“Don’t need to check the monitor, Rose. Time Lord, me,” she says in her cockney-does-Manchester imitation of his accent.
“Oi! You sayin’ I’m not impressive?” He raises an eyebrow.
“Never.” Her mock-serious tone dissolves into affectionate laughter quicker than candy floss on your tongue.
The Doctor glares down at her, but really he’s only playing along. He should learn to check the monitor, because this is decidedly not Salem, Massachusetts circa 1690.
He does a visual sweep of the area that draws his gaze back to Rose. Silhouetted against sand dunes, she cuts an unusually severe figure. She is dressed all wrong, he thinks. Not just for the time and place they’ve landed, but for herself.
He suspects something about Morocco (he’s realized where they are) would suit her much more — all that warmth of hers.
She looks up at him, that smile of hers fixed firmly on her face.
Oh yes, Morocco is much more her.
He spares another glance at the horizon, and that’s not good.
He gauges the distance between them and the TARDIS.
Really not good.
Rose is about to ask him where they are — even she knows this isn’t 17th century New England — when he pulls her to his chest and smothers her in his leather jacket.
She tries to look up, but he pins her in place. She feels his chest rumble with words she can’t quite catch.
He grabs her hands, pulls her arms inside his jacket and locks them around his waist. Crushes her flat till his jacket holds both of them and completely covers her.
He locks his own arms around her and bends his head, “Don’t move!”
A second ago, she’d been holding on to him because he’d told her to. Now she’s holding on to him for dear life.
She can’t see or hear, can only feel sand (she thinks it’s sand) pinging against the leather and wool wrapped around her.
Her ears feel fuzzy when he releases her. She’s not sure, honestly, how long they’d been standing like that. And, while she’s being honest, she wouldn’t have minded a little longer.
He looks at her intently, runs a hand over her cheek, asks her a question. She has a brief moment of panic when she can’t quite hear him. The Doctor bends to scoop up sand, tosses it back up into the air, and mimes it going round and round. Points to his ears.
Somehow, Rose guesses that this means “sandstorm” and that her hearing will return sooner than later. Like after a really loud concert, she thinks.
A second game of Charades informs her that they only caught the cusp of the storm. And she doesn’t need the Charades, just a look at the Doctor’s face, to see that only catching the cusp is a very good thing.
He’s generally unscathed, but the few places the jacket didn’t protect look like he was attacked by a brillo pad with a grudge. She tries to check his injuries, but he waves her off.
Temporarily deaf, or not, she’d swear she can hear his voice saying something smug about “superior Time Lord physiology.”
She has more questions, but thinks that things like their specific location might be a bit more difficult to mime. Looks around for the TARDIS, and panics only a little when she can’t see it.
The Doctor follows her gaze to where the blue box ought to be. Concern flickers over his face a second before he can mask it.
Rose reaches out a hand toward his.
Tries to put words like “trust” and “confidence” and “it-will-be-ok” into the gesture. (Words like “love” and its assorted variations she’ll just keep to herself.)
He squeezes her hand back, and the smile he gives her is the genuine, slightly dorky one she likes especially well.
She grins, as he holds up a finger indicating “wait” and pulls out his sonic screwdriver with a flourish bordering on the theatrical.
His smile slips a bit when it won’t turn on.
She wonders if maybe sand got in the works.
Rose scoops up a bit of the sand, rubs it between her fingers, makes a motion toward the tool.
He catches on to what she’s asking, nods a “could be.”
They stand in relative silence for a while. He tinkers with the screwdriver, shakes out his jacket, tastes the air (she thinks that’s what he’s doing — not entirely certain on that last one).
She contemplates the absurdity of being dressed like an extra in The Crucible while stranded in the desert. Her linen shift, stays, three petticoats, and wool dress are all very appropriate…for winter in New England, circa 1700…and this would be the trip she’d decide to do period dress…
She decides to try her voice — well, her ears — again. “So, where is the TARDIS?”
“Still here. You just can’t see her because the sandstorm has changed the landscape.” He nods to indicate the dunes. “Once the screwdriver is fixed, it’ll lead us right to her. No wanderin’ about. Bad idea that, without a full canteen.”
