“This is ridiculous.”
“We don’t have any other choice, Doctor," sighed Rose as she fingered a row of dresses on the rack, "we were invited, there’s a strict dress code. They even offered the clothes!”
The Doctor continued to whine.
“Rose, do I look like a man who wears bowties?”
Rose smiled coyly, “You might do, yeah.”
The Doctor rolled his eyes and shook head in mild surprise.
Rose continued looking through the vast assortment of gowns presented in the clothes shop and found it hard to narrow her choice to two or three options.
Everything there was so, so beautiful. Sheer, silken fabrics Rose had only ever seen in the museums and on TV, carefully woven lace, brocades, ribbon roses...the gown she wore in Cardiff in 1869 paled in comparison. Rose didn’t mean any offence to the Tardis and her vast wardrobe, no, but that first trip to the past Rose chose the simplest dress that was available to her (the corset had a hidden zip that allowed Rose to put it on without assistance). She was scared silly of damaging the fancy dresses that the Tardis offered her and she still wasn’t sure about the terms and conditions of her stay in the Tardis. She wisely thought it was best not to do anything to aggravate the driver...er...the pilot of the Tardis and not to ruin anything too expensive (she knew from experience now that the clothes on their trips in time hardly survived the excitement of the adventures). That’s why Rose chose one of the plainest dresses in the wardrobe and stopped thinking about that.
Today, however, the most exciting part of the adventure was over and done with and nothing but hours of dancing, rivers of bubbly wine and endless bouquets of flowers awaited them.
Rose was giddy with anticipation.
The Doctor wanted to snatch Rose and take her away to the Tardis. He only wanted to hide in the wires of the console room or to dive into the ship’s belly to make sure that all the circuits were intact, things were running smoothly, and the Tardis was in good health and happy. Well, as happy as possible if you bring up the fact that she was the last Tardis ever, just as he was the last of the Time Lords.
The Doctor couldn’t do it, however. He couldn’t cut their stay in Grapenia short only because he didn’t feel like socialising. He wasn’t alone now, he had a companion. A kind, resourceful, compassionate companion in the face of one Rose Tyler, 19, from London. She had as many strengths as she had flaws, and being overly social was one of the drawbacks the Doctor disliked on several occasions. However, they were partners now, partners in travelling, and he accepted the truth that Rose adapted to his lifestyle and mercurial moods daily. He, on the other hand, acted like a bastard and a bully, and there was no way a tough girl like Rose would allow such treatment from anyone for too long, him included.
Even if he was an impressive bloke who had a time machine at his disposal.
That’s why he was standing in the clothes shop on a faraway planet, aggressively choosing the shirt that wouldn’t make him look lame and silk-swaddled.
The things he did for the Universe...because he wouldn’t be saving the Universe without a certain Rose Tyler by his side, would he? It just wouldn’t be the same.
The Universe didn’t want to be saved without Rose Tyler by his side.
The Doctor was brought back to reality by Rose’s quiet question.
“Doctor," she started and stopped suddenly as if swallowing the words she meant to say. "Would you? I mean, could you? There’s a...um," Rose gulped loudly and he swore that he could hear the nervous “thump-thump-thump” of her heart beating madly even though they were separated by two racks of dresses and suits. The Doctor had no idea why Rose sounded so small and unsure of herself. "There’s a corset here, uh, it has laces.”
Now it was the Doctor’s turn to swallow anxiously.
It was the stuff of his quietest dreams. Rose Tyler in a corseted gown. Him helping her out of the dress, not into it, however. The effortless gliding of the laces through his fingers, off her hips, down, down her hips to the grating…
The Doctor’s eyes bulged comically when he caught himself daydreaming about undressing his companion.
Rassilon, what was he to do?
“Of course, Rose. Just...put on the chemise and get into the dress, okay? I think I’ll manage the rest,” he answered, stuttering, throat dry in anticipation.
He busied himself by putting on a long-sleeved shirt in a cornflower blue (it was actually labeled with that colour’s name). The Doctor sneered at the dark blue tie and threw it behind him on some rack randomly, uncaring. There was no bloody way he would wear a tie.
