Rose and the Doctor arrived at the TARDIS library moments later and sat down on the plush sofa together. They spent a few moments in silence, simply looking at each other in awe, and the Doctor could literally feel the love radiating from Rose. Staring into her warm brown eyes almost made his own water.
”How are you here?” he asked, still holding on to Rose's hands.
”Long story.” she smiled, biting her lower lip.
”I could...” the Doctor hesitated, reluctantly removing his hands from Rose's and bringing them to her temple. ”May I?” he asked cautiously. “If you don’t want to explain it all.” Rose nodded and even without delving into her mind yet, the Doctor felt the trust she had towards him and for a moment, he was overwhelmed with emotion. Fighting back the wetness in his eyes, he closed them and told Rose to breathe calmly. ”Just focus on how you got back. If there's anything you don't want me to see, imagine a door.” Rose nodded again and sat as still as she could.
“How do I let you into my mind?”
“You just have to welcome me in.” Rose hummed with understanding and looked at the Doctor expectantly. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah.” As soon as she had told the Doctor she was ready, Rose felt the prodding of his presence in the back of her mind, gentle and uncertain. She welcomed him like he told her to, imagining him entering through an open door, the door to her bedroom on the TARDIS. She didn’t know why she thought of her bedroom, but it felt right. Or perhaps it was where she really was welcoming him into: her bedroom on the TARDIS, just inside her mind. It was far bigger, though, she realized, but couldn’t reason why. Thinking about it was just confusing her, so instead, Rose began to concentrate on her memories of the past six months.
When the Doctor lingered on the edge of Rose’s mind, he waited for her to let him in, feeling strangely nervous and uncertain. When he saw a door forming in front of him, he gingerly pulled it open and found himself standing inside Rose’s bedroom on the TARDIS, except far larger. Humans with such organized minds were rare, but somehow the Doctor didn’t find it weird that Rose happened to be one of them. She had absorbed the time vortex once, after all, and survived for an unbelievably long time. Longer than even he had, in fact.
The Doctor stepped inside the room and began to look around as it expanded even further, the pink walls making way for more doors, some open, others closed. Each door led to different memories, he knew, but he was only concerned with one. He didn’t want to intrude, despite Rose’s insistent voice in his head telling him it was ok. The Doctor felt tempted of course, but he had a reason for this visit, and he didn’t want to prolong it too much. Human mind’s weren’t as readily equipped for such visitations as naturally telepathic species were. Extended explorations of their minds could cause harm and causing Rose pain was the last thing the Doctor wanted.
He looked around at the different open doors, trying to discern which one was the one that held the memories he sought, but the hallways behind them revealed too little.
“ Focus on how you got back, Rose.” He pleaded through the connection and felt as the room began to shift. The doors changed places until there was only one directly in front of him and the Doctor confidently walked inside.
As Rose focused, the Doctor began to see her memories take form in the hallway around him. The further he looked, the more recent the memories were and as he started walking forwards, he could sense every emotion Rose had felt as the memories were taking place. They began with an overwhelming sorrow and the Doctor knew it was from loss. Losing him. The first images that flashed by on the walls were the moments after Rose had nearly fallen into the void and the Doctor didn’t want to linger here, so he rushed further inside the hall. Rose’s time in the alternate world was playing on fast forward around him as he moved onward, but the guilt that clouded his thoughts as her sadness continued was too distracting for him to discern how long ago those memories were.
The Doctor felt a soothing, ghostly caress on his cheek and knew it was Rose reaching out for him, both to apologize to him and assure him it wasn’t his fault. He closed his eyes and leaned into the phantom touch allowing himself to fully feel her presence. She soon urged him forwards and the Doctor felt the hall shift around him again. When he opened his eyes, he saw memories zooming by around him, until they abruptly came to a stop. The Doctor saw the first sign of the Bad Wolf at the hotel parking lot. He was watching a hand reach for it through Rose’s eyes, the memory slightly obscured by the golden light from the letters and what looked like Huon particles coursing through the air in front of Rose’s eyes. He saw the visions she had seen, the TARDIS, more of the golden glow and he could feel the searing headache assaulting her. Concerned, the Doctor watched Rose retrace her steps to the beach and back to the hotel, before the memory faded to black. He moved on.
