She was testing him, he could tell.
They sat side by side on Pete’s private jet, flying from Norway to London. Rose was mostly silent, but every now and then she would say something, random and yet not, a statement about some trivial thing from their past.
“You know, you never paid me that ten quid I won from the bet about Queen Victoria,” she said.
“I didn’t have to, remember? Because you bet me on Zerphilian IV that I couldn’t get the emperor to tell a dirty joke to the empress’s mother, and I did. So we’re even.”
“London had the Olympics already in this universe,” she said. “Last year.”
“Without me there to light the torch? That’s rubbish, is what that is.”
One side of her lips quirked up in a smile, but she didn’t laugh.
“You’ll never guess who I ran into on the Tube last year. An alternate version of Adam,” she said.
“Did you snap your fingers?”
She did laugh at that. “Yes. Twice, right in his face. Nothing happened, except he thought I was a nutter.”
“Well, he wasn’t entirely wrong there, was he?”
She smacked him on the arm. “Takes one to know one.”
“I wonder if you can still sculpt, as a human,” she mused
He shrugged. “Should be able to. Tell you what, you pose for me, I’ll see if I can sculpt you again.”
“You need me to pose for you? I thought you could do it from memory.”
“I could, if I wanted a statue of the way you looked before.” He let his eyes rake over her, remembering the way she had felt pressed up against him on the beach. “You’re different, now. A little thinner, a little more angular in the face. Even more beautiful,” he said.
Maybe she wasn’t testing him. Maybe she was testing herself. Reminding herself that he was the Doctor, as much as the one she had lost.
Rose seemed to wind down, and she put her head back against the seat, her eyes closed. He took her hand, threading their fingers together, just watching her. When he couldn’t resist it any longer, he leaned over and whispered it in her ear again. “I love you.” It felt like the greatest luxury, getting to say that. He would spend the rest of his life saying it if she would let him. He let his head rest gently against the side of hers, his nose brushing her hair. “I love you.”
He felt Rose smile. She didn’t say anything.
Jackie offered for them both to come back to the mansion, but Rose begged off and asked the driver to take her to her flat. When they arrived, he followed her silently out of the car and past the doorman and into the elevator.
Rose dug keys out of her pocket and opened the door. “This is my place,” she said unnecessarily as they stood in the front room. “Sometimes I stay at Mum and Dad’s, but mostly I live here. It’s closer to work, and to the city, and …” She trailed off as they looked at each other. He ached to touch her, but he wasn’t sure what the ground rules were, and he didn’t want to break them. Not so soon, when everything was so new.
“I’m going to take a shower,” she said flatly. “Are you hungry?”
He had to think about it. “I suppose I am, a bit.”
“I probably don’t have anything in, but you can check. If not, there’s places nearby, you could pick something up.”
He nodded. “I can do that.”
“You’ll need money.” She gestured across to the coffee table, where a handbag sat. “Check my wallet, there should be enough.”
He grinned his most charming grin at her. “I could get chips.”
She smiled a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Good idea.” Rose spun quickly and disappeared into her bedroom, the door closing behind her.
He came back to find her in a T-shirt and jeans, her hair up in a messy ponytail. She was sipping tea and staring at a newspaper on her kitchen table. Her face was scrubbed clean of makeup, making the fact that she had been crying that much more obvious. He wondered whether the fact that she didn’t try to hide it was a good sign or a bad one.
“I just poured the tea; I can get you a cup,” she said, her voice hoarse.
“Sure,” he said, putting the take-out containers on the table.
“Milk and three sugars?” she asked, heading toward the stove.
“Unless my sense of taste has changed. That’d be interesting, wouldn’t it? If my sense of taste changed?” He contemplated licking the newspaper to see, but thought better of it. Newsprint might be different in this universe anyway; it wouldn’t be a fair test.
They sat together in silence, eating. “I hurt for him too,” he finally said.
He cleared his throat. “It’s not hard to put myself in his shoes. Obviously. And I know what it’s like to lose you. Going through it again …”
Rose shrugged. “When I asked him to tell me he loved me, he wouldn’t.”
