He really hated it when the post-victory euphoria wore off. His giddiness over "everybody living" in 1941 London had made him give in to various urges. The urge to make Rose's smile grow even larger, the urge to give her whatever she asked for, the urge to dance with her . . .
He grimaced and folded his arms across his chest, staring down at the TARDIS monitor as he reflected on his recent actions, on what had lead him to this unacceptable behavior. It wasn't fitting for a Time Lord to be sulking and wishing he could go back in time, like any stupid ape. Yet that was what he was doing.
The night he invited Captain Jack on board things seemed so good. For once, he hadn't lost anyone, didn't have any blood on his hands, had even brought a little kid back to life. He'd even managed to take a con-man and turn him into a hero. Seemed a shame to have Jack die and blot the day, plus a waste of that work, so when Rose had asked if they could save him, he'd given in.
And the way that Rose had asked, all big eyes and jutting lip, had played no role in his decision. At all.
They'd only just managed to get rid of that waste Adam. After that, he had wanted Rose to himself, because no one reacted to walking out of the TARDIS like her. He'd wanted to see more of it, just the two of them.
Instead, he got saddled with a pretty fly-boy who, while not stupid enough to miss his signals, was stupid enough to flirt like mad with Rose. Never stepped over the line, always did it with a wink, but still flirting.
It annoyed him. And he didn't like being annoyed. And he didn't like the way Rose reacted to Jack, either. She laughed with Jack differently, smiled at Jack differently, acted differently with Jack than she did with him. And he didn't like thinking about what those differences meant.
With all the thinking he hadn't been doing, he'd started taking them to places and times that he thought would get a reaction from Rose. Something that would make her smile, would get him that look of admiration. Whenever he used to try to impress her, she'd taken the piss immediately, but he'd still known that she'd been impressed.
Hard work, getting that reaction from her now. The universe's largest junkyard? Made her wrinkle her nose. The swamp planet Biddlepum, with more species in one square inch than other planets had in a hundred acres? Made her rant about him ruining her shoes.
After that, he'd shifted gears. Time to really knock her socks off, show her just what he could do. He took her to Paris, 1783, standing in the room where the British and Americans signed the treaty that ended the American War for Independence. A treaty that was vastly improved by his input, but did Rose notice? She was too busy staring out the window while Jack flirted with Benjamin Franklin.
They had shown up in southern California for the filming of Gone with the Wind. He'd had a word with Victor Fleming, recommending a change or two for the end of the film, and they'd seen both versions being shot. His was infinitely superior--so much better that it would have upset the balance of the film, which was clearly why it wasn't picked--but Rose had just given him a weak little smile and kept looking around, even though she laughed and smiled at Jack and his attempts to pull Clark Gable.
He was starting to crave that reaction, the one he used to get all the time. It was just . . . unseemly. But he couldn't seem to help those instincts. He hadn't been able to control himself since she'd looked up at him, asking him about dancing. Not that she was really talking about dancing--he'd practically been able to see those daft inverted commas that people did for a metaphor. Her bringing it up seemed to flip a switch in him, though, so that he thought about "dancing" all the time.
He grunted, punching a few buttons and turning around when he heard footsteps. He frowned when he saw it was Jack.
"Up late, huh, Doc?" he said, flopping down onto the jump seat.
He shrugged. "'Late' doesn't mean much in the TARDIS."
"True, true," Jack said with a grin. The Doctor ignored him and went about his fiddling, pulling out the sonic screwdriver and working on some wires that looked a bit frayed. Perhaps only microscopically frayed, but they still required his attention.
The silence stretched out and lengthened, grew heavy, but he continued to ignore it, focusing all his attention on the wires, then on a bad bit of welding. Better than dealing with whatever had brought Jack wandering in.
"So when are you gonna tell her how you feel?"
He shot Jack a look over his shoulder but didn't say anything. If he acted like Jack had asked a rhetorical question, he just might drop the subject.
"Not fooling me, Doctor," Jack said, his voice annoyed. "You heard me, and I'm curious enough to keep at you."
"I don't know what you're on about," he said, trying to sound distracted, like what he was working on required complete focus.
"I'm on about how you're doing everything, short of actually saying anything, to tell Rose how you feel about her." Jack came into his line of sight now, his hands shoved into the pockets of his trousers. "And just to clear things up, I've a pretty good idea of what those feelings are, but I'll spare your delicate sensibilities and won't name them--for now."
