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The Fob-Watched Detective

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What shook Rose Tyler’s world was not the Doctor sauntering back into her life, extending a hand to whisk her away back into a life of adventure.  It was not her, fixing the Dimension Cannon and launching herself across the universe.  That was what she had expected.  She’d expected a romantic reunion, with kissing and hugging and perhaps a bit of crying.  She’d always been a bit of a fan of the dramatic, more than she was willing to admit, really.  

The point was that it wasn’t any of those things that she dreamt of at night and thought about at work.  It was the TARDIS, literally crashing into the Tyler Mansion backyard.

“What the hell?” Jackie Tyler burst into Rose’s bedroom in the mansion and stared at her daughter, hands on her hips. “Did you have something to do with this?”

“What?” Rose blinked.  She looked up from what she had been working on and furrowed her brows at her mother.  “I heard a crash, but that’s all, I thought the gardeners just had a little incident outside or something.”

“No, it’s the bleedin’ TARDIS!” Jackie said. “Crash landed in my garden, thank you very much!”

Rose was out of her room like a shot, brushing past her mum and tearing down to the back garden.  She nearly knocked her two year old brother down the stairs, but threw a “Sorry Tony!” Over her shoulder as Jackie snatched him up and scowled at her daughter.

She burst into the back garden, panting.  The TARDIS was sitting there, humming quietly, dirt pressed up where the ship had crashed.  She had certainly crashed, and the smoke coming up from the back of the little blue box made that perfectly obvious.  She fumbled for her key around her neck and jammed it into the lock,.  The hum of the ship in her mind got a little happier, a little lighter, and Rose smiled as she threw the doors open.

“Doctor?”
“Oi!” A redheaded woman sat over the Doctor’s limp body.  He was laying on the grating. Rose clenched her fitsts.

“What did you do?” Rose asked lowly. “You’d better not have hurt him.”

“Of course I didn’t,” the woman said, rolling her eyes. “Who are you?”
“Agent Rose Tyler,” Rose said, wishing she had her Torchwood badge to show this woman who was sat with her Doctor.  

The woman blanched. “Rose Tyler?”

“Yeah, why?  By the way, you’re absolutely not in the right universe.”

The woman wrinkled her nose. “The Doctor said that the TARDIS was going to put us exactly where we needed to be.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Rose demanded.

“He just rewrote his flippin’ biology,” the redhead said, waving her hand at the Doctor.

Rose suddenly felt anger flare in her. “Who even are you? What are you doing here? Why did the Doctor rewrite his biology?”

“You don’t need to get so smart with me, sunshine,” The woman pointed a finger at Rose.  “I’m Donna Noble, I’m traveling with this useless lump at the moment, and the reason that he had to rewrite his biology has to do with these aliens that are chasing him.”

Rose felt her face go a bit white. “Someone’s after the Doctor?”

“Yeah, this Family apparently, family of aliens, mind you, is apparently tracking him down to eat him or something,cause he’ll make them live longer. I don’t know, it didn’t make a lot of sense when he explained it,” Donna frowned down at the Doctor. “But he did put his Time Lord self in this watch," Donna held up an old looking fob watch and then pocketed it for safekeeping. "Said that the TARDIS would give him new ID and everything, so we know who he is.”

Rose approached the Doctor carefully and got down on her knees next to him.  She opened up his jacket and reached inside one of his inside pockets, knowing the ID would probably be where ke usually kept the psychic paper.  She pulled out a tattered wallet that she knew didn’t belong to the Doctor and flipped it open.

“‘DI Alec Hardy’,” She read, and glanced down fondly at the Doctor.  “You would want to be a detective, wouldn’t you?”

“You’re Rose Tyler,” Donna said, as though realizing it for the first time.

Rose blushed a little and nodded. “Yeah.”

“He never shuts up about you,” Donna said softly, smiling a little. “Properly besotted with you, he is.”

Rose shook her head. “Oh, no, I don’t know about that.  He never was.”  She brushed back his hair from his forehead.  “Look, though, we should probably get him into the clothes up there,” she jerked her chin towards the jumpseat.  

“Oh, no, I won’t be doing that.”  Donna said. “Fork over that wallet, we’ll find out where this poor sod is going to live.”

Rose pulled down the grey suit from the jump seat, but couldn’t stop herself from leaning down and pressing her ear to his chest, listening to his single heart beat.  She let her eyes flutter shut and just listened for a couple moments.

“One of his hearts has stopped,” Rose whispered.

“Yeah,” Donna replied.  “It’s just that, he made himself human and all, so one of his hearts is… Gone, I guess?   I’m not sure how it works, really.  Whole biology being rewritten, I guess that means DNA and stuff as well.”

“So he won’t remember me,” Rose said as she rose up to start changing his clothes.  She’d done it before, that one Christmas so long ago.  

“Probably not,” Donna said, “He told me that the TARDIS would place me as something in his subconscious so that I wouldn’t get left behind, so to speak, and I suppose she might do that for you?”
“Would you?” Rose tilted her head up and asked the TARDIS. The ship hummed, but Rose couldn’t quite discern what it meant.  

She blew out a sigh and started to change his clothes, getting him out of the pinstripes that she so loved and into the drab grey suit.  She stared down at him in a little bit of wonder and blew out a sigh.  This was so unbelievably unfair. She finally got back to him, or rather, he finally got back to her, and now he wasn’t even going to remember her.  That was so colossally unfair, and so quintessentially Doctor that it just wasn’t fair.

“Do you know this address?” Donna said, finally breaking Rose’s conversation from where she was, tying his dress shoes on his feet in place of his chucks.  

Rose took the wallet and peered down at it. She blinked.  “It’s a little house down the road.  They’ve been trying to rent it out for ages.”

“Can we leave the TARDIS here?” Donna asked. “And take him there?”
“Yeah, we can drive him,” Rose said, “I have a car round front we can take. “

“He’s gonna be so pleased,” Donna blurted out.

Rose gave her a confused look. “What?”

“He’s gonna lose his mind when he sees that it was you, all this time, that you’re here,” Donna smiled at her.  “It’s really gonna be brilliant.”

“He really talked about me that much?” Rose asked shyly.

“God, all the bloody time. Don’t know how I didn't’ know it was you the second you walked in the door, the way he goes on.  ‘Rose’ this, ‘Rose’ that, ‘Donna, did you know that Rose was brilliant?’ ” She rolled her eyes.  “The usual, with him.”

She smiled down at the sleeping Doctor.  Well, she supposed she was going to get used to calling him DI Hardy, now.  She leaned down and pulled him up by the shoulder.  Donna caught on and grabbed the other one.  The two of them pulled at him until they each got a shoulder under his armpits.  As though the TARDIS was just now remembering something, she hummed loudly in Rose’s head and threw down two suitcases from the ceiling.  Rose squeaked and jumped back, almost making the Doctor and Donna topple down as well.

“Oh, right, guess he’ll need more than one set of clothes,” Donna said.

It took a bit of doing, and Rose had to eventually call Jackie, who wasn’t exactly pleased with the whole ordeal, but then she saw the Doctor’s unconscious body.

“God, what happened to him?” she asked, her eyes widening. “It’s like Christmas all over again!  Who’s this?”
“I’ll explain it all later,” Rose said, “I won’t be home till tonight though, I want to be with him when he wakes up.”

‘What, you think he’s gonna imprint on you like a duckling?  Probably already done that, sweetheart.”

“Mum,” Rose said, exasperated, “Just help us get these bags to the car, please.”

“What, you movin in with him now?”
MUM.”
Finally though, Jackie was done making smart comments and decided to help, picking up the bags and coming behind Donna and Rose.

Once the Doctor was completely settled in the backseat, Rose kissed her mum on the cheek and bid her goodbye. “See you later!  Promise,” Rose said, and got in the car on the driver’s side.  Donna smiled a little at Jackie, trying to be friendly, before throwing herself in the passenger seat.

Since the two of them didn’t know exactly how much time they had until the Doctor woke up, they set about to unpacking and getting the house set up.  Somehow, the TARDIS had put in the notion that this Alec Hardy man was supposed to be here, as when Rose checked in the flower pot, there was a key, and on the inside, there was a note to a “Mr. Alec Hardy” welcoming him to his new home.

“That ship is something else,” Donna said, awe in her voice.  

Together, Rose and Donna watched over the Doctor, where they had laid him on the couch.  Rose sat on the floor, holding his hand, once all his clothes were hung up or folded in the drawers, his shoes set by the door, double checking to make sure his cabinets were stocked with groceries.  Donna shook her head and laughed a little. She was completely in awe. Rose just smiled. She’d seen the TARDIS do stuff like this all the time.  It was brilliant really, that his ship was so fantastical.

Rose stayed where she was, and reached out and cupped his cheek in her free hand. She brushed her thumb over his cheek and watched him carefully.  She only drew her hand away when he started to stir under her touch.  She put that hand in her lap, but kept the other hand in his.

“Donna, he’s waking up!” She called over her shoulder.

Donna hurried in from the kitchen from where she’d been making tea, and squatted down beside Rose.

The Doctor’s eyes fluttered open and he stared at them for a moment. “What happened?”
“You tell us,” Rose said softly. “Do you remember us?”

The Doctor, no, Alec, Rose reminded herself, looked at Donna. “You’re my cousin Donna,” he said blandly.  He looked to Rose. “You’re holding my hand.”

“Should I not be?” Rose released it.

He looked down at his empty hand. “Have we met?” He asked her.

“I suppose not,” she said sadly. His voice sounded more Scottish, like it had that one day they were actually in Scotland.  It was quite sexy, though she didn’t think she’d ever admit it to the Doctor later on, no matter what.

Donna, luckily, jumped up and shoved Rose’s sadness aside to cover everything up.  “You met Rose the other night. Do you remember your name?”

“Alec Hardy,” his eyes fluttered closed again.  “And I’m terribly sorry, Rose, but I don’t remember you.  I’ve definitely seen you, but if you’ll pardon me, I’m not exactly a functioning person.”

“Very good,” Donna said.  “Wait, what do you mean by that?”

“My heart, dearest cousin,” Alec snapped, “I probably had an episode, didn’t I? And on the day before my new job too?”

“Um… yeah, you had an episode,” Donna said, “Rose here found you.”
“Suppose it would be the polite thing to thank you,” Alec/ the Doctor said, opening his eyes a little and looking at Rose.  He looked up at Donna and then rolled his eyes. “Oh, God, don’t you start.”

“Start what?” Donna asked.

“Worrying about me, or something like that,” Alec closed his eyes again. “I’m going to go back to sleep.”

“You’re welcome to stay for dinner, Rose,” Donna said, “If my idiot cousin can get a hold of himself.”

“Yes, Donna, go on and invite people I don’t know to stay for dinner in my house, Donna,” Alec said, his eyes still closed.

Rose felt her heart break with every rude word he said. “I should… I should go home,” Rose choked out.

Donna felt a wave of sympathy for the woman. “No, you’re staying, and that’s an order, and Alec, it wouldn’t kill you to make a friend.”

“It might,” Alec rumbled from the couch.

Donna wrapped her arm around Rose’s shoulders and led her to the kitchen.  “Never mind him.  You and I will just have to be the best of friends without him for a bit.” She bent down and whispered in her ear.  “He’ll come around.”

Chapter Text

 

Rose and Donna set about making dinner with the food in the cabinets that Rose was fairly certain the TARDIS had provided.  Rose was quiet for a bit, not sure what to say to fix anything that had happened. Her mind felt very lost in it all, like she couldn’t come to grips with it. This was the Doctor, but it wasn’t.  It was, because it had to be, because he was the Doctor no matter what, but he was also wrapped up in someone else’s persona. He wasn’t truly the Doctor.   

Alec Hardy was cold and injured and seemed to be more than a bit guarded.  The Doctor was warm and inviting and had a smile to outshine the sun.  She loved that about him, and she was going to miss that smile even more now that she was looking at that face without it.  It was nearly painful, and she wasn’t quite sure how she was going to survive it.

The idea, the main idea, was that she was going to befriend him.  If she couldn’t live with him, couldn’t stay in the same house, than she was still going to make sure that the two of them were friends. Maybe they wouldn’t have the same camaraderie that they had before, but she could always hope. And then maybe, when the Family was gone and he was safe, they would be alright, and he would be proud of her for keeping such a stubborn version of him in check.  She wanted to be close to him, no matter what that looked like.  It wouldn’t be romantic, she knew that.

She was lost in these thoughts for several minutes, standing in silence, but Donna eventually drew her out.

“It’s going to be alright,” Donna said, though she didn’t sound like she was too sure of it.  “I think this is just… Just a new personality that we have to get used to.... A detective who apparently has a heart condition and is very rude.” She frowned. “But he loves you, Rose, and he has to remember that.  He has to.”

Rose shook her head. “But he probably won’t,” she whispered. “I mean, how could he?  After all this.”

“You’re overreacting,” Donna scolded.  “You haven’t even given him a shot yet.”

Rose just really wanted to change the subject now, so she shook her head and forced a smile on. She looked pointedly at Donna.  “Where will you stay?  The TARDIS, it’s… She must be shutting down or something, so that the Doctor can’t find her at all.”

Donna nodded, taking the hint that Rose was done talking about the Doctor.  “Yes,” she said, “The Doctor did mention something about that.”

“You could stay with us, we have several guest rooms,” Rose offered carefully, “You know, in my parent’s house.”

Donna smiled. “I’d appreciate that,” she said softly. “Dunno who’s gonna look out for him, though.”

Rose crossed her arms over her chest, feeling a little bit empty inside. “I guess you,” she said, lifting a shoulder.  “He doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

“Oh, stop that with your little pity party,” Donna said, only half teasing. “He’s only just met you in his mind.  You have to… I don’t know.  Just get him to remember you a bit.  Why don’t you go check on him while this cooks.”

“Okay,” she said, and turned to walk back out of the kitchen. Hardy had sat up on the couch, elbows on his knees.  Rose sat on the armchair adjacent to him and smiled tightly.

“How are you feeling?” she asked him.

He looked up at her, a little surprised, as though he hadn’t been expecting her to speak to him.  “Fine,” he said, “I can’t seem to remember having an episode, though.”

“It’s your heart, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Worry instantly coursed through Rose.  If Alec’s heart was weak, she hoped he didn’t have the tendency to put himself in danger like the Doctor, or else he wouldn’t last very long, and from what Donna said, he needed to last.

“And you start a new job tomorrow?”

“Aye,” he regarded her carefully, “You like to ask questions, don’t you?”  he arched an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re not the detective?”

Rose smiled. “Yeah, pretty certain.  Um.  It’s nice to meet you though. You seem like a nice person.”

“You haven’t known me very long, then.”

“I’d like to get to know you,” She said, scuffing her toe on the ground. “Your cousin, she’s brilliant, you must be… You know, family traits.”

“I’m afraid Donna got all the likability our family had to offer,” Alec said, and Rose wondered where on Earth the TARDIS had conjured up this whole idea of the brusque Detective.  Rose watched Alec carefully for a minute.

“Doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”

“You’re persistent.”

“Mm.”
“Your name was Rose?”

“Rose Tyler,” Rose said, and extended her hand out to him.  He shook her hand, and a spark lit through her at the feeling of his hand in hers.

“DI Alec Hardy.”

“Got that, yeah.”
He winced.  “Yeah.”  He leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes. “Do you know… Where my heart meds are?”

Rose panicked, sent a mental message to the TARDIS.  “Um-”

Luckily, the TARDIS sent a hurried message that told her it was upstairs on a bedside table.  The time ship had really thought all of this out, and Rose wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or concerned.  
“Yeah, I do,” Rose said, and Rose ran up the stairs to where the TARDIS directed her from her backyard.  She snatched up the packet of pills and rushed back downstairs.  She knelt down by Alec and handed him the packet.  “These, right?”

“Did Donna tell you where to find this?” Alec asked, holding them up before taking out a pill and swallowing it dry.

“You can’t- Do you need some water?”
“No,” Alec leaned back again. “I’m sorry, but I’m not feeling my best, it’s not my best time for a guest,” he said, his voice a bit snarky.

She frowned, “You say that like I would be mad at you for being sick.”
“You might be. I don’t know you.”

She breathed a sigh through her nose. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re rude?” She blurted out.

“Occasionally.”  He peered at her curiously, “Are you still going to stay for dinner?”

“Well, yes, I am, now I’m just going to do it to spite you.”

He smiled a little. “I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone as stubborn as you.”

“You haven’t known me very long,” she said, trying not to sound too sad.

Even for the Doctor, this was weird. Here she was, with his new companion, who said he spoke about her often, sitting with a man who was the Doctor but also wasn’t the Doctor.  She watched him carefully, waiting for him to respond.

“I’m very good at reading people,” he said, averting his eyes.  She sensed that he was done talking.

“I guess I’ll just… I’ll be back, Alec,” she said, testing the name out on her tongue as she stood up to go talk to Donna.

“Don’t call me Alec.”

“What?” Rose asked, “But, um, that’s your… Name, isn’t it?”

He made a noise in the back of his throat and his lip curled. “I hate it.”

“Um… Mr. Hardy, then?  Detective Hardy?”  She asked, feeling a bit more uncomfortable now that he definitely wasn’t taking a shine to her.  This was not the reunion that she had imagined from him, and she knew she was a fool to expect anything else, really, but she couldn’t help it.

“God, no.”  He breathed heavily, like his heart was still bothering him. “Just ‘Hardy’.  That’s all.”

She bit her lip.  “Oh,” She said, “Right.”

“Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“No,” She shook her head.

He nodded and let his eyes flutter closed.  “Good, because I wouldn’t know how to fix it up if I did.”

He was impossible. Rose nodded and went back into Donna, who was fixing up the rest of their dinner.  She looked over her shoulder.  “Any luck?”

Rose shook her head.

Dinner was uneventful, if not completely awkward.  Alec didn’t really speak, mostly just grunted as he ate.  He had good table manners, he wasn’t a complete slob, but he was so clearly not the Doctor that Rose’s heart broke a little every single time that she looked at him.  She chewed her lip for a moment, staring down at her plate.

“Having trouble eating, Miss Tyler?” Alec asked.

“Not at all,” Rose replied, lifting her eyes. “I just have a lot of business to attend to,” she said, picking up her fork.

“Well, it would be rude of me to not check on you,” he said, shifting in his chair and sending Donna a glare.

Since Donna was going back home with Rose, once the washing up was done, they said their goodbyes.  

“I… Maybe you could come round to mine, for dinner sometime,” Rose said, trying to sound cheerful.  Even if things didn’t go right, if this version of the Doctor wasn’t dreadfully fond of her, she wanted to keep an eye on him, and so she would do exactly that.  

He looked surprised. “Um.  I’m usually very busy with work.”

“Why don’t you just tell Rose that she’s welcome to come over here any time?” Donna asked impatiently, “I’m pretty sure you don’t pay your own rent yet, after all.”

Alec pursed his lips and glared at her. “Miss Tyler, should you choose to come visit me at my quaint little house, you can.”

“You need to get a mobile,” Donna said, “And we’ll set you up with that later.”  She seemed to be very distressed, like there were many things that she forgot to do about all of this.  She should’ve thought to get him a mobile before.

He grumbled in response. “Don’t need one.”

“You’re a detective.  You need one.”

Rose cleared her throat and stuck her hand out. “It was nice to meet you, Hardy,” she said.  He reached out and shook her hand, and she had to clench her fist at her side to keep herself from throwing herself at him and hugging him until he couldn’t breathe.  Instead she settled for a firm handshake and a tight smile.

“I’ll meet you outside,” Donna told her.  Rose nodded and was about to exit when Alec finally spoke.

“It was very nice to meet you,” He said politely.  Rose smiled and nodded before leaving.  Donna thumped him on the chest the second she was out of earshot.  The whole thing might be a bit mad, but she was still going to try and set up the Doctor and Rose together if it killed her.  The Doctor would just have to forgive her later when they opened up the watch.  

He jumped back, putting his hand on his chest. “What?” He snapped.

“She likes you,” Donna said firmly, crossing her arms over her chest.

“She did not,” Alec snapped back.  “Does not, I am- Look, I’m starting a new job, and I do not have time for all this.  I really don’t.  And I just met her, for God’s sake.”

Donna frowned. “A woman likes you and you’re going to question it?”

“What choice do I have?”

“You could… You could take her on a date, or something.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “I don’t think so, Donna,” he said.

“Will you give her a chance?” Donna pleaded, knowing it was important to Rose, knowing that this needed to happen, that the Doctor and Rose belonged together. Donna was also fairly certain that no other woman would poke Alec Hardy with a ten foot pole, with as aloof and rude as he was, but Alec didn’t know that yet.  She waited for him to give an answer, almost pleading with him in her mind.

“I’ll continue to be civil to her.” He finally responded.

“So you’ll be nice to her?”

“If I have to be, yes.”

“And you’ll make friends?”
“God, what am I, thirteen?  I’ll make friends with her if that’s what you bloody well want, alright?  Have a nice night, dear cousin.”

She scowled at him. “You too,” she said.  She left and wrapped her arm around Rose’s shoulders, pulling her towards Rose’s car.

