“Sex. Yes, I will be talking about sex for a moment, so if you’re not mature enough to handle it, please leave now. It’s actually a very important subject in this context.
“Sex is different things to different creatures. Take the Gnorii, or perhaps the anglerfish of Earth. In both those species, the female literally absorbs the male in the initial coupling, and from that point on, he exists as a mere appendage providing sperm to keep her fertile while she goes on her merry way. In other species, it’s considered something shameful. The Thalosians almost made themselves extinct when the Holy Conclave of the One Thousandth Lunar Year of the Great Kallikakinak forbade all discussion of sexual matters, even in private. That decree was rescinded when the population dwindled to critical proportions.
“Then there were my people, who decided sex was something for lesser, more primitive species. Bad way to reproduce, what with all that chance. You simply couldn’t guarantee that the right people would find each other sexually attractive; genetic engineering was a much better route for creating future Time Lords. Sex was something most Time Lords looked down upon. It was undignified, messy. Not a fit activity upon which to expend energy that could be used for higher pursuits.
“There were, of course, those who thought otherwise. Very much otherwise.
“What do you mean, what am I smiling about?
“And then, of course, there are humans. Great diversity of opinion there on sex, as on most things. Quarrelsome lot, humans. I think that’s one of the reasons I like them so much. Some regard sex as an unfortunate necessity for propagating the species, others as a nice tension-reliever, yet others as something they couldn’t survive without. There are those who think of sex as an entertainment, or even a hobby. The words ‘Captain’, ‘Jack’ and ‘Harkness’ might come up during that discussion. There are also those who see sex as, ideally, the deepest joining possible for two people, a spiritual as well as a physical experience.
“What even that last subset might not understand is that sex can be a catalyst for something far deeper. It’s not a safe act, sex. Those who believe they can make it safe only fool themselves.”
“Shannon! Darcie!” Rose emerged from her room, where she was packing for her holiday with John.
“Yes?” said Darcie. She and Shannon were the picture of innocence.
Rose dangled a pair of fur-lined handcuffs from one finger and lifted an eyebrow. “Anybody recognize these? Or know how they got in my packing?”
Her housemates managed to maintain their straight faces for approximately two seconds before dissolving into hilarity. Rose tossed the handcuffs at them. A small pot of chocolate body paint came sailing out of her room next.
“But Rose,” protested Shannon, “what if you get sick of vanilla sex?” She and Darcie giggled like schoolgirls.
“We’ll be in Switzerland; I’m sure we can find all the chocolate we’ll need,” said Rose. She lifted another strange object from her suitcase, which she swore she’d only left unattended for a few seconds. “Just what the hell is--” The thing started buzzing. “You know what? I don’t even want to know.” She tossed it at Shannon, only to discover yet another box. “Glow-in-the-dark condoms? My God, you two are as bad as my mother!”
“She didn’t try to give you ‘the talk,’ did she?” asked Darcie.
“Apparently, she thinks the one she gave me when I was twelve didn’t take. Scarred for life now. I think she’s more thrilled about this holiday than I am, and that’s saying something.” Rose folded another shirt and tucked it into her suitcase. And, naturally, discovered a pair of crotchless leather knickers and a bunch of capsules of flavored lubricant. She glared at Darcie. “I don’t want to scare the man to death the minute I open my suitcase.”
“Oh, come on, he’s a man of the world,” said Darcie dismissively. “He’s probably seen all those things, and used ‘em, too. You two will need some variety. What, you’ll be together for fourteen days? That means fourteen shags at minimum, or I’ll be very disappointed with you both.”
“Wouldn’t want that,” drawled Rose. “I’ve got massage oil, I’ve got lingerie, I’ve got . . . a few other things that you’ll have to wonder about. I think we’re set.” She tossed the knickers at Darcie and followed it up with the lubricants. “Now, out of my room, and keep your toys to yourself.”
