The Doctor finally notices Rose’s bright silhouette in the crowd of women in flowing gowns. His companion looks uncomfortable, out of her depth, it is clearly seen in every movement of her hands. The Doctor smirks, he knows Rose well enough to be aware of the fact that right now she feels embarrassed, silly even, for the addition to her outfit isn’t something that she has ever worn.
The Doctor’s eyes follow Rose’s form edging closer to his, and he smiles encouragingly when she steps next to him, the toes of their shoes nearly touching. If the Doctor was a sentimental, romantic, poetic man, he would comment on how endearingly small and pink Rose’s trainers looked next to his black, bulky Doc Martens.
The Doctor, thankfully, is not a sappy man, so he playfully pushes Rose’s trainer with his boot in greeting.
“Took you long enough,” he gently admonishes, trying not to stare at her head.
Rose puckers her lips and somehow manages to bite the lower lip at the same time, and the Doctor recognises the nervous gesture immediately.
“Been trying to put it the right way. It’s not easy, you know, it’s not like I’m an expert at this!” laments Rose, defying any further comment about her preparation time.
“Oh, I don’t know,” drawls the Doctor thoughtfully and finally looks at the accessory on Rose’s blonde hair.
His eyes take in the intricate design of the veil on her hair that is curled into perfect ringlets, as tradition requires. The women of the Niqua-ma must have helped her with curling it.
The Doctor thinks that her hair-do reminds him of women sultanates of the past days.
Rose’s hair shine delicately in the light of the rising sun, the sun rays painting the twists of the curls a myriad shades of yellow, lemon, flaxen, canary, creating a vision of golden flames...the Doctor can’t take his eyes off the light tresses, and he marvels at the good job Jackie’s done on Rose’s hair colour. They visited Rose’s mum just last week, and Rose’s natural brown blonde is invisible after Jackie’s treatment. Her hair truly looks like spun gold.
Rose feels scrutinised under the Doctor stare and she wonders if she looks silly in the traditional garb of the Niqua-ma women. It’s not everyday that she wears white, flowy gowns, and it’s not every day that Rose covers her hair with a scarf.
She feels entirely too inadequate wearing such feminine clothes, and with her trainers no less, and the Doctor’s intense stare makes her tug the end of the scarf on her head.
“Why am I wearing this, again? It’s not like I belong to their caste system or something, and this outfit, well,” Rose swallows nervously and tugs on the scarf again, and it slides down her curls, ends uneven, “well, it’s too fancy for me. I feel like a bride!” she blurts the last words out without thinking and regrets them immediately.
Brilliant. What a way to conceal her ever-present infatuation with the Doctor! To get dressed in alien fines and jewels, to stand in front of him and mention a wedding right to his face.
Oh, but Rose is screwed, and the scarf and the dress feel so uncomfortable right now, so not her, not the twenty-year old girl from London, Earth. The woman who wears this silky, flowing ensemble, is a beautiful, graceful, gentle woman.
Not her. Not Rose Tyler.
The Doctor watches emotions dance on Rose’s face, and his hearts constrict when he realises again just how young she is to wear her heart on her sleeve like she does. The insecurities and doubts shine neon on her troubled face, and he finds himself reacting to her distress this instant.
“Rose,” he starts, and the words nearly get lost in the wind when she doesn’t look up, cheeks aflame, “Rose, it’s no surprise they’ve given you their finest gown. You’re very,” the Doctor stumbles over the words clumsily but utters them nevertheless, “beautiful. You’re beautiful, and they see it.”
Rose’s face is impossibly pink now, and the golden bracelet that is connected to her middle finger with a ring is in serious danger of being broken now.
“For a human, you mean,” whispers Rose, and the Doctor wishes to punch his past self for saying the blasted words.
“No. You’re beautiful. Full stop,” the Doctor pushes his point of view gently.
Rose stops fidgeting with the bracelet and perks up.
There she is, the Doctor thinks warmly.
“It’s an honour, Rose, really, and they are very grateful to you for what you did. You saved the Queen’s daughter from drowning in the sea. You protected the child that was neither your own nor of your species, and the Niqua-ma appreciate it deeply. They do consider you beautiful, also, even if you are an off-worlder, and it happens rarely. See! You’re not only beautiful by the Earth’s standards!” he adds happily.