Right after the first memory, only a few steps forward, the Doctor saw Rose, Jackie, Pete and Mickey boarding an airplane and now that the Doctor knew what to look for - mainly the Bad Wolf - it was easy to scan the jumble of memories for the ones he needed. He saw the writing on the airplane toilet's mirror and watched as Rose stared at her own reflection in awe, Huon particles once again dancing in her brown eyes. She looked eerily like she had when she rescued him on the Game Station, powerful and beautiful, almost like a goddess. The Doctor saw himself leaning out of the TARDIS and braced himself to feel the headache he knew was coming. He allowed the hope that took over Rose wash over him in that moment, before quickly moving forward.
He continued watching her memories of the days - no, weeks, he realized - play around him, from the Bad Wolf at the Torchwood offices, all the way to when she marched over to the graffiti in the Bad Wolf Laboratory. He saw her drinking the Huon particles like she’d said and watched and felt as Rose was pulled through the void and back into his world. The Doctor saw as Rose spotted him for the first time since being separated and confusion filled him when he realized that Rose had felt how miserable he was.
The memories ended and the Doctor found himself back inside the larger-than-in-reality bedroom Rose had on his ship, his mind reeling with far more questions than answers. It was clear the Bad Wolf had led her here and that she wasn’t completely gone from Rose’s mind like he had thought. If the Bad Wolf was indeed still occupying some part of Rose’s mind, the Doctor knew he had to speak to her.
”Can I look at the memories of when you were Bad Wolf the first time? I'll make sure you won't remember them, I still don't know if they're dangerous. ” The Doctor whispered to Rose, who nodded without hesitation. The Doctor allowed her unconditional trust wash over him, feeling awed at the intensity of her affection towards him. He sent her a caress, not unlike the reassuring one she had sent him before and slowly began to ease her into sleep.
Once the Doctor was certain Rose was deep in dreamless slumber, he began to seek the Bad Wolf entity inside her head. It wasn’t hard to find a path to her, as the moment Rose had fallen into blissful unconsciousness, the bedroom he had stood in before shrunk to the size it was in real life and the door opened with a creak behind him. When the Doctor swerved around, he watched the bright, golden light flowing inside the room from the hall. He stepped outside, following the traces of gold through her well organized mind.
At the end of the light, he found the Bad Wolf , looking exactly how Rose had looked when she had saved him at the Game Station so long ago. He was standing in what looked to be the TARDIS’ console room and the Bad Wolf was perched on top of the console, beckoning him closer.
My Doctor. She spoke with Rose's voice as the Doctor approached her. He watched her curiously, stopping a mere few feet away from her radiant form.
You have questions for me. The Bad Wolf stated simply and watched the Doctor nod. She leaned back against the console and cocked her head to the side, waiting for him to speak.
“ How are you here?” The Bad Wolf laughed.
I have always been here, my Doctor. Hidden away in the recesses of Rose’s mind. She paused and looked pointedly at the Doctor. In my mind.
“But I took the vortex away from Rose.”
Yes, but I am not the vortex. I am, and always have been, a part of Rose. A part she had been unaware of until she stared into the heart of the TARDIS. The Bad Wolf’s voice was soft as she spoke, the ethereal quality in it making it sound almost haunting. When she spoke again, the Doctor realized her voice was coming from everywhere around him.
Merging with the TARDIS woke up the potential hidden deep in her. Surely you know, Doctor, that every human has more potential for greatness than they even know. This potential is hardly ever fully utilized, but Rose… She tapped into it all when she merged with your ship. For a moment, we were one, the TARDIS and Rose. The Bad Wolf emphasized her telling with a quick wave of her fingers, drawing a golden rose and a golden box in the air above her. The drawings swirled together to become one forming the shape of a large golden wolf. The drawing disappeared as the Wolf continued her story.
You absorbed the vortex from her, but I had already woken up. You remember her words back then, correct? The Doctor nodded.
“ I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself.“
Indeed, my Doctor. She didn’t mean it quite as you thought, however. The Bad Wolf gave him a sly smile.
But I cannot tell you more now. The Doctor was about to protest, but the Wolf held her hand up to silence him.
You may see what Rose remembers of that night, but the rest, she must remember herself. But, she spoke, pressing a warm hand to the Doctor's cheek, you needn't worry about her. She is safe and well and in no danger. Not from me.
As the Bad Wolf raised her other hand to the Doctor’s temple, he saw the quick flash of the little Rose remembered from the Game Station. He saw as Rose, Jackie and Mickey succeeded in prying open the grate beneath which the TARDIS’ heart waited. He saw Rose looking deep into it, the memory illuminated by the Huon particles’ golden glow and then darkness. The next thing Rose remembered was waking up back in the TARDIS some moments later, confused and disoriented, her head aching like mad. When the vision dissipated and the Wolf released her hold on the Doctor, the Time Lord blinked, looking questioningly at the Bad Wolf .