“You can fix it, then? Without the TARDIS, I mean.”
“Should do,” he looks far into the distance, then back at her. “Even if I couldn’t though, we’d find her. Just be a bit more like hide-and-go-seek, really. Right now though, first priority: find water. And shelter.”
He sets off, walking straight ahead, choosing the direction for no reason obvious to her.
Rose runs to catch up — easier said than done in her current wardrobe.
“You think we’ll be here long enough to need it? Shelter, I mean.” She tries to school her tone into mere curiosity.
“Might be.” He turns back to look at her. “It’s early now. ‘Fore long though, it’ll be midday. Sun’ll be at its highest. And you aren’t exactly kitted out for Morocco.”
“Morocco?” She smiles, “is that where we are?” She skips ahead a step or so to join him
“Wouldn’t have said it if we weren’t.” But his tone is gentle, teasing. Delighting in her enthusiasm, despite their circumstances. “Your present day actually, or pretty near, I think.”
She laughs at that. “Guess I only look a couple continents, and centuries, out a place. S’pose I ought to be wearing one of those genie outfits, or somethin’.”
She pokes her tongue out, and that with the image of her in harem garb is nearly his undoing.
“Nah,” he shakes the image from his head and proceeds to give her a complete history of the djellaba, the traditional Moroccan dress.
Halfway through his airborne thesis, Rose thinks she would sell a kidney for one of the loose-fitting garments he’s describing.
It would have to be cooler than what she’s got on now.
She wonders how long they’ve been walking.
Course, anything would be more comfortable than the ten tons of wool and linen she’s currently buried under. She never knew a dress could be so heavy.
The stays themselves aren’t as bad as she’d have guessed. A little like a back brace, really. Her breasts ache a bit from being squashed flat, but at least these aren’t made to cinch her waist like the Cardiff corset.
Still…she can hardly get her breath.
It’s hard to imagine women getting anything done in these. She feels so tired…can barely keep up with the Doctor.
Just how long have they been walking?
Her legs are cramping.
And his long legs keep putting him farther and farther ahead of her.
She can’t seem to move fast enough.
Her pulse, though, won’t slow down.
She tries to call out, and can’t get the breath.
Everything goes black.
She opens her eyes. Has the odd sensation of time having passed without her body marking it.
She looks around. Everything shimmers of orange heat.
And there is no relief from it. She breathes, and breathes in heat. She panics.
Rose hears someone shout something.
And then she is shaded. He is standing over her with a face full of so much…worry, and apology, and…she’s too tired to search what else.
The Doctor’s gaze is the only cool, blue thing for miles. She bathes in it.
She drifts in and out of conscious thought. Is only half aware of the insistent rays of the sun and the back-and-forth sway of…something…as they move across the desert. She doesn’t know how long it is before it fully registers that she is not walking. Or that she’s damp.
The desert fades in and out of her sight…is reduced in her mind to a tableau on a “We Three Kings” Christmas card.
Rose wakes, this time, not moving. Or rather, the world around her not moving.
The light feels…filtered. At the very least, it’s not pounding down into her anymore.
But her eyes have yet to adjust and are no real help.
She has the odd sensation of being pulled apart, and yet, staying together. Push-pull, push-pull.
No, she takes back the thought, not being pulled apart. Something’s being tugged off.
Like a snake molting. She pictures a blonde shedding chavvy skin, and laughs.
She thinks she laughs.
She feels cooler suddenly and stops thinking, stops caring. Just relaxes into the sensation. The gentle push-pull…like water lapping at her sides.
She tries to close her eyes again. Something is wet against her face. There’s coolness. She swallows and isn’t sure why.
Awareness returns by degrees. The gentle push-pull continues.
And she feels cooler…cooler…cooler still.
It’s a measurable descent. Like walking downstairs into your cellar.
Something wet is brought to her cheek, then across her lips. She thinks to open her mouth, to swallow the liquid relief when it flows over her teeth.
It doesn’t come.