“I don’t think he wanted to make it any harder than it already was.”
“He just did what he always does. He decided what was best for me and he sent me away.”
“Rose,” he said, taking her hand. “If you want to be angry at him for what he did, that’s fine. But don’t be angry at him because you think it’ll be easier, for you or for me. Loving him and loving me, it isn’t a zero sum game.”
“That just makes it confusing.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
Rose let go of his hand. “Sort of like,” she said, pausing and taking a long, shaky breath. “Sort of like if the man you love does something to change his face and his personality. He’s still the same man, but you’re mourning the old him at the same time.”
He smiled. “Sort of like that, yeah.”
“Okay,” she said, nodding. “We can manage this then, can’t we?”
“I think so.”
Rose stood up suddenly. “Look, there’s something else, and I’m just gonna say it, cause if we can’t talk about it like grown-ups, then…”
“Things were intense on the beach there, and kissing you … well. It was nice, and I’m going to want to do it some more. And other things. I mean, I’m going to want to, um …”
His heart was pounding, but he tried to affect the same attitude that she had. “Ah. This is sex that we’re talking about like grown-ups, yes?”
She nodded, appearing somewhat relieved. “Yeah. But I don’t think … that is, tonight, I’m not ready.”
“It’s not that I don’t want you, I do, but —”
“Rose,” he said, standing. “I promise, it’s fine. In our own time, yeah? We’ll get there.”
Her breath whooshed out. “Okay.” She smiled a genuine smile up at him for the first time since the beach and he thought he might fall to his knees, he was so grateful to see it.
“Would you mind if I just kissed you? You know, since you said it was nice,” he said, grinning.
“Please do,” she said, allowing a small amount of cheek to creep into her voice.
He closed the distance between them, putting both hands on either side of her face. Their lips met, and he carefully moved his mouth over hers, testing where the boundary was, what she might find to be too much, too soon. He was, he had to admit, desperate to make love to her.
He touched her lips with his tongue and she responded by opening her mouth. Their tongues met and he couldn’t stifle a moan.
Rose broke the kiss too soon, her breathing rapid. “I have a spare bedroom, so …”
“Right! Of course.” He backed away, shocked at how out of control his half-human body’s response to her was. As a Time Lord, he had ways to control it; now, he was lost to her, completely at her mercy. It was terrifying and exhilarating.
Rose was watching him, her thoughts impossible to read. “So I’m just gonna …” she said, pointing to her own bedroom. “I’ll see you in the morning, yeah?”
“Yeah. Are you going to work tomorrow? At Torchwood?” he added unnecessarily.
She smiled. “No, I think I’ll take a bit of vacation, what do you think?”
“Sounds like an excellent idea.”
He jerked awake to the feel of her fingers on his brow. Images of burning ships and the grating sound of screaming Daleks still filled his mind. “What …?”
“You cried out,” she said softly. “You were dreaming.”
He could feel the sweat soaking the hair at the nape of his neck and the T-shirt he wore. He grimaced. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“It’s okay.” She nudged him. “Budge up.”
He moved over awkwardly and she climbed under the covers with him. “Maybe if I’m here, it will help?”
“Well … certainly can’t hurt.” She moulded herself against his back. He could feel her bare legs against his own. She caressed his arm. “All this sleeping I’m going to have to do now. That’s going to take some getting used to.”
She laughed. “Such a waste of time, you used to say. Especially when you woke me at the crack of dawn for some daft reason or other.”
“It is a waste of time.” He yawned. “I wonder if I’m a late sleeper or an early riser.”
He felt her shrug. “Guess we’ll find out.”
That next morning, at least, he was a late sleeper. When he woke, it was to bright sunshine streaming through the window and an empty bed. He ventured out and found Rose on the sofa in her sitting room, sipping coffee. The smile she gave him was wide. “Hello.”
He wrinkled his nose. “You drink coffee now?”