“Now, I think we should have a movie night, get to know each other, don’t you?”
At Donna’s attitude, Rose giggled a little, already feeling a bit lighter. Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad after all.

Chapter Text

Rose felt like everything was speeding past her.  After she and Donna explained everything to a disbelieving Jackie,Jackie had insisted they call Mickey, who believed instantly, which annoyed Jackie endlessly.

“Babe, he was always gonna come for you,” Mickey said to Rose through the tiny receiver, “Just because it’s not quite him doesn’t mean that this isn’t it.”

Rose felt reassured after talking to Mickey, who also said he would help keep an eye on the Doctor.  Shortly thereafter, they set Donna up with a guest room. Before Rose knew it, she was showered and in her jim jams, laying flat on her back in bed, staring up at the ceiling.  She hated to wallow in pity, for herself or others, but she couldn’t help it.,

She felt bad for herself because she couldn’t have a relationship with the Doctor, couldn’t even talk to him, and she felt bad for the Doctor because he wasn’t himself and he had a weak heart and if he was aware of all this he would’ve been really upset.  She frowned to herself.  He would hate this, hate that a version of himself was being a little bit brash with her.

She still loved him, and wanted to tell him, but how could she now?  Now that he had no idea who she was, now that he was completely indifferent towards her.  She breathed out a long sigh and closed her eyes, trying to fall asleep but not really managing.  Her mind was positively racing.  This was what she had wanted for so long, to have the Doctor with her, and she hadn’t even been able to give him a hug.  That was all she wanted.  Well, of course she wanted more, but what she really wanted was to hug him, to breathe in the scent of sweetness and time from the fabric of his coat.  But no.  She couldn’t even feel two heartbeats, she’d only been able to feel one.  Because his other heart was dormant.

And this whole situation just made her heart ache. This Family, the aliens chasing him, how would they find him if the TARDIS had been dropped in the parallel world?  How did that work?  How did the TARDIS even get here?

Her mind ran and ran with her until she finally fell asleep.

***********

Since there had barely been enough groceries after their dinner about two nights ago, Rose decided to pick up some groceries for Alec and take them over to his house. She voiced this to Donna, who smiled and nodded.

“He can’t be too deep into work yet,” Donna said, “Sure he could use a visit.”

Rose wrinkled her nose. “I don’t think he’s gonna like it,” She said, “He doesn’t seem to like seeing me.”

“He will soon enough,” Donna shrugged, “He’s still the Doctor.”

So Rose went shopping, trying to get heart healthy food.  Being the Vitex heiress, she was rich enough to obtain organic food, things that would be good for him.  She had a load of bags when she finally left, and she decided to leave them in the backseat so that when she got to his door she could get him to help her.  

She knocked on the door and was surprised when he answered it fairly quickly.  His tie was loose, hair flat on his head, suit jacket ott, and he had two-day stubble, which she had never seen on him before.  She looked at him, shocked for a moment, and then cleared her throat.

“I brought you some groceries.”

He looked surprised. “What?”

“I brought you some groceries,” she repeated, slower. “They’re in my car, let’s go get them.”

“I didn’t ask you to do that,” he said simply, looking over her shoulder at her car.

She rocked back on her heels.  “No, you didn’t, but it’s the nice thing to do.  You don’t have a lot of food, and no offense, but you seem like the kind of guy who would forget to eat.”

He winced. “That’s hardly the point.”

“It’s exactly the point. Come on.”  She turned around and started walking back to her car.  “What?” She asked when he stared blankly after her.  “Would you rather I just have a peek in your cupboards and see what you have left?”

He scowled at her, and she had a feeling that was just his natural resting face.  Nevertheless, she waited until he shut the front door and followed her down to her car, ambling, not walking with purpose like the Doctor did.  Just another difference that she would have to file away for later.

“This won’t hurt your heart, will it?” Rose asked, opening up the back of her car.  

He shook his head.  “No, of course not. I’m not made of glass, Miss Tyler.”

“I suppose not,” Rose said.  “So you can help me carry these.”

He didn’t grumble or complain, but he was definitely stewing, like he didn’t actually want to help her, which was fine, because Rose was going to make sure that he was healthy no matter what.  

She chatted with him (with no response) as she carried her half of the bags into the kitchen.

“Did you buy all of Tesco’s?” he snapped at her.

She grinned. “No,” she said happily.  “Of course not.  Why would I do that?”
“Because-” he floundered for a moment. “Look, I don’t need this much food, I’m just one man.”

“I don’t want you to run out,” she said softly. “I- I knew a man once, who was very distracted, and I just don’t want you to not eat.”

“What happened to him?” Alec asked, crossing his arms over his chest after setting down his bags.

“I don’t know.” She confessed with a watery smile.

“I could look for him, find him, if you want,” Alec said, though it sounded like he might not want to, or he was reluctant to do so for some reason.

She shook her head. “No, that’s alright.  No.  It was… A long time ago,” she smiled tightly and started unloading groceries.

“Well, I can,” he said, “I looked you up.”

“You what?” Rose said.  “You what?”

“Vitex heiress Rose Marion Tyler, appeared out of nowhere in late 2006.  Long lost daughter of Pete and Jackie Tyler, who embraced her wholeheartedly,” he said, reciting it from memory.  “Though Jackie Tyler was thought to be dead. You work for Torchwood and you were working on a top secret project.  Are you still?”
She swallowed, thinking about the dimension cannon.  She supposed that she wouldn’t need it anymore.  “No,” she said decisively, “I’m.. Finished with it.”

He looked at her curiously, “You’ve had a boyfriend since you’ve been rediscovered, but it didn’t last very long.”
“Okay, you can stop now,” She said tersely.

“Am I bothering you?”
“You snooped through my life,” Rose snapped, going back to the groceries so she wouldn’t do something stupid, like slap him.  “I- It’s none of your business, even if you are a detective.”

“Well, you’ll be pleased to know that you checked out. Entirely clean.  No criminal record at all. The Vitex Heiress is squeaky clean.”

“Are you trying to drive me out of your house?” Rose asked.  “Because it’s not going to work.  I’m determined to help your sorry arse.”

He blinked, looking a little surprised, as if, in the memories the TARDIS had created for him, no one had ever stood up to him before. “Right,” he sniffed, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I suppose not.”

“What do you suppose not?”

“I suppose that I can’t drive you out of my house.”

She looked at him carefully. “You want to help me put away these groceries or are you just going to stand there?”

It seemed as though he hadn’t even thought about that, like he hadn’t been taught to help women out, or maybe he had and it was something that he had just forgotten. That was fine, Rose supposed, even understandable on some level. She chewed her bottom lip, trying to keep from saying anything else as the two of them put groceries away in silence.

Once everything was put away, Rose stood with her hands on her hips, peering around the kitchen.

“You shouldn’t have bought me quite so much,” Alec said, that Scottish brogue grabbing her again, nearly taking her breath away. She wasn’t sure why she was so strongly drawn to it. Maybe it just reminded her of happy times.  Or perhaps it was just terribly sexy altogether. That would also be fair, she decided.

She sniffed. “I wanted to,” she said, “I meant it… When Donna and I were here. I want to be your friend. You don’t have any.”

“I have Donna.”
“She’s… Family, that doesn’t count.”

“So you think you need to look out for me?”
“If you’re not going to, someone has to.”

“I’ve been on my own for a long while,” he said sternly, “A good, long while. And I don’t need you to come in and buy me food and tell me how to do things. I’m very clever.”

She smiled. “I know you’re clever,” She said, “Most detectives are.  But the cleverest thing you can do is let someone help you when you need it. These cupboards were empty, D- Hardy,” she said, rubbing the back of her neck.  “And, um, I want to help. You, that is, I want to help you.”
Fine,” he gritted out, “You pose an interesting argument, Miss Tyler, but I am not some helpless child that you need to babysit.  And I won’t allow you to treat me that way.”

“So invite me.”

“What?”

“Go on, invite me to dinner.”

He blinked. “Wha-”

“It’s the polite thing to do, Hardy.  I’m just teaching you how to be a decent human being,” She said to him, only really half teasing.  

He smiled a little, but it looked like it was going to crack his face, like he hadn’t smiled before.  “Well then, Miss Tyler, would you like to stay for dinner?”

“I’d love to. You can call me Rose, though.  Shall we invite Donna?”
“She’ll just tell me everything I’m doing wrong,” Alec said, frown firmly back on his face.  “Then again, so will you.  So no, I don’t think I could deal with the both of you in the same room,” he said, rubbing his fingers over his forehead.

“Well, then, I think it’s just you and me tonight. We’ll invite her next time,” She said.

It was a bit less awkward this time.  Rose showed Alec how to cook from the cookbook she had brought with the groceries. He didn’t seem willing to admit that he didn’t know how (Just like the Doctor) and he was a fast learner.  She could tell that he was enjoying himself and then perhaps just didn’t want to admit it. He cracked a smile a couple times, but that was as much as she got out of him.

“So, how’s your new job?” Rose asked.

“The police department here is rubbish,” Alec said, chopping celery for Rose. “It’s ridiculous, really.  Incompetent.”

She winced. “I don’t know about that, but perhaps you should give them a chance?” She suggested, “Make some workplace friends.”

“I don’t want workplace friends.”

“Well, you should probably have some,” Rose said, “You can’t live your life just talking to Donna,” she said, glancing at him, a worried expression on her face.

He glanced back at her.  “Um.  No, I- Well, I’d talk to you too,” he said, looking back down to his chopping.

She nudged her shoulder with his.  “Maybe you’re just a big softie.”

“No, it’s not that.”

He was awkward to talk to, that was for sure, but Rose wasn’t too worried about it.  He was nice, in an odd sort of way, and she liked being around him. But she was pretty certain that she only liked being around him because he was the Doctor, technically.  It was all getting very jumbled in her mind, and this felt too much like a night in with a boyfriend, and her heart was racing and she had to wonder why nothing in her life could ever be fair.

“You’re lost in thought,” he said to her, sometime before they sat down to eat.  

“I’m not,” She said, “I’m right here.”

“I’m a detective,” he told her, tapping the side of his nose.  “I can read people better than you could ever imagine.”

Yes, she had to admit, meeting his eyes.  She had to admit that he probably could.

Chapter Text

Despite her discomfort with the fact that Alec had looked into her personal records and was probably suspicious of her now, dinner was a slightly better affair. She thought that perhaps Alec had cracked a joke or two, but he didn't’ smile when he said them so Rose was never sure if she should laugh or not.

He didn’t invite her to stay after dinner, but she offered to help clean up because she had a feeling if she didn’t he wouldn’t clean up.

“Why are you so worried about me?” he asked her finally as she started washing the dishes and gave him a towel to dry them with.

“You can’t look that up in your files about me?” Rose asked, not looking at him as she said it.

He didn’t show any sign of remorse, instead let out a little grunt.  “I do what I need to do, Miss Tyler.”

“Rose.”

“Rose.  I just want to know what, exactly, it is about me that has you so completely concerned.”

Rose didn’t know how to answer that without giving herself away, without telling him exactly who she was and exactly who he was.  “Um,” she started, knowing that it wasn’t a particularly strong start. “I think with you… It’s just… I know bachelors don’t often take care of themselves, they get too busy.”

“And the same isn’t true of bachelorettes?” he asked in reply.

She shook her head. “No, because women are brought up to keep house, or at least they were when I was in school,” she said, “Not that- Nevermind.  But men were sort of brought up to… You know, be head of the household or whatever.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Alec said thoughtfully, “But what makes you think I don’t know how to keep house?”

“Because you don’t,” she replied, looking over at him before passing a dish his way.  “You’re not even a week into your job and you’re already exhausted. That doesn’t bode well for mundane things like cleaning the bathroom, or stuff like that.”  She lifted a shoulder. “I just want to look out for you.”

“There’s something besides that,” Alec said, “You’re not telling me everything.”

“I don’t need to.”

“I’d like full disclosure from someone who is currently in my home, I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” Alec’s voice was getting a little sharper.  Maybe he didn’t trust her, and maybe that was just because he was used to not trusting people.  Either way, she was a bit annoyed,to admit. This was the Doctor, which was the only reason that she moved forwards with even trying to be nice to him.  It was clear that he was very happy not having friends, and that was probably because he didn’t have any.

“Like Donna said, Hardy,” she said softly, “It wouldn’t kill you to have a friend.”

“So you want to be my friend?”

“I’d like to be.”

“You’re an heiress, what do you need with more friends?”

Rose glared at him. “How dare you,” she said, her tone harder but still soft.  “How dare you assume that any of this has to do with a title that I never asked for.”

He blinked. “I’m not assuming anything, but seeing as I got a reaction out of you, it sure it something.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.  “You have no social skills, has anyone ever told you that?” She demanded. “Like, none at all. You’re very rude.”

“I’m aware,” he said, “But you know that I”m not in the business of making friends.”

She was fed up, for the night at least. She set the dish she had been cleaning down and headed for the living room.

“Where are you going?”

“Home,” She said, “Since you clearly don’t want me here.”

“Oi, I never even invited you over, you just turned up!” Alec said, pointing at her.  “You just burst into my house, who does that? I don’t have to be nice to you.”

“Good, because you weren’t,” Rose said, picking up her keys.  “I’m sure you can find me if you decide that you ever do want a friend, but other than that I suppose I’ll just leave you the hell alone since that’s what you so obviously want.”  

Without waiting for a response, she left the house and stormed angrily back down to her car, aggressively throwing herself into the driver’s seat.  It was horrible, to be so close to someone that you loved and them not even caring. She set her jaw, determined not to cry. This man had already gotten so many tears from her, caused her pain while at the same time filling her heart with so much love that she thought she might burst. It was entirely unfair, all of it, and she was sick of it.

Alec was standing at the door as she drove away, hands in his pockets and watching her. Even that thought irritated her. What business did he have to look at her, after all that?  She clenched her steering wheel tightly in her fists on the drive home.  

****

When she got home, Donna and Jackie were sitting in the large living room, watching TV.  Donna looked up at Rose, directing her attention away from the telly.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“He’s impossible!” Rose shouted, throwing her keys into one of the couches.  “He is absolutely ridiculous, I try to help him and be his friend and be a bloody nice person and he’s gone and researched me, looked up my whole life story since I’ve been here!”

Donna sighed. “Well, that is… Something else.”

Jackie furrowed her brows. “And you two are sure this man is the Doctor?”
“I was there when it happened, “ Donna said a little tartly.

“The TARDIS is in our backyard!” Rose practically screamed, so wound up with frustration that she could barely see straight.  “It’s him, it’s this version of him that has no grasp of how to be social, or even kind. I bring him all these groceries, barely get a thank you, and then he tolerates me all through dinner.”
“But you’re intrigued by him,” Donna said.

Rose curled her toes into her shoes, trying not to cry.  “I don’t know,” she said, “I have to leave him alone, it’s obvious he doesn’t want to see me, and I’m not going to make him.”

“I’ll go to see him, still,” Donna said, “Keep you updated.  Try to convince him to talk to you, if you’d like.”

“Oh, he’d just say ‘that wee girl that forced her groceries on me’?” She mimicked in a Scottish accent before throwing herself into Pete’s armchair.  

Donna laughed. “Well, I doubt he’d say that, but really, Rose, we’ll keep an eye on him, you and me, we’ll have to. He can’t do this alone, because no matter what he’s told you, he has no idea how to be a human.”

She pursed her lips. “Well, he always did a damn good job of pretending,” she snapped.  She sighed heavily, shaking.  “I… I hate this.”

“Me too, sweetheart,” Donna said.  “I know.  It’s horrible to see him not himself.  He’s not himself.”

“Even when things were weird between us,” Rose said softly, “He was never… He was never cross with me, never acted…. Aloof.”  She shook her head. “I don’t know to do this.”

Donna smiled a little. “I think you’ll be alright,” she said, “You’re good for the Doctor.”

Jackie nodded. “And you don’t give up,” She said, crossing her arms. “You’re not going to “

Rose shook her head. “I’m not going to make him be friends with me,” rose said, her voice condescending of her herself.  “I can’t… I’ve never done anything like this, never had to be like this with him.  I’ve never had to be so careful.   Because he can find anything out about me.  It’ll be easy for him, and it’s horrible.”

Jackie pursed her lips. “Is that allowed?” She asked Donna, “Is that allowed, for police to look into people like that?”
Donna opened and closed her mouth and then shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said, “My run ins with the police have been very low,” She said.

Rose laughed a little lightly.  “Yeah,” she said, “Not really like any of us would know.”
Jackie hummed. “I suppose.”

Rose rubbed her hands over her face. “I’m going to go to bed,” she said, “And I’ll not bother him again, but Donna, you’ll keep an eye on him, won’t you?”

Donna knew that Rose wasn’t going to change her mind, and nodded.  “Sure,” she said, ‘I’ll keep an eye on him.  I’m what, his cousin?”

Rose nodded. “Wait, one thing,” she started.  “What was it… That the TARDIS brought the Doctor somewhere she knew he’d be safe?” she asked softly.  “So… How did she get here? Through the walls of reality?”
Donna shook her head. “I don’t know, dear,” she said, “I have no idea.  I think the way things worked… The Doctor knows he needs to be close to you, and maybe the TARDIS knows that too and so she broke through reality to get him to get to you.”  

“And now he wants nothing to do with me.”

“He’ll warm up!” Jackie said, “He always does with you, Rose, you’re his bloody kryptonite.”

Donna nodded in response. “Your mum is right, Rose.  He talked about you so much, like, every other day it was ‘Rose, this’ and ‘Rose, that’ and ‘wasn’t Rose brilliant, Donna?’” She smiled at Rose. “He loves you, Rose, completely, and he needs you now, even though he doesn’t know it.”

“I can’t... “ Rose shook her head.

“I’ll keep up with him, and I’ll talk to him about you, and try to get him to look at you, come get you.  He thinks I’m family, after all, so I can get him to listen to me.  And subconsciously, Rose, he loves you already.”

Rose bit her lip, trying to understand. At the bottom of it, all she wanted was to understand.  She forced herself to smile a little. “Keep me updated,” She said softly, “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” both Donna and Jackie said, exchanging a glance after Rose had gone upstairs.  

Jackie shook her head. “She really has no idea how much he loves her,” she said sadly.

“She will,” Donna said, trying to sound a bit more certain of it than she was.   It was a tricky subject, that was for sure, but this was more difficult than Donna could have imagined.  She thought about it for the rest of the night, trying to figure out how to fix any of this.

****************

Rose asked about him every day, and Donna told her what she knew. That yes, Alec was fine, and no, he wasn’t seeing any girls, and yes, actually, he did ask about her.  

“He has my mobile number,” Rose said crossly, “I know you gave it to him when he got one, so he could call me.”

Donna smiled a little. “I’ll let him know.”

Apparently, that was the push Alec needed, because the next day her mobile rang with an unknown number.  Since she was at work, she pressed her office door shut and answered the phone.

“Hello?”
“Rose.”

She smiled a little in relief, feeling her heart loosen. “Hi,” she said, “I haven’t heard from you in a bit.”

“Donna said I should apologize, said I was a prat.”

Rose laughed. “And what do you think?”

“I suppose I’ve been a prat,” he said impatiently. “Although, I have something that I think I might need your help with.

“What?” Rose asked, interested.

“I’ve been… I’ve been having some terribly strange dreams, Rose, and I’m told that you work with extra terrestrials?”

“You think aliens are behind your weird dreams.”

“I genuinely don’t know what else it could be,” he said, and she heard him sigh on the other end of the line. “I want to know. I don’t like not knowing things.”

“No, I’m sure you don’t,” she said. “Stop by my office today, we’ll talk about it.”

“I don’t know where your office is.”

She scoffed and rolled her eyes, “You say that, Hardy, but I have an idea that you found out exactly where my office is when you looked me up and opened all my deep dark secrets.”

He laughed, a gruff sound that was so unlike the Doctor.  “I suppose,” he said.  

“What time will you be here?” Rose asked, trying to calm her quickly beating heart.

“I’ll be there when I’m there,” he said, and it was clear he wasn’t trying to be mysterious, it was just how he was.

She wasn’t sure why she expected a different answer.

Chapter Text

Alec was there about two hours later, and it really was good that she wasn’t working on anything else important.  

“Rose?” Mickey poked his head into her office. “Um. I don’t know how to say this except the Doctor is here.”

Rose smiled a little. “Thanks, Micks.  Make sure you don’t call him that, though,” she said.

“I think I should be reminding you that,” Mickey said, arching an eyebrow at her.

She shook her head. “I’m fine, Micks, really,” she promised him.  “Besides, he’s growing his beard out, the Doctor would never do that.”

Mickey snorted, “You’ve got that right.  I’ll let him in.”

Alec came storming in the moment Mickey had shut the door.  “Hi,” he said briskly, and dragged the chair from in front of her desk around to sit next to her. She let out a cry of alarm and slammed her laptop shut.  

“Excuse me,” she said, “It’s usually customary to ask before getting into someone’s personal space, but that’s just me, I guess.”

He blinked at her. “You told him-” he jerked his head to the door, indicating Mickey, “-That I could come in.”

She narrowed her eyes. “I was on my computer.”

“What were you doing, then?” he asked, “Should I be suspicious of you?”

