Visiting Alien

by entilzha [Reviews - 27]

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  • Adult
  • Explicit Sex
  • Angst, Het

Author's Notes:
First posting on Teaspoon so if I screw up, my apologies, but I learn fast. Constructive criticism welcome (I'm always trying to improve) but if you don't like sex scenes, don't read.

‘Rose Tyler: Defender of the Earth’ As titles go it’s a bit overblown but not entirely inaccurate. Since she came to this world against her will nearly 20 years ago she’s saved it from invasion or total destruction at least a dozen times and from becoming a perverted simulacrum of itself due to alien megalomaniacs and the odd massively deluded alien do-gooder more times than she cares to count.

She’s ensured alien technology that would cause massive upheaval has been kept safely under wraps (with a sign on the carefully sealed containers that reads, “not to be opened until X” where ‘X’ might mean anything from 500 years to after they’ve discovered safe fusion energy and anti-matter engines. Christmas presents for the future). She’s ensured the release of minor but significant developments that have helped ease the lot of those living on this planet. Cures for cancer and the means to repair damaged brain tissue has ensured longer and more productive lives for everyone from kids who’ve not yet had a life to older people who can continue to enjoy theirs.

She’s given talks, trained up staff, written enough reports to fill a small library, been secretly awarded medals by heads of state, and learned more about time and space than she every thought she could hope to understand. A recognised expert in her field, welcome at every party from co-workers in suburbia to Downing Street. Everyone claims her as friend.

To her, they’re all acquaintances at best. She does her job efficiently, spending long hours at the office after everyone else has gone because she has no reason not to. Her apartment, split level and very well appointed, contains only one other being and that’s her cat. To be fair, she’s not even convinced he’s her cat. He disappears for long periods without warning, returning when he feels like it to avail himself of a warm bed and supper. She’s not entirely sure how he does this, given she’s on the 20th floor, but the relationship works well and she’s content to leave it that way.

Occasionally, men have passed through her life, each one certain he’ll be able to convince her marriage or at least a long term relationship would solve all her problems. To date, not one has succeeded. It’s not so much she tries to drive them away as, one by one, they give up. She’s too centred on her life, they tell her, too much of a loner who’s set in her ways. If only she would give a little and everything would be fine, they insist. The truth is, not one of them raises more than a passing interest. She’s not unaware of their good looks, their charm or even their intelligence, it’s just that they don’t do anything for her.

Not one has sent a zing up her spine or made her heart beat faster for longer than a few seconds. It’s not even that they’re available that puts her off. There are men, both at work and occasional movie stars that intrigue her, but never enough to make her act on it. Some have accused her of being emotionally frigid, but that’s too simplistic. Some, who know her past, have quietly pointed out to would-be suitors that she’s pining for another, which she vehemently denies. They smile but behind her back she knows they assure their listeners she’s just in denial.

Yet it isn’t true. That’s far too simplistic. Images of distraught women on windswept beaches or barren moors, locked in a house with relics of the past forever mourning sweep through her mind every time she hears that explanation, and that’s definitely not her. Once, yes, for a few moments she cried until her heart broke on a windswept beach, but that was then. Now it’s not that she’s consciously avoiding relationships, it’s simply no one matches up. No one makes her body tingle simply because they hold her hand or smile at her. She knows what that feels like and the effort of trying to accommodate someone who doesn’t at least give her that satisfaction is too much hard work when she already has a sufficiency at Torchwood. And she won’t bed them to make them feel they made a conquest or even to satisfy the sexual urges of her own system. It’s not that she’s ‘waiting for him’ so much as she can’t be arsed.

Her life is pretty full. She has lots of people she can chat to, work colleagues she can discuss heavier issues with, a few male friends (and their boyfriends) she can talk to when she feels the need for a bit of emotional support from men who lay no pressure on her and expect nothing in return. That suits her just fine.

Today, as she takes a walk in a nearby park, she thinks she might drop by on Stephan. He’s not only good company but an incredible cook and she fancies if she lays out for the ingredients he might even whip up one of his famous curries. She’d be guaranteed good food, company and conversation, probably spend at least half the evening laughing at something outrageous he’s heard of or even done and come home still smiling and get a good night’s sleep. It’s the weekend, after all, and for once she’s not got some crises hanging over her.

She kicks the autumn leaves and nods. Yep, give Stephan a call. She’s in the process of pulling out her mobile phone when a wind seems to come from nowhere, teasing the leaves and then whipping them up into a frenzy. She looks around and notices the trees aren’t moving, so the wind is low and localised. She frowns, flicking through her phone list and thumbing down the numbers to one at Torchwood. Whatever this is, it doesn’t feel quite right…

Then it feels incredibly familiar. A grinding echo seems to come from nowhere and everywhere but she quickly focuses on the source. She’d done it too often before to be confused by the strange way the sound moves and winds around as if defying anyone to target it. She stands still in front of the blue box, waiting for the door to open. When it does she isn’t quite sure what to do next. Twenty years is a long time and she’s way past rushing into his arms.

“Hullo, Rose.” He smiles and leans against the doorway, arms folded.

“Is this the point I’m supposed to say ‘where the hell have you been?’” she asks.

He shrugs and steps towards her, pulling the TARDIS door closed behind him. “You could.”

“Would I get a straight answer?”

His face breaks into that huge grin of his and she finds herself smiling in return. “Shouldn’t imagine so.” He’s closed the distance so he’s near enough she can touch him. “You can always try, though.”

She can smell him, sense him and all the old emotions come rushing back. He seems to sense it too and opens his arms. She quickly steps forward into his embrace and laughs as he picks her up and hugs her tightly. “Where the hell have you been?” she asks, tears filling her eyes.

He puts her down and steps back, gripping her upper arms. With a frown he pulls out a handkerchief and wipes away a tear that’s escaped. She takes the handkerchief from him and quickly dabs at her eyes before the stinging behind them has time to become a full fledged flood.

“It’s good to see you,” he says at last. She nods but doesn’t give voice to her own emotions. She’s taking in his appearance.

Nothing’s changed. She could swear even his hair hasn’t grown a millimetre. She looks into his eyes. Perhaps she sees a hint of sadness there, but it’s quickly driven away by that 200 megawatt grin of his. She can’t help but match it and they hug again. This time when they pull back he looks around.

“This where you’re living now?”

She points to the apartment block, visible through the trees. “Up there. See that flat with the French windows and the balcony?” He nods. “That’s mine.”

He squints as the autumn afternoon sun reflects off the windows. “Looks nice from here. Of course, I can’t see much.”

