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A Praise Chorus

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It's an abuse of power is what it is.

There's an implicit contract, a sort of sacred bond, between a man and his video store clerk.

You don't look at rental history, if you do, you don't judge, and if you do look and you do judge, you sure as hell don't bring it up.

But that's exactly what Wilf's done, right here, in the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon, he's gone and broken that bond and upset the balance of the entire universe. Again.

"Listen, Doctor, all I'm saying is you could be out there living this life, instead of watching it on a TV screen. You're young, you're handsome, you already have a beautiful red-haired woman in your life. What do you need John Hughes for?”

The Doctor shakes his head, fighting an urge to roll his eyes. "For the last time, Donna is not my Molly Ringwald, she's -- she's --"

Wilf stops, his hand stilling on a pack of Skittles in the middle of the display he's been straightening. "You watch yourself, son, that's my granddaughter you're talking about."

His voice is deliberately stern, a parody, and this time the Doctor does roll his eyes, slouching against the bin of returns. He's not technically supposed to be behind the counter, but Wilf's never said anything, and it makes him feel just the slightest bit important, which is hard to come by in high school.

The conversation is familiar though, and the Doctor continues as if he hadn't been cut off. "-- she's my best friend. She's someone's Molly Ringwald, but she's not mine, you know?"

Wilf nods, undeterred, and moves on from Skittles to Starburst. No one ever buys the candy, not even when they run a sale, and the Doctor spares a moment to wonder if Starburst go stale. Starburst? Starbursts? What is the plural of Starburst?

"Well, all right," Wilf says, interrupting his thoughts, "but you know where your Molly Ringwald definitely isn't?"

"Tell me," the Doctor says, deadpan, because this, too, is familiar. It's all familiar. This is his life, as much as he sometimes wishes it weren't.

"She's not in that basement of yours, hiding between your baseball cards and that stack of Playboys that went missing from my garage."

The Doctor feels his stomach roil. "I, uh. I -- um, well. I don't know what you're talking about."

Wilf laughs. "Yeah, you do. Don't think I didn't notice it was the blondes either."

The Doctor scratches at his head, momentarily distracted by memories of the Noble garage, the precarious piles of magazines among the sports equipment and shoes and hats. "You know, I thought that was weird, why are they organized like that? It took me a minute to figure out the system."

Wilf beams at him, moving on from the candy to the popcorn and apparently pleased the Doctor's not going to bother continuing to deny it. "That was your best friend -- devious little thing, my granddaughter. She thought it'd give us something to go on, if we at least knew what kind of women you liked."

The Doctor feels his mouth open, gaping, aghast, completely and totally floored.

"What? It was smart. Did you catch the Playgirls, too? We accounted for all variables."

This isn't a conversation to be had over the bright blue store counter, and the Doctor steps out around it, approaching Wilf with his arms crossed.

"So it was blondes, brunettes, redheads, or gay?

"No," Wilf says, "it was blondes, brunettes, redheads, men, all of them, none of them, some of them, both of them --"

Donna's voice rings out from the storage room in the back of the store, growing louder as she nears them and joining the conversation as if she's always been a part of it. "You do have a very confusing history, but I didn't pass AP statistics  without learning a few things. I would have been able to draw a conclusion whatever you did, but you, of course, made it easy.

"Blondes," she groans. "I should've known."

The Doctor bristles, but moves to help Donna maneuver the stock cart to the next aisle anyway. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that for all your bullshit, you're just a regular dude."

The Doctor's back goes rigid as he draws out of the slouch he usually defaults to and into perfect posture.

"I am not a dude," he says, every ounce of conviction and disgust he can muster soaking the words.

Donna squints at him, sizing him up, and then breaks into a grin. "Nah, you're not. Because dudes get laid."

And with that, she turns her full attention to stocking shelves.

The Doctor slinks away back to behind the counter, foot connecting with another bin of returns on the floor.

"Hey, be kind, rewind while you're over there," Wilf calls.

With a grumble, the Doctor does as he's told, stopping halfway through the first tape. "You know, I should be getting paid for this."

Wilf winks at him. "Yep, but then you'd have a job -- an after-school job, just like all those kids living out their teens in a way you're hellbent on avoiding."

"It's Saturday," the Doctor says.

Wilf just smiles.

&&.

For all the horror of his Saturday afternoon, the rest of the weekend had been pretty cool. He'd managed to get through three movies, and his traditional Sunday night viewing of The X-Files went nearly uninterrupted. Uncle Rass had called halfway through, leaving a message on the machine that he wouldn't be back this week either, which wasn't surprising.

Uncle Rass hadn't been back since school started almost a month and a half ago, or, really, much that summer either. All the paperwork the Doctor had needed signed for the start of the year had been on the fax machine in the office one morning a couple months ago, and the allowance from his parents' trust every other week was enough to keep him in food and movie rentals and sometimes a dime bag.

(Sorry Mom and Dad.)

Since freshman year -- the year after his parents died -- there'd been a rumor he was an emancipated minor, which wasn't too far from the truth, except there was a piece of paper in some office somewhere that named Uncle Rass as his legal guardian.

But it didn't matter, nobody's parents factored in much to the movies he loved, unless it was to drop them off at detention or forget their birthdays or something.

In his case, his were dead, which was probably a good story, even if his therapist said it was compartmentalizing or distancing or some shit to look at it that way. And Uncle Rass was just there to -- what? Pay the utilities? The mortgage? Did this house have a mortgage?

None of it was worth thinking about really.

It would be nice though, on Monday mornings like this, with the rain and the October chill setting in, to have someone make him his oatmeal, a cup of coffee, something warm.

Or, well, even if his mom had been around, she probably wouldn't have made him coffee -- too worried about stunting his growth. Would he have cleared that hurdle in her eyes? 6'1" -- that was pretty tall, surely she wouldn't think the caffeine would hurt now? He was only, what, 5'7" when they'd ... well, since she'd seen him; it was hard to say what she'd think of him -- his height -- now.

Maybe he'd bring that to therapy, should be good for the hour, a rambling conversation on caffeine intake and its impacts on human height.

It would be better than talking about his unwillingness to make close friends other than Donna again, at any rate.

&&.

Tuesday, lunch hour, and his car won't start.

It's just his luck, really, because Tuesday is the one day of the week that the computer club meets in the library, which means he can't get online, and it's the one day of the week that Donna has a lunchtime student council meeting.

He could go to the library and just read, or he could crash Donna's meeting -- it wouldn't be the first time for either -- but he was really looking forward to hitting the mall for lunch. Well, the music store in the mall, new albums today and all.

He could walk to the comic book shop or to McDonald's, but he might not make it back in time for the start of fifth period and Mr. Van Statten's a complete asshole about tardies unless you're on the football team.

So that leaves the library, Donna's meeting, or getting someone to give him a jump. It's definitely just the battery, and it's definitely his own fault, he probably drained it powering that satellite hack experiment.

Brain power to wow the SAT people for days, and he still couldn't figure out a way to get the premium channels for free. And now his car is dead. First thing after school, he's just calling and adding Cinemax, Uncle Rass probably doesn't even look at the cable bill, probably has people that pay it for him.

With a sigh, he troops away from his car, only to run straight into Jack Harkness a few steps later, narrowly avoiding a second collision with Rose Tyler standing at Jack's side.

"Dude," Jack says.

"Sorry, man," he returns, both aware that he's participating in some bizarre high school boy exchange and powerless to stop it.

"It's cool. Aren't you taking her out?" Jack says, tapping the hood of the Doctor's car. "If I had a car like this, I'd never stop driving." His eyebrows draw down and he looks at the black smudge on his fingertip. "And I'd take better care of her, Jesus, do you ever wash this thing?" He rubs the dirt between his thumb and index finger for a moment before wiping it on his jeans.

"Of course I do," the Doctor says, gazing proudly at the blue car he'd spent years stealing from his dad for joyrides and then just straight inherited when he died. "And then I get her dirty again."

In between them, Rose gives Jack a shove.

"Hey! What was that for?"

Rose raises her eyebrows. "For the thing you were just gonna say about dirty girls."

"I do love 'em," Jack says and winks at the Doctor.

"Right," the Doctor says, inching slowly away from Jack and Rose. It isn't that he dislikes them, it's just -- high school. Cliques and stuff.

But Rose's voice stops him. "Hey, we were going to the mall, if you wanna come?"

The Doctor looks around, they were clearly talking to him, but it's, like, this doesn't happen, pretty girls and the probable Prom King don't just invite him to the mall.

Unless ... oh, ohhhhh, of course, he's seen this movie, he's seen all these movies. It's a prank. He hadn't thought people really did that stuff in real life, and not to him, at least. He wasn't popular, but he wasn't unpopular, and there wasn't supposed to be any fun in picking on the faceless masses in the middle, right?

"Oooh-kay," Rose says, drawing him out of his thoughts. "Or not, if you're just gonna stand there being weird."

If he really thinks about it, Rose and Jack aren't the type to pull pranks anyway or ... not the kind that hurt other people. He's seen Jack's bare ass enough times in pep assemblies to know he's fine pulling pranks. And Rose, she's always been nice to him, even if he wasn't in her orbit much.

"No, no, cool, thanks, I'll go," he says, because if he sits through another meeting with Donna bossing Shaun around in some sort of twisted courting ritual, he’s gonna lose it.

They pile into Jack's pick-up truck and onto a bench seat that leaves him pressed up against Rose where she sits in the middle of the boys.

It seems like Rose is being careful not to touch Jack, it's almost obvious, the way she's doing it, a careful buffer of a few inches between them on the seat. The Doctor would assume it was out of respect for her boyfriend, the football captain, if it weren't for how it leaves her thigh so tightly pressed against the Doctor's that he can literally feel the heat from her skin through her jeans.

Maybe he's just that much of a non-threat. Maybe Rickey Smith would laugh at the very thought of Rose flirting with the Doctor, and she knows it.

Whatever it is, he's gonna go with it, because it's nice.

They spend the rest of the ride talking about how it's great to finally be seniors, and he learns that, due to budget constraints, they coupled the homecoming dance with Halloween this year. He doesn't remember there ever being a Halloween dance, or a school Halloween celebration at night at all, and when he says that, Rose says it's probably just to keep the high-schoolers out of trouble on Halloween night. It's impressive, like, clever a little bit, that she'd put it together like that, and the Doctor agrees.

"So," Jack says, swinging wide the glass doors to the mall after they've parked, "speaking of Hallo-coming, Home-o-ween -- no, that'd be something different -- not that I'd mind -- but speaking of our big October dance, who is the relatively newly single Rose Tyler going to be accompanying?"

Rose rolls her eyes and Jack smirks.

"Ohhh, did you think the conversations in first period, second period, and just now on the drive were going to be the end of it? You, Miss Tyler, were mistaken," Jack says, tapping her on the tip of the nose and dashing into the music store, with a Schwarzenegger-accented, "I'll be back," in his wake.

Rose scuffs her sneaker on the mall's linoleum, making it squeak. Most of the girls have different kinds of shoes than hers, big chunky platform things, Sketchers, and Doc Marten sandals (an absolute abomination, and he hopes wherever Doc Marten lays, he's spinning in his grave), but Rose's are plain canvas, Keds, he thinks they're called.

She's drawn all over them in ballpoint pen, a ton of different colors; she must have one of those novelty pens with all the different inks. There's stars and swirls and smiley faces, little hearts and what looks like the moon painted in white-out.

He likes it.

Maybe he'll wear his white Chucks, see if she'll draw on his.

Or, well, maybe he'd do that if they were friends. But he's only got one friend, and Donna wouldn't draw on her own shoes, let alone his.

"So," he says, trying to pick up the thread of conversation as they walk like normal, civilized people trying not to get kicked out of the mall -- unlike Jack -- into Sam Goody. "Single?"

Rose's face ... changes. It draws up or tightens or winces or something, it's so brief, he can't place it, but it wasn't a good look, whatever it was, and he realizes that was probably not the conversation to pick up.

She shrugs anyway, apparently used to talking about things she doesn't want to talk about. "Yeah, over the summer -- Mickey and I decided, you know, better as friends, that whole thing. Like you and Donna."

He nods along, right, right, friends -- wait, what?

What?

No.

What?

No. No, no, no, no.

"Donna and me?" is what finally comes out, on an embarrassing voice crack, and oh, goddamn it, he thought he'd finally passed those by.

"Yeah, I hope we can be like that actually," Rose says. "You guys seem really close still. Mickey and I used to be like that, and that's why I didn't want to go out with him in the first place, I didn't want to lose it, but, I don't know. Anyway. You guys'll have to tell me your secret sometime."

There are at least ten reasons he can think of, right here, right now, that he needs to correct Rose, and it's his brain tripping up on all of them that causes him to forget to keep his voice at a reasonable volume.

"We never dated!"

Rose's eyes go wide at his shout, and he's sure he's got a look to match, terrified that he just yelled at Rose Tyler. No one yells at Rose Tyler. She's like the school sweetheart, or certain parts of the school anyway.

"I'm sorry," he rushes out. "It's just -- we've only ever been friends. We've only ever wanted to be friends. Donna is like ... like ... like my sister."

