Rose’s blood was tingling unpleasantly in her veins, making her restless and itchy. She was worrying her lower lip with her teeth and she kept tugging at the strings of her hoodie to the point where the string on the left was dangling lower than the right one and the hood was scrunched up on her back. She was biting the cuticles and she tugged too hard on one enough to draw blood.
If her mum saw her now, she’d most certainly smack Rose and she’d start berating her about this annoying habit of biting nails and cuticles. Jackie tried dozens of remedies to stop young Rose from doing that but nothing was effective enough and then it was futile to get rid of the tick as Rose was too old to listen to her mother’s lectures about the impropriety of nervous behaviour patterns.
Jackie chewed gum and blew bubbles each time she was stressed but Rose didn’t say anything about that annoying habit! It irritated Rose to no end and grated on her nerves constantly but if Rose were to try voicing her aggravation, Jackie would certainly tell her to shut up and not to lecture her own mother. “Don’t teach fish how to swim!”
Now there was no Jackie nearby to lecture Rose about the silliness of nail biting and idleness.
There was, however, a new companion on board.
A male companion, understanding temporal mechanics companion, modern-minded companion, broader-minding companion. Rose felt lacking and stupid just by standing with the men in the console room, listening to them discuss something that needed to be calibrated in three point five seconds intervals. They paid no attention to her ever since she stepped onto the grating with a cheerful “Good morning!” answering her distractedly in an uneven choir. Rose has been standing by the entrance for what felt like hours and still she hasn’t received even a brief glance.
Rose decided not to be stupid and not to act like the attention-seeking Mary from the apartment on the 4th floor of the Estates and turned on her heels to go in the direction of the galley. A nice breakfast would surely distract the Doctor and Jack from playing with the Tardis’s rotors.
Imagine her surprise when Rose saw that the blokes had already eaten the breakfast and left a couple of toasts under the glass dome for her. The teapot was barely warm, the dishes were drying on the rack.
Rose’s shoulders dropped. There was no way they would be distracted from tinkering with the Tardis’s engine if they weren’t hungry.
Her appetite was weak and she nibbled on a piece of a toast half-heartedly then put it back on the plate. No point in moping around. Time to do some cleaning, then. Her room could use some order, that’s for sure.
The next hours were one of the longest hours in Rose’s life. Rose sorted her make-up and make-up related appliances in neat little boxes and glasses. She wiped her vanity mirror with a special liquid that made the surface shine without any traces that usually marred the mirror after she used paper towels for cleaning it. While doing the inventory Rose realised that she had two dried eyeliners and a lipstick that started to smell unpleasantly of something chemical even though she bought it only three months ago. With a regretful sigh Rose threw the “Swirling love” into the bin where the dried liquid eyeliners resided. She then proceeded to collect her rings and hoop earrings scattered helter-skelter around the surface of her vanity desk. After that, Rose divided her clothes into those that needed to be laundered immediately and those that could live through another couple of weeks without going to Jackie for a washing-up. Of course, the Tardis had a super-duper launderette and even a clothes freshener that didn’t require actually washing the clothes. It’s just that it was quite a good excuse to visit mum frequently without causing any suspicions to Jackie (Rose realised with a smile that Jackie still didn’t fully believe that the Doctor’s ship was big enough to house a kitchen (“Galley, mum!”) let alone a laundry room.
One look at the Earth clock that was projected on the wall above her bed confirmed Rose’s fears that only an hour had passed. She groaned miserably and dragged herself to the small garden to take care of the flowers that she planted two months ago when the Tardis was feeling capricious and wouldn’t land anywhere but on Earth in the 12th century. They went out and surveyed the vicinity but realised that there was no menacing plot to tumble. In the end, the Doctor and Rose spent the day walking around the dirty, smelly cobbled streets, Rose scrunching her nose at the food options in the market. The Doctor gleefully tried several strange-looking fruits and grinned when Rose shook her head frantically when he offered them to her. Usually, Rose was eager to try the new cuisine if it was deemed safe by the Doctor but the atmosphere around didn’t incline Rose to be gastronomically adventurous that day.
