companion necessitating he tailor his pace so that they could keep up he stretched his legs as far as they could go and flew. The world streaked by on either side in long lines of noise and color as he ran for the address of Malcolm's cousin's Zeppelin shipping company. He vaulted over high fences and slipped through narrow divides between buildings. Rose's hand was held tightly in his as she matched him step for step, stride for stride, and they flew. 

 

The further they got from Canary Wharf and the closer they came to London’s East Side the more confidant Rose became. She pulled ahead slightly as she took the lead and he let her, instinctively recognizing when someone was navigating the roads and hidden nooks of their childhood and adolescence. 

Finally, after what felt like hours, she pulled him through a back alley door and down a flight of steps into the basement of what appeared to be a retail shop. They slumped against the wall near the water pipes and caught their breath.

“Right, I may know the area but did you happen to catch what building we ran into?” Rose panted. “I was too busy trying to make sure we’d be hard to find.”

“I think it said Henrik’s,” the Doctor rasped, coughing as he replenished his entirely depleted bypass and coughing as fresh oxygen flooded his body. Rose went entirely still as she took in her surroundings before she snorted, bursting out laughing. He furrowed his brow in bemused amusement as he watched her and tilted his head slightly, a small smile playing up the corners of his mouth. “What’s so funny?” 

“I took us back to the start,” she giggled. “Home universe, I used to work here. I went down one night and got locked in with a bunch of Auton shop window dummies left in storage? You grabbed my hand and told me to run, shoved me outside, and then proceeded to blow up my job.” She glanced down at the floor. “I think I’m even standing where I was when you saved me.” 

He chuckled, dissolving into full-on laughter, and she resumed it before they dissolved into hysterics. She then frowned and gently raised her hand to a spot just above his right eye. He yelped when she touched that spot and she winced, but he understood what had caught her attention when she withdrew her fingers he saw that they were glistening with barely-dried blood.

“Falling glass?” He suggested. Rose shrugged, rifling around in her pockets to grab her Sonic Pen and setting it to the correct number to latch him up. “Thank you.” 

“Welcome.” 

Rose hesitated before leaning in and kissing the newly-healed (mostly) spot and blushed before pulling away. The Doctor leaned in to give a more proper thank you as a light, chaste kiss to the lips but she turned her head and he slumped back against the wall, internally devastated but externally only mildly put out. His rather impressive mind was already thinking up the 1,000 reasons she would be regretting what she’d said before they’d made a run for their lives. 

Making an effort to put that aside for later he smiled, entwining his fingers tightly with hers (her left in his right) and then said,

“Miss Tyler, I believe we should run.” She giggled and allowed him to pull her out of the basement (technically for the first time, symbolically for the second time) and toward the beat up lift at the end of the hall. 

 

The sun was setting when they finally made it to the shipping dock. All it took was one mention of Malcolm to his cousin Humphrey and they had a secured spot amongst the packing crates in the storage hold. He told them it could get a bit chilly and the air a bit thin, but they assured him they would be more than fine for a short trip. So, properly headed out of London and in the skies where Torchwood would be hard-pressed to capture them for the next foreseeable two hours, they allowed themselves to relax against one of the crates. 

Rose began nodding off and, as she finally slipped into sleep, the Doctor allowed himself a moment to address the swirling thoughts of the last few months in his mind concerning a certain pink and yellow once-human who would suddenly, unexpectedly, be leaving him all too soon to go back to a future version of him that she had openly expressed her affections for in front of other people. Meanwhile, he didn’t even know where they stood.

\^*?*^/

“You told me you love me,” the Doctor murmured almost accusingly. Rose, lulled by the steady thrumming of the Zeppelin’s engines and far more at ease with it than he was due to the simple fortune of having not been on the Hindenburg in 1937 a mere two months before the disaster, had fallen deeply asleep in his lap about twenty minutes ago. The sun had finally set as the airship climbed into the sky and neither had been particularly bothered by the chill wind currently whipping their mutually blond hair into a mess of tangled locks. 

He took a shuddering breath as he stroked a few strands of the frenzied aforementioned hair away from her face, a dry laugh bitterly leaving his lips. 

“We were about to die and you told me you loved me. Do you have any idea what that did to me? I’ll tell you. It made me wonder if you were speaking to him through me. Because here’s the thing, Rose. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. When you’re not there I reach for you. When you smile you outshine every exploding supernova I’ve ever had the good fortune to witness. And I’m not supposed to feel that way about anyone else. I’m a Time Lord and we don’t do that. But when you enter a room I can literally feel my hearts alter their rhythm to beat in time with yours.” 

The Doctor slumped against the side of the cargo container they were resting against, a small sob catching in his throat even though no tears threatened to fall.

“I don’t know what to do, Rose. I love you and I can’t even say it to you. I- I don’t- I don’t even know if you meant what you said for me or for him and I just- why is this so hard??” The sob broke free in a small hiccup. “I don’t know if you can tell but I’m panicking here. Why? Because I’m not ready to let you go. I don’t think there ever was a time when I would have been. And if that’s selfish, then I guess I’m the most self-centered person in the universe because I can’t even give something up for my future happiness. How twisted is that? But... I’ve been running my whole life. Never stop. Always keep moving. And yet... when my mind touches yours, even the barest brush in passing, it makes me want to stand still. I would stand still for you, if that was what it took to keep you. Did you know that?” 

He fell quiet for a few moments as he got his emotions back in check, the emerging hysterics dying down as he accepted the fact that he would have to give her up soon to a future version of himself. But there was one last thing he couldn’t help but wonder, and he continued on in a broken voice. 

“You told him you loved him. And you told me you loved me. And I know we’re one and the same... but I still can’t help but wonder which of us you prefer. Call it a strange form of self-deprecating narcissism. If I were to ask, I wonder what you would say. I have to wonder what you would say if I were the one... I guess what I’m wondering is, if I- this me, not the future one- what would you say if I were to ask you to bond with me?” 

Rose stirred slightly and he froze, his hearts stopping as he forgot how to breathe, as she turned her head to look up at him with large whiskey-colored pools of sympathy and unconditional love so deep it made him ache.

“I’d still say yes,“ she whispered softly. 

Chapter Text

"You told him you loved him. And you told me you loved me. And I know we’re one and the same... but I still can’t help but wonder which of us you prefer. Call it a strange form of self-deprecating narcissism. If I were to ask, I wonder what you would say. I have to wonder what you would say if I were the one... I guess what I’m wondering is, if I- this me, not the future one- what would you say if I were to ask you to bond with me?” 

 

“I’d still say yes,“ she whispered softly. 

\^*?*^/

He gaped at her as she flashed him a tired, worn smile. 

“What?” He murmured.

“Yes,” she repeated a bit more forcefully, shoving off him a tiny bit as she sat up so they could have a proper conversation. He whimpered at the loss of her body heat and she soothed his anxieties by immediately taking both of his hands in hers and twining their fingers together. “And for the record, I love you both because I honestly don’t see you as different people. I love all three of the versions of you I’ve had the privilege to know, Doctor. I love you.” 

He swallowed hard and dropped his gaze to study their hands.

“How much did you hear?” He asked quietly. 

“All of it,” Rose admitted with a shrug. She smirked ever so gently as his face blushed a rather spectacular shade of rosy red. “Sorry. But, sort of, not sorry, because what you said was beautiful.” She let go of one of his hands to tilt his chin up so that she could more clearly see his face. 

Vulnerable sky blue eyes made her hearts melt and she pressed a butterfly kiss to his forehead, to the tip of his nose, to his jaw and cheekbones and finally, when she heard his breath hitch in expectation, she kissed him solidly on the mouth. He dissolved into it with a shudder as the tightly wound coil of tension stiffening his entire body unsprung and when he trailed his tongue timidly against her lips she opened to him, deepening it. It wasn’t passionate nor intense nor desperate, just healing, and they ended it before they even felt the need to engage their bypasses to rest their foreheads one against the other. 

“I really do love you,” she murmured because she knew he needed to hear it a few times over. “This you. Past you. Future you. I just love you, Doctor, always.”

“Always?” He whimpered, eyes fluttering closed.

“Forever.” There was a promise there, one he instinctively knew she had given before even when she was human with a small, limited lifespan, and they both felt the timelines shudder as she spoke it. 

He sometimes had trouble- okay, he had a lot of trouble in this particular body when it came to sensing the timelines of people extremely close to him - but for once he saw crystal clear. Their timelines were twined loosely around one another, not fused and joined but just presently there, and he sighed at the way the frayed end of her beginning was poised to spider-web like dripping wax down into his past if they connected. He drew back and spoke his favorite Gallifreyan poem to her in the lilting language of their now-mutual people, watching her eyes soften with unshed tears at the message there. He kissed the gathering salty droplets away as her eyelids fluttered closed and she curled against his side with a happy, contented sigh. 

They slid their temples together so that the gentle humming buzz of their thoughts could soothe each other, and the Doctor drifted off into a comfortable sleep. He was suddenly exhausted and he knew without having to ask that Rose (who had already gotten enough sleep to heal the major problems of the live dissection) would keep watch. 

 

About an hour later the zeppelin touched down in Peterborough and they slunk off into the shadows of the shipping yard to case their surroundings before moving onwards on their never-ending path to Edinburgh. Night had wrapped the city in a thick embrace and neither spoke, fearful of interrupting the heavy silence they were hidden in. It was as thick as the descending fog and and palpable as the misty humidity. They really had no idea where this train company was that they were supposed to hitch another ride with but they were determined.

This necessitated entering a late-night wireless café and logging on to one of the few spare computers the establishment owned on a wall bar to Bing the company. 

“Why Bing?” The Doctor asked quietly, confused. “I thought the most popular one was Google.”

“In this universe Bing came out on top,” Rose replied with a shudder. “Believe me, I cried for days when I found that out.” 

“No wonder you want to leave this place so badly. It’s a veritable Hellscape.”

“Don’t even get me started on pizza. The most popular version out there is this weird mayonnaise, broccoli, and pea combination...”

“Why did they decide to kill pizza??” The Doctor exclaimed, sounding morally offended on the food’s behalf. He then frowned. “Better yet, why didn’t I know about this after living here for the last few months?”

“I wanted to spare you the trauma,” Rose muttered as she waited for the directions to pop up. “Figured, since you wouldn’t be here forever, what was the point in the emotional scarring?” He snorted at that and dropped his chin to rest on her shoulder as he leaned against the backing of her chair to get a look at the computer screen. Their temples brushed ever so slightly and she let out a hiss at the pleasurable spark of telepathic contact. It was difficult to see his reaction since he was so close, but in her peripheral she noted the colors blue, blond, and flushed red. 

“Yes, well,” he muttered with a cough as he abruptly straightened and moved to sit in the seat next to her. She wasn’t about to let him off that easy. Bing was, predictably, taking a long time to find the correct answer and the internet in the place was running slow, so all she really had was time on her hands as they waited. 

“Doctor,” she started teasingly, though she had hooded her eyes in a seductive manner. “Were you flirting with me just now?” His eyes widened and he squirmed in his chair, suddenly very interested in the countertop pattern as he traced it with the tip of his index finger. 

“Was I?” he squeaked. Rose flashed him a tongue-touched grin and rolled her eyes, dropping the flirtatious presence now that she’d got the satisfaction of seeing him so out of his element. It was just so rare, those occasions. She couldn’t resist.

“FYI I wasn’t complaining.”

“O-oh?” The Doctor stuttered, his body manner flighty but the tone of voice badly masking how hopeful it sounded. 

“No,” Rose murmured, leaning forward and catching his jaw with her fingers to angle the way she wanted before placing a kiss on his mouth. His eyelids fluttered closed as he relaxed and she sighed. “Daft Time Lord.”

“Time Lady Minx,” he retorted, deepening the kiss. They both jumped when the computer pinged a helpful little chime to let them know that the search was done. They both blushed furiously and Rose had to clear her throat several times before she was able to read out the address. 

“920 Thatcher St.”

“Please tell me this universe doesn’t have a thing for Margaret Thatcher,” he groaned. Rose grimaced. 

“Sorry.”

“That’s it,” the Doctor said in mock anger, standing in one fluid motion as he linked their hands and dragged her out of the building into the evening fog. “We’re leaving. We’re going home right this instant.” 

He smiled as she laughed; the quick release of the mounting tension was a veritable godsend and he breathed easier for a bit than he had a few minutes prior before the situation settled back in on them.

It was nearing 11:00pm when they finally arrived at the train yard and both exchanged a glance of terror when they heard the telltale sound of the train’s engines cycling up. They ran.

“About time you two got here!” An unfamiliar voice shouted through the darkness. “I could only hold this run over so long before it would have looked suspicious to the officials!”

“The last thing we ever wanted to do was get you in trouble,” Rose assured him. He stiffened in surprise as she hugged him. “We would have thought of something, but this means so much...”

“Ah... right, yeah,” the man coughed. He awkwardly reached up to pat her back and noted the Doctor smiling softly at the pair of them, his eyes only for the blonde. “Hey, are you guys really aliens?”

“Can’t you feel my hearts?” Rose teased. The hug was tight enough he would be able to, and a moment later his eyes widened.

“...Oh. Oh, wow.” She released her grip and stepped back, lightly smacking the Doctor on the chest when he immediately put his arm around her waist, and smiled. 

“Yeah. I... I really can’t thank you enough for this...”

“Oh. Ah. Brian.”

“Thank you, Thank you. We just want to be left alone, and I know you’re risking everything-”

Brian raised a hand to silence her and she trailed off. 

“It was no problem, really. But you should go before the train leaves. I can’t stop it anymore and it’ll be going soon.” 

“Thanks again,” Rose murmured flusteredly as she let the Doctor nudge her in the correct direction. 

“For everything,” he whispered to Brian over his shoulder before he turned his full attention back to Rose. 

“Wel- welcome,” the man called after them, still stunned by the latest turn of events in his previously-uninteresting existence. 

 

The train began to pull away from the loading dock just as they got to it and hand in hand they made a leap into the open door of the car directly ahead. Rose wobbled on the edge, her world spinning as she fought to obtain balance, and whimpered with relief when she felt the Doctor grab her about the waist and pull her farther in. The act in and of itself unbalanced him and down they went, sprawling side by side on the rough flooring of the car. 

Rose’s legs were tangled in a net of some sort off to the side but her torso was partially draped across his chest and they stared at each other for a good long moment, the world around them forgotten. He was gazing up into whiskey eyes and felt protected by the screen of blonde hair that had fallen past her face to tickle his ear. Gently, he raised his head up slightly and was gratified to have her return the kiss before rolling away from him and onto her back. 

The Doctor turned his head to watch her as Rose stared up at the ceiling, hands loosely linked across her stomach as she brought up one knee into a bent steep arch. 

“Penny for them?” He asked softly, afraid to break the mood. She tilted her head to the side to see him and he unconsciously mirrored her position as she extended her right hand to link with his left. The world flashed by through the open car door, all silver moonlight peeking through a thick cloud layer and shadowed landscape.

“I know I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’d known more than one version of you before you came dripping into my life like a lost, sodden puppy,” she began, raising an eyebrow as he made mild protests at the description that had no real bite behind them, “but I don’t think I’ve actually... told you what we were like.”

“I picked up bits and pieces,” he admitted. “But not much, no.” 