“Come back for a cuppa, then.”

To her surprise he nods. “I’d like that.” He reaches out, offering her his hand. Her fingers slip into his smoothly and together they walk back.

The lift works. This is no Powell Estate. No graffiti mars the immaculate walls and nor do empty cans, greasy chip bags or newspaper pages wait to be tossed by the wind. The neighbours mind their own business and there isn’t so much as a curtain twitch as they walk along the corridor to her door. Once inside Rose quickly removes her jacket and takes the Doctor’s coat, hanging them up side by side in the entrance hall. She leads him down a corridor to a well designed kitchen where she puts on the kettle. Once the tea’s ready she ushers him back to the open plan staircase that leads to a large lounge. Bookcases dominate the room together with a wooden desk that has plenty of space for a computer, printer, scanner, telephone and writing area. A sofa, one end with an extension so you can put your feet up, faces the wall where a flatscreen TV is embedded. An armchair is to the right of it. The French windows open onto a balcony that affords an excellent view of the park and, in the distance, the river. To the left of the windows another staircase extends upwards to a small landing and a single door.

“Bigger on the inside,” the Doctor observes and Rose laughs.

“Why I bought it. Well, that and the view. There’s a spare room downstairs, some walk in cupboards and the big bathroom. My room’s got en-suite so when I feel like pampering myself I go downstairs; when I need to get out of here in a hurry because of work I can just fall into the shower.”

He nods, takes a gulp of tea and wanders over to the bookcase. Quickly, he slips his glasses from his pocket and puts them on so he can read the spines. He grunts once or twice in approval. Rose watches him.

“Not what you expected?” she asks.

“Not what the old Rose Tyler would have been reading, certainly,” he replies as he flicks the pages of one of the textbooks.

“I’m not that Rose Tyler anymore.”

He pauses, closes the book, returns it to its place in the bookshelf and turns back, removing his glasses. “No,” he says, his eyes wandering over the room once more. “I can see that. Hear it, too. What happened to that accent of yours?”

“It had to go. I’m considered important these days and keep impressive company…” She sees his expression. “Impressive on this planet, anyway. East End doesn’t go down so well in those places.”

With a grunt he sits down at the computer and taps the spacebar. The screen blinks into life displaying the graphical representations of an alien spaceship that had been uncovered just off the Florida Keys. She doesn’t try to stop him. There’s nothing on there beyond work and he could probably answer quite a few questions. She awaits his verdict.

“Tridantium freighter. Long way from home,” he muses.

“Any reason for me to worry?” She settles down on the settee.

“Nah. They’ve jettisoned their cargo. Probably had engine trouble and dumped it. Always were unreliable ships.”

“Anything we can salvage?”

“Souvenirs? Nothing of use to you, I shouldn’t imagine. Go down and take a look by all means, but beyond the first mate’s stash of alcohol and some alien pornography I doubt you’d find anything exciting.”

She nods. “I’ll get them to scale down the operation, then. No point wasting resources.” She motions to the computer. “Feel free to take a look at the rest of it. You could save me a lot of time.”

He turns back and quickly scans through all the reports on her computer, noting those that might be of interest. To her relief, nothing comes back as threatening although a part of her wishes one would. It might be a reason for him to stay a little longer. Finally he turns back.

“You haven’t asked.”

“What, why you’re here? How? When you’re going to disappear again? I thought you might fill me in on that when you were ready.”

He eyes her over his mug. “You’ve changed.”

“Twenty years will do that to a person.” There’s no bitterness in her comment, merely a statement of fact. “The old me’s still here, underneath. Still miss you, still like to shag you senseless given half a chance.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Oh?” He looks around, more carefully this time. “Still on your own, then?”

“Never even found Mr ‘He’ll Do’, let alone Mr Right. Well, that’s not entirely true. Twenty years ago I found a man who’d have done for me for the rest of my life, but he was a bit of a bugger to pin down. Went and left me in another universe, wouldn’t you know it? Always the good ones that get away.”

He stands up and walks over to the settee, sitting down beside her. “I never wanted to. I’d’ve given anything not to have lost you that day. You do know that?”

“I know. It’s all in the past now. I have a life, practically run Torchwood and, as you can see, I’ve done something about my education.”

He nods but says nothing, his eyes roaming the room once more.

“I did miss you. Still do, but you learn to cope and it becomes easier with time. You?”

“The same.”

“Got a new companion?”

He draws a deep breath and leans back on the sofa. “Not right now. Last one left me a few months ago. Her choice,” he adds quickly. “I think it all got a bit much for her after she got swallowed by the Balliax and I had to slip something into his food to make him throw her back up.”

Rose shudders. “I can see how that might put someone off a bit.”

“I bet you’d have coped,” he says, turning to look at her. He holds his hand out and she slips along the settee and takes it. He pulls her arm across his chest and plants a small kiss on her knuckles before resuming his intense study of her ceiling. She smiles and snuggles up against him in the way old lovers do.

“Curtains,” she says, and instantly the curtains close, briefly plunging the room into darkness before their eyes adjust and they can admire the space-scape on the ceiling. “Most people don’t notice that.”

“Ahh, but I’m not most people.”

“That’s true.”

“Bit difficult to miss, though. Quite an impressive holographic display, actually.”

“But you can only see it when it’s dark in here. I don’t have people back here in the evenings.”

“Never?”

She shakes her head. “I need a place that’s just mine and no one else’s. My days are pretty full with people. Once I get away I just want to be by myself.”

Another nod. “Recharge your batteries, so to speak.”

“That and I’m usually wading through paperwork every night. You just cleared about 2 month’s worth of work off my desk. Feel free to do that again, any time you want.” She can feel him tense and knows what he’s going to say next. Quickly, she covers his lips with her fingers. “Never mind, I know. How long have you got?”

“A few hours.”

“And then vanish again, never to return?”

“Probably, although I’ve been wrong before.”

“So why’d you come?”

“I missed you and I could.”

She stands up and pulls him to his feet, leading him to the staircase by the French windows. “Perhaps it’s just as well. At this rate, the next time I see you I’ll be in my sixties and probably not the slightest bit interested in what I want to do now, and that’s assuming you’d even want me.”

They’re at the foot of the stairs and he pulls her into a kiss, his hands roaming across her waist and up to her shoulders. One hand cups the back of her neck, holding her in place as his tongue explores her mouth. When they pull apart her lips are swollen and he can see the slight flush on her cheeks. “I’ll always want you,” he assures her, the lightest tug on her hand all that’s required to make her follow as he ascends to her bedroom.