“I work at Torchwood, I deal with top secret information,” She said, pointing at him, “And it’s rude of you to just come in and-”

“I wasn’t looking at your computer.”

She blinked. “Oh, yeah, um… So you were having dreams?”
“Yes,” he scooted closer to her and pulled a little blue notebook out of the inside of his jacket.  “I’ve been writing and drawing about them in here,” he told her. He looked at her carefully, “I’m only showing you because I trust you.”

“And why would you trust me?” She countered.

“Because I know that you’re not an axe murderer.”  He lifted a shoulder. “You check out.”

She nodded to herself a little. “Mm hm,” she said, “So what’s in this little book here?” She tapped the book.  “You can tell me.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” he said, and looked down at it. “I should… Explain, first.”

“Okay.  Wait, hang on, why didn’t you tell Donna?”

He winced. “She makes fun of me a lot,” he said, “And I think she’s kidding, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.  I was never… Good, with sarcasm and the like.”

“You’re pretty good at it when you’re using it on me.”

“Well, that’s because I know what I mean. I have no idea what you mean.”  He grunted and flipped open the book. “So anyway, I have these dreams, I’ve had them for every night since I woke up and you were sitting next to me while I was sleeping on my couch.  In them, I’m a different man.”

Rose’s hearts stuttered in her chest. “What sort of man?” She turned her spinny chair so that she was facing his side.

“You’ll laugh.”
“I won’t,” She said earnestly.

“In these dreams, I’m an alien man, and I live in this blue box.”
Rose grit her teeth to suppress a sob, and she smiled at him. “What sort of blue box?” She asked him softly.

“It’s a ship,” he told her, his brows furrowed in concentration as he pointed to the drawing he made of the TARDIS in his notebook.  “And she’s… Well, she’s a she.”

“Typical bloke,” She said, “Names his ship.”
He looked at her for a moment before realizing she was kidding and cracking a small smile. “And you’re there, and Donna is there.  But never at the same time.”

She had a feeling she knew why that was, but she knew that it was best she not say anything about it.

He flipped past one of the pages.  “You’re missing, a lot.  But I can feel that loss,” he pressed his hand to his chest.  “I’n my heart, I can feel it.  So much it is literally painful.”  He glanced at her. “Um. Not sure why.”

She smiled again, having trouble keeping it off her face. “So you mean, your heart condition.”
He furrowed his brows and frowned. “That must be it,” he said.  “My heart condition.  But.  But in these dreams, the man I am, he’s… Light, bubbly, like he’s happy.  And he’s English.”

She giggled, peering down at the book.  “So you drew yourself here,” she said, pointing at a drawing of the Doctor, with Alec’s eyes.  “You’re very good,” she told him, nudging his shoulder.

“I’m alright,” he said. “A lot of this I write in the middle of the night when I wake up, and I never know quite what I’m saying until I read it the next morning.”

He flipped the page and tried to flip again but Rose saw it was a drawing of herself and slammed her hand down on the page. “That’s me.”

“Um… Yes, well, yes.”

She read the writing under it. “‘I keep searching for a Rose, but I cannot find a rose anywhere, and she keeps walking away’...” Rose looked up at him. “What does that mean?”  She whispered.

“In some of the dreams, I can’t find you.  And I’m looking for you, but I don’t know where to start, or where to even look for you. I think I can’t get to you, so I almost give up.  But it seems like you’re walking away from me, like I should be able to see you, and I can’t.  It’s frustrating.”

Rose felt tears well up in her throat but expertly tamped them down.  Whatever this was, this filtering of Alec’s dreams letting him know that he was the Doctor, she couldn’t reveal it all.  It would upset him and it wouldn’t do anyone any good, not this early in the whole Family business, and she had a feeling that Donna would tell her the same.  “Why would I be walking away from you?” She asked softly.

“I don’t know,” he shook his head.  “I can’t- I call out to you, sometimes, because I’m quite annoyed that you aren’t looking at me, but you still don’t turn around, you don’t even acknowledge me. “

“Well… I apologize for myself in your dreams.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Hardly your fault, is it?” He offered.  “I can get you to talk to me in real life, which is… Surprising.”

“Why?”

“Because I push you away quite a bit.” Alec said, “I don’t like people.”

“I know,” She laughed a little.  “I can tell.”

He winced a little. “Yes, well, any way.  We have all these adventures, you and me, and this woman called Martha, she’s sometimes there.  She fancies me but I… Blatantly ignore her.”

Rose smiled a little at that. “You’re very rude,” She told him.

He made a non committal grunt instead of speaking.  “It seems my mind is on something else,” he said flippantly after a moment, and flipped another page in his notebook. Rose was surprised to see another drawing of herself, wearing the pink fluffy dress she’d worn when they’d gone to see Elvis, or tried to, at least.  They’d gotten there eventually, though not the same day as everything with the Coronation.  She smiled a little as Alec blundered a bit.  

“Um- this, you know, this thing, this.... We wanted to see Elvis, this blue box, it also travels in time.”
“That’s brilliant,” Rose said, trying very hard to pretend like she didn’t know what he was talking about.  “Really, properly brilliant.”

He looked like he might be close to smiling, but wasn’t quite there yet.  “Yeah, suppose it is,” he said, lifting a shoulder.  He didn’t make a move to say anything else, so Rose scooted a little closer.

“Tell me more,” She said pleadingly.  “About our adventures, or your adventures with Donna and Martha.”

“You really want to know?” He asked, his eyes surprised, but the rest of him not terribly surprised.  She laughed a little at his expression.

“Yeah,” She said.  

He sat with her and told her about everything in his book, flipping through the book.

“You haven’t… had this job too long,” she said finally, “Why- how- how have you had so many dreams?”

Alec shrugged, “I remember all my dreams.”

“That’s not normal!”

“No, I suppose not, but I do,” he said, shrugging.  He flipped back to the first picture of her. “I wasn’t sure if I should even tell you about this.”

She looked him in the face, furrowing her brows. “Why not?” She asked.  “Why would I not want to see that?” she felt her heart filling. “This is beautiful.”

He didn’t look at her, just kept staring down at the book. “It’s a bit creepy, isn’t it?  That I had dreams of you and wrote them down?”

“I think it’s really flattering,” Rose said, because of course she couldn’t tell him anything about how much it really meant to her that he was remembering, that on some level she meant something to him, that he had missed her. She didn’t want to think about it. She wanted to give him a hug, but she had a feeling that he wasn’t much of a hugger. He wasn’t the Doctor, she had to remind herself, so that she didn’t do something stupid like burst into tears.

She watched him, lacing her fingers together and shoving them in her lap so that she wouldn’t reach out and take his hand.  “I think you’re amazing, Alec.”
“I’m not,” he mumbled.  “I’m a detective with an active imagination because I’ve seen so much,” he said, “I’m terribly boring, and I can’t maintain any friendships or relationships.”  He wouldn’t look at her, and it tugged on her in a way that she really couldn’t explain.

“Alec?”

“Hm.”

“I do think you’re wonderful, and I told you that I wanted to be friends with you, even moreso no that I’ve seen how you are.”

“No, that’s not.. That’s not possible.  You just like Donna.”
Rose laughed. “Yeah, I do like Donna, but that’s really not the point, is it?” She said.  “Why is it so hard to believe that someone could care for you?”
He shut the book and held it up, waving it a little. “It’s just dreams,” he told her, and got to his feet. “I should get going, I just really wanted to show you, to show you I wasn’t crazy, or maybe I am.  I’m saying too much, I should get back to work.”

He started to head towards the door and Rose panicked, scrambling to her feet. She ran to him and slammed into his back, wrapping her arms around his waist from behind and clinging to him, cheek against his chest.

“What are you doing?” he asked sharply, as all his muscles had tensed up.  

“Hugging you,” she said, closing her eyes. This wasn’t the hug she wanted from him, but it was a hug, and she could feel his heart against the thumb of one of her hands, and she was touching him and he was definitely trying not to Hulk out and throw her to the floor.  But she kept holding him, waiting for him to say something.

“Why- why are you doing that?”
“Because friends hug. Usually front-facing, mind you, but you probably don’t do that, so I’m just gonna.. Do this.”

“Um.  Okay.”  he said gruffly.

She hummed happily and squeezed him.  “You should come down to the pub with me and Donna and some friends,” she said, now that she had him all vulnerable and everything. She held onto him carefully.

“Why would I do that?”

She rolled her eyes and backed off of him.  He turned around and took a few steps back, regarding her carefully. “No, seriously, Rose, why would I want to go to the pub?”

“Quiz night,” she said brightly, “Bet you know all kinds of useless facts.”

He smiled a little bit.  “I… I’ll think about it.”

“Brilliant!  GIve me or Donna a call then about it, yeah?”

“Yeah, sure.”

She beamed even brighter. “I look forward to it, Alec.”  She watched him, waiting for him to look upset at her saying his first name, but instead he just smiled a little.

“You know, my name doesn’t sound quite so bad when you say it.”

She shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant while her heart was thundering wildly in her chest.  “It’s the accent.”

Before he left, she offered, “Come and show me your new parts of the book, okay? I wanna… I wanna see your dreams.”

He nodded, hand on the doorknob.  “Okay.”

She smiled, nodding as he left, and breathing a sigh of relief as the door shut behind him. This was progress.  Where it was progressing to, she wasn’t sure, but… It was progress.

Chapter Text

Rose wasn’t quite sure how she had convinced Alec to come along with them to the pub. She had texted him that night just to make sure she hadn’t made it up. He told her that yes, he had agreed, why, did she change her mind?  She assured him that she hadn’t and that she was very excited for it. He hadn’t replied.

She wasn’t surprised.

Rose sat down with Mickey and discussed it with him during their lunch break at Torchwood.  He stared at her carefully, chewing slowly.  “Wait,” he said once he swallowed, “You invited a version of the Doctor to a pub? And he said yes?”
She nodded. “I was surprised too,” she said, taking a sip of her drink.  “I really was. And he was kind of… I dunno, reluctant.”

He hummed a little. “He only said yes because he’s probably infatuated with you,” he said, “You know, cause he’s the Doctor.”

She opened and closed her mouth a couple times. “Um...No, that’s not it, I’m just trying to make friends with him, you know?  I don’t want to…”

“You don’t want him to find anyone else,” Mickey replied.

She blushed and turned back to her lunch.  “I don’t… I just…  I want to-” She slumped in her chair and Mickey instantly felt awful.

“Babe, no, I’m not making fun of you,” He shook his head. “I think it’ll be fine, all of it,” he said, “And I’ll come to the pub.  Is Donna coming?”

“Yeah, I talked to her about it last night after work,” Rose said, smiling a little.  “She said it was a good idea.  That maybe it would be good for him to get out and do something besides work.  He thinks she’s his cousin, so she knows what he’s doing most of the time.”

“And what does he do most of the time?”
“He sits at home.  He complains.  He likes to read.”

“So, he is kind of like the Doctor, then,” Mickey said, “The Doctor likes to read, right?”
Rose nodded. “Yeah, we used to read together in the library, but Micks, lots of people like to read, that’s not Doctor-specific.”  Rose slumped a little.  

“You really miss him.”

“It’s just… He’s right in front of me, right now,” she said, gesturing in front of her as though the Doctor was there.  “And I can’t go to see him, I can’t tell him how much I missed him, how much he’s missed by not being here.  I just… Yeah,” she let out a ragged breath, “I miss him.”

Mickey leaned his elbow on the table, “But when you open the watch, it’ll be alright, won’t it?”

“If he can get out of here,” Rose said softly, “If the walls between universes aren’t closed.”

“We could check-”

“I don’t want to deal with it until we open the watch,” she said, holding a hand up to cut him off.  “I just don’t want to have any more added anxiety to it.  We’ll… The TARDIS must know what she’s doing, but she’s mostly shut down now, just sitting in the backyard.  It’s awful, this is all just awful.  

Mickey wanted to make her feel better, but he knew that there was nothing that he could do to fix it, to change what she was thinking.

“Someday, Rose, this’ll all work out, and we’ll know why all this happened. That’s how it’s gotta be.  RIght?”

“I hope so,” Rose said softly.

Mickey smiled a little.  “But if nothing else, the pub night’ll be a bit of fun.”

******

Donna knocked on Rose’s bedroom door about ten minutes before they needed to leave for the pub, where Alec and Mickey were going to meet them.

“Rose, are you almost ready?”

Rose looked in the mirror, examining what she was wearing.  She had on black skinny jeans and a pink shiny top, with a low scoop neck that fit her around the waist and accentuated her features.  It might be too much for a night at the pub, but she couldn’t really bring herself to stop.  She opened the door and looked at Donna.

“Yeah, I’m ready.”

Donna blinked. “You’re on the pull tonight?”
She shook her head. “No?”

“Oh, so this is all for the Doctor, then?” She asked, smiling a little.

Rose blushed.  “No, I just- I haven’t looked nice in a while. I work at Torchwood, you know.”

Donna smiled a little.  “Alright, come on, dear, let’s just have a good night and not worry about any of this, hm.”

Rose smiled and on the way to the door, Rose stopped by the living room. “Mum?”

Jackie peered over at her from the couch.  “Oh, you look lovely!”
“Thanks,” Rose looked down at herself. “We’re gonna head out,” She said.

“Alright, sweetheart, don’t be home too late.”

Rose wrinkled her nose. “I don’t even have work tomorrow.”

Jackie blinked, “You don’t?”

She smiled a little.  Her mum, now being the woman of the house and having a young son, had lots of responsibilities to attend to and honestly didn’t remember a lot of things that Rose told her.  “No, I don’t.”

“Alright, then, see you tonight.  Try not to wake anyone on your way in.”

“Yes, mum.”

For a moment, since it was the first time she was going out in several months, things felt normal.

**************

They already had a table at the pub by the time Alec and Mickey arrived within minutes of each other. Rose had a feeling that Alec knew exactly when Mickey was going to come in.  Nevertheless, she waved him over, and his eyes snapped right to her.  He looked to Mickey and said something before walking over to her and Donna.  He slid right into Rose’s side of the booth, and Donna arched an eyebrow.  

“Hi,” Rose said, turning to him.

“Hello,” Alec said.  “Ran into Mickey here outside.”

“Yeah, think he’s psychic or something,” Mickey said, his eyes twinkling.

Rose wrinkled her nose. “Not exactly,” she said.  “Alec sort of looked into me to make sure I wasn’t anyone shady.”

“Seriously?” Mickey arched an eyebrow.  “Really?”  

Alec shrugged, not even looking a little bit sorry.  “I wanted to make sure a woman who knew where I lived wasn’t going to be a threat.”

Donna rolled her eyes. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Hardy,” She said, “I wouldn’t have brought her to your house if she was a creep.”  

“Well, I didn’t know that, did I? You didn’t know her either.”

Donna bit her tongue and scowled at him instead.  Alec scowled back, and Mickey couldn’t help but laugh.

“Alright,” he said, “I’m headed to the bar.  What does everyone want?”

They all gave him their orders and handed over money.  Rose covered a tip for the bartender and the three of them sat in silence for a few moments as he left.

“So, do you want to participate in the pub quiz, or do you want to sit there and brood?” Donna directed the question at Alec.

“I’ll do what the group wants.”

Rose watched him carefully. “You’re distracted.”

He scratched his forehead and peered down at the menu.  “I- uh, a new investigation came into the station today.”

“What sort of investigation?” Rose asked.

He looked between her and Donna for a moment. “A.. You haven’t heard?”

“Haven’t had time to look at the news,” Donna said, “I had two job interviews today, Rose worked.”

“Right, of course,” Alec nodded.  “Well, there was a murder, and I was assigned to it.”

“Oh, Alec.”  She wanted to set a hand on his shoulder, or hug him or something, to comfort him, but she didn’t think that he would appreciate that too much.  He turned to her a little and arched one shoulder.  He reached for her hand under the table and settled them both on his knee, squeezing her hand a little.  She smiled a little, knowing that he had taken the comfort that he was comfortable taking and that was that.  

“I’m sorry,” Donna said, frowning a little. “Are you sure that you can still handle that?” she asked cautiously.

“Yes,” he said tersely.  “I’m still a professional, Donna.  I can do this.  It’s just… Difficult, that’s all.”

“Of course,” Rose said, scooting a little closer to him.  “I can’t imagine…” She shuddered. “You probably don’t want to talk about it.”

He squeezed her hand and she could barely stop herself from smiling just a little.  It was nice, to feel his hand in hers again. It felt familiar, and so lovely, and she felt like her heart was going to explode.

The pub quiz began and Mickey returned.  Alec apparently decided that he needed both his hands to do the pub quiz, releasing her and making her hand feel a bit empty.  She hadn’t held hands with someone in a very long time, and she hadn’t quite realized that until he had let go of her.  She clenched her fist under the table to try and have something take the place of that touch.  

It seemed that Alec had retained a lot of the Doctor’s odd knowledge, as he aced loads of the questions before Rose could even open her mouth. She looked over at him, surprised.  “I didn’t know you knew all this stuff,” She said, gesturing to their paper.

He shrugged. “I really didn’t either,” he admitted. He smiled a little at her, an awkward little curl of a lip, and looked back to the paper.

By the end of the night, they had demolished the competition, and the emcee of the whole event called out, “Looks like the Vitex Heiress and friends absolutely crushed you all into rubbish,” He said, “Better luck next time.  Better home that bloke with her gets sick next week!”

The people in the pub laughed good-naturedly, and even Alec laughed.

“I should go,” he said, checking his watch.  Donna looked to Rose and raised an eyebrow meaningfully.  Rose sniffed and nodded.  She turned and touched his arm.

“I’ll walk you back.”

He stared at her. “What?”
“I’ll walk you back,” she said slowly, and tipped her chin to the door.  “Let’s go.  You obviously know that I live close to you, so it won’t be too inconvenient for me.”

He looked like he was trying to figure out a way to tell her no, to object and try to get away from her.  He looked to Donna, who glared at him. Alec winced a little.

“Alright, let’s go.”

They walked back mostly in silence, because Alec really, really liked being quiet.  She liked it, on some level, but she really missed her chatty Doctor, missed him rambling over nothing and holding her head.  He didn’t hold her hand now, so she had her arms crossed to give them something to do.

When they reached his front door, he turned and looked down at her. “I suppose I should thank you for inviting me.”

“That would be polite.”

“So… Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” She grinned at him. “I had fun.”

His lip twitched a little. “So did I,” he said softly, as though he didn’t want to admit it. His hands twitched at his sides and he sniffed almost violently, looking away from her. “Would it be completely inappropriate if I gave you a hug?”
“Not at all.”

He felt the same, she noticed when his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her tight against his chest.  She sighed and buried her nose in his collar, closing her eyes.  This was what she had wanted.  

His heart didn’t sound right, almost like it was sloshing around in his chest instead of beating, and it made her own heart break. She was going to have to keep him safe, keep him from overexerting himself.  She pulled back slowly from the hug when his arms started to loosen around her, and on her way she kissed him on the cheek, just above his beard.

“Goodnight, Alec.”

“Goodnight, Rose.”  There wasn’t any more warmth in his voice, nothing had changed.  Rose tried to figure out what exactly it was that she wanted to change about him anyway.  She walked off his porch, not knowing that something besides Alec was watching her.

Chapter Text

Life fell into a sort of normal routine. Once a week, both Donna and Rose would go over to Alec’s and ask him if he was making any friends.  He would always scrunch up his nose and grunt, not actually answering them.  Rose and Donna would look at each other and sigh, knowing that he wasn’t.  Rose was secretly pleased that she was the one he spent the most time with.

Donna left dinner before Rose, and Alec sat across from Rose at the table.  “Here,” he said gruffly, setting his journal down in front of her.

She looked up at him. “You’re sure?”

He nodded.

She flipped open the journal, skipping through to the first page he wrote that she hadn’t seen yet.  It was a picture of herself, and she recognized the moment, shadows all around her, hands reaching for something that was just out of reach.  It was Canary Warf.  She swallowed, hard, not expecting to be met by this memory.

“What’s this?” She asked, trying to make her voice sound a little less hoarse.  She cleared her throat.  

“Read it,” he said softly.

She was going to read it out loud, she decided, because she wasn’t going to do anything to relive all of this again, not without him.  She let out a shuddering sigh and read “‘She’s gone.  I lost her today.  She’s gone.  I don’t know why, I don’t know why the universe hates me enough to take her from me, but I watched her get taken from me.  She’s left, and I knew that it was coming, but I thought we’d have more time, thought that I’d have the chance to tell her’-” She stopped suddenly and looked up at him. “It stops there.”

“I wrote that right as I woke up, those were the thoughts,” he said, tapping the page.  “It’s just so odd. The way it all happened.  I don't’ understand it.  Do you?”

She shook her head slowly, “No, I don’t know why this would happen.  I don’t understand it either,” she said quietly. “Are you afraid you’ll lose me?”

He sat back and crossed his arms over his chest, shrugging a little awkwardly.  “Well, I don’t know, really.  Maybe?  I don’t make friends very easily, though I’m sure you noticed that.”  He sniffed.  “Maybe that’s where it comes from.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said, closing the book. “You keep saying in your dreams that I walk away from you, but I’m not going to walk away.”