“The first time we met for me I was nineteen and working at Henrik’s. I’d had to move back in with my mother in a Council estate flat and was trying to pay off my ex’s debts. It was all so unfair. I left before my A-Levels for him and he abused me, so I sent him to prison for assault and then had to pay his debts. His. So I’m working in this retail job that I hate and go into the basement one night. Next thing I know I’m being attacked by shop dummies and this maniac is telling me to run and pushing me out the door because he is - very cheerfully mind - about to blow up my job. And I go home. 

“Said aforementioned maniac comes to my flat the next day tracking a signal. Does he knock? Oh no of course not. He removes the nails from the cat flap to stick his Sonic Screwdriver through it and promptly knocks me on the forehead to check if I’m plastic or not. I drag him into the flat to get some answers and we get attacked with a dummy arm. Not anything else mind, just the arm. Like an evil Thing from The Addams Family. He then takes said arm after - do not hold this against me - disarming it and swans off. 

“I try to find him again but no luck, so while I’m off chasing a lead my then-boyfriend Mickey gets eaten by a rubbish bin and replaced with a plastic duplicate. I’m too preoccupied to notice anything’s wrong until we go out for dinner, he and I. Then the maniac from earlier shows up, pops the cork on a champagne bottle at the copy’s head, and has the nerve to look surprised when it attacks us. One thing leads to another and I’m using my gymnastics talents to save his life. He asks me to come with him when it’s all over and I... I say no.”

“What?” The Doctor asked, incredulous. “But, then how...?” 

“You came back,” Rose answered simply. “You asked twice. I think maybe, just maybe, some part of you remembered what happened way back when when he was you. Knew he’d regret it if he didn’t.” She inhaled deeply and continued. 

“You and I fought like cats and dogs the first five weeks we travelled together, you know. It was awful, the rows. I kept pushing a little too hard because something had happened before you met me and you were hurting bad. I’m naturally compassionate and just wanted to get it to stop if I could, but that version of you was so...” her brow furrowed and he waited patiently for her to find the appropriate explanation. 

“...Complicated. It was too easy to see what you were feeling; everything flashed through those eyes. Those ice blue eyes that burned like fire because everything was just taken a little too personally. And yet, despite that, getting you to openly admit to anything being wrong was like pulling teeth. In the end I think I just wore you down. We’d just dealt with a Dalek and had brought this bloke on board - Adam his name was and he barely lasted one trip before we both turfed him for violating some laws of time - and the TARDIS led me to your room.”

Rose paused, noting his surprise, and made sure she had his complete attention. 

“You were having a panic attack and I sat with you through it feeling completely useless. After, you told me why it all hurt so much. We got along a lot better after that. Got arrested at least twelve times before we picked up our friend Jack, an ex-Time Agent who’d tried to con us during the Blitz. And I would see sometimes... in the way you looked at me when you thought I couldn’t see... At the time I wished it was love and now I know that it was. Truth was, by that point, I’d already fallen for you and fallen hard.”

She swallowed, eyes pricking with tears, and the Doctor squeezed her hand in support. She squeezed back before continuing. 

“You died to save me from the Time Vortex coursing through my body, you know. So when you Regenerated and didn’t tell me about it beforehand I took it... badly. It was two weeks, one at my mum’s because she threatened bodily harm if she couldn’t mother hen you after barely escaping permanent death and another just traveling, before nothing felt weird between us anymore. And I still loved you, but didn’t know what to do about it, and felt that ignoring it would be a fantastic solution because I didn’t think you loved me back. 

“And then we ran into Sarah Jane and had a small little emotionally vulnerable moment where you nearly told me you loved me and I knew that that was what you nearly said, and you put so much distance between us that the bloody Madame de Pompadour flirted with you right in front of me and you flirted right back. I dunno, Doctor. I think - I think you were hoping that if you hurt me a tiny bit then it would save both of us from being more deeply hurt later, but it stung. And you pretended like nothing was wrong for a couple of days after, but I couldn’t do that. 

“I nearly walked,” Rose whispered, voice thick with tears, and the Doctor let out a soft, choked apology in response. “I didn’t, but those first few days after that I really, really wanted to. And I said as much. You looked so hurt before you got mad at me and accused me of holding that over your head, which wasn’t the point. I didn’t want to leave, but if something didn’t change I felt that I needed to. First row with that version of you... I’m pretty sure they heard the shouting at the end of the universe. But I finally managed to get it through your stubborn skull that I felt...”

“...Rose?” He said softly, afraid to know the answer but at the same time desperately needing it. 

“I told him about Jimmy, the abusive ex, and how he’d play this ‘want you need you’ game where for a little while he’d dote on me and then for the rest of the time he’d treat me like trash. How, when you got a little too close and flirty and then ignored me right after like my touch burned you, I felt like I was back with Jimmy again, and you looked at me like I’d slapped you. And you know what? It felt good. Because I had been hurt, Doctor, and I was hurting then. That version of you got so caught up in a future pain that he forgot to account for the pain happening in the present, and quite honestly the reality check did us both a lot of good. 

“We were more of a team after that, less of you leading and me following and more of us just doing the exploring together. You listened to my opinions and respected them because I had good instincts, and you trusted me to pick up where you left off. We were healthier after our row than we were beforehand. And that look of love I fancied seeing back in your previous body? It changed. It was deeper, more afraid of losing me, I think. But still there. 

“I gave up trying to hide how I felt even if I didn’t say anything. I was always hoping you would make the move, y’know, considering I had no idea where you stood. I figured, if I made it obvious how I felt, you could do with that what you would. And nothing changed. I saw those looks a lot more often. There was a lot of cutting off your own train of thought if it got a little too close to addressing the issue of us and I decided it was progress, because I learned from Sarah and Madame de Pompadour that you have a habit of running when things get complicated. But you stayed, you let me stay, and I called it progress. And then...”

“...And then you ended up stuck here,” the Doctor summarized when Rose bit her lip. She nodded. 

“It was my last chance to say it, so I did. I told you I loved you and you were just an image on that bloody beach but it was still you. And I never got to hear the end of what you wanted to tell me.”

“How did it go?” 

“What?”

“What did future me say before the transmission cut off?” Rose considered the question before shifting her body closer to his until she was able to fit against his side under his arm. She rested her head on his chest.

“Oh. He said, in response to my love confession mind, ‘Quite right too. And if it’s my last chance to say it, Rose Tyler.’ And I never saw you again.”

“I know how it was supposed to end,” the Doctor whispered, gently moving a piece of her hair from her eyes as they glanced at him searchingly. “Like this. ‘If it’s my last chance to say it, Rose Tyler... I love you.’”

“How do you know that for sure?” She croaked, tears freely spilling down her cheeks and wetting his jumper. He stroked her hair. 

“Because he’s me, and I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything in all my lives. I love you so much my chest aches, Rose. And I loved you like that even before you became a Time Lady.” 

Her breath hitched and suddenly she was peppering him with kisses. Not that he was complaining, but now wasn’t really the time seeing how emotionally vulnerable she was. He gently eased her out of the shower of affection and she began crying into his neck once her empathic state sorted out what it wanted to be doing with itself. 

He held her as she cried a confusing mixture of anger, relief, joy, and pain. He held her as she fell asleep to get a full rest, exhausted after being experimented on and then having to flee for her life. Her short nap earlier in the day had been healing but her body had still gone through a traumatic ordeal. He’d need a lengthy kip himself when she could be awake to keep watch soon too. 

 

The next morning they were sitting in the open door of the car, one leaning on one wall and the other against the other opposite as they watched the world trudge by.

“Tell me about Adric, Tegan, and Nyssa,” Rose requested softly. The Doctor blinked and left things silent for a long while as they watched the rather magnificent sunrise. 

“Adric was a mathematical genius I ran into with Romana in my fourth body,” he finally explained. “And he always had to be right. It got him killed, in the end, that need to always be correct. To always be the smartest one in the room. And we never really got along all that well after I Regenerated. I saw the signs, knew that he looked to me as a sort of father figure in my previous body. I appeared old enough by human standards and acted it too, like I was in my late forties. When I Regenerated into my current form, I looked and acted like I was in my very early thirties to his human perception.” 

The Doctor paused, thinking, before deciding that he needed to explain with a wry smile that Rose returned uncertainly. 

“It’s the first time I’ve inhabited a body that doesn’t have any aches and pains in it since my first body before it aged,” he said with a shrug. “I feel good, have a lot of energy that I try to suppress for people because quite frankly I’d be a little much for them to handle otherwise. Like I suspect I am in my tenth body?” He suggested. Rose snorted, nodding, and he grinned before sobering, taking a breath to continue.

“At any rate, Adric was left sort of... adrift. After Romana had left it was just the two of us, and then suddenly I was a whole new person and Tegan was telling me she wanted to go to Heathrow and Nyssa was looking for a father figure as well after what had happened to her on her home planet of Traken. We never developed our relationship in that way, you know. I think she came to see me as her elder brother or a young uncle instead, which was more than fine, but Adric felt he had to compete for my attention. And I, being the oblivious moron that I am wont to be on occasions where it is vitally important that I’m not, didn’t notice. 

“We ended up having this huge row over something remarkably petty, and Adric charted the coordinates to get himself back into E-Space and back home to Terradon, the planet his people migrated to after leaving Alzarius. We had a long and convoluted argument and eventually I caved, panicked that I would lose him because I always lose people in the end, and he-” the Doctor swallowed, remembering what came next. “He said all was forgiven - more or less - but mentioned that he’d saved the coordinates in case he wanted to leave on a future occasion.” 

“He held that over your head?” Rose gasped, horrified. The Doctor groaned, dropping his head into his hands and scrubbing before crossing his arms over his bent knees and resting his chin on them. 

“Adric was a... well, what you would call a ‘gifted child,’” he said carefully. “All his life he had been praised and doted upon and told he was a genius, and then suddenly he heard the word ‘no.’ So he tried cajoling to get his way, playing upon the feeling of being an outsider when he knew that was a sore spot seeing as I had casually mentioned one day that it had been around 400 years give or take a few decades since I had last had any sort of lasting positive relationship with a member of my own species before Romana had come along and that I felt a bit... bereft now that she was gone. When that didn’t work he told me he’d do the calculations to go back into E-Space himself, and when I told him to by all means go ahead and that I wanted to go for a walk while he did that he casually mentioned that my current incarnation was much more... immature than my previous one.”

“And thus subtly implying that he preferred your last body,” Rose summarized sadly. 

“Yes. I’ve had so many people leave me over the years, you see, that I’ve developed a rather advanced set of abandonment issues. Lord knows how bad it is by the time you start traveling with me, but there you go.” The Doctor’s expression crumpled and he took in a shaky breath. “Do you know what the worst part of it was?”

“What?”

“We never really... solved anything,” he admitted brokenly. “We’d had our spat, made up, but nothing had changed. What had been said had been said and he’d hurt me very deeply, Rose. I know full well it takes two to have an argument and that I said some choice things as well, but... he’s dead now. I can’t make up for it and I can’t ever know if he would have felt the need to. I...”

“What about Nyssa?” Rose prompted, changing the subject as he trailed off and began picking absently at a patch of forming rust on the door. The Doctor flashed her a grateful look and moved on.

“Nyssa had me drop her off at a scientific convention for a week while she decided whether she wanted to travel with me or not,” He explained with false cheer. “So try as I might to remain positive about that my track record indicates that she might be signing off when I come to pick her up.”

“...Oh. And Tegan?”

“We had a little trouble with the Master and jumping back and forth through time at Heathrow. It ended in Tegan’s home time and she was where she wanted to be. I... waited, anyway. I waited a good twenty minutes before realizing she wasn’t coming back.” 

“When you were gone in France with Madame de Pompadour, you were gone five and a half hours,” Rose said with a small smile. The Doctor glanced at her, eyes widening slightly as he took in her meaning. It was good to see some hope sparking in his soft blue eyes after the conversation they’d just had.

“Are you saying I didn’t wait long enough?” He asked. Rose nodded. 

“If you run into her again don’t be so sure she doesn’t want to travel with you,” she suggested. “She might have just got back to where you’d parked a little too late and is wishing she’d run faster.” 

The Doctor flashed her a large smile, something which turned into a beaming grin when she flashed him a tongue-touched grin herself, and crossed the space to sit behind her so that she was leaning against his chest while he dropped innocent kisses to her hair and neck and they watched the sun come up. 

\^*§*^/

A regular train ride from Peterborough to Edinburgh would have taken at most 5 hours and roughly 30 minutes, but they were on a freight train and as such it was moving slower. It was scheduled to end in Dundee but pass through their destination, so really all that they had to do was play the waiting game. 

The sunny, clear early morning had turned decidedly cloudy by late morning and it soon began to rain by mid afternoon. They were huddled against one another, the door still open and the rain pouring down, sitting on his coat and enjoying the downpour from a dry and sheltered location. His poor celery had been sacrificed in lieu of any proper breakfast and the coat looked a bit... bare without it, but at least they’d had something

By late afternoon the train stopped to pick up some extra cargo - one or two cars tacked onto the end - and they quickly nipped out to both avoid discovery and to find some suitable nourishment. While normally doing so would have been too risky, especially when they could go a few days without eating before even feeling properly hungry, they had both managed to piece together from their sedative-scrambled time senses that they’d been held underneath Canary Wharf for a good four days give or take a couple of hours and they needed the food’s energy to help continue healing their injuries. Besides, buying a few water bottles also seemed crucially important.

The rain intensified as the Doctor (now with a fresh sprig of celery) ran with a bag of sausage, egg, and cheese muffin sandwiches and Rose followed quickly beside with two paper cups of tea and a Tesco’s bag filled with water. They were using his coat as an umbrella draped across his free arm which was spread out as high and straight as he could get it so that she was underneath, but they were still quite damp by the time they jumped into the freight car when no one was looking. 

 

“Let’s play a game,” Rose suggested. The Doctor, who had been taking his much-needed rest and was only just resurfacing into the land of the conscious, blinked up at her quizzically from where his head had been pillowed in her lap.

“...Wha?” She laughed and tapped him on the nose. 

“A game,” she repeated. “How about... Would You Rather.”

“Not... entirely sure how it’s played,” the Doctor admitted, letting loose a wake-up yawn. His jaw clicked ever so slightly and he sat up, stretching stiff muscles like a cat, before running a hand through his hair and looking at her expectantly to explain the rules. It wasn’t as if there was much they could do aside from games anyway. The train was still moving. 

“So, I give you two alternatives and you have to pick between them. It’s less of a winner-loser game and more of a get-to-know you game, but I don’t really feel like competing right now given the circumstances...”

“Ask your first question then,” he said invitingly. She scooted away from him so that they were facing one another and began.

“Would you rather... face a fleet of Daleks or be expected to eat a pear pie?”

“Daleks,” he said promptly. “My turn?” She nodded, biting her lip to keep from laughing at the easy answer. “Good. Would you rather take me clothes shopping or grocery shopping?”

“Grocery shopping, definitely,” Rose said adamantly. “I tried to take you clothes shopping once. By the end of it even I was ready to set the place on fire. Would you rather wear a tux to a fancy event or just a formal suit?”

“A tux. Why, does my future self not enjoy them?”

“It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy them, it’s that something always goes wrong when he wears one. The statistics of running into trouble while you’re wearing a tux are about ten times worse than an average day I swear.”

“Duly noted, will keep in mind. Would you rather... give up traveling forever or give up chips forever?”

“Chips. I could always find something similar somewhere else, even if it breaks my hearts to say it out loud. Would you rather have the ability to turn invisible or fly?”