“Flatterer.”

“Time Lord.”

“Is that what they taught you at that academy, then?”

“Interspecies Relations, 101.”

“An introductory course? I’m insulted.” She gives a mock pout.

He pauses at the head of the stairs outside her door and brushes a few wisps of hair from her face, cupping her cheek as his eyes roam across her features, taking in every extra line the years have given her. “Now what could an old professor who hasn’t had it in 3000 years teach a young buck like me?”

Her hand snakes around his neck, weaving into his hair. “Oh, I dunno. Better chat up lines?”

He shakes his head, gently stroking her cheek and forehead as if trying to memorise her through his fingertips. “I preferred practicals. Theory is all very well but no substitute for the real thing.” He reaches over and opens the door, glancing inside to assure himself he has identified the right room and she wasn’t about to show him a gym when she first led him to the stairs. The bed is large and welcoming. He grins.

For a moment they stand there, both emotionally and mentally dancing around each other, neither willing to admit a need but both sensing it in the other. She sighs. For a 900 plus year old alien he is remarkably emotionally retarded. They’d stand out here until it was time for him to leave if she let him.

“What are you afraid of?” she asks at last. Her hand on his chest detects a slight increase in hearts-rate.

“Me? I’m not afraid of anything!”

“Liar.”

“Well, there’s this alien on Assignatur 4 that can camouflage itself as anything the victim trusts. As soon as you’re within striking distance it douses you in acid and then strips your skin before closing around you and digesting you slowly. That gives me the creeps.”

“You know what I mean. I’ve had twenty years to think about this and I’ve decided that you may be 900 plus but inside you’re one seriously screwed up, emotionally immature 16 year old.”

“I told you. I can’t get too involved.”

“Because we wither and die, I know, but you wouldn’t get involved even if somehow I miraculously got a lifespan to match yours.”

He steps away. “Mood killer.”

“I’ll worry about getting the mood back in a moment. This is important. You need to grab every aspect of life, not just fill your time with adventure and learning, pretending you’re emotionally impregnable. I’ve seen you at your worst, remember? You’ve got hearts big enough to embrace the universe, but you won’t take one little bit just for yourself. You can love the universe and still have enough left just for one person.”

His face hardens. “And you want to be that person, right?”

She laughs and he frowns. “You think you’re so impressive. I’m 40 and even if you asked I wouldn’t go with you again now. I have a life here, a career and I can’t run around the universe dodging danger every 5 minutes anymore. I’m mature enough to know I’d be more a hindrance than an asset and I wouldn’t do that to you. I love you and I always will. You took a part of me with you when you left…” she quickly places her fingers over his lips to forestall the apology she can see burning there, “…and I don’t regret it one bit. I had something few others can even imagine and it was amazing. But you…” She shakes her head. “It’s like you don’t believe you deserve to be loved.”

“I’m not THAT full of myself.”

“EVERYONE deserves to be loved, and not just from afar. This…” and she slips her fingers around the buttons of his jacket, undoing them to expose his shirt and then runs her hands from his stomach to his chest. “This is wonderful and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy shagging you again. You’re the best lover I’ve ever had, even if we didn’t have very long together, but there’s always a part of you that’s distant. A part you keep locked away as if you’re frightened if it’s allowed out it’ll be hurt. Why? Why don’t you think you’re allowed to have someone for yourself.”

He sighs. “Even if you could live for a thousand years you still wouldn’t have my experience right now. I’d be taking advantage and even though you want me to, it’s not right.”

“By whose standards? Does the phrase ‘consenting adults’ mean anything to you?”

“Against me, you’re still a child.”

“Being rude again?”

“Honest.”

“Mental maturity means more than years and you know it. You still haven’t grown up.”

“Peter Pan, that’s me,” he smiles, tossing his head jauntily. “Growing up is boring.”

She slips her hands over his shoulders, taking his jacket with them. He allows it to fall to the floor as she undoes his tie. “And necessary.”

He watches her as she undoes the buttons on his shirt, tugging the tails from his trousers. “If you knew what I’d done in my life…”

“I don’t care.”

He stills her hands as they run through the hair on his chest. “You should.”

“Why?”

He drops his head. If she can’t see that makes a difference then there’s no hope for her.

Gently, she lifts his chin. “All I care about is what you did when I was with you. You gave me adventure, experiences, saved my life more times than I care to count…”

“And you saved mine.”

“Yeah, and then you had to regenerate afterwards.”

He runs his hands up and down her arms before settling on her shoulders and gazing straight into her eyes. “More than that. When I met you that first time in the basement I was running scared. Not of the Autons -- I’ve handled them before. Annoying, but of all the enemies I’ve dealt with over the years they’re far from the worst. You saved me from myself; my own guilt. I was looking for a way to die. I couldn’t kill myself…” he chuckles as he undoes her shirt, revealing her lace bra. “One of the disadvantages of being a Time Lord. Suicide is a bit of a bitch when once isn’t enough. Plenty of chances to mess it up, change your mind and regret what you’ve done. Only a Dalek can get around that and I thought I’d killed them all. Still, if you hadn’t been there and taken my hand I’d have gone through all my remaining lives by now.” He slides his palm across her breast. “I never properly thanked you for that.”

She smiles. “Any time.” When he returns to his gentle massage she adds, “But you’ve wandered off the point again.”

He quickly undoes her bra and she lets it fall from her arms. “Soon fix that,” he mutters and his mouth surrounds one nipple and draws it in, teeth grazing and tongue smoothing.

She bites her lip, determined he’s not going to win this one. “Not that point.”

He raises his head, blowing across the moist skin to make her flesh stiffen further. “Pity. It seemed rather a good one.” He settles back with a sigh. “What do you want me to say? I’m an emotionally wrecked genius who won’t come to terms with his psychological trauma, is a serial monogamist and the thought of commitment makes him queasy?”

“At least you admit it.”

“Could have done that ages ago and we’d be in bed by now. In fact, why aren’t we?”

She leads him into the bedroom and both quickly remove shoes and socks. “And?” she pushes as he settles on the bed.

He puts his hands behind his head and stretches out. “Let’s see… My sense of duty is set far too high, I rush into dangerous situations to offset the fact I consider the consequences of emotional ones for so long they cease to be an issue. I’m a manic depressive who keeps travelling because the thought of having to keep my own company without distraction for any length of time terrifies me. I’m fiercely independent, feel rules are only there to be ignored in favour of the far stricter rules I place on myself — this is all probably rooted somewhere in my childhood experiences but I honestly have no idea where. The fact I’m a half-breed and always considered less than a full Gallifreyan may have something to do with it, but my parents seemed rather better adjusted than most so I don’t see that as an issue.” He sits up on one elbow and pats the bed. Rose sits down. “Honestly, I did all this stuff with Freud. I am what I am and I think I’m a bit long in the tooth to change now.”