"Oh," Rose says, her lips pulling down on a hmmm sound, like she's slightly surprised at this new information, but not unwilling to accept it. "Well, sorry. Anyway, Mickey and I used to be like that, and I hope we can still be. But it does leave me without a date to homecoming, he's already going out with Tricia Delaney."

"Ah, the cheerleader, right? The one that does the -- " he makes a flipping gesture with his fingers, ending with them split apart.

"Yeah, yeah," Rose says, rolling her eyes, "flexible Tricia, go ahead and say it."

"What? No, I just meant, like, that's who she is." He's trying very hard to keep his voice level and his face from twitching, because now that she's pointed it out, it's not like he's going to campaign against flexibility or anything.

"I was a gymnast, you know," she says, like she's had this conversation before, like she's already tired of being compared to Tricia six weeks into the school year.

"No," he says slowly, his brain sputtering and smoking and as dead as his car back in the school parking lot. "I did not know that."

"Well, I was," she says, reaffirming it one last time, just to make sure that coffin his brain is in is well and truly nailed shut. "I'm gonna go look," and she turns away into the aisles of the store.

The Doctor catches up to Jack at the new releases and looks them over. There’s nothing he wants right now, but it’s his duty, as a person with ears, to stop Jack from buying the Linkin Park CD he has in his hand.

“No, no, don’t do that,” he says, prying the disc from Jack’s fingers.

“But I just thought —“

“No,” he reiterates. “Just — don’t.”

“All right,” Jack says. “Then point me in the direction of something better.”

He nods toward a set of racks and then walks toward them, Jack close behind him, slightly too close, but that’s Jack Harkness, anybody’ll tell you.

“Here,” the Doctor says, gesturing at the store employee recommendations. “Anything from Ace, Charley, or Sarah Jane. Stay away from Adric and Turlough. And Davros has recommended Rammstein for the last 14 months straight, so if you want to take advice from a guy like that, it’s up to you.”

Jack’s eyes scan the shelves. “You know all these people?”

“Yeah,” he shrugs.

“Where are they? Why aren’t they over here talking to you?”

He shrugs again. None of that’s worth getting into.

“All righty then, be mysterious, that’s not weird or anything,” Jack says, but he’s already begun looking at the CDs, snatching up In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. When he begins scrutinizing the covers in a way that reads like he's assessing the hotness of the women on each album, the Doctor speeds away. He's already got a speech on the relative merits of Neutral Milk Hotel and Smashing Pumpkins prepared, but if Donna's lack of receptiveness to it last month is anything to go on, Jack's not gonna want to hear it either.

He finds Rose in the back of the store, in the alphabetized aisles of the rock section, she’s got a CD in her hand and as he gets closer, he recognizes it — that’s Op Ivy. Where would she have heard —

When she catches sight of him, she grins, holding up the CD in the air. “This was them, right? That cover band from sophomore year, they played Operation Ivy?”

He grins back, pleased she remembers. All-ages shows were rare, and all-ages shows he recognized people at were even rarer. He thought he’d only recognize Donna, and that was because he’d dragged her along, but then Rose had been there, right at the side of the stage for the shitty opening-opening act.

“Yeah, how do you remember that? I thought you’d taken off.”

She nods, carefully putting the CD back. “I had, that was my ex-boyfriend’s band, the opener for the opener. I left with him, but then came back. I saw you — you were dancing, Doctor.”

The rush of happiness he feels at hearing the word "ex" in front of "boyfriend" is crushed by the thought she’d seen him dancing.

“Well, um,” he scratches at the back of his neck. “It was actually more … skanking.”

Skank?”

“Skanking, it’s a kind of … dance, one you can do when there’s horns. Or even when there’s not. And anyway, I wasn’t the only one.”

“Teach me?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Fine,” and her grin this time has a little bit of tongue to it, and if this does turn out to be a prank, it’ll probably end in tears, but the used tissues on his nightstand will be for a completely different reason. “If that cover band comes back though. Or who was it? The main? Less than Jake, if Less than Jake comes back, we’re going, and you’re teaching me.”

“It’s a date,” he says, and then feels a rush of heat and embarrassment and maybe a little anticipation because what if she doesn’t laugh at him?

“Imaginary concert down, homecoming to go,” she says with a little eye roll, like they already have inside jokes, like those inside jokes aren’t sending his actual insides sparking and fizzing and sloshing around his body.  

“We could —” He shakes his head, aborting the sentence.

“We could what?”

“We could do that, too, go to homecoming, kill two birds with one stone?” What is he doing, what is he saying, this isn’t how things are done, they don’t even hang out, they don’t even have classes together, oh fuck, oh shit, oh god, and he’s still fucking talking. “… If you want?”

He ends with a shrug and a death wish.

She stares at him and he’s sure she’s going to laugh, that Bob Saget is on his way out and this is some live version of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or whoever’s hosting that show now, who is hosting that show now? God, he hates that show. Almost as much as he hates himself right now.

“Yeah, sure,” she says. “Let’s do it.”

“No, yeah, it was a stupid idea, sorry, just forget it, Less than Jake, we’ll just leave it there.”

“What?” Rose looks and sounds confused.

“What? Wait. Oh my god, you said yes.”

She laughs at him, actually laughs at him this time, but it’s a nice sort of laugh, he likes it, and then she’s tugging him by his sleeve to the front of the store. “Come on, I can’t be late to fifth period again.”

On the drive back to school, he catches himself thinking maybe it’s not that she’s trying to keep from touching Jack, but that she wants to touch him.

It’s totally crazy, but it gives him a semi anyway.

Fucking hormones.

Chapter Text

&&.

He makes it until Friday before Donna finds out, and by ‘finds out’ he means ‘he tells her,’ because if she’d found out from anybody else, she’d probably have just killed him and he was really pushing his luck with these few days already.

It’s the day homecoming tickets go on sale, but he’d ended up at Taco Bell with Donna for lunch, so he’d missed the opportunity to buy them then. They’re on sale after-school, too, but since it’s senior year, and they’d both had enough credits, he and Donna hadn’t had to take a final period. Which means he’s having to stick around an extra 50 minutes, just to buy the damn thing.

There’s the possibility of buying it Monday, or any of the other 22 days before Halloween-Homecoming, but he sort of wants to get it out of the way, and maybe tell Rose he’s done it. Just so she … well … so she doesn’t forget and go with someone else. Or think he was joking. Oh god, what if she’d been joking?

No, no, it was serious, it was real, he has 50 minutes to spend in this courtyard until he can buy the ticket, and if he’s lucky, he’ll see Rose before the weekend and maybe get her number and maybe they can talk about … cummerbunds? That’s a thing, right? His cummerbund matching her dress? Or is this not a formal dance because of the Halloween thing?

He’s already technically got his Halloween costume picked out, he’d found a long, brownish trench coat over the summer, and it was all he needed to complete his Lloyd Dobler costume, but would Rose even know who that was? What movies were kids his age supposed to be watching? He’s not a wearing one of those ghostface Scream masks, not even for Rose (maybe for Rose), his hair is better than Leonardo DiCaprio’s, so Romeo would just be an insult, Varsity Blues, that’s gotta be the football team’s domain, right?

What else, what else, what else —

“Hey! Pick up your purse and let’s get moving.” Donna materializes in front of him like something out of The Craft, and, oooh, there’s another one. “What are you sitting at this table for anyway? Usually we meet by the doors.”

He deliberately slumps further down on the seat, putting his weight on his ass in case Donna tries to bodily lift him or something. He wouldn’t put it past her.

“First of all, it’s not a purse, it’s a messenger bag, second, I’m sitting at this table because I’m waiting for homecoming tickets to go on sale, and third, we meet by the doors because you’re always so late that I try to leave and you just catch me.”

Donna toes his bag where it sits on the ground. "Purse. But more importantly -- homecoming tickets? Homecoming? Doctor, do you -- are you -- you're going to homecoming?"

He rolls his eyes, leaning down to grab his bag and deposit it on the table behind him, taking time to fiddle with the pins and patches on the front flap just to annoy Donna.

There are a lot of them, each meticulously placed to look haphazard -- Radiohead, Belle and Sebastian, Pennywise, Bad Religion, X; he brushes his thumb over the canvas-printed Less Than Jake patch -- he'd bought it that night Rose was there. What else does she listen to? What does she listen to at all, if she was just there to support her boyfriend? That had to have been Jimmy, right? How does she go from dating a drop-out like Jimmy, to dating the fucking quarterback of the football team? Not that he knew much about Mickey, but still. And now him? Now she's dating him. Or, well, one date, one homecoming date.

That he should probably tell Donna about.

"Yeah, I'm going to homecoming," he says, and she's not gonna settle for that, but making her draw it out of him will eat up some of the time before school lets out.

"Like by yourself?"

"Nope."

"Doctor, listen, I don't know what this is, but if something Gramps said finally got through and you're trying to embrace high school in your final year, you should know -- I will not be your date."

"What?"

She shrugs and gives him a look like her meaning should be obvious. "I know that's a thing I'm supposed to do for you, like me or a cousin or something, the pity date, and since you don't have cousins ..."

"Donna, sit down," he says, pulling her by the arm until she collapses next to him. These combination bench-table-concrete-eyesores get cold in this weather and she yelps before settling, and then looks at him expectantly.

"First of all, it wouldn't be pity if you took me. You and I both know I have the Best Hair superlative on lock this year. Best Hair does not need a pity date. Second, this has nothing to do with your grandpa ... although, I've been meaning to mention, a few of the pages in those magazines of his were sticky, what do you think that could be ...?"

He waits a beat for it to sink in and then Donna's eyes go wide and she reels back in horror. "No, no, no, shut up, shut up, shut up!"

When he smirks, Donna smacks his arm, but it's worth it.

"I'm just kidding, they're pristine. Well, were pristine," he says and Donna makes another disgusted face, but doesn't interrupt again. "And third, I have my own date. I'm, uh, I asked Rose Tyler. I'm going with Rose Tyler."

Donna's face is like a carousel of emotions, there's the stallion of disbelief, the horse of hilarity, the unicorn of confusion, and finally the lonely, misplaced frog of there's no way I heard that right.

"Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack."

"Is that what happened? You had some sort of medical scare and now you're, like, hallucinating? Oh my god, did you buy those mushrooms from Owen? I told you that you were gonna have a bad trip, he's a creep, who knows what was in those and now you've had a psychotic break and --"

"Donna. I'm not on mushrooms, I had lunch with her and Jack the other day, the opportunity sort of ... presented itself, and I asked her."

"What, just like that? You asked a girl to homecoming, just like that? A girl we don't even hang out with? Isn't she dating Mickey?"

"Yes, yes, yes, and nope."

Donna's eyes skitter across the courtyard, landing on the bushes, the ground, the sky, as if they're better equipped to give her answers than him.

"And she said yes? Because just asking doesn't mean you're --"

He holds up his hand, cutting her off. "Donna, holy shit, it's not like I told you I'm going with Jennifer Love Hewitt or something, it's not that crazy. We've all gone to school together for years, and, in case you haven't noticed, I'm hot now, of course Rose Tyler wants to go out with me."

(It's a little bit more bravado than he feels, but it's either that or a spiral into angst and he hasn't brought along the right CDs for his Discman for that today.)

She squints at him when he finishes. "Wait, go out with you? Or go to homecoming with you? Are you guys going out?"

Whether, semantically, there should be a difference in the meaning of those sentences is a debate he only momentarily considers, because there is a difference, whether there should be or not, there's a high school difference, and he (... possibly regrettably) tells Donna it's the last thing. Or the middle thing, Jesus, why does she ask so many questions in a row like that?

"Oh, well, that makes more sense, I guess. And you're not hot now -- like I was just gonna let that go and not say anything." She rolls her eyes and shakes her head at him.

"Now Donna Noble, just because puberty came and went and only gave you those," he gestures to her chest, earning him a shove he dodges, "doesn't mean it was so stingy with the rest of us. Look at this," he gestures to himself this time, "hair, height, face -- "

"And skinny enough to be in Trainspotting, which means you're on heroin, you look like a heroin addict."

"Shut up."

They sit in silence for a few moments, watching birds fight over leftovers from the people that ate lunch in the courtyard.

"You're really going to homecoming with Rose Tyler?" Donna finally breaks the silence.

"Yeah, I am."

"That's pretty cool, Doctor," she says, and gives him a smile, a sincere one.

"Yeah," he says. "It is."

&&.

Despite having been camped in the courtyard, in prime position for homecoming ticket sales because he'd literally watched them set the table up (a task Donna stormed away to take over after a few bumbling minutes, even though it's supposed to be the juniors in student council that put it on, and they're seniors), when the bell rings, it's complete chaos.

Kids pour out of the hallways like some sort of nature film, something about insects probably, and soon the space between him and the table and Donna is full of a line of students also waiting to buy their tickets.

The line moves quickly though, except for when somebody recognizes somebody else, and while he enjoys watching the peppy little hugs the cheerleaders give each other in greeting, watching Abercrombie-clad jocks high-five leaves a lot to be desired.

By the time he gets to the front of the line, he's mistaken no less than four girls for Rose, probably witnessed a drug deal, definitely witnessed a drug deal, and smelled more of Adam Mitchell's cologne than even Adam's mom could probably stomach.