Yes. She’ll remember more in time, but for now, that is all she and I can show you. She smiled and gently pushed the Doctor away, letting him know it was time to leave.
Now, you should go back to her. There is nothing more for you to learn here right now. You’ve been apart too long already. He looked at her and nodded. He had been in Rose’s mind long enough.
Before the Doctor began to retreat from the chamber of Rose’s mind that the Bad Wolf resided in, he heard her whisper to him one last time.
Remember, we promised you forever, my Doctor. The temptation to turn back around was strong, but the Doctor felt himself being pushed forwards, unable to do more than move one foot in front of the other through the hallway and finally through an open door. The door closed behind him and the Doctor found himself back inside the small bedroom in Rose’s mind. Confused, but strangely soothed by the Bad Wolf 's words, the Doctor began to rouse Rose from her sleep.
Once he felt Rose return to consciousness, the Doctor gently and slowly eased out of her mind. The moment he left, Rose felt a momentary emptiness in her head. She blinked slowly when the Doctor's fingers left her temple and looked up at him.
”Did you see anything?” Rose asked, eyeing the Doctor curiously.
”Nothing new, but... I think you're safe. I don't think you're in any danger.” He told her, the Bad Wolf 's promise of 'forever' repeating in his mind. ”You promised me forever.” The Doctor muttered quietly.
”I did.” Rose smiled at him. ”And I meant it.” They remained silent for a moment, just staring at each other and taking in each other’s presence. The Doctor contemplated telling Rose about the Bad Wolf, but her instructions to allow Rose to remember on her own stopped him.
”Maybe...” the Doctor began, but drifted off into thought. The pregnant pause between them continued for a few more minutes, before the Doctor finally continued. ”Well, we'll figure it out together.” he said with a smile. He thought back to everything he saw in Rose's mind, and remembered the hallway of memories he had seen. ”How long has it been for you, since we were separated?”
”A bit over six months. July 8th, that's the day I landed in the parallel world.”
”It's been six months for you?” He whispered to her, guilt once more flooding his thoughts.
”Yeah. And don’t you start feeling guilty. It’s not your fault.” Rose admonished him, seeing his expression shift. “How long's it been for you then?”
”A few weeks.” he replied. ”I'm sorry.”
”What exactly are you sorry for?”
”I could feel how you felt. When I was in your head.” his eyes watered again. ”You were so sad and heartbroken. Over me.” The Doctor looked down at his lap.
”I told ya, it’s not your fault. Yes, I was sad, but I’m not anymore. I’m here and I'm fine now.” Rose said, bringing a gentle hand to the Doctor's cheek. ”I'm here.” Her lips curled into a smile. “I can't believe I'm here.” Rose shouted out in glee and slumped against the Doctor's chest, laughing as happy tears streamed down her cheeks.
”Yes, you are.” The Doctor said with such fondness that it left Rose speechless. His hands slowly snaked around her waist as he lay his head on top of hers, planting a soft kiss on her temple. She allowed herself to lay there in silence, listening to the Doctor's dual heart beat. She'd missed this. The Doctor pulled her closer.
”I love you.” Rose whispered without meaning to when she felt the Doctor's hands gently caressing her hair. The movement abruptly stopped and Rose looked up at him, thinking back to the beach where she'd first confessed to him. A blush rose on her cheeks as the Doctor stared at her in awe, like he could hardly believe what he had heard. Rose had said it once before, of course, but that was when she thought she would never see him again. She had truly meant it then?
While the Doctor was stuck watching her, his jaw hanging open and eyes wide and almost disbelieving, his final words on Bad Wolf Bay echoed in Rose’s mind. His unfinished sentence playing on repeat in her head. ”What were you going to say?” She asked, voice wavering ever so slightly.
”Back on the beach. What were you going to say?” The Doctor stopped staring at Rose and quickly pulled her back into his embrace. Her cheek lay on his chest and she was listening to his hearts beating again. They were beating faster than before. Rose tried to catch a peek of his face, but he had hidden it from her view by leaning his chin on her head and looking away.
”Does it need saying?” The Doctor asked as he gently started brushing his hands through Rose’s hair again. Rose allowed herself to exhale in contemptment as the soft strokes through her locks continued. The Doctor knew how she felt about him, but hadn’t pushed her away. That was enough.