“And you’ve really no idea why you’re like this?”

His fingers are stroking around her midriff and he watches her stomach muscles clench and relax in response. “Dropped on my head as a baby Time Lord?”

She laughs and allows him to pull her onto the bed. “So, given everything you’ve just said, why did you come back here and risk getting hurt? Risk hurting me?”

His eyes darken and he pulls her across him, searching her face. “I never want to hurt you. If you want me to leave…”

“Shut up. You leave now after getting me this wound up and I’ll kill you myself.” She gets up on her knees and he unbuttons her jeans and drops the zip, spreading the material and stroking inside her knickers along the belt line. “What hurt me more was being made to think you didn’t care about me at all. Not even enough for a one night stand.”

“I cared too much for a one night stand. Still do.”

“Isn’t that what this is?” She rolls off him and pushes her jeans down her legs, kicking them off the end of the bed before returning to divest him of his trousers.

“I was hoping it might be a little more long term…”

“If you could persuade me to come with you, you mean?”

“The thought had crossed my mind.” His hands are exploring her stomach and thighs, stroking down the outside and rising up the inside. He nears the spot she needs him to reach and then shies away again, teasing her. She shudders but resists the temptation to force his hand. He’ll get there soon enough.

“Like I said, I’m too old to go running all over the cosmos with you.”

“Forty is not old!” His fingers slip inside her knickers and slide over the slick flesh. “Some parts of you seem to think you’re still a teenager,” he mutters before leaning forward and whispering in her ear, “You’re soaking wet.”

The fact has not escaped her attention but still his words send a shiver down her spine and increase the dampness. She shuffles her hips to release the material as he yanks her knickers from her, dropping them over the side of the bed. She places her hand over the bulge in his shorts that jumps in response to her touch. “Could say the same about you.” She strokes the length of him and feels him stiffen further. “Someone’s pleased to see me.”

“I should say so,” he replies, helping her to divest him of that last barrier between them. She opens her mouth to add something but he covers her mouth with his hand. “Before we go back on the psychoanalytical merry-go-round do you think we could just enjoy the moment? You’re cramping my style.”

She giggles but is willing to put a pause in their discussion. She nods and kisses his palm as he releases her.

“Thank you. Now, where was I? Oh yes…”

He kisses his way down her throat, nuzzling into the juncture between her neck and shoulder before working lower. Lips and teeth graze over both nipples in turn and then his tongue traces a path across her stomach, teasing her navel and nipping at her waist. She gasps, jerking in response, her body totally under his control. He grins and continues his meandering course until he reaches the top of her thighs. She willingly parts her legs for him and he kisses and licks down one side, then the other before ascending to her centre. His tongue dips between her labia, a quick flick then gone and he watches her reaction. She looks down at him and it is clear if he doesn’t continue his ministrations he may be rendered incapable in fairly short order. He’s happy to oblige, easing her legs over his shoulders to raise her to his mouth.

Her hands grip the bedsheets, twisting them into knots as she bites down on her reactions. He looks up, curious.

“Is there a problem with soundproofing in this place?” he asks. She shakes her head. “Then let it out. I love to listen to you.” When she still tries to hold it in, more out of habit than need, he does something incredible to the bundle of highly sensitized nerves and forces a cry from her. “Better,” he mumbles, his mouth still occupied. “Don’t stop.”

She cries out again and, gasping, manages to say, “Don’t YOU stop. Ahh, God, you always were amazing at this.”

His tongue elicits another cry and he chuckles. “All that talking. Exercises the tongue.” He presses forward once more, dipping deep inside her before dragging back up to swirl around her clitoris. Her legs are trembling across his shoulders, her stomach clenching and he knows she’s close. He adjusts his position slightly and delivers a flurry of licks, flickers and sucks that send her spiralling over the edge. She cries out once and then, as he continues a relentless assault, a second even louder cry emerges.

His own arousal demands attention and he lowers her still shaking legs and pulls himself up, licking, kissing and stroking his way back to her throat and then, as her gasps for air subside, to her mouth. Immediately she rolls him beneath her and impales herself.

“Turn about,” she gasps, wriggling her hips as she drives down on him, “is fair play, don’t you think?”

His hair a delightful mess he grins up at her. “Definitely.”

Her hands stroke across his chest as she flings her head back and dedicates herself to helping him surrender control, just for one brief moment. They’ve both needed this for too long. The way his body arches beneath her, his mouth open in a wordless cry, a primitive grunt and groan all he will allow himself to release; the way her body tingles, welcoming his thrusts and adding impetus to her movements long after she’s sure she would normally have surrendered to exhaustion.

He grips her thighs, supporting her as she rises and falls on him, watching her breasts sway above him and very aware of the way she squeezes around him as she rises up, determined to make him feel every inch. The sweat is starting to bead on her forehead and he pulls her down, kissing her as he rolls her over. His elbows braced against the increasingly dishevelled bed he drives his hips forward, sheathing himself deep within her and making her gasp -- half-pain/half incredible pleasure. He eases himself up on his hands so that he can tilt his angle a bit, drawing across her on every stroke.

Her legs wrap around his waist, urging him still deeper and he thrusts into her, revelling in the feeling of her hot, slick warmth around him. Another, then another and finally he draws almost completely out of her and then drives home with a cry that, while not matching hers, certainly would be cause for attention in a less well-shielded room. He collapses onto her chest drawing deep breaths into his lungs. He can feel her still braced around him and he lifts himself up enough to slip his hand between them, his fingers quickly finding her and bringing her to another release. Her cry is buried in his shoulder and he allows himself a satisfied smile before easing his hand away and slowly lowering himself once more.

Her arms wrap around him and he can feel the dampness of tears on his neck. Rolling onto his side he wraps his arms around her, gentling her as 20 years of emotion seem to seek release in one instant. At last she regains control and he pulls away, kissing her on the mouth before settling back, a somewhat smug grin on his face.

“I missed this,” she admits, returning his smile.

“Me too.”

“Why did you wait so long?”

“I didn’t, and it was longer for me. I just couldn’t get here any sooner. I did try.”

“I wish you had. I might have been able to go with you.” She sounds incredibly sad and he frowns, bringing his hand up to stroke her cheek once more.

“Why can’t you?”

