Author's Notes:
2016 Secret Santa Fic
Author: Untempered Schism
Recipient: karlafen

Prompt: Canon divergence, Rose is still stuck in the parallel universe but Ten finds a way to still be able to visit her every Christmas (but only Christmas day for those 24 hours.) Ten eventually states explicitly that he loves her but soon realizes that she’s only human and is getting older with every visit…

Author’s note: I did tweak a few details of this fantastic prompt just a bit, but I think I captured the spirit of the prompt and gave karlafen the Christmas miracle I assume she was hoping for. Thanks go to Caedmon, my amazing beta. Without her encouragement I would have chosen a less challenging prompt. Now that it’s finished, I’m so glad I picked this one. if you haven’t yet read her Advent series on AO3, you should do so, it’s full of Multi-Doctor Christmas wonder and joy. She has become my favorite Advent Elf ever!

No Touch

“You’re wearing your ring!” were his first words as she approached the holographic image of him on the beach. “Blimey, Rose! You look beautiful, a sight for sore eyes.”

“‘Course I’m wearin’ my ring. The entire purpose of our visitin’ Mum was to tell her, yeah? She’s given her blessin’, you know. I think you’ve grown on her.”

“Like fungus,” he teased, waving to Jackie, Pete and Mickey, who were huddled around the jeep, affording them some privacy for this conversation. She saw the gleam of his ring on the third finger of his left hand, the swirling Gallifreyan symbols of their conjoined names matching those on her own ring. “Sorry, love, it seems like the gap is in the middle of nowhere, and cold, too by the looks of it.”

“It’s not important,” she waved his apology off, not taking her eyes from his image. “I’ve missed you, Doctor.”

“I’ve missed you, Rose. So much.” His expression spoke more eloquently than his words and she saw the naked longing in his eyes. “There’s one tiny little gap in the universe left, just about to close.” She listened as she drank in the sight of him and soaked up the familiar and so beloved sound of his voice. “It takes a lot of power to send this projection. I’m in orbit around a supernova. I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye.” His breath had hitched a bit over those last words and she knew he was fighting for composure just as much as she was.

“You look like a ghost,” she complained. Her fingers itched to touch him. All she wanted to do was throw herself into his arms and never let go, but the finality of his words had shaken her faith in all the work Tosh and Malcolm had been putting in for the past three months. If he hadn’t found a way to stabilize the gap, then perhaps they were wrong. They were Pete’s most brilliant scientists, and even if they were positive--

“Hold on.” He fiddled with his sonic screwdriver and his image solidified.

“Can I--” Instinctively she reached out to touch him and felt an electrical tingle in her fingertips instead of the familiar fabric of his jacket. The holographic projection flickered and distorted. She snatched her fingers back and tears welled up in her eyes as she castigated herself for forgetting the limits of holographic projections. Taking a deep, calming breath, she squared her shoulders and met his apologetic gaze.

“I’m still just an image, no touch.” She saw the heartbreak in those eyes of his, so ancient and brimming with a profound grief and yearning that matched hers.

“So you’ve found no way for you to come through properly?”

“The whole thing would fracture. Two universes would collapse.” He sounded defeated, looked thinner, almost exhausted, really. She wondered if he was sleeping at all, or eating. She suspected he wasn’t.

“I’m, I’m pregnant,” she blurted. “Three months gone.” He stared at her for a moment in total shock. Then his gobsmacked expression morphed into wonder and joy.

“Blimey, Rose! That’s-- That’s fantastic! Um, must have been on Krop Tor?” he guessed, doing the math and obviously remembering the intensity and frequency of their lovemaking that night in the cramped bunk on the impossible planet. She also recalled the way they’d celebrated their mutual survival after the devil had been thwarted, offering a tentative smile as she nodded. One of those nights was most probably when their child had been conceived.

“I’m afraid twenty-first century birth control is no match for your biologically impressive Time Lord sperm,” she teased.