“No. I guess not.” She smiled. When the Doctor pulled back in apparent surprise at her reply, Rose let out a quick breath that sounded halfway to a laugh, one that could have turned into one were it not for the fact it seemed to be hard to breathe because of the weight of the emotions swirling in her belly. The Doctor hesitated and stiffened.
Bad Wolf Bay had happened less than 8 hours ago for the Doctor. He’d nearly been able to confess to her back then, but time had run out on him. Was this some cruel dream his overactive mind had conjured up to torture him or did he really have a second chance to tell her?
”This is not a dream?” He asked, gazing nervously into Rose's eyes.
”It's real, Doctor. My Doctor.” Rose pulled the Doctor’s hand to her chest, letting him feel her heartbeat. “I’m really here.” This seemed to make the Doctor relax ever so slightly, but most of the tension was still visible in his shoulders. Perhaps she was real. Maybe Rose really was here, her heartbeat sounded real enough, after all, but would she really want to stay with him forever?
“I can’t give you a normal life, Rose.” The Doctor muttered nervously, selfishly hoping she wouldn’t mind. “A house, a family… A safe life.” He waited with bated breath for her reply. Rose didn’t hesitate and answered him instantly with a gentle shake of her head.
“I don’t want that. The aliens, the danger, the horrors, they’re all worth it, because I have you.” Her hand came to rest on top of his, still pressed to her chest. The Doctor could feel her heartbeat quickening. “It’s not the traveling or the new places you take me to that make it all worth it, it’s you. I love this life, because of you.” Her eyes closed as she took in a deep breath. “I don’t need a house or a safe life. As long as I get to stay with you, for as long as you’ll have me, I’m happy.”
“How long were you going to stay with me again?”
He smiled sweetly at Rose’s words and unable to stop himself, pressed his lips to her forehead. The love he felt from the woman in his arms overwhelmed him. His entire body seemed to be engulfed in her affection and a shiver ran down his spine. He shook and gently pressed another kiss to Rose's temple, still begging for this to not be a dream. Begging for all of this to be real like Rose had said it was.
“What about you? How long will you let me stay with you?”
“You can stay with me as long as you like.” A cheeky smile erupted on Rose’s face.
“So forever?” The Doctor nodded and a smile crept across his face as well.
“Forever.” He laughed. Hearing Rose's soft, pleased giggle made him feel so overcome with joy that he let all the old hesitation that came from her being a short-lived human and him being an old Time Lord wash away. Whether this was real or not, what did he have to lose by confessing to her, after all? Leaning down, the Doctor gently whispered in Rose’s ear.
”I was going to say... Rose Tyler…” He paused for what Rose thought was dramatic effect, but what was actually the Doctor trying to force down the lump of emotion lodged in his throat. Clearing it and taking a deep, long breath, he managed to compel himself to say the words he had meant to say back on Bad Wolf Bay. “I love you too.” His voice broke at those last four words, his pink and yellow human having destroyed his defensive walls completely. Rose could feel his shaky breath near her ear and couldn't stop the shudder that ran through her spine. She couldn't stop herself, not that she wanted to, and quickly, but gently twisted her fingers in the Doctor's plentiful hair and pulled him down for a passionate kiss. The Doctor looked taken aback for the briefest of moments, before he brought his arms to Rose's waist and pulled her even closer, deepening the kiss.
Kissing Rose Tyler was everything the Doctor had ever imagined it would be, except far better. It was electrifying and it knocked the wind out of him, making him feel dizzy. Oh, he had kissed her before, but not in this body, not really. The kiss this body had received from the pink and yellow human before, happened when Rose had been possessed by Cassandra. The Doctor refused to count that. It wasn’t Rose after all. It didn’t matter if the lips that had pressed against his had been hers. Besides, this kiss felt so much better. It felt like heaven.
After what felt like far too short an amount of time to the Doctor, Rose pulled back, ending the kiss. She beamed up at the Doctor, wetting her lips with her tongue and looking extremely pleased. Rose laughed at the flustered, breathless expression on her Doctor's face.
He laughed softly with her, then quickly pulled her towards him capturing her mouth in another kiss, a slow and gentle, loving one this time as opposed to the needy, passionate one from seconds before. The Doctor then kissed the tip of her nose as Rose giggled once more.
“I’ve wanted to do that for ages.” Rose told him.
“Yeah.” She nodded and proceeded to plant a peck on the Doctor’s flushed cheek.