“Like I said, I’m too old for that stuff now and I have responsibilities. I can’t just vanish and leave them to it.”

“They’d cope,” he assures her. “People always do. If you got run over tomorrow it would be the same. They have to be able to take over when someone moves on or dies or…”

She’s giving him a look and he trails off. “Thanks for the reminder. And that’s another reason.” He cocks his head, curious. “I used to get my excitement risking my life every day. These days crossing the Kings Road without getting impaled on a taxi bumper is excitement enough. I can’t handle that kind of thing any more.”

“Do you stay in your office at Torchwood?”

He moves onto his back, pulling her against his side. She snuggles against him willingly, one leg drawn over his thighs. “Not all the time,” she says, tracing patterns in his chest hair. “If it’s particularly intriguing I join them on sites.”

“Still need those thrills, then?”

She shakes her head. “There’s always our own military force around me. They wouldn’t risk anything happening to me and I’m the first to be moved away if anything looks dangerous.”

“Drive you mad?”

“Used to. Not so much now, though. I can see the reasons for it and it saves me a lot of paperwork and running. Being with you did a number on my joints. I doubt my knees will ever recover.”

He glances down. “Look fine from here.”

“You want to be inside them on cold, damp days. At this rate I’ll need a stick before I’m 50.”

“I can see you thwacking some alien up the side of the head with it before going for a cuppa.” He laughs.

“Didn’t say it wouldn’t have its advantages.”

She can feel his hand lightly stroking up and down her upper arm. He squeezes, hugging her to him. “I could fix that. Have you leaping about like an Irish dancer in no time.”

“Don’t tempt me.”

He pulls his arm out from under her and edges up, resting on his elbow as his fingers trace across her chest and stomach. “Why not? It’d make me happy and you’d be better off.”

“And the next thing I know I’ve been snatched away from this universe and back on the open road.”

He frowns. “I’ve never kidnapped a companion in my life.”

“But that’s the problem.”

“What, you want me to kidnap you? Isn’t that rather defeating the point?”

She shakes her head. “It’s the companion bit. I feel like I should be sitting next to some old biddy holding her knitting yarn while she rambles on about days gone by.”

“I haven’t done knitting in years.”

She blinks. “You mean you did?”

“Nearly a thousand years old, remember? There’re very few things I haven’t done.”

“Except commit to a relationship.”

“I did that too, once.” Her hands still on his stomach and he presses forward slightly, encouraging her to continue. She obliges. “How do you think I became a father? I don’t leave bastard children all over the place.”

She senses they’re entering a dangerous area but if he’s only going to be here a short time longer she might as well go for broke. “What happened?”

“What always happens. She left me.”

“Did she have a choice?”

“No, and before you ask, yes, she was human.”

“She died, then?”

He nods. “In childbirth.” He rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling. No holographic universe in here, just pine boards. “Stupid, really. It should never have happened. Wouldn’t have if I’d had my wits about me. I didn’t realise how serious it was, how fragile humans are. She wouldn’t tell me how much pain she was in and by the time I realised something had gone wrong it was too late.”

“Oh Doctor, I’m sorry.”

He gives her a small smile. “Not your fault, but thank you.”

“You loved her.”

“With all my hearts.”

“And the child?”

He takes a deep breath and expels it noisily. “She was on Gallifrey when the Daleks came. I couldn’t find her and there wasn’t time to evacuate everyone. I had to act before the Daleks managed to get to the citadel and steal the key to time. If they’d got that the entire universe would have been lost.” He closes his eyes, a hint of a tear at the edge of his lashes. “I suppose I could be melodramatic and say it would have been worth it to save them, but it wouldn’t have been. It had to be done and I was the only one left who could do it.” He covers his eyes with his hand, rubbing away the tears that still threaten. “Funnily enough that thought doesn’t make me feel any better.”

She gets up onto her elbow, mirroring his earlier position and places a small kiss on his forehead. As he moves his hand away she kisses each eyelid and then presses her lips to his mouth in a chaste touch. Finally she draws back and considers him. “Why are you telling me this now?”

“You wanted to know, you’ve said you won’t be coming with me and I probably won’t be back. Nothing to lose, is there?”

“There was nothing to lose before and I could have helped.”

“Nothing you can do about it. Nothing anyone can do about it, not even me, and don’t think I didn’t want to. She was my wife and it was such a small thing so easily fixed if it had been caught in time. The council had to stop me in the end. I was a mess and I wouldn’t listen, but an outbreak of Reapers on Gallifrey would have been a disaster.”

She realises that was why he was so forgiving when she tried to save her father and her heart breaks a little more at the pain and loss she can see in his eyes.

“Eventually the Council got through to me. It was the hardest lesson I ever learned, but I got it.” He draws a deep breath. “A Time Lord can run out of time. How stupid is that?”

“Not stupid at all. Makes perfect sense to me, but then until I met you I didn’t realise it was possible to travel in time at all. Makes you more resigned, I think.”

“Not a position I ever want to be in again, especially not with someone I care about.”

“You’re not God, no matter what some people may say. You’re mortal for all the fact you’ll outlive almost everyone else, except maybe the Face of Bo. Mortals make mistakes. What matters is what we learn from them and I think you took the wrong lesson.” She can feel him tense and anger starts to simmer beneath the surface. Gently she strokes his cheek and adds, “No, hear me out. You took the lesson that you’re not allowed to be happy. Not allowed to have something of your own for fear you’ll break it. That if you get too close to something you’ll always lose it.”

“Yep. Curse of the Time Lords.” He says the last with a cynicism she’s not used to hearing from him. It worries her.

“It’s the risk everyone takes when they love. It doesn’t stop us. Two people get married and commit themselves to a lifetime with each other, knowing all the while the chances are one will outlive the other. You have a pet and give all your love to that knowing you’ll be lucky to get less than twenty years with it. People marry in war and even when one has already been diagnosed with something fatal. It’s what people do.”

“You might. I’ve had my fill of pain. More than you can imagine.”

She places her hand on his chest. “And you’re telling me this isn’t hurting, right now, knowing you’ve got to leave soon, be alone again?”

“It’s different.”

“It’s still pain, and it’s avoidable.”

“No. It can be deferred but it’ll never stop.”

“So you keep yourself safe from the happiness and the pain at the same time?”

“Something like that.”

“Then you don’t know what it is to be happy.” She falls back in the bed, one arm flung across her eyes. She aches for him but he’s chosen his path and stubbornly refuses to leave it. Suddenly, it’s all just too much effort and she can’t bear to have him there. “You’d better leave if you’re going to. There’s no point in carrying on. I can’t argue with a stone and I don’t want to make love to one again.”

