Night, then. Christmas over, the world saved, the flat dark but for the flickering of the telly. Jackie in an armchair, finishing a glass of something; Mickey sprawled in the one nearest the television, snoring slightly; Rose and the Doctor side-by-side on the couch, the Doctor watching a singing nun, Rose watching the Doctor.
This was when it was hardest. When he was still, when he was quiet, when he could be anybody.
Of course, she didn't really wish herself back on a spaceship full of hostile aliens - except in the way that she did, because there she'd seen him for himself. For all his talk about not knowing what sort of a man he was, she'd known, and she'd been glad to call him by his name.
The Doctor slumped over before anyone learned anyone's favourite things, and Rose, swallowing down her panic - he had a right to be tired, didn't he? - quietly tucked a blanket over his knees, then took his hand in hers and felt along the wrist. His pulse was weird and sort of slow, but that might be exactly how it was supposed to be.
She let his hand go and squeezed her own together, there in her lap.
"That's me off," Jackie said, when the children had finished singing their way around the town, all doe-a-deer and drops of golden sun. She levered herself out of her chair, empty glass in hand. "I'll see you lot in the morning - hang on, is he all right?"
"Sssh, he's just sleeping, Mum," Rose said. Her mum opened her mouth again, but Rose cut her off. "I'll keep an eye on him, you go on."
Rose waited until her mum was gone, then slid closer, put a hand to the Doctor's forehead. Cooler, now, but his skin was still warmer than she ever remembered it being before. She didn't know whether to be worried about that, or if it was one of those things that happened when you changed every cell in your body, one of those things that wasn't going to matter. Not half expecting an answer, she whispered, "Are you all right?"
"Do you know, I'm not sure," the Doctor said, opening his eyes. "I might be more left." He wiggled a hand.
She let her own hand fall, smacking him lightly on the shoulder. "Uh-huh. Or maybe you're, you know, both -" She raised her hands, tapping fingers against thumbs.
"A Macra? No, I don't think so. . . my eyes weren't on stalks, the last time I looked." He felt the air over his head carefully.
Rose laughed, because he was funny and because she was meant to. "All right, what're Macra?"
"Super-intelligent crabs with a domination fixation. Ooh, try saying that. Do-min-a-tion fix-a-tion. Setting up shop on their planet will not be one of humanity's wisest moves." He was sitting up properly now, and Rose thought she should feel guilty for waking him so thoroughly.
She didn't, though. She was beginning to be able to see him without the hostile aliens; when he was awake, she knew where to look.
"I see," she said. "Not our first stop, is it? I'm not sure I'm in the mood to have anything pinched off. And you, you might not be so lucky a second time." She poked at his hand.
"Mm, no, no."
There was a pause, and Rose was learning that with him these now tended to be very short things; if she wanted to take advantage of it, she'd better get on with it. So she did. "Wherever we end up going," she said, "we don't have to go right away."
"Not saying I don't want to go somewhere, though," Rose said quickly, because she was learning this new face, too, and she knew what he was thinking. And because it was the truth: she did want to go, and more than that, she knew he wasn't leaving here without her. "Just, we could rest a bit, yeah?"
"If you like," he said, in a very careful sort of way.
Every time he assumed she didn't want him any more, she became just that much more certain that she did. Rose wondered if he knew that. Probably. He was very good at people.
"By 'we', I mean 'you,'" she said.
"Ah," he said. "That obvious, then?"
"Well, I've never seen you sit still for singing nuns before. Or." She took a breath, not wanting this to be the condemnation it had been in her mind all that day, steady and loud and constant. "Or sleep, come to that."
"Never?" She shook her head. "Well, I suppose not. You humans -"
"Yeah, yeah, sleep our lives away, we're inferior, I know." She tilted her head, considering him. "You said it went wrong. How come?"
The Doctor shrugged, rubbed the back of his neck. "Don't know that I've ever had one go right. Suppose my deaths are always a little too exciting."
"Good job you're planning on living for a bit," she said.
Because she could do this. It wasn't something human brains were meant to have to handle, but hers could. She could. She'd known it for a while; maybe the moment he'd won the fight, maybe the moment he'd hit the button and exposed the lie, maybe the moment he'd opened the TARDIS doors. She could do this, but she wasn't sure about doing it more than once.
The Doctor was looking at her, right in her eyes, but he also wasn't, and there in the light of a twenty-seven-inch flat-screen Digivix he was blue and grey and very not human.
"I would like that," he said finally. Low and quiet, like he'd figured out a secret, like he meant to share it only with her.
Rose knew it wasn't a promise, but it sounded good to her ears anyway; and because she suddenly wanted to touch him, she reached out and put a palm flat on his chest. "I haven't checked your hearts lately, both working okay?"
"Sixty beats per minute," he tapped one side of his chest, "sixty beats per minute," he tapped the other, between her fingers, "both right on schedule."
"And your brain's all right?"
"My brain," he said, with dignity, "is outstanding."
She studied him a minute. "Head hurts, doesn't it."
"Mm. You could say that. Like being hit by a truck. A bus. A train. A long-distance deep-space mega-freighter."
"Want some more tea?" He shook his head. "Paracetamol? Aspirin?"
The Doctor was obviously incredibly hurt. It was amazing, actually, just how much hurt one face could register. "Changed your mind, then? About not wanting me dead?"
Rose stared at him, one of his hearts thumping against her hand. She and her mother could've so easily tried to force some in him. . . . "You're really serious?" He nodded. "Oh, I get it, aliens and human drugs don't go together."
"Give the lady a prize! And here's a handy alien-spotting test, although it is a bit on the unfriendly side: First, break someone's toe, second, see if they accept your kind offer of high-powered painkillers."
She giggled at this daft alien, her daft alien, and glanced across the room. Mickey was still there, of course, and still snoring. She shouldn't do this, not with him here; it wasn't wrong, exactly, but it definitely wasn't nice.
She shouldn't, but she would.
"Come here," she said, and tugged.
It didn't work out as gracefully as she would've liked; his head settled on her stomach rather than her shoulder, and his feet were dangerously close to her mother's good lamp. But it was comfortable, and she pulled the blanket up around them.
"Go on," Rose said, "you'll feel better when you wake up."
And when he closed his eyes, she took his hand under the blanket, and kept it tight.