She hears a sigh. Thinks, belatedly, that it might be her own.
Her head is being lifted up. It’s this movement that stirs her, and she waits for something wet to press against her nose, or some equally frustrating place. Longs for the press of a canteen to her lips.
Didn’t the Doctor promise her water?
Instead, Rose feels her hair lifted up and off her neck, and — aahhh — something blissfully cool taking its place.
If hell is a place of fire, then surely heaven has a good deal of ice.
She’s awake now…or closer to it. Present enough to try for cooperation when she feels a calloused grip arrange her arms over her head, tug her linen shift up and off.
Her arms are drawn down again. Rose imagines them sticking straight out from her sides, like a tightrope walker.
She feels the air of the room, still as it is, move over now-bare skin. Stops worrying about it when she feels bundles of blissful coolness pressed under both armpits.
Heaven, she thinks, may well be made of ice.
She feels herself drifting back again…gaining rather than losing consciousness this time. Just floating among what her senses have collected. The relative dark of the room. The still, spicy air. The wetness of the water she wants poured into her mouth. The coolness of the bundles at her arms and neck, of the calloused fingers that push-pull.
Water-lapping at her sides…water she wants spilling into her mouth. Her tongue feels like a chalkboard eraser between her teeth.
Cool calloused hands drag the something-wet down from pressing her face to cool her neck, her chest, her arm, her side. And she must be feeling better, to remember that these places of hers have names. The hands map her hip, her thigh. She starts to fall asleep under their rhythm.
And then they hesitate for the briefest moment. Someone murmurs an apology.
She thinks they tremble, the fingers and the hands.
Cool calloused fingers push — no pull — her legs apart.
Something snaps and thoughts swarm her head like it’s an upturned hive.
And she panics. Because she’s naked in a strange place and someone she doesn’t know is forcing her legs open.
Rose’s eyes fly wide. She lets out a rasping cry that sounds like “Doctor!” and tries to move away.
Her body is boneless with fatigue.
She grits her teeth at the inevitable, takes a deep and burning breath, and wonders again where the Doctor is.
And when the inevitable comes?
She is surprised by the gentleness of those phantom hands as they open her.
Is more shocked (and infinitely more relieved) when they keep to her thighs and the only thing to actually touch her there is a familiar, cool bundle like the ones under her arms and neck.
There’s not even a brush of a fingertip against her. Not one. Accidental or otherwise.
A hand soothes hair back from her forehead.
“I’m here, Rose. I’m here.”
She’s awake now. But only just, and completely disoriented.
The look on her face breaks him.
He lays a hand on her shoulder — a gesture intended to comfort. For her, at least. For him…well, it just reinforces how too-hot she still is, and that’s no comfort at all.
Her heart rate sprints beneath his palm. Like her eyes didn’t already tell him how scared she is.
He’s not certain how much she remembers.
Morocco. Sand storm. Water, need water.
The words tumble over each other — leapfrog into an attempted semblance of order.
“Heatstroke.” The word inserts itself among the others and her brain starts to make the connections.
The Doctor seems to know when she understands what’s happened. He smiles at her in a way that makes her feel clever…and makes him look a little sad.
She realizes he’s speaking again, and tries to concentrate on his words.
But it’s hard, and she’s tired. She catches on that he’s asking her permission for…something.
And she nods her consent, because her head still feels full of cotton, and because it’s this man (Time Lord, whatever) asking. And she trusts him. Loves him.
She falls asleep. Again.
She wakes up.
She feels like she’s been out of it for hours.
She’s on her side — Red Cross relief-pose style — with her back to him. She can’t see him, just feels his motions as he wipes her down over and over and over again. Anything to lower her body temperature.
“I forgot,” he speaks as he works, “how easily you lot overheat. Especially tiny pink humans like yourself.”
She hears the apology. Another log of guilt he’ll add to a fire that never dies. It scares her a little, or it should, just how well she knows this man. She twists a bit so she can see his face.
“S’okay,” her voice is still scratchy, “you’re takin’ care of me now, yeah?”