Martha Jones asks him in a chipper voice what she can do for him from the other side of the table and he's momentarily surprised because Martha's a senior, too, but then he realizes Donna's replaced every single junior with someone from their own grade, and he laughs to himself. Of course.

As casual as he can, he smiles at Martha.

"May I have a ticket to homecoming, please?" he says, and it's a split second, half of a half of a half of a second. where he thinks of his mom, what she would think of his manners, manners he's using to ask for a ticket to a high school dance. She'd be proud, he thinks.

"A single ticket or a couple ticket?" Martha's watching him carefully, slightly too carefully, and Donna can accuse him of being oblivious all she wants, but he's not. Or he's not always.

"A, uh. A couple ticket."

"Really?"

"Yep."

"Who are you going with?"

"Rose Tyler." His fingers grip the edge of the table, making the butcher paper taped around the front crinkle.

"Really?"

"Yep," and there's a flood of panic then, because telling Donna and having it fall through is one thing, telling Martha is totally another.

"Huh. Okay. Does that mean Mickey's free?" Martha looks interested again and, fuck, that was fast.

"Nah, Tricia Delaney."

"Oh."

"... my ticket?"

"Ah, right, sorry, my bad. Did you want one for the game, too?"

"What game?"

She stares at him. "The football game? Before the dance? If you buy those tickets together now, you save $2."

"'I want my $2!'" It's a perfect Better Off Dead impression, but Martha just stares at him again, so he hands over his money. "Sure, fine, whatever, football ticket, too."

He hands her the money, catching sight of Rose as Martha hands him his change. He grabs it from her quickly, hollering his thanks and taking off across the courtyard in a run-walk that's probably more embarrassing than just flat out running.

"Rose," he says, blurting it out in a way that makes him wince, but she doesn't seem to notice.

"Hey, Doctor." She smiles. "What's up?"

"Got the ticket," he says, holding it up where it's still clutched in his hand, and, oh, Jesus Christ, could he be more fucking eager?

Her face lights up. "Oh, wow, awesome, thanks! Do you, uh, do you want some money for my half of it? I don't get paid until Wednesday, but ..."

"No! I mean, no, no, that's all right, I got it."

"Are you sure?" Rose looks uneasy, tugging at the bottom of her shirt. It's navy, but there's a thick olive green stripe running from her shoulder down the length of each sleeve to her wrists. There's off-white piping or something on either side of the green. It's a weird thing to fixate on, except for he could swear he has a shirt that looks just like that, and he'd sort of like to see her in his.

He realizes he's been staring and rushes to rejoin the conversation. "Yeah, it's fine, it's fine -- dead parents gotta be good for something, got that trust fund."

Rose's face pales and he mentally kicks himself.

"Sorry, I forget other people get uncomfortable with that ... dead ... parent stuff," he says, and, great, he's just brought it up again.

"Yeah," Rose says, and she pauses, like she can't decide whether to continue. "My dad's actually dead. So ... I get it." She drops her gaze to her hands, her finger stroking against the ring on her thumb and making it spin around.

"Really?" Did he know that? How did he not know that?

"Yeah, but from when I was a baby," she says, "it wasn't like you, I don't even remember him. And I still have my mom."

"Still ... that ... that sucks," he's sure he's more eloquent than that, his English teacher would tell him he's more eloquent than that, but it's all he's got.

"Yeah, you, too, sucks for you, too," she says, and it's one of those moments he wonders if other kids are aware of -- that weird bridge between being young and being old, like, they're talking about something mature, but they haven't quite learned how to do it yet. He hates and loves those moments all at the same time.

"Anyway," Rose says, "thanks for the ticket. I'm looking forward to it. Oh, god, that was cheesy, huh?"

He laughs, "It's fine, I'm good with cheese."

"Yeah?"

"Of course," he says. "Who doesn't like cheese?"

There's a Steve Urkel joke to be made here somewhere, but he's already been enough of a fucking doofus, so it's not gonna be from him.

"Fascists," Rose says, and he nods, but then there's silence and maybe he should've made the joke, because now what do they talk about? There are a million things he'd like to talk about, but it's just -- god, she's pretty.

"Hey, can I have your number? Ohhh, was that cheesy? Now we're even," his words come out in a big jumble, but Rose grins at him anyway.

"Yes, you can have it, yes, it was easy, yes, we're even. Did you learn that from Donna? She always asks questions like that in class, all right in a row, drives Ms. Webber crazy."

He feels his cheeks go warm. "Yeah, I must've. Um, but ... your number?"

"Smooth, Doctor," and just like that she pops the balloon of tension in his chest.

With a wink, he digs in his bag for his phone, and winces when he realizes he's cracked the face-plate on the little Nokia. Donna changes hers practically every week, always dragging him to that kiosk at the mall to buy a new one like it's an accessory, but he likes the blue one, he's had the blue one since he got the phone last year.

"Here, let's just switch," he says, "you can put yours in mine and I'll do mine in yours."

Rose looks awkward, her thumb coming up to edge at the strap of her backpack. "I don't have a phone."

"Oh, grounded?"

She shakes her head. "No, I just. I don't have one."

He shrugs. "It's cool, give me your pager number instead."

"No pager either.”

"Really?"

She crosses her arms and, oh, no, no, no, that's not good, teenage girls cross their arms at him all the time, he doesn't want Rose to do it. "Single mom, Doctor."

"Right, right, sorry," and he feels heat flood his cheeks. "Um, do you have a house phone?"

She nods, regaining a little bit of her confidence. "Yeah, I've got my own line even, so you won't have to deal with my mom."

"Wouldn't matter, I'm great with moms," he lies through his teeth, thinking about all the times Mrs. Noble has tried telling Donna to find different friends.

"I'll remember that," she says. "Here, give me your phone, I'll put it in. And then I'll beat your score on Snake."

&&.

Saturday night he talks to Rose Tyler for three hours, switching to his own house phone after ten minutes, and staying on the line all through Saturday Night Live, which they watch together, Rose muffling her laughter so she doesn't wake up her mom.

He learns:

- Her favorite color (pink, but she's thinking about changing it.)

- Her favorite food (french fries, and she's completely jealous that he's been to California and eaten at an In-N-Out.)

- Her favorite band (or that she refuses to name one, but she mentions Blink 182 and Reel Big Fish and Green Day and, after several minutes, Hanson, which prompts a sing-a-long to MMMBop neither of them will ever mention again. Ever.)

- Her birthday (last month, just five and a half days after his, and there's something weirdly appealing about both of them being 18.)

- What she'd buy with a thousand dollars (one of those Tiffany's necklaces with the heart charm everybody else already has, but she changes her answer to give the money to her mom instead.)

- That she thinks she can kick his ass at Mario Kart (she can't, and he'll prove it as soon as she'll let him.)

- That she watches Buffy, but has never seen X-Files (and he's going to show her how wrong she is there, too.)

- How her house sounds at night, when she puts the phone down to go pee (it sounds like the beating of his own heart, and also sort of like anticipation.)

She learns:

- His favorite color (blue, the exact blue of his car.)

- His favorite food (french fries, but honestly, not just because she said it first.)

- His favorite band (or that he refuses to name one, too, and that she'd be better off just looking at his bag, or like, coming over to check out his CDs, maybe, if she wants.)

- His birthday (last month, five and a half days before hers.)

- What he'd buy with a thousand dollars (one of those Tiffany's necklaces with the heart charm for her, since she's not buying it for herself, and it’s a risk, saying that, but it pays off, because she clicks her tongue and calls him sweet)

- That he'd stopped wearing his leather jacket because it got hot (and because Donna told him it looked stupid.)

- That he likes hearing about her more than talking about himself (and that he remembers more of her sixth grade oral report on zebras than she does.)

- How his house sounds at night, when he puts the phone down to go pee (empty, he knows, his house always sounds empty.)

 

He doesn't once ask why the hell she's in on a Saturday night, talking to him on the phone. Whatever the answer is, he's grateful for it.

&&.

(Sunday he doesn’t check out a single movie, and Wilf checks him for a fever.)

Chapter Text

The week at school passes in a thousand different ways — at a crawl, in a jumble, lightning fast and syrup slow. He’s started tracking his days by the times he sees Rose, and started tracking his nights by the times he talks to her.

It’s never, ever enough … even though it’s, like, a lot. She works, and he still stops by the video store, but it seems like she’s making time for him just as much as he’s making time for her, and that’s — well, he doesn’t even have words for what that is.

When the end of the day finally rolls around on Friday, he’s dragging his heels in the courtyard. Donna’s finally managed to pin down Shaun for a date, and she’s lingering by him instead, their hands twisted together, and the Doctor keeps trying to signal to see if she needs a ride home, and she keeps waving him off.

There’s still another period left for most of the other students, and he’s pretty sure Shaun has that final period, and therefore somewhere to be. How can passing periods seem so short when he’s between classes and so long right now?

He’s about ready to just say fuck it and go, when Rose bounces up to him, a big grin on her face, and gives him a hug. If this is a thing they do now, hugging, he’s literally going to go home and put up a diary page on Geocities, just to write about this.

After returning the hug for probably longer than he should, because she smells good, and she has breasts, and they’re touching his chest, even if it’s through their clothes, he forces himself to step back, because he’s basically playing Russian Roulette with his stupid dick right now, and that is a game he always, always loses. Rose breathed a little deeply on the phone the other night and the fucking thing popped up.

“Hello, Doctor!”

“Hello, Rose Tyler!”

If his smile is half as dorky as it feels, he’s about two seconds away from being carted off by the Academic Decathlon team, but he can’t seem to control that sort of stuff around her.

“Soooo —” she says, turning her sneaker on the ball of her foot in a way that’s probably supposed to be endearing, and is.

Soooo,” he parrots.

“Remember how you said you like cheese?”

He nods, shrugging, confused as to where this is going.

“Well, you’re looking at the Henrik’s employee of the month right here, which means — ” she rummages around in her backpack, swinging it on the strap in front of her before pulling something out and reading from it “ — one free large cheese pizza, toppings extra, dine-in only, gratuity not included.”

She looks at him with a grin, handing over the certificate. “Whaddya say?”

He wants to shout his agreement loud enough for the kids way out in the portables to hear him, but instead he makes a show of scrutinizing it, checking for a watermark, the weight of the paper, and when she raises an eyebrow, he grins at her.

"Making sure it's legit before I make my counter-offer," he says.

"And?"

"It's real," he says decisively. "Which means --"

Rummaging in his bag, he pulls out two small, crumpled pieces of paper.

"-- I am authorized to offer these. Movie passes for the winner of Mr. Sneed's Biology Bingo and Quiz Review. That's me, by the way, I'm the winner."

Rose snatches up the passes and mimics his show of testing their authenticity. With a satisfied nod, she hands them back.

"Free pizza and a free movie, you, Doctor, are a cheap date," she says. "I'm in."

He grins at her, wondering if it would be weird to pull her into another hug when the warning bell rings and Rose makes up his mind for him, arms wrapping him in a quick embrace before darting away.

A second later she stops and turns around. "Tomorrow! I work tonight! Call me tomorrow!"

And then she's gone, leaving him with a stupid grin that doesn't dissipate even when Donna turns on Christina Aguilera for the drive. He has no idea ‘what a girl wants,’ but tomorrow night he’s sure as hell gonna try and figure it out.

&&.

By his fourteenth lap of the video store on Saturday afternoon, he's convinced he has the power to control time, in that it does exactly the opposite of what he wants it to do.

He'd called Rose's earlier (following an exciting morning of sleeping in, jerking off in the shower, a short period of regret and disgust over his actions in the shower, and then a late breakfast of Cinnamon Toast Crunch) to find her rushing out the door for a shift at Henrik's.

She'd told him to meet her at the pizza place at 6, and that she'd just see him there because it was so close to work she could walk.

Then she'd hung up.

After a brief thought to maybe jerk off again, because, uh, well -- bored, but also as a precautionary measure against his cock doing anything embarrassing tonight by tiring it out (which was unlikely to work anyway), he'd just gotten dressed and gone to the video store.

Donna had argued with him for 30 minutes over whether to show Terminator 2 or She's All That on the store screen displays -- an argument he'd only won by agreeing to go pick up Slurpees, which took another 20 minutes.

They'd watched both movies, his tongue had gone from Slurpee-blue back to pink and then to covered in the dust from a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and the clock was still dragging.

Plus, now he had the added bonus of having that fucking 'Kiss Me' song stuck in his head.

Would Rose let her kiss him? Would there even be an opportunity to kiss her? What if every girl in his entire life thought he was a bad kisser and just none of them ever told him?

"Donna, am I a bad kisser?"

"What? How the hell should I know?

"You kissed me that one time, in the Eddison's kitchen."

"What?"

He hops down from the counter, crossing to wear she's re-shelving returns.

"Come on, don't you remember? Truth or Dare? I got dared to eat all that gross stuff, the anchovies and the walnuts and the ginger beer, and then Agatha dared you to kiss me.

Donna's eyes unfocus like she's thinking and then she shudders. "Oh, god, yeah, that was disgusting."

He leans forward intently. "But which part was disgusting? Was it kissing me or, like, the anchovies?

"Um, how about both? Jesus, Doctor, you're like my brother. And not in a movie way where I secretly love you, you're like my actual brother."