“Invisibility. So much easier to avoid being chased that way. Would you rather wear cardigans or hoodies?”

“Depends on the weather, but I guess I wear hoodies more often because they’re my loungewear. Would you rather raise the stakes by playing a similar but different game or stick with this one?”

“I’m intrigued,” the Doctor retorted with a smile. “Just what exactly is this new game?”

“It’s called ‘Never Have I Ever,’” Rose said with a mischievous smirk. “Same principle sorta as Would You Rather but instead of giving two options, you pick something you haven’t done that you know or guess the other person has to try and get them out.” 

“Mm. How many points?”

“Ten. Ready?”

“Go.”

“Never Have I Ever... Been to the opera.” 

“Seriously!?” The Doctor gasped, stunned, even as he put one of his fingers up. 

“Nope,” Rose replied with a tongue-touched grin.

“Well, we’ll have to fix that. Now, Never Have I ever... gotten a birthday present.”

“You’re getting one this year if I have anything to say about it,” Rose grumbled mutinously as she put her index finger up. “When’s your birthday?”

“November 23rd, according to the Earth calendar.”

“Gotcha. Never have I ever... no wait I have done that-”

“What?” The Doctor laughed as Rose rolled her eyes. 

“...Worn my jimjams to a peace conference.” The Doctor sighed and smiled. 

“I've done that too, but I guess it doesn’t count.”

“Exactly. So, Never Have I ever watched How I Met Your Mother.”

“But it’s so good how can you have not... Anyway. Never have I ever played a game of Never Have I ever until this afternoon.”

“Never Have I ever played chess.”

“Never Have I ever played strip poker,” the Doctor said primly, raising an eyebrow and smirking as Rose scowled at him and ticked off another point. 

“Never Have I ever started the Great Fire of London,” she needled. He blushed, ducking his head in embarrassment, and ticked off another point. They were at four for him and three for Rose.

“Never Have I ever had a younger sibling.”

“Never Have I ever had an older sibling.”

“Never Have I ever hung from a barrage balloon during the blitz.”

“Never Have I ever had an old school friend turn arch-enemy.”

“Never Have I ever studied gymnastics.”

“Never Have I ever played Cricket.”

“Ooh, cheap shot,” he mock-growled as he put down his seventh strike.

“So was gymnastics,” she snickered. 

“Fine. Never have I ever worn Velcro shoes. Not once. Not even as a child.” She glared at him as she put up her seventh strike as well.

“Never Have I ever communed telepathically with more than one person,” Rose countered, voice going that much softer. The Doctor felt the tone shift and let himself get carried along with it. 

“Never Have I ever been romantically involved with more than one person,” he murmured back. 

“Never Have I ever been jealous of myself,” she whispered. 

“Never Have I ever fallen in love with three versions of the same person.”

“Never Have I ever accidentally proposed.” 

The Doctor stiffened slightly, eyes going wide and large, as he looked at her. How did she know about the Aztecs? And if she didn’t, then what was she...

“...What?”

“When you- when you thought I was asleep,” Rose replied quietly, face blushing as she pulled a strand of her hair behind her ear but forced herself to meet his gaze. His jaw dropped slightly, lips curving to form a silent ‘oh’ vowel. “Yeah. I mean, I said yes. Does that make us, kinda, technically engaged or...?”

“Do- would you want to be?” The Doctor choked, rather impressive brain failing to keep up with the implications of this conversation. Rose was suddenly shy as she scuffed at the bed of the freight car with her toe.

"...Yea. I mean, if you would want to be too..." 

"I- I was afraid it wouldn't be appropriate, considering that technically I haven't met you yet," he admitted with a self-conscious adjustment of his jumper and looked anywhere but at her. "I'm not even sure we should due to the potential paradox it could cause; there aren't exactly any rules for a situation like this. My people stopped bonding like this ages ago because it wasn't practical. We wouldn't exactly be doing anything correctly with this." 

"Probably not," Rose replied with a forced casual shrug as she waited. Sure enough, his head swung up so that he could see her and she flashed a sheepishly mischievous small grin. But then again, we never really do things the way we're supposed to now do we? More fun that way."

The Doctor let out a short incredulous laugh and smiled, gently scooting closer until their knees were touching before taking her hands in his and searching for something in her eyes.

"What?" Rose asked quietly, though she already knew the answer. 

"You... you really mean it?" He asked, equally as soft but with a tender insecurity that broke her hearts. She nodded.

"Yes," she said firmly, and the unguarded trust and unconditional love took his breath away. 

"Okay." The Doctor gently let go of her hands to bring his fingers up to her temples and motioned for her to mirror the action. "But only if you're sure..."

"Doctor," Rose replied tersely, barely holding back a sigh of exasperation, and the act in and of itself made him smile. 

"I'll quit, I'll quit," he assured as they made telepathic contact. 

«I don't think I'll ever get tired of being connected to you like this,» Rose murmured mentally and the Doctor bit back a whimper of need and joy. 

«I love you so much,» he sighed. «Are you ready to make the bond?»

«You're going to have to initiate it because I have no idea how to start.» His amusement flooded the connection and eased some of the sudden onset of nerves.

«All right. Hold on. And...» They both sighed as he pressed gently against her consciousness and she let down her barriers entirely before instinctively pressing back against his. He dropped his shields in an instant and they slipped completely into one another's minds. Nothing was held back, everything was open, and Rose gasped as she felt herself imprint upon his signature and he hers. An all-encompassing warmth shot through their bodies as a link formed and suddenly her space and his space expanded and accommodated until it became their space. 

Rose felt the Doctor carefully begin to reassemble his mental defenses and did the same, marveling at the way it was like they were building the walls back up together to protect the shared mindscape. While they were protected from the outside world they were open books to one another and the amount of trust implicit in that made her begin crying in a complex combination of joy, completion, and awe. 

The Doctor took his hands away from her temples to swipe the tears away with his thumbs and he withdrew from the bond until it felt as if he were standing directly next to her but was not currently touching. Slowly she did the same and blinked open her eyes to see that his were less than a breath away and shining with unshed tears. His emotions, she could sense through the bond, reflected hers on his opinion of their union. 

"Hey," she whispered, and she felt his lips quirk up in a smile as he kissed her.

«Hello.» A deep, throaty rumble issued from Rose's throat and she froze. The Doctor withdrew far enough to see her dumbfounded expression and laughed. 

"Am I...?" She asked uncertainly. He nodded, replicating the noise that externally sounded exactly like what it was: a purr. She started laughing. "Oh, for- of course our species can purr. Multiple lives, keeps strange sleeping hours, generally aloof... we're just overgrown cats."

"No need to be insulting," the Doctor grumbled good-naturedly and Rose smirked, wrapping her hand around his neck and ruffling his hair in just such a certain way that his purr intensified and he leaned into her touch. "Oh, fine. Case in point. Just don't stop." 

"You're completely hopeless," Rose sighed happily. Hedging on instinct, she tenderly gave their bond a mental caress. The Doctor's breath hitched and he whimpered happily before returning the favor. Pleasure exploded across the bond from both directions and they eased away from it as the freight car jolted, slamming their foreheads together.

"Ow," he muttered with a wince. 

"Nice." She laughed at his put out expression and then frowned. "Is it just me, or is the train stopping?"

"That's not right," he murmured. They exchanged a look and then burst out laughing, because underlying the worry of an unexpected stop was the hum of excitement.

"Trouble?"

"Oh, in spades I assume." The Doctor stood and pulled on his coat, stuffing the water bottles and other objects indicating their presence into his pockets before offering his hand to Rose. "Shall we?"

They crept to the side of the door opening and the slight good mood evaporated. Rose let out a sharp growl when she saw Yvonne Hartman step out of a car and the mental image of her smug face from the parallel universe projected itself across the bond. The Doctor bit back a growl of his own and his grip tightened on Rose's hand. 

«Time to go, Doctor.»

«I'll take your cue. You know these people better than I do.»

«Just stay close.»

«As if I'd be anywhere else.» 

Chapter Text

Rose waited until one of the teams had passed them by before she used her Sonic Pen to open up the access hatch on the ceiling of the car. Without a word the Doctor hoisted her up and she then leaned down to pull him up after. They laid flat on their stomachs as they closed the hatch as quietly as possible and crawled to the side opposite the Torchwood vehicles, dropping down into the long grass and waiting tensely for any sort of alarm to be sounded. When none did they army crawled a fair distance until they came upon a small ditch and practically flung themselves in to peer over the top back the way they had come. 

After a particularly long time of waiting for the agents to be satisfied that the train wasn’t harboring any illegal aliens (oh the irony) Yvonne had them move on. Her face was absolutely thunderous, even from their vantage point, and neither Rose nor the Doctor envied her lackeys. They were about to sneak back to the train when the engine thundered back to life and it chugged off; of course, had they been able to run after it, they could have got back on. Unfortunately the Torchwood cars hadn’t cleared the area yet, so with resigned grimaces they all but waved goodbye as their transportation faded into the distance. 

“Well that was inconvenient,” Rose grumbled morosely, arms crossed. 

“Mm... I wonder if she might have tracked the link to Malcolm,” the Doctor pondered. “It seems the only obvious conclusion, and if the base in Edinburgh has gone ‘dark’ or whatever you people call it, she might have followed up on the most obvious option.”

“Well, maybe,” Rose conceded as she pulled out her stolen mobile. “Or maybe, in the five minutes I had this thing turned on to get Malcolm’s update on my family making it safely to the home universe, she tracked the SIM card.”

“Definitely possible. I’m sure the agent who lost it would have reported it immediately all things considered.” 

“Let’s hope so. Otherwise we’ll have a pretty hostile welcoming committee on our hands when we finally get to Edinburgh.”  

“The thought had never crossed my mind,” he retorted impishly. She shot him a look promising dark things to come if he was going to be like that the entire hike across the moor and he winced. “Sorry. You know how I get when I’m stressed.”  

“Plus, you don’t really have the shoes for it,” Rose reasoned with a tired smirk. They began walking.

“Ah, there it is,” the Doctor sighed in mock exasperation, the amusement shimmering through underneath and across the bond. “The comment on my current fashion sense.” 

“I merely meant that trainers aren’t as suited for a cross-country hike as a good pair of boots,” she replied innocently, fluttering her lashes and hopping slightly to flash her own footwear. 

“Uh huh.” 

“No, really!” Rose laughed. She frowned slightly, considering something, before smirking slyly. “And we need to make good time anyway...”

“What are you plotting?” The Doctor asked suspiciously. She shrugged. 

“Nothing.” He slowed to a stop, gently tugging on her jacket sleeve. When she halted as well he raised an eyebrow and waited. He didn’t have to wait long, however, because not two seconds later Rose was running full tilt toward their destination. “Race ya!”

“That’s cheating!” He protested, moving instantly to pursue. With his longer legs he caught up... eventually. As they were the same species her speed and stamina were on par with his own and she had the toned, lean build of a runner after spending a few years as his companion and then several after as a Torchwood field agent. 

Because it was generally considered a good idea to keep moving when armed hostile organizations were after you he did little more than grasp her hand and link their fingers together as they ran.

“Told you those shoes weren’t made for cross country,” she needled.

“Mm... I think you slowed down on purpose so I could catch up,” He growled playfully. 

“You wish.” 

“Why bother fantasizing over something that’s true?” 

“You fantasize about me?” 

“I- you- that’s not- Rooose!” 

\^*§*^/

It was in a particularly rocky area filled with heather that the skies opened up and the rain came bucketing down. They cast about frantically for any kind of shelter and their gazes, at the same time, lit upon a small overhang. A mad, slippery dash resulted in them cowering together in a space so small that she was left sitting in his lap and his knees were drawn as close to his chest as was possible. Her legs hooked underneath his to find balancing purchase and she had one arm draped across his neck, the other pressed close to her stomach where it was pinned by her thigh. His arms were attempting to keep her in place without much success and neither were very comfortable, but it was better than being soaked. 

"This is pleasant," the Doctor groused. Rose shrugged - such as she could considering. 

"Been in tighter places. One of them was taller than wide and I ended up standing on your shoulders pushing at a locked hatch for half an hour once."

"Things can always get worse, that doesn't mean you want to tempt fate by saying so," he groaned. She snickered.

"Aww, poor Doctor." He sighed and let his head fall back against the rock face. 

"What do you think will happen when we get to the Edinburgh base?" He asked. Rose frowned. 

"Hopefully Yvonne was tracking the mobile and not following up on leads tying us to Malcolm," she said slowly. "But if she's waiting for us, and none of us ever mentioned the TARDIS at Torchwood so she has no reason to suspect that we have a way back from this universe because we never mentioned my mum and I were from one either... If she's waiting for us I know the schematics and should be able to get us in a back way." 

"You have the schematics?"

"Remember them. Same thing anymore, isn't it?"

"...I suppose." They were both quiet for a long moment before Rose drew in a breath and asked a question that had been bothering her for the last two weeks. She shifted to try and see him properly but the space was too small and she ended up only half managing it.

"Does it make you uncomfortable, me being so casual about the things our species can do?" She asked quietly. "I know you usually play that close to the vest but I was never able to figure out if that was because you didn't want your enemies having a potential advantage or if you..."

"If I... what?" The Doctor pressed when she fell silent.

"If you don't really give specifics because it's easier to come off as superhuman by vaguely referencing 'superior biology' but that's the point: people still act like you're human." She paused. "I don't feel human, Doctor. I can act like nothing's changed but I don't really want to. Why do you want to pretend?"

"Acceptance," he decided after a long and increasingly uncomfortable while. "It goes back to a formed habit in my third body, really. I was exiled from Gallifrey for interference to Earth back then. So here I am, yes? I've just been disowned by my own people in effect and then get accepted and taken in by U.N.I.T. by humans. I was so desperate for belonging that... I suppose that, even if I pointed out every chance I got that I was Time Lord and not human, I subconsciously tried my hardest to fit in. And ever since then when I'm around humans or humanoid individuals I fall back into the pattern."

"I disagree," Rose interjected with a minute shake of her head. She glanced outside for a few moments to check the rain's progress and frowned when it remained consistent.

"Why?" He was more curious than anything else.

"I think it's belonging," she finally elaborated. "I've read what the perfect Time Lord society is supposed to look like, remember? And you talked about it. It's cold, distant. Surface perfection of mathematic and logical intuition. Emotions aren't talked about or properly expressed. And you... you're like, the opposite of that. Where they treat empathy as weakness you make it your strength. You're bright and inquisitive just because you want to be and you don't calculate before you leap. And humanity embodies that. So I think that, despite your constant reminder to your companions that you're Time Lord, deep down you sometimes wish you were human because you feel like you belong with u- them."

The Doctor could do nothing but stare at her, stunned. Rose had seen past the deflections he had put up even to convince himself and straight to the hearts of the matter, and yet she had done it in a manner that conveyed understanding rather than pity or disgust. 

"How do you always do that?" He whispered reverently.

"Do what?" He opened his mouth to reply when she carefully extracted herself from the pretzel position they were in and stepped out into the misty after-fog.

"Rain's stopped," she said brightly. He pouted at the untimely event but joined her in the open, humming softly as he stretched cramped muscles. 

The sky was grey and overcast with weak rays of sunshine sparking through every few minutes and the foliage appeared greener as growing things drank greedily of the nutrients in the damp earth. The air had that gorgeous after-rain smell and a stiff breeze was dragging the last clinging vapors across the barren moor into the scattered outcroppings of rocks. Everything just looked so unspeakably, beautifully desolate that when the Doctor looked at Rose with her hair whipping into her face he found it was the perfect moment to do something he'd wanted to do since Christmas.