He tries to return her smile. Settles for putting an arm around her, and helping her sit up so she can drink.
She is deeply aware of the wool of his jumper as it brushes her bare back. The back-and-forth of his thumb playing against her shoulder.
She thinks she should feel more embarrassed, that he’s seeing her like this.
Is quite confident that mortification will rear its ugly head all too soon (whether it will only be hers, she’s less certain).
At the moment though, all she can muster is gratitude.
She leans her head against his chest. Soothed by the sound of twin heartbeats. She falls asleep.
She’s feeling a bit better, he can tell. And that’s nothing but good.
But now she’s asked him for a favor, and won’t tell him what it is. And she looks so grave he can only imagine the worst.
He’d give her anything he could and some he can’t (he sees Pete Tyler, and grimaces at just how true that is). Even if it’s to take her home (or to keep traveling with her but never touch her again, no hands held and no hugs…who knows what she’ll want after this). He’d do it. It would mean consigning himself to his own personal hell, but he’d do it. God he’s pathetic.
She’s chewing her lip, and it makes him even more nervous. She risks a glance up and says, “Just, I don’t think I can walk yet and…I really need the loo.” He thinks he can see her blush even through the heatstroke.
He can’t help it — he laughs.
He laughs because if she could remember the last twenty-four hours, asking for help to the loo would not top her “things to be most embarrassed about” list. (He doesn’t think he’ll enlighten her.)
He laughs because he’s just so relieved she’s not asking to go home that he can’t stop himself. She looks at him like she thinks he might be a lunatic, but smiles and when he pulls her to him, lets him. He forgets she’s naked, forgets she nearly died, forgets everything for a moment.
He hugs her.
His hand brushes her breast. Ah.
He picks up a sheet, wraps it around her till she resembles a burrito, and carries her to what is likely the most primitive bathroom she’s yet to see.
They spend a little more time there, in their house built of sun dried bricks. The Berber tribe…she thinks that’s what he calls them.
After the first day he seems to relax a bit. At the very least, he stops checking on her every five minutes…manages to hold out for a whole fifteen at a time.
She gets her linen shift back. Clean and smelling of some spice she doesn’t know but definitely likes.
He allows her some of the traditional Moroccan tea that is offered, even if he hardly lets her eat a thing. What she wouldn’t give for a pile of chips right now.
Most importantly, he starts tinkering with the sonic screwdriver.
The look he gives her when it turns out she guessed right — that it was just sand in the works — is a look she’d like to bottle.
After two days, he declares it ready: sonic screwdriver = TARDIS detector.
Rose is still weak, however. Still needs help getting to and from the loo (it’s the only place she really goes). Still can’t eat much. So, they wait.
Seven and a half days pass before he decides she’s “well enough” to be moving along.
He secures rides for them back to their blue box.
Rose is thrilled. She’d been quite put out to discover that she was unconscious for her first camel ride. She’s still not clear on the details of what happened after she passed out, but the pained look on his face when she’d asked was enough to stop her asking again.
He also manages to get a djellaba for her to wear, and for which she will be eternally grateful. It’s beautiful, and he’s quite a resourceful Time Lord, and she tells him so.
(She’s grown to loathe that linen shift after wearing it for a solid week.)
He helps her into the traditional garment and drops the chain with her TARDIS key inside to settle between her breasts. She thinks he looks as relieved as she is to be rid of it, to be rid of clothes that now have things like worry and fear sewn into them.
He of course, remains in his uniform. Even if he does carry his jacket rather than wear it.
She tells him he doesn’t look native enough. Then laughs — can’t stop, in fact — when he tries on the fez. In spite of her laughter, he’s started to barter for it. Rose shakes her head and in a very decided voice says, “No. S’not really your look.”
He mutters something about it being his ears’ fault.
“I like your ears.”
He’s not sure which throws him off balance more: her words, or the feel of her fingers tracing his ear as she says them.
He takes a long look at her. Her face is pink…like maybe she’s trying not to laugh.
He decides she’s putting him on. Either that or she’s still suffering from heatstroke delusions.