Rose laughs. Finally, she laughs, and the scarf slides further from her hair.
The Doctor tsks good-naturedly and arranges the lacy veil on her head, gently fixing it with a golden coronet. The design is lovely, the Doctor thinks, and it suits Rose’s radiant youth so well - delicate leaves and flowers, no gems, only floral ornaments, resting in a dainty circle on the crown of her head.
While it suits Rose immensely, said accessory also seems to be the biggest reason for Rose’s worry, so the Time Lord continues soothingly.
“They are also concerned for your safety. Because of your beauty, the deities can steal you - their deities steal all the beautiful women per their legends - and a scarf on a woman’s hair protects her from the gods’ view,” explains the Doctor while ensuring that the scarf and the coronet stay in their respective places.
Ensuring that the coronet protects Rose from the advancing of the male population of Niqua-ma. The scarf is to protect Rose from being taken by the gods, but the coronet symbolises her belonging to someone. Not necessarily him, no, but since Rose is here with him, the Niqua-ma men consider him the obstacle nevertheless, be he her father, her guardian or her betrothed.
The Doctor knows that Rose would slap him silly if she knew, she would attack him harder than Jackie did all those months ago. But the Doctor also knows Rose, and knows her affinity for trouble, and he consoles himself with the thoughts of a quiet, sacred ceremony - a new experience for his companion! - rather than a messy showdown between men that Rose experienced enough throughout her life on the estates.
The silky material of her dress streams down her body in gentle waves, hiding her legs and arms from the view, and instead of looking prudish, Rose creates a picture of a goddess. The outfit is designed traditionally to protect the sacred beauty of women from the deities who desire them, and now, when the Doctor can’t see Rose’s pale skin, obscured by the many layers of sheer silk, he understands how lucky he is to know what is hidden behind the white fabric.
He is lucky to know Rose Tyler for who she is, intimately, not sexually. But he considers the intimate knowledge of her mind and soul far more valuable than what he could experience after a night with Rose. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, oh no, it’s just that could never burden Rose with his misplaced affection.
Although how could he place it right, it’s Rose he’s talking about, she leaves a trail of burning hearts and heart-eyes in her wake, and half the time she doesn’t even know it.
The Doctor’s troubled musings are interrupted when Rose asks in a weak voice, “Doctor?”
She is still affected by his ardent comment about her beauty, and now is the high time to disperse the buzzing, hopeful atmosphere that surrounds them. Ceremony first, compartmentalising his infatuation later.
“Why are you still here then, Rose? The flower bringing will start any moment now, go! It’s all for you, have you already forgotten about that in that human brain of yours?”
Rose protests with an indignant ‘oi!’ when the Doctor turns her and pushes her forward with a firm but gentle hand on her back, but the Doctor is unrelenting.
Rose recognizes a distracting technique when she sees it, and she follows the Doctor’s playful banter to save their delicate friendship. Oh, it’s definitely steady on the Doctor’s ground, their friendship, it’s Rose’s outplaced love that threatens the careful balance of her relationship with the Doctor.
“Quit with the quips about my brain! You called my brain brilliant two days ago, and now it’s not to your liking, again? And what’s with the jacket?” parries Rose with more confidence than she feels at the moment, and gives the Doctor her tongue-in-teeth smile.
“What's wrong with me jacket?” the Doctor replies, feigning hurt.
“You stand out like a sore thumb, being all black and sulky!”
The Doctor scoffs. “Time Lords do not sulk, Rose. And if they do, it’s only because of their stroppy companions. Talking about colours, don’t forget to take off your trainers, the ceremony requires the participants to walk barefoot. Here, let me help you,” the Doctor crouches down and takes off the pink trainers and white socks off Rose’s feet, absolutely not feeling burned at the place where Rose put her palm on his shoulder for support and not noticing the sweet smell of the ceremonial perfume that Rose wears. He puts Rose’s trainers next to the cherry tree (well, the equivalent of a cherry tree with light blue berries and black flowers) and turns to his companion again.
“Here are your flowers,” he promptly pawns the white and blue bouquet off into Rose’s hands and motions for Rose to move. “Now, off you go, shoo!” he gestures wildly at Rose and smiles when she throws her head back, laughing gleefully.
Rose sends him another smile, turning to look back at the Doctor, before muttering under her breath:
“Totally feels like a wedding.”