He swallowed thickly and rifled around in his pockets before finding what he was looking for.

"Rose?" She glanced over at him and arched an inquisitive eyebrow before both eyes widened when she saw the small velvet box he was fingering. 

"Hm? Doctor, what..."

"I was going to give this to you at Christmas," he admitted. "I spent half a day in London dragging Mickey from shop to shop trying to find the perfect gift. But then Mickey told me after I bought this that friends don't... ahem... buy friends expensive jewelry, so I switched to making you your Sonic Pen...” 

"Which I love," Rose assured him quietly. He smiled thinly in response and opened the velvet box, hooking two fingers around the platinum-looking chain of a necklace so that the pendant could dangle and catch the weak sunlight. "Oh, Doctor."

"I thought it was appropriate," he said sheepishly. From the chain hung two connected hearts. They were made of an insanely strong metal like platinum called Elsdin Steel but gleamed with the slightest blue tint and were woven together in the sense that where one ended another continued vertically down, both shapes open, in a mutual and joined unity as if two souls were one. On the upper heart shape, the left-most curve ended in a sapphire-type gem teardrop called Plavanium. On the lower heart shape, the right-most curve ended in a blood red Medrrskan Firestone teardrop. Both gems sparkled in the puny rays. The entire thing was incredibly delicate and only somewhat bigger than the Doctor’s thumbnail.

“I saw the necklace in a sort of alien underground black market in downtown London...” 

"Blue for Earth and red for Gallifrey?" She guessed. His face flushed.

"Yes," he stuttered nervously. "But the hearts are mine. ...Now yours." Rose bit her lip as she came closer to him and fingered the pendant.

"Mickey was right," she said slowly. "This would have been considered an engagement gift even though you hadn't even properly kissed me before Christmas."

"Then it's a good thing I'm giving it to you now, hmm?" Rose nodded before turning away from him and lifting up her hair.

"You wanna do the honors?"

"I would love to."

\^*§*^/

About three hours after the rain stopped they made it to Edinburgh at around six in the evening. The streets were still busy and seemed to be Hartman-free, but nevertheless they moved more cautiously. 

“Quick question,” the Doctor whispered as they ducked into a coffee shop. “Why were we in a hotel the last time we were here if Torchwood has a base in Edinburgh?”

“We hadn’t finished building it yet,” Rose murmured back, glancing anxiously out the window but seeing nothing overtly suspicious. “It only finished about a week and a half ago and my team was assigned there because I handed in my notice.” He nodded; she’d sent her resignation in only a month after Regenerating and the sight of Jackie dancing with joy on the dining room table was not something he would easily forget. 

“So, your team was available for relocation and they took it then.”

“Exactly. See anything?”

“No... which in and of itself worries me, I’ll admit.”

“I know, I can feel it,” Rose muttered. The Doctor sent her a wave of fond appreciation for the casual reference to their Bond before they took one last look out into the street and, deeming that it at least looked safe, advanced warily back into the general hustle and bustle of urban life. 

They were halfway across the street when Rose stiffened but kept walking. 

«What’s wrong?» The Doctor asked telepathically, opening up his senses far more than he usually did and wincing at the sudden influx of everything that he was noticing. 

«Plainclothes,» she said mentally back. Her grip on his hand tightened. «Dead ahead. The grey jacket with the Star Trek tee shirt and the blue Pullover sweater with the tan slacks walking towards us. They’re good at what they do. Really good.»

«Snog me.»

«You what!?» 

«You heard. Snog me, in the middle of the pavement. Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable and as an added bonus they won’t get a good look at our faces.»

«You really know how to make a girl feel wanted,» she grumbled good naturedly before grabbing him by the lapels of his coat and going all out. He groaned as her tongue hit the roof of his mouth and closed his eyes, only opening them again when she pulled away. The expression she was giving him was entirely too amused for her own good.

«What?»

«The dazed look suites you,» she decided matter-of-factly before taking his hand and leading him down the walk. «They’re gone, by the way. You were right.» He tried hard not to preen at the offhanded compliment and failed spectacularly. «Oh, hush. The base isn’t far, so if we’re lucky we shouldn’t run into any more trouble.»

Tires squealed behind them and they both winced. 

“You had to say it didn’t you?” He muttered aloud as they took off running. The dark Rover quickly gaining on them was directly behind. 

“Oi, I thought since it was in my head it didn’t count!” She retorted.

“You still said it!”

Gunshots began peppering the ground around their feet and the civilians in the immediate area screamed, going into full panic and darting for cover. 

“Is this really the time?” 

“Rose, at this rate there won’t be a good time if they get us!” 

“Well, then I just gotta say that technically it’s your fault because I didn’t know that telepathy worked the same way as audible speech when it came to the jinxing powers of the universe.”

“My fa- I’m offended. I am extremely offended.” 

“Car!” They vaulted the hood, narrowly missing getting creamed, and flinched at the loud crunch of metal on metal as the pursuing vehicle slammed into the one they’d just avoided.  

“Pax?” Rose asked tentatively, eyes wide as she stared at the carnage in front of them. 

“Pax,” the Doctor breathed, unable to look away from the crash. They ran hand in hand as the two plainclothes from earlier came running up with tranq guns in hand and at least three other people with proper guns piled out of the Rover. "How far off are we?"

"Oh, well funny thing about that..." 

"...We're running the wrong way, aren't we?"

"Yep."

"We'll need to go 'round the block then," he sighed. Ducking into an alley they circled back around and vaulted a chain link fence, barely missing the Torchwood agents still trying to get out of the crashed Rover. He let Rose guide them and they continued farther down the block before turning a corner.

The sound of a gun going off cracked through the air shortly before the Doctor cried out, the bullet tearing through his upper right arm, and dark orange-red blood soaked through his coat sleeve quickly. He slumped against the wall as Rose let out a growl and launched herself at Yvonne Hartman. They went rolling across the grunge-covered asphalt of the alley and Rose kicked her hard in the ribs. There was the audible sound of multiple bones cracking as Hartman's back hit the brick wall of the nearest building and she fell to the ground with a dull thud and moan of pain.

"You all right?" Rose panted, dashing over to check him over with frantic movements.

"Ah, just a flesh wound," the Doctor stuttered as he focused on the deep gashing above her left eye. "We're a right mess aren't we?"

"Always are," she sighed. Pounding feet thundered nearby, drawn by the sound of the gunfire, and they exchanged a concerned glance. "Can you run?"

"Are you seriously going to ask me that question?" The Doctor grumbled as he heaved himself off the wall and together they stumbled toward a nondescript-looking steel door. She sonicked it open with her pen and they ignored the incredulous comments of the cooking staff as they ran through the back of a restaurant.

"Still making sarcastic comments, can't be doing too badly," she snarked as they burst through the front doors and out into a different street before doing a double take when she saw what chain it was. "Ooh, a Prezzo."

"Torchwood first, Italian second please," he panted, gasping in pain as he accidentally jostled his arm. Rose flashed him a concerned look, her gaze darkening as she scanned their surroundings.

"This way."

The building loomed before them, brand new and sparkling with bright white brick and chrome fixings. Malcolm was pacing in front of the large plate glass front window and he abruptly stopped to dash over and open the double doors when he saw them coming.

"Quick, inside!" He barked, slamming the doors closed once they'd got inside and pressing the lockdown button. Shutters came slamming down over the exterior facade just as the plainclothes man in the pullover came to a skidding halt. His face was thunderous as the rest of the agents joined him. They all breathed a collective sigh of relief as silence descended. Malcolm eyed their injuries with concern as Osgood came running up with a medical kit.

"Malcolm, I can't thank you enough," Rose murmured as Osgood patched up the cut above her eye with deft movements before quickly turning to the Doctor. They had a slight argument over his removing everything above the waist but his short-sleeve undershirt to get at his arm but the logic that it had to be done won out, and Taylor and Tyler left them to it for a few moments as they moved over to the dimensional rift generator and set about rigging it with explosives. Kate was busy erasing the system files down in the server farm and by the time they were ready Osgood had stitched the Doctor up well and good. His arm was quite heavily bandaged and he looked severely self-conscious, but all things considered they were doing well.

"I don't want to worry you, but they're about to hack through the lockdown protocol," Kate warned them. "If I were you I'd get moving."

"I say we give 'em a lift back to London first," Rose suggested. The Doctor nodded, walking over to the TARDIS and unlocking the doors.

"I mean, it'd be a bit snug..." Malcolm began tentatively before trailing off as he paused on the threshold. "Oh... trans-dimensional."

"I like him," the Doctor murmured to Rose as she readied the TARDIS for dematerialization before raising his voice. "Kate, do you have the timer set?"

"We've got two minutes Doctor," Kate said. “I can’t believe we’re blowing up our own base.” 

“Gotta lose something to gain something,” Malcolm explained apologetically. “And personally I think keeping these two safe is well worth it.”

"Right then, off we go,” the Doctor said, interrupting their conversation as he dove for a pair of switches and Rose flicked the dematerialization lever.

 

They landed in central London a few blocks away from Trafalgar Square and the team stepped out into the busy urban bustle, gaping at the idea that they were able to pop in and out of existence so easily.

Rose exchanged several hugs and tearful goodbyes (all of them ignoring the news updates on an explosion in Edinburgh going on in all the nearby shops) and the Doctor checked over the TARDIS systems. He glanced up when the doors closed behind her.

"We've got about a half an hour before she'll be ready to take off safely to return to our home universe," he explained. "Just to be cautious I'm putting her on invisible until then, but I think we should get cleaned up while we have the opportunity."

"Yeah..." Rose nodded, then dug the heels of her hands into her eyes and rubbed at them tiredly. "I'm gonna get a shower and then I'll meet you in the infirmary, 'kay?” 

"That... sounds like a marvelous idea and I'm going to be stealing that," he replied with a soft smile.

They went their separate ways and met in the infirmary as planned, both with damp hair and fresh clothing, and Rose winced sympathetically when she saw him. The Doctor looked at her pitifully as he tried to navigate things with only one good arm and Rose sighed. He'd managed to get his undershirt on again but aside from that he was at a loss.

"Petronella said I broke a bone when I got shot," he murmured quietly.

"Well, let me remove your stitches and use the dermal regenerator and then we'll see about a short-term splint," she offered. He nodded, gently running his thumb over the rather large and unpleasant bruise present above her eye with his good hand while she went about patching him up more thoroughly.

"I can return the favor when you're done."

"Best not, head injury and all I should probably let it heal on its own and keep an eye on it."

"True. Ow!"

"Sorry," Rose apologized as she pulled out his stitches. He let out a hiss of pain that turned into relief as the dermal regenerator did its work. Afterwards she helped him into his oxford and then with clipping on his suspenders, then left to go and find a sling. She was mostly through getting it clinched up when he stopped her.

“Hold on, what about my jumper?” She shot him a long-suffering, tired look.

“Really. You want me to try and get a snug jumper on you when you’ve got a broken arm?” The Doctor pouted at that, muttering something about logic killing all the joy in everything, and she smirked as she finished up and slipped his coat onto his good arm before draping the other half over his bad arm. “Finishing touches,” she muttered as she took a comb and fixed his extremely unkempt hair before it could dry in a way that looked terrible. 

“Thank you,” he sighed. “It’s just been one of those days...” he glanced at her spaghetti strap tank top and frowned. “Are you really going to go meet up with your family wearing only that?”

“Well, not only,” Rose countered. The Doctor gaped at her when she picked up his unused cricket jumper and slid it on. It was quite roomy on her with the sleeves falling past her fingertips and the hem ending mid thigh, the v-neck giving a generous view of her clavicle and the very top of her undershirt. 

“Th- that- that’s one way of- of fixing the problem,” he stuttered, blushing profusely. She rolled her eyes and headed back toward the console room. He followed close behind and they keyed in the appropriate sequences - or rather the Doctor did and Rose watched closely to learn - and when the TARDIS hummed excitedly he nodded. She pulled the dematerialization lever and the rotor hummed to life, chugging dutifully up and down as the TARDIS sang out her unique noise and punched through the fabric of reality. 

They both let out a sigh as the timelines of their home universe snapped into place, including them in the tapestry of existence rather than weaving exclusively around them, and he turned to her with a grin. 

“Can you hear the rest of our people in the back of your head now?” He whispered. There was a release of tension Rose hadn’t even noticed before in his expression and with sinking hearts she realized the reason she’d not seen it was because he’d always had it after the Time War. Aside from the Doctor Rose’s mind was hauntingly absent and she didn’t have it in her to tell him. So, for the first time, she lied to him and he bought it. Because she threw everything she had into selling it and prayed that the tears pricking her eyes would be interpreted as a reaction to the noise in her mind. 

“Yeah,” she whispered back, flashing a watery smile as genuine as she could manage. He hummed happily and dashed around the console, checking his scanners. The dance was a tiny bit awkward because of his arm in the sling but otherwise he was his usual, cheerful self. 

The TARDIS suddenly hummed out a warning as the lights flared brightly and sputtered out for a few seconds; the ship jolted violently and they were both thrown to the floor with differing yelps of pain. Rose shook her head and pressed her palms against the floor to stand up only to feel achingly familiar metal grating digging into her hands and she let out a soft gasp at seeing the coral strut directly to her left.

Chapter Text

Rose sat up quickly, nearly banging her head on a metal bar, and stared with wide eyes when she saw her future Doctor's coral console room with the dim green and gold light emanating from the rotor and lit roundel hexagons. Her current Doctor, the cricketer one, was dashing awkwardly around the console. She stifled a gasp by clamping her hands over her mouth when he bumped into her future pinstriped Doctor. Oh, she'd missed this TARDIS and that version of him so much. But... This was too soon.

"'Scuse me," the Tenth Doctor muttered.

"So sorry," the Fifth Doctor returned absently as he continued his pacing around the console. Ten froze in his more manic variation of checking up on things, eyes going wide and jaw slack as his eyebrows shot into his Sonic the Hedgehog hair.

"What!?" He exclaimed, voice going high and squeaky just as Rose remembered. Five finally realized someone else was on his ship at that and went entirely still, inhaling sharply and subconsciously turning his body so that his bad arm was angled farther away from the interloper. They slowly approached one another until they were practically nose to nose; Ten was an inch taller than his 6'-0" predecessor but the top of said predecessor's panama hat came about even with the tufted tips of Ten's flyaway hair.

"What...?" Five started, trailing off as his youthful face assumed an expression of abject confusion. Ten wasn't done yet.

"What." Five's jaw clenched slightly in what Rose liked to call his passive-aggressive intimidation look.

"Who are you?" He asked in a quiet, irritated tone. A slow smile crept up Ten's mouth before he grinned widely and let out a soft chuckle.

"Oooooh, brilliant," he said. Rose rolled her eyes, standing with a wince and dusting herself off. She should probably step in before either one of them did something ridiculous but quite honestly she just wanted a few moments to watch them before she had to say goodbye to her cricketer Doctor. So, she carefully moved in the shadows to be partially hidden by a coral strut and leaned against it to enjoy the show and shaking her head at her fiancé - or was it fiancés even if they were technically the same person?

The Tenth Doctor switched gears almost immediately, mood swinging with it in the way Rose was intimately familiar with as he struck out determinedly on a ramble, and rolled her eyes in fond exasperation as it effortlessly threw his former self for a loop.