His own black jeans stayed on, too. He prayed it would be enough to placate the court dwellers and to prove to Rose that he, indeed, could go somewhere without wearing his leather jacket.
He turned from the choice of the bow ties when he heard soft swishing of the fabric on the floor beside him.
The respiratory bypass kicked in for Rose Tyler looked breath-taking in the dim light of the shop lamps.
The skin of her neck and shoulders was strangely pink while her knuckles that held the corseted part of the dress were white from the force she was squeezing her fingers. Rose didn’t look him in the eyes and stepped from one foot to another while breathing quietly.
Was she afraid of him?! He didn’t give his silly fantasies out, did he? Oh, Rassilon. The Doctor never wanted Rose to know the shameful thoughts he had about her, he never wanted her to be afraid in his presence.
“Rose,” he spoke quietly, waiting for her attention, craving it. “Don’t...if it’s too uncomfortable for you, I’ll call for some lady to help you get dressed. It’s not a problem, really,” he added hastily, offering her an easy way out.
Rose looked at him, all big brown eyes and worried smiles. It seemed that she was about to say something but then she shook her head, turned around and muttered “please”, giving her consent.
The Doctor, on the other hand, was shocked by her trust in him despite the edgy nature of her breathing, and willed himself to be the perfect gentleman.
It was a hard order to follow. Rose was a beautiful girl, she was, not only by the Earth standards of her time but by the laws of pleasant appearance on the planets unknown to her yet in the past and the future (yes, there actually was a series of books named “Rules of Pleasant Appearance” in several galaxies while on Earth the beauty standards were enforced through media and the market).
The Doctor tried to clear the dreamy fog from his mind while he was lacing the corset on Rose’s gown gently, looping the ribbons with infinite care, trying to avoid skin contact that would unsettle her and make him look like an old lecher.
When he was about to start tightening the laces, he warned Rose to take a nice breath and promised not to cinch her waist too much. He didn’t have it in him to restrict her even in such a small way, way of breathing and moving freely.
Rose giggled and murmured something about Scarlett O’Hara and bed posts but did as he asked.
The Doctor tied the thin ribbons into a neat bow and tucked it away so it wasn’t visible to the public. Rose turned suddenly and he gasped, gobsmacked.
She was wearing a beautiful yet not overly outdone dress in cyan blue with delicate white lace adorning decolletage and the hem of the skirt. It was simple yet very Rose: bright, without unnecessary complications and caprices, catchy, demanding attention in a way that didn’t annoy or disturb the eye.
The Doctor opened and closed his lips several times before blurting out, “You’re beautiful!”
Rose smiled half-heartedly, not believing him. “Been there, done that, Doctor. Beautiful for a human. But I take it that I go with the dress code?” Rose tucked her tongue into her front teeth as she smiled slightly like a predator then. “Well well well, don’t you look dapper in that shirt? Told you you should try something else beside your jumpers! And look, Doctor," Rose tugged his cuff to bring it closer to her skirt, "we match! How cool is that?”
The Doctor was feeling anything but cool in both meanings of the word, and only had enough power to laugh, strained and uncomfortable by the attention Rose paid to him then. Her eyes were following the length of his body, dared he say, appreciatively, and he swore the air was sucked out of the small shop completely. Why else was it so hard to breathe otherwise?
Rose took his hand and clutched it between her warm palms tenderly. Wasn’t she scared to ask him for assistance merely ten minutes ago? His head swam with hundreds of unanswered questions. What a mystery she was, his Rose.
They did, indeed, match, at least in the colour palette they’d both chosen for the ball. The Doctor had no idea why the fact delighted Rose so, but he was willing to take that excitement over uncomfortable silence and unvoiced requests, so he smiled benignly and offered Rose his elbow. She grinned, eyes glinting, hair dancing in a slightly unsteady updo she tried to follow from the posters on the shop walls, and accepted his gesture of invitation.
In the ballroom they went, Rose Tyler and the Doctor, to enjoy the celebration of abolishing slavery on the planet Grapenia, and they enjoyed the night greatly.