Imagine the Doctor’s surprise and irritation the moment he understood that the Tardis had no intention of going away from the 12th century. Oh, she let herself be piloted alright but landed back to the same place and time every time the Doctor tried.
The Time Lord muttered and grumbled under his breath for a long time before admitting that something was wrong. The Tardis had a minor malfunction that could have been a potentially disastrous breakage if she were to time travel that moment.
“We might be stuck here for a coupla days, Rose. Why don’t you rest and...do the girly stuff while I’m fixing the Tardis?”
At Rose’s raised eyebrow the Doctor’s cheeks and tip of the ears pinkened slightly and he added in haste “Well, why are you looking at me like that? You always moan that you haven’t the time for relaxing and painting your nails, don’t you? Go and throw yourself a pampering session. The Tardis will show you the Spa Roo..”
“There's a Spa on board the Tardis and you haven’t told me about it before? - exclaimed Rose in disbelief, - we...we’ve been travelling for how long and you didn’t give a squeak about it!”
“Do I look like someone who squeaks, Rose?”
It was Rose’s turn to blush. “No...sorry. I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
The Doctor smirked and shook his head slightly.
“Well, as I said, it’ll probably take a day or two, you go and have a nice kip and whatnot and I’ll do the maintenance.”
“Don’t you need help, Doctor?” questioned Rose softly.
His smile grew wider, eyes warmer.
“Nah, Rose, believe me, you wouldn’t want to sit there in soot and wires for hours and hours and hours…, - seeing her slightly fallen expression, he added hastily, - but I’m sure we’ll both want our evening cuppa, won’t we?”
Rose nodded enthusiastically.
He shucked his leather jacket, not noticing Rose’s eyes following his movements with greedy curiosity. She licked her lips, an automatic reply to anything the Doctor did and to anything she deemed attractive. And a lot of things the Doctor did seemed attractive to Rose...
Rose shook her head vigorously while the Doctor’s back was turned. She tried to clean the cobwebs of infatuation from her mind (it was hard, bordering on impossible).
Her mother was right. Rose was infatuated.
The Doctor and Rose agreed on the time for the tea and parted ways for the rest of the day.
They stayed inside of the Vortex for three days total. During the down time Rose was able to catch up on her reading. It was a book of short stories by Charles Dickens. Rose was a slow and reluctant reader and preferred watching the movies and series based on the books instead but the sight of the Doctor’s eyes gleaning proudly when he saw her with the book for the first time made Rose try harder at reading activities. On a very lucky occasion when the Doctor was in a good mood or when they were be stuck in a prison cell he’d entertain her with retelling of the big, important books Rose heard about but would never ever read them (come on, “War and Peace” is, like, a million pages long, and Rose didn’t fancy reading the whole of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, and “Jane Eyre” never failed to depress her even through the Doctor’s apt retellings. Thanks to the Tardis’s library Rose was able to find books and stories suitable for her mood and her abilities and the will to read. Thanks to the Doctor’s captivating way of sharing the book plots with her, Rose was able to broaden her mind’s horizons more than she ever did in school.
After reading tired her down, Rose went into one of the Tardis’s gardens and stopped abruptly when she realised that there was a small sack of black fertile soil, several instruments and some seeds packages on the ground.
Rose stared at the array of items, bewildered. She’s never done gardening before in her life! Not many did so on the Estates and her nana didn’t have a house in the countryside.
But Rose Tyler wouldn’t be Rose Tyler if she were to turn down a challenge. Pink and purple petunias were the Tardis’s choice, and Rose admitted that the flowers looked pretty in the pictures on the seed packages.