“I guess not!” he smirked, looking so much like an ordinary bloke that she wanted to simultaneously snog and smack him, her fingers itching for the feel of him, her mouth almost watering as she recalled the taste of him. “Are... are you okay, love?” he demanded, the sudden concern in his eyes obvious as he anxiously swept his gaze over her. “Three months gone already, I’ve missed three months. You Humans are fantastic in general and you, my love, are the most fantastic Human of all, but how are you holding up? Sure, humans are compatible with so many other species, but there’s nothing in the TARDIS library about Human/Gallifreyan pregnancies. I looked, um, just in case, after we-- Time Lords were a repressed lot, I told you that. Natural reproduction was okay for ordinary Gallifreyans, but Time Lords loomed their children. You could have a child with someone without even shaking their hand! Cold blooded lot, the Time Lords and Ladies. It just wasn’t--”

“I remember you telling me about all that, Doctor,” she interrupted with a fond smile. “ I also remember when you told me there might be a one in a million chance that we could make a baby the ‘barbaric, human’ way.” She noticed that he had the good grace to look a bit embarrassed by her mild accusation. “Listen, I’m assuming we don’t have a lot of time--”

“About two minutes. Blimey, Rose! I love you so much, and I love our baby already. I want you to know--”

“And we love you too, Doctor. We’ve known for months about this last gap between the universes. So Torchwood here in this Universe, with Pete’s blessing and backing, has been working to stabilize it on our end. It may only be a tiny gap now, but our resident void genius, Tosh, is positive that we can gradually turn it into a small stable aperture that could eventually permit travel between this universe and ours.” The Doctor opened his mouth to interrupt but she shook her head and kept talking. “The thing is, we need the cooperation of a genius in the prime universe to do the same on that end, someone brilliant enough to do what we’ve already done on this side without risking destabilization of both universes by causing a catastrophic chain reaction.”

“A genius, huh? Maybe someone like your bondmate and the father of your child?” He suggested, his face lighting up as he bounced on his toes. Rose grinned at him, the tongue-touched smile she knew drove him crazy as he beamed back at her, adoration and pride etched all over his smiling face. “Look at you, Rose Tyler. Did you just accept being stranded in Pete’s World without me? Of course you didn’t. I bet you’ve been planning this since the day you arrived.”

“Well, within a day or two,” she admitted with a relieved laugh. “It didn’t hurt that my stepfather is the CEO of Torchwood in this universe and has some of the brightest minds on Earth working for him.” She shook her head a bit, clearing it so she could get back to the important topic at hand. “So while the apertures are small, we’ll only be able to communicate through the transdimensional gap. But Tosh and Malcolm are convinced that with your assistance, eventually the portals can be safely opened and closed in a controlled way to allow something the size of the TARDIS to travel through them interdimensionally.”

“Just the way my people were able to do,” he murmured, blinking in surprise as realization struck him.

Rose opened her phone, her finger racing over the surface. She looked up at him, raising one brow, a hopeful smile quivering on her lips. “Permission to lock onto your signal and send you the specs, Sarge?”

“Oh, granted, Lewis!” he nodded eagerly, suddenly grinning and rocking back on his toes. Rose hit send so Tosh would transmit their research directly to the TARDIS. “I wonder if your work on this side is what made it possible for me to make the telepathic connection with you in the first place?”

“I think maybe it was,” Rose agreed. “I tried so many times to reach out to you, Doctor, but until that morning I heard you calling my name telepathically I thought our bond had been severed. Like I said, we already knew where the gap came out in this universe, so it came as no surprise when you summoned me here.”

The Doctor nodded in agreement and glanced down. Rose realized he was studying the viewscreen on the TARDIS console, his grin suddenly widening. “She’s received your transmission, love! The TARDIS is humming with satisfaction, which I’m pretty sure is confirmation that you and Pete’s scientists are all quite brilliant, Rose Tyler!”

“So, if you’re successful in stabilizin’ the gap on your end, we’ll be able to communicate with one another, collaboratin’ on the project. Tosh estimated it might take years to safely widen the aperture enough for the TARDIS to travel between our dimensions. With your help there’s a good chance it might be possible in a much shorter period of time.”

