"Are you drunk?"
Because he's grinning, head on the table and fingers curling round a bottle of something very old and very alcoholic. Good sensible assumption to make. And Rose is a very sensible girl. Straightforward. Straight-talking.
"You are, aren’t you?" It's a joke to her. An amusement, a diversion. And that's just fine. That's what he wants. "You’re drunk," she says, now quite convinced and he won't do a thing to dissuade her of that notion.
"Yup." He raises his glass. A toast. There are no words.
She hovers over him, a teasing smile. "Why are you drunk?"
"Because I've been drinking. Really Rose, surely that should be obvious." Logical, he thinks. Exactly the sort of self-evident logic that humans have a habit of becoming quite fluent in when intoxicated.
"Yes, very funny." Oh, and it is. It is, but she just doesn't get the joke. The joke with no punchline.
She isn't going to go away either. And he doesn't want her too. She'll talk, he'll answer. A conversation's as good as an invasion, after all. "Okay, why are you drinking, and what on Earth is it? It looks vile."
"Ah, but it's not on Earth, is it, Rose? It's a long way from Earth, as are you, my dear Rose. Sweet Rose. My sweet Rose, such a long way from home, here with me." Here with me and here I am. Alone. But not any more. Not with Rose, not while she is here.
She isn't afraid, not of him. Certainly not now, not when he is vulnerable and open and laughing at the universe. Here she is within arm's reach and she isn't afraid because she doesn't know.
She isn't going to find out.
The universe is a beautiful place, with sights of subtlety and extravagance. Through her eyes, there is wonder at the spectacles she could not have conceived of mere weeks before. She sees death and, for her, it is a sadness and an end.
Her eyes cannot detect the merest hint of the stains - of the blood - that shines bright whenever he pauses to look.
What a blessed thing, to be so primitive.
He realises he has been staring at the bottle in his musings, and dear, dear Rose has slid closer to him. Close enough for him to feel the warmth from her skin, her breath. He slides a little further away in his chair. Watches her, waits for her to speak. "Seriously, Doctor, why are you drunk? I didn't know you could even get drunk.”
"Ah, Rose, there's so much you don't know. So much." So much I can't tell you. Because I don't want your fear Rose, I want you here, smiling and laughing and thinking you know what it feels like to be alive. "Well, as it happens, being as impressive as I am, I'm not subject to the whims of biology like you lot. I'm in perfect control of my body. Alcohol only affects me if I let it."
Lies, lies, lies. But how good they feel. How far can he spin this web before he becomes trapped in it? How long before he mixes truth and falsity so much that he can no longer tell which is which?
Grey is such an unpleasant colour.
He lifts the glass to his lips. Lets the contents slip and slide over his tongue, down his throat. Bitter, stinking concoction.
Rose is still watching him, still smiling. "So, you thought this would be a good time to let it affect you? Any particular reason?"
He likes the game, this pretence. He smiles, he nods. He speaks as a child would speak. "Oh, there's a reason, but I can't tell you." A game. That's all it is, just a game. A grown-up game where one plays with lives and is rewarded with nothing more than a certain satisfaction at the end.
"Right. Of course there is." She's playing too now, and that's just fine.
"Oh no, I'm not telling you. You wouldn't understand why I had to do it... Even if you are my sweet Rose." Softly, softly, and remember you're talking about alcohol.
There's laughter threatening, somewhere near the edge of her lips. And for a moment the temptation to tell her the truth, to be the drunken man with no secrets, is almost overwhelming. How quickly could he turn that simple joy into uncomprehending horror? How long would it take him to imprint in her thoughts forever the reminder that he is not human?
Suddenly, he's on his feet. Uncertain, and liable to trip, he lets himself stumble. A little closer to her, close enough to see her eyes and their subtlety of expression.
Oh, she isn't afraid. Silly little human who can't see beyond this mask of a smile.
He falls forward as though in supplication, lets himself rest on her. "You're not going to propose are you?" she asks.
"Don't be so bloody daft. I’m not that drunk!" For an instant, he's truly annoyed: it had been too close, she had been too close, perhaps, to a sort of truth.
"But I do love you."
"Oh, you do, do you?"
"Yup." He's grinning again.
"And how much do you love me, Doctor?"
He stares up and into her eyes, lets himself watch her gaze for an eternity, lets time slip back to normal.
"Oh, Rose. There's no way to put a number on it. Even you should know some things aren't quantifiable.” A lie of pretence. "There's no way to say. More than all of this. More than anything. More than me." Then the truth, and the truth slips through his disguise. He can tell that she sees it: her smile fades away.
He stumbles on. "There's only you, Rose, so there's nothing to measure it against." But even now, he can still not escape the habit of a lifetime. Now there is only Rose. Before there had been another. After her, there will be more. Each one different, yet used for the same purpose.
Poor little human.
She can feel it now. The truth, hovering over her, around her shoulders, like a shroud. She shivers, but he can think of no comfort to offer her, just more lies.
And there'd always be more to offer her, an infinite pattern of diversity, or at least enough for one lifetime. Wipe the slate clean and start again.
He can try something different here, now.
"You want to know why I'm drinking?" he asks, laughing at himself on the inside. Liar, liar, liar, he hears, chanting until it's nothing more than a distant murmur.
And she doesn't. He can see it in her eyes, see her guessing. Painting pictures with all the little dabs of colour he's offered her. She wants magic, wants the dreams and the wishes and all the good things that come from fairy-tales. She doesn't want the truth any more than he does.
He wonders if it will hurt her as much as it does him.
And so he is merciless: "I'll tell you if you want to know." He struggles to his feet, even now maintaining his stupid pretence. "But you really have to want to know." He pulls her to her feet, one smooth, swift, unstoppable movement. His long fingers are wrapped around her fragile wrists and she doesn't try to pull away.
There is no space between them, and his thumbs are caressing her, drawing little circles on her wrists. She wants to look away but she can't. Resting his forehead against hers, he whispers, "It's okay to say no, Rose."
Oh, she's so close. All he has to do is push her just a little further, just say a few more words. Tug at her curiosity a little more.
And the moment passes.
"No," she whispers. "I'm sorry." He believes her.
He meets her eyes, sees himself reflected back in hers. Humanoid. Human. The alien hidden beneath the familiar shell. "It's okay." He keeps his voice light, tells her a little bit more of what she should know: "Don't blame you. Who'd want to go traipsing around in my psyche? Scary place that."
It is over. He lets her go, lets her sit down. Lets her drift back to her fairy-tale castle.
"Want one?" he asks, noticing the faintest tremor in her expression. She had caught a glimpse, just a glimpse of the alien, of the unknown, and it was almost enough to undo her. Honesty is very over-rated.
He gives her her drink. Watches her down it. Enjoy it. "Not bad. I was expecting something stronger, though, based on your state."
He grins, lets himself relax back into the ease of pretence. "Just wait a second; it's got a kick."
"Yeah?" A beat. "Wow." Her expression slides into pleasure. How easy it is for them. He wonders how many glasses it would take before she could no longer walk. How many it would take to convince her that she no longer wants secrets; how many to convince her that she loves him.
"Yeah," he says. Then remembers the game he is playing. The nice, friendly alien that she could relate to, and adds: "One other thing? Time Lords don't get hangovers."
Because Time Lords don't get drunk, my dear sweet Rose, Time Lords don't get drunk.