“Yeah. A habit born of late nights at work.” She stood and started down the hallway back toward the bedrooms. “Let me get you a towel and stuff, you can take a shower. Then I thought we could go out to breakfast and do some shopping.”
“Yeah. I need groceries, and we should get some things in that you like. And then you’ll need clothes. I called Pete this morning, he’s going to get his boys working on an identity for you. Birth certificate, drivers license …” She eyed him. “Assuming you can drive. Credit history. I need to call him back and give him a name, though. I was going to say John Smith, but I wasn’t sure …”
“John Smith is fine. Whatever. But you won’t … I mean, I don’t want you to start calling me John or anything.”
“Of course I won’t.”
“Centuries of being the Doctor, I don’t think I can get used to anything else.”
“I’ll still call you that,” she said quickly, but he realized she hadn’t, not since the other one had left them on the beach.
“Eggs taste different here,” he said over breakfast.
“I thought so too! Mickey said I was daft!”
“Nope.” He looked around. “A lot of things are different here.”
“Good different or bad different?” she asked.
He smiled fondly at her. “Just different.”
“What kind of jam do you want? Or do you want marmalade?” He was orbiting around her like a manic child, dropping random things into the cart she pushed.
“I like marmalade,” he said picking some up. “Although, ooh, apricot jam, that sounds tasty. Or maybe black currant?”
“We’re going to be here all day,” she teased.
“Oi! These things need to be carefully considered. You can’t just get any old jam.”
Rose giggled, and it was like music to his ears.
They joked and laughed their way through most of the grocery shopping, and he felt his shoulders start to relax. He spent so long in the hair care aisle, sniffing shampoos and examining all the pomade choices, that Rose finally rolled her eyes and wandered off, leaving him with the cart. When he was finally reasonably satisfied that he had what he needed to keep his hair looking fantastic, he rounded the next aisle and found Rose standing in front of the condom display. She looked up at him and blushed furiously.
“I thought, you know, eventually, we might need …” she said, gesturing at the shelves.
“Of course. Right.” He put his hands in his pockets.
“I mean, do we? If you’re part human, could I, um, get pregnant?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’d need a microscope to be sure. They probably have those at Torchwood, right? I could give you a sample, and —” He stopped abruptly at her wide-eyed gaze.
“Um, how about we just leave that question for another day,” she said, looking back at the display. “For now, let’s assume it could happen.” She cleared her throat. “Any preferences?”
“Rose, I haven’t the faintest idea.”
She quickly grabbed one of the packages and threw it in with their other purchases, marching off before he could meet her eyes.
“Well, that wasn’t awkward at all,” he muttered, trailing behind her with the cart.
“How about this?” he asked.
She regarded him, her head tilted to the side. “Turn around.” He obeyed. “I don’t know if I like the trousers that much.”
“What’s wrong with them?”
Rose shrugged. “Well, for one thing, they don’t show off your bottom as well as the trousers you usually wear.”
He smirked at her. “That requires a good tailor,” he said.
She smirked back. “We’ll have to find you a good tailor then.”
“What about the jacket?”
“I like it. Also like the shirt, although do you think you’ve got enough buttons undone? It’s a fine line between sexy and sort of skeevy, you know.”
He buttoned one button. “Better?”
She grinned. “Definitely sexy.”
He finally noticed that she was holding an armload of clothes. “What’s that then?” he asked, indicating her burden.
“Some more casual stuff. Jeans, T-shirts, hoodies, that sort of thing.”
He made a face. “I can’t wear that.”
“Why not? You’ll need a more varied wardrobe, and you don’t have the TARDIS to look after your clothes anymore, so you’ll need lots of things.” She shoved the clothes into his arms and shooed him back toward the dressing room. “Go on, try them. I bet you’ll look great in jeans.” She gave him a seductive smile, causing his higher brain functions to short out. He went.
“Oh, it was hilarious. First of all, Mum insisted on dragging him to all these childbirth classes,” Rose said as she stirred the vegetables in the wok, “which Pete absolutely hated. But he endured it for her. Then when she went into labour, you’d have thought he was staging the invasion of Normandy.” She took a sip from her wine glass. “Hand me those mushrooms, would you?”