"I mean, totally wrong, big emergency, universe goes 'bang' in five minutes, but..." The exuberance was back. "Brilliant!" The Fifth Doctor let out a long-suffering sigh and drew himself up a little bit more, annoyance leaking through the bond. Aww, poor baby, Rose thought. He was flustered. 

"I'm the Doctor," he announced crisply. "Who are you?" Either Ten had noticed his former self's rapidly-dwindling patience and didn't care or, far more likely, he was oblivious to it, because he ignored the question.

"Yes you are," he agreed happily. "You are the Doctor!"

"Yes, I am, I'm the Doctor," Five repeated, becoming more and more exasperated by the second.

"Oh, good for you Doctor," Ten chuckled. "Good for brilliant ol' you..."

"Is there something wrong with you?" Five asked, switching back from annoyed to perplexed. Rose decided to butt in before her pinstriped Doctor - who was in the process of opening his mouth - could say anything to make the situation even more confusing.

"Oh, if we start in on that we'll be here for the next half century," Rose needled as she stepped past the railing and trailed her fingers over the jumpseat. Her cricketer Doctor beamed at her before realization set in and it slowly faded from his expression to be replaced by dejection. His sparkling blue eyes were suddenly dull and oh so old. He opened his good arm, his left one, and Rose slipped effortlessly underneath it against his side.

"Future me," he murmured unhappily. "I'd hoped- ah, well."

"This isn't goodbye for good," she reminded him as his pain washed over their bond. Instinctively she moved to flood their connection with reassurance and unconditional love.

"I know, I just... mm." He tilted his head to the side so that his jaw was resting on the top of her head and closed his eyes to breathe in her wonderfully comforting scent.

"Rose?" They both looked over at her pinstriped Doctor; in the moment of realizing their impending goodbye they'd temporarily forgotten he was there. His face had gone pale as ash as he stared at her with such pained longing and awe at her presence standing before him and his mouth hung slightly open as silent words tumbled into oblivion from his lips. Rose smiled shyly at him and gave a tiny wave. He visibly swallowed a few times at the gesture.

"Hello."

"But, but how...?"

"Borusa asked me to map a spacial anomaly and it turned out to be a dimensional rift that the TARDIS fell through," the Fifth Doctor explained gently. He gave Rose the slightest nudge and she moved toward his future self. Almost as if the play button had been pressed on a remote, the Tenth Doctor snapped out of his frozen state to scoop her up into his arms. Rose squeaked as her feet lifted off the ground and out of self-preservation immediately moved to wrap her arms around his torso. When at last he set her down on the grating again he had her so tightly wound in his arms that she couldn't breathe, and just as she felt her respiratory bypass engage he stiffened.

"Two hearts..." He murmured. Rose winced as he abruptly disentangled himself from the hug and took a good few precautionary steps backward.

"Ah, yes, about that," Five began awkwardly as he took off his hat and twisted it nervously in his hands. "Someone aimed a matter redistributor at me and before I knew what was happening Rose had knocked me to the ground. It caught her a severe glancing blow to the abdomen, I'm afraid. She Regenerated shortly afterward."

"But Rose is human!" Ten exclaimed to his past self, fast approaching hysterics as his voice climbed ever higher toward squeaky territory. "She shouldn't be able to do that!"

"Bad Wolf," Rose replied with a shrug. Ten turned from glaring at his past self to stare at her with wide chocolate brown eyes. "I had latent vortex energy hidden in my DNA, apparently, and when I got hurt it sor' of... activated. I Regenerated. Into a Time Lady." Her next words were carefully measured. "As if I were on my tenth incarnation." She moved a few steps toward him and looked up into his startled face with a slightly tilted head. "That okay?" She asked in a tiny, self-conscious voice.

"Of course it is," her cricketer Doctor soothed as he quickly strode over and gave her a light peck on the cheek. Rose relaxed instantly, a soft, short purr emitting from her throat.

"But- but- what- but-" Her pinstriped Doctor was stuttering now, pointing between the two of them wildly in extreme confusion, noticing that she was wearing his jumper and kind of fixating on that. "When did this happen!?"

"Slow on the uptake, isn't he?" Five commented drily. Rose smacked him on his good arm and he winced. "Worth it." He was glancing at his surroundings and grimaced. "Ugh. Why, of all desktop themes, did you have to pick the Coral one?"

"Oi, that was my predecessor thank you very much!" Ten protested, crossing his arms in annoyance. "Besides, you've gotta admit it's much better than the leopard skin!" They both shuddered at the unpleasant reminder.

"In the Old Girl's defense it was the seventies," Five muttered, jaw sticking out in a pout as he shoved the unslinged hand into his pocket.

"Sorry, 'leopard skin' desktop theme?" Rose asked.

"Never mind that," Ten evaded. "Neither of you answered my question on why you're so- so-"

"Domestic?" Rose finished with a raised eyebrow.

"I mean, for lack of a better word... Hang on." He frowned, brow furrowing, as he leaned in and ran a hand over the bruise and bandage above her eye. "What did you do to her!?" Both of Five's eyebrows shot into his bangs as he pointed a finger at his chest and said nothing, incredulous, before then pointing at his sling. "Oh."

"As if I'd ever hurt our fiancée," he scoffed. Ten's eyes bugged out of his skull.

"Our what!?"

"Oi, stop confusing your future self," Rose chided. The Fifth Doctor gave her a mock-put upon sigh and eye roll, the small smile ruining the effect as amusement bubbled over their bond.

"Yes, dear."

“Fiancée!?” 

“He repeats things quite a lot, doesn’t he?” Rose snorted at the snide remark and threw up her hands. 

“Oh no you don’t. I’m staying out of this. Why don’t you actually answer the question he asked a minute ago?” Five cocked his head slightly to the side, considering. 

“Yes, I suppose I could. What was the question again?” Rose could only stare at him. 

“What, you don’t even pay attention to yourself!?

“In his defense we do tend to whittle on a bit,” the Tenth Doctor cut in mildly. He withered under her exasperated glare and leaned on the console, sulking. Five rolled his eyes and bent to get a look at the monitor, frowning as he dug around in his coat and pulled out his spectacles. Ten brightened again at that, excitedly digging around in his own pockets. “Oh, oh! The Brainy Specs! See, he doesn’t even need them. Just thinks they make him look a bit clever.”

He was rolling around on the balls of his feet and plopped his own on his nose. 

“Oh, nice to see a habit that gets appreciated,” the Fifth Doctor commented with a happy smile. 

“Isn’t it just? Right Ro- Rose?” They both turned to her, somehow managing to convey the exact same confused expression despite wearing different faces, and Rose cupped her mouth with her hands to suppress a fit of giggles. The pinstriped one smirked while the cricketer one pouted. 

“What’s so funny?” The Fifth Doctor sighed. 

“Oh, I really don’t want to say anything because I’ll be deflating your ego for days, but... you call them Brainy Specs? Seriously?” They nodded. “I kinda... in my head referred to them as your Sexy Specs...” The twin, identical pleased grins she got in return made her blush. “Shut up.” 

“Never,” Five said.

“Never ever,” Ten agreed. Rose frowned.

“Are you wearing a different suit?” She asked. He glanced down at it and nodded. 

“What’s wrong with blue?”

“Nothing, just used to the brown.” Rose glanced at his feet and smirked. “Love the red Chucks though. Pair of you and your trainers.”

“They’re comfortable!” They both said at once. All three looked up as a high-pitched klaxon burst through the speakers. 

“Alert, level five,” her cricketer Doctor muttered as he dashed around the console. He groaned when he went to do something with his bad arm. “Rose, I’m sending you a picture through the Bond. Can you-”

“On it,” Rose interrupted. The TARDIS was chattering away in her mind as she pressed buttons and flipped levers. the Fifth Doctor trailed after her anxiously. 

“Okay, it looks like our two TARDISes have merged, but... there’s definitely only one present...”

“...Two time zones at war in the heart of the TARDIS,” Rose breathed, wincing as her senses grated against the feeling. She shot a glance at her Bond Mate to be. “Do you think-”

“Oh very likely,” he sighed. “I doubt the Old Girl would have let either of us go through the pain of trying to decide when you had to leave, so both versions put us out of our misery by not giving us a choice.” 

“That’s a paradox though,” Rose pointed out, worrying at her bottom lip. “I mean, it could blow a hole in the space-time continuum the size of-”

“Belgium,” Five chirped as he pulled the monitor over and frowned at the results. “The exact size of Belgium. That’s a bit undramatic, isn’t it? Belgium?”

“I know, I think we could at least hope for Denmark,” Rose huffed in fake annoyance. Neither one took any notice of the Tenth Doctor, who had been watching them with wide eyes and noting the ease and familiarity they expressed so effortlessly. Five hummed agreement and rifled around in his pockets before sighing. 

“Rose, can you hand me your Sonic Pen? I can’t reach my Screwdriver as it’s in the wrong pocket for my arm at the moment.”

“Hm? Oh, sure thing,” Rose said absently as she tossed it over. She then stepped close and rifled around in his pockets herself before pulling the silver object out while he scanned the TARDIS with her Pen. “Glad you made them for Christmas then?” 

“Of course. My Sonic was invaluable trying to build a K-9 Puppy unit for your borther’s birthday.” 

“And for fixing mum’s toaster after you dissected it. And, really, what is it with you and toasters anyway?”

“They’re needlessly complex.” The beeping intensified and he dashed back to Rose’s side as they worked in synchronous tandem at the console. “Oh, this is bad! Two minutes to Belgium!” He paused, suddenly realizing that as far as Doctors in any incarnation went his future self had been uncharacteristically silent. “You all right there, Doctor?”

“What Bond?” He asked quietly in a small voice. 

“An engagement Bond,” Rose replied simply. Ten swallowed. 

“How long has it been, for you, since...”

“Seven years, eight months, two weeks, and... four days,” she rattled off easily. She bit her lip. “I became a Time Lady in late September and we left for this universe in mid-February, so...” 

“Five months,” Ten rasped, looking at his past self. “You’ve known her five months?” 

“She needed to adjust to her new physiology,” Five explained before glancing down and toeing the metal grating with the tip of a scuffed trainer. “And after Adric, I... I needed some time to heal.”

“We helped each other,” Rose summarized softly. Her voice was almost achingly tender. We bonded a few days ago, but-”

“I may have proposed, but I wouldn’t have felt right marrying her when she had to go back to you,” Five interrupted. “I think that that should fall to you, to have a proper ceremony and complete the Bond and all.” Ten nodded before his gaze focused on Rose again and he seemed to be having a hard time not crying.

“I can feel you,” he whispered, tapping his temple. Five hummed knowingly, assuming that he could sense the Bond, but the pair knew the truth. It was just the two of them in a vast emptiness where billions should have existed and they were two bright sparks in a dark void.

“I know,” she murmured back. All three of them froze as an ominous tolling reverberated throughout the ship. “Uh oh.”

“The Cloister Bell,” the Fifth Doctor said in a sort of reverent terror. 

“Not good,” the Tenth Doctor muttered, tugging on an ear. “Oh, that is very not good.” They dashed to the TARDIS console and began trying to get her stabilized.

“Why would she put us in that much trouble if she knew it would unravel reality!?” Rose exclaimed irritably as the ship pitched violently sideways and she clung to the console edge for dead life. 

“Oh, who knows?” Five growled in annoyance. “I can never get her to go anywhere I’d like her to.”

“Doctor, you can’t blame Heathrow on the TARDIS.”

“Oh, you just watch me!” 

"Oi, lovebirds!" Ten shouted from the other side of the console. "Quit flirting and start looking for a solution!"

"That's not flirting," Five shot back smugly. "You'd know if we were flirting."

"Not the time Doctor," Rose chided. She frowned suddenly and looked up at the ceiling. "No, we're not doing that."

"Do what?" Two voices asked at the same time.

"She wants us to vent the thermobuffer, floor the helmic regulator, and then fry the zeiton crystals!"

"But that'll blow you up!" The Fifth Doctor gasped, gaping at the ceiling. "Why would that ever be a good idea?"

"Do we have any better ideas?" The Tenth Doctor muttered, his hands tugging at his hair until it was even more of a mess than it had been previously. "I mean, the only person who knows how to fly the TARDIS better than us is the TARDIS herself..."

"Let's do it then," Rose sighed. "And if this gets us killed I'm just sorry I won't be able to say 'I told you so.'"

"Cheek."

The Tenth Doctor did the venting on the thermobuffer from his side of the console while the Fifth Doctor floored the regulator and Rose set about frying the crystals. A hot, white light enveloped the console room before fading out and the two TARDISes separated out in their respective spots along the time stream. There was a moment of silent as they all exchanged stunned glances at one another before collectively staring with wide-eyed awe at the ceiling.

"Supernova and black hole at the exact same instant," Five breathed.

"Explosion cancels out the implosion," Ten murmured reverently.

"So... does that mean... Matter remains constant?" Rose summarized tentatively, looking to her Doctors for confirmation and smiling when they beamed at her. "Oh but that's brilliant!"

"Far too brilliant," Five grumbled. "Our TARDIS is too clever for her own good I think." Said ship let out a smug hum and they collectively rolled their eyes. "Oh, hush."

"Yeah, speaking of which, she shouldn't be able to communicate with you like that," Ten commented mildly as he looked curiously at Rose. "You're not her pilot." She shrugged.

"I wasn't but I'm one of them now," she explained. "She's bonded to the both of us."

"...Oh."

"Meddling matchmaker isn't she?" Five sighed. "Always knows best, our TARDIS."

"Oh, naturally," Rose laughed. A warbling alarm blared and Ten dashed to the monitor to see what was going on.

"Oh, sorry Doctor time's up! TARDISes are separating, back to long ago!" He glanced over at his past self with a curious, furrowed brow for a few moments before returning to the readout. "Where are you now?" He asked. "Nyssa and Tegan? Cybermen and Mara, the Master- Oh! He just showed up again. Same as ever." When he didn't get a response he looked up and swallowed uncomfortably. "Oh."

The Fifth Doctor was standing with his good arm wrapped around Rose as tightly as possible while she hugged him just as tightly and they had their foreheads touching, eyes closed, standing as close to one another as was physically feasible. He began shimmering in and out of temporally-linear focus and they clung to one another all the more desperately.

"I seem to be off," he murmured in a choked whisper. "Rose... the time we've had together..."

"'S not right," Rose sobbed, tears beginning to stream down her face. His own forcibly calm demeanor broke and he drew in a shuddering breath. "'S not even a proper goodbye..."

"I'd never be able to let you go otherwise, I just couldn't," he whimpered. "The TARDIS knew that." The Fifth Doctor drew back slightly to cup her jaw and stroke her cheek with the pad of his thumb, flickering even more out of their part of the timeline. "But Rose, just know, I..." He swallowed thickly. "Oh, Rose..."

Her name petered out on a whisper as he faded entirely and Rose let out a choked sob, hands coming up to her mouth, and the Tenth Doctor flew to the controls to fight for a few more moments. His younger self popped back into the TARDIS and he let his hand move to the back of Rose's head desperately as she grabbed the lapels of his coat for a kiss.

«I love you!» he shouted mentally over their Bond, pouring every single emotion he had into it and frantically deepening the kiss when the influx of Rose's empathic response slammed into him full force.

«My Doctor,» she cried.

«Yours,» he assured her. «Always yours.»

«Love you forever,» she whispered.