Darcie pouted at her. “Aww, but you haven’t even found the--”
“--man’s G-string with a tape measure on it?” Rose lifted the offending article out of her suitcase. Shannon went into another fit of hysterics. “You realize there will be consequences for this. Someday, somehow, I will repay you both. Out!” She shoved her housemates out the door and shut it.
Captain Jack panted amiably at her from the bed. Rose sighed. “Do be a good boy and vomit on the couch while I’m gone,” she said.
John and Rose made love for the first time in Geneva.
Their flight arrived in the late afternoon, and by the time they got to their hotel room, it was almost time for dinner. John told her the hotel had a wonderful restaurant with an in-house band and dance floor, and they decided to go there to eat rather than get room service. Rose wanted to change clothes. She unzipped her dress bag . . . and discovered a riding crop hanging nonchalantly alongside her dresses. She swore bloody vengeance on her housemates while John laughed himself stupid.
Later, she couldn’t remember what she’d eaten for dinner, or the flavor of the excellent wine they drank. She’d always remember John leading her to the dance floor and the old Glenn Miller classic they danced to. When she looked into his eyes, they were the only people in the room, and she was warm and relaxed and her skin tingled with his closeness.
She’d never forget the sound of his voice as he bent to her ear and murmured, “I want to make love to you, Rose.”
Unable to summon the voice to answer, she tugged him away from the dance floor, and they left the restaurant and made their way back to their room. How they managed to get that far, she didn’t know; she could barely remember how to breathe.
Her first impulse was to try to lose her dress and get him out of his clothing as quickly as possible, but he stopped her, catching her wrists and looking into her eyes. “We have all night, love,” he told her gently, a ghost of amusement in his voice and a gleam of passion in his eyes. “Let’s not rush.” He took her face in his hands. “I want to savor this.”
When those wonderful hands of his skated down her neck and over her bare shoulders and his fingers trailed down her spine, sending a frisson of pleasure through her body and her dress to the floor, she decided that they should definitely do things his way this time.
She threw herself into making love to him with the passion that marked everything she did. He helped her channel that passion, let it build between them until there was nothing but touch and heat and love, the way his hands felt on her body, the way he looked at her in awe, as if she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, the way his lean, strong body felt against her soft curves, the way he murmured into her ear over and over that he loved her, loved her, loved her . . .
Afterward, his voice, rough with passion:
Making love to you, Rose--it was like coming home.
Afterward, her voice, trembling with emotion:
This is where I belong. Right here, in your arms.
She lay against his chest, drifting into sleep, feeling golden light spreading through her body as a long-forgotten song wound its way through her head.
The week in Geneva passed like a happy dream for Rose. She ambled about the city during the day, picking up gifts for her family and chocolate for her roommates, and in the evenings, she and John went out. Or stayed in. Which was just fine by Rose; John was an incredible lover. Starting with their first night together, he’d made a detailed and thorough exploration of her body, finding places she hadn’t even known she had--places Jimmy, who’d only been after his own satisfaction, and Mickey, eager to please but inexperienced, had never even touched, she was sure. John liked being in control in the bedroom, she discovered, and she found that surrender was more erotic than she’d ever dreamed.
(Nonetheless, he didn’t object too strongly when she pushed him over onto his back to have her way with him or invaded his shower.)
So it went. John attended the convention during the day while Rose scoped out the evening’s entertainment, and they spent every moment possible together. They made love every night, most mornings, and one lazy afternoon when John played hooky from the convention.
Rose had never felt so close to anyone in her life.
“You brought me back to life,” John whispered to her as they held each other in the afterglow.
Their peace and happiness seemed to find its way into her dreams as well. They were no less intense than they’d been in London--in fact, in some ways, they were even more real--but they no longer frightened her. Even the ones with monsters. Instead, she felt a strangely detached curiosity, like the dreams were trying to show her something or take her somewhere, and she wondered what would happen if she followed them far enough.