Jack rocked back and forth on his heels, waiting for him to say something. But he had nothing to say. Nothing to Jack, that is. Not about his feelings, not about Rose.
When he didn't say anything, Jack rolled his eyes. "Doc, you've been acting like a boy with a crush. You've done everything short of pulling on her pigtails."
"Is there a point to all this?" he asked irritably, looking up and locking gazes with Jack. "It sounds like you're wittering on about things you don't know anything about."
"You're trying your damnedest to get Rose's attention, and you feel like it's not working. 'Cause she's not speechless by what you've shown her, 'cause she doesn't look up at you with starry eyes, 'cause she doesn't give you that smile that makes you feel like you've set the Earth to turning."
He had to drop his eyes. Couldn't stand to look at the smug expression that was sure to be on Jack's face. He'd been totally obvious in what he was doing, it seemed, so much so that even a relative stranger could see what was what.
"I travel with people because it's boring on my own. I get a chance to see things again through new eyes. Nothing more than that," he muttered, pulling the monitor towards him and acting like it was absolutely enthralling.
"But you only want to see things through Rose's eyes," Jack needled, coming closer to him. "Me, or that bloke Adam Rose told me about--we're chopped liver compared to her, right?"
He adjusted a dial, bringing the picture into focus, then twisted it back, letting it go fuzzy.
Jack leaned back against the console, resting his hands on the edge. "Yeah, you just want Rose around. Shame that your big Time Lord brain can't figure out why all your hard work's coming to nothing. The nothing, of course, being Rose throwing herself at you," he said with a grin. An annoying, knowing, smug grin.
He felt a pounding in his ears, and his fists clenched for a moment. He almost felt like he wanted to punch Jack--the Doctor, the man who used his brains, not his fists. Instead, he picked up the mallet and hit the console a few times.
It made him feel better, until he realized that his action could be considered a response to Jack's taunts.
"Okay, so maybe it is different with Rose," he said grumpily. "What of it?"
"Oh, just making idle chit-chat," Jack said, smiling at him. "Nice to see confirmation yet again that regardless of species, us males are all the same when it comes to a girl."
"Or a boy, or anything vaguely human-ish," he said, trying to bait Jack into another line of discussion.
Jack grinned. "When it's the right one, yeah." He pushed off from the console and strolled towards the corridor, pausing in the doorway. "Just give her a sign, Doctor. Let her know it's not about you showing off." Jack turned and gave him a long look. "Show her it's about her."
With that, he left the Doctor alone in the console room. He shuffled over and slumped down on the jump seat, finally able to let down his guard. This was another reason why it should be just him and Rose: no observers. No one around to point out the obvious and rub it in, no one to tell him why she seemed so bored lately.
No one to notice how he felt about her.
He stared up at the ceiling, unable to prevent himself from reliving the conversation with Jack. If he was a real Time Lord, he'd drop the two of them off tomorrow--not together, mind you. He'd got too close, and the only answer was to send them away before they got hurt. He'd take Jack to the 51st century, Rose to the 21st, and he'd go off on his own. Maybe find someone new to travel with, someone who'd clutch his arm when they'd walk out of the TARDIS, someone who'd be in awe of his fantastic abilities and his amazing ship, someone who'd . . .
Someone who'd never be able to compare to Rose.
He closed his eyes. Thoughts like that had been occurring to him with greater frequency lately. Perhaps it was time to stop worrying about what a real Time Lord would do. Maybe he could just do what he wanted, live the way he liked. Be with the people he . . . liked. Make them happy. Make her stay.
He thought about Jack's words again, trying to figure out what he meant. Clearly, the annoying git knew what the problem was, knew what he was doing wrong. He'd been doing his best, after all. Taking her to the sights and times of the universe hadn't done the trick. Neither had displaying his awesome knowledge. So what would work? What would make her smile at him again?
The Doctor settled in, analyzing variables and measuring reactions. It took him more time than he would have liked, and when he did, he felt about as stupid as a human. But realizing what he needed to do made him leap up from the jump seat and run about the console, flicking switches and smiling goofily to himself.
"Someone's woken up on the right side of bed," Rose commented when she entered the console room hours later, a smile on her face. Not her usual cheerful beam, but it was bigger than the smiles he had seen lately.
"Have to go to bed to wake up on the right side of it," he commented gaily. "None of that matters--although you lot do waste so much time sleeping. But now, now is the time for you and me and a very special destination."