«This isn't goodbye,» The Doctor told her in a broken but somewhat forced cheerful tone. «Rather, it's 'hello.' When I leave I'll still be here, yes?» Rose let out a soft mental chuckle at the absurdity of the statement despite herself.

«Yeah.» They pulled out of the kiss to look at each other one last time and she drank in the spark in his soft sky blue eyes before he stepped back a few paces and nodded to his future self, who had picked up his panama hat and now saw an opportunity to toss it back to his former self.

"To days to come," the Fifth Doctor said softly, placing the hat on his head.

"All my love to long ago," the Tenth Doctor replied. They were both looking at Rose.

"Love you!" She called as he faded for good, shoulders slumping when he was gone. The Tenth Doctor immediately came over and wrapped her into a tight embrace as the Fifth Doctor delivered a final parting shot.

"Love you too. my Rose."

Her pinstriped Doctor shuddered as an influx of five months' worth of memories unlocked in his head and he clung to Rose tighter. They both whimpered as their engagement Bond flared and resettled between the pair of them, linking them together, and he opened himself up to it desperately. He was vulnerable, Rose realized suddenly; he was afraid that she preferred his past self.

"Hey, look at me," she murmured quietly, catching him by the chin as she stepped out of his vise-like grip just enough that they could see one another. When he did as she asked she pressed a light kiss to the sensitive spot she knew existed just underneath his right ear and jaw and he shivered. "I love you. My Doctor, always and forever."

"Yours," he promised gratefully as she poured her love for this him, last him, every him, over their Bond, echoing his past self's sentiments. "Always yours." He purred at the feeling of her mind brushing against his and sank into the connection with a visible release of long-kept tension. "Rose- in my head- feels so, so good..."

"I know," Rose murmured, letting him hold her tightly and basking in the dual scent of his past life on the jumper she still wore as well as the scent of his present life as she melted into his arms seeking comfort. "I know."

Chapter Text

Rose's cricketer Doctor faded back into his own TARDIS and blinked a few times as he felt five months' worth of memories tuck themselves away for retrieval at a much later time and frowned as he reached up to wipe away the tears slowly tracking down his face. He didn't feel like he should have been crying; that something inside of him that had been broken after losing Adric had been healed and he was much more confident that Nyssa would decide to travel with him when he came back for her. Who knew, something told him that if he ran into Tegan again she'd want to come too. His future felt optimistic, as if he had something to look forward to, and it hadn't felt like that in ages. 

So why was he crying, if the memories felt happy and good, more so than he had felt anything he could properly remember dating back for the past few centuries?

Oh. He'd said goodbye...

...And hello.

"Ah," he murmured resignedly. "That would do it..."

He sent a quick message to Borusa delivering the anomaly data and then decided to skip ahead to pick up Nyssa. The TARDIS sang soothing hymns in the back of his mind and he let her, needing the telepathic communion because he felt as if he'd lost something that belonged in his mind, and when he landed at the end of the convention Nyssa was standing outside the TARDIS waiting for him.

Her demeanor was uncertain, prickly even, but it changed when she took in his haggard appearance. She slowly approached as he stepped out of the TARDIS and gently laid a hand on his sling.

"Where did you go?" She asked softly, concern all too evident on her features. The Doctor glanced down at his splinted right arm in mild surprise, noting with even more mild shock that someone had stuck a brand new Sonic Screwdriver in the sling where he could get at it. He also appeared to be missing his jumper, and there was this beautiful lingering scent...

"To sort myself out," he replied finally. "I met someone... precious to me, in my future I think, but I can't properly remember in order to preserve timelines. I just... after Adric..." Nyssa nodded as he trailed off and hugged him gingerly, mindful of his bad arm.

"Come on Doctor," she sighed. "I'm ready to go back to the TARDIS now." He flashed her a tentative smile and they walked into the ship.

\^*§*^/

After narrowly escaping the rather confusing, unexpected, and altogether unwanted adventure on the Max Capricorn Titanic Stellar Cruise-liner the Doctor and Rose returned to the coordinate location that Malcolm had given them for where Rose's family was supposed to have come out at.

Jackie waited impatiently for her daughter and himself to come out and was more than a little surprised when she saw the pinstriped one rather than the cricket one she'd been expecting.

"Rose!" She called as her daughter appeared, pointing at the Doctor. "Where's-" She didn't get a chance to finish, however, because not two seconds later she was swept up in a bone-crushing hug by a certain hyperactive Time Lord.

"Thank you thank you thank you," he mumbled almost incoherently into her hair. "Oh Jackie, thank you for accepting my past incarnation into your family, you'll never know how much I... how much that... oh, thank you," he ended on a grateful whisper. Jackie, who had been standing awkwardly stiff, went instinctively into full mother mode as she rubbed at his back and sighed soothing hums to calm him down.

"You're welcome sweetheart," she murmured comfortingly before pulling away and grimacing at the state of his hair. "Oh, you're such a mess. C'mere." He let out a shaky laugh and angled his neck to gratefully let her at his head. 

“Is this weird for you?” He asked quietly. 

“In what way?” 

“Me, changing bodies on you...”

“Pish. I’ve known three of you now, each one so different from the others and yet the same in all the ways that matter, and I’ve gotten used to it as best I can. And I intend to get used to as many of the rest of you as I can before I’m gone, y’hear?” The Doctor swallowed thickly before nodding. He’d made this woman’s life infinitely more complicated in all the worst kinds of ways just by association and she was- was- was mothering him. 

Jackie stepped back and, crossing her arms, gave him a look that said she knew exactly what he was thinking and that she was having none of it. 

“Oh, stop. If I hadn’t known you I never would have found my Pete again. I wouldn’t have had Tony.” She raised an eyebrow. “Granted, having a soon-to-be alien son-in-law who’s almost a millennium old will take some getting used to, but I figure that if said alien can get used to the idea of a human mother-in-law I can adapt.” 

“What about alien grandkids, mum?” Rose asked, shooting the both of them a cheeky grin. Jackie whirled around, hands suddenly on her hips, and gave her daughter a glare. 

“There’d better have been a honeymoon before I hear that announcement young miss,” she snapped. The Doctor paled. He’d only just gotten Rose back, just been handed a ready-made family on a silver platter, and remembered they needed to set a date for the wedding in the span of fifteen minutes. Additionally, all of the memories belonged to a past life and they had been worry-free because all of the details were happening in the future. Nothing had been discussed, especially not children, because that was something his future self needed to talk about. Except now his future was his present and it had caught up with him.

He came back to reality when Jackie smacked him hard upside the back of the head. 

“You hear me, Time Lord?” She snapped. “No getting my daughter up the duff ‘til after you say ‘I Do.’” He turned to her with a deer in the headlights expression and she misinterpreted the reason behind it, because her hand dropped down to pat his shoulder. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m looking forward to having a bunch of- what did your species call...?”

“Time Tots,” Rose offered with a smile. Jackie snorted at the adorable name which came from a planet that they had been told had no sense of humor whatsoever. Rose glanced at her fiancé and gave him a sympathetic look. “Hey mum, where’s Tony?”

“Oh, Mickey is off giving him, Pete, and Jake a grand tour of the Plass,” Jackie said dismissively. 

“Well, let’s go join them then yeah?” She suggested before glancing around. “Hang on. Are we in Cardiff?” 

“Oh no,” the Doctor groaned. Rose raised an eyebrow before catching the stray thought in his mind through the Bond, and she gasped and turned on her heel at a run toward the center of the Plass. “Rose!”

“Jack!” 

“Jack’s alive!?” Jackie exclaimed. The Doctor shrugged, having the decency to at least look apologetic as he tugged on an ear. 

“Hey, Jacks! What’s going on!?” Pete called as the rest of their little group came running from the opposite direction. 

“Jack’s alive!”

“Who’s Jack!?”

“Oh great, Captain Cheesecake!” Mickey grumbled loudly. They rounded the monument to see the Doctor glaring at an embracing couple. Jack pulled away from Rose and she mewled in protest, tightening her grip around his waist and contentedly resting her head in the center of his chest. 

“Well if it isn’t Mickey Mouse!” The immortal ex-Time Agent exclaimed, voice dripping dually both with warmth and sarcasm. He frowned suddenly and glanced down at Rose. "Um, Rosie, I don't want to pry, but you've kinda got two hearts..."

 

"It was great seeing Jack again even if he feels wrong to me now," Rose said softly as she read over the TARDIS' diagnostics. The Doctor hummed noncommittally underneath the console and she rolled her eyes. "Come on, I know you act like you can't stand him but the two of you are as thick as thieves when you both think no one's watching. So what's really bothering you?"

There was a long period of silence that got progressively more awkward and uncomfortable the longer it went on.

"Doctor?" Rose whispered. "I can't- I'm sorry, I just, I got so used to being able to... to..."

"To... what?"

"Know what you were feeling," she sighed. "Even if it was only for a few days, I got so used to the Bond..." his shoulders tensed and she curled in on herself. "...And even if you're cutting yourself off from it as best you can I can see I've made you uncomfortable, sorry..."

"Rose, I don't-" The Doctor cut himself off and sighed, scrubbing at his face. "It's not- it's just it's all a lot to take in in such a short period of time..."

"What brought this on? Was it the conversation about kids? You know my mum, I shouldn't have brought it up just to tease-"

"Rose, I don't want to go into that right-"

"Do you wish you hadn't... I- I'd understand if now, when you know what we've been through together, if you'd just want to be- be friends-"

"No!" He exclaimed, coming up so quickly he smacked his head on the console to cup her face in his hands. "Rose, listen to me. I'm not trying to distance myself from you. I just, I feel guilty."

"Why?" Rose whispered, golden-brown eyes wide as she stared back at him. The Doctor sighed, opening up the Bond fully, and flinched when she inhaled sharply at the inrush of emotion. "Doctor."

"I never told you I loved you," he choked bitterly. "Not when it counted. It took a past life to admit it to you because I couldn't even get up the courage to do it myself. I should have said it on that beach but I got in my own way. I got so close so many times but- I couldn't. I was too- well, I was too me if that makes any sense. And I'm so, so sorry for what I put you through because of that. So, yeah. I'm guilty. You were right about what happened with Madame de Pompadour."

He flinched again when she smacked him none too gently but none too hard across the face.

"I deserved that."

"For France? Uh, yeah. But this-" He yelped as she grabbed him by the tie and dragged his head down into a passionate kiss before letting go and smirking at his dazed features, her expression turning tender as she gently stroked his cheek. "That was for thinking you're too broken for me to want to be with you."

"Rose..."

"I loved you at 'I could save the world but lose you,' Doctor, even if I didn't realize how much until you got eaten by that Reaper. And you're forgetting that I've seen the dark parts, that I was there when you were shattered and I picked up the pieces without you asking just because I wanted to." A gentle, soft kiss that he whimpered at. "You're my best friend and I love you no matter what. Not despite your faults, but because of them. I love you in leather, in cricket whites, in pinstripes. Hell, if you were to wear a bow tie I'd still claim you in public. If you wore a magician's jacket I'd still claim you."

"What about Joseph's Technicolor Dream Coat?" He mumbled sarcastically, wincing at the fashion tastes of a past life. Rose frowned slightly and a few moments later he felt her sifting through his memories, pulling out the images of his past bodies and a general sense of their personas, and he purred at how good it felt. For her, she'd done it just a few hours ago. For him, it had been centuries. He'd forgotten how much he'd missed it.

"...I might add an addendum that you were colorblind, but yes, I'd claim you," she laughed. The sound was soft and genuine and his hearts ached with how much he'd missed hearing that, how healing it felt. The Doctor let out a soft chuckle of his own and gently rested his forehead against hers.

"We're a mess, aren't we?"

"Yeah, but we're still us. I'd rather us be a mess together than apart."

"Better with two?"

"Forever."

\^*§*^/

Jackie's shenanigans in their wedding planning were driving them both spare, so for a good few hours they'd kicked her out of the TARDIS. The Doctor had transferred over his funds accrued from years spent as U.N.I.T.'s Scientific Advisor over to Pete and Jackie; upon hearing that they'd worked for Torchwood in the parallel universe Jack had immediately offered Mickey, Pete, and Jake spots on their team and they had finally found themselves flats in Cardiff. Far enough away from London that no one would recognize them and with secure, familiar employment, on top of the wedding preparations Jackie was going nuts over getting her family's flat fixed up (Mercifully she opted to leave Mickey and Jake's shared flat a floor up alone).

So, in a fit of unparalleled brilliance, they'd all kicked her out of their lives for a few hours under the guise of needing her to run errands about town. She, of course, knew better, and it was only because it suited her as an excuse to run a more secret errand of her own that she let them all believe they were getting away with something.

Torchwood's lift took her down into the Hub and Ianto smiled widely at her when he ooked up from his computer.

"Morning, Mrs. Tyler," he said conversationally as he leaned back in his chair with his hands steepled across his chest. "If you're looking for Jack he's in his office."

"Thanks darling," Jackie replied with a smile, dropping a bag of fresh-baked biscuits on the desk beside a large thermos of tea. "If anyone asks I was never here."

"My lips are sealed."

"Ta." Jackie continued on and rapped her knuckles on the doorframe. Jack glanced up from some paperwork and raised an eyebrow.

"As I live and breathe, the other Jack," he said in mock awe. Jackie snorted and sat herself down on the edge of his desk. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"You're ordained as a 51st century officiator so they're having you perform the wedding ceremony," she started, leaning forward slightly. Jack paid more attention given the topic of discussion. "And Rose's got Mickey as her Man of Honor because, honestly, that girl never could do anything normally, and the Doctor's got that old mate of his Alistair for his Best Man, but... I don't pretend to know a lot about the Doctor's people and how they did their weddings. I just know that he and my daughter are making a combination of the two cultures and that Pete and I have to say the words 'consent and gladly give' for Rose to be able to marry him."

There was a long pause.

"Your point...?" Jack prompted patiently.

"My point is that it got me wondering. The Doctor doesn't have anyone to consent for him, 'sides himself, and I wanted to know how that would affect things."

"If someone from the Doctor's family were to miraculously show up later on down the line and object to the marriage there isn't much they could do," Jack explained. He watched Jackie slowly relax. "There's no issue legally. It's just going to be painfully obvious to the few people you were able to invite from the estate that he doesn't have anyone left to do that. As much as he's our family, he isn't our family legally yet."

"What do you mean, 'our?'" Jackie asked suspiciously. Jack had the decency to look like small boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar.

"I uh, when I had to make myself a new identity I sort of set myself up as Rose's long lost older cousin..."

"Oh for- fine, fine. I've adopted enough lonely puppies I guess I can adopt one more. That means you have to respect your long lost auntie then," she groused before fixing him with a look. He sighed, then nodded. "Good. Now, I won't stand for himself standing at the altar on his lonesome. I want you to do something for me."

"Name it."

\^*§*^/

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Rose asked tiredly. The Doctor grunted.

"If you're thinking that eloping would have been much less work and infinitely more our style, then yes."

They were lying side by side on the floor of the TARDIS library with binders and half-assembled napkin origami strewn chaotically all about them staring numbly at the ceiling. Alistair had agreed to ask his daughter Kate for U.N.I.T.'s updated list of his companions currently living on Earth, Sarah had agreed to track them down with her super-computer, and the Doctor had reluctantly agreed to contact Donna about finding a nice quiet venue. She'd been temping, trying to find him again, and was all too happy to help him out with his problem.

