"This isn't sex," the Doctor said.
Rose felt smacked in the face by his words. It was brilliant sex. Everything about it was totally revelatory. She liked that he could so easily avoid getting her pregnant, that he'd out-evolved the common STD, that he could go on for hours like a tantric master, grinning that fiendish grin, and all the sweat and endorphins and kindness. She liked that he didn't think a clitoris was a type of hard candy or that nipples were for appearances alone.
She liked, too, that the touchable parts of his anatomy were essentially human: two arms and two legs, ten fingers and ten toes, a very nice and relatively normal mouth, two bright eyes, one talented cock. She had no doubt there was a lot of experience under his belt, and it didn't bother her a bit. He was an alien, after all. More times her age than was worth thinking about. What was the point in being jealous? The impossibly good part, the best-of-all part, was that they were still just best mates underneath it all.
But that remark outraged her.
"What do you mean this isn't sex? Of course this is sex! This is the best bloody sex I've had in my life!" She was lying across the backs of his legs, arms folded over his sweet narrow bottom. "Is this your way of telling me I'm crap at pleasing you, yeah? All those times? Is this the way you tell me?"
It made her mad, but more than that, worse than that, it dropped her into the lightless, soundless void between them. That happened sometimes. It would all be textures and surfaces, colors and smells and smart remarks, and then a word would unravel her and she'd be lost in space, feeling too human, too small, and awfully indignant about it, stranded in the place of where he could not cross to her and she could not cross to him.
Because Rose knew what he meant. It was human sex, but it wasn't sex, not really. Sex was two people being good to each other. This was the Doctor being good to her. It was a one-way bridge. She'd catch it sometimes, when she timed herself so that she could watch him when he came. His eyes would be bright, and pleased, and spookily stone rational. She tried not to see it.
The Doctor let her outburst pass, and slid out from under her, turning over on his back. His face didn't change. He looked awfully sympathetic and open for someone accusing her of being lousy in the sack. She couldn't stop her heart from pounding with anger, but she waited for his answer anyway.
He smiled, by way of apology. "It's the reproductive act, which is entertaining, and not particularly reproductive, at least not with you and me, you know. It's a nice way to pass time and it's reasonably exciting. I mean, it ranks way above chinese checkers. And you're Rose. You're fun just on principle! But it makes me want sex." He got the grim look he'd always got when he thought someone would beat on his hopes with a hammer, and it changed in a flash to the bright, fierce, empty smile of hoping anyway.
Her anger was gone then, and she had nothing at all to grasp in that darkness. "Ah - all right, so what is sex? I mean." There might have been some more sentence there, but she didn't know what it was.
His eyes flickered and he smiled a little less hard, a little more easily. "It's probably not a good idea."
"You'd freak out," he said, and looked away.
"No I wouldn't! You silly git! I've been through..." Rose trailed off, and chewed on her lower lip, thinking about what she'd been through, and how she'd reacted to it. Her certainty died. Maybe she would freak out.
"You don't have any objection to doing it your way, right?" The Doctor looked at her wide-eyed, and then flashed the wide, eager teeth-grin again. "Go on and have a good shag? Let's do it -- quite enough blathering out of me."
She felt terribly sad.
"You're giving me this wretched face. Look, I like fucking! I like it just *fine!* There's nothing wrong with it! You liked it too, just this morning!"
"It's just not sex," Rose said.
"I'd freak out?"
"You'd freak out." The Doctor shook his head.
Rose spoke each word with a fierce, heavy quality to her voice. "Has - that - ever - stopped - you - before?"
"No, I guess not!" He gave a gleeful laugh. "All right then. Sex. Fantastic!" He sat up facing her and rubbed his palms together like he was hatching some devious caper. Rose raised her eyebrows. He lay back down, on his side, settling into the sheets. "It involves some slipping."
Slipping? she wondered, but didn't have time to ask. He pulled her down onto the bed so that her body faced his. His long fingers wrapped around her hands and moved them around his body.
"Put your fingers here." He placed one of her hands on his spine, somewhere in the narrow valley under his ribcage and above his hips. "And here --" He took her other hand, moved it so that just the tip of her thumb rested in the center of his forehead, just above his eyebrows. "Now press. Softly -- stop if you need to."
Rose heard the straining in his voice, the deep desperate anticipation. He hadn't ever sounded that way for the -- the reproductive act. She felt nervous and excited, like a virgin. She might well be one in context, she thought. She exerted a little bit of pressure at the points -- nothing.
Then she felt it. A layer of resistance, of tension, just under his skin and not quite physical. His eyes squeezed shut so hard his eyelids quivered. That was what he was telling her to touch. So she lightly pressed her fingers through his skin, through the thin points in the surface of him.
His lips grimaced and he let out a sudden keening noise - not just feels-good but I'm-about-to-break -- and it wrenched at her, scared her and set off a staggering blast of arousal through her body and her brain. She gasped from the intensity.
Rose pressed a little bit harder, just a little bit, and felt the tension give way, as if she were penetrating him physically.
A hard vibration ran through his body, and the sound escaped him again in a breath dragged rough through his throat. It was almost like she was torturing him. But he'd said he wanted this, so she wouldn't freak out. He kept making those strange, edgy sounds -- helpless sounds; that was what disturbed her and aroused her. His muscles spasmed and jerked under his skin, and it was so good to finally have this kind of effect on him --
-- and then the Doctor's eyes snapped open, wide and steel-blue and unseeing.
That was when Rose freaked out.
As soon as his eyes met hers, she wasn't seeing his eyes anymore. Or she was seeing his eyes and ten thousand other things, fused into each other like a violent four-dimensional river, each current made up of a thousand tiny tributaries, each river moving to join another; and she was alive and dead and a baby and a Time Lord and having sex and not having sex, dying a hundred different ways, living in a thousand different places --
And then she shrieked and let go of him, somewhere, somehow in all that chaos. Now she was lying on the bed next to him, their bodies not touching, his eyes only his eyes again and terribly sad.