Her words smart and there’s pain deep in his chest, like a knife twisting inside. “Rose…”

“You’ve had your fill of pain, Doctor. So have I. The day I got wrenched through to this universe, the day you said goodbye on the beach and couldn’t get out those three simple words. I hated being dragged away from you and I’d give anything for it not to have happened, but you can’t change the past so I’ve learned to live with it.”

“Alone.”

“Yes, alone, and don’t you dare accuse me when you do the self-same thing. If I’m lucky I’ll get a few more decades of a good life before my time’s up. As a percentage I’ve had a lot of good experiences, I’ve loved and lost, yes, and I’ll probably do it again, if not with a man then with friends or my family or even pets. I’m not consciously fighting against loving. If the right guy appeared I’d be there in a shot, but you… you’ve got it all offered to you on a plate and you want it, I can see it in your eyes, and still you walk away. You’re just storing up pain to avoid pain. I take back what I said earlier. For all your 900 plus years that makes you remarkably stupid.”

“Just under a thousand,” he corrects, quietly.

For a moment there’s silence as she processes his words, then she looks at him, hard. “Just how long did you search for me?”

“Not that long in a lifetime. Not in mine, anyway.” He rolls over and she’s left staring at his back.

“How long?” she persists. He mumbles something and she pokes him.

“70 years, give or take a year or so. Apparently I can’t love but I do have persistence.”

She’s stunned. Something’s different here, unless… “Did you get here on purpose or by mistake?”

“I didn’t open up a rift, if that’s what you think. I wouldn’t destroy two universes even for you, but I was looking for one. Came across a few over the years, but none of them led to the right universe. I wasn’t sure this one did until you stopped and talked to me.”

“So you hunted for me, off and on, for seventy years?” He nods. She takes him by his shoulder and rolls him back to face her. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?”

“Because I didn’t want you to be with me out of pity or guilt. That’s not you and I didn’t want to be with anyone else.”

“So why tell me now?”

“You persisted.”

“I’ve tried that in the past. It only works when you decide it will. Want to try again?”

He looks defeated and older even than his admitted years. “I don’t like you calling me a stone. I’m a lot of things, Rose Tyler, but no one’s ever accused me of that before. I may not direct my affections the way you want me to, or concentrate them in one area, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have them.”

“I hurt you.”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shrugs but makes no comment. The damage is done and she knows it. She lies there, looking at him for a long while and finally he tires of it and returns her gaze. “What?”

“I was just thinking that maybe you’re right after all.”

“About what?”

“I’ve imagined this day for years. Every time I walk in the park, or I sit alone in here… I used to stand on the balcony and imagine the TARDIS appearing in the park. That I’d run down and you’d pick me up and swing me around and ask if I’d go with you again. Up until a few years ago my answer was always yes, but then I started to think about what I would be letting myself in for. The danger, the constant risk I’d walk out of that TARDIS and never return and you’d not only be left on your own, but have to carry the guilt of taking me away from relative safety and watch me die. Even if it didn’t happen on some distant planet, eventually I’d have to give up travelling with you or relegate myself to some back room in the TARDIS, missing out on the adventure and wondering if the person who returned would be the one who left until I died of old age or whatever else came along.” He nods but doesn’t interrupt her. “And then I started to realise what you go through and how terrified you must be every time you take on a new companion, and how much you must need the company to take the risk in the first place. How lonely you must be every day, even when you’ve got someone by your side.” This time he doesn’t even nod, just closes his eyes in quiet acknowledgement. “And talking with you today has sort of crystallised all those thoughts.”

His eyes are still closed. “And what conclusions have you drawn?”

“That you deny yourself not to protect yourself but to protect us. You could be like Captain Jack and shag your way through the known universe but you’d leave a trail of broken hearts behind you, so you try to leave us all with something better. You try to set an example of how things could be, how people should treat each other, dealing with the bullies and protecting those who need it. You’re trying to give us an image of a better way of living that’ll last long after you’ve gone.”

“You make me sound far nobler than I am, I assure you.”

She narrows her eyes. “No, I don’t think I do. I think you’ve set standards for yourself that are so high no one could reach them, but you keep on trying. You hate yourself every time you fail but you try again. You’re brave and determined but it’s all front. You spend most of your life terrified, if not of the bullies then at least that someone’ll realise you’re scared and call you on it.”

Again he says nothing, but she knows she’s hit a raw nerve. He covers his face with his arm and she can tell he’s struggling inside.

“And this, right here and now… God, how could I have been so blind?!” She’s disgusted with herself as she realises how wrong she’s been about him. “Why didn’t you stop me?”

“I did try,” he offers, weakly.

“You’d have left, letting me think I was right if it meant I’d feel no more pain and let you go.” Frustration, pain at what he almost let her do and anger mix together, and then another realisation hits. “And you’ve let me do all this because you think you deserve it. You gave me everything you could before and even now, even though it hurts because you know so long as I’m angry with you I’ll be all right. Doesn’t matter it’s unfair, so long as it’s unfair to you.” She stares at him as the agony of what he’s allowed her to put him through rebounds and twists in her gut. She sees him anew. A thousand years of being used as everyone’s scratching post. So what if he’s occasionally sarcastic, angry or bitter or just seems plain mad, it’s amazing he’s still walking around and trying to do the right thing. Anyone else would have given up and gone off to be a hermit somewhere or topped themselves no matter how many attempts it took. And what does she do when he finds a way back to her after 70 years just on the off chance she might want to travel with him again? Does she welcome him and say yes? No, she enjoys the sex and then emotionally guts him.

“Oh God, I can’t believe I did that. I wouldn’t blame you for anything you did right now. I just… and I can’t even ask you to forgive me.” She sits up in the bed, her knees drawn up to her chest, staring at the enormity of her sudden insight, however tiny, into his life. She feels a touch on her thigh and looks down. He’s gently stroking her, not in a sexual way but a tender one.

“Rose, don’t do this to yourself. I’m not worth it, really I’m not, and I’m not the second coming either so you can chuck out whatever images you’ve got of me as some kind of avenging angel on a white charger and sacrificial scapegoat all rolled into one.” Still she stares at the far wall and he can see the tears on her cheeks. He shifts up in the bed and gently wipes them away. “I’ve done some pretty nasty things in my life and I’ll probably do some more. I think I’ve pretty much earned everything life’s thrown at me, one way or another, if not yet then I will in the future, and since my future can lie in everyone else’s past it balances out.” Her tears continue to fall, even though he can see she’s struggling to contain them for his sake, and he admires her courage. “Come on. I don’t have long left and I’d rather I didn’t go back knowing I left you like this. Allow me that selfishness, hmm?”