He wouldn’t look her in the eye, and she could tell that he was embarrassed, even if he wasn’t going to admit it.  

“Do you need a hug?” She asked him, trying to be a little teasing.  

He smirked a little at her. “You just want to touch me.”

She shrugged. “Well no one else is going to.”

He huffed out a laugh.  “That’s true.”

She got up and walked around the side of the table to sit down next to him.  She reached out and cupped his cheek, making him look at her. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said, “Please believe me.”

He nodded, his eyes searching hers.  “I don’t… I don’t think you will.”

She softened a bit.  “I wish I could stop your dreams,” she said, and it hurt her to know that she meant it.  She knew that they were torturing him, that he didn’t understand, and it was so unfair that he had to deal with them at all.  It shouldn’t be up to him to think about, not when he couldn’t even comprehend where those dreams were coming from or what they meant.

Because, of course, they held no meaning for him. He didn’t understand, and he wouldn’t until the Doctor was back.  Even then, how much did the Doctor’s own memories torture him? She knew he had nightmares, knew he struggled, but she never knew the full effect of it on him.

He shook his head. “They’re only bad when you’re not in them,” he said, and then furrowed his brows, turning his head away from her, making her hand fall away. “They… When we go on adventures, when we help people, it really is brilliant.  I can’t explain it… I don’t quite understand it.  It’s so different, unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced before.  I feel more alive than I’ve ever been.”

She rested her elbow on the table and leaned her chin in her palm.  “Do you feel trapped here?” She asked him a little tentatively.

He shook his head. “No,” he said carefully.  “No, I don’t feel trapped, but I think I could be doing something more, helping more people, and that’s why I created this… Man, the Doctor, who helps people.”

She felt her heart warm.  Even now, even when he wasn’t himself, he just wanted to help people, and have her with him.  And really, that was all she wanted too, really.  That was all, and maybe it was too simple, but it was what she wanted, and wasn’t that enough?

“You’re helping people right now,” she said.  “You really are.”

He shook his head.  “No, right now, I’m failing at solving a young woman’s murder,’ he spat out.  “I’ll never solve it.”

“You don’t know that!” Rose said, leaning forward. “You don’t.  Stop it.”

He pursed his lips, a dimple appearing in his cheek.  He shook his head.  “I’m done talking about this.”

Rose wanted to argue, but knew that she shouldn’t.  She leaned back in her chair.  “Okay.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“No, don’t go.”

She stood up. “No, I’m not going to make you sit here and talk about your feelings,” she said, though not unkindly.  “I just want you to calm down a bit, and realize what a good man you are.”

“I’ve been here a month,” he said softly, “And I’ve become absolutely useless.”

“You’re not.”

He opened his mouth to say something else when they heard a knock at the door.  Rose tensed.  No one knocked on Alec’s door.   Nobody, because no one ever came to visit.  

“I’ll get it,” she said firmly, and walked to the door, opening it just a crack.  Outside stood a young boy, his expression quite blank.

“Hello,” the little boy said.  “What’s your name?”

Rose furrowed her brows.  “Sweetheart, are you lost?” She opened the door a bit more.  “Do you know where your parents are?”

“Not lost,” the little boy shook his head.  “Is the Doctor here?”

Rose felt her blood run absolutely cold.   Absolutely cold.   This had to be a member of the Family, his eyes glassy and skin pale.

“No, there’s no one called the Doctor here,” she said lowly, not wanting Alec to hear her.  “Just me,” She smiled.  “Are you sick?”

“No,” the boy stared at her, and she felt like he was staring into her. She swallowed hard and tried not to shake.  She just watched the boy, and the two of them were at a bit of a stalemate.  She felt Alec come up at and stand behind her.  

“Well, can I help you at all?”
“No, goodbye, Miss Tyler.”  The boy turned and walked down the stairs, and Rose tried hard not to violently slam the door shut. S he closed it and turned around to look a Alec.  She smiled, but he wasn’t buying it.

Right, he was a detective, why would he buy it?

“Who was that?”
“A little boy,” She said, “Just had a question, it’s alright, he’s fine.”

“You just let a little boy walk out there?”

“He was just confused, at the wrong door.  He was looking for someone else,” she said, pressing her back to the door.  “It’s fine.  I should be going.”
She walked away from the door and grabbed her purse, trying to scoot out without him saying anything.  
He caught her by the arm and pulled her back to him. “You’re very skittish.”

“I worry about you,” she murmured. “I really do.”  She reached up and cupped his cheek, stroking her thumb across his skin.  He leaned down a bit, and she realized he was going to kiss her.  Panic bloomed through her and she dodged him, leaning to give him a lingering kiss on the cheek.   He let out a sigh of what she thought might be disappointment.

“Please take care of yourself,” she whispered in his ear.  “Please.”

“Can I see you tomorrow?” he asked.  “For chips?”

She smiled and nodded.  “I’d like that,” she whispered.  “Let’s do that.”

He smiled, and it was the first genuine smile with teeth that she’d seen from him.  He reached for her and instigated a hug without asking, and Rose clung to him around the neck, now afraid to leave him alone. The family knew where he was now, and she might have been able to get rid of the little boy, but now she was terrified that another one of them would come back to find him.

“Lock your door behind me,” she said when she pulled away from him. “Please?”

“I always lock my doors, Rose, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Nothing,” She said simply. “Text me tomorrow, yeah?”

“Yeah,” he seemed still confused, but he also seemed oddly delighted.  She smiled a little and let herself out, waiting until she heard the door click locked behind her.  She blew out a sigh of relief and ran to her car.

She let herself into the Tyler mansion and flung open Donna’s door.  

“They found him.”

Donna looked up from her desk, where she was working on her computer. She’d gotten a job as an editor on a local paper, and was doing quite well. She tilted her head. “What?” She asked, furrowing her brows. “Who found-”

“The Family. After you left this little boy showed up and asked for the Doctor.”

The blood drained from Donna’s face. “And what… What did he say?” She asked carefully.

She shook her head. “Alec?  He didn’t even- he didn’t- I answered the door, he was behind me, he didn’t even hear it.”

“Well, do they know he’s there?”

“Not that I know of,” Rose replied. “But I just wish that I could keep a closer eye on him, I don’t want them to find him, Donna, what happens when they find him?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Donna replied firmly.  She stood up from her desk and walked to her nightstand.  She opened up the drawer and pulled out the fob watch.  “They can’t do anything to him when I have this,” she said, shaking it a little. “And the Doctor doesn’t come back until you or I open this.”

Rose walked into Donna’s room and sank onto the bed, putting her head in her hands.  “I’m so scared for him.”

“Maybe you two should have a sleepover.”

“Donna, I hardly think-”

“No, I don’t mean like that, God, no, I would never want to think about that,” Donna cringed.  “Now that is completely unpleasant, I would hate to- oh my God, Rose.”

Rose giggled. “Okay, so what did you mean?”

“I mean, just stay with him, sleep on the couch or something, say you’ve had a fight with your mum and don’t want to go home. He’d let you stay, I know he would.”

“Do you think that would work?” She asked softly, “That he would let me?”  

“Alec, being the Doctor, would let you step on him,” Donna said, crossing her arms. “I think you should give it a go. I really do.”

Rose smiled a little.  “But I couldn’t help him.  I couldn’t save him.”
Donna sighed. “Rose, you already have.”
She sighed.  “I think… Okay, I’ll do it, but I don’t think he’ll let me.  I won’t.”

“We could bet on it.”

“No, that’s alright.”

“Cause you know I’m right!  Look, Rose, it’s going to be alright, we’re going to look out for him, okay?  It’s alright.”

She breathed out a shuddering sigh.  “Okay,” She said softly. “Okay, we can do this.”

She bid Donna goodnight and wandered back to her own room, wondering if she was actually going to be able to do anything good at all.

Chapter Text

 

Donna had convinced Rose to pretend she’d had a fight with Jackie so that Alec would let her stay at his place, but that didn’t make her any less nervous about it. She chewed her lip as she stood outside his door, her bags already in the car.  Donna had done an excellent job of making Rose look like she’d had a rough night of crying, streaking her makeup and mussing her hair.  She knocked on Alec’s door before she could even think about turning around and going back home.

He opened the door all the way and peered at her.  His eyes softened, but his body language didn’t. “What happened to you?” he asked.

“Um…” She shuffled on her feet. “My mum and I had a fight and I don’t know where else to go.”

“What did you fight about?” he asked.

She met his gaze head on. “Where my life is going to go, what I’m going to do… I want to travel.”

“And she doesn’t want you to.”

Rose smiled bitterly, knowing that Jackie wasn’t looking forward to the Doctor becoming the Doctor again, because she would go with him.  “Exactly.”

“Well, I suppose a night here wouldn’t kill me,” he said, sniffing. “Did you bring-”

“My bags are in the car.”

“That was presumptuous of you.”

“You like me, so why does it matter?” she said over her shoulder as she went down to her car to get her things.  She heard Alec sigh heavily behind her and follow her, padding along down to her car.  He took her bag from her when she took it from her car and she smiled a little at him.

“Thanks,” She told him, wiping under her eyes.  

He nodded, not saying anything for a moment. “Right,” he said. “Sure.” He turned and walked back to the house.  Rose trailed behind him, texting Donna as she walked, telling her that Alec had invited her in.  

Donna texted back about eighteen thumbs up signs in return.  Rose bit her lip and tried not to laugh, shoving her mobile into her back pocket.

“I’m gonna go get cleaned up,” Rose said as he set her things down on the landing.  “Where’s the loo?”
He was watching her intently. “I’m really sorry you fought with your mum,” he said.

Rose shook her head. “It was a long time coming.  We’ve fought about that kind of stuff for a long time,” she smiled at him.  “But I’d like to not have makeup all over my face, you know?” She tucked some of her hair behind her ear. “Might even take a shower, if that’s okay?” She asked, arching a brow.

He nodded.  “Yeah, course, that’s fine.”

“You look a little spacy.”

Alec frowned at her.  “I’m not used to having overnight company.”

“I’m sure you’re not.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re not exactly terribly friendly, Alec,” She said as she gathered up her toiletry bag.  “You’re lucky I forced you to be friends with me.”

“You didn’t force me,” he said, “Loo’s up the stairs, on the left.”

“Yes, sir.”  She gave him a little mock salute and went upstairs.

It was hard to remember that this wasn’t a date. She was supposed to protect him.  That was all.  No matter how much she wanted to cuddle up to him on the couch or open the watch just to get the Doctor back, she knew she couldn’t, and shouldn’t.  

Her thoughts made her feel like she had to take extra time to go back down to him, her face clean and free of makeup, and her pajamas on.  

Alec was sitting stiffly in his suit on the couch, his tie loosened, but nothing else indicating that he wanted to be a little bit relaxed. He looked up to her.  “Feel better?” He asked her.

She nodded and sat down on his armchair, curling her feet up under her.  “Thanks for letting me stay.”

“It wouldn’t have been gentlemanly if I had sent you away,” he replied, shrugging and looking away from her, towards the telly.

She leaned on her elbow. “Since when have you wondered about being a gentleman?”

He wouldn’t look at her, just shrugged again.  “Since I met you, I suppose.”

She smiled a little. It seemed that she had more of a lasting effect on him than she thought.  That was good, at least, in her opinion.  She was glad that he let her near to him, in any way, so that she could keep an eye on him. She felt a little more at ease, knowing that she was going to be able to keep him just a little bit safe.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” He asked her.

She shook her head and looked back to the telly. “No reason,” she said softly.  

“I’ve been watching you, Rose.”

“I know,” she said, glaring at him a little, “You looked at my whole life story.”

He grunted in what seemed to be agreement and looked down at his tie, holding the tip of it in one hand before moving to remove it.  “No, I mean, in the pub.”

“Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?” She asked, smiling.

“Yes, I suppose it was,” he said cautiously.  “I had a good time.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed,” She teased, “You’re all stoic, and what not.”  She said it fondly, because it sort of reminded her of her first Doctor, how he had been all gruff and didn’t like to let her know that he actually enjoyed having her around. That didn’t mean she didn’t know, though, because she definitely did.  Even if he never said it.

“I just don’t understand why you spend time with me, when you could spend time with someone your own age… I see you in magazines at the grocer, and sometimes they say you’re dating Mickey, and I just wonder if perhaps you should be spending more time with him.”

Rose blinked. “No, Mickey and I aren’t dating.  He’s a mate, that’s all.  If I didn’t want to spend time with you, Alec, I wouldn’t.”

He watched her carefully, a detective stare, trying to get a read on her, she was sure. She knew she should let him see it, let him see exactly the way she was feeling, but instead she just studied him right back, almost daring him to say something, to make things change.  At a stalemate, they stared at each other, the telly droning on behind them, and Rose eventually laughed a little. “You really are odd,” She said, “Can’t even enjoy the company of a vibrant young woman without making it weird.”

“I’m not making it weird,” he responded. “You could come sit over here with me, but you wanted to sit in the armchair.”

“I thought it might make you uncomfortable to share the couch with me.”

“Um… No.”

He didn’t sound convincing, but he also looked incredibly nervous.

“Is DI Alec Hardy asking me for a cuddle?” She asked, rising up on her knees and looking down at him.  He rose his eyes to meet hers.

“I’m suggesting-” His voice trailed off and he swallowed. “Go ahead, and take it whichever way you want, Rose.”  

She was nervous, suddenly, her heart pounding in her chest.  She got out of the armchair and pulled a blanket from the back of it before walking over to him and sitting down next to him, not touching, but close.  She settled the blanket over both of their legs and she leaned back on the couch, sighing happily.  

“Are you sure you fought with your mother?”

“Mm Hm.”

“Because you just seem so happy.”

“I’m happy now,” she said.

They didn’t speak for awhile because it was uncomfortable. Rose didn’t know what to say, and Alec didn’t initiate conversation when he didn’t have to.  She was surprised when he shifted his hand under the blanket and loosely took hers, his fingers warm against hers.  She tightened her fingers around his so that he knew it was alright.  She heard a nearly imperceptible sigh of relief and Rose smiled a little and tipped her head against his shoulder. It had been so long since she’d had human touch like this.  Alec was warmer than the Doctor, and they obviously weren’t the same, but it was nice to be touched tenderly, even if it was just holding her hand.

“Why did you come here?” He asked, his voice gruff over the telly.  “Instead of a hotel or something.”

She sighed and shifted closer to him. “I do what I want,” she said simply, “And I go where i want.”

“Won’t your parents worry?” He asked.

“I’m a grown woman, Alec.”

He made an odd sound, like he didn’t seem to believe her. “I just don’t… I’m not supposed to-”

“Have you had any more dreams?” She asked, saving him from having to say anything, not sure she would have the heart to resist him if he confessed to anything.  

He breathed out heavily through his nose. “You and I were banned from Scotland.”

“Aren’t you Scottish?” She giggled, trying not to think about the actual story that was behind it.

“Yes, well, it was a little upsetting, but-” he cleared his throat.  “Well, we were both exiled together, because we saw this werewolf and basically, we cause a lot of trouble.  Queen Victoria thought you looked naked.”

Rose laughed, feeling happy at the memory, and felt a little guilty that she was pretending she didn’t know anything about it.  She snuggled a little closer to him and hummed a little.  “We met Queen Victoria, did we?”
“Yeah,” He said, and she felt his slight beard scrape against her hair. “Yeah.”

“That sounds brilliant,” She said.  “Let’s go to Scotland sometime.”

“We’re banished, remember?”

She giggled. “Oh, yeah, but only in your dream,” She tilted her chin so that she turned and looked up at him. “We’ll have to go for real.”

He cupped her cheek with his free hand, the movement awkward, like he wasn’t sure how to touch a woman, only knew what he’d seen in the movies.  His breathing grew shallow.

“You’d go with me?”

“Course.”

“Even though I’m terrible.”

So that was one thing that stayed the same about him: the guilt, the self sacrifice, thinking that he wasn’t good enough. She nodded.  “You’re not terrible,” she said, “You’re a Detective, you’ve seen awful things, but you haven’t done the awful things.”

“There are people I couldn’t save, people I couldn’t find justice for.”

“And that’s okay,” She whispered, “Sometimes you can’t save everyone, Alec.  You can’t.be perfect.  And I wouldn’t want you to be.”

“Why would you want me at all?”

He sounded broken, the same way she’d heard the Doctor sound many times, though not like this, not in this context. He was empty, he felt like he had nothing except for her. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his neck.  He rushed out a sigh and held her around the waist, and she shifted, her knee settling between his.  His nose was pressed to her shoulder and he held her close, and for several seconds they held each other until Rose pulled back a bit and smiled slightly.

“Do you feel better?” She asked softly.

“I’ve never had this much touch,” he said shakily.  “I should go.”

“We’re in your house,” She said, feeling a little delirious at his touch, at how close he was.  His eyes, pupils dilated, looked straight into hers, and almost past hers.

“I should- I’ll take the couch tonight,” he said.  

“Okay,” she nodded, leaning towards him, gravity pulling her towards him at a rate that she couldn't control and almost didn’t want to.  “You can do that if you want. I could take the couch, though.”

“I will, uh, I’m supposed to- a lady should always take the bed.”
“Yeah?” She whispered, shifting to settle onto his lap.

“I don’t know why you like me, I’m hardly ever nice to you,” he murmured, his breath now ghosting her lips, hands smoothing up her back.

“I like a chase,” She whispered, and knowing very well that she shouldn’t, she grabbed him by his hair and pressed her lips firmly to his.

Chapter Text

Alec froze, hands tightening on her waist, holding onto her as if for dear life.  The kiss was unmoving for several moments, as Rose waited for him to move, or to do anything.  She could feel his pulse where her fingers rested on his neck, and her own heart stuttered in her chest.  She was hesitant with him, not knowing what he would allow, and slowly moved her mouth over his.

He was awkward, like perhaps he hadn’t done this in awhile, but he was catching on, his hands relaxing, one tentatively sliding up underneath her shirt.

It wasn’t like any other first kiss she’d had as a teenager, full of passion, no finesse at all, altogether too much tongue.  This was something very powerful, calculated.  He took his time and followed her lead, not trying to push any farther, keeping the kiss relatively chaste.  Rose settled in on his lap and kissed him harder, winding her arms all the way around his neck.  He shifted his knees so that her chest was pressed firmly against his.  After a few moments, he pulled away and pressed his forehead to hers, panting heavily.  She brushed a hand through his hair.

“Do you need your heart medication?” She asked him softly.

He shook his head. “No, just… Haven’t done this in a long time.”

She closed her eyes, reveling in being this close to him.  She really hadn’t been touched since she’d been ripped from the Doctor.  They’d cuddled on the couch, eaten together, held hands, fallen together in bed a couple times after a long adventure, clinging to each other in the dark, especially after the Pit.  But now, in Pete’s World, she’d done barely anything, afraid to get too close to anyone, only allowing Mickey near her, and even then, it wasn’t remotely romantic.  
She brought herself back to the present, pressing kisses to Alec’s cheeks, and forehead, waiting for him to recover.

“I’m not trying to take advantage of you,” he said softly, even as he tilted his chin up to receive her kisses.

“You’re not exactly twisting my arm here,” She reminded him, nudging her nose against his.  

He laughed  a little and caught her lips again, reaching on hand up to cup her cheek, fingers brushing her cheekbone.  She let him take control of the kiss this time, tilting her head with his hand, opening his mouth slowly over hers, waiting for her to tell him no.  She didn’t.  

Everything in Rose was attuned to this man, and she couldn’t even think about why she shouldn’t be doing this.  Her mind was fuzzy and confused, because this was the Doctor, and how could anything about the Doctor be wrong?  She was human, after all, and it made sense that she would be confused, made sense that her brain could hardly handle it.  

Alec drew her ever closer, and she now felt his heart thundering against hers.  

“Your heart,” she said, almost on a moan as he released her mouth and latched on to her neck.

“My heart is fine,” he growled, the Scottish brogue almost making her eyes cross.   She ran her fingers through his hair, knowing she was going to have a hickey the next morning and really not caring at all.  She pushed his head closer to her and he bit her harder, moving his hands to her thighs, fingers curling into her flesh. He moved from one side of her neck to the other, kissing and nipping at her harder.  She squeezed her eyes shut and shifted on his lap, hearing him whimper against her neck.

“I don’t have any- we can’t- tonight,”

“That’s alright,” Rose said, pulling his head up. “That’s fine.”

“You’re not upset?”

“No,” Rose shook her head, oddly relieved that this couldn’t go any further, that they could still come back from this. “No, I’m not upset.  I want to help you.”

His eyes darkened further, and she leaned down, kissing his neck.  

“You help every day,” he said softly, more tender than she’d ever heard him.  

Rose kissed him once more and got up, holding her hand out to him shakily.  “Come on,” she said, “We can both share the bed.”

He watched her in awe for a few moments, and took her hand.

************

Rose woke up as the sun was rising, still fully clothed.  Things hadn’t been able to escalate, which Rose was oddly alright with.  There had, however, been more heavy petting and kissing, but that was all. She looked over at Alec, crow’s feet smoothed out in sleep.  She shuffled over to him and pressed her head to his chest.  His arm came around her on instinct, and he shifted towards her.