He smirks at her. "Me thinks the lady doth protest too much."

"See? And you're a giant dork, you should be worried about what's gonna come out of your mouth, not whether Rose Tyler is gonna touch it with hers."

He snatches the videos still remaining on Donna's cart and quickly shelves them.

"There," he says. "Now, Donna, please."

She rolls her eyes. "Fine. I guess, beyond all that gross taste, your actual technique was fine. It was only like three seconds though. You should probably ask someone who's kissed you longer. Call up Romana. Or, wait, do they let you have phone calls in juvie? Call Harry Saxon. "

"Yeah, no, neither of those things are happening. It's probably fine."

Donna nods. "Yeah, it's probably fine, and whatever comes after the kissing is definitely going to be a disappointment, so you might as well lower her expectations early."

"Hey!"

"Oh, come on, high school boys are ridiculous, it's like one hand is trying to pop a water balloon and the other is trying to r --"

"Donna!"

"What? I'm serious. Do it, call Romana, she'll tell you. One-way ticket to Faking-It-ville with a pit-stop in  Is This Over Yet?"

He sniffs, standing up straight. "I'm confident Romana's tickets were all to Genuine-ville with a pit-stop in Like That, Yes, Oh God, Doctor, Oh God."

Donna stares at him, her face horrified for a moment, and then blinks. "Yeah, this conversation is over."

"Fine, but I'll make sure to have Rose send you a postcard when I take her there, too."

"Gross. Shut up. Shouldn't you be home already, styling your hair? If you don't go soon, you might only have two hours."

He scoffs, but shoulders off the shelves he'd been leaning against anyway. "Yeah, I should probably go. Hey, for real though, flowers or...?"

Donna's face softens, recognizing the shift, and she shakes her head. "You're meeting her there, right?"

"Yeah."

"Then no, she won't have anywhere to put them. Just ... be polite. Hold the door, buy the popcorn, stuff like that. And if -- by some miracle -- you do make out with her, do not think pressing down on the top of her head is a subtle suggestion at all."

He feels his face scrunch up in horror. "Oh my god, no. Donna, no. Who? Lance?"

She nods and then rolls her eyes. “That was his go-to move -- helpful actually, so small I probably wouldn't have known where to look.”

Holding up her pinky finger, she smirks and the Doctor laughs out a goodbye before heading home.

&&.

His hair takes 20 minutes.

He settles on his brown suit, the one he'd picked up at the thrift store last year. She'll either laugh at it or like it, and if she laughs, at least he'll get to see her smile, which is a lot of syrupy, poetic garbage from a guy who just found his glasses sitting on a stack of porno magazines.

But still, he's tried.

He’s taken another shower, triple-checked that he's wearing clean boxers and deodorant, he's got cologne on -- a reasonable amount, not the nostril-burning quantity Adam Mitchell routinely chokes them all with -- and his breathy is perfectly minty, exactly how it will stay through the duration of the evening thanks to a trusty roll of “wint-o-green” Lifesavers.

(All right, yes, they spark in the dark and he likes that, but more importantly, they are actual mints, unlike those bullshit Breath Asure capsules Donna used to sling down her throat and swear worked, despite all science and logic to the contrary. Last time he asked her for a piece of gum, he got a thin, filmy strip of Listerine to place on his tongue. Donna’s breath-freshening habits are not to be trusted.)

His dress shoes don't fit anymore, and they'd probably be too much, so he tugs on his Chucks and then realizes he still has about 20 minutes before he can reasonably leave without looking like an asshole to the people at the pizza place.

With a sigh, he collapses on the couch, bouncing between a Friends rerun and a Seinfeld one, and wondering which Rose prefers.

By the time he’s finally ready to leave, he’s mentally gone through the recent history of Must See TV, debating a series of potential Rose-favorites — he rules out Frasier immediately, considers Will & Grace, and decides ER doesn’t count.

It’s something he sort of wants to know for sure, and he spends the drive to the restaurant wondering if that’s weird, like he’s pre-planning conversation topics.

When he pulls up and parks, it all becomes moot (… moo, a cow’s opinion, it’s moo, and it’s gotta be Friends, she’s gotta like Friends best) for the time being because she’s not there yet.

He stays in the car for a minute, fiddling with the radio dial and landing on Marcy Playground. It becomes too much though, all this talk of sex and candy and his perverted brain skipping ahead and filling in gaps, and he is not going to greet Rose Tyler with an erection, there’s no fucking way.

Pushing out of the car and making sure the doors are locked behind him, he walks to the front of the pizza place. He will wait here, and this cold air will shrivel up his dick, and he will not embarrass himself and he will not make Rose uncomfortable and why didn’t he just wear jeans, these pants are so tight and the material is so thin, and he is an idiot.

He’s gearing up for a few hundred more words on the subject of his ongoing disappointment to himself when Rose appears in front of him and he loses all words.

Mostly.

Except for the curses.

Like holy shit.

And oh, fuck.

And lucky bastard.

Rose grins at him, her tongue between her teeth, and then says, “Hey,” like he’s not suddenly become the mental equivalent of a nuclear reactor meltdown. There are alarms going off and flashing red lights and people screaming, an entire disaster movie inside of him, and the best he can come up with in response is to return the greeting.

“Hey,” he says, and his arms widen a little, palms out, and if she wants to take that as an invitation to hug him, he’s certainly not gonna, like, correct her.

She takes the hint, throwing her arms around him, and they hug for what is probably, again, slightly too long. But if it’s possible, she smells even better than usual, it’s like sweet and musky and warm, and her sweater is really soft, and she still has those breasts of hers, and she’s … shivering?

He pulls back quickly. “Oh, shit, sorry, you’re cold,” he says. “We should’ve done that inside.”

“It’s fine,” she says as he pulls open the door to the pizza place, raising his arm up to prop it open so she can duck under and go in before him. They end up standing side-by-side at the hostess stand, waiting for someone to seat them.

“Hey, you look nice, by the way,” she says, elbowing him and then gesturing to his suit.

“Thanks, you do, too.” And, god, she does. Her sweater is pink and clingy and fuzzy and it’s got a v-neck, which highlights the little choker necklace she’s wearing. It’s a flimsy thing, it looks like beadwork and some sort of translucent wire and he is totally confident he could rip it off with his teeth.

Her legs are bare, which is probably part of the reason she was cold, and she’s got on a sort of … shiny skirt with a print of flowers all over it. But like, realistic-looking flowers, which somehow seems vitally important.

"Is that from Delia's?"

Rose turns to look at him, confusion written across her face. "What?"

"Your skirt, is it from Delia's?" He realizes, as he's doing it, that this is probably just confusing things more and why the hell did he open his mouth? What is wrong with him? What a fucking stupid thing to say.

"Uh. No. It's from Henrik's. I get a discount."

"Oh," he says, and the way he's beating up a little mental version of himself grows more violent. "It's just -- my friend Donna, you know Donna, she likes Delia's. Alloy, too. She likes ... checking the mailbox. Opening the package, stuff like that --"

"Doctor?"

"Yeah?"

"Is this really what you want to talk about?"

"No."

"K, let's talk about something else."

Before he can say anything further, and likely just as dumb, the hostess shows up.

"Two, please," he says.

"Smoking or non?"

He looks at Rose and she shrugs.

"Non, I guess," he says, and they follow the hostess to their booth, thanking her as she walks away. There's a brief, embarrassing dance where they try to determine who's going to sit where, and he finally slams himself into one side of it.

"I, uh, I like to be able to see the door," he says in explanation, and the little mental Doctor is on the ground now, clutching his stomach.

She squints at him and slides into the other side of the booth. "You're being a little bit weird."

"Yeah?"

"Can you stop?" She says it with a smile, a teasing thing, that immediately makes him feel better.

"Yeah, I can stop."

"OK, good, I mean, you can be weird, you are weird --"

He makes an offended face, mouth dropping in exaggerated shock.

"-- no, no, you are, but I am, too, but it's, like, it's good weird. I want you to be good weird. Doctor-weird. Be Doctor-weird."

Settling more fully into the vinyl of the booth, he tries to force his body to relax. He's been on dates before, literally -- well, almost literally -- charmed the pants off dates before. He can do this.

"Doctor-weird, huh?" he says, raising an eyebrow in that way Donna once caught him practicing. "And what exactly is Doctor-weird?"

"You know," she shrugs. "Like when you talk in class for 10 minutes because you just love Charles Dickens so much. Or when we had to evacuate the entire building because of what you did in Chemistry, which, by the way, it’s absolutely unreal you didn’t get suspended for.”

He grins, but it feels a little lop-sided. “They tried, and they tried the parent-teacher conference route, but the whole orphan thing really closes a lot of doors with regard to punishment.”

Rose laughs, but then looks a little bit sad. "You don't have anybody?"

"Well," he scratches at the back of his neck with one hand, the other shifting the menu back and forth on the table. "I have an uncle, but he's barely around. And there's Donna and her grandpa, I think you'd like him, I know he'd like you. And there's, like, other friends and stuff..."

As he says it, he knows it's a lie, those other friends, they're gone, all moved on, like Donna will probably do someday.

"There's me," Rose says, her hand briefly squeezing his on the table.

"Yeah? Is that we're gonna be, Rose Tyler? Friends?"

She shrugs. "I think we're already friends, aren't we? I thought maybe we could be ... more?"

His stomach flips, a complicated thing Kerri Strug would be proud of, and he smiles. "More sounds good."

"Yeah," she says. "I think so, too. Now, what are we gonna put on this Henrik's-sponsored pizza?"

He thinks of Donna, of the Eddison's kitchen, of disgusting dares and kissing.  

"Anything but anchovies."

&&.

It's dark out as they're leaving the pizza place, and chilly, too -- Rose is shivering a little on the walk to his car.

He's given Donna his jacket plenty of times, either because she's asked or because he's offered, but somehow, here, with Rose, it takes on a new significance.

"Do you want my jacket?" He's already shrugging out of it as he speaks and Rose smiles at him sweetly.

"Yeah, thanks," she says and he moves to drape it around her shoulders. She wiggles instead, fitting her arms through the sleeves and he grins at the way they swamp her hands.

He tugs her off to the side of the walkway. "Here," he says, and reaches for her hands, cuffing both of the sleeves a few times. "Better?"

Rose nods and then steps back so he can see her, preening a little. "How does it look it?"

The way it looks is something he can't really quantify. It's supposed to look good -- supposed to ignite something, like, primal in him, seeing her in his clothes, according to the movies, anyway.  And it does, sort of, but mostly she just looks ... cute. She looks really cute -- really pretty -- and he smiles at her.

"Better than it ever did on me," he says, and then, because she hadn't seemed opposed to it when he rolled up her sleeves, he takes her hand, holding it and using if to tug her gently back toward the parking lot.

At his car, he unlocks her door and when she gets in, she reaches to unlock his. Unfortunately he times it wrong, a little too early lifting the handle, and they somehow cancel each other out. The door stays locked and they go through a series of hand gestures trying to communicate to remedy the problem.

When he finally gets in, Rose teases him. "Car not cooperating again, Doctor?"

He fits the key into the ignition, a small wave of relief washing over him when it starts, and shrugs. "I swear to god, she's got a mind of her own sometimes."

Maneuvering out of the parking lot, he gives Rose permission to change the radio. "That's not a privilege I let just anyone have, you know. Don't screw it up."

She scoffs, fingers tapping gently at the preset buttons until she settles on Coldplay. She cuts her eyes to him like she's expecting a protest, but he shrugs. "Works for me."

Chapter Text

&&.

Standing in front of the movie theater, she holds his hand, tipping her head to his shoulder as they read the showtimes. It makes it hard to concentrate, the letters and numbers swimming in his vision as heat sings in his blood, and he gives up after a moment. It's not like he'd argue with anything she suggests anyway.

Pulling back but still keeping hold on his hand, she lifts her opposite shoulder.

"I don't know. Do you like scary movies?"

"Sure," he says, and his thoughts tumble forward to a darkened theater and a frightened Rose, hiding her face in his chest. "Actually, yeah, I do. Let's see a scary one."

Rose grins and tugs him to the ticket line. He has to drop her hand to fish the movie passes out of his wallet and silently thanks Donna for insisting he needed a plain black leather one last Christmas, instead of the velcro Quiksilver one he'd been carrying since seventh grade.

He gets them two tickets to a movie he forgets the name of almost immediately, I Know What Your Final Destination Screamed Last Summer or something, and they head to the concession stand.

There's a specific, anal-retentive system to how he picks his movie seats, and if Rose witnesses it, she's likely to run screaming, so he volunteers to get the soda and stuff while she grabs the seats instead.

Before she goes, she tries to give him money, and he waves her off.

"But you got the tip and stuff at the pizza place," she protests.

"And now I'm gonna get this."

"Are you sure?" She places special emphasis on the last word, and when he responds he parrots it.

"Yes, I'm sure."

"All right, thank you," she says, but she's still sizing him up, like she's expecting him to take it back, and he spares a few thoughts for Rose Tyler's past boyfriend history that she's so surprised he'd pay.

When he finally gets into the theater, he's got a large Pepsi, a box of Sour Patch Kids, a "small" popcorn, napkins, and a straw balanced precariously between his hands. Rose flags him down from the back row and his heart stumbles over itself.