They took a train to Como, where John rented a car and drove them to his family’s villa.
“John, it’s beautiful!” Rose gasped when she saw it. She’d seen plenty of impressive houses--hell, she’d once been an invited guest at Buckingham Palace--and though this one was small compared to many of them, it was exquisite, a perfect pearl sitting on Lake Como.
“I’ve always loved it here,” said John as they took their bags inside. “I remember being a boy and spending holidays here with my mum and dad. I had a crush on the little red-haired girl at the neighboring house and expressed my affection by putting a frog down her shirt.”
Rose laughed. “Try that with me, and you’ll be sleeping cold and alone.”
He pulled her close and kissed her. “Don’t make threats you won’t carry out, Rose Tyler. I know how insatiable you are.”
“Damn,” she said, and kissed him right back. “You’ve found my one weakness.”
“Oh, you’ve considerably more than one weakness,” murmured John. “And I know just where all of them are.”
What chance did she have against him when just his voice could turn her to jelly?
“Come upstairs,” he said, tugging her to go with him. She followed him and found herself in a breezy, open room with a balcony that overlooked the lake. The view was incredible.
“Gorgeous,” she sighed, moving to the railing.
John’s arms wrapped around her from behind. “I haven’t been here in so long. The last time was--was a few months after Emily’s birth. Paula and I brought her here to meet her great-grandparents.” Rose gasped a little and turned to face him. “I haven’t wanted to come back since then. Never wanted to bring anyone else here. Not until you.” His smile was gentle, loving.
Too overwhelmed to say anything, Rose just kissed him.
Gentle afternoon sunlight filtered through white drapes, illuminating the lovers on the bed. They were upright, his back braced against the headboard, and their movements were slow and languorous, as if this was all they ever wanted or needed, to be perfectly joined. Neither spoke; they couldn’t have said anything their bodies didn’t.
Her eyes held his in a gaze of unabashed passion, her soul laid as naked as her body. He looked into her, loving everything he saw. One of his hands came up and caressed her face, and as she threw her head back, a shuddering breath escaping her, the hand glided over the pale skin of her throat and chest and down to cup her breast almost reverently.
She lowered her head, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pressing her body into his as she kissed him deeply, thoroughly. His hands traveled around to her back, slipping lightly over the skin there, drawing another sigh from her lips. Their faces touched, cheek stroking cheek, temples pressing together, lips feathering light kisses across eyes, cheekbones, jawlines. She drew back far enough to look into his eyes again, and the lovemaking went on.
Eye to eye, skin to skin, heart to heart, they let the moment stretch into eternity.
The days they spent at Lake Como were the most peaceful Rose could remember. There was no rush to be anywhere, no schedule, no expectations. Rose began to realize just how hard she’d been pushing herself.
No wonder I went a little off the rails, she thought as she and John walked along the lake, holding hands.
“What are you thinking about?” John asked.
“How good I feel,” she answered honestly. “Bein’ here, being with you--why’d I wait so long to meet you?”
“Obviously, you’ve had faulty taste in men until very recently.”
“You love it.”
Rose laughed. “I do.”
They ambled along quietly for a little while before John said, “I had the most bizarre dream last night.”
“Really? Do tell,” Rose encouraged.
“I don’t remember all that much of it, but I distinctly remember looking in a mirror and seeing myself with a different face. Or, perhaps it was my face, but for some reason I didn’t expect it.” His brow puckered. “Your mother was there. I think she made a pass at me.”
“Thank you so very much for that mental image,” said Rose. “I might never be able to get turned on again.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“Might be.” Rose flashed him a cheeky grin of her own. “Come to think of it, I had a bizarre dream of my own last night. For some reason, I was working at Henrik’s department store. I went down to the basement, and it was full of shop dummies.”
“I find those things unsettling,” said John.
“Me, too.” Rose shuddered. “Especially after my dream. They started to come alive, and they were moving toward me, and I thought they were going to kill me or do something else horrible--and all of a sudden, you grabbed my hand and said, ‘Run!’”