She smiled and let her eyes flutter shut, feeling happiness surge through her.  This was what she wanted, and maybe she was too domestic, too much for the Doctor certainly, but she would push that aside, because her wanderlust was also very, very strong, and she was going to have to leave with the Doctor.

She also knew that she couldn’t follow things through with Alec.  It wouldn’t be fair to the Doctor at all, and she couldn’t do that to him.  She couldn’t have him wake up from his humanism to look at her with disappointment because she’d shagged him.  Rose sighed and pressed her cheek to his chest and wrapped her arms around him.  They could still be… Together, of course, just not intimate.  She didn’t think the Doctor would ever forgive her if she did that.

She realized that at some point during her thoughts, Alec had woken up and was rubbing his hand up and down her back.  “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she replied, propping herself up on his chest and peering down into his face.

“I’m sorry about last night,” he said softly, averting his eyes.

She reached down and cupped his cheek.  “I think we should wait anyway,” she said softly, “We haven’t known each other that long.”

“Does that mean I can’t kiss you?” He asked.

“Oh, no, you can kiss me all you want,” she said softly, smiling a little.  She leaned down and kissed him, smiling a little when she felt him sigh with relief through his nose.

“Thank God,” he said sleepily when she pulled away.

“Do you work today?” She asked.

“No, I’ve got a day off today, since the… Murder is intensive.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “Are you alright?”

He nodded, eyes sliding closed. “Mm,” he grunted, “I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”

“I’m going to worry about you,” she replied, settling back down against him again.  He pressed his cheek to her hair and rolled towards her slightly.

“Do what you want.”

“I will, thanks.” She said, cuddling even closer to him.  

He seemed to be dreadfully comfortable, and he was warm, and it was terribly easy for Rose to fall back asleep.  It seemed Alec was right behind her.

When they woke up again, properly, Rose noticed one major difference between Alec and the Doctor was that Alec was slow to wake, swimming up from sleep and blinking into the light as though confused on how he got there.  The Doctor was up like a shot and onto the next thing without even thinking to say anything about human customs of waking up.  Such as throwing Rose’s bedroom door open at terribly early hours and shouting “What’s next, Rose?!”

Rose woke up before Alec, and when he woke up he seemed to think he was first, since she was still resting.  He leaned over and kissed her cheek, moving kisses to her lips as she stirred and turned closer to him. She reached up and touched his sideburn.

“You’re feeling sentimental today,” She said when he pulled away.  

“You’ve made me happy today,” He said, sitting up. “Haven’t been happy in a long while.”

She felt her heart ache because she knew on some level, the Doctor hadn’t been happy since the war, not truly happy anyway, and maybe that had filtered over into Alec.  Maybe parts of the Doctor were in Alec.  That wasn’t hard to believe, really.  She sat up and pressed a kiss to his cheek.  

“Do you want to get breakfast?”

“Not hungry.”

Rose frowned.  “You should be eating,” she said, “It’s good for your heart to eat,” she reached over and patted his chest. “Yeah?”

He laughed and caught her hand, pulling it down into his lap and looking at her fingers.  He pulled her hand up and kissed her fingers.  “Thank you.

“For what?” Rose asked, genuinely confused on the whole thing.

“For not giving up on me.  For insisting that I behave like a human, especially around you and Donna.”

She giggled and squeezed his hand back.  “You should see Donna today.”  

He shook his head. “You wore me out.”

“We didn’t even do anything.”

He flopped back on the bed. “I mean emotionally.  You’re exhausting.”

“Most women are.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

She smiled a little wryly.  “Mm.  Well, some of us have paperwork to do today, so you can either come to breakfast with me or I can go.”

“No, don’t go,” he held onto her.  “I’ll come to breakfast.”

“Brillant!” She leaned over and pressed a kiss to his lips before hopping out of bed.  “We’ll invite Donna.”

She heard him grumbling behind her and ignored him, already setting to dial Donna on her way out.  

She had her mobile out when she heard a sound at the door.  Not like someone was knocking, but like someone was trying to get in.  She furrowed her brows and went to the door, checking over her shoulder to make sure that Alec wasn’t trying to follow her.  She threw the door open and peered down at the same child who had come to the door before, trying to open the door with what looked to be some sort of lock pick.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Rose hissed.  She was usually nice to children, but she had a feeling that this was not an ordinary child.

The little boy looked up at her with vacant eyes.  “I’m visiting.”

“Well, you can’t just visit without permission.  Give me that.”  She reached her hand out for the lockpick.

The boy looked at her and blinked. “No.”

“You don’t need a lock pick, you’re just a little kid, and you can’t be breaking and entering,” Rose said, trying to soften her voice.  “You’ll get caught and arrested.”

“Arrested?”
“Yes.”

He handed over the lockpick to her, and she clenched it in her fist.  “Thank you,” she said, “Now, please don’t come back.  You’re bothering me.”

She was trying to maintain her cool, even as fear sparked through her.  She had a feeling that this was a member of the family that was going to be coming for the Doctor.  No child had a vacant stare like that, and no child she’d ever known tried to break into people’s houses.  She chewed her bottom lip and tried to consider her options as the child stared up at her.

“Do you have a friend living with you?”

“No,” Rose said firmly, “Please go away.”

Most children would be put off when spoken to in such a way by an adult, but the little boy just shrugged and trotted down the steps and headed up the sidewalk.  Rose shut the door and sagged heavily against it, pulling her phone back up to dial Donna.

“Donna, I think we have a problem,” She said hoarsely.

“What is it?” Donna asked, urgency in her tone.

“Some little kid just tried to break into the house, and he’s been here before.  He’s got to be a member of the family, there’s no other explanation.”

“What do you want to do?” Donna asked cautiously.

Rose put her head on her fist, the coolness of the lockpick biting at her skin. “We’re gonna have to keep a real close eye on the Doctor. Start taking him lunches, visit him on breaks, stuff like that.”

“Rose, he’ll think we’re smothering him.”

“Well, you’re supposed to be related to him, that won’t make him upset, right? It can’t!”

“And what are you supposed to be?” Donna asked gently, knowing it had to be addressed, otherwise there would be some very hurt or confused feelings when this was all over.

Rose bit her lip and looked up at the ceiling, fighting the tears that were gathering in the corners of her eyes.

“I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

It was on the rare occasion that Donna got to see Alec without Rose that she noticed there was something a little bit different about him.  She sat across from him at the police station, watching him carefully as he stabbed at his food with his fork.

“You’re acting weird today,” She told him bluntly, where he was looking down at the heart healthy lunch that Rose had made for him. He looked up at her and furrowed his brow.

“I am not, “he said, scowling a little at her.

“You are.” She said, pointing at him.

“I am not.”

“You are.”
He scowled at her and looked back down. “It’s been a hard day,” he said, scraping his fork along his tupperware container.  

Donna softened a bit. “The murder?” she asked softly, trying to get him to open up to her just a bit.

He nodded a little. “Yeah, I just… We’re getting close, but the woman, she was about Rose’s age when she was murdered.”

“And you’re worried if you don’t catch the killer, he’ll go after Rose?”

Alec nodded and averted his gaze, sniffing. He didn’t seem to want to be looking at her when he said softly,  “Or you.”
Donna felt her heart warm.  This odd man was definitely the Doctor, constantly worrying about things he couldn’t control.  She smiled a little at him. “Well, I’m sure you’re a good detective, and you’ll figure it out.  Also, have you forgotten that Rose lives in a bloody mansion?  With her parents and little brother and guards?  She’ll be fine.”

He looked at her a bit sheepishly, “I had forgotten, actually,” he said, “She doesn’t act like an heiress.”

“No, she doesn't, “Donna agreed, “Almost like she isn’t one.”  She looked at him, hoping she was wrong when she spoke. “Are you in love with her?”
He shrugged a little. “How would I know?  I don’t think I’ve ever been in love.”

“You must have been,” Donna said, “You could at least guess.”

He rubbed his forehead. “I care about her, surely.  But…. I don’t… I’ve never…  I don’t know, Donna.”

“It’s good to take things slow you know,” Donna said, pointing at him with her fork. “She said so too.”

“She did?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Oh.”

“Disappointed?” Donna teased him, and when he blushed a little she continued on, saying, “You know, her mum wants to meet you, so she asked me to invite you over for dinner with the family tonight.”

“I don’t do that sort of thing.”

“Well, you probably should. Maybe shave while you’re at it.  That would be something, wouldn’t it?”

“I don’t need to shave,” he said, “And I don’t want to meet Rose’s parents.”
Donna rolled her eyes, “Well, you dumbo, it’s not like Rose isn’t going to be there, and I’ll be there too.”

“You will?” Alec asked, narrowing his eyes at her.  

She took a bite of her salad and shrugged her shoulders.  “Moral support, of course. What else?”

*******

“You got him to what?” Rose shrieked, popping up from her bed.

“Come to dinner with your family, here.  Your mum suggested it actually,” Donna said from where she sat at Rose’s bedroom desk.  “It’s not a bad idea, Rose.  That way if Pete or Jackie see him out and about they’ll be able to keep an eye on him too.”

“How dare you take my mother’s side.”

Donna laughed. “I’m taking the side that’s going to help the Doctor, Rose.  Our three months are barely halfway up, and you keep seeing that weird kid all over London. It’s clearly not safe for him.  And you can’t have any more sleepovers with him because you can’t control yourself.”
Rose blushed. “I can so.  We didn’t-”

“I know,” Donna winced and threw her hand up, “And believe me, I really, really don’t want to hear about it, so it’s best to just keep me in the dark on that one, yeah?”  She pleaded, and Rose nodded.

“What time is he coming over?” Rose asked. “I just got off work, Donna, I’m exhausted.”

“Around seven, plenty of time for you to put yourself together and pretend that you’ve actually been expecting company.’

Rose made a face. “Wait, when did you and my mum plan this?”
“When you were taking Alec his lunch,” Donna replied, secretly relieved that Rose had thought to give Alec food that would keep his heart pumping.  

Rose smiled a little in return. “Figures.”

*********

Alec was punctual, which Rose supposed she should have assumed he would be.  She opened the heavy front door and beamed at him. “Hi,” she said happily, “Good to see you.”  

He smiled, looking a little uncomfortable, and held out a bouquet of flowers that he was holding. “I was told to bring a gift.”

“Oh, they’re lovely,” Rose said, ignoring the fact that Donna probably had to tell him to get them for her mother.  “She’ll love them.”  She reached up to hang onto his shoulder and kissed him.  He stiffened against her and she smiled a little. “Relax, mum is upstairs.”

He gave her a tight lipped smile. “Yeah, you know, I just… Hello,” he finally finished, with a loud sigh.

She bit her lip and giggled. “Okay, let’s go upstairs.”

Alec had barely made it up the stairs when Tony barreled into his legs.  “Hello!” The little boy shouted.  

Alec blinked and awkwardly patted the little boy on the head.  “Hello.”

He looked up just as Jackie and Pete entered the room, wearing oddly solemn expressions.  He reached out his hand and shook Pete’s.  “Detective Alec Hardy, sir.”

“Pete Tyler.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Jackie said, “Jackie Tyler.”

“Mrs. Tyler, Mr. Tyler,” Alec nodded. “And I suppose this little man is your son?” He asked, gesturing down at the boy who was still clinging happily to his legs.

“Oh, yes,” Pete laughed. “Come on, Tony, let go of Mr. Hardy.”

Tony finally let go and he beamed up at Alec. “Rose has been sad for a long time, but you make her not sad anymore.”

Alec looked at Rose. “Oh,” he smiled a little. “I’m happy to do it.”

Jackie’s eyes grew a bit watery at that, and she dashed the tears away before Alec or Rose could see them. “Come on, let’s go have a seat in the dining room, shall we?” She said, reaching down for Tony to take her hand.

“That’s a bit of an age difference between you and your brother,’ Alec said softly.

“Yeah,” Rose said, “They took a break between us.” It was hard, to have him not knowing what was going on between her and her family, not knowing anything.  She reached down and took his hand, her other hand still holding the flowers for her mother.  

Donna was already in the dining room, so Rose released him to go to her mum and put the flowers in water.  Donna gestured to the seat next to her.  “Don’t worry,” She told him, “Rose will sit on the other side of you.”

He squinted at her. “This is your fault.”

“Mm-hm,” she said, smiling. “It’ll be fun.”

“It’ll strain my heart.”

“And you’re at the safest place to get you to the hospital,” Donna said, “The ambulance will be at the Tyler’s house very quickly,” she said, “So you can stop making excuses and enjoy yourself, you had fun at the pub.”

“That was not even remotely the same thing!” Alec said, pointing at her, “This is… Family.”

“Too intimate for you?”

“Yes!” Alec rubbed his hand over his face. “I don’t know how to do this.”

“Good thing I’m here,” Donna reached for the glass of wine that was in front of her plate.  “So you don’t actually have to do anything.”

The dinner wasn’t as uncomfortable as Rose thought it was going to be. She sat next to Alec and Jackie and Pete pretended that they didn’t know who the Doctor was.  It was a little difficult to get around the whole thing, but they somehow managed it, and Rose found herself wishing the Doctor was sitting next to her, having dinner with her family, and maybe they were getting ready to go back to the TARDIS and fly away.  She looked down into her plate, and wished that everything was normal.   Or, well, maybe perhaps not normal, but… Perhaps the way that it used to be.  

“Rose, dear, are you alright?” Jackie asked.

Rose looked up from her plate. “Yeah!” She said, a bit too loudly, “Yeah, just… Just a bit tired, that’s all, I’ve been doing a lot of work recently.”

Alec looked at her worriedly.  “You should be getting more sleep.”

She squinted at him. ‘I could tell you the same thing,” She said.  

Jackie laughed, and Pete joined in, just to make the situation a bit less awkward.  Pete nodded to Alec.

“A working man never sleeps, eh?”
Alec grunted. “Well, rarely.”

After that, the dinner went smoothly and Rose didn’t have to worry too much.  They had after dinner tea and Rose looked at him and nudged him in the shoulder. “I can take you home, if you’d like.”

“I don’t live that far from here,” he told her.

She scratched her nose just to give her hand something to do.  “Yeah, I know, but it’s starting to get cold and I don’t want you to get sick.”

Alec stared at her for a moment, trying to read her, but Rose was so used to the Doctor reading her face like a book that she was good at schooling her features to a neutral position.  He finally nodded, confident with whatever he saw in her.  

“Alright.”

After bidding goodbye to her parents, and they got into her car together.  She peered over at him.   “How was it? As bad as you thought?” She teased a little.

He smiled. “I didn’t think it would be bad, but I also didn’t realize your brother would be going to bed after the first course.”

She giggled. “He’s little,” She said to him.  “He needs to go to sleep at a proper hour.”
“Suppose the two of us could learn something from him.”

Rose nodded. “Yeah,” she said, focusing on the road and looking for any suspicious people that might be around his house. She parked in front of his house.

He looked over at her, turning towards her a little. “I suppose I should thank you,” he said, “For you feeling comfortable enough for me to meet your family.”  He heaved a sigh and reached out to cup her cheek. “They’re very good people.”

She smiled. “Yeah, they are.”

“And I’m.. Very glad you and Donna get along so well,” he said slowly, “She’s the only family I’ve got.”

Rose nodded.  That was technically true in more ways than one.  “Yeah,” She said softly.  “Thank you,” she leaned into his touch.  “For coming.”
“Of course,” he leaned forward and kissed her over the center console, a position that should’ve been uncomfortable but wasn’t.  She reached up to take hold of his jacket as he kissed her, being gentle, taking his time, as though he had all the time in the world to kiss her. When he pulled back and pressed his forehead to hers, she whispered softly, “Come inside.”

She squeezed her eyes shut. “I can’t.”

“Why not?” He asked.

“I s-shouldn’t,” she said, “We should take things slow.”

He kissed her again in response, and it seemed to be a kiss of apology.  He slid his hand into her hair and pulled her closer to him, and after several minutes, they both pulled back, panting.

“Goodnight,” He said softly, “Will I see you soon?”
“Absolutely,” She replied, and she wished that she could tell him why, why it was she had to keep him safe, what it was that she had to do.  She didn’t.  She smiled at him and waited until he left, and watched his house for an hour to make sure no one tried to get inside.

Chapter Text

The next day, Rose visited Alec at work a little earlier than Donna, though Donna promised vehemently that she would be there soon.  By now, everyone in the police station knew Rose, and so they all waved at her on their way in.

“Where’s your partner?” Rose asked, walking around Alec’s desk and sitting on the edge.  He looked up at her from his computer with a jolt.

“Rose! I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I suppose you didn’t, seeing as you didn’t say hello.”

“I can fix that,” he said, getting to his feet to touch her waist and kiss her softly.  He pulled away and stroked the dip in her waist with his thumb and sat back in his chair.  He glanced up at her. “I would’ve done more, but the door is open.”

She thumped him on the head and he grunted, reaching up and grabbing his head.  She grinned at him.  “You seem cocky to think that I would let you.”

“Well, I know you want to take things slow,’ he said, taking his glasses off, “But it’s dreadfully, terribly hard to resist you.”

“Mm,” She poked his chair with her toe. “Some lunch?  Donna will be here soon.”

He glanced up. “It’s lunchtime?”

“Why else would I be here?” Rose asked, furrowing her brows at him.  “Of course it’s lunch time.”

He scratched his head and then ran his hand through his hair. “Right,” he said.  “Just ran out of kind, I suppose,” he said softly, staring at his computer.

She frowned a little. ‘You’d never eat if it wasn’t for me and Donna,” She said, tilting her head a little.  He looked up at her and blinked.

“I suppose,” he said softly.  “I just feel like I have a lot to do,” he said, and pushed back from his desk.  He grabbed her knee and tugged her. “Come here.”

She giggled. “No, your door is open,” She flirted a little.  He grunted and looked a bit inconvenienced for a moment, and then looked over at her.  “Come here,” he said, reaching his hand for her.

“We’ll hold hands,” she said, now teasing.  She took his hand and he used her hand to tug his rolling chair over to her so he sat in front of her.  “Hello,” she said, hooking her foot around his knee.

“I feel like you’ve said that already.”

“You make me forget.”

He preened a little at that. “Well, I hope to make you forget any man that you’ve ever met.”

She smiled a little sadly and reached out with her free hand to stroke his cheek. “We can meet Donna at the chippy, yeah?  I think you’re probably getting tired of looking at this drab old place every day all the time, aren’t you?”
He cocked an eyebrow at you.  “Okay,” he said, “We’ll meet her there.  Though I don’t know why it’s never just you and me.”

“Because Donna’s your family,” Rose said. And she wants to protect you as much as I do, she didn’t say, but she almost wished she had.  She bit her lip instead and hoped he wouldn’t question her.

“Alright,” he said, “Though I don’t think I saw Donna nearly as much as I do now that I know you.”
Rose smiled at him again, trying to force herself to make it happy.  “Great! I’ll tell your coworkers you’re leaving.”

“I can tell them.”

Rose leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead before standing up. “They like me better.”

He winced. “I suppose that’s true.”

She walked down the hall and knocked on Alec’s partner’s door.  She heard the woman call out for her to come in and Rose opened the door, poking her head in.

“Taking Detective Grumpy out for lunch, are we?” The woman, Ellie Miller, asked, without looking up from her desk.

“Yes, ma’am,” Rose said, laughing.

Ellie laughed as well and looked up at her.  “I don’t know what you’re doing with him,” she said, squinting at him. “You seem so vibrant, so- not angry at the world.”

Rose shrugged. “Someone has to make him like the world.  Why not me?”
“Well, you’re good for him,” Ellie said, nodding.  “I’m glad he found you.”

Rose beamed. “Me too.  See you later, Mrs. Miller.”

“Until next time, Rose.”

Rose shut the door and went back to Alec’s office, where he was gathering up his things to follow Rose out of the station.  “You know, Miller talks about you a lot.”
“I’m charming,” Rose said, reaching for his hand. He took it without hesitation and smiled down at her.

“That you are.”
***********

The next few days passed without incident, but that didn’t stop Rose’s stomach from churning with nervousness every time she thought about the Family finding Alec.  Donna told Rose that if she was really so worried, she should just go and stay at Alec’s for a night.

“Nothing has to happen,” She said, “But you know I can’t stay over there, he’d be suspicious, so it would have to be you.”  Donna sighed, a look of concern crossing her face. “I’m worried too. But I can’t do anything except keep an eye out from here.”
Eventually, Rose was brought to a decision when Alec asked her one night over dinner at his house: “You could just.. Stay, if you want.”

“I don’t have any pajamas,” She told him, stabbing her spaghetti.

‘You could wear one of my t-shirts,” he said, leaning his elbows on the table. “And my… Sweatpants.”

“Are you having nightmares about the murder?” She asked him.

He wouldn’t look at her for several moments, and Rose sighed a little, having her answer that too. It seemed that the Doctor never got what he wanted, even in this alter ego of himself.  She got up from the table and crossed to him, settling herself on his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck, cuddling close to him. He sighed heavily and wrapped his arms back around her waist, squeezing her so her hip was pressed up against his stomach.  