“Before our little time tot is born, I hope. I want to be there for you, Rose. I want to be there for both of you. I’ve missed you so much. Without you beside me there doesn’t seem to be any point to, well, anything. I can’t sleep in our room, cause you’re not there. To tell the truth, I’ve not been sleeping much at all. Every time I doze off I have nightmares about you falling into the void and that white wall, that bloody white wall separating me from the woman I love more than--”

“I-- I love you too, my Doctor!” she interrupted him. The tears she had been holding back through sheer force of will finally slid down her cheeks. She choked back a sob, still drinking in the sight of him from the faint crinkles in the skin around his eyes to the way his adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. There was such yearning in his expression as he gazed back at her, so much love, tenderness and fledgling hope shining in his eyes.

“Oh, you know how much I love you, Rose Marion Tyler.” He growled back, his gaze turning carnal for a moment. His image, so damn sexy and as frustrated as she was right now, almost made her laugh, but really there was nothing amusing about being trapped in alternate universes. He reached one hand out toward her, probably to brush her windblown hair away from her face before realising how futile the gesture was. He grimaced and pulled his hand back, shoving it into his trouser pocket, annoyance and concern flickering over his handsome features. “Don’t cry, love. I wish I could hold you, wrap my arms around you and make it all better,” he murmured.

“I must look a fright!” she managed to choke out, attempting to tuck her blowing hair behind her ear and failing. The wind was too strong. “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry if this was just a chance to say goodbye. Sorry!”

“Well it isn’t just a chance to say goodbye, and it’s all down to you, Rose. You’re the most beautiful woman in two universes, even with red-rimmed eyes, trembling lips and windblown hair. Gorgeous, even. There is absolutely nothing for you to be sorry about. This won’t be a goodbye, Rose, I promise. We’ll find a way to get me and the TARDIS through to Pete’s universe and once we’re there, we’ll all be together. Our baby is going to have a mum and a dad,” he assured her, glancing up and gesturing toward the jeep, where her parents and Mickey were waiting. ”And grandparents. He or she will also have an Uncle Mickety-Mick-Mick and his old gran, too. Quite a family for child of a father who was certain he was the very last of his kind, yeah?”

“Yeah, it is,” Rose agreed, flashing the Doctor a Cheshire cat grin. “Oh, that reminds me, Mum’s up the duff too. Ours will soon have a little aunt or uncle to play with.”

“Blimey! Pete wasted no time, did he?” he said, failing to fight back a laugh.

“Been goin’ at it like rabbits,” Rose giggled, rolling her eyes. His good humor was contagious.

“We’re almost out of time,” he warned her. “I’ll be with you soon, love.”

“We’ll be waiting for you, my Doctor. All of us.” She wiped her cheeks and straightened. “What do you think the baby will be, a girl or a boy?”

He grinned and rocked on his heels, hands in his pockets. “Well, since this might be my last chance to make a guess, I’ll go on record and say it’s going to be a--”

The hologram of him faded from sight and Rose burst into tears. She could hear Mickey and her parents calling out to her as they closed the distance to reach her side.

“--Little Time Lady or Time Lord, Rose Tyler. Either will be fine with me. Time Lord genes are dominant, you know. Of course he or she will have your brown eyes and beautiful face with ginger hair like their grandad. Oh, how about twins! One of each? The TARDIS and I are already working to stabilize the gap here, Rose. Tell your friend Tosh she’s brilliant, a star! Oh, did I forget to mention, our telepathic bond will remain intact now?”

“I think it might have slipped your mind, my love.” She laughed through her tears. “And if I’m having twins, you’re going to get a smack, you are! Oh, and I forgot to mention that the instant you get here, Mum is going to expect a wedding. I told her about the Gallifreyan bonding ceremony, but she says you’re going to make an honest woman out of me on our planet too.”

“It will be my pleasure. Blimey! Then that would make you Rose Marion Tyler-Smith? Why don’t I just change my name to Tyler? Doctor Jonathan Tyler! I like the sound of that. I suppose with a baby on the way we’ll need carpets and curtains, but domestic with you and a little one will be brilliant. But I’m telling you right now that there will be no mortgage for us, Rose. We’ll live in the TARDIS, won’t we? Park it somewhere in Pete’s back garden shed when we aren’t off exploring a whole new universe.”

