Missoula, Montana, mid-1990's. Friday night of a long weekend. A charmingly-named little boite called the He's Not Here Saloon, crammed to the absolute rafters with obnoxiously partying rednecks.
He's awash in drunken noise. The reek of cheap American beer and cigarette smoke is strip-mining his nostrils. If he hears another "Wooo-HOOO!" he's gonna use the sonic screwdriver to weld the offending Bubba's lips shut. And that's not even the worst of the situation...
It's not as though the Doctor isn't keen on local customs and celebrations--every place he goes, he soaks up the local color and ways of doing things, and it's not often he finds customs he dislikes. But when he soaked in his first dose of 20th century Country-Western Americana... he rather wished he could wring himself out. Hootin', hollerin', truck-drivin', gun-totin', God-fearin', flag-wavin', not usin' the last g on the end of words-in' Country culture. His least favorite on Earth, and he's currently steeped in it to his sizable ears.
Their location is just another TARDIS goof, of course. A flick of a lever and they could have been off to someplace decent. But nooooo, Rose wanted to stay and "get into the spirit of things." And he had to let her, of course, because... because... he folds his arms against his chest and tries not to finish that thought. His muscles, already steel bands, go impossibly more tense as he surveils the dance floor. He's rooted to the spot, a tightly-controlled statue of himself, for fear of what he'll do if he moves.
"Say there, son, why don't you try on a smile?" A kindly-looking older patron weaves into the Doctor's range, apparently seeing his murderous mood as a challenge. "House rules: only come to have fun. We don't take kindly to serious 'round here," he smiles.
"Can't smile. On duty." The Doctor whips out the psychic paper. "Building Inspector, Cheap Rancid Dump Division. Tell me, have you seen anyone spitting tobacco juice indoors? A very big no-no, that is. 'Specially on the dance floor, a massive slip-and-fall hazard. And on carpet, well, it's just completely disgusting. Can you tell me what you've seen?"
The old-timer's face freezes around the massive wad of chaw in his cheek. He purses his lips tighter and wobbles away. The Doctor stashes the paper with a grim satisfaction.
His eyes find the most important spot in the room again with unerring accuracy. A certain "cowgirl" is learning the moves to a dance of some sort. She's wearing a white tank top and her usual jeans, with the sole addition of a white straw cowboy hat, folded up along the sides and artfully tattered. He'd never have thought a cowboy hat could look feminine, exactly, but on her it does. By contrast, her tutor is a tall stringy man in a hat wide enough to pick up satellite TV, and jeans so tight they're basically an exercise in killing sperm with denim. But his face is mischievous and handsome, and Rose is responding to it to an infuriating degree. His large hands roam her body with seeming impunity under the pretense of guiding her, teaching her steps. They stay out of the basic danger zones, but they occasionally drift far too close to them for the Doctor's comfort.
Rose tries a move and does it poorly. The String Bean says something and she laughs. The Doctor's vision blurs with anger, his body thrums with stifled impulses and sheer impotence.
Just another pretty boy, he reminds himself. He'll be gone by the end of the evening. Just one more in a long line of meaningless toys apparently designed to make the Doctor want to scratch his own face off, rip his hearts out of his chest. Except he's not supposed to care. Except he does.
A new song starts and suddenly the population of the dance floor triples, along with the number of "Woo-HOO!"s rending the air. Some Important Drunken Idiot Event has begun, whatever it is. He keeps staring as everyone forms rows on the dance floor, Rose lined up next to her tutor. Soon they're all dancing the same moves at the same time. Line dancing, he suddenly remembers.
He's starting to wonder what exactly he's doing to himself, traveling with a girl who obviously doesn't see him that way and that used to be a good thing, until it stopped being so at some point, and can he really stand this continued torture, with his heart misbehaving like this and her being so close but yet so out of reach, so obviously uninterested in him as a... a...
Rose's gaze has suddenly fused to his, as she goes through the moves the others do. The String Bean is looking over at her, trying to catch her attention, and failing. She's got one thumb looped under her belt, her hat pulled low over her eyes. She looks up at him while her head tips town, her eyes visible for a few seconds before she plays peek-a-boo with the hat brim. She gives him glimpses of smoldery stare before grinning playfully and turning away.
Her center of gravity is low and she does each move with a sashay of her hips the like of which he's never seen. She doesn't have all the moves perfect, but what she does have is the feel of it. She's absorbed the attitude and she's playing with it, unveiling it one move at a time for him.
Country music suddenly has more going for it than he reckoned.