“Okay,” She said softly, her will broken in the face of his worry and fear. “I’ll stay with you tonight.”
He sighed a little against her and nodded. “I don’t want you to think that I can’t handle my job, Rose, because I can,” he said firmly, “And I’m very good at my job. I really am.”

Rose pulled back and looked at him carefully.  She reached out and cupped his cheek. “I don’t think you’re weak, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

He couldn’t meet her eyes for a few moments.  He patted her side.  “Well, I’d like to get some sleep, and I- you have work tomorrow, don't’ you?”
Rose nodded. “Yeah,” She said, “I don’t live far though, you know that, so I could just back to my house before I have to go in to Torchwood.”

He nodded and she stood up, heading up to his room with him behind her.  He wordlessly handed her a pair of his sweatpants and a soft t-shirt that reminded her of the light blue ones that the Doctor wore under his button up Oxfords.  Alec headed into the bathroom and got ready for bed in there while Rose changed in his bedroom, sitting perched on the bed waiting when he came in.  She’d already texted her mum and said she wouldn’t be home, and she knew that Jackie had to pretend that she wasn’t worried.  She simply sent a text back that said “be careful”, and Rose had to admit that it was getting more and more difficult to do so.

He came out of the bathroom looking terribly vulnerable in his pajamas.  He came to step up next to her, holding his hand down to her.  She placed her hand in his and let him pull her to her feet.  She let him lean down and kiss her, and he did it so slowly, like he was sure that she would push him off again, and not allow him to go any further than they had before.  He continued to kiss her, and wrapped his arms around her waist, dragging her against him in a way she was sure that he hadn’t before.  She ran her fingers in his hair and left them there, wishing for once that it was the more stuck up style of the Doctor’s, that she could hold the Doctor this way, just once.

The thought jolted her back to reality, that the Doctor wouldn’t want her to come with him after that.  She loved the Doctor, she really did, but she didn’t want to let him go.  He was someone who was here for her in a way that the Doctor just hadn’t, maybe because he couldn’t, because of all this Time Lord nonsense that filtered through his head.  She pushed those thoughts away and focused on the man in front of her, the man who was willing to kiss her and hold her and take her on dates.   He pushed her back a little bit, not forcing her to do anything, giving her time to push him away, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.  She broke the kiss and fell back on the bed, scooting back a little bit and reached out for him.

He hesitated for a moment and crawled over to her on the bed, bracketing her shoulders with his hands.  “Hello,” he said softly.

“Hello,” she said.

“I care about you so much,” he said, “I don’t know if you’ll ever understand how much I care about you.”

She felt tears spring into her eyes. “I… I think I can understand.  I care for you so much,” she reached out and cupped his cheek in her hand, stroking her thumb over his beard.  “You are so important to me,” She said, wishing that he would understand, when he came back to be a Time Lord, wishing that everything would be alright.

He leaned down and kissed her again, and she couldn’t stop herself from wrapping herself around him, arms and legs, dragging him down closer to her. He pressed closer, eventually breaking away from her mouth to latch onto her neck, the scratch of his beard against her skin making her giggle a little.

“What?” he asked gruffly against her skin.

“Your beard,” she laughed, pushing her foot against his calf. “It tickles.”

“Oh, so you think I’m funny, do you?” he asked teasingly, and reached down to tickle her sides.  She squealed and squirmed away from him.  

“Stop, stop!” She laughed breathlessly, pushing at his chest.  “Come here, come back, kiss me.”

He was on her again like a shot, more intensity behind his kiss. He touched her with purpose, like she was the only woman that had ever existed, at least to him.  She broke the kiss to kiss along his jawline and down to his neck. “Do you need your heart medication?” She asked breathlessly.

“Why?” He asked, looking down into her eyes, pupils blown wide.

She stroked her hand through his hair and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’m not going to run away from you today,” she said, “And I’m not going to run away from you ever again.”

He regarded her with surprise, and finally smiled a little. “Really?”
“Really, but we need-”

“I have some,” he rushed out, and then sat back on his heels. “Um.  Not that I presumed, you know, I didn’t,” he rubbed the back of his neck.  “You don’t hate me for that, do you?”

“Of course not,” she said, sitting up as well. She reached up and gave him a long, lingering kiss that made her toes curl and his hands came back around her, gripping her about the ribs.  She pulled back again and pushed his chest. “Go on, I’ll be here when you get back,” she said, and he stopped to kiss her again and again before popping off the bed with more energy than she’d ever seen in him before.

He returned and was on her again instantly, scrabbling at her shirt, pushing it up and over her head, trying to get closer to her skin.  She tossed it over onto the floor and went for his shirt.  

“I should turn the lights off,” he said, as her hands closed around the bottom of his shirt.

“No,” She said, “No, this is fine.”

“You won’t want me,” he said, and she realized that he was terribly insecure, to act this way.  She looked up into his face, making sure that he was looking at her when she spoke next.

“Nothing you could say or do would make me want you any less,” she told him firmly.  “Now kiss me again and stop thinking about all of this.  It’s just you and me, got it?”
He nodded carefully and kissed her, and this time, she didn’t run away.

Chapter Text

It was different, waking up like this when the night before had been so eventful. She was laying in his arms, him spooned up behind her, his heart beating irregularly against her back.  She closed her eyes, hoping that his heart wouldn’t hurt him at any point during this adventure.  Especially if the Family found him. How would he react? What would happen to him?  If he died as a human, did he come back as a Time Lord and carry on?  Or was death final, now that he was human?  She bit her lip and turned over in his arms, wrapping her arms around him without waking him up.  He grunted and burrowed closer to her in his sleep, burying his nose in her hair and shoving his leg between hers to get closer to her.  

She hadn’t had a moment like this in a long time, she realized.  Even when she’d woken up with him before, it hadn’t been anything like this, and she closed her eyes and pressed her nose to his chest, wishing that everything could be alright, hoped the Doctor wouldn’t hate her when his Time Lord version woke up.  

It was all so confusing and unfair. Why would the TARDIS come here?  There had to be a crack in the universes for it to be possible, sure, but how would the time ship come here, and why?   Why, out of all the places in the world, would the TARDIS choose to crash land in the backyard of her parents’ mansion? It didn’t make any sense and it upset her a bit, simply because she didn’t know the answer.  

Instead of trying to think about it any further, she burrowed closer to him, locking her hands behind his back.  He started to stir a little and she pretended to still be asleep, doing her best to ease out her breathing and keep herself steady.  He rubbed one of his hands up and down her back soothingly for a moment and kissed the top of her head, the motions clearly tender, before falling back into what appeared to be a light sleep. Rose blinked against his chest, clearing unbidden tears from her eyes, and tried to will herself to fall back asleep. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work, as her brain was working at a mile a minute, and Alec was very warm and cuddling her closely to himself, and Rose found that she really never wanted to move again.  It was so comfortable, to be right up against him like this.

He breathed in and out slowly, slowly waking up for sure this time, kissing the crown of her head and pulling back to look her sleepily in the face.  He blinked at her. “Good morning.’
She reached up and touched her fingertips to his bottom lip, just needing to touch him a little more.  “Good morning,” she said softly, moving her fingers to push his fringe out of his face.  “There you are.”

“Thank you,” he said, curling his fingers against her back. “For staying.”

“It would seem that I can’t stay away,” she admitted, looking up into his eyes.  He searched her eyes carefully and nodded, his face still terribly solemn.  He leaned forward and kissed her, and Rose curled her fingers into the back of his neck and kissed him back, feeling hungry for it, like they hadn’t done plenty of it the night before. He rolled her over onto her back, opening his mouth over hers to kiss her deeper.  She knew she didn’t have to leave for another couple of hours, so she wrapped both her arms firmly around him, dragging him down so his chest pressed against hers.  

He framed her ribs in his palms, tugging her against him as he arranged himself on his knees over her.  “You’re beautiful,” he whispered against her neck as he kissed his way to her collarbone.  She sighed and carded her fingers through his hair, letting him continue to kiss her how he liked. And how he liked was to kiss her quite a lot.

***********

Later, he stayed over her, one hand cupping her cheek as he regarded her with a  sort of wonder that she’d never seen on a man’s face before.  “I’m… I don’t think I’ve been happy for a long time, Rose. But you… You make me happy.”
She responded by tilting her chin up for another kiss, which he greedily took, before sitting back a little.

He dropped his gaze from hers. “I had another dream,” he said cautiously, rolling onto his back, away from her. She propped herself up on her elbow on her side so she could peer down into his face. “So, what did you dream about, then?” She asked, reaching her hand out to lay over his chest.  He breathed in deeply through his nose for a moment and then turned his head to look up at her.  

“We met the devil himself,” he said, “Which… I feel like I’ve dreamed before, but this time, I knew that I couldn’t be away from you.  It was like… I was so afraid to lose you, that you’d leave me. Or him, I suppose.”

She sighed softly. “You’ll never lose me,” she said.  “Even in your dreams, I don’t ever leave you willingly, do I?”

“No,” he admitted, “No, you’re… Forced.  And it’s painful.”

She ran her hand over his chest and shifted to lay half on top of him, head on his chest.  “We’ll have a bit of a cuddle then, yeah?”
“Okay,” he said, though it wasn’t like it took a lot of convincing to get him to cuddle with her.  

************

She shouldn’t have been surprised, when it did happen.  She, Donna, her mum, Tony, and Alec had all gone out to the chippy one night when Pete had a meeting to go to.  Alec was sat at her side, his arm around the back of the booth, innocuously settling near her shoulders.  It made her ridiculously happy, and so she didn’t say anything about it, simply had her hand resting carefully on his thigh.

It was nice, to have him so close, almost pressed up against her.  Jackie watched the two of them with a measure of sadness, not knowing how this would end for Rose, what was going to happen. The uncertainty was what was going to kill her, and Rose as well, if she wasn't careful.  And with as close together as they were sitting, Jackie had a feeling she wasn’t being careful.

“So, Alec, are you planning on staying in London?” Jackie asked, trying to keep control of the questions she really wanted to ask to try and pry the Doctor out of this man.

Alec nodded, stabbing one of his chips with his fork.  “For now,’ he said, glancing at Rose. “I’d like to stay, if they don’t relocate me.”

“Relocate?” Rose frowned and looked over at him. “What do you mean?”

He shrugged. “My heart.  They want to take me off active duty, I told them to wait until I solved the murder. But the body up and walked off on us,” he scratched his cheek, fingernails rasping through his beard. “Sorry, Rose tells me that the murder isn’t proper dinner conversation,” he said, glancing over at her.

“No, wait, I’m interested,” Donna said, “Where’s the body?”

“There was a body, having an autopsy done, and the next day… Gone,” Alec shook his head. “No trace at all. Like it up and walked out of the station without anyone noticing.”

“Did you check the CCTV?” Rose asked softly.

He nodded. “Nothing.  One second on the footage she’s there, then the the next the footage gets all… Fuzzy, and then she’s gone.  It’s… incredibly unsettling.”  

Rose squeezed his knee. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

He sighed, staring down at his basket of chips.  “I hope so.” He glanced up. “I don’t mean to ruin dinner.”

“It’s something on your mind,” Jackie said, tapping on Tony’s plate to make him eat.  “Of course you’d want to talk about it.”

Donna watched him carefully, not for the first time worrying about her best mate.  The Doctor was under here, inquisitive, trying to find an answer for something that didn’t seem to make any sense.  Just like he always was.  With Rose at his side, looking at him like he hung the stars himself.  Donna smiled to herself a little. Despite Rose’s fears, she had a feeling that the Doctor was going to be overjoyed to wake up and see that Rose Tyler was back in his life again.  He had yearned for her, after all, desperately.  He’d been very lost without her, and Donna had seen that more than anyone that had met the Doctor since Rose’s departure.  Well, perhaps Jack Harkness had seen it as well.  Donna sighed a little and exchanged a glance with Jackie.  It was going to be an ordeal, if nothing.

The door to the chippy slammed open, and the odd little boy that had come to Alec’s house twice entered, his limbs stiff as he walked towards the counter, but stopped about halfway there. Rose’s hand tightened on Alec’s knee and he frowned.

“Ow,” he said softly, tapping the back of her hand.

“Sorry,” she said, releasing him.  “That… I’ve just seen that little boy before, that’s all. He’s really unsettling.”

He frowned. “He’s just a kid.”

Rose glanced to Donna meaningfully.  “I’ve seen him before.”

Donna’s face went sheet white with understanding. She looked over at the little boy, saw the darkness lurking behind glassy eyes, the stiffness of him as he turned his head.  He beckoned with an awkward hand over his shoulder.

“That’s-” Jackie said, and Donna shook her head, not wanting Jackie to say anything about it.  It was brutal, watching and not being able to say anything, not having any way to communicate about anything that was going on.

After a few moments, an older man walked in behind the little boy and put his hand on his shoulder, and both of them turned at the same moment to look at Alec.

Alec frowned. “What the hell?” He said softly, looking at Rose. “You know these people?”
“No,” Rose shook her head. “I’ve seen the little boy, but not that guy,” she frowned.  

“Why are they staring?” Jackie asked, sounding a little afraid.  

“I dunno,” Donna said honestly.  They all looked at the two, and a woman walked in behind them.  Alec sucked in a breath.  She had markings on her face like she was going to be cut open, her hair was dark and straggly, her skin ashen.  Her eyes looked even more barren than the little boy’s, and Alec ran his hand through his hair, breaking eye contact with what was clearly the Family.

“Well,” he said, “I don’t understand it, I really don’t, but… We’ve found the body.”

Rose blinked. “What?”
“That’s her, the girl that was murdered.  I don’t understand it, this is some sick joke.  Jackie, take Tony out of here.”

“He’s right, mum,” Rose said, “Get out of here.”

Jackie understood the true meaning behind it, and scooped up her son, hurrying out the side door of the chippy, already ringing Torchwood on her way out.  

“We’re looking for the Doctor,” the little boy said, and Rose put her head in her hands, letting out a shuddering sigh.

“Rose,” Alec said softly, “You didn’t… Tell anyone about my dreams, did you?  This isn’t a prank, is it?”
“No,” Rose said, looking him in the eye.  “I would never do that to you.”

“I don’t think you all heard us,” The man said, louder. “Has anyone seen the Doctor?”

“Rose. Donna. What is this?”
Donna snapped her gaze to him.  “Keep your voice down,” she hissed. “Just stop.”

“Why? What’s going on?”
“There’s something we haven’t told you,” Donna said carefully, “And you’re either going to love us or hate us for it, and I’m not sure which.”

Alec stared the both of them down. “I don’t understand it,” he said coldly.  “You need to tell me what’s going on. Both of you.”

“The Doctor!  The Doctor! Bring us the Doctor!” The dead woman shrieked.

The people in the chippy were starting to get uncomfortable, people ushering their children out, and couples trying to hide away from whatever was happening.  Rose swallowed hard and looked to Alec, tears shining in her eyes.

“Please don’t hate me,” she said softly.

“Rose,” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t hate you.  I wouldn’t.  Just tell me what’s going on.”
Donna frowned.  “Those dreams you’ve been having,” she said, “They’re real.”

“What?”
Donna let out a shuddering breath. “You are the Doctor.”

Chapter Text

Alec’s face became cool and collected, shutting off from the outside world, clearly forming the detective persona that the Doctor created for himself.   He looked between Donna and Rose as the Family stared at him.

“We need to get him out of here,” Donna said lowly, seeing that Rose had dissolved into silent tears, though she was still keeping on a brave face, supposedly so no one would be upset with her.  She bit her lip and stared at Donna, dashing her tears away with the back of her hand.

“She’s still in the backyard,” Rose said on a whisper, her voice trembling just a bit.

“Take him there.”

“You’ve got a woman in the backyard?” Alec asked, “And you’re saying my dreams are real?  If this is a joke, Rose, it’s not very funny.”

She shook her head. “Look at me.  S’not a joke. You need to come with me.”

Donna reached out to shake Rose’s hand, a gesture that Alec thought odd until Rose took her hand, and a pocket watch switched between them.  Rose shoved it down the front of her shirt and furrowed her brow at Donna.

“You’re going to stay here?” She asked.

“If we all leave, it looks suspicious, they might follow us. Besides, now that you’ve got that, they won’t smell anything on me.  I’ll be alright.”

Rose nodded. “Don’t ask questions, for now, just come with me,” she said, tears gone, resolve written all over her face.  Alec nodded slightly, not sure what else to do, and followed Rose from the chippy. The Family honed in on Donna.

“You there!” Rose heard as the door shut.  

“Why did you leave her with them?” Alec demanded, “That’s my cousin!”
“Because it’s what you would’ve done,” she said, grabbing his hand and sprinting down the street towards the Tyler Mansion.  It was two miles by foot, but she was in good shape and could make it in record time.

She slowed down after only a few steps. She could make it, sure, but Alec couldn’t.  Not with his heart.  He was already panting, his hand clutched to his chest.

“Sorry!” She said, pressing her hand over his, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.’

Alec continued panting, staring at her.  “Walk slowly with me,” he said, “We’ll get there.  And in the meantime, you need to tell me what the hell is going on.”

She swallowed. She didn’t want to tell him, not really, not the whole story.  She didn’t want him to be angry at her, never wanted to make any version of the Doctor upset.  She swallowed hard, preparing herself, and looked up at him.

“It’s like we said. Those dreams you have, about me and Donna and Martha, and traveling through time and space. It’s all real. Every bit of it.”

He frowned at her. “That’s not possible, Rose, that’s dreadfully fanciful.”

She started walking away from him, trusting that he would follow her, and he did, catching up to her and waiting for her to answer all his unspoken questions, questions that she wasn’t even sure that she had the answers to yet.  She barely knew what was going on.  Donna had told her everything she had known, everything she thought was going on with the Doctor, how much he had missed her. It had all been laid on the table there, but she didn’t have any instructions from the Doctor like Donna had.  And yet, Donna had decided to stay behind. Why?   Why had she done that?  Rose had known the Doctor longer, technically, but that didn’t mean that she knew better than Donna.

“It is possible,” she said finally, “And you’re gonna see when we get back to the mansion, you really are. This… All of this, it’s so mental… Just… Just come to me,” she kept walking, a bit faster, and he followed her.  

She opened and closed her mouth. “You… You’re mad at me, aren’t you?”

“I’m not,” he said, stopping her with a hand on her shoulder.  “Rose.  No, I’m not.”  He tilted her chin up with his knuckle, regarding her with soft, searching eyes.  “Would you be upset if I kissed you right now?”

“You might be, later,” she whispered.,

“I would never be upset that I got to kiss you,” He said, frowning.  And with that he leaned down and gave her what was possibly the most gentle kiss that she had ever experienced in her life.  She let out a little whimper and drew him closer, but let him go after just a few moments.  She wanted to put her head in her hands and break into tears, but she didn’t, instead looked up at him and nodded before turning and starting the walk back to the mansion.’

When they got there, Jackie was already there, Tony on her hip, looking at them worriedly. “Do you know what you’re doing?” She asked Rose in a demanding voice. “Is he going to be alright?”

Rose showed her mother the watch. “Should be,” She said, “He doesn’t believe me, though.”

“Well, take him in that ship of his and he’ll have to believe you,” Jackie said with a short laugh.  She nodded to the Doctor. “Get himself back in his own head, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Rose said softly.

“What’s that watch?  Why is it so important to you?” Alec asked as she led him to the backyard.

“Oh, it’s much more important to you, believe me,” she said, opening the door to the back gardens.  Alec gasped and took a step back.

“How do you… Why do you have a police box?”  he asked her lowly, “Where did  you get it?”

“It doesn’t belong to me,” she said, pulling the chain holding her TARDIS key from around her neck.  “It’s yours.”

He furrowed his brows. “Rose…”

“The TARDIS.  Your ship, the one you dream about, that’s her.  Go inside.”

“Rose-”

“Go inside,” she said firmly, her eyes snapping. “I’m not asking.”

He jolted a bit at her tone, seemingly surprised that she was taking charge in such a way, but he obeyed her, stepping into the ship and looking surprised when he saw she was bigger on the inside. He rested his hand on the railing and inhaled sharply when the TARDIS sang a happy tune in their heads.

“Missed you too,” Rose said, patting one of the walls and brushing past Alec to walk up to the console.  She felt like hugging the ship, as ridiculous as that was.  “She’s happy to see you.”

“She… Sounds like she is,” Alec said.  “Rose… This is a bit of a shock, my heart… I need to sit down.”

She led him to the jumpseat, sitting him down on it and sitting next to him.  She watched him carefully, waiting for him to say that it was alright for her to speak. Noticing her expression, he looked at her and nodded carefully.

“Go on,” he said.  “Tell me what the watch is, tell me what I need to do.”

Rose sat cross legged, facing him, and let the chain of the watch trail over her fingers. “This holds… Well, you.  Donna told me about it mostly.  You were a Time Lord, the Doctor, and those people in the chippy, they went searching for you.  So you had to hide yourself, and well-” she held the watch up. “You’re in here.”
He blinked. “I’m in there?”

“Yeah,” she said softly.  “The Doctor’s in here.  Alec’s in here,” she said, tapping the side of his head.