She couldn’t possibly like these ears.
It takes a little while, but Rose settles into the rhythm of camel-riding.
When the Doctor drops back, just to check if she’s alright mind you, the smile she gives him is dazzling.
She tells him she feels like that girl in The Mummy — Evie, the librarian.
“Nah,” he says, “you’re much more beautiful,” and urges his camel farther ahead.
She can feel herself turn red.
If she blushes any harder, he’ll think the heatstroke is back.
She lets out a groan. In the last week the Doctor’s seen her naked, taken her to the toilet, and cleaned her up when she was unconscious or too ill to make it there. And this is what makes her blush?
She’s a nutter for sure.
It’s much later when the truth hits. She all but falls off her camel.
It’s exactly because he’s done those things — seen her naked (and under the least-sexy conditions possible), taken her to the toilet, and cleaned her up — that she blushed.
He’s seen her at her worst…and he still thinks she’s beautiful.
Weeks pass, and they don’t discuss Morocco. Neither one avoids it exactly, but saving the universe is time consuming. And she’s nervous, and he is a master at diversion.
Before you know it there’s a third member to their team (again). They find themselves in Cardiff (again), facing down a Slitheen (again).
He is almost an executioner. (Again.)
But then, miraculously, there is the chance for a new life instead of unavoidable death.
Second chances all around.
Second chances…the thought is like a hurricane in her head. She remembers words spoken surrounded by sand and wishes for a second chance of her own.
She can’t find sleep.
She gives up.
She finds the Doctor.
He’s in the console room, looks up when she enters. Watches, silent like a soldier, as she moves toward him.
She takes a deep breath.
“You think I’m beautiful.” And it’s not a question. It’s a challenge.
“You like my ears.” And that, that is both a question and a challenge.
“Yeah. I do.” She peaks up through the fringe of her eyelashes. “They sorta…fit your face.” She bites her lip.
“I’m makin’ an effort not to be insulted.”
“No reason to be,” she says with a shrug — and yes, she remembers those words. “S’very male, your face. Nothin’…soft about it.”
“The Oncoming Storm,” he quips, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice.
“Nah,” she considers him a moment, “you’re the eye of my storm.” And she hugs him — crushes herself to him, really — like that day when he shielded her from the sand storm. She risks a look up at him. “This alright?”
His eyes are closed, his arms poker-straight at his sides, and she honestly isn’t sure.
“Yeah.” He chokes the single syllable out, and feels lucky to do so.
He can’t look at her, so he looks straight ahead. Doesn’t want Rose to see the fear, and disbelief, and longing, and…all the other things he’s sure are marching across his face at this moment.
“Doctor?” She sounds small, and very young, and suddenly he can’t help but look at her.
He wonders how eyes the color of earth can hold so much water.
He smiles at it — at her, his girl. And then she’s smiling too.
He leans down, tips her chin up with one long, cool, calloused finger. He looks pointedly at her lips.
“This alright?” He gives her time to decide, time to think it over, time to shatter him into a million pieces that even regeneration won’t fix.
She’s studying him. Looking for something.
“You think I’m beautiful?” This time it is a question.
“Rose Tyler,” and if his sincerity breaks his voice it’s only completely embarrassing, “you are the loveliest thing I‘ve found in nine-hund-“
He’s interrupted in the best way possible: by her lips on his. It’s a quick kiss, shy even. But it’s theirs and he takes it. Gladly.
Her head hides against his chest, her body presses to his. And he feels more than hears the words as she sighs them out, “I love —“
He thinks he holds his breath.
“…Morocco.” She’d cut herself off, had tensed with the end of her sentence.
He smiles into her hair. “I love Morocco too.”
And because today seems to be a day for miracles (even for killers, for executioners) he risks it all on what he thinks — hopes — she’d been going to say. “And you. I love you.”
Then he waits.
She pulls back. Studies him.
No one remembers to breathe.
She has to close her eyes to get it out, but she says it with such conviction that he doesn't care, "That's good, really, really good. 'Cause I love you too."
The kiss that follows is neither quick nor shy…