Abruptly he remembers an exchange from earlier in the evening, when String Bean first approached her. He only half heard it over the rushing noise in his ears. The man was showing Rose how to wear her hat like a proper cowgirl. The Doctor thought this a particularly lame pickup line--how was it possible to wear a hat improperly? You put it on your head, end of lesson. But String Bean claimed it had to be settled low, brim practically blocking your view–-used correctly, he insisted, the cowboy hat was a great pickup tool. The Doctor mused grimly on how startlingly appropriate the term “pickup tool” was just then. Then Rose tried it out, pulling her brim so low she had to tilt her head back to see anything. She turned unsteadily to the Doctor, the hat making it difficult to find him: "D’you think I’m doing it right?" Her laugh told him she already knew the answer. The Doctor let slip an affectionate, hopelessly-smitten grin before he could think to stop it.
But then String Bean abducted her to the dance floor, and his stomach resumed feeling leaden. He had not thought about the details of the conversation since. But apparently someone else did.
At this point, she’s absolutely, positively doing it right.
He keeps watching her, compulsively, frantically testing out theories: she's kidding, she's looking at someone behind him, she's teasing him cruelly, she doesn't realize what she's doing. None ring true. He tries out a faux-paternal look — just what are you playing at, little girl? — that's much more confident than he feels. Her answering raised-eyebrow grin isn't intimidated in the least. Don't like it? Stop me. The Doctor feels a terrified shiver rattle through his entire body, as he stares down the prospect of getting exactly what he wants: that very dirty, secret, undoubtedly wrong thing he wants with someone practically a child.
Although she isn't looking very childlike at the moment.
Or very graceful. Her flirting has kept her from paying proper attention. She turns the wrong way, tries to correct, and ends up falling into the arms of a plump woman nearby. They both crack up immediately. In the midst of his adrenaline, the Doctor can't help smiling, especially when she looks straight at him to share the moment. She laughs so endearingly, no ego at all.
A certain small relief floods through him as he remembers something he didn't know he'd ignored: He and Rose together isn't dirty or tawdry, never. He and Rose together would be… oh. Suddenly his hearts fill in a way that's ten times more torturous than nerves.
He's forgotten to watch, he realizes. Lost in his thoughts, and he doesn't want to miss a second, still doesn't trust the situation, and then he hears the song ending, far too soon. Rose laughs and clasps hands with her new female friend, then politely excuses herself from the String Bean's last ditch attentions. She’s crossing the room toward him.
It's too soon. He hasn't made up his mind what to do yet. But she's in front of him in what feels like a heartbeat, looking up at him, a sheen of sweat on her flushed, happy face. "That was fun!"
He gives her a smile and a raise of his eyebrows that humors her: if you say so. She picks it up lightly, smiles and steps closer to him with a casual hand on his chest. "No, I mean it." Her eyes are bright, tilting up while her head stays down. She does that thing with her tongue between her teeth. The Doctor feels as though he'll explode. "That little dance made me feel sexy."
"Really? Hadn't noticed."
He's teasing again. She has to know he's teasing. He thinks she does. Her smile dims the tiniest bit. Her hand's less confident on his chest. Blimey, he's made her question herself. She thinks maybe she's being turned down. Panic turns his brain into a hive full of bees.
"I want to dance," he blurts.
Surprise robs her of hurt, momentarily. Her mouth drops open. "You do?" She glances toward the dance floor.
"No..." He takes her by the upper arms and pulls her in. Her eyes go wide and her hips make contact with his. The feeling makes the Doctor forget his name for a second. "I want to dance," he grinds out, his tone unmistakable, his eyes opening and boring into hers.
Rose stares for a second, her lips moist and parted and he can't stop it as he begins hardening against her. He feels the tips of his ears flush hot. There, this is it, do or die. The moment where she either slaps him or her eyes darken and give him permission. He's really really hoping for the latter. He's too hellishly aroused to turn back now.
It takes a few aching seconds, but her surprise turns playful and predatory.
"So you remembered how again, did you?" The tongue in the teeth. A tiny grind of her hips against him that blurs his vision a moment.
"We have to leave now," he says hoarsely.
Her smile is all innocence. "Whatever for?" Another grind, firmer this time.
A wordless growl and the Doctor’s hand flies to the back of her head to press her lips to his, pulling her in so tight she's bent almost backward. It takes her a second to catch up to him, but when she does she's melting, melting against him and the feeling is everything he's ever wanted in the universe.
He dimly registers when someone bumps them: it's String Bean, walking by with a mixture of pout and scowl on his face. The Doctor looks up and makes deadly-serious eye contact, glaring in fierce victory. Before Rose can turn he goes back to kissing her with his eyes open, giving another second's worth of glower and gloat before he loses himself too much to care.
"The TARDIS," Rose gasps, and he can't agree more. Except it's too far away. He wishes he had a TARDIS to get him to the TARDIS.
On the way out, his arm tight around Rose's waist, thrilling at the feel of her molding herself to his side and stroking his earlobe as they go, he sees the old-timer again. The wobbly old bloke regards him uncertainly, but the Doctor knows the man has nothing to fear.
"Took your advice and tried on a smile," he announces breezily. "And what do you know? It fit."