“So that… I’m the man that lost you?”
She bit her lip, trying to figure out how to tell him yes in a way that wouldn’t upset him. “Well,” she said, “It would seem that you found me again.  The TARDIS brought you and Donna here, to the parallel world where I got lost,” she scratched just under her eye, trying to give her hands something to do. “I… I was really lost without you, Doctor, I lived, but it wasn’t living.”

“You just called me Doctor,” Alec said.

“You’re my Doctor,” she said simply, “Always have been, I think.”

His jaw ticked. “So all this time, everything you did, was because of the Doctor.”

“You’re the same person.”

“So you let me fall in love with you, knowing that I would have to come back and hold you at arm’s length again?  You think that won’t happen?”

It had crossed her mind, and it had hurt her dreadfully to think about it.  She sniffed.  “Yes,” she said, “I’ve thought about it, and I think that will happen.”
“So you used me?”
“No! Alec,” She leaned forward, “I was terrified to lose you. You hated me when you first came here and I thought ‘well, I might as well try to be his friend’ but you were so good to me in a way that I’ve… I’ve never been treated so well as I am when I’m with you.  You are so good to me and that, I don’t think, has anything to do with the Doctor.”

“Do you still love him?”
“Yes.”

“Do you love me?”

Yes.”

“Then how do you expect me to leave you?” Alec asked, reaching out and cupping her cheek. “How could I trade in being your lover to just be your friend again?”
“So you can save the universe,” she laughed, a wet sound, “The universe needs the Doctor.”

‘And you need someone who can love you back,” Alec said insistently, “I can do that, the Doctor can’t.”

This was more painful than Rose thought. She’d expected rage, for him to reject her, and instead he was offering to stay with her so that she could be happy, having a bloke and a job and all her friends.  But it wasn’t that easy anymore. She wasn’t a selfish teenager anymore, it wasn’t just about her.

“I like to hope that you love me when you’re the Doctor,” She said, “And even if you don’t, I can’t be that selfish.”

His eyes started to brim with tears, but he fought them back. “This isn’t fair,” he said, “I should get to have you forever.”

“It’s okay to cry,” she said softly. “I want to cry too.”

He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her, drawing her into a warm embrace that she closed her eyes against and swore that she would remember for the rest of her life.  She let out a shuddering breath, wrapping her arms around his neck and squeezing him tight, letting him take reassurance in her just as she was taking it in him.

“I won’t do it,” He whispered, “I’ll stay here with you forever.”
“You can’t do that,” Rose said.  “You’d regret it, the world would quite literally crumble, and there's the whole matter of how the TARDIS got all the way through the walls to this universe. We need to fix this, Alec.  And you can’t fix it when you’re not a Time Lord.”

He waited for a moment, and finally said softly, “If I change… if I become the Doctor again, will you think of me?”
“Of course,” she whispered, “Of course.”

He sighed again, and said softly, “I think you’ve taught me what love is,” he said softly, “In fact, I’m certain of it. But.. I want to be able to love you.”

‘I know,” Rose said, wishing he would stop talking about it, simply because it was breaking her heart into a thousand pieces every time he said it.

“Give me the watch,” he said, finally sitting back from her. He had tear tracks on his face, and she leaned forward to kiss them away as she slipped the watch into his hands.  He sighed and closed his eyes against her attentions.  She finally pulled back and he chased her to catch her lips, sharing what both of them knew was going to be their last kiss.  Alec took full advantage of it, kissing her hungrily, with no restraint, how he kissed her when they were in his bed. How she had always dreamed of being kissed.  

And now she had to give it up.

It was minutes before he pulled away, panting heavily. “You know… In my dreams the Doctor has two hearts.”

“He does.”

“Do they work?” he asked, wincing at the pain in his chest

“Brilliantly, you can run like the wind,” she laughed, “Because he is you, Alec, you’re not going away.”

“I know,” he said softly, and she realized that it was the part of the Doctor that was left in him that allowed him to understand.  “Hold my hand?”

She took his hand without hesitation and kissed his knuckles, looking up into his face.

‘I love you,” he said softly.

“I love you too,” she replied, and he nodded, resolutely, looked down at the watch, and opened it.

Chapter Text

Rose continued to hold his hand, mostly because he seemed to be in pain. She chewed the inside of her lip nervously as gold flowed from the watch and made its way into Alec’s chest.  She saw the shift, saw that he sat up just a little bit taller, some of the worry lines around his face evened out.  His hand gripped hers, still, and she wondered if that was a good sign or if she was getting excited over nothing, that this didn’t mean anything yet.  

Finally, the gold stopped flowing around him and he gasped, opening his eyes and looking directly into hers. His brain was still processing the whole thing, she could tell by the look in his eyes.  She could also tell that all his memories hadn’t returned yet, his memories of being Alec, because all of a sudden, he looked at her like she was the sun.

“Rose?” he choked out, his brow furrowing.  The smooth English accent sounded odd coming from that scruffy face, and Rose wanted to say something, anything at all, but instead she just choked on a sob.

He stood up and looked down at her hand in his, his energy so much more excitable than when he had been Alec.  He hauled her to her feet and wrapped his arms around her waist, trembling underneath her.

“Rose,” he whispered, his voice full of awe.  He just held her for several moments, nose pressed to her shoulder. She closed her eyes and held him tight, waiting for him to decide what would happen next.  And then he stiffened and pulled back, searching her eyes.  “We’ll.. We’ll talk later.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, letting her hands fall away from his shoulders. “Later.”

“I mean it.”

“So do I.”

“I missed you,” he said softly, and she looked from his chest up into his eyes.

“I missed you too,” she replied.  He gave her a beaming grin that made her melt on her best days, and darted out the door, throwing “I expect you rang Torchwood?” over his shoulder.  She had to laugh and followed him out, knowing her mother would have had the foresight to do what the Doctor thought she had already done.  So far, he probably didn’t know that she had been comforting him the whole time.  She swallowed hard and trailed along behind him, expecting him to be silent.

“We’re not in the original universe,’ he said carefully.  “I- this isn’t our chippy, where we’re going?”

Rose fought the urge to hang her head in shame. He already remembered.  “Right,” she said, “You crash landed in my backyard.”

He glanced at her sideways. “Really?  Well, I do hope I didn’t land in your mother’s daisies.”

She laughed and shook her head, “You didn’t.”

He slowed a bit. “Rose, I know we haven’t sorted things out, but for now-” he stuck his hand out to her, a careful expression on his face, like she was going to reject him.  She almost scoffed.  If anything, she should be the one afraid of him rejecting her.  She slid her hand into his, nearly sighing with relief as their fingers entwined, just as they were supposed to, and he beamed at her.

“Run.”

They ran all the way back to the chippy, now that they could, since both of his hearts were in working order.  She kept pace with him in a way she hadn’t been able to before they’d been separated, and she could tell that he was surprised by it.  He didn’t say anything at all, just kept them running until they came to a stop in front of the chippy.  A Torchwood van was already pulled up in front, and the Doctor let out a breath.

“Never thought I’d count on Torchwood for something like this,” he said softly.  

As though the world was trying to shock the Doctor into a coma, Mickey hopped out of the van with a huge gun, Jake behind him.  

“What!” The Doctor blinked. “Who gave Mickey the Idiot a gun?   No, we’re not having that, it won’t even kill them.  We need to bind the Family to the bodies they’ve chosen.”

Mickey, having heard all of this, rolled his eyes and approached them. “Suppose the Doctor’s back?”

Rose fiddled with one of her earrings and nodded. “Yeah.”

“Good to have you back, boss,” Mickey stuck out his hand, and the Doctor shook it.  He opened his mouth to say something, but it appeared that the Family had already caught the scent of him, as the chippy door burst open, the three of them coming straight for him and Donna right behind.

“Stop right there,” The Doctor released Rose’s hand and stepped forward.  “You lot have caused quite enough trouble, taking a murdered girl’s body, and that of two living people?”   He shook his head. “What in blazing hell is wrong with the lot of you?”

“We only seek to survive, Doctor,” the little boy said., “Your companion hindered us in our search, but at last, we have found you.”

“Well, yes,” the Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets, an odd motion with it being Alec’s suit and not his.  “You’ve found me, technically, but see, the funny thing is, I’m not going to let that stop me from being the victor here.” He squinted. “You thought I would just let you take over?”

“I don’t have time for this!” the little boy stomped his foot.  “Let us kill him now.”

“No!” Rose shouted.  “You’ve only got what? A month and a half to live anyway?”

“If we take the Doctor’s essence, it will be more!”

“Alright, that’s enough,” the Doctor said, and his voice was so dark and dangerous that Rose felt a chill run through her.  She hadn’t heard him talk this way in a very long time, and she had forgotten how frightening he could be.  He lifted the sonic and pointed it at the Family.  “Don’t move.” He looked to Mickey and Jake.  “Detain them. But don’t shoot.”

The Family started to protest, despite the Doctor pointing his sonic at them, and before the Doctor could stop her, Rose was in the thick of the action with Mickey and Jake, grabbing the dead girl’s hands and wrenching them behind her back.  She winced at the feeling of the decomposing skin under her fingers, and breathed out a tiny sigh of relief when Mickey offered her a set of cuffs. She latched them on and held the metal chain between the cuffs, keeping the girl from going anywhere.

They fought back, of course, but they were new to human bodies and their clumsy movements were easily matched by Mickey, Rose, and Jake, and the Doctor nodded, his respect evident.

“I am going to take you back to my ship,” he said, popping the ‘p’, “And I’m going to show all three of you a fate worse than death.”

“But Doctor, you didn’t even take the victory,” The man of the Family snarled, “You didn’t even win!”

“Yes I did,” The Doctor said, “The human race won, these beautiful people that are holding you back.  They’ve won.”  He looked at Donna. “The people who protected me while I was hidden. They won.”  He looked back to the Family, his eyes snapping, the fire lit behind them speaking to the Oncoming Storm.  

“The most important part is that you lose.”
Civilians were cleared from the area and the Family was loaded in the back of the van with Rose, Jake, and Mickey.  The Doctor felt his hearts twist when she didn’t look back at him, even for a moment.

“She’s moved on,” he said, as Donna came to stand next to him.

“No, she bloody well hasn’t.”  Donna frowned at him. “You should know that better than anyone.”

“She- she loved Alec,” he said softly, “Not me.”

‘You were Alec, you stupid lump,” Donna snapped. “Do you know how much that woman cried, worrying about you?”  She shook her head. “Come on, we get to ride in the front of the van.”

Of course, it was easy to direct the van to the Tyler Mansion, as everyone knew where it was.  Rose had a death grip on the cuffs of the girl, who was still fighting to escape, but had her mother on the other end on her mobile.

“No, mum, when we pull up, don’t get out of the house. No, Mickey said.  No.   NO.   We haven’t.  I’ll talk later.  Do not leave the house, mum.  Promise.”

The Doctor had never heard her sound more severe, and he wondered if this was the woman she had become while he was away. Had he done that to her, made her tight and angry?  Was she a stern businesswoman now, used to being an heiress?  She certainly wasn’t spoiled, he knew that, knew that she was never that way.  He wanted to look over his shoulder at her but refrained, trying to focus on the Family and getting rid of them.

Thinking about them bade rage start to boil beneath his skin. They had threatened Rose, and the people… They’d taken bodies.  The Doctor ran his hand through his hair, wincing when it fell right back over his eyes.

“Are you alright?” Donna asked.

“Did they try to hurt you?” he asked instead, countering the question that he didn’t want to answer.  

She furrowed her brow at him but sighed and let it go. “Alright,” she said.  “Are you sure you want to know?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I…  They tried to get me to tell them where you went, they’d already figured out who you were,” Donna said, “They said they’d blow up the chippy and kill everyone in it, but I kept them talking until you got back.”

The Doctor let out a sigh. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m sorry we weren’t faster. I let us stay in the TARDIS too long, took too long getting back.”

“No,” Donna said firmly, “Don’t make this be something you blame yourself for.  That’s not fair.”

The Doctor wanted to agree, but unfortunately, the Doctor was very good at blaming himself.

When they arrived at the mansion, the Doctor grabbed two Family members, despite Rose’s protests.

“I can handle this,” Rose said as he took her prisoner from her, who was still snarling and fighting.

“I know you can,” he said, looking over at her. “I don’t want you too.”

She was still talking at him when he and Mickey took the Family to the TARDIS.  

“Thank you, Mickey,” The Doctor said gravely, “You can leave it to me from here.”

“Sure?”

“Yes,” The Doctor nodded curtly.  “Yes, It’s fine, I’ll take care of it.  Keep Rose out of the TARDIS.  They can’t escape now that they’re inside.  She won’t let them.”

“Yes sir,” Mickey said, watching him carefully.

Rose was still protesting, now to Donna, when Mickey exited the TARIDS, and he reached out to touch her shoulder. “Rose. Don’t.”

“But… He can’t, not by himself, he’s already-” she started to tear up, “He already blames himself for so much, he can’t have this too.”

“He needs it,” Mickey said, “He doesn’t want you involved.  Alright?”

Rose clenched her jaw and looked at Mickey.  “I think he’s going to leave me here, Micks.  He’s not gonna let me come with him.”

Mickey shook his head. “Yes he is, Rose, there’s no way he’s going to leave here without you.”

“Course not,” Donna said from next to Rose.  “It’s going to be alright, Rose, promise.”

The Torchwood agents stood with Donna and everyone else, quietly waiting for the Doctor to reemerge.  It was about an hour later when he came out, looking exhausted and way more like Alec than the Doctor, especially with his unshaven face.  

“Doctor, you’ll need to come with us to report-”

The Doctor held up a hand. “I will<” he said, “Just… Let me have a couple hours.”
“Yes, sir,” The Agent nodded, and that seemed to be the cue for everyone to leave. Rose and Donna stood firm, and Donna realized exactly who the Doctor needed.

“I’m gonna tell your mum and dad what happened,” Donna said, settling her hand on Rose’s shoulder.

Rose turned to Donna and forced a smile. “Okay,” She said.  “Thanks.”

Donna disappeared inside and the Doctor took a couple steps forward. “Come with me?” He asked.  “I find… I find I don’t want to be alone right now.  And you… Technically, I’ve just found you.  And… We need to talk.”
Rose nodded and approached the TARDIS.  The Doctor turned and went back into the ship, and Rose followed, uneasiness crawling through her body. Was he going to try and get rid of her now?  Maybe let her down easy?

Instead of thinking about that any further, she just followed him through the halls to wherever he happened to be headed.  It almost hurt her, how much she realized that she would follow him anywhere.

Chapter Text

Rose followed the Doctor to his room. He went straight to his bathroom and took out his shaving cream and razor.  She perched herself on the closed lid of the loo and watched him, waiting on him to say something.  It had to be up to him, she knew that, and so she would just wait.  She could be patient.

“I don’t like having a beard,” he said without any further explanation.

“I guess not,” Rose replied, “Though… You need me here for that?”
He made a noise in the back of his throat. “No, I suppose not,” he said, “But I’ve been without you for a very long time, as I’m sure Donna told you, and so I- I thought that maybe it would be calming to have you next to me.”

She chewed her bottom lip.  “Is it?”

He looked down at her fondly., “Yeah,” he said softly.  He turned back to putting shaving cream on his face, and she watched him.  For long moments they just existed together, in silence, and the Doctor shaved his face, slowly becoming the Doctor again.  Once his face was smooth again he took a pot of hair gel from his cabinet and ran it through his hair until it all stuck up the way that it was supposed to.  She smiled a little at the sight of him, looking exactly how he was supposed to.

“There you are,” she said, trying to sound cheerful.  

He smiled down at her and looked back at himself in the mirror. “I suppose, yes.  Did it bother you?”

“I missed your hair,” she said, “You… Wore it all flat, looked kind of sad.  Wrong, really,” She leaned her elbow on the top of the toilet and put her cheek in her hand.  “Still the wrong suit, though.”

He looked at himself in the mirror. “A bit raggedy, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is, she agreed.  “Maybe you should change.”

“Telling me what to do, Rose Tyler?” He asked.

She beamed. “It’s what I do best, Doctor.  Or have you forgotten?”

He stared at her for a long moment. “Can I have another hug?” He asked her, shifting from foot to foot as though he didn’t know what her answer would be.  “I really, really missed you,” he said.  “And I don’t know... “

She got to her feet, hating how insecure they were around each other now. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be. She stood and wrapped her arms around his waist to be close to him.  He let out a long sigh and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his now clean shaven cheek to the top of her head.  

“We still need to talk,” he said, “And I haven’t forgotten, but… For now, I’d just like to hold you.”

She nodded and squeezed him tighter.  “You need to come to dinner with my family too,” she said.
He nodded against her. “I know,” he said, “And… I need to figure out how we got here, you know?  I don’t- the TARDIS brought me here.”

“I know,” Rose said, “I noticed that.  You are in my backyard after all, but I don’t mind.  I really don’t.”

“I’m not… Interfering, or anything.  Maybe there’s someone at Torchwood who needs to know where you are-”

“I don’t have a boyfriend Doctor.”

“Quite right, just checking.”

They didn't’ say anything more about it, no matter how much Rose wanted to, and stood there, holding each other, until the Doctor pressed a feather light kiss to the top of her head and pulled back.

“Come on, I should say hello to Pete and Jackie,” he said, though he did reach down and take her hand.  She held onto him but tugged him back to his room.

“Put your suit back on.”

“Right!” he said.  “Be out in two ticks.”

What she wanted to do was go outside and wait for him outside the TARDIS, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave the console room.  She waited there until he came out, wearing his brown pinstripe suit and her favorite tie that he owned. She wondered if he knew.  She smiled at him and he gave her that perfect pinball grin back.

“I don’t want to ask,” she said, “But… What did you do? To the Family?”

“Trapped them in time,” The Doctor said, rocking back on his heels.  “You know, wrapped in the chains of the dwarf star and thrown into the void, one of them… Put her in a mirror.”  He looked down, no longer meeting her eyes.

“I shouldn’t have asked,” she said, “M’sorry.”

“No,” he said, his eyes snapping up to hers. “I don’t want to hide things from you anymore.”

She blinked, surprised at his reaction. “But-”

“All I did, when you were with me the first time, was keep things from you and take you for granted, when you pulled your heart out to me and let me know every part of you.  It wasn’t fair, and I’m not going to do that again,” he let out a shuddering sigh and ran his finger through his hair, making it stick up even more. “It hurt,” he said, “To do that to them, because there were real people in those bodies, once upon a time, and now they’re just shells with evil inside them.”

She drew her brows together. “But you did the right thing.”

“And so did you,” he said, “When detaining them, when- you did the right thing,” he glanced around the console room, as though looking for a topic of conversation, something to grab onto to get them back into a happy conversation, get her to smile again.  She watched him and waited for him, trying to be patient.

“Let’s go get some dinner,” she said finally, unable to be patient any longer.  He looked incredibly relieved and came to her, reaching out for her hand.  She threaded her fingers through his and let him lead her from the TARDIS.

Jackie, Pete, and Donna were all waiting outside in the backyard, staring at the Doctor.

“Well, there you are,” Jackie said, her tone a bit softer than usual. “You look almost human again.”

“Well,” he furrowed his brows back at her. “I suppose that means I look Time Lord,” he said snarkily.

Jackie beamed back at him. “That’s how I know you’re back.”

Donna was watching him carefully, as though waiting for something to be wrong.  He squeezed Rose’s hand and released her and then went to Donna, wrapping her up in a hug.

“Oi!” she said, “What are you doing?”

“Thank you,” he said.
“Blimey, for what?”

“For being here for me,” he said, “For being a friend to Rose. For not giving up on me.”

She patted his back. “Sure,” she said, “Of course.”

Dinner wasn’t awkward, like Rose thought it might be. Mickey joined them all as well, and Rose thought that it was sort of like old times, as old as they could be, really.  The Doctor sat next to her at dinner, and got on famously with Tony, who readily accepted that the Doctor was not the same man as Alec Hardy and got on famously with him.

“Oh no,” Jackie groaned, “I’ve lost another one of my children to the Doctor.”

Everyone at the table laughed but the Doctor just smiled softly, helping Tony hold his fork.  Rose watched this with a bit of surprise, as she wasn’t used to him being good at these sorts of domestics.  He looked strangely content, but the niggling in the back of her head made her feel like something was about to go wrong.  

“Everything’s fine here,” Jackie told the Doctor when he asked, “Though I’m sure you’ve seen Rose and Mickey work for Torchwood.”

“I noticed,” The Doctor said, gazing proudly at Rose when Mickey and Pete exchanged a glance, because they were both men and knew exactly what that look meant.  It was the look of  a man who was dreadfully in love with someone and wasn’t about to say anything. How Rose didn’t notice that look, they would never understand.

When dinner was over, the Doctor looked uncharacteristically tired, and Rose patted his shoulder, getting his attention. “Time to go home?” She asked softly.

He nodded, sitting up a little straighter. “Sorry.”

“No, s’fine,” she said, “Let’s go.”

They said goodbye and Donna decided to give them some space and told Rose she’d be staying at the mansion to pack up her things.,

“Plus, I know you won’t leave without me, and the Doctor needs to say a proper goodbye to your family.”