Something seems to click inside her and she jumps up and heads for the dresser, quickly emptying stuff into a bag.

“What’re you doing?”

“I’m going back to the TARDIS with you.”

“Rose…”

“No, hear me out. You can see if you can fix those knee joints of mine. If you can I’ll run with you until I become a liability. The minute that happens I’ll ask you to set me down on Earth and there’ll be no argument and no guilt on either side.”

“And what if it doesn’t come to that? What if something happens to you on a planet somewhere and I can’t save you? And what about your responsibilities here?”

“You said it yourself, they’ll learn to cope.”

“Your family?”

“Dad isn’t dad, Mickey’s been gone for years, mum died last year. There’s nothing to hold me here.”

“Jackie died? Why didn’t you tell me? I’m sorry, Rose. I know your mum and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but everything she ever did was because she loved you and I respected her for that. I really am sorry.”

“Don’t be. If she was still alive she’d never forgive you for the choice I’m making now and if anyone could cross a universe to slap you again it’d be my mum.”

“That’s true. Even so, I don’t want you to do this.”

She finished stuffing her bag and zips it up, looking around for anything else she wants to put inside.

“Rose…”

“You came here to ask me to come with you.”

“I came here because I missed you and I’m glad I did, but I don’t want you pitying me or running around like a mother hen.”

She stuffs a photograph in the bag. “Like I didn’t before?”

“At 20 it’s endearing if a little frustrating at times. I don’t want someone to watch over me, I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself.”

She gives him a look. “Friends watch out for each other too, you know.”

“But we’re not just friends. Haven’t been since the TARDIS fell down that pit and I thought I’d lost her.”

She stops her rushing around and drops the bag, climbing to kneel on the bed next to him. “It was all there before and you know it. That was just a catalyst.”

He shakes his head and swings his legs off the bed, reaching for his pants. “This was a mistake.”

“Oh no, you’re not turning this around now! What, now I’ve got it figured out it’s time for you to change the rules? Forget it.”

He pulls his trousers on, balancing them on his hips while he snags his shirt and puts that on, stuffing the tails into his pants and quickly doing them up. “I’m not changing the rules. You just made me realise what I was doing and it’s not right.” He hunts around for his socks and sits down to put them on. “I shouldn’t have come here.”

She watches him, hurt and confused and then, for a miracle, she laughs. He pauses and looks at her as she grabs a pair of grey sweatpants and a t-shirt and pulls them on over her nakedness.

“What’s so funny?”

“You, me, this whole situation. Sorry, you just carry on. I’m going to grab a cuppa.” She heads for the door. “You want one?”

“I should go.”

“Fine. You know your way out.” She walks away leaving a very confused Doctor staring at his laces. Somehow he’s lost control of the situation and he’s not sure when it happened. He finishes doing up his laces, snags his tie from the chair where it had fallen, checks around the room to make sure he’s left nothing behind and then follows her downstairs.

He expects to see her by the front door, waiting with one final plea but instead he can hear her singing in the kitchen. He grabs his coat off the hanger and hesitates. Intrigued, he puts his coat back and heads for the kitchen.

As he enters she looks up. “Kettle’s boiled. Want a cuppa before you go?”

He gives her a strange look and then sits down at the kitchen table. “Thanks.”

She puts the mug in front of him and sits on a stool by the bar. “So, where were you going next?”

“Why do you want to know? Afraid you’re going to miss something?”

“Nope, just wondered, that’s all. If it’s not somewhere I know then there’s probably no point in telling me. How long before you have to leave?”

“Again, why do you want to know?”

“I’m cooking lunch. You can have some if there’s time, otherwise I’ll only put on enough for myself.”

Now he’s thoroughly confused. “What’s happening here?” She raises an eyebrow but says nothing, burying herself in her tea. “Why did you laugh earlier?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I just… all right, whatever it is, you win, OK?”

She considers him for a moment, then slides off the stool and takes the chair opposite him at the table. “Have you ever noticed how things work out between us?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t want to do something, so you push. You don’t want to do something, so I push. The only time we work together is when we’re fighting a common enemy. You came here and admitted you were hoping to take me with you. I refused so you pushed. Then I changed my mind and suddenly you don’t want me, so I try and talk you round, but the more I try, the more you push me away. It’s a waste of time. We’ll never agree on anything!”

She takes another sip of her tea and he sits back, considering what she’s said and running the past couple of hours through his head. At last he chuckles.

“I see your point. So is this some kind of reverse psychology you’re trying now. Don’t show interest in the hopes I’ll change my mind?”

“If I was doing that it’d be pretty stupid of me to tell you, now wouldn’t it? I must admit I would be grateful if you could use some of that jiggery pokery of yours to fix a few aching joints, but if you think it’s dangerous to allow me back into the TARDIS for a few minutes then I’ll stay here.” She watches his face contort through some amazing expressions while he tries to figure out what’s going on and laughs again. “Oh, I wish I had a camera just then. You have the most expressive face I’ve ever seen.”

“I’ve got a lot to express. Right now I would have to admit you’ve achieved something even some of the most skilled interrogators in the universe haven’t managed. You’ve confused the hell out of me!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. I just realised that your approach to life might not be right for someone who lives as long as you do, but it isn’t bad in the short term. In fact, I kinda like it.”

“What do you mean it’s not right for me? What do you suggest I put in its place?” His voice is challenging.

“That’s up to you. I’m just happy to find something that works for me.”

“OK, this is some kind of game you’re playing now, isn’t it?”

“How long before you have to go?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not, but I am hungry. Do I cook for two or just one?”

“One. No two. No, wait a minute. What’s going on?”

She sighs. “Do. You. Want. To. Eat.?” She enunciates as though speaking to a small child.

“What is it?”

“If it’s two I’ve got shepherd’s pie or mousaka. If it’s one I’ve got some left over Chinese I can sling in the microwave.”

He stares at her for a moment and then gets up, pacing the room. “What’s going on here?”

She shakes her head and gets up. “Chinese it is, then.” She opens the fridge and quickly withdraws some takeaway containers.

“No, wait, hang on…”

With a sigh she leans on the counter as he paces the room, running his hands through his hair and messing it up even worse than it was from sex. After a minute of listening to him mumble to himself she shakes her head and starts to open the containers, getting a plate down from the shelf.

“Hang on.”