Did her smile dim a bit? She was probably thinking he was going to take her to meet the inventor of the cannonball next, or regale her with stories about how he inspired the Beatles to write "Across the Universe." And although both of those would be fine things to do, he knew that wasn't what she wanted to do.
"And I see that look," he called out, looking at her around the Time Rotor. "I promise you, we're not going to swamps or major historical events that I was involved in. No, today, Rose Tyler, today is all about . . . you."
"Me?" she asked, her voice equal parts surprise and confusion.
"Yep. Today, we are going to jaunt across time and space, and you're the driver. Well, not literally, but you're the backseat driver. You tell me where we're going."
He was practically babbling, he was so nervous. And it wasn't like him at all, but this idea was truly the best one he had come up with. He'd considered the gardens on Apollonia (too romantic), Florence in 1812 (too romantic), and the Restaurant at the End of the Universe (not romantic enough and too difficult to get in without a reservation, even with the psychic paper). Then he'd thought of asking her where they should go. He used to do that all the time . . . but somewhere along the line, he'd stopped asking.
He realized that she hadn't said anything, and he looked at her. Her eyes were still wide with surprise and her mouth was hanging open slightly. He frowned, feeling his elation die away. "That is, if that's all right with you. I mean, if you'd like to go somewhere today. Plenty of rooms in the TARDIS that you could explore . . . on your own, if you wanted."
He focused on the console, giving the temporal matrices stabilizer a small spin and moving around to look at the monitor. He had just decided to start cancelling the preparations for leaving the Vortex when he realized she was standing right beside him.
"You'd let me pick?" she asked, her voice uncertain. "You've done it before, yeah, but you always seem like . . . like there's something bigger and better we could be going to. And you're right," she said quickly, laying her hand on his arm briefly. "You always take me to the most amazin' places, much better than what I could come up with. So . . . why are you letting me pick?"
Her eyebrows were drawn together and her face was confused. She looked . . . adorable. And oh, how the Council would be horrified if they could read his mind now. He shoved that thought away and kept looking at Rose, the girl who had made him stop surviving and start living. Perhaps it was time to accept all that life had to offer.
"Oh, no reason," he said lightly. "Just thought you might want to show off today. You try coming up with something amazing, and you'll see how hard it is. Might make you admit that I am so impressive."
He glanced at her, then he couldn't look away. He felt a strange emotion bloom inside him as he watched the expression on her face change from hesitancy to happiness. And then, she smiled, smiled that smile, the one with the dancing eyes and her tongue caught between her teeth.
"Well, maybe a little impressive," she said. Her voice was teasing and full of laughter, and he felt like he was on top of the world.
He grinned at her. "Just you wait. So, where to?"
"Hmmmm," she said, taking a small step closer to him and grasping his hand. He nearly sighed with happiness at the feel of her palm against his, her fingers between his.
"How 'bout over the rainbow?" she asked, looking up at him. "Know someplace that's like the Land of Oz?"
"You bet I do," he said. "Imagine it: a world where the grass is the greenest green you've ever seen. The skies are the bluest blue you've ever seen. There's funny little people who sing and dance, and a crone who's always lurking about, causing problems and making mischief. We'll go in, take a bit of a walk on the Lavender Brick Road, deal with the old biddy, have a wish come true, and be back for tea."
He paused, looking at her. She was wrinkling her nose, and he realized that neither of them wanted a storybook day. She wanted something that would mean something. "Or, if that sounds too boring, we'll start a revolution for better pay and a half-holiday every Friday. We'll lead everyone in a big march through town, singing songs and causing trouble, until everything's better. Sound all right?"
"More than all right," she said happily. "So, come on, start flipping switches and running around like your clothes are on fire."
"Oh, no. You're going to help," he said, tapping the keyboard and pushing down on the large button beside the monitor. "Over there, that green button, press it, then take that lever and pull it down."
He looked up at her, knowing that she was surprised that he wanted her help. He thought that having Rose help fly the TARDIS might have something to do with living the life he wanted. So there was no time like the present to get started. "Well, don't just stand there gawping. Shift!"
She jumped in surprise, her confusion melting away as her face grew determined. He could tell she wanted to do this well. And he watched the smile reappear on her face as he moved about the controls, and he realized that this might have been what Jack meant, about showing her it was about her.
Jack wasn't a bad bloke after all, he supposed, as he threw Rose a grin and watched her beam in delight as they rocketed through the Vortex, heading for the Land of An and all the wonders that awaited them.
And the fact that he was willing to admit he was wrong about Jack . . . well, that was pretty impressive.