The back row.

The back row of the movie theater.

Carefully he picks his way up the stairs. It's a newer theater, with the stadium style seating, and if there's something to be said for this time they're growing up in, it's that. A childhood spent with blocked views of the screen and an adolescent growth spurt spent having people ask him to sit down lower -- or move altogether -- has finally built to this: common sense in design.

When he gets to the row Rose is in, she leaps up to help him, taking the soda and setting it the cup-holder between their seats. Cup-holders -- another genius addition.

He sets the popcorn and candy down, passing Rose the napkins and straw, wincing as he realizes he only got one.

"Here," he says, "I'm gonna get another straw."

"Why? Do you have mono?"

He recoils. "No! I mean, no, I don't."

She shrugs. "Cool, me neither, we can share."

"Oh."

Rose looks unsure at his response. "Or not ...?"

"No, it's fine, it's great, sorry," he says. "Really, it's cool."

"Not worried about catching my cooties, are you, Doctor?"

He grins. "Nah, re-upped my cootie shot just last week."

She smiles back, but he still feels like an idiot, the blood is rushing in his ears, and he's such a fucking weirdo, why can't he just be cool?

Sitting down, he beats himself up only as long as it takes for him to recognize there's movie trivia being projected on the screen, and then he's too involved with that to care anymore.

He and Rose rush to answer before each other, and he's impressed with how much she knows.

"I like movies," she says, and then blurts out, "Return of the Jedi!" and he realizes her eyes are still focused on the screen.

They continue like that until the theater lights dim to start for the previews and he notices, regretfully, that the seats in their row and in front of them are all mostly full, making whatever he was hoping for seem unlikely.

As the trailers wrap up, Rose shifts, moving the soda to the cup-holder on her far side before raising the armrest up and back.

He stares at her, stunned, in the flickering light, and she looks back at him, uncertain.

"Is that okay?" she whispers.

"Yeah, yeah, of course," he says. "I just didn't even know they did that."

Which is true, he hadn't, but he's more stunned by the implication. Like, that the armrest was in the way.

In the way of her getting to him.

Something stirs low in his abdomen, inching toward his lap, and he tries to clamp down on it as the opening credits start up.

40 minutes later, Rose is hugging his arm to her chest and he's lost all hope of his body not reacting.

He's not hard, not exactly, but he's perpetually about two seconds away from it, hyper-aware of her body next to his. He'd rolled up the sleeves of his button-down, and she'd taken off his jacket to put it over her lap before shoving her own sleeves up to her elbows, so there's actual, like, skin-to-skin contact, his hairy forearm and her soft one and everything warm and tangled together and her breasts again.

Oh god, her breasts.

She never makes a noise, never screams like some of the other people in the theater, and she determinedly never looks away from the screen, but she startles each time, tightening her hold on him and pushing his arm against her in a way that he wishes, for the sake of his sanity, he could ignore.

His fingers are going numb a little bit, light tingling in the tips that he does ignore, because he's not moving unless she makes him, and even then, it's gonna be touch and go whether he can stand up.

She's just so close to him and he's not even paying attention to the movie, focusing instead on every distracting, unattractive thing he can think of -- Mrs. Noble in Jazzercise clothes does the trick for a while, but even that eventually morphs into a vision of Rose in some Kelly-Kapowski-circa-Hot-Sundae spandex, and he's right back where he started.

When the movie finally ends, the popcorn is almost entirely untouched and he gives Rose the Sour Patch Kids to take home, grinning as she fights with the box to fit in her purse. Then she's shrugging his jacket back on with an impish look, like she's challenging him to say something.

He obviously does not.

The crowd streaming out of the theater is thick and, under the guise of not getting separated, he grabs Rose's hand, navigating them down the stairs and back out into the lobby without letting go.

There's an arcade off to the side and when Rose sees it, she lights up, dragging him over to it.

"Gonna kick your ass at Street Fighter," she says, and then drops his hand to dig in her purse -- avoiding the candy box -- until she comes up with a handful of quarters.

She steps over to the machine, plinking a few coins into the slot and then looking at him expectantly until he takes his place at the controls next to her.

He beats her the first game -- good, 'ol Ryu and his vaguely familiar hair -- but she insists on a rematch, and then beats him the second game.

Obviously a tie-breaker is required and soon they've played every game in the arcade, including a game of air hockey that had actually turned legitimately tense for a minute.

When a crowd of 12-year-olds descend, they make their exit, and he finds himself not wanting to leave the theater, because then he'll drive her home and then she'll be home and not with him.

"Do you, uh, do you want to see another movie?"

Rose looks at him, sizing him up, and then checks her watch. It's almost 10, he's not even sure if she has a curfew or anything, but then she shrugs and smiles.

"Sure, what do you wanna see?"

"I don't care," he says, because he really, truly doesn't. He'll sit through whatever she wants, if she's next to him.

"All right, I'll surprise you -- I'm paying this time," and then she takes off back out the theater doors, presumably to the box office.

She returns a few minutes later, clutching two tickets, and he can't keep the dopey grin from his face. Another two hours with Rose Tyler.

"What are we seeing?"

"I don't know," she says.

He feels his eyebrows draw down in confusion. "What?"

"I don't know," she repeats. "I asked for tickets to the least crowded movie."

He looks at the ticket in his hand but the letters don't ring a bell and the only other clue is the number 8, which he knows, in his movie-watching devotion, is the smallest theater.

"Cool, sounds good to me."

It's only when the trailers have ended and they're still the only ones in the entire theater that he realizes what she'd said, and what it possibly meant.

Holy shit.

In the seat next to him, Rose raises the armrest again, moving to take his arm once more.

Instead he shifts her off, and slowly -- in case she's going to stop him or laugh at him or hit him -- slides his arm around her shoulders. It's actually not very comfortable, it's keeping her head from the back of the seat, and he spends a few seconds trying to maneuver them into a better position.

"Sorry," he mumbles when she laughs at him.

"No, you're fine," she says.

The adjustments continue through the beginning of the credits and end with her angled away from him, slumped down and reclining with the back of her neck sort of ... nestled in the crook of his armpit.

The movie is about high school, but it seems less authentic somehow than the movies about high school he likes to watch -- the ones made ten years ago -- and he gives up on it after about fifteen minutes.

Instead he focuses on Rose.

The position they're in gives him virtually zero view of her face except down the slope of her nose, but it's definitely a nice position, if only because so much of her is in contact with so much of him.

Still though ... there’s, like, no way to get to her mouth from here, which is what he wants. He's fairly confident -- mostly, nearly, almost -- that it's what she wants, too.

There's been so much touching and flirting and this empty theater and he's wanted to kiss her this whole night and all of last week and probably even before that, but now -- now it's less about wanting to kiss a pretty girl, and more about wanting to kiss Rose.

He's gonna need to get her to move, that's all there is to it. But how?

"Rose," he says, reflexively whispering because it's still a movie theater, even if it's empty.

She tilts her head to show she's listening, so he continues.

"Do you have that candy?"

She nods and leans forward, rummaging in her purse on the ground, and he uses the opportunity to drop his extended arm back down to his side.

When she pops back up a moment later, it's with the box in her hand, and he takes it with a smile.

She settles back into her chair without any hesitation, like she hasn't even noticed his arm isn't there anymore, but then she crosses her legs toward him.

Body language, that's a thing, right? That's a thing people talk about?

Opening the candy box, he slips his fingers into the crinkly plastic inside, digging around for a second and pulling a few out.

"Do you want one?"

"Yeah," she says and, oh god, she's looking at him now.

"What color?" he whispers, tipping his head closer to the candy lying in his palm -- tipping his head closer to her.

"Red," and she inches toward him the slightest bit. He can't even tell what body part moved, just that suddenly she seems closer than before.

He brings his palm up higher between them. "Which one of these is red?"  

The light from the movie and the projection booth is flickering, dark and darker, and he can't quite make out the colors, although -- gun to his head -- he could probably actually pick out a red.

But Rose doesn't need to know that. And if she does, if she's guessed, she's still playing along, and that's got to count for something.

He sets the box aside as Rose uncrosses her legs, and they both crowd around his upturned palm, trying to tell the three little gummy men apart.

"I think that one might be red," she says, voice still quiet as she points to the candy nearest his thumb.

With his free hand, he picks it up and pops it in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.

"Nope, orange."

She exhales a soft little laugh. "Well, good, because it was supposed to be mine."

The tips of her fingers snag one of the two remaining pieces -- one he's pretty sure is actually green -- sending tingles across his skin as she pops it into her mouth in the same way he had.

And in a way that leads to him staring at her mouth.

God, her lips look soft and wet and there's a tiny little sugar crystal from the candy clinging to the bottom one. If he kissed her would he taste it?

"Yuck, green," she says, and displays a piece of the candy pinched between her teeth, like she's showing it to him, proving it to him. Somewhere in that mouth, with that candy, is her tongue, and a wave of blood crashes toward his cock.

"Last one," he whispers over his palm, and he can feel his own breath on the skin there, mixing together with hers, everything warm and sweet-smelling. "What do you think?"

She gets even closer, angling her head over his hand and he does, too, until they're practically in the same space. He can hear her breathing, feel her breathing, and the sound from the movie has stopped registering entirely, it's all just Rose, every single one of his senses is Rose.

"I think it's another orange," she says, but she's not looking at the candy, she's looking at him, and her eyes find his in the flickering light. There's blood rushing in his ears, heat pounding in his veins, his heart is so loud, so rhythmic and fast and hard, it feels like he's spun around in a million circles, like he's stood up too fast, like there is nothing beyond this moment but a galaxy of empty dark movie theater and Rose Tyler is the sun.

"Yeah?" His head is moving toward hers, he's so close, they're so close.

She nods and it's enough, their lips brushing as his free hand slips into her hair.

The candy falls from his palm as he moves to cup her cheek and then both of his hands are working together, angling her head and anchoring her to him. It's still just a press of lips and he wants more, pulling back the slightest bit until he can open his mouth.

Then he's kissing her again and her mouth is opening, too, and before he can even bother trying to be tentative, her tongue slips briefly into his mouth, brushing against his own in a fleeting glimpse of soft, wet heat.

He reacts without thought, chasing her, and there it is, he's fucking tongue-kissing Rose Tyler in a movie theater and all is right in his world.

Her hands find his hair, scraping through the strands and against his scalp. He's never sure if that's supposed to be for him or the girls, because it feels fucking amazing, but they always get so into it, pulling at it exactly the way Rose is now and it's part of the reason he let his hair grow in the first place and why, why is he thinking of anything else right now?

She makes a noise in her throat somewhere, a tiny, sexy moan that escapes through a gap in the kiss and fills his ears as loud as a gunshot, and with the same sort of adrenaline surge.

He's trying not to be too eager, and to pay attention to his technique, but it's all so overwhelming, his body is just reacting, his lips pressed to hers and his tongue so thoroughly in her mouth that he's able to tell that, yes, she'd eaten a green candy, he can taste it, and it's his new favorite flavor.

It's long, panting moments then, seconds, minutes, hours, where his tongue retreats only to be followed by hers, where his hands tangle in her hair, cup her neck, clenching and smoothing against fabric and skin as they struggle to get closer to each other.

Her teeth nip at his bottom lip and he zeroes in on the feeling, repeating the motion back to her, waiting to see what she does next, because maybe she's showing him something, maybe this is how Rose Tyler wants to be kissed.

She seems to realize, instinctively, that he's giving her control, and she gentles things, slowing their pace to something more leisurely but no less needy.

Her tongue still strokes against his deliberately, but it's shallower than he'd been doing it, more like a taste than a tease, like she's lapping at him, sort of -- enjoying him, enjoying this.

It makes him realize there's no rush, they have time, they have so much time, 90 minutes now and endless days in front of them, and he is going to learn whatever she's willing to teach him.

He's always been precocious though, always read ahead in class, and, as his tongue follows hers, slipping into her mouth gently, he skips forward in his prediction of the lesson plan, just a bit, just enough so his hand is on her waist underneath the suit jacket she's still wearing.

He clenches lightly at the fabric of her sweater, bunching it up in his fingers as the warmth from her skin radiates out. She's so soft, everything about her seems soft and sweet-smelling, a perfect contrast to him, and there are so many ways they fit together already and so many more he wants to discover.

His hand skates higher, slipping by her ribs and then around them, until he's caught between her jacket and her sweater too tightly to move any farther.

He angles his wrist backward, trying to create more space, but she must be sitting on it somehow or something, because there's almost no give to it.

Rose, smart, perfect, amazing Rose, catches on though, shifting back from him in a way that pulls a whiny sound from his mouth before she strips the jacket off and moves to dive back in.

There's a moment, a breath of pause, and in the space between them, they both grin, glassy and wild, rumpled and aroused; these are the moments he watches movies for, these are the movies humanity itself lives for, these unfurling, uncharted adventures of chemicals and heat, anticipation building toward the next before the smoke has even cleared.

(He's a little bit dramatic, but Rose puts her tongue back in his mouth and he assumes she doesn't mind.)