“Doctor, you may not be hungry but I am.” She dumps the contents on the plate and puts it in the microwave. The low hum of the turntable adds background to the Doctor’s pacing. She opens the fridge and reaches inside. “You want some beer with your pacing?” When he continues to mumble she pulls out a bottle, opens it, grabs a glass and pours as she walks back to the table. Her tea’s still sitting there but the beer is to go with her lunch. She allows the froth to settle as she watches with fascination the Doctor doing an amazing impersonation of something caught in a feedback loop.

When the microwave dings he’s still pacing and she moves past him to stir the contents before putting it back on for another minute. She leans on the enamel top while waiting and then takes the plate and puts it on the table, settling herself down to eat.

“Chopsticks?”

She looks up, a beansprout hanging from her lips. She sucks it in. “Yes?”

“When did you learn to use chopsticks?”

“When I was in China. The head of internal security taught me.”

“Relations between China and Britain are better here than they are back home, then?”

“I think it’d be fairer to say relations between China and Torchwood are better. We’ve done them a few favours in the alien artefacts department.” She takes another mouthful.

He sits down and stares at her. Without pausing she spears some beef and offers it to him. He takes it off the chopstick and chews thoughtfully.

“Nice.”

“Good restaurant.”

Silence reigns for a while as Rose works her way through her lunch, the Doctor watching her intensely. Once or twice she gives him a look but he just grins and settles his chin on his hand, still watching. With some noodles, sezchuan chicken, the larger peppers from the beef and mixed rice still on the plate she sits back.

“You finished?” he asks.

“Yep. Full.”

Without asking he grabs her plate and her chopsticks and polishes off the rest of it. She sips her beer in silence.

“Just what I needed.” He indicates her beer bottle that still has a mouthful in the bottom of it. She nods and he downs that, too. Finally, he sits back, steepling his fingers and watches her.

“You can do the washing up if you want,” she offers.

“No, ta.”

“Didn’t think so.” She takes the plate to the sink and puts the bottle in the recycling bin.

“Rose Tyler, you are amazing,” he says at last.

“Thanks.”

“No, I’m serious. You really are incredible.”

Now she frowns. “Why? What have I done?”

“I thought the Face of Bo could do enigmatic but you…!”

“I’m sure there’s something important just happened, but I think I missed it.”

“Your bag still upstairs?” She nods. “Grab it. And I’d put on some underwear and shoes while you’re about it. You’ll need them.”

“What for?”

“Don’t bother with anything else, though. We’ll stop off at one of the big shopping planets. You can grab whatever else you want there.”

“OK, now I’m sure I missed something.”

He jumps up. “Come on, no time to waste. Grab your stuff, send a message to Torchwood if you want. I’ll meet you at the TARDIS.”

Before she can open her mouth he’s dashed out the door, grabbed his coat and gone. Rose goes around the kitchen and turns everything off. Ascending the stairs she quickly puts on some more sturdy clothes and ties on a pair of trainers. She collects her bag, goes into the main room and dashes off emails to Torchwood and her father, asking him to take care of selling the apartment. She considers asking him to take care of the cat but it’s clear the little beast has other owners and will fend perfectly well for himself. A further email to Torchwood gives the breakdown the Doctor had done earlier of the alien artefacts.

She’s very aware time is passing but before she is ready to go she picks up a few books and stuffs them into her bag. She’s sure she can pick up others along the way but one of those has proved invaluable and she’s loathe to leave it behind in case the author does not exist in the other world.

She’s just zipping it up when a familiar roar fills the room and the TARDIS appears. The door opens and the Doctor steps out. “Are you coming or not?”

“Just about ready,” she assures him and takes one last look around. A picture on a bookshelf catches her eye and she picks it up. It was taken the Christmas when the Sycorax invaded Earth. It shows her and the Doctor, arms around each other and flanked by Mickey and Jackie. It was on her mobile when she was dragged into this world and it was all she had of him. The digital copy sits inside a ring that’s been on her engagement finger almost since the day he left and would only come off with a hacksaw now. She goes downstairs, picks up her coat and with that and her bag she walks into the TARDIS.

He’s standing at the main console, a huge grin on his face. “All set?”

“Think so.”

“Be sure, because we won’t be coming back.”

“You said that before.”

“And it took me 70 years to prove myself wrong. By that time…”

“I get it, thanks. I’ll pick up anything else I need along the way.” She pulls the door closed and he slams the lever down that starts the journey.

“Once we’re through the void I’ll see what I can do about fixing you up.”

“Right. My room still where it used to be?”

He lays his hand on the console and closes his eyes for a moment, then nods and smiles at her. “It is now.”

“Right. I’ll just dump this.”

As she exits the room he tosses over his shoulder, “Where do you want to go first?”

“Earth!” she yells back.

“What do you want to go there for?”

She comes back into the main room, hands on hips. “Because sooner or later I’m gonna end up going back there and I’d like to have somewhere to live and something to live on. If I set it up now, by the time I get back everything will be ready. You see these days *I* think ahead.”

“And what were you planning on starting this all with? Your accounts in the other world aren’t much use to you in this one.”

“I figured the least you could do is help me out there.”

“Less than ten minutes on board and already you’ve got your hand in my pocket!” She raises an eyebrow and he grins. “Of course. I probably owe you a fortune for two years of travelling with me when I didn’t pay you.”

She nods and walks out. “And don’t forget the danger money!”

He shakes his head and returns to his observation of the console screen. After a few minutes he looks over his shoulder and, satisfied the coast is clear, he strokes the console. “It worked, old girl. I got her back.” The TARDIS rumbles happily.

In her room, Rose pauses to take in her surrounds. She certainly has changed in the last twenty years and some of her previous taste choices make her wince. She lists what needs to change out loud, knowing the TARDIS will oblige her while she’s outside. She goes into the bathroom and takes out her toiletries only to find, on her return, that the bookcases and colour scheme have already been effected. She calls her thanks to the TARDIS and unloads her bag, stuffing clothes into the drawers and all but one book on the bookcase. That one she taps against her chin as she considers where it might be put for safety. The TARDIS reveals a sliding panel in the wall that hides a secret compartment. Rose grins and promptly puts the book inside. The panel slides back and she pats the wall affectionately. “It took a while, my friend, but I worked it out in the end. We’ll look after him between us, you and I, for a little while at least.” The TARDIS hums a satisfied note and Rose grins. “And don’t you DARE tell him I got my Ph.D. in psychology!” Another rumble, this time of compliance. He might be a Time Lord but he’s not going to outwit two smart women. The next few years should be very interesting, Rose decides.