“Me too, but are you su-” Rose brought her hand to the Doctor’s lips, effectively stopping him from continuing that train of thought.
“No but’s, Doctor. I’m sure.”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say.” protested the Doctor, his lower lip jutting out in a pout. Rose shook her head.
“No, but I can guess. You were gonna ask if I was sure this is what I wanted. Being with you.” She was right of course and the Doctor groaned and bit his lip. “You trust me, don’t you?”
“Of course I trust you, but Rose…” He sucked in a breath through gritted teeth when he felt the frustration Rose directed at him. “How can you know you want to be with me forever? What if I regenerate again? I’ll change.”
“I don’t care. Had I known the first time, I wouldn’t have then either. But you proved that you were still the same man, even though you looked different. If you regenerate…” Rose glared pointedly at the Doctor and he couldn’t hold back the slight squeak that escaped his lips at the look on her face. “Though you better not do that any time soon, ‘cause I don’t want to watch you die, but if you do… “ Her face returned to the soft, loving look she had been showering the Doctor in before. “I’ll still love you, cause you’ll still be you. The Doctor. My Doctor” When the Doctor’s concerned expression didn’t change, Rose’s own grew uncertain. “Unless you worry you might not... want me anymore if you change?”
“That won’t happen.” He told her quickly. “I’ll always want you-” Blushing, as he realized how his words must have sounded to Rose, who’s eyes went wide in surprise, the Doctor tried to double back. “I mean, I’ll always want you by my side… not like that. Not that I don’t-” Rose’s laughter stopped his rambling short. “What?”
“Nothing. I’ve just missed this. I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you too, Rose.” She gave him an affectionate smile and leaned her head on his shoulder, letting out a big yawn.
“Sorry. I haven’t really slept the past three days or so.” Rose apologized as another yawn threatened to escape from her lips. The Doctor gave her a chaste kiss on her forehead.
“It’s ok. It’s been a long day, we should both get some rest. Besides, we have time to figure this out.” He said as he helped Rose up from the sofa.
“Well, what’s going on with you. And this. Us. What we are.” The Doctor gestured nervously to himself and to Rose.
“What do you want us to be?” The Doctor swallowed. Rose had always had a knack for asking the right questions, but right now, that quality was making the Doctor sweat.
“I want us to be together.”
“Like boyfriend and girlfriend?” Rose asked hopefully.
“Yes. If you want.” The Doctor cursed at himself at how awkward he must have looked and sounded, rubbing the back of his head and looking bashfully away from Rose. She gave him the sweetest smile he had seen ever grace her features and he felt like he was melting.
“I’d like that.”
“Yeah.” She confirmed. The Doctor entwined his fingers in hers and led her out of the library, back through the halls of his ship to the entryway of her room. He opened the door for Rose and was about to let go of her hand, but her fingers gripped his tightly.
“Stay?” Rose requested. “I don’t want to wake up alone and find out this was all a dream.” How could the Doctor say no to that? Besides, he understood how she felt. He felt the same way.
“Of course.” The Doctor replied and walked into Rose’s room with her. He looked at the large queen sized bed and noticed a comfortable pair of his pajamas neatly folded on top of it next to Rose’s. He glanced to the roof and sent the TARDIS a quick thank you through their telepathic link. Sometimes the Doctor marveled at his ships intuition.
“I’ll just get changed real quick.” Rose said as she hopped inside the sizable bathroom joined to her room. The Doctor stripped off his day clothes and quickly pulled on the pajamas the TARDIS had provided for him, before hanging his suit and jacket on the hangers by the door. Rose emerged from the bathroom with a clean, make-up free face, wearing her pink pajamas and looking as beautiful as ever, despite the dark bags under her eyes. She pulled the covers from her bed and sat down, patting the other side and beckoning the Doctor to join her. He did, and they both lay down on their sides, facing each other.
Feeling like the distance was too much, the Doctor closed in and opened his arms as wide as he could in invitation. Rose accepted it with a smile and inched closer until she was snug against his chest. The Doctor wrapped his arms around her shoulders and kissed her gently on the lips.
“Good night Rose.” He said when Rose yawned again, leaning her head against his chest and snuggling into him, her other arm relaxed around his waist.
“Good night, Doctor. I love you.” Rose said, another yawn escaping her lips.
“I love you too, my Rose.” He whispered back and allowed himself to drift off into sleep, gently cradling the woman he loved in his arms and feeling happier than he had in years.