“Good of me,” John commented.
“I thought so. We ran, and you were being all sarcastic while I asked you a bunch of questions about the shop dummies, and you told me you were going to blow up the store.” Rose laughed, and John laughed with her.
“What happened after that?” he asked.
“You shoved me out one of the doors, and then all of a sudden it was like our first meeting--you introduced yourself, only instead of ‘Doctor John Smith,’ you just said ‘I’m the Doctor,’ and asked my name. I told you, and you said--and I remember this distinctly--‘Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!’ And that was it.” She shook her head. “I’m sure Jane would have a field day interpreting that one. Though it’s not quite as crazy as the one I had a little while ago about dancing with a handsome American on top of some kind of spaceship in front of Big Ben during the London Blitz.”
“What’s in that head of yours?” John asked. “Also, how handsome was the American?”
“Very. One of those perfect men you see in Hollywood movies--perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect eyes.” She glanced sidelong at her lover. “Jealous?”
“Nah. He was probably gay,” said John. “If I were to be jealous of anyone, I think it would have to be that Brown-eyed Man of yours.”
“Oh, there’s no need to be jealous of him,” said Rose. “I’ve figured out who he is.”
John looked at her. “And who would that be?”
“You.” Rose looked at him very seriously, stopping. “The way he always makes me feel in my dreams--safe, loved, accepted--you make me feel that way.”
“Good.” John took her in his arms. “I hope I always will.”
The week passed too quickly. On the last morning of their stay, Rose awakened alone in bed, and troubled. She heard John in the shower. She grabbed a robe, not bothering to put it on, and padded to the bathroom on bare feet. After she hung up the robe, she stepped into the shower, closing the stall door behind her.
John looked at her and smiled. “Good morning.”
She moved to him under the stream of water for a good-morning kiss. “How are you feeling?” she asked, concerned.
“I’m fine,” he said. He frowned just a little. “I think I might’ve had a bad dream last night, but I don’t remember. Why do you ask?”
“I think you did have a bad dream,” she said. She turned so that John could soap up her hair. She loved the feeling of his hands washing her; there was something so intimate about it, almost more intimate than sex.
His fingers suddenly left her hair and trailed down her left arm. “Rose, what’s this?”
She looked, knowing what she’d see and wishing John hadn’t seen it. Dark bruises had appeared on her upper arm. She took a deep breath. “Last night, I woke up because you grabbed my arm right there. You had your eyes open, but . . . it wasn’t you in there, John. At least, it didn’t seem like it was you. You kept saying, ‘They’re gone, Rose,’ and ‘It’s all my fault. I did it.’”
He went perfectly still, and Rose turned to face him, wiping a few suds off her face. His eyes were dark, haunted.
“I . . . don’t remember the crash,” he finally said. “Not anything about it or right before it. They said it was the other driver’s fault, he ran a light and was going far too fast, but . . .” John pressed his lips together. “I’ve wondered ever since if there was anything I could’ve done. If I could have prevented it somehow.”
“You couldn’t have.”
The certainty in Rose’s voice seemed to catch him off-guard. “How can you know that?”
“Because I know you,” said Rose. “If there was anything you could’ve done, you’d have done it. That’s the kind of man you are.”
John was silent as he rinsed the shampoo from her hair. Then he drew her close, not in a sexual way, but like he was drawing comfort from her body.
“I love you so, so much,” he whispered.
They held each other as water poured over them both.
It was far too short, their time together. Rose snuggled into John’s side as an airplane carried them back to London.
“Back to the real world,” she sighed.
“Rude, isn’t it?” said John.
“Awful.” She pressed a little closer. “Doesn’t feel right, having to be apart.”
“No.” John stroked her hair. “No, it doesn’t.”
She closed her eyes and savored his closeness, determined that she wouldn’t lose this moment by worrying about the future.