“We’ve got plenty of time to discuss those details, Doctor.”

Rose grinned and rested one hand on her barely swollen abdomen. She was suddenly engulfed in her mother’s arms, Pete and Mickey hovering anxiously, but it was her connection with the Doctor that bolstered and comforted her now. For months she had craved even the most fleeting brush of his mind against hers and now their marital bond was restored. She basked in the miraculous and indefatigable psionic sensations of of his love, reassurance and concern washing through her weary mind. It would be enough to give her all the hope and strength to sustain her until they could be physically together again.

“Now go, get off your feet. Have something to eat and get some rest, love. You could be eating for three, you know. Make sure you eat lots of bananas. Gallifreyan babies need lots of potassium.”

“I’m not having twins, you daft alien,” she murmured under her breath. She heard the rumble of his chuckle in her mind, her lips quirking into a tiny half smile.

“He thinks you’re havin’ twins?” Jackie squealed.

“I’m not having twins!” she reiterated for the benefit on her parents and Mickey.

“Did he receive Tosh’s transmission?” Pete queried anxiously.

“He did,” Rose replied, relaxing into her mum’s arms, the tension of the past few days leaving her body, rendering her exhausted but serene. “He’s already working to stabilize the gap in our Prime universe. God bless Tosh and Malcolm!”

“Since bloody Torchwood in our universe caused this mess, it’s only fittin’ that Pete’s Torchwood finds a way to get the father of my grandbaby in the same universe as his family,” Jackie grumbled. “Now all we have to do is convince him that you three need to stay here in this universe once he comes through.”

“He’s plannin’ on it,” Rose said with a gentle smile, still replaying every word of their conversation in her mind. “He wants me to have twins, Mum. A boy and a girl, both with brown eyes and Pete’s ginger hair.”

“Daft alien, always goin’on about not bein’ ginger. Are twins some kind of Gallifroidian thing, then? Is that what they did on his planet, poppin’ them out two at a time? Blimey, does that mean he had a twin himself? “ She shuddered. “I pity his poor mum if he did, imagine, raisin’ two of him!”

Rose shook her head, exhausted tears and joyful laughter making her shake in her mother’s arms.

“Let’s get you both to the B&B, love,” Pete encouraged, putting his hand in the small of Jackie’s back to guide them back toward the jeep as he gazed at the churning clouds moving in from the sea. There’s a storm coming.”

“No,” Rose disagreed with a shake of her head and a tiny smile on her lips. “The storm has passed.”

------

“I need you to start pushing now, Rose,” Owen said, glancing up at the side-by-side fetal monitors next to her bed in Torchwood’s medical wing. She squeezed her Mum’s hand and bore down, startling when Jackie let out a surprised screech. “Oi! You alien plum! I’ve told you about just popping into a room with no warnin’! I’m keepin’ track of the number of slaps you’re gonna get when you finally get here properly. Don’t think I’m not.”

Rose opened one scrunched up eye to see her Doctor standing beside her mum, looking solid, real and frantic. She almost cried in relief to see him, but of course he was only a holographic image, since he and their TARDIS were still trapped in the Prime universe.

“Sorry, sorry!” he blurted, his gaze raking anxiously over Rose. “Oh my love, I’m so sorry! I wanted to be--”

“Cutting it a bit short, aren’t we, Doctor?” Owen interrupted. “But you’re here now. Charlotte’s head is pressing against Rose’s fully dilated cervix and Charles is lined up right behind her. Rose, you need to say hello to your holographic, peripatetic, and late-to-the-party husband, and then push as hard as you can on the next contraction, understood? I have dinner reservations for eight at the Park House. It’s Katie’s birthday and God help me if I stand her up, so when I say push, you really need to push, Agent Tyler.”

“Hello, my Doctor.” Rose grinned, meeting the Doctor’s worried gaze. Her relief and joy at finally seeing the Doctor only slightly muted by the gas she had been huffing, the sharp pain in the small of her back, the spasming of her cervix and the annoying cramp in her right leg.