He was enraptured, watching her cook. She was so at ease and happy at that instant, he could almost imagine that from this moment forward, their lives together would always be this way, blissful and effortless. He was kidding himself and he knew it; they still had a lot of hurdles in front of them. The ghost of the other Doctor wouldn’t leave them alone so easily, and he supposed that was only fair. He feared a day would come when this domestic life would start to chafe him, when he would start to feel the lack of the TARDIS more acutely. Just now though, here in her cozy kitchen, preparing dinner together, he wouldn’t have traded with the other man for anything in the universe. He didn’t even mind compromising with her on his clothes; he was wearing the new grey jacket and white shirt, open at the collar as before, but she had convinced him to wear the shirt untucked over a pair of low-slung, tight jeans. He had been about to protest until he saw the way her eyes had raked over him with something like hunger.
“You’ve become quite the chef,” he said as he watched her adding spices to the wok.
“Well, not really, but I get by. Gives me something to do.”
When everything was ready, they sat down together to eat. He filled his wine glass again, enjoying the comfortable feeling of being a little tipsy. He’d never felt this way before, at least not from alcohol. It was quite pleasant. “So I’d like to meet Tony.”
“I’m sure he’d love to meet you. I’ve told him stories about you, about some of the things we did.”
“Some. The stories that wouldn’t give him nightmares.”
“Ah. No Beast in the pit then, right?” he asked.
She laughed briefly. “No. I thought I’d save that one for when he’s four. I did tell him about the TVs sucking people’s faces off. He didn’t want to watch telly for months, Mum was ecstatic. Thought fear of TV was the best parenting tactic ever.”
“I talked to Dad again when you were trying on clothes. He wants to know if you want a job at Torchwood.” His eyes widened. “It’s not necessary for the money, we have plenty of that,” she added. “It’s just, you know, it might give you something to do, something to turn your mind to. Somewhere to tinker. You could build another sonic screwdriver, maybe.”
He was touched that she had thought about that. “Maybe. Well, there are parts I would need that aren’t from this time, won’t be invented for centuries. It would be a challenge.”
“Sounds right up your alley, then.”
He grinned at her. “Tell Pete I’d be happy to accept.”
“You can tell him yourself. I thought we might go over to the house tomorrow, if it’s okay with you.”
“Sure.” He wasn’t sure. Sharing a life with Rose was one thing. The rest of it, having a job and playing son-in-law to Pete and Jackie, he wasn’t sure if he was ready for that. He picked up their empty plates and carried them to the kitchen to avoid any further discussion.
He stood at the sink, letting the water run over the dishes. He felt her approach, and she tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned, he found her to be quite suddenly kissing him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her tongue plunging into his mouth. He covered his surprise and kissed her back with equal vigour. It was more intoxicating than the wine. He felt her fumbling behind his back, and she finally broke the kiss to reach around and shut off the faucet. She looked up at him and smiled, and he hoped that he was managing to look smooth and secure and not as gobsmacked as he felt.
Rose took his hand and led him out of the kitchen and over to the sofa. They sat together, immediately falling into each other’s arms again. Her mouth tasted like wine and something that was just Rose, and he felt a sudden, sharp desire to know what the rest of her tasted like. He began to trail soft kisses across her cheek to her ear and then down, to her neck. Rose gasped, letting her head fall back to give him more access. When he tasted her with his tongue, she arched into him and moaned. He hoped he wasn’t overstepping his bounds, but he just couldn’t resist her, not when she made noises like that.
He needn’t have worried. With a soft cry she climbed onto his lap, straddling his legs and fisting her hands in his hair. She moved her mouth restlessly over his face, kissing his hairline, his cheek, his nose, then back to his mouth. He clutched at her waist, trying to hang on to what was left of his wits.
“I missed you so much,” she murmured against his mouth.
“Oh, Rose. I missed you. I missed you with every fibre of my being.”
“You. You missed me. You did.” She seemed to be trying to convince herself.
“I did,” he affirmed, looking her in the eye.