They kiss and they kiss and they kiss, doing justice to every reference to "making out like teenagers" ever made, his hands growing bolder with each circuit, and Rose clutching at him, so encouraging and bright, and, god, fuck, he wants to touch her breasts, not glancing passes on his way somewhere else, somewhere more harmless, but really, really touch them, their weight and their softness and he's closer, he's moving in, he's --

Wincing at a wolf-whistle?

He rockets back, head snapping toward the direction of the sound. An usher in an infuriatingly tacky uniform vest smirks at them, switching a flashlight on and off and shaking his head. 

Fuck. Fuck.

Wiping his mouth and taking a deep breath, the Doctor glances at Rose and notices she seems to be smothering a smile. It's infectious, and soon they're giggling out guilty apologies while the usher asks to speak to them in the security offices. 

Rose pulls his jacket back on, making a show of tucking the remaining candy in her bag and straightening herself up, but the Doctor notices her edging toward the far aisle, away from the usher. 

He follows her lead, small, subtle movements, until, all at once, Rose grabs his hand. 

"Run!" she shouts, tugging him down the empty stairs and out the theater's emergency exit. They spill into a back alley, panting lightly and laughing. 

It's potentially a good spot for more making out -- a dark alley where everything's urgent and frantic — but it also smells like sewage, and it's cold, so he squashes the cinematic desire to kiss her against a brick wall. 

Instead he takes her hand and leads her through the alleyway. They're on the complete opposite side of the building as the parking loft, but there's the low buzz of voices and traffic, signs of life on a Saturday night -- a life he hasn't in had in months, probably even years. 

It makes him feel grateful to Rose and he squeezes her hand to draw her attention away from the path they're picking alongside the building. 

"Thanks for going with me tonight," he says, and his voice, even to his own ears, sounds corny. 

She laughs. "I could be remembering this wrong, but I'm pretty sure I asked you."

"Well ... thanks for asking then."

Skipping off the curb she'd been balancing on, she tugs him into her, knocking their sides together. "You're welcome."

The parking lot comes into view and he smiles at how empty it is and the sight of his car in the shoddy lamppost lighting. They really had stayed out sort of late. 

"I guess I'll see you Monday?" Rose asks and lets go of him. She strips off his jacket and hands it back to him before moving away from the parking lot, heading toward the street. 

"Wait, what?" He glances back and forth between his jacket and her.

She gives him a funny look, and then gestures at the bus stop. "I'm not gonna make you wait with me or anything, that's dumb."

"Uh, it's sort of dumb that you think I'm gonna let you take the bus."

Rose pivots on him and stops walking entirely. "Let me?" 

Her tone is immediately angry, like he touched exactly on a nerve, and he winces to himself. He definitely could've phrased that better, even if the sentiment stands. 

"I just meant --"

She brushes him off. "Yeah, I know what you meant. Had a boyfriend like that before, not looking for another one."

It's another bad move, he can feel it, but it trips out of his mouth, graceless and high-pitched, anyway. 

"Boyfriend?"

Her face loses all anger, loses everything, and she's standing in front of him with a blank expression. 

She stares at him for a moment, a completely unnerving series of seconds where he feels judged and found wanting. 

"Right," she says, turning on her heel again and making for the bus stop once more, much faster this time. 

"No, no, I didn't mean it like that," he says, rushing after her. 

“Yeah, you did. And I’ve had that boyfriend, too — the non-boyfriend. You were supposed to be —”

His face feels hot, anticipation and anxiety churning his stomach. “Supposed to be what?”

Her shoulders slump, all the fight draining out of her once more, but she continues walking. “Different. You were supposed to be different.”

“Rose, stop,” he says. “Please.”

She sighs, stopping to look at him tiredly. “I know it’s early.”

He squints in confusion, glancing uselessly at his watch and earning a small laugh from her.

“No, early for us,” she says. “I just — I’m tired of all the stupid high school bullshit, you know? We get along, Doctor. We get along, like, really well. And I thought maybe we were … I thought we could have something.” 

She shrugs, like this conversation is casual, like she’s downplaying the results of her bio test or something. “And I know it’s just the start, but I also know the signs, so I guess I was wrong.”

“No, no, no, Rose, we do have something,” he tries to reassure her and calm whatever’s thundering in his veins at the same time. “But I don’t … like, I don’t do this. Fuck it, I don’t even think I know how.”

She smirks, but it’s vaguely annoyed. “Felt like you knew what you were doing in there,” she says, waving a hand toward the movie theater.

“Well, yeah,” he says, tilting his head back and forth. “I know how to do that. I just meant, you know, a girl I … like.”

“You’ve never liked a girl before?”

He groans in frustration. “You know what I mean, come on, Rose.”

She shrugs. “Yeah, I guess. And I guess I’m a little … gun-shy, now, from those ex-boyfriends. Probably way too soon to have this conversation actually — surprised you’re not running.”

“I probably would, I think. Normally.” And there, honesty, that’s good, right? “But you’re — I don’t know. I think we do have something. Now, will you let me drive you home? Because if you’re murdered on a midnight bus, we’re not going to have anything.”

“All right, Mr. Drama,” she says, with an equally dramatic roll of her eyes. “I’m not gonna be murdered, but you can drive me home. I wouldn’t try anything in front of my building though. My mom’s had the neighbors narc-ing for her for years.”

“Got it,” he says, and fifteen minutes later, he sneaks a kiss anyway. 

Chapter Text

&&. 

When Donna asks him, six days later, whether this new Reinette thing is about Rose, he tells her no.

When he asks himself, six days and one minute later, whether this new Reinette thing is about Rose, he tells himself no.

Both things are probably a lie. 

But it hadn’t started as that, not exactly, not … entirely. 

Alphabetical order being what it was, and AP Physics being as difficult as it was, it was only normal that he’d end up as an ‘S’ with a ‘P’ for a lab partner. 

Normally there were letters between them — R’s, and other S’s, the occasional Q — kids upon kids upon kids separating Smith from Poisson

In fact, typically Donna was the one closer to Reinette. Noble to Poisson, that was really just the O’s, there, as separation. 

But this class was small and the teacher was strict and here he was, eight weeks into the semester, alphabetically assigned to one of the prettiest, richest girls in school as a lab partner for the duration. 

Donna had teased him at first — “How you’d land her?” 

And he’d calmly explained that he hadn’t landed anyone, he’d been landed. Someone else was driving. This wasn’t his fault. 

But now it was Friday night, and he’d somehow agreed to a party at his lab partner’s house, one he didn’t think Rose was invited to, because she hadn’t mentioned it when they talked on the phone every night this week. 

Or when they’d eaten lunch together during the day. 

Or when they’d just generally acted like they were making an enthusiastic bid for matching spots on the homecoming court.

And while his initial acceptance of the party invitation hadn’t been about Rose, maybe it hadn’t not been about Rose either. 

Maybe it hadn’t not been about the way that he already felt really close to her, that he looked forward to mornings because sometimes she put notes in his locker, that he’d spent hours building her not just a music mix tape, but also a TV one, that now, when she smiled at him, the blood didn’t always rush to his cock, sometimes it circled more dangerous places, like his heart. 

Maybe he felt like if he didn’t come up for air, it wasn’t so much that’d he drown, but that the whole fucking ocean would evaporate around him, an oasis disappearing just like everything in his life. 

Except Donna. 

Donna who is currently scowling at him from the spare couch he’d dragged into his room months ago, when he’d decided Uncle Rass wasn’t home enough to notice that the Doctor had snaked it from the den. 

“I think you’re being a fucking dick.”

“Jesus, Donna, tell me how you really feel.” He can see her reflection in the bathroom mirror where he’s fixing his hair for the party — can see across the narrow hallway that the scowl doesn’t dissipate, it grows bigger. 

“Don’t sarcasm me, it’s not a good look on a guy about to cheat on his girlfriend.”

He wheels away from the mirror to look at Donna directly. “First, she’s not my girlfriend. Second, even if she were, I’m not cheating on anybody — I’m going to a party thrown by my lab partner in one of the hardest classes the school offers to — shit — I don’t know — keep up morale? Have fun? Blow off some steam?”

“Looking to get something blown, that’s for sure,” Donna snarks, and that’s it, he’s had enough. Donna doesn’t understand. Donna will never understand, and he’s not going to explain it to her. 

“Yeah, you can leave any time you want,” he snaps. 

She stands up and for a moment she looks furious, just completely and totally furious, and then she shakes her head and the anger is gone, replaced by sadness. 

“You think I don’t know what this is really about,” she says softly. “But I do. And you don’t have to do it. Rose is good for you, Doctor. Even my mom said something, did you know that? Even Sylvia Noble has noticed.”

His gaze drops to his feet and it’s guilt in his blood, he knows it is, but he refuses to put weight on it, and he refuses to answer Donna. 

“All right, Doctor, we’ll do this your way,” she says, passing by him in the hallway. 

When she gets to the top of the stairs, she turns. “Hey, when’s homecoming again?”

“Week from tomorrow." His answer is automatic. 

“And you’re going with … who again?”

He sighs, slumping against the wall. “I’m going with Rose, Donna. You know that.”

She nods. “Right, yeah. You let me know if that’s still the case tomorrow.” And then she leaves. 

&&. 

It’s not that he’s never been to a party before, because he has. He’s been to enough parties that a few of them blur together, red plastic cups and shitty, foamy beer, girls and music, cigarettes and weed. 

He knows what parties look like, and they look like nothing like the movies.

Except for, somehow, this party — Reinette’s party — does.

She lives in a mansion, which he should’ve expected. There’s art on the walls, champagne by the keg, and teenagers absolutely everywhere

Each floor of the house, three of them, all overlooking some big foyer thing, and kids like ants crawling on every inch.

He wades in at first, pumping a drink from the keg, pinch-throwing on a beer pong shot for a guy in the bathroom, mix and mingle and smile and laugh. 

But then Reinette finds him. 

Whatever she’s wearing, it’s expensive — or it’s — what does Donna call it?— it’s designer — and it’s so flattering in the tightest, curviest, boob-iest way possible that it’s literally like a force of nature. No one is impervious. 

And he is nothing if not a no one. 

She sweeps him up into a hug and he’s engulfed in the flowery scent he sits next to every day in class. It’s a little bit smothering, too heady and sharp, but here, mixed with the smell of beer and sweat and hormones, it’s in perfect contrast and he chases after it. Elegance among the masses. Or something. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care. He just … goes. 

He drinks and he dances and he drinks and he dances, Reinette in her element and him in orbit. 

When she pulls him away again, he doesn’t think anything of it — he’d been watching her do that all night, little one-on-one conversations with people he recognized, making them feel special, playing the charming host, it was all part of the package of Reinette. 

Or so he assumed.

Except now, suddenly, she’s very, very close. 

“Did you see who I was just talking to?” She looks coy.

He nods, shrugging, trying not to seem as weirdly captivated as he is. “It was, uh, it was Angel, right?”

“It was indeed,” she says, trailing a finger down his tie, and this fucking suit, why did he wear this fucking suit? 

“Good talk?”

Reinette smiles. “Oh, just the best. Did you know, Doctor, that Angel is Mrs. Blaine’s student aid?”

“Uh. Nope.” 

“Well, it’s true. And as student aid, Angel helps record grades in the grade book.” She looks expectant, like she’s leading him somewhere, but the only part of him being led anywhere is his eyes, and they’re on a circuit down to her cleavage and back up again through sheer force of will.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s smart — grades in the grade book. Makes sense.”

She laughs, a light, lilting thing, and he’s taken aback. He hadn’t thought he was being funny, but, well, he’ll take what he can get. 

“Yes, but, one of the grades Angel put in the grade book this afternoon was from our latest lab. You remember — the absurdly difficult one we worked on right to the bell on Wednesday?”

He nods, yeah, god, that thing was pretty tough. 

And, I’m excited to report, Angel said we got an A. An A, Doctor! The only one in the class!”

She beams at him and he smiles back reflexively, and then she’s kissing him, and he’s doing that back, too. A little bit. 

It lasts ten seconds, maybe fifteen, and when she pulls back, he feels exhilarated. 

A moment later, someone calls Reinette’s name and she floats away as bubbly and elegant as she’d arrived. A beautiful girl has just kissed him over a grade. Where has this phenomenon been all his life? 

The feeling only lasts a moment more, and then he sees Jack Harkness across the party, and Jack looks pissed.

&&. 

He wakes up in his own bed to the sound of his doorbell. His alarm clock reads 11:18 a.m. and he takes a breath to get his bearings.

There had been alcohol, a lot of alcohol, following the whole kissing Reinette thing. That’s about all he remembers from the rest of the party. 

The next thing he remembers is spilling out of Donna’s car onto the driveway of his house, and puking all over the lawn. That had to have been — what? — two in the morning? Three? 

He gropes for his pants on the floor — apparently he’d stripped down — and pulls out his cell phone as the doorbell sounds again. There’s an outgoing call to Donna a little after 1:30. At least he’d been smart enough to call her, instead of trying to drive. But that means his car is … where? Still at Reinette’s?

The doorbell sounds again, and that’s three times, if someone’s prepared to ring the bell three times, they can damn well also be prepared to see him in his boxers and undershirt. 

Stumbling down the stairs, he shouts out to the visitor that he’s coming, immediately regretting making such a loud noise. Or any noise at all. 

With a growl, he yanks the door open, expecting to give someone an earful, when he’s greeted by the sight of Rose. 