“Hello, my love,” the Doctor said softly, meeting her gaze. “Sorry I’m late. I got stuck in a Dionarian prison.”

“They imprison folks for being annoying, know it all swots on that planet?” Owen queried, reaching up to adjust the drip rate on Rose’s IV. “She’s been in active labour for eight hours. I’m keeping her hydrated and infusing the cocktail of nutrients you specified. Mum and both babies are all doing fine, ta, despite all of Agent Tyler’s persistent whinging.”

“Agent Tyler is bloody exhausted,” Rose muttered, glaring at Owen as Jackie wiped the sweat from her brow with a cool flannel. “I’d like to see you not whinge after eight fucking hours of labour! Especially after carrying hyperactive, telepathic twins around in your body for eleven months!”

“Hey, don’t complain to me about the gestation period for Gallifreyan babies,” Owen retorted. “Take that up with your alien Romeo there. I’m not the one who impregnated you.”

“Is there anyone here at Torchwood who can do Owen’s autopsy?” the Doctor asked Jackie in a conversational tone. “Cause as soon as Rose is out of those stirrups she’s going to rip his head off and spit down his neck.”

“I was thinking of drawing and quartering, but it’s difficult to find well trained horses on the spur of the moment,” Rose said conversationally before Jackie could respond.

“I told you, I charge combat pay for death threats. Ten quid for each threat. You’re up to one hundred twenty quid, Rose. I’m completely capable of delivering these kids and keeping an accurate tally of every single way you have threatened to kill me. I’m itemizing them on the final bill for Pete’s amusement.”

“My favorite was her suggestion to restrain him spread eagled on the back lawn of the mansion and flinging cheap wine bottles at him with Pete’s antique trebruche,” Jackie said.

“I’m not wasting good vintage on Owen’s murder. We’ll save the good stuff for the celebratory wake, yeah?” Rose winced and groaned. “I got the idea from an episode of ‘Midsomer Murders.’ It looked like a jolly way to off someone really annoying.”

“I remember that episode!” the Doctor said, bouncing on his toes. “It was certainly a creative, artistic, and well executed homicide. Didn’t the murderer use croquet hoops to pin him to the grass? I remember at the time we watched it we were discussing how effective that would--”

“This is it, Rose,” Owen “Push!”

Rose clutched Jackie’s hand and pushed, never once tearing her gaze from the Doctor. He murmured encouragement, telling her how much she loved her. Through it all, his familiar voice washed over her, praising her efforts and reassuring her that soon she would be holding their children in her arms.”

“Almost there,” Owen said as she sagged back against the elevated head of the bed, panting and drained of energy. “Her head is out. One more push and she’ll be clear!” Rose took a deep breath, pushed and grunted. Charlotte slid out of her mother’s body and immediately screamed her outrage and indignation.

“Look at that ginger hair!” the Doctor exclaimed over the loud cries of their newborn daughter. “Oh Rose, she’s absolutely gorgeous!”

“Looks just like you did when you were born, Sweetheart!” Jackie added. Oh, she has your lips, nose and chin, Rose! Mind you, those furrows on her forehead remind me of your first Doctor. Wonder if her eyes will be blue? Can’t tell what colour they are yet with them all squinted up like that.”
Rose was laughing and panting, tears rolling down her face as Owen cut the cord and handed their still-screaming daughter off to the nurse.

“Quite the gob, my granddaughter’s got,” Jackie said, smirking at the Doctor. “Gets that from himself, I’m guessin’.”

The Doctor raised one brow at his mother-in-law and met Rose’s gaze, stifling a laugh. “Yeah, I can’t imagine who else she could get it from.”

“Oi!” Jackie cried, her voice rising over the squalling of her grandchild. “What are you insinuatin’, you plum?” The Doctor laughed.

“Just look at her, Jackie! She got healthy lungs, two hearts, ten fingers and ten little toes, oh and brown eyes! Look! She’s perfect, Rose, just like her beautiful mum.” The Doctor watched as the nurse cleaned Charlotte up, wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her to the incubator, his eyes wide, his expression full of awe, wonder and paternal pride.

“Perfect APGAR score, Doctor,” the nurse reported.