Rose nodded. “I’m not even sure what we’re going to do,” she said softly, “They’re my family, I’ve built a life here, but… With the Doctor, it’s always been more, and I don’t know… I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“I’m sure it will work out,” Donna reassured her, and Rose wished she was as confident about it as Donna was.

*************

The Doctor and Rose went back to the TARDIS and split off to go get ready to go to sleep. The Doctor caught her wrist before she left.

“Meet me in the library?” he asked, searching her eyes desperately.

“I’ll be there in a half hour,” she promised.

He released her like she was on fire and nodded. “Right, brilliant,” he said, smiling.  “See you there.”

When she got to the library, there was a fire crackling merrily in the fireplace, the couch was bigger, and the Doctor was staring into it, sitting in the center of the couch.  He was wearing his pajamas now, and his hair was damp but still styled.  She smiled a little and came to sit next to him on the couch, giving him about a foot of space between them.

“Hello,” she said.  He looked over at her, his face a bit of a mask.

“I need to ask you something.”
“Okay.”

“Did you love him?”

She blinked.  She wasn’t expecting this conversation to happen so quickly, and to escalate so quickly.  She looked down at her hands in her lap. “Doctor-”

“Because I can’t be that,” he admitted, “I don’t know if you like mysterious men, Rose, but like I said, I won’t be that anymore.  I can’t.”

“Wait.  You’re not angry with me?” She asked, suddenly confused.

He sighed and turned to face her, drawing up one knee to rest on the couch. “I’m not angry per say, but I am… Disappointed.”

She blinked. That was not what she was expecting. “What… What are you disappointed about?  In me?”
He scratched his jaw and shook his head. “Not in you exactly.  I missed out, because of the way things happened.”

“Explain that to me,” she said softly, not understanding.

He breathed out a shuddering sigh. “I didn’t have our… First time,” he said lamely. “I missed the opportunity to learn your body, to be with you.  I have the memories, of course, but I don’t have everything that I should.”  He looked down.  “I’m disappointed about that.”

She felt tears brim in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” She whispered.

He nodded. “Yeah,” he said, “I suppose it’s a bit silly but I really do want to stay with you, or for you to stay with me, or however that looks, and I just need to know if you loved him.”

She pursed her lips, trying to keep herself from openly sobbing.  She bit her lip and scooted a little closer to him. “He was you.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“He’s you, Doctor,” Rose stated again, “It absolutely answers your question.”  She waited until he met her eyes again. “I couldn’t give up on him, couldn’t say no, because he was you.  And I never thought that… When you were Time Lord, you would want-”

“I always want,” He cut her off. “With you. Only you.  That’s all I wanted, and I never did, when I have you, and then I missed out because my human counterpart could give you love that I struggled to-”

“Doctor,” She cut him off. “I love you.”

He blinked. “Not… But Alec…”

“Alec was you, Doctor, and I was already afraid of what would happen if I gave in, but I didn’t know what to do, I was… I wasn’t thinking about anything but you, even if I had feelings for him they all mixed with my feelings for you because you’re the same.  And when you came back, as a Time Lord, I knew that things would never be like they were with Alec, because you didn’t want it.”

“Rose,” He stopped her. “I love you.”

Chapter Text

“What?” Rose asked lamely, not sure what she was expecting, but it really wasn’t that.  

He smiled a little. “I love you,” He said softly, “And I feel like I missed out, on being with you, because I didn’t do everything I wanted with you when I had you the first time.  And now I’ve ruined it because you wanted Alec and not… Well… Me.”

“I was only so attached to Alec because he was you, Doctor,” Rose said softly.  “Had it been just some bloke that looked like you, I wouldn’t have done or said anything romantic towards him, because you were the only one I wanted.”
“So while… While you’ve been here, you haven’t-”

She shook her head. “Went on a couple dates, yeah, but I couldn’t really bear to keep them going, you know?”  She looked down at her clasped hands in her lap. “It wasn’t right, I couldn’t lead them on.”

He reached out and cupped her cheek, making her look at him again.  “I could sort of say the same thing,” he said, chuckling a little.  “There were people who showed an interest, of course, but I kept thinking of you.”

Rose, as much as she wanted to believe that, struggled to.  This powerful man, who could have any woman in the world, thought about her after she was gone? She blinked at him.  “You missed me, did you?”

He nodded.  “Every single day,” he said softly.  “I’ll show you, come here.”

He took her by the hand and pulled her up to her feet, leading her from the room.  She was a bit puzzled but let him lead her, trusting him completely.  He led her all the way to a door she vividly remembered.  Her own bedroom door from so long ago, painted white with a gold doorknob. She looked at the Doctor.

“But this is just my room,” She said softly.  “There’s nothing special about this.”

He nodded to her, indicating that she should go in, and so she opened the door, releasing his hand to step inside.  She was struck by the memories of this room, that was, oddly, left almost exactly as she had left it.  Except now, there were some of the Doctor’s things among hers.  She turned to him, puzzled, waiting for an explanation.  

He toed the ground with his trainer, clearly embarrassed, if the coloring on his cheeks was anything to go by.  “I slept in here, sometimes. When things were hard.  When I felt alone, I would come in and just lay down for a bit.”  He looked around the room. “It was nice, to be reminded of you by your things, and I hope you don’t mind, but I did look at your photo albums.”
She raised her eyebrows, having forgotten all about those. “Oh!  My photos!” She clambered onto the bed and reached into the bedside table, pulling out her two little photo albums that documented the life she had shared with the Doctor. She had missed them dearly when everything had had them, and she never dreamed that he would look at them. She saw him still standing in the doorway and patted the bed next to her. He shook himself and smiled.

“It’s just odd to actually see you in here,” he said, toeing off his trainers and getting on the bed with her, looking a bit awkward.  She pulled him closer and snuggled up next to him, settling one of the photo albums across their laps.  She opened the book and sighed a little with happiness. These first pictures were of her and her first Doctor, in which he wasn’t usually smiling, but he was smiling whenever he looked at her.

The Doctor next to her kissed the crown of her head and grew a little bolder, drawing her even closer.  “I loved you even then,” He admitted softly, “You saved me, you know, from the war.”

She smiled a little, tracing one of the pictures with her fingertips. “I really thought you hated me taking all these pictures.”

“Well, I didn’t know what you were going to do with them, I thought you were taking them so when you left me you’d have something to remember the places we went to.”

Rose smiled a little at his attitude. She wasn’t sure why she took so many pictures, but she knew it wasn’t because she was planning to leave the Doctor. “I took them, I think, so that we could have pictures together,” she said, “You’ll notice there aren’t many pictures of the actual planets, aside from Women Wept and Peruva IV, when we went with Jack.”

The Doctor laughed a little at the picture of her, him, and Jack, where Jack had his arms wrapped around her from behind and the Doctor stood behind them, a tight lipped smile on his face.  He tapped his own image. “I was very jealous that day.”

“I know,” She said, “I was doing it on purpose.”

She turned and grinned up at the surprised expression on his face. He blinked at her and laughed. “You meant to?”

“Course!  I wanted you to get jealous.”

His smile looked like it was going to crack his face in half. “Yeah?” He said, “Well, you must know that it worked.”

“I assumed,” She said, smiling a little and she started flipping back through the book to get to his new regeneration.  “But once Jack’s gone, you take your spot again.”

“You miss him.”

“He was one of my best mates, Doctor. Course I miss him.”

“We’ll go see him, then,” he said softly, sounding dreadfully vulnerable.

She looked up at him and frowned. “What? I thought he was dead.”

“You brought him back, Bad Wolf,” he said softly, “But the problem is, he’s immortal now, you brought him back forever.”

She blinked and looked down. “Oh,” She said softly. “Is he unhappy?”

“Sometimes,” the Doctor admitted, “But Rose, I think he’s grateful to be alive.” He kissed her temple and went back to the book, wanting to draw her attention away from sad conversations.  There was a picture of them in Paris that caught his eye, where he was kissing her cheek, his eyes closed, and Rose was beaming at the camera.

“You were so different,” Rose said, deciding to get off the subject of Jack until later (though she wasn’t done talking about it).  “After Krop Tor, you were all over me.”

“I was afraid to lose you.”

“But not afraid enough to kiss me properly,” she said softly, flipping the page.

He took her chin in his hand and pulled her towards him, ignoring the shock in her face as he leaned down and kissed her softly on the mouth, fully the Doctor now.  Rose breathed out a sigh and shifted the picture book off of them.  His hand slid to cup her cheek, his kiss tentative and unsure, and she found herself falling in love with him all over again.  

The angle was awkward, so she shifted towards him, bracing herself on her knees over his lap. He let her do what she pleased, not pushing her, not doing anything, really, and Rose had a feeling that that was nerves.

She grabbed his hands and pulled them to her waist. “You can touch me,” She said, breaking the kiss slightly.

“I know,” he said, his eyes squeezed closed, “I just don’t want to lose you again.”

“You won’t,” She promised, tracing his cheek with her fingertips.  

“I know,” he said, and surged up to kiss her.  It was a little more desperate this time, and she let him lead it, running her hands through his hair and gripping it firmly. He slid his hands up under her shirt and moved the book without moving from her (which she found very impressive but would never say) and he rolled them over, settling himself between her knees.

“I love you,” he whispered into her skin at her neck.  “I love you.  I’m never going to waste time by not telling you again.”

“I love you too,” she told him, one hand resting at the nape of his neck, one on his back. He continued to kiss her and she tried her best to be an active participant, but she was one hundred percent drunk on him, so it was a little bit difficult to remain coherent.  He returned to her mouth, kissing her much deeper than before, and she clenched her hands in his hair, making him grunt and bite her shoulder.

“You are so perfect,” he said, “I remember, I remember being Alec, being obsessed with you, needing to touch you… It was all I wanted, to have you and touch you forever.”

“Oh, God.”

“I was so in love with you then, too, Rose. You took care of me, tried to get me to be healthy, and you never gave up on me.  You should’ve given up on me,” he seemed to be rambling, and it struck her, how much she missed his rambling.

“I could never give up on you,” she said firmly, “There was no way I was going to leave you.”

“I should never doubt you,” he said, “Not when I know how incredible you are.”

She let him kiss her how he wanted, and pushed at his suit. “Come on, then, off.”

He grinned at her and said softly,  “Welcome home, Rose Tyler.”

She smiled back at him and tugged him down once more, bracketing his hips with her knees and keeping him on her.

***********

She woke several hours later, tangled up with the Doctor, who was running his fingers through her hair, clearly awake.

“Hello,” she said sleepily, cuddling closer to him.

“Hello,” he said, kissing the top of her head.  “When do you want to go?”

She lightly smacked his chest. “You know I have to say goodbye. Besides… I wouldn’t be able to see them again.”

“I did some tests while you were sleeping,” he said, “To figure out how Donna and I crashed here.”

“What did you find?” She asked him, trying to feel a little more awake so that she could actually listen to what he had to say to her.

“I found out that we could come back.”

“What?”

“The walls aren’t weakened, between the universes, if anything, they’re stronger.  But there’s a path now.”  

She braced herself up on his chest and furrowed her brows at him. “What?”
He nodded, reaching his hand up to rest on her back. “Yeah.  Looks like the Torchwood of this universe strengthened the walls with a project they were working on.  That makes it strong enough that passing through, with a TARDIS, would be possible, but only about once a month, otherwise we’d weaken the walls, but we could do it.”

She smiled a little. “That might be my fault,” She admitted, “Me and Mickey were working on a Dimension Cannon.”

He blinked. “What?  Why?  What?”

She lifted a shoulder, and leaned down to kiss him softly. She pulled back and touched his lips with her fingertips.  “To get back to you,” She whispered. “But now you’re telling me that I get to be with you and I get my family?”

He grinned under her fingers and pressed a kiss to them. “Really? You were building it to come back home?"

“Yeah,” she said, “But we… We do, right? We get it both ways?”

The Doctor nodded. “Yes, we get it both ways.” he reached up and carded his hand through her hair. “We get to have your family and I get to have you.”

She laid down on him and wrapped her arms around him, squealing with delight. He laughed and hugged her back, burying his face in her neck.

“We’ll have to stay a little bit though, just to make sure that things work, you know?  I have to say goodbye to Torchwood, and all my friends, and then we can go.”

The Doctor nodded against her cheek. “Yeah,” he said softly, “And I think Donna will want to visit her family after all this, so I think we should have some time to ourselves.”

“Take me to a vacation planet?” She murmured, “I haven’t been on a vacation since, um… Wow, since we went to Hawaii.”

“Rose, that was almost four years ago,” the Doctor said, sounding shocked.

She nodded against his neck and grinned.  “Yeah,” She said.  

“Why didn’t you go anywhere, your family is…. Well, quite rich.”

She rolled off him to look at him. “Yeah,” she said, “But I didn’t have anyone I wanted to adventure with.”

He seemed dreadfully touched by that, and leaned over to kiss her, cupping her cheek in his hand.  He kissed her for what felt like ages, and then pulled back and pressed his forehead to hers.  “Rose Tyler, I promise, I’ll take you anywhere.”

She grinned and leaned forward to kiss his nose.  “I’m holding you to that.”

Chapter Text

Rose and the Doctor spent a few more hours whispering and laying down together, her head on his chest, and their hands linked together over his stomach.  He told her about his travels with Martha and Dona, and everything that happened.  Rose listened intently, and he asked her about her work at Torchwood.

She shrugged. “Not much to tell. I do a lot of paperwork, but they send me on field missions because I have experience,” she said, “But I really just wanted to work on the Dimension Cannon, and they let me, since I’m the boss’s daughter and all.

The Doctor chuckled a little.  “You do know how terribly difficult and dangerous it is to build a Dimension Cannon?”

“Well, apparently it did something in my favor, even if it isn’t done,” Rose said, “Guess I can tell them to dismantle it now.  Or, wait, do we need to have it to be able to travel between the worlds?”

The Doctor shook his head. “No, we don’t need it. It’s done its job, and the walls aren't going to close up over the little bridge that you made,” he squeezed her shoulder.  “I never thought I’d be able to get to you,” he said softly.

She closed her eyes. “Well, you just needed me to find you,” she said.  “I knew that I was going to have to be the one to do it.”

“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?” He laughed.

“You said it was impossible, I thought you’d… Stopped trying.”
“No,” he said, “In my free time, when I wasn’t distracting myself from missing you, I was in the library, trying to find something to get to you.  But everything on my end was coming up empty. It was frustrating, but I think I wouldn’t have ever given up trying. “

That thought warmed her heart, and she was oddly happy to hear it. “I was hoping you wouldn’t forget me,” She said softly, “I thought you might, though, that you’d pick up new companions and realize that I was just ordinary.”

“Well, Rose, you are ordinary, but that is what makes you so bloody fantastic,” he said, laughing a little. “And no, it wasn’t unheard of for me to grow fond of a companion, but… I’ve never been in love with a companion.  Not until you.  You are my favorite person in the universe.”

She smiled and burrowed closer to him. “You’re my favorite.”

“Of course I am!” He said, though his confidence was wavering a little. “I was… I was afraid too, you know,” he said, suddenly tender. “I thought you’d find a human man here and fall in love and get married and.. Have babies.”

“What, you sayin’ you can’t give me babies?” She asked him.

“I-I can but I didn’t want to assume, I mean, assume that that’s something that you’d want, but maybe later we could… Start a family.”

She smiled and pressed her nose into his chest. “Someday,” She said, “Not right now, but… Someday.”

**************

Jackie was terribly relieved that her daughter would still be able to visit, and felt a bit better about her going with the Doctor because of it.  Rose said her goodbyes to the people at Torchwood, as she wouldn’t need her job there anymore, though Pete said that her desk and office would be there if she needed it.  Rose knew he would probably keep it empty in the hope that she would come back to her position.  

“You can always call me and the Doctor if you need help,” Rose said, and Pete agreed.

Mickey was less than surprised that she was going to be going with the Doctor, and he shook the Doctor’s hands, a sort of respect now between them that made Rose feel very happy.  When she was younger, she’d enjoyed them sort-of fighting over her, but now that she was older and more comfortable with herself, she acknowledged that she wanted her best mate to be friends with her… Doctor. Whatever he was now.  She wasn’t sure what he was.  Maybe just hers.

All of this couldn’t stop Rose from feeling a little bit emotional as they went back into the TARDIS, her rucksack with all her newer clothes, and her toiletries and everything.  It felt strange, leaving the life that she had been more or less banished to.  She sighed a little as she looked over her shoulder at her family. Tony didn’t seem to understand where his big sister was going, but he knew who the Doctor was, so he followed it as much as his young mind could.  The Doctor put a hand on Rose’s shoulder and she turned to face him.

“We’ll be back,” he promised her, eyes earnest.  “We will.”
She stepped into the TARDIS and heard him shut the door behind all three of them.  She dropped her bag on the floor and turned to look at him, grinning a bit like a loon.  “So, then, Doctor, where are you going to take me?”
“Well, you’re going to take me home so I don’t have to hear the two of you have your nightly reunions,” Donna said, a bit of fire in her voice, but she was smiling. “And you’ll pick me up again in two months.”

The Doctor blushed so dark that Rose thought his head might pop off. He stuttered a little and pointed a finger at her. “Now, listen, you- that is just- vulgar.”

Rose had to laugh. “We promise, Donna,” She said, knowing that she was going to want to have another woman about to talk to, and Donna had quickly become one of her closest friends. Not that she was friends with many women in Pete’s World, because most of them were focused on their hair or her money.

“Good! I’m gonna go pack up, and Rose, make sure he introduces you to my granddad, he’d love you.”

Rose laughed and nodded as Donna went back towards the hallway.  Rose turned to the Doctor, who was still standing speechless in the middle of the console room. Rose snorted and patted his shoulder.  “Never thought I’d see you at a loss for words.”

He turned to her and smiled. “I suppose there's a first time for everything,” he told her, sounding a little sheepish.  He regarded her with a loving expression that filled her heart with love of her own towards him.  

“Thank you,” She said softly.

He arched a brow.  “For what?”

“For taking me with you,” She said, “The first time.”

“Rose, I don’t think I would have survived without you,” he admitted. “I was not a good man then, I only thought of the war, but you showed me that I was more than the man who, well, murdered my own kind.” He winced a little. “You made me believe that I could be worth something again.”
Rose reached up and cupped his cheek. “You are worth something. I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”

He smiled and pushed into her touch, bringing his hand up to hold hers in place.  After a moment he leaned forwards and kissed her softly, exhaling through his nose as though he’d been waiting all day to kiss her, which perhaps he had.  

“I’m glad you pressed in my backyard,” she whispered, and he laughed, wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her against him.

“Where to now, Doctor?” She asked.  

He pulled back and beamed down at her. “Everywhere,” he promised.

And she believed him.



EPILOUGE

One thing that Donna didn’t like about the times she traveled with the now married couple was their children.  It was a bit much, because Rose and the Doctor’s two children were of course, rambunctious, and now that Jack sometimes traveled with them, it was all too much. That was fine with Donna though, as she now had a husband of her own now, the adorably awkward Lee, and so she didn’t mind too much.  The Doctor missed her, of course, but they visited often.

The Doctor never thought he’d do domestic.  He’d been with Rose again for about five years and they’d already married and had two children, as they had both been keen on not wasting the time that the two of them had together.

Jack, of course, had been disgustingly smug when he realized they’d named their little boy after him, and Sarah Jane had been near tears when she met little Sarah.  

The Doctor came into their room one night after putting the children to bed and stumbled over to the bed, after shutting the door, falling on his face in the bed.

“Are they sleeping?” She asked.

“Uncle Jack promised to read them a story in the morning if they went to bed now,” He said into the blankets.

She giggled and ran her hand through his hair, holding her book with the other hand. “Mm-hm,” She said, moving her hand down to rub her fingers into the muscles at the base of his neck, hoping to release the tension there.  He sighed and scooted up, pressing his face into her leg.

“I’m so tired,’ He said.

“That’s what you get for putting off sleep for so long,” she scolded him.

“I don’t want to waste any time,” he whined.

She looked down at him, closing her book. “You won’t,” she said softly, “You’re here, actively here, with us.  And I couldn’t be happier, Doctor, I really couldn’t.”

He pushed himself up and pressed an almost off-center kiss to her lips before rolling off the bed and starting to change into his pajamas.

“I want to sleep for the next two days,” He complained as he buttoned up his pajama shirt.

“Now you know how I felt when Jack was first born.”

“No, I’m not trying to minimize it, love,” He said, crawling under the covers with her.

“I know,” Rose said, setting her book aside.  “And we’ll get some rest now, all right?”  

He hummed and crawled over to her, cuddling up against her. She laughed and wrapped her arms around him, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

It was quiet for several moments, in the dark of their room, and he whispered carefully, “Have you realized that you’re not aging?”
“What?”

He licked her cheek. “Your hormones and chemicals aren’t changing or aging.”

“And what does that mean?” She asked, dismissing the idea that him licking her cheek was weird.  

“It means you’re not aging,” he said simply.

“Doctor?”
“Yeah?”

“Can we deal with this in the morning? I just want to cuddle you right now.”

“Of course, love.”

He fell asleep up against her and found that perhaps the universe owed him this. A family and a woman who just might be at his side forever.