The instructions were clear, the soil full of needed ferments and nutritional thingies, the direct sunlight, although artificial, provided all the necessary conditions for the flowers to grow plentily, bountifully.
Now, two months later, the flowers were as bright and as cheerful as usual when Rose was standing in the garden, watering them gently. Rose tapped her lips with a forefinger and decided to snap some pictures later to show her mum. Jackie would be so surprised by Rose’s new hobbies!
On second thought, it was probably a bad idea. Gardening and reading were fancy hobbies for fancy ladies and it wouldn’t do for Rose to get “airs and graces” by adopting a new pastime.
Rose sighed dejectedly, blew a kiss to the flowers, thanked the Tardis and went in the direction of the library to read a little.
Later, after reading about 50 pages (beating her own record!), a shower was deemed a good idea to pass some time before going to the galley and returning the favour to the Doctor and Jack by making something to snack on.
When Rose stepped out of the shower, however, something unpleasant happened.
“Ow! Ouch! For f…, - remembering the Tardis’s dislike towards swearing, Rose just moaned loudly, - ow, ow, ow!”
She slipped on the puddle of water that she made when she had climbed out of the shower stall to snatch her razor from the cup in the sink.
Now Rose was cringing and writing on the floor, nursing a hurt knee but clean bloody shaven.
To tell the truth, things went downhill from there on for her mood.
Rose was whining and complaining to herself the whole way to the galley only to come closer to the destination and to hear the happily agitated voices inside. Her left knee was throbbing unpleasantly but at least she wasn’t limping.
Not that it added to Rose’s “sweet” disposition.
Great, she thought. These two knew each other less than a week and were thick as thieves.
“Don’t be surprised when he finds someone brighter and better, sweetheart,” Jackie’s voice supplied warningly in a plaintive tone. “Blokes like ‘im don’t settle for long!”
Well, grouched Rose, never did she peg the Doctor capable of leaving her for a bleeping bloke who understood time travel and mechanics.
She slouched and entered the galley, preparing to act indifferent.
The Doctor’s response to her appearance was immediate. Rose huffed.
“Oh, Rose, there you are! Not a squeak from you since this morning, and you didn’t eat breakfast.” When Rose muttered something under her breath without giving a usual radiant smile upon seeing him, the Doctor frowned.
“What’s that, then?”
Jack swore he saw Rose roll her eyes and he was pretty sure that what she muttered was “As if you’d care”. He understood immediately what the foul mood was about.
Jack also understood that it was high time for him to disappear to let the Doctor and Rose sort out their feelings.
He slapped the table slightly and declared with a grin “Well, even though you guys are a lovely company, I must go and see if the room three doors down from the library is a Spa facility. Surely, I’ll never say no if you decide to join me…, - at the Doctor’s raised eyebrows and Rose’s scarlet-tinged cheeks Jack continued smoothly, - nex time, maybe.” The American stood up and rinsed the cup, kissed startled Rose on the cheek and vanished in the direction of the library.
The Doctor returned his questionable stare at Rose. Something about his companion was amiss.
And he was going to get to the gist of it. But better to start with breaking the ice a little.
“So, what were you doing all day?” he inquired.
“Oh, this and that,” answered Rose ambivalently.
“Rose, I won’t play games any longer. What’s the matter? What’s with the sour face?”
“‘S nothing, really.”
The Doctor was starting to lose his temper but willed himself to carry on politely.
“Rose, I won’t ask again. Spill it, now.”
His blonde companion shifted nervously and pulled the string of the tea bag so it was jumping up and down in the flower-patterned cup. The Doctor stilled Rose’s movements by putting his palm gently on her hand.
“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Rose shared in a quiet voice.
“I didn’t...want to interrupt you and Jack, ‘s all.”
The Doctor stared.
Rose continued, slightly agitated. “I understand, Doctor, really, Jack is someone who finally understands what you’re talking about, he can help you fix the Tardis and all that, he…”
“Rose Tyler, are you jealous?” the Doctor interrupted, incredulous.