“Of course,” Owen muttered, rolling his eyes. “Aced her first test, that one is going to be a chip off the old block.”

“He flunked his TARDIS flight test three times, Owen,” Rose said, with an exhausted grin.

“Blimey, how many times did they let you take the test on your planet?” Owen asked, rechecking Charlie’s fetal monitor.

“Three.” Rose and Jackie chorused.

“It explains so much,” Jackie said with a smirk.

“Oi!” the Doctor protested. “There were extenuating circumstances.”

“Time to push again!” Owen commanded, and a few minutes later Charlie followed his sister into the world. Unlike Charlotte, he needed a bit of encouragement to breathe. Owen patiently suctioned his airway and flicked his fingers against his little feet until Charlie sucked in a breath and let out a thready cry of protest, his little face scrunching up, first turning pink and then red. He waved his arms and kicked his legs violently as his cries grew louder, having his first tantrum before the umbilical cord was cut.

“Now he looks like his father,” Jackie said. “Look at that head of brown hair and how long and skinny he is. Ooh!” Jackie pointed and snickered, attempting to nudge the hologram of the Doctor with one elbow. “He’s got a good sized willie on him, too!” Jackie cackled, pleased with the blush she’d managed to evoke in the Doctor.

“Mum!” Rose protested weakly. “Behave!” In spite of her automatic admonishment, she couldn’t help smiling at her mother’s antics. Relief washed over her as well as a bone deep lassitude. She’d finally given birth to two healthy babies after months of anxiety that something might go wrong. She’d managed to carry the precious burden of her Doctor’s children and delivered them safely into this alternate universe that had become her home. Now she could take the time to rest and relax for a bit to savour her accomplishment.

Once the nurse had cleaned up Charlie, Rose and Jackie were allowed to hold both babies. The Doctor watched his newborn children with such longing in his eyes. He sang them a sweet lullaby in the lilting language of his people, admiring their little fingers and toes. His eyes were bright with unshed tears.

“This is the second best gift I’ve ever been given,” he whispered after Jackie left to tell Pete and Mickey the good news. The four of them were finally alone together, Rose cradling a drowsy Charlotte in her arms while Charlie was sleeping in the bassinette they’d tucked him into within reach of Rose’s bed. “Two beautiful, healthy children created out of our love for one another.”

“What was the best gift you’ve ever been given?” Rose queried, her eyelids drooping, her voice soft and slightly slurred. She was on the verge of falling asleep, a baby tucked safely in the crook of each of her elbows.

“You were, my precious girl. You were.”

-----

Rose had become accustomed to her husband’s hologram popping in and out of the mansion since the birth of the twins. The gaps between the universes were stable and gradually dilating, but not yet enough to enable the Doctor and his TARDIS to come through. Christmas morning, Jackie had taken the twins downstairs to feed them so Rose could sleep a few more hours after a nearly sleepless night. Rose staggered downstairs four hours later, just as the rest of the family were sitting down to lunch. The five month old twins were sitting in their highchairs, mashed bananas smeared on their little faces, bibs, hands and trays. Pete was reading the morning paper as Jackie was taking a fragrant shepherd’s pie out of the oven. Four month old Tony was dozing in a little wicker bassinet and the Doctor was standing by the counter next to the teakettle.

“Merry Christmas, love,” he greeted her, too chipper by half. Rose flashed him a tired half smile and grunted something nearly inaudible in return, flopping heavily into her chair at the table. Her long, tousled hair fell half over her face as she poured herself a cup of steaming tea from the pot on the table, adding sugar and milk with her eyes half closed. She took a fortifying sip and sighed.

“Did you finally get some rest, sweetheart?” Jackie asked, glancing over her shoulder.

“Yeah,” Rose said. “Thanks for offering to watch the twins while I slept.”

“You’re welcome, they’re enough to run anyone ragged, those two. It was the least I could do. Pete fed them, of course he got more banana on the outside of them and him than inside. There’s nothing unusual about that, is there?” Rose smiled and shook her head.