"I said you didn't have to." His voice was so soft she could barely hear it.
She found she could only answer him in a reedy whisper. "How do I -- how do you -- where were -- that is sex?"
"I'm sorry, Rose. I shouldn't have. I shouldn't have even asked."
Only breathing for a moment.
Rose found her voice again. It was another moment before she was quite sure that she wanted to say what she thought she wanted to say in it. There could be no bluffing, no banter. She was on a knife edge. She saw that he was so desperate for this kind of communion that once she'd asked for it twice, she couldn't back out. Not because he wouldn't respect her wishes, but because it would be the worst kind of betrayal.
"No," she said. "I want to know," and she lost her breath, and had to start over, "I want to know how to do that and not go mad."
The Doctor giggled with a hearty sort of bleakness. "Well, that's the trick, isn't it? I still think this is a very bad idea. If you're sure."
"I insist," she said gravely.
He sighed and looked quizzical. "Have my totally useless advice then. First of all, don't try to remember who you are. At that -- level of things, it's awkward -- like bringing your dog to a dinner party. Second of all," he took a quick breath, and spoke more quietly then, like he was trying to find a way to say something embarrassingly intimate, "try to remember who I am. Focus on it. Please?"
"Right then," Rose said. She sounded confident. Her heart beat like a sparrow's wings.
The Doctor grinned.
She slid closer on the bed, facing him. He clutched at her, and she felt his palms on her back, a little moist. Her hands shook as she moved to touch the thin spots, but when her fingers found them, the trembling stilled. One thumb at the center of his forehead, her fingers in the hollow of his back. His eyes shut tight again. She hadn't started to press inward yet, but he gave a faint, almost inaudible sob, just from awful need and the anticipation of wholeness.
So Rose answered, without thinking, and hooked her fingers in through that invisible layer. Another high, sharp inhuman moan from him, like the ragged breath moved through him without his knowledge or permission. No, the Doctor wasn't human.
She could feel it this time, the sense of a wall about to be breached. Of something else moving beneath his skin, as his body thrashed, and the shock waves broke over him, and his breath went in and out in harsh little howls.
It didn't feel like any sex she'd had, except for the sense of two people straining to immolate themselves in each other.
She saw his eyelids flutter, and braced herself. Panic fought with her, but she kept looking at him, kept her hands on him. Please? he'd said.
His eyes fell open and she fell in.
A shudder went through her body and for an awful moment knew that if she let go of herself, she'd be lost forever. No. The Doctor was there. Then only the Doctor was there, and all in pieces -- no, the pieces were a whole, the currents made up a river - not of water but of light, all braided out of strands leading to places that didn't exist, or did. That distinction fell apart too, dissolved into a roiling mass of whats and wherefores and images, of a young girl feeding tea to a wooden lizard, and a chorus singing in the back of a temple, and a sky of impossible colors, a thousand points of histories in a thousand lands, colors and tastes and a caustic kind of strangeness that was too much --
Try to remember who I am, someone reminded someone.
And then there was a focus, and a pressure, inward, inward; and speeding, then, hurtling along the central strand, which was the Doctor. Then it wasn't like falling, except in the way that walking is like falling. At once all of it was present, converged, simultaneous, every moment in the Doctor's past and future. The places where life wins, points of light like stars, you could almost puzzle out a constellation from them; the deaths, more ways than anyone could think of to die, more of them than anyone could see and not be crushed under the weight, no pattern there, each one standing alone as big as a monolith, but they don't blot out the brilliance, the light, the light in everything --
All of it drew in toward a single place, a moment, and they followed -- in, back, down, forward, however -- there was light there, so much of it, so suddenly, it overwhelmed the other knowledge, the other strands. And then she was the Doctor, staring at Rose Tyler, whose eyes were so dark and so wide.
-- no-body at all --
-- then she was Rose again with the sudden transport of memories, of her own timestream seen through his mind. Her whole skin tingled and pulsed with a hot red sensation she'd never felt before. Welcome back.
It was intense, painful and unbearably good; each nerve ending woke up going mad. In her own little human body it meant sex, the physical kind, the human kind. Rose drove her hips up against the Doctor with an involuntary kind of urgency, still with her fingers pressed to the contact points, and the all-over tingle made ripples and waves through her. Her skin, lit up like a firework, felt him move in response. She screamed something incoherent.
As she came out of it she found she was holding him and tears were running down his cheeks, his body taut and quivering with little gasps.
"You all right?" she asked. A tiny quick nod. She felt awkward, embarrassed. "I'm sorry - I don't know that I'm a very good place to go on vacation - I mean, maybe there's not really much -"
The answer was a shake of the head. When he got enough of his breath back to speak, the Doctor said, "I'm fine. Nothing wrong with you. Just…haven't done this in a very long time. Not since…"
He breathed out hard, and she waited for it, and locked hands with him, like one of them was about to lead the other someplace in a hurry, even though it was clear they were staying right here.
"'S just a bit tough to come back to. I'm a nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there." He gave a ragged, bright laugh, a little too close to hysterical. What was it like for him to remember himself again, to crawl back in under all that pain? "You all right too?"
Rose couldn't say anything. She nodded.
"Still fancy me?" The wild grin lit on his face again, even with his breath coming in shaky gulps.
"Absolutely," she said. She was shaken too. The experience was too much to understand, too much to remember. Dreams would carry her bits and pieces, she knew, and probably leave her with questions and no answers. But she had definitely wanted to have sex with him. Ask, Rose Tyler, and you shall receive.
"Fantastic. So now do you care to shag?"