“Hey!” She smiles at him, that bright, wide, sunny smile that usually makes his stomach flip in a good way, but now sends it churning with guilt. 

“Hi,” he says, and tries to keep his voice loud and level enough that she can hear it, but not so loud that he wants to start crying or puking or both. 

“Is this a bad time?” She squints at him and he sees her eyes widen almost immediately after as she finally realizes he’s in his underwear. 

“No, no, it’s fine, let me just — pants. You can come in,” he says, opening the door wider and gesturing toward the living room. “Sit down. I’m gonna -- pants.”

He peels off to the laundry room, but there’s nothing clean. Instead he rummages in the hamper for a pair of jeans that pass the smell test and pulls them on. 

Back in the living room, Rose is sitting on his couch, fiddling with her bulging backpack on the cushion next to her, and he wishes he could appreciate it — it’s the first time she’s been to his house. 

But he can’t, because his mouth tastes like a pile of burnt garbage and his eyes feel like he needs to pop them out and soak them in a glass of cold water. 

“Do you mind if I brush my teeth? I sort of ... slept in.”

Rose chuckles. “Yeah, I could tell and, no, I don’t mind. I’ve got a surprise actually, and it’ll be better if you don’t look like you’re gonna puke on it."

He shoots her a reassuring grin, but it somehow makes his ears ring, and he drops it with a wince. 

Rose notices, offering a sympathetic half-smile in return. "You can even take a shower if you want, I’ve got the day off, so … no rush.”

With a relieved sigh, he trudges back up the stairs, brushing his teeth thoroughly and washing his face. It helps — it helps a lot — and he figures if he can do that to his whole body, like Rose suggested, he’ll feel even better, so he peels his clothes off and stumbles into the shower, not even bothering to wait for it to warm up. 

The initial blast of cold water works miracles, and he runs through his shower routine quickly before hopping back out. He finds a clean maroon t-shirt, boxers, pulls on the same jeans, plus a swipe of deodorant, a swig of mouthwash, and a spray — a little one — of cologne, because it is Rose he’s gonna see. 

His hair is still wet, so he runs his fingers through it, working it into his normal style and throwing a little bit of gel in because otherwise it’ll get all fluffy. 

When he’s done, he’s gotten in and out and back downstairs in about ten minutes, which hopefully isn’t too long to have kept Rose waiting. 

"Here," she says when she sees him, standing and handing him a glass. He’s a little embarrassed to notice it’s got the Hamburglar on it, but it’s also full of water, and drinking that seems more important than worrying about what Rose thinks of him still using cups from elementary school. Or his messy kitchen. 

He swallows the water in long, slow sips, and then takes a breath to match. 

"Thanks," he says, and he means it from the bottom of his soul. "Did you want a drink? I think there's Pepsi in the fridge. Or water, obviously."

She grins at him, teasing. "Can I use the Grimace cup?"

He smiles. "You, Rose Tyler, can even have Mayor McCheese."

"In that case, Pepsi, please," she says. 

With a nod, he walks to the kitchen, pouring Rose a glass of soda from the 2-liter, and refilling his own water before joining her back on the couch. 

Her backpack takes up the middle cushion, so he's forced to sit on the far end away from her, and it's not exactly where he'd hoped to be in relation to Rose the first time she was in his house. 

But then, he hadn't exactly anticipated having kissed another girl in the last twelve hours for that occasion either, and he feels a fresh wave of guilt. 

"So," she says. "Jack said he saw you at Reinette's party last night?"

The guilt turns into anxiety and that turns into fear, but Rose doesn't actually seem upset. The question had been more leading than accusatory, or worse — angry. 

He doesn't kid himself that it’s anything to do with a technicality, like that they haven't actually labeled what they're doing a "relationship." 

No, the only reason she's not mad at him is because she doesn't know there's anything to be mad at him for

Which is something he should fix right now. 

He should just open his mouth, tell the truth, and apologize. 

Right ... now. 

Any second. 

Here it comes. 

"Rose, uh, listen --"

"Yeah?"

Do it, do it, do it. 

"How did you know where I lived?"

She gives him a funny look. "Uh, you told me, remember? When we were on the phone? And we were talking about Christmas lights -- why were we even talking about that?"

He shrugs, but laughs a little, because they really do talk about the most random stuff and they do it constantly. He's never talked with anyone on the phone like he talks with Rose. 

Hell, he's never talked with anyone like he talks with Rose period

"Anyway, I was saying that Mickey took me on a drive to see Christmas lights last year --"

He jumps in before he can stop himself, even though Other People is the last thing he should be fixating on right now. "And I said I didn't want to hear about Mickey."

She rolls her eyes. "Yeah, exactly, but then I said we saw one house that had like, all gold lights, and a little bit of blue, and it didn't look very Christmas-y, but it was beautiful, and --"

"-- and I said that was my house."

"Yep," she grins. 

"And so how did you get here today?" He's asking questions just for the sake of asking them now, stalling. "Did you drive? I thought you didn't have your license?"

She gives him another funny look. "Uh. I said I didn't have a car -- I have my license, my mom made sure I got it. Anyway, I rode my bike, which I know is, like, so sixth grade, but I was really excited about the surprise."

He nods, eyes skating over her backpack, and he feels like he’s watching everything from across the room, like he’s finally in a movie, one full of bad decisions, and he can’t even turn the fucking thing off. 

“Oh, uh, right. How did you know I’d be home?”

This time she outright stares at him, mouth slightly open, looked offended or annoyed, he can’t tell. Maybe both.

“I didn’t. I thought I’d take my chances. Jesus, you’re being, like, really weird again. Wait, do you think I’m stalking you or something? Is that why you’re being weird? Because I swear to god, if this is some clingy girl shit you’ve made up, I’m gonna go.”

With that, she stands, moving to shoulder her backpack on, and he feels the anxiety and the fear and the guilt all shift directions in one giant tidal wave.

“Hey, wait, no, I’m sorry,” he says and stands, putting a hand on the strap of the backpack she’s managed to put on, and gently trying to urge it back down her arm. “I just — I’m really hungover. My brain’s being, like, really slow to process stuff.” He adds a laugh at the end, but it comes out sounding pathetic. 

Rose watches him carefully and he tries to look as harmless and apologetic as possible.

“I’m sorry,” he says again when she doesn’t respond. 

“All right,” she finally says. 

“Cool, now please show me what it is,” he forces an enthusiasm into his voice that he doesn’t feel, but that she deserves. 

“OK,” and her hand finds the zipper of her bag. “Or wait — I was gonna give you a choice. I can show you, like, just here. Or I can show you. Like, model.”

If his brain, and all its current emotions, are a tidal wave, then his libido, and all its attached hormones, are like some sort of killer whale. A giant Shamu cutting through the water to spring majestically from its depths. Visions of Rose in sexy lingerie sprint through his mind, followed quickly by visions of Rose out of sexy lingerie.

“Model,” he says. “Definitely model.”

She grins at him. “Thought you’d say that. Where should I go?”

He points to a hallway off the living room. “There’s a bathroom there, take your first left.”

“Cool,” she says, grabbing her backpack and bounding out of the room.

Logically he knows they probably aren’t at lingerie status. He’s kissed her a few more times, quick pecks in the halls, longer ones in his car after rides home from school, even if he still hasn’t even made it to second base. 

But the sexual optimism of teenage boys is too strong for him to fight, and when he hears the door to the bathroom open again, signaling Rose’s impending arrival, his cock’s already stirring in his jeans, ready to greet her, ready to see the sight of Rose in —

A pant suit.  

She’s wearing a pant suit. 

A severely tapered and tailored and shoulder-padded pant suit

“Oh! Almost forgot,” she says, and darts back into the bathroom. 

When she comes back out, he’s still stuck on pant suit, but now she’s tugging on a wig of red hair, and she almost looks like —

“Oh my god,” he says. “Oh my god. You’re Scully.”

“Yep!”

He laughs, feels it coming up out of his stomach and through his chest, just complete joy and delight and happiness. She’s Scully. Her surprise is that she’s Special Agent Dana Scully

“Got a suit for you, too,” she says, and throws him the backpack. 

Unable to restrain himself, he tears into the zippered opening, pulling out a rumpled suit and an ugly tie. 

“Mulder!”

“Yep! There are badges in there, I had to make those though, thrift store didn’t sell them.”

He’s almost speechless, clutching the suit in one hand and fishing out the badges with the other. “You found these at a thrift store?”

She nods. “Took a little while, I checked all the ones by work and finally lucked out. I thought they could be our costumes for the dance.”

“Yes, hell yes, they can,” he stands from the couch, crossing the living room in a few fast strides before sweeping her up in a hug. “Rose, this is awesome. I can’t even believe you thought of this.”

She returns the hug, the suit making her feel slightly bulkier than normal as she wraps around him. 

When she pulls back he makes a show of straightening her lapel and brushing imaginary dirt off her shoulder. “You look great, Agent Scully.”

“Yeah?” she bites her lip, suddenly looking a tiny bit shy. “I actually got the idea from you. Watched all the episodes on the tape you made and it just … hit me. You didn’t already have a costume planned, did you?”

He thinks of his Lloyd Dobler outfit back in his closet and shakes his head anyway. “Nope.”

“Cool,” she says, and he can’t take it, the suit, the wig, her smile, it’s too much, and he leans down to kiss her, his tongue sweeping into her mouth as his hands find the strands of artificial red hair. 

She returns the kiss immediately, arms wrapping around his shoulders as she levers herself up onto the balls of her feet to reach him better. It’s a messy kiss, slow and wet and warm, nothing like last night’s —

Oh, fuck, last night. 

As if the universe is conspiring against him, the doorbell rings almost in time to his memory, and Rose pulls away from him with a slow smile, her lips a little redder than they were a moment ago. 

He sighs, running a hand through his hair before apologizing. 

“It’s fine, go see who it is,” she says. “And then you can give me the grand tour.” Her eyes glance briefly at the stairs and his insides feel like they’ve tumbled down a set. 

With a discreetly shifting hand at the front of his jeans, he walks slowly to the front door. When he pulls it open, the sun momentarily backlights the entryway and it takes a second to recognize the person standing in front of him. 

Reinette. 

Goddamn it. Reinette

“Hello, Doctor!” she chirps. “I’ve driven your car back, I hope that’s all right. I found the keys in my microwave of all places.”

"Uh."

"Oh, you're upset," she says, frowning. "I should've known, after what you said last night about it belonging to your dad."

From behind him, he hears Rose's voice. "Your car was your dad's?" 

She sounds ... hurt. For all they talk about, he knows he does a deliberate job of avoiding anything meaningful about his parents, and then somehow now he's talked to Reinette about them and -- wait, when had he told Reinette that?

"Uh," he says again, just as winningly as the first time, but it doesn't seem to phase Reinette. 

"I thought maybe we could get some lunch and then you could drop me off, since obviously I don't have my car ... I hadn't expected you to have company though."

Reinette's gaze focuses over his shoulder, presumably where Rose stands, still waiting for an answer to her question, still in that pant suit. 

"No, it's fine," Rose says. "I'm going."

And then he hears the sound of her backpack zipper closing and she's shouldering past him and Reinette, moving quickly to the driveway where he sees now she's put her bike, propped up on its kickstand. 

She is still wearing the pant suit, though he sees strands of the wig peeking out from her backpack, where she'd clearly stuffed it. Any other time, it'd be a pretty hilarious sight, but now it just makes him feel hollow. 

He watches her pedal away, desperately trying to think of something to say, but nothing comes. 

Chapter Text

Getting Reinette home is fairly easy, he just drives there, and doesn’t say anything about her lunch invitation. He doesn't really say anything at all, actually, except for the tiny groan he lets out when the memory of sitting slumped on her sofa, both of them drunkenly sharing childhood stories, comes flooding back.

He doesn’t talk about that stuff to anyone, and now that the memory’s back, he knows he entered the conversation with a mind to only talk about her, but somehow she’d flipped it, and they’d been sharing stories equally.

It makes him feel uncomfortable, and exposed. If he were to share that stuff, some stuff not even Donna knows, it would only be with Rose, and it would only be while he was sober and willing.

So now he spends ten minutes with Reinette in his passenger seat, making clucking, compassionate noises about how lonely he is and slightly less compassionate inquiries into the nature of his relationship with Rose.

Or his past relationship with Rose. Because he’s fairly certain he’s fucked that up.

Now it’s just a matter of finding out how much.

&&.

Sunday is spent exactly as he’d spent the rest of Saturday — stoned.

It’s not the best solution, but it takes the edge off enough that he can stop focusing on his life, and focus instead on watching old taped episodes of Kids in the Hall.

Unfortunately, every time he does manage to fall asleep, he’s a guest on The Pit of Ultimate Darkness, and they make him recount what he’s done, reveling in how “evil” it is. In one dream, Hecubus actually swears his allegiance to the Doctor as his new master.

It is not a comforting declaration.

Donna brings him Noble Family leftovers for dinner in the evening, rolling her eyes at the state of him, all the blinds shut, and the house thick with smoke.

Sitting at the kitchen table, he takes slight comfort in the pork chops and potatoes she hands over, woofing it down in a way he immediately regrets when she opens her mouth.