Charlotte had a stuffed giraffe, her favorite toy, and was playing her favorite game of tossing it on the floor and squealing until someone picked it up and returned it to her. Jackie picked it up once and Pete twice before Rose finished her first cup of tea. She poured another as Jackie set the shepherd’s pie and tossed green salad on the table. “Smells amazin’, Mum,” Rose said, stirring milk and sugar into her fresh cup of tea.

“Thanks, sweetheart, all three of the babies have already eaten, so let’s eat while we can, yeah?” Jackie sat down at the table and Rose suddenly realized the table was set for four. She frowned.

“Is Mickey coming for lunch?” she queried. “I thought he was spending the day with Martha and her family. He’s been talking about it all week.”

“No, Mickey isn’t coming for lunch,” Pete said, folding his newspaper and setting it to one side.

“Well, who are you expectin’, cause I must look a fright in my jim jams and this ratty old dressing gown. My hair isn’t even combed. Should I go upstairs and get dressed?

“No need,” Jackie assured her, grabbing Pete’s plate and filling it with salad and pie. Before Rose could further question her mother, Charlotte threw her giraffe on the floor past the empty chair, nearly at the Doctor’s feet.

“Da!” she squealed with delight. The Doctor calmly picked it up and handed it to his daughter, who cooed and batted her eyelashes at him. Rose glared at her mum, annoyed with her for being so mysterious about the expected guest.

“Jake is out of town visiting his folks, Mickey’s gran is down with the flu,” God, it isn’t that awful Malcolm Tucker is it? A little of Torchwood’s spin doctor goes a long way, especially on Christmas day. If it’s him I’ll just take the babies and a tray up to my room. They shouldn’t be exposed to all that swearing, anyway.”

“God, no! It’s not Tucker,” Pete said, accepting his plate from her mum. “Pass the dressing, please?” he requested. Rose handed it to him, frowning. Jackie took Rose’s plate and filled it, smiling up at the Doctor as she handed it back to Rose.

“I know this is your favorite, Doctor,” Jackie said and turned to Pete. “He eats everything but the peas and the pattern on the plate.”

“You’re a man after my own heart, Doctor,” Pete said, stabbing a pea with his fork and looking at it like it might attack before sighing heavily and eating it. “If he doesn’t have to eat his peas, why do I have to eat mine?”

“Because he isn’t eating anything,” Rose said, rolling her eyes as she poured a third cup of tea. “Not here, anyway. Better pop the kettle on, Mum, I’ve just drained the pot.”

“It’s already full,” Jackie said to the Doctor. He nodded and flicked the switch to heat it. Rose ladled some dressing onto her salad and took a bite of it, noting that her mum had made a different dressing.

“Mmmm, this dressing is new, isn’t it? I like it. It reminds me of the salad dressing we had on that planet with the purple grass and green cow-like creatures. The one with the windmills and cobbled streets, Doctor. What was the name of it?”

“Miriblox Four,” he supplied. “Known for their exquisite dairy products.”

“The dressing is made from yogurt and cheese we didn’t have in our universe,” Jackie explained. “The cheese reminds me of a cross between blue cheese and chevre. There is dill and sesame seeds in it too. Maria taught me how to make it. She did it up for the buffet for the Vitex Christmas party and I fell in love with it. She’s made cheese balls out of it for the appetizer tray for tonight’s dinner.” She glanced at Pete who was tucking into his food and mouthed it’s low calorie, too. Rose flashed her a conspiratorial grin. She turned to see that the Doctor now appeared to be sitting in the chair where the fourth place setting was. She blinked in surprise.

“That’s a new trick!” she smiled at him and turned back to her mum. “Come on mum, who is the mystery guest?”

“Me,” the Doctor said, lifting his plate to hand it to Jackie. “It smells amazing, Jackie. I’ll take a double helping if that’s okay.”

“Of course it is, you need feedin’ up,” Jackie said. Charlie started babbling and the tea kettle came to a boil. Rose sat with a forkful of pie halfway to her mouth staring at the hologram of her Doctor. Making eye contact with her, he picked up his water glass and took a sip of water before setting the glass back on the table. Charlotte threw her giraffe at her father and it bounced off his head.