...She and Jackie got on a little too well for anyone to feel at ease when they were in the same room.

"Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking," Rose huffed, blowing a strand of hair away from her eyes. "I'm at the point now where I just want all this to be over so that we can actually enjoy getting married?"

"Yep," the Doctor muttered, popping the 'p.'

"Still, I handed off those designs you gave me for Time Lady marital robes to a dress designer and she's going to make those up in whites and golds. How are you coming along with your burgundy tux?"

"It was surprisingly simple to find one. I had one or three in the wardrobe but they weren't tailored for my current body, so."

"Why did you have so many?"

"Friends on Gallifrey getting married. I wanted to wear red as is traditional as Leela wanted me to consent for her but refused to wear the robes. Another couple of times it was a Christmas party at U.N.I.T. and it looked festive. I have reasons." Rose snickered but didn't press further. They both simultaneously let out a content but tired sigh and Rose rolled onto her side to press a kiss to the Doctor's cheek.

"I can't wait to be married to you," she murmured softly.

"Mm, love you," he purred.

"Love you."

\^*§*^/

The day of the wedding was in October. They'd wanted an Autumn date for all of the explosion of glorious color and the cool temperatures didn't bother either of them, so what did it matter?

The combination of cultures had actually gone quite smoothly. The act of the Telepathic Bond could be done at the end of the ceremony and they'd elected to include the handfasting portion of the Gallifreyan ceremony instead of the traditional Western culture concept of taking two separate candles to light one larger one. Mickey had tried so hard to get them to do the sand in the hourglass concept because he thought the irony was hilarious, but they'd been firm about the handfasting. While much of the first half of said ceremony was Earth, the vows would be in Gallifreyan.

The flowers of choice were white roses, the closest Earth flower in relation to the Gallifreyan arkytior blossoms, and the colors were gold, red, and bronze. Rose was wearing a traditional set of Gallifreyan marriage robes in white and the Doctor was wearing an Earth tuxedo in burgundy, each honoring their spouse-to-be's culture in cloth but their own culture in color. Tony was to be their Earth ring-bearer and Gallifreyan pendant-bearer, and Rose had opted not to have a flower girl.

Jack, of course, was officiating. Mickey was Rose's Man of Honor and the Doctor had Alistair as his Best Man. Donna had found a beautiful open-air gazebo place to rent out for them and the reception was to be held nearby on the Lethbridge-Stewart estate, so the entire thing was taking place in Scotland. Despite the fact that it was Alistair's house, he and Doris had to do nothing more than provide the location as Donna took it upon herself to schedule a cleaning crew for them as they were getting on in years. Said house was next to a large lake and the weather was going to be marvelous (the Doctor cheated a bit and went into the future to check, simply standing around in the highlands like a lunatic for a few hours to make absolutely sure).

Despite the fact that they were inviting certain Companions, the guest list was incredibly small. The Doctor was somewhat particular in which Companions exactly he wanted there as some of them had left under bad terms and others hadn't been close enough, but Jack still had to use his Vortex Manipulator to collect a few from their scattered locations in space-time (Rose had yelled at the Doctor for disabling it when Jack would obviously know better than to use it for ill purposes).

 

Three days before the wedding they were all up at Alistair's estate to get the final touches put in place. It had been a rather long and trying day and Sarah had come up with her adopted son and his friends Luke and Rani; Tony was following after them like an adorable little puppy and in a rare moment of quiet the Doctor went exploring through the lakeshore with them. They all came back covered in mud but happy, Tony asleep against the Doctor's shoulder, and Rose felt something twinge in her chest when she watched them all.

"You're good with kids," she commented mildly later that evening long after everyone had gone to bed. They were in the grass out under the stars, neither one of them even remotely exhausted, and were lazily pointing out the constellations to one another.

"Well, yeah, it's easy to be good with them when you refuse to actually grow up," he replied with a snort. Rose rolled her eyes and let the subject drop. She'd been hoping it would segue into an actual discussion but the glib response had set a light-hearted mood that didn't trend well with the serous topic. They fell silent for a few moments before he spoke again, effortlessly picking up on her emotional state through the Bond.

"Sorry. You wanted an actual conversation about something, what was it?" Rose swallowed a few times as he watched her attentively.

"Would you want kids, someday?" She asked slowly, and for some reason felt the need to clarify. "With me?" His melted chocolate gaze softened, the color seeming to make it even more tender than it was already, and he regarded her with a sort of reverent awe.

"You wouldn't mind?"

"Not anytime soon, but... I think I'd like that, someday in the future," Rose murmured in response. "You?"

"I thought you hated kids," he said confusedly, brow furrowing adorably.

"I don't. I mean, I used to think that they were kind of okay only when they belonged to someone else, but after Tony was born... Dunno, I just..." Her entire face went vivid red and he raised an eyebrow.

"You just... what?"

"I dreamt, for a while afterwards, of a few little kids running around with your ninth incarnation's blue eyes and your current incarnation's spiky brown hair..."

Rose shoved some of the visualizations at him over the Bond, her entire telepathic presence dripping with embarrassment, and he felt tears spring to his eyes when he saw what she'd pictured them to look like. Some were more like his past body, some his current body, some more like her, but all of them a combination of the two of them. Some of them looked reminiscent of his fifth incarnation as well, he noted, and that made him immensely happy for some reason. There were only a few, none of them definite and shifting constantly through several different version, but they were undeniably theirs. 

"Where uh, where'd the freckles come from?" He asked, swallowing past the lump in his throat.

"You've got freckles, they stand out when you blush," she said as if it were obvious.

"Really?" He squeaked in surprise. Rose's amusement won out over her embarrassment just as he'd hoped it would and she habitually twined his nearest hand with hers. The night wind was whipping her hair around her face and the Doctor smiled softly at her as he conveyed his love and admiration across the Bond.

"You're mental."

"And you're fantastic."

"Yeah?" She wasn't just asking for confirmation and he knew it. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her temple.

"Yeah."

\^*§*^/

The morning of the wedding Jackie allowed Mickey in when Rose was mostly decent into her room. He smiled warmly at her and slung his suit jacket over his shoulder, leaning against the wall.

"Hey, babe. You nervous?" Rose, who had been frantically fixing the damage a comb had caused before her mother (a former hairdresser) came back in after talking with Pete and Tony, paused to consider.

"No," she said after a few moments before resuming her activities. "Just excited. It feels right. All our timelines are converging on this toward one unity and I suppose that kind of takes the uncertainty out of it. I'm ready, Micks. I'm good, I really am." He blinked a few times before coming over to help her with the impending hair disaster.

"Well, you've never looked more beautiful and despite what happened between us I really am truly happy for you. You're gonna knock 'im dead, Rose."

"Thanks, Mickey."

 

"I must admit I never saw this coming in all the years I've known you," Alistair commented as the Doctor exhaled in long, practiced breaths to keep himself in a state of grace. He was adjusting his cufflinks and externally appeared completely at ease, but internally he was bouncing off the walls with happy anticipation.

"Me neither," he admitted with a short laugh. "But it feels right, Alistair."

"Does this have anything to do with those timelines you mentioned to me ages ago?"

"Mmhmm." His oldest friend smiled gently and presented him with the midnight blue bow tie, which he accepted and slung under the collar of his crisp white oxford. The human was in his old dress uniform despite being retired (no one dared tell him he couldn't wear it) and stepped forward to do the honors himself, tying the short cloth with nimble and expert fingers before stepping back to admire his handiwork.

"I'd do something about your hair, and must you wear trainers with a tuxedo?" He grumbled. "If you're not presentable that's on me for letting you walk out there like this."

"Rose said she'd skin me alive if I wore any other type of shoe," the Doctor snickered as he tied the laces on his black Chucks. "As for my hair... I tried once, to put product in it to make it look normal, and it looked worse?"

Alistair blinked.

"So what you're telling me is that your hair defies physics no matter how hard you try and make it do otherwise," he summarized flatly. The Time Lord nodded and he sighed resignedly. "Of course it does." 

 

Pete was waiting for her when Rose moved to exit the TARDIS. The gazebo was exposed and there wasn't a good place for her to wait so that her appearance could be kept secret unless they did it that way so the TARDIS had been moved to a few yards away from the end of the aisle they'd created. He was beaming at her and she hugged him tightly, suddenly fighting back tears.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" He asked, arms coming up to hold her close.

"I told myself that I'd be fine without my dad walking me down the aisle," she whispered, and she heard him swallow audibly. "I'm really, really glad you're here daddy."

"I'd told myself I'd be fine never seeing my child married off when my other Jackie told me she didn't want kids," he choked out. "But I'm so glad I can be here for this, baby girl. I am." They held each other for a few moments as they both got their emotions under control and, with her arm wrapped in his, they walked out into the sunlight. 

 

When an entirely instrumental version of Sleeping at Last’s “Saturn” began playing over some Bluetooth speakers the Doctor turned from staring out over the rolling hills and water and gasped. 

Rose had a long, sweeping dress adorned with intricate golden needlework of Gallifreyan design. There was an open space in the chest that showed the clavicle but little else, a turtleneck portion coming up to a point just below her chin; the angel sleeves were long and fell fluttering into a slight breeze with the finest of translucent golden silks draped across the shoulders to fall down and cover her exposed lower back. The hem of the dress whispered softly as it barely moved across the fresh green grass. The skirt was cinched at the waist and hung loosely in a wide flare, and it took the Doctor a few moments to realize that she was barefoot. 

Light golden eyeshadow and a modest amount of eyeliner were her only makeup along with the softest of shimmering lip glosses. Her hair was done in an intricate chignon full of braids and tiny golden Lantana flowers were woven throughout, and the Doctor went weak in the knees as his breath left his body. 

«You’re a vision,» he whispered telepathically, mouth moving uselessly as silent repetition of her name tumbled from his lips. A natural blush stained her cheeks and they exchanged a wide, soft smile. 

«Very smart in your tuxedo,» she told him with the slightest flutter of her eyelashes. He choked on his own breath. 

 

Truth be told he missed half of what Jack was saying and the only reason he heard the other half was because Rose thought it was important and repeated it telepathically. It was mostly the opening spiel and a few (blessedly) PG anecdotes, so at least he wasn’t missing anything like the vows because he was too focused on memorizing every single little detail about his bride’s appearance. He was drinking in the image as if she were exuding beams of sunshine herself on the clear day and he focused abruptly when she sent him a sharp mental prod that was the equivalent of stepping on his foot. 

“...And before all signify that this union is official,” Jack was finishing saying. He then smirked. “And seeing as I somehow highly doubt the groom heard a word I just said, I’m gonna shake things up a little bit from tradition and ask my questions to the bride first.”

Scattered chuckles swept through the audience and the Doctor felt his face heat, but Rose’s warm laugh had a bubbly feeling welling inside his chest and he felt he could roll with it without embarrassment. 

“My bad,” he admitted unapologetically, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet. 

“Nutter,” Rose sighed. “Go ahead, Jack.” The Captain nodded. 

“We have a mix of traditions from two cultures here,” he started. “So this is going to go a little different from what most people here are used to.” He cleared his throat and nodded to Rose’s parents; they stepped forward behind her. “Mr. and Mrs. Tyler, your daughter stands before us today with the intent to wed her Bond Mate. What say you to this union?”

“I consent and gladly give,” Jackie said immediately, resting a hand on Rose’s right shoulder.

“I consent and gladly give,” Pete echoed more softly, resting a hand on Rose’s left shoulder. 

“The parents of the bride give their consent. Rose Marion Tyler, do you intend to give your all to your Bond Mate, and remain with him from one life into the next until final death claims you?”

“Of my mind I give my thoughts, of my spirit I lend my soul, of my hearts I open unconditionally,” Rose said softly, eyes shining as she looked up into the Doctor’s face. Jack held out the elegant scarlet handfasting ribbon with the gold trim and she wrapped her right hand in it up to the wrist, letting the end of it hang loose. Jack smiled widely. 

“The Doctor has no kin to offer consent,” he began, grin fading as his voice took on a somber tone. The Time Lord cleared his throat and glanced down at his shoes, shoulders tensing slowly as he remembered the reason for that. “So an alternative set of permission has been devised.”

They’d spent long hours going over how this worked. Jack had to ask a long series of questions pertaining to his House’s status and what his affiliations were politically and then Jackie and Pete had to decide whether or not they would claim him and offer permission in his own parents’ stead. They’d gone through three pots of coffee one evening hashing out the details. The Doctor glanced back over at Jack and waited for the questions. The ex-Time Agent nodded at the cue.

“There are many forms of alternative permission that can be utilized,” he said, word for word what he had been told to say. “And while one such method was proposed by the groom, it is the opinion of this officiator that a different one be utilized. Doctor, what say you?” 

The Doctor opened his mouth to ask just what Jack was doing when Rose gasped and he felt two hands land on his shoulders. 

“I consent and gladly give,” his fifth incarnation said softly before letting go of one shoulder to stand beside his future self (who was staring at him slack-jawed). Sky blue eyes were tender with emotion and sparkling with joy, and the only person in them was Rose. “I give consent from my past to my future that I approve of this union and sincerely hope it will last a long, long time.” 

Jack was one degree shy of cackling at his best friend’s expression upon seeing his former self, but the ceremony had to continue. 

“Doctor, do you intend to give your all to your Bond Mate, and remain with her from one life into the next until final death claims you?”

“Of-” the Doctor’s voice cracked and he had to clear his throat. “Of my mind I give my thoughts, of my spirit I lend my soul, and of my hearts I open unconditionally,” he finally managed to get out. He then wrapped his right hand in the handfasting ribbon up to the wrist and let the end hang loose. Jack took both ends and wrapped them over their hands before tying them in a complex infinity knot. The ends, both now significantly shorter, were left to barely drape over their fingers. 

“At this time the ring bearer may come forth.” Tony cake trotting up with the objects in an ornately carved wooden box. He opened the lid and the Doctor pulled out Rose’s ring with shaking hands. It was simple in design; polished gold-colored Benthzel in two wrapped ropes with two heart-shaped scarlet Medrrskan Firestones fused into the twining band, and he slid it onto her finger before picking up her Bonding Pendant and gently sliding it with the intricate Gallifreyan design on over her head so that it rested against her chest. 

Rose then picked up his ring; earthen bronze-colored Pitaar with boxed, rounded edges and a single sliver of deep blue Plavanium gem fused into the surface. She slid it onto his finger and then picked up his pendant, letting it fall against the crisp white oxford of his tuxedo outfit. 

“Any vows that are to be given aloud should be spoken now,” Jack reminded them quietly. The Doctor nodded, inhaling sharply as he realized he had to tailor what he was intending to say since his past self was there. 

“Rose, when I first met you I had just lost a very dear friend,” he began reverently. “And you helped me to heal. You were hurting too, but you decided I was worth it. You’d never seen this version of me before, but here I was dripping on the floor of your foyer looking miserable, and you decided I was worth it. For the lives of me I can’t figure out why. 

When we met properly, both for the first time-” he let the people who didn’t know about time travel make of that what they would- “you were a shop girl and I... I was a broken soldier.” The grip of his former self tightened on his shoulder but he ignored it, because he could forget but this needed to be said. “I was shattered. You glued me back together. The only reason this works, the reason I work, is because you were there for me. I’ve- I’ve never told anyone this before today, but I want everyone to know now. I was planning on trying my hardest to get myself killed the night I met you. I wanted to end it all. But you grabbed onto my hand and looked at me with such unconditional trust, something I’d never seen since the end of the war I’d just barely crawled out of, and I found a reason to keep moving forward. The silence hurt, Rose, but I could hear you.” 