“What? No!” Rose protested, spluttering.
“But you are! Rose, where’s this coming from? Why are you jealous?”
“I told you, I’m not!”
“Rose, - the Doctor took both of her hands into his bigger and cooler ones, - I’m not trading you for Jack, if that’s what you’re thinking although I can’t fathom why!”
Rose avoided his stare studiously.
The proverbial light bulb switched on above the Doctor’s head.
The girl sniffed, embarrassed. The Doctor stood up and came up to sit next to her and put his left hand around her shoulders. She was stiff for a moment but melted into his side when he squeezed her forearm a little. “Rose, I’m not trying to drive you away. Jack is Jack and you’re you. Rose Tyler, the jeopardy-friendly, bottle-blonde human. Who’s gonna tell me to stop when I go too far? Who’s gonna push me when I act rude towards the Tardis? Who’s gonna say “Doctor, you are so impressive?” Who’s gonna listen to my magnificent stories?”
Rose snorted at the word “impressive” but the Doctor acted as if he hadn’t noticed.
“And who, pray tell, is gonna be kind and bleeding-hearted to those tired and poor and mistreated?” the Doctor could tell that he was breaking through the hurt exterior of his companion.
The things he did and said for her!
“Besides, need I remind you that it’s you who takes the strays on board, Rose?”
She had the sense to look sheepish at that remark and shrugged slightly. The Doctor enjoyed the feeling of her warm body next to him.
“Jack saved our lives and he’s nice and you seem to like him well enough and the Tardis…” the Doctor gripped her shoulder lightly as if warning her not to start again. This needed to be terminated right at that moment.
He turned Rose to face him. She complied easily, staring at him in doubt.
The Doctor’s hearts constricted. How could so much insecurity fill such a small human?
“Listen to me, Rose, I’ll only say this once. It’s domestic enough without me repeating it. You are my companion. I invited you because you are smart, resourceful, bright and compassionate to no end. Yes, you are, stop shaking your head like that. Blimey, give her a compliment and she doesn’t believe you!”
Rose smiled shyly, eyes glinting happily, cheeks and neck pink from praise.
The Doctor rolled his eyes and patted her knee.
Rose flinched and jumped slightly.
He squinted suspiciously. “Rose, what’s that?”
She squirmed and shrugged apologetically. “I, uh...fell in the shower.”
The Doctor’s worry increased noticeably. “Where are you hurt?”
Rose brushed it off readily. “Honestly, Doctor, it’s just a little bruise. I slipped and fell on my knee before performing a perfect split. I’m a gymnast, after all!”
The Doctor smiled ruefully before rolling the sweatpants on one leg, uncovering the already purpling bruse. Rose cringed.
“Right, you, to the medbay, now. We’ll ice it first and then the dermal regenerator will do the rest. Come on, hop off! Tea later.”
Rose rolled the pant leg and followed him to the med bay sheepishly. When the short healing procedure was over and done with, the Doctor added “Jeopardy-friendly, you are” exasperatedly.
The evening was spent in the library where Rose was splayed on the couch with a romance novel from her own time and the Doctor sitting in the armchair by the fireplace. The three of them dined with pasta cooked by Jack. The tea, however, was taken in the library again, between the Doctor and Rose. The cakes from the pastry shop in the 1860s were a sweet addition to the companionable silence and the gentle rustling of the book pages.
Jack smiled knowingly when the duo left him and wasn’t in the least offended when he wasn’t invited to participate in the evening activities with the Doctor and Rose. Jack knew what was in the people’s hearts, he could read people easily and he understood Rose’s need to claim the Doctor’s attention and the Doctor’s desire to provide assurance to his dear companion.
If only they could act upon the tension between them. If only they could overstep the “we are friends” line.
All in good time, Jack mused. Baby steps.
He didn’t mind in the least waiting for something truly beautiful to come alive.