“Doctor.” It was the best thing she could’ve said, and it undid him. He kissed her frantically.
After a minute she pulled away, panting. “You know what I said yesterday? About not being ready?”
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“Oh, thank god.”
Rose giggled. “I’ve never heard you say that before.”
“I’m test-driving some human expressions. See which ones I like.” The Doctor kissed her again. “Here’s another one you’ve never heard me say before. Rose Tyler, can I make love to you?”
“Oh, yes.” She stood up and took him by the hand, pulling him up from the sofa. Without another word, she led him to her bedroom.
Once there, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him the way she had on the beach, her body pressed flush against his, her hands going into his hair. He clutched her just as tightly. When Rose extracted herself, it was with a cheeky smile. She pushed on his shoulder, getting him to sit down on the bed behind him. Kneeling at his feet, she unlaced his shoes, still the red Chucks, and pulled them off, followed by his socks. Rose stood up between his legs, pushing his jacket off his shoulders and immediately setting to work on the buttons of his shirt.
“You know, I thought you liked these clothes,” he joked, “but you seem in an awful hurry to get me out of them.”
“Hmm, guess I am,” she said as she pushed the shirt down his arms, removing it and flinging it across the room.
He stood up. “Well, turnabout, fair play and all that,” the Doctor said, lifting the hem of her jumper. Rose raised her arms and let him pull it over her head. He traced his fingers along the edge of her bra before reaching behind her and unlatching it, letting it fall. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured. She was already barefoot, so he let his hands fall to the fastening of her trousers. The silky fabric dropped to the floor easily and she stepped out, now clad in only her knickers. He returned to kissing her, letting his hands wander over her body. Rose rotated her hips in a slow grind against him, eliciting a groan from both of them.
She unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans and slipped her hands under the waistband of his pants, caressing his bum as she inched both items of clothing down his legs. He sat on the bed again so that she could finish the job. When he was naked he reached for her, wanting to pull her onto his lap, but she took a step back. Holding his eyes with her own, she took off her knickers and stood before him without a trace of shyness.
“Beautiful,” he repeated. He stood and approached her. “Come to bed with me?”
Rose nodded, and with measured movements they climbed into bed. Their bodies came together under the covers, and his head spun at how wonderful it felt. Rose clung to him, and he realized that she was trembling. “Are you okay?” he asked, his lips against her shoulder.
She sighed. “This is absolutely what I want. More than anything, I want this with you. And yet, I feel like I’m betraying him.”
He stroked her hair. “I wish I could say something to make that feeling go away, but I can’t. All I can say is that it will take time. All we can do is move forward and … and love each other and make sure we’re worthy of the sacrifice he made.”
Rose pulled away and looked at him, tears in her eyes. “I love you.”
It was the first time she had said it since they said that first goodbye in Norway, and something gave inside him to hear it. “I love you, Rose. For as long as I live.”
They held each other for a long time, cocooned in the warmth of the bed and each other’s bodies, kissing slowly and touching and adjusting to being together like this. There was nothing urgent about it at first, and the Doctor relished the slow burn of need for her that was fuelling his careful attention. She was his whole universe in that moment, and he wanted nothing else. Gradually, their kisses deepened, their touches became more brazen, their hearts beating faster.
The Doctor rolled so that he was on top of her and pressed his thigh between her legs and up against her centre. She squeezed her legs around him and rubbed against him, clearly enjoying the friction. He felt her wetness and he fought an enormous urge to just drive into her then and there. This was better as a human, he had to admit. This overwhelming desire for sex, this animalistic craving for her, the way he was unable to think of anything else but this. He couldn’t imagine ever being sated; this kind of pleasure must certainly be addictive, he thought.
She reached down and touched his cock and he groaned. Her touch wasn’t gentle or tentative; she was too far gone in her own desire for that. She gripped him firmly in her hand, stroking up and down and she continued to grind against his leg. It was too much for him, way too much. “Rose,” he breathed, “stop, I’m too close.” He rolled off of her and onto his side. “I’m sorry, this is a new body, and it’s responding differently.”