“You said... you told me that night, that you might die when you... And then later I had to save your life...” Rose choked out, and he nodded as he wiped a tear from her eye with his available hand. 

“You’re always saving me from myself, Rose,” he murmured, voice thick with emotion. “I've been running all my lives, running without a direction, but with you I can stand still. When we're apart I run to you. I'm running now to stand still.”

“When I was a kid everyone told me not to expect the stars,” Rose began, voice trembling. Her mother’s grip on her shoulder tightened and then relaxed. “I grew up on a council estate and it was rough. My mum did everything she could for me to turn out okay, but I still had to work at being that.”

“She did a wonderful job,” The Doctor interjected kindly. Rose laughed softly as Jackie let out a surprised squeak of gratitude. 

“Yeah, she did. But again though, all I heard at school was that life wouldn’t ever get better because of where I came from. So when Jimmy came along and offered me an out I jumped at the chance. And it was the worst mistake of my life. But when I met you, I just... I felt alive in a way that I never had before. Suddenly it felt like I could touch galaxies, and the best part was that somehow you inspired that in me, not in spite of me.

"I knew from the very beginning that you were hurting, Doctor. I know all your flaws, and you know mine. But we make each other better, and I can offer you my forever. No matter how long or short it ends up being, it’s yours.” 

By the end of their respective vows both Rose and the Doctor were crying. Jack was crying, and nearly everyone else was misty-eyed if not in tears at the unexpectedly emotional exchange; most vows couples said to one another were light-hearted, but then again most couples hadn’t been to Hell and back to find each other again. 

“I pronounce this couple, in the laws of Earth and the laws of Gallifrey, husband and wife, Life Bound for their eternity. You may kiss your Bond Mate, and finalize the Bond,” Jack sniffled, doing his best to sound professional. This was his real life OTP come true and by God he wasn’t going to ruin their wedding. Pete, Jackie, and the fifth Doctor took their hands off of the couple’s shoulders.

The Doctor met Rose in the middle for a kiss and as one they surged into one another’s minds, permanently strengthening the already-existent engagement Bond until it was shining so brightly anyone could see. They felt the timelines twist as their past, present, and future fused into one path and let themselves for a few moments in the sense of completeness that washed over them. 

The Doctor heard his last self whimper quietly as he felt the changes affect and bleed back into his own person, and Rose smiled against his mouth as she felt both versions of her Bond Mate clearly in her mind. 

\^*§*^/

He was wearing a tuxedo. A burgundy tuxedo identical to that of his future self that happened to be tailored to him specifically. And he was stubbornly wearing (while sparkling new as fresh snow) a pair of high-brand cricketing Zed trainers. Rose thought he looked rather dashing and made sure to tell him as such over the Bond and as soon as the reception started up properly she flounced over to give him a soft kiss to the side of his mouth. He purred and nuzzled her neck with a grin as his future self stalked over.

"That was interesting timing," the Tenth Doctor said matter-of-factly with a raised eyebrow. The Fifth Doctor nodded, stepping back from Rose reluctantly.

"Quite," he said. "I was minding my own business in San Francisco 1984 because Peri wanted to show Erimem about her home time period-"

"He was aiming for Pasadena," Ten added conspiratorially. Five frowned at him, opening his mouth to continue the impending argument, but Rose beat him to it.

"I seem to remember you aiming for a rock concert in 1979 Sheffield and ending up in 1879 Scotland next to Queen Victoria's carriage," she commented with a smirk. Ten pouted, but Five relaxed and they cast a glance at one another.

"Truce?" Ten asked. Five shrugged.

"Well. it is our wedding day. I don't see why not."

"I'm so glad," Rose muttered sarcastically. They grinned at her.

"As I was saying," Five continued on a better mood, "Peri and Erimem were exploring and I was trying to get a crucial dampener fixed. That horrible cat was walking all over the console and suddenly I hear this knocking on the door. Naturally I was curious; after all no one would bother unless they know me, so I got up and opened it. Well, Jack was on the other side with a mobile. He hands it to me and Jackie starts talking a mile a minute about how wedding planning is absolute chaos and twelve other things all at once, and wondered if I might pop by to play a crucial role in the ceremony.

"Well, by the time she was finished my memories had temporarily unlocked and how could I say no?" He trailed off, looking somewhat sheepish, glancing over at Peri and Erimem as they mingled cautiously with the other guests. "I uh, took the liberty of assigning myself a Plus Two. Hope you don't mind."

"Ooh, I need to go say hi!" Rose chirped, skipping off. The two versions of her husband watched her go fondly before the younger of the two turned to the older.

"You mentioned a war?" He said quietly. The Tenth Doctor nodded, swallowing.

"In our eighth life. It was bad. If you don't mind, I really don't want to talk about it considering that you'll experience it at some point anyway."

"Understandable," the Fifth Doctor sighed. His brow furrowed slightly as he cast a glance around the reception, which was much more relaxed than a traditional one as there were not supposed to be any planned speeches or pomp and circumstance. It was a garden party, plain and simple, and that seemed to be suiting everyone just fine. "Mm. Awfully quiet."

"I keep expecting something to crash right in the middle of everything," Ten admitted. "I'm really hoping we can get through the day without having any issues that involve saving the planet again."

"Yes, especially since there's two of us and we're both wearing tuxedos," Five remarked with a smirk.

"Ah yeah, of course Rose mentioned that..."

They both stiffened as a TARDIS landed directly in front of them. The door opened and a head of messy, curly grey hair with black locks still interspersed throughout it poked out and they found themselves the subject of scrutiny of a pair of sharp deep blue eyes sparkling out underneath a set of quite frankly magnificent eyebrows.

"Oh, good," He said happily in a gruff Scottish accent, narrowing his focus to the Tenth Doctor alone. "Saves me a walk. Look, I just took care of an impending invasion going on five minutes ago in Nova Scotia. Thought you might want to know that they wanted to come to Dublin, but I figured that since it's our wedding day I'd pop back along the timeline and take care of it. Just thought I'd let you know that when you're me you should do that."

"...What...?"

"Oh, and you," the future Doctor said, pointing at the Fifth Doctor, who blinked and raised an eyebrow. "No points for a Half-Nelson."

"What do you-" The door slammed shut in their faces and they turned to each other incredulously as the future TARDIS dematerialized. "Well, I suppose that makes sense as to why we've had a quiet afternoon. Cryptic though, wasn't he?"

"Ehh," Ten shrugged, looking speculative. He tugged on an ear. "I think we're just naturally vague that go round, if not a bit absentminded..."

"That tell of yours would make you absolutely rubbish at cards, by the way."

"Says the man who wears his hearts on his sleeve." They squared off for a few moments before Ten deflated with a sigh. "Oh, what's the point? We'll only irritate ourselves and get smacked twice over by either our Bond Mate or our mother-in-law for it in the end."

"Quite," Five agreed, nodding toward the festivities. "Shall we rejoin the party?"

"I think we shall."

 

The sun was setting a few hours later and Jackie had finally gotten her fill of pictures. Dinner had been a surprisingly pleasant affair, and there was a lull in the activity. His future self had been dragged off who knew where by some companions he hadn't met yet, and currently the Doctor was standing off to the sidelines under the shadow of a large oak tree contentedly watching the goings-on.

A slender pair of arms slid around his waist and the weight of a head settled against his chest.

"Hi," Rose murmured with a quiet happiness.

"Hello," the Doctor hummed, resting his chin on the top of her head. She shifted so that she was flush against his chest and he encircled her in an embrace. "Love you."

"Love you, too."

"Where's your husband got off to then?"

"Currently? Holding me."

"Cheek."

"Tony needed to be sent off to bed so after he managed to escape Donna he took 'im up," she sighed, tilting her head and displacing his chin to pepper light kisses under his jaw. He started purring and relaxed into the embrace, barely keeping open slitted eyes to notice that a couple of people were watching them whispering.

"We appear to have an audience," he mumbled, much too relaxed to care. 

"Mm?" Rose stopped what she was doing and he pouted at the loss of attention. "Oh, forget them. Mum only invited them because they cornered her in Tesco's and finagled an invitation. I'm never gonna see them again and Mum certainly won't want to have a chat anyway. They won't even be credible if they gossip to anyone. The people whose opinions matter know exactly who you are and why I love you just as much as your future self."

The music changed and Rose chuckled as Glen Miller's "In the Mood" began playing. She pulled away from him and grinned, tongue between her teeth, as she held out her arm toward him and wiggled her fingers. The Doctor raised an eyebrow.

"Rose, what-"

"They're playin' our song," she laughed. "First thing we ever danced to. Kinda want to keep it that way."

"...Oh," he whispered, suddenly breathless. "Oh, that's what he meant..."

"Who?"

"No one," he said quickly, taking her hand to distract her from the slip-up, though he personally doubted that would work. She led him over to the gazebo - which had been fitted with chinese lanterns as the sun went down - and memories filled with the haze of happy nostalgia of a version of himself he hadn’t seen before flirted across the Bond. The Doctor glanced over at Jack and saw the man smiling proudly next to the audio player. When he saw that the Time Lord has noticed him he gave a thumbs-up. 

**I love you, Doctor,** Rose whispered in Gallifreyan as the song came to an end. She then drew back to look up into his eyes and whispered his true name, his hidden name, the one only his Bond Mate was ever supposed to know. He was utterly lost as he dipped down for a passionate kiss.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy,” Nyssa murmured to Tegan as the pair watched the dance. 

“Me neither,” the Australian muttered back. “When did he even meet her?”

“After we left you at Heathrow - which we now know was an accident - I asked him if he could leave me at a scientific convention for a week and come back after. I wanted to figure out if I still wanted to travel with him or not. When he came back I was worried that he’d be acting like nothing had happened, that he’d just completely disassociate.”

“And did he?” 

“He came back missing his cricket jumper and his right arm in a sling after getting shot,” Nyssa explained reflectively. Neither woman had seen the other for a few years shy than thirty, and the tearful reunion had been tempered by apprehension as to wondering how far they’d grown apart. It was refreshing to find out that they still fit well together. “He later told me that he’d been gone for about five months, that he thought he’d met someone precious to him in his future, but couldn’t remember. And then we ran into you a few months after that during that whole mess on Gallifrey and in Amsterdam.”

“When did you meet him, Peri?” Tegan asked the spunky American brunette. Peri blinked and considered.

“No idea when it happened for him, but Turlough was still there. He ended up leaving shortly after we survived this plot with the Master that involved a robot looking like my step-dad because he found out his little brother was still alive, but... couldn’t have been too long after you guys if Turlough was there.” She shrugged. “Ran into Erimem a week ago and I absolutely adore her. The Doc could care less about her cat, but y’know.”

“I hated that cat, actually,” the Tenth Doctor said conspiratorially. The three women jumped as he moved to stand beside them. “And the cat after that that the two of you made me get as an apology slash replacement.”

“Why, what happened to Antranak??” Peri gasped. The Doctor winced, scratching behind his ear. 

“Weeeeellllll... Erimem got convinced she had to sacrifice herself to this, uh, thing, and the cat sort of... jumped up on the altar instead. It was lucky really, because nothing I said could convince her.”

“You were going to sacrifice yourself instead before she got the idea, weren’t you?” Nyssa asked knowingly. He didn’t answer, just swallowed and watched his former self dancing with his Bond Mate. 

“I was very kind and very vulnerable in that body,” he sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels in an eerily familiar way reminiscent of the incarnation they were accustomed to. “And the only thing the universe rewarded that with was to kick me in the teeth repeatedly.” He glanced at the two companions who had left, one because she had found her calling in medicine for the forgotten and the other who had run from the TARDIS in tears.

“I’m sorry, Tegan, Nyssa,” he murmured. “I didn’t handle it very well. Bottled it all up because maybe if no one could see I was bleeding then the sharks wouldn’t smell the blood. Adric gutted me. I wanted to go back so badly, I did, but if I had done it would have created a paradox that ripped a whole in reality. I’m sorry for the Mara, Tegan. And for Heathrow. And for the Daleks, and... oh, there’s so much I’m sorry for. And Nyssa, I’m sorry you felt like your talents were being wasted. I just- I didn’t know how to handle your becoming the last of your species save for the travelers off-world at the time of Traken’s destruction, but I... I do now.”

“...What do you mean?” Nyssa whispered; they were all looking at him with wide eyes. He hung his head. 

“Remember that War I mentioned? It was- it was a Time War. With the Daleks. All of reality at stake, and Gallifrey lost. My planet’s gone, and until Rose accidentally became a Time Lady I was the last of my species... so, Nyssa, I know this is incredibly late to offer this, but if you ever want to talk I know what you went thro- oof!” 

Nyssa was under one arm and Tegan the other, Peri looking at him in unmasked horror, as they practically squeezed the life out of him. 

“I wanted to say sorry too,” Tegan whispered. “The way I left was... it wasn’t...”

“Tegan, you have nothing to be sorry for,” the Doctor choked, gripping her tighter. “Nothing at all.”

“I never knew what you were going through, so yeah, I do.”

“Tegan...”

“And now you’ve lost your planet, your people...”

“I was lost for a while, but Rose helped me find myself again,” he assured her. “It’s not been easy, but I will never regret the time I got to spend with you.”

“Brave hearts, Doctor,” Tegan chuckled only half-heartedly to mask her tears. “Trust me, it’ll get better after it’s gotten worse.”

 

“What are they talking about, do you think?” The Fifth Doctor asked. Rose squirmed in his arms and freed one of her hands to grasp his chin and angle it so that he was facing her again. 

“It’s a good conversation, Doctor. I promise.”

“But none of them look happy.” 

“Hey, look at me,” She admonished. He did so, slightly perplexed with his head tilted a tiny bit to the side. “I can feel him like I can feel you. It may not look happy because it’s not. It’s sad, but it’s good. The three of you can finally get some healing, okay? That’s what’s going on.” She paused for a moment, most likely listening in over the Bond, and smiled softly. “And just so you know, there aren’t any hard feelings anymore. Time heals all wounds, yeah?”

“Some of them anyway,” he sighed. “The others it just numbs.” Rose kissed him on the cheek and then stroked the spot with her thumb. 

“It’s fine, Doctor, really. You’re gonna be okay.”

“I used to worry about my future you know,” the Doctor sighed, head dropping so that their foreheads touched. “Whether I would just get tired of it all and and grow callous. I never expected you.”

“No one expects me ever,” Rose quipped with a smirk. “I am completely unexpectable.”

“You’re my saving grace,” he said sincerely, feeling the need to elaborate as she blushed. “I mean it. I’ve never known anyone like you before, so willing to come with me just for me and nothing else. I’ve never loved nor been loved in return the way we do. I don’t want to give that up even knowing I’ll have that again, perhaps when I need it most, but I know I must.” He smiled softly. “And I think I’m ready now, because future me is the happiest I’ve ever seen me in all my lives.”

“We got our goodbye,” Rose murmured, biting back a sob. 

“We did,” he said shakily back as they hugged in an almost desperate, tight embrace. “I get the feeling that’s why my future self has been so willing to share you this afternoon and evening.”

“Only you could be jealous of yourself.” 

 

His laugh, soft and strained but oh so genuine, made his future incarnation grin broadly as he walked across the grass toward the gazebo to steal his bride away for a dance and a kiss. 

It was their wedding day, after all.