Rose Tyler peered at him in the darkness, all wary concern and hesitant care. Her hair was still long, past her shoulders, face still soft with baby fat she hadn’t yet shaken, clothes still somewhat baggy and hiding her body.
She looked beautiful.
“Maybe it’s time you went home,” she told him, and he could hear in her voice that she was nervous of him.
And she had every right to be; strange man hanging around the estate in the middle of the night.
But the Doctor couldn’t help but smile slightly, a small wistful smile, at her words. Home.
She didn’t know it, but he was home.
Home was a half-painted council flat across the courtyard, with family photos adorning the walls and well-worn leather sofas with fluffy cushions. Home was a just-boiled kettle and an unwanted kiss from her mother. Home was nicking biscuits from the kitchen cupboard when he thought she and Jackie were busy gossiping about what had been going on in the estate while they’d been gone.
Home was Jackie Tyler rolling her eyes at their ridiculous stories. Home was a good-natured grumble of “I expect you’ll be staying for dinner then?” Home was silly Christmas traditions of Christmas crackers and paper hats and standing in the not-snow together. Home was a council estate where his family lived.
Home was standing on a distant alien planet, her hand in his and the promise of forever escaping her lips. Home was dozens of alien sunsets with her warm weight leaning against him contentedly.
Home was welcoming hugs after a time apart. Home was running, hand in hand, from their latest misadventure.
Home was trouble during the bits in between. Home was being knighted and exiled on the same day, meeting Charles Dickens and fighting ghosts. Home was Krillitane and cat nuns and the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. Home was facing the devil but believing in a higher deity that went by the name of Rose Marion Tyler.
Home was TARDIS maintenance with Rose’s welcome presence on the jump seat. Home was Rose falling asleep while he tinkered. Home was her dragging him from the bowels of his magnificent ship to force him to eat a sandwich and drink some tea.
Home was sharing a quiet night tucked up in front of a roaring fire in the TARDIS library. Home was chips in the twenty-first century. Home was quietly reading together. Home was just enjoying each other’s company.
Home was feeling contented for the first time in years. It was no longer feeling alone after the loss of his planet. It was the person who brought him back after the horror of the Time War. Home was becoming a time goddess to save him and Jack and the whole of the Earth from the Daleks and putting a stop to the Time War once and for all.
Home was pink and yellow and oh so close to him now, and yet still so far away from him.
Home was Rose Tyler.
He studied her nervous face, the youth and the spirit behind her eyes, and thought about all the adventures she had ahead of her.
Oh, how he missed her.
He gave her a sad smile. “Yeah.”
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