Rose turned to face him and reached out to touch his cheek. “Don’t apologize. I’ll slow down.”
“It’s just being part human, it’s strange. My brain is the same, it’s wired up the same way, but my nerve endings are different. I’m afraid, this first time, I might not be able to … please you.”
She smiled. “Don’t worry about that. If things go faster than we want them to when you’re inside me, then you’ll please me some other way,” she said, pressing the length of her body against his and putting her arms around him. “But I’ll be surprised if that’s an issue,” she murmured into his ear. “You aren’t the only one on a razor’s edge right now.”
“Oh,” he said, surprised and thrilled that he was having such an intense effect on her. He leaned in to kiss her, slowly and thoroughly, pressing her back against the mattress again. He trailed his hand over her breasts, focusing on the feel of her hard nipples against his palm. His hand slid down to her belly, where he rubbed gentle circles into her skin, and then lower still, where he let his fingers play over her folds, now dipping inside her entrance, now stroking her clit. He watched in awe as the pleasure played over her face and she arched off the bed, seeking deeper penetration from his fingers. She moaned in wordless syllables, her eyes squeezed shut. She was the picture of erotic beauty.
“Please,” she said. “Now, please.”
“I need to …” He indicated the condoms, which she had left on her nightstand.
“Right,” she said, sitting up and grabbing them and ripping into the box with shaking hands.
“You know,” the Doctor said, “I’ve never actually, um, used one of those.”
“Yeah, why would you have?” she said, tearing one square off the strip and throwing the rest to the floor. Rose grinned. “Just leave it to me.” She pushed him onto his back and straddled his legs, his erection bobbing in front of her. As he watched, she tore the packaging open with her teeth. When she reached down and stroked him, he let his eyes fall shut. He felt her roll the condom down his length and then she stroked him again, warming him with her hand.
“Ready?” she asked, crawling forward over him on hands and knees and kissing him.
“Yes,” he said into her mouth, his hands coming up to grasp her hips.
Rose took his cock in her hand and guided herself onto him, rocking back and forth until he was buried completely. It was bliss. “Rose, oh … ”
“Oh god,” she moaned, rocking slowly.
“That’s so good.” He slid his hands up to her back and pulled her toward him. Rose shifted the position of her legs so that she could lie chest to chest with him. The Doctor buried his hands in her hair and kissed her. “I love you so much. So much.”
Rose braced herself on her hands and they moved together, looking into each other’s eyes. “I love you,” she cried. “Never stopped loving you, Doctor.”
He brought his hands back down to her hips, trying to hold back but losing himself in the feel of her around him. He thrust up into her, over and over, and could only hope that she was getting close. He might not be the best lover now, he thought, but he would learn quickly. He would get to know every inch of her body. He would worship her. “Rose,” he said through clenched teeth, “I can’t …”
“S’okay,” she said between moans. “I’m close. Oh god!” The last was shouted, and with relief he let himself go, his orgasm a burst of blinding pleasure that compared to nothing he had ever experienced.
Their movements slowed to a stop and Rose pulled off of him with a sigh. He sat up quickly and went to dispose of the condom in her bathroom, then padded back to the bed and crawled under the covers with her.
“Can I just say,” the Doctor said, kissing her, “being human is fantastic.”
A laugh bubbled out of her and she clung to him, her shoulders shaking with mirth. He laughed along with her. Her giggles died gradually, and they held each other in silence for several minutes. He was beginning to wonder if she was asleep when she said, “You and me, it’s going to be difficult sometimes.”
“You’re stuck here, and I know that’s going to bother you more and more as time goes on.”
He shrugged. “It might. Or I might get so wrapped up in living this life and I forget to be bothered. Besides,” he said, “stuck with you, that’s not so bad.”
She looked at him in surprise, then laughed again. “Do you remember everything I ever said to you?”
“I hope I do, Rose.”
Rose curled into him, and he lay still, listening to her breathing. Soon the Doctor joined her in sleep, and that night there were no dreams.