“Da!” Charlotte shrieked joyfully. The Doctor grinned and plucked the plush toy off the table and returned it to her, reaching out to ruffle his daughter’s ginger curls. She giggled, and Charlie joined in the fun. “Da! Da!”

She was dreaming again, Rose decided. Oh, it was a lovely dream, and after all, it was Christmas, she deserved a lovely dream, right? She was just going to enjoy it. Soon her mum would wake her up and the reality of yet another family milestone with the Doctor trapped in the Prime universe would rear its ugly head.

Jackie handed the Doctor a plate filled with food. He thanked her and Rose realized that everyone was staring at her, even the babies. She shook her head and smiled.

“This is lovely, really. The best dream I’ve had in months. I don’t want to wake up.”

The Doctor frowned, reaching out to thread her fingers in his own. She sighed and squeezed his hand, his touch was just as she remembered it, cool and dry. She could even smell his sandalwood body wash and shampoo as he leaned toward her.

“Rose, this isn’t a dream,” he said slowly, the way he did when he was explaining something to one of the babies, all serious and Time Lordy. He was projecting concern through their bond. She giggled.

“Of course it is,” she sighed. “I just don’t want to wake up yet.”

“You’re not asleep, love.” The Doctor stood up, reaching out to pull Rose up with him, wrapping his arms securely around her. The tea kettle clicked off and Pete’s cell phone beeped. It was the Torchwood beep. Someone had just sent him a text message.

“The water’s boiled, Mum,” Rose announced, as Pete picked up his phone. She nuzzled the Doctor’s neck and sighed. “Just another five minutes, please, then you can wake me up, yeah?”

“Sweetheart, you’re awake,” Jackie replied, frowning and shaking her head. “The Doctor and the TARDIS came through from the prime universe about an hour ago. Look out the window, the TARDIS is just outside.”

Rose raised her head and saw that the TARDIS was indeed nestled in the back garden beneath her favorite oak tree. “That’s lovely, Mum. This is the best dream ever!”

The Doctor chuckled. “It’s not a dream, Rose. I’m here. You are awake, completely awake.” He cupped her cheek and bent his head to kiss her, gentle butterfly kisses at first, but they quickly escalated to an increasingly carnal snog. He tasted of tea and toast with currant jam and of course, himself. His two hearts were beating a samba in his chest beneath her fingertips and as she furrowed the fingers of her other hand through his hair, she nibbled on his full and all-too-tempting bottom lip.

He growled, retaliating by chasing her teasing tongue back into her mouth with his own. It rapidly became a duel for dominance. Rose came up for a quick breath before kissing him again, her lips and tongue sliding seductively against his, promising more pleasure to come. Her hands roved restlessly over his back and bum. He groaned as she wrapped one leg around his waist. His hands cupped her bum as he pulled her body flush with his. She wriggled eagerly against the bulge in his trousers, seeking friction.

A moment later a blast of cold water hit Rose in the side of her head. She released the Doctor and sputtered. Her Mum tossed her a dishtowel to dry herself off, glaring at her and the Doctor. She held the sprayer from the sink in her other hand, smirking.

“What the hell was that for?” the Doctor asked, wiping the water from the side of his face and hair with a napkin from the table.

“If you two are going to make more grandbabies, fine. Just don’t do it in the kitchen while we’re trying to eat Christmas lunch.”

“I’m awake!” Rose gasped, wiping her face with the towel. “Oh my God! Doctor, I’m awake and you’re actually here!” She threw herself at him and he caught her, lifting her off her feet and swinging her around as they laughed and cried together.

“Da!” Charlotte shouted at the top of her lungs and tossed her giraffe at them. Charlie babbled happily and clapped his hands. Tony woke up and squacked indignantly, annoyed by the racket.

“Merry Christmas, my precious girl,” the Doctor said, his lips against the shell of her ear. “Now that I have you in my arms again, I don’t think I’ll ever let you go again.” He let Rose slide down his body until her feet touched the floor and reached to tilt her face up to meet his loving gaze. ”How long are you going to stay with me, Rose Tyler?”

“Forever, my Doctor,” Rose replied. “Forever! Merry Christmas!”