“So, listen,” she says, turning a glass of water on the table — the Fry Guys, this time, he notes — “it’s probably better that I warn you before school tomorrow — she knows you kissed Reinette.”

Suddenly his dinner is expanding in his stomach, congealing into a boulder that makes him feel sick and sweaty.

“How do you know?”

Donna smiles sadly. “Jack Harkness stopped by the video store today. I think he was looking for you, actually.”

There’s a tiny spike of anger in his blood — what business of Jack’s is this? — and he latches onto it.

“He should’ve stayed out of it, I should’ve gotten to tell her first,” he spits.

“OK, bearing in mind that you saw her yesterday, and didn’t tell her, so you don’t get that privilege, and also that you’re the one that screwed it up in the first place, it wasn’t Jack.”

“What? How do you know?”

She shrugs. “I think Jack was there on a recon mission or something. He said Rose had found out from Adam Mitchell —”

“Asshole.”

" -- when Adam showed up at Henrik's and asked her to homecoming."

"What? Wait, what?"

Donna's face is a rainbow of I told you so, but, to her credit, she doesn't actually say it. Instead she shrugs.

"I guess he was at the party and assumed you kissing Reinette -- by far the stupidest thing you've done this year, maybe ever, you idiot -- meant you weren't going with Rose anymore."

He groans, shoving his empty plate out of the way to rest his head in his hands on the table for a moment before looking at Donna again.

"I know it was dumb, I know you told me not to do it, I can't explain any of it, and it's all my fault," he says. "What if she won't talk to me? What if she won't even look at me? I'll have to change my face -- thousands of dollars in plastic surgery, become a new man, just so I can apologize."

Donna shakes her head at him, her lips twitching like she's fighting a laugh.

"All right there, Dawson's Creek, let's not get crazy."

He stares at her. "Donna, we've been over this -- his name is Dawson, they live on a creek, calling me 'Dawson's Creek' is calling me a fictional body of water."

This time she does laugh. "No, it's calling you a walking, bullshit, teenage melodrama. Now, what are you gonna do about this?"

He sighs. "I don't know. Nothing."

"Oh, well, that's a great plan, definitely gonna work," she says, her tone heavy with sarcasm. "Our little Martian has finally found his Scully, and he's just going to do nothing to get her back. Outstanding. Genius."

He sort of wants to point out that neither Mulder nor Scully are Martians -- or aliens at all -- but it's not worth it, and Donna's words bring a fresh reminder that there's a crumpled Mulder costume still sitting on his couch.

What if Rose wants it back so Adam can wear it? Adam's too short to be Mulder, it'll look ridiculous. He can be Krycek though, the slimy little bastard.

Wait … is she actually going with Adam?

"Did she say yes?"

Donna glances up at him. "What?"

"To Adam. Did she say she'd go with Adam?"

"No, Jack said she told him she had to work."

It's a confusing feeling -- on one hand, at least Adam's out of the picture, on the other -- it sounds like he himself is out of the picture, too.

"Shit," he says, for lack of anything better to say.

"Yeah." Donna doesn't even try to placate him. "Still think 'nothing' is the best plan?"

"No."

That night, for the first time ever, he doesn't watch the new episode of The X-Files.

&&.

Monday morning he wakes up on the couch with a blanket draped over him.

His alarm clock is blaring at him from the carpeting, the cord stretched and plugged into an outlet by the TV -- Donna must've brought it down from his bedroom and set it for him.

Dragging himself off the cushions, keeping the blanket securely wrapped around his body, he slaps the alarm off and notices a piece of paper lying next to it.

Good luck, in Donna's handwriting, and then underneath that, in parentheses, it says:

(Step 1: Talk to her.)

It would seem silly -- and obvious -- except for that, in all his plans last night, talking hadn't factored in much.

He’d considered inventing time travel to stop himself from even going to the party.

He’d considered claiming the future of the world was at stake, that the kiss was medically necessary.

He’d considered distractions, sky-writing, running away, a whole shitload of things that totaled up to dramatic avoidance.

And here was Donna — talk to her. As if it could possibly be that easy.

With a sigh, he trudges up the stairs to get ready for school.

&&.

The first thing he notices after pulling into the parking lot at school is that it's swarming with kids in pajamas.

The second thing he notices is the giant banner taped up above the front doors proclaiming this week as "Spirit Week."

The third thing he notices is Reinette floating toward him in a short, silky-looking robe.

The fourth thing he notices is that his body is capable of running away without him even telling it to do so.

He finds himself at his locker, stop-starting the combination several times until he's finally able to focus enough to get it right.

On top of his books, there's a folded piece of notebook paper, clearly dropped in from one of the slots in the door and clearly from someone other than Donna, a.) because she has his combo, and b.) because she’s always putting in stuff like hats or sweaters or the school mascot head, but never notes.

No, the only person that ever puts notes in his locker is … Rose.

Over the last few weeks, it's been exciting to open them, Rose's handwriting splashed across the page in some brightly colored ink, drawings of Mr. Van Statten as a robot, of Mrs. Blaine as an alien -- goofy little stuff that invariably makes his day better.

But he knows, whatever's in the note today, it's going to make his day a thousand times worse.

He snatches it off his books without opening it, stuffing it in his bag while considering cutting first period.

Before he can make it to the doors though, Elton stops him, rambling about some boss in Silent Hill and does the Doctor know how to beat him and on and on and on, in a way that's only made worse when the Doctor remembers even Elton has a girlfriend that doesn't hate him.

No sooner does he think that than Ursula shows up, leading Elton away, but then the warning bell's ringing, the hall monitors swarming, and he's got no choice but to go to class.

He makes it through the morning announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, and ten minutes of discussion about 'Brave New World' before he gives in and reaches for the note in his bag.

It feels slightly thicker in his hand than any of her other notes -- thicker than a single sheet of notebook paper should feel -- and he spares a thought for Ross and his 18-page note from Rachel.

He would read it though, he would read the whole fucking thing, and translate it into Latin, if that would fix this.

With the tips of his fingers feeling numb, he unfolds the note under his desk, confused when something green tumbles out and onto his lap.

Money.

It's money.

$13 exactly, in wrinkled ones and fives.

His hands feel swollen and sweaty now, and he shifts to be able to read the notebook paper.

For my half, it says, in Rose's handwriting and a subdued black ink.

Her half of what ...?

Oh, fuck.

Her half of the homecoming ticket. $26, after a $2 discount.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He flips the notebook paper over and back again, frantically searching for more words, willing them to materialize, but nothing comes.

The rest of the class is spent writing his own letter, and where Rose had managed three words, he only manages two:

I'm sorry.

&&.

Lunch is painful.

His strategy had been to wait at the doors for ten minutes. If she went off-campus, she'd have to pass him. If she stayed at school, she'd be in the building somewhere.

Except, when the ten minutes is up and he still hasn't seen her, it seems like no one else has either.  

He's not stupid enough to ask Jack, or Shireen, or anyone else close enough to Rose that they'd want to punch him. But even sticking to acquaintances, he gets nowhere.  

It's a pattern that continues all week.

Rose Tyler has become a ghost, haunting the halls of the school and appearing to everyone but him.

There are signs though, that she had existed, that she's currently hiding that existence from him.

On Tuesday, he smells her perfume in the doorway of the library.

On Wednesday, Donna mentions seeing her in the halls.

On Thursday, he recognizes her handwriting on the board in history class.

On Friday, the orange and red popsicles the cheerleaders use as a spirit-gram fundraiser are passed out during fourth period -- delivered by the football players. Mickey Smith walks up to the Doctor's desk with an orange one and snaps it right in half in its wrapper before dropping it on the ground at the Doctor's feet.

The note stuck to the front says something about "non-fat tofutti rice dreamsicles" and how that's a hint, and he realizes that the sign-ups for these were last week, before she'd shown him the costumes, before he'd ... well.

Before.

He wants to try more, wants to stop by her apartment, or Henrik's, or anything, but every time he's even called her, the line's been busy (or the phone's off the hook), and he remembers a story she told him about Jimmy stopping by her job, and how she'd gotten in trouble.

That's the last thing he need -- making this worse.

Instead, at the end of the day, he finally just deposits his apology note in her locker. There's a pep rally during last period, and even if she doesn't go, she'll definitely stop at her locker before heading home, so he's confident she'll get it.

Whether she'll read it is another thing entirely.

He'd spent all week trying to add more to it, explanations and excuses and possible reparations, but here it is five days later, and the note he drops off still just says I'm sorry.

&&.

Friday night he skips the football game he'd bought them tickets to and watches TV in his bed with his cell phone next to him on the blankets.

At 10 o' clock, he calls it from the house phone, just to make sure it's working.

It is, and he spends the rest of the night worrying she'd called at that exact time and just couldn't get through.

When he finally falls asleep, it’s to dreams of Donna telling him how statistically unlikely that is. 

He tells her to never tell him the odds, in his very best Han Solo impression. 

She laughs and calls him Jar-Jar instead. 

&&.

When he wakes up on Saturday, it's to noise from the TV.

It's changed from late-night sitcom reruns to the morning news and he blinks at the screen a few times, bringing it into focus.

They're showing a building that looks familiar, a reporter standing in front clutching a microphone and talking into the camera.

It's only when the lens pans away from her and onto the chaos beyond her it clicks -- Henrik's.

They're broadcasting from Henrik's.

He bolts up, sending everything on top of his nightstand clattering to floor as he gropes for the remote and turns the volume up.

It's hard to piece together, something about students and store management and an investigation, then they're cutting away from the reporter and back to the anchor desk.

His first thought is to call Rose, to make sure she's OK, but he doesn't know what happened, and he doesn't know if she'll answer, so instead he pushes himself out of bed, and across the room to his computer.

The wait for it to boot up and then for the modem to dial seems to take forever, and he finds himself impatiently singing along with the beeps, the varying pitch and noise, high, high, high, low, low, low, and on and on into static and clanging.

When he finally gets to the AOL homepage up (you've got mail, and he recites that, too), it's -- as usual -- useless. It takes more long, interminable moments to navigate to something helpful and there, finally, news.

He forces himself to slow down, to take a breath, to stop skipping ahead before the image on the story even fully loads, sending him into wild speculation as the lights on a cop car come into view at the top of the frame.

When the page finishes, he reads.

There'd been a stunt involving the mannequins at the store, but whoever did it had broken in after-hours, there'd been busted windows and tripped alarms and blacked out security cameras.

Initial reports suggested college students angry about animal fur, but the investigation would take the weekend, with the store re-opening on Monday.

He re-reads it twice, fixating on the part where it says no employees had been present, and then feels his shoulders relax.

Whatever happened, Rose was safe from it.

Wait.

Re-opening on Monday.

Rose was safe and off work tonight.

It doesn't mean she'll go to the dance, it doesn't mean anything really -- except that he's got another chance to try.

When the broadcast switches to sports scores, he notes, distractedly, that they appear to have won last night's game.

&&.

He spends Saturday afternoon at the video store.

Again.

Donna's advice has stayed consistent -- talk to her -- and where initial fear of that plan had to do with the actual talking part, what it's become now, after this week, is that he's afraid she won't talk to him.

"She's clearly been avoiding me," he says, straightening the stack of microwave popcorn packets Donna has just stocked.

She rolls her eyes at the popcorn, moving it back to the way it was before turning to face him.

"Has she?"

He nods emphatically. "Yeah! I haven't seen her all week."

"How often did you see her before all this?"

With a sigh, he leans back against the counter. "I don't know, Donna. Every day? Most days? I saw her a lot."

Donna shakes her head. "No, no, before all this, like, dating, or whatever you were calling it. How often then?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. As often as you see anybody, I guess. We don't have classes together, but, like, there's in the halls and stuff."

"Yeah, but when you were ... dating, you guys went out of your way to see each other, right?"

"Well, yeah, but --"

"And don't you think it's possible she's just not making an effort to see you anymore?"

He stares at her, trying to decide what she means, whether there's a difference, whether they've had this conversation in Spanish as a test prep and he hadn't realized and that's why he always only barely passes Spanish.

"What?"

Donna picks up a packet of popcorn and lobs it at him. "Boys, god, you're all so dumb."

"Hey!"

"Remind me, Doctor, why we're having this conversation in the first place? Was it because you were smart about your behavior at your Reinette's or ...?"

He groans. "Fine, fine, fine, tell me what you mean."

She gives him a look.

"Please."

Donna grins, apparently pleased to have won a game he didn't even realize they were playing.

Which seems to be a pattern in his life right now with girls.

"All right, I'll put you out of your misery. Jack was here before you got here, he said she's trying not to think about you at all, which means she's not avoiding you. She's just denying your existence."

"Oh, fuck, jeez, thanks, Donna, that's a ton better, what a relief, Jesus, I've been worried --"

"That's enough, Dawson. Jack and I both decided -- well, actually we decided we were gonna go to homecoming tonight, Shaun's at a family reunion and Jack hadn't asked anyone, so we figured --"

"Donna!"

She laughs. "God, you are the easiest. Jack and I decided we're both done with this. You fucked up, we agree, but you two have some sort of super weird connection, and you're clearly, like, obsessed with each other, and she's trying to pretend like she doesn't care, and you're trying to -- I don't even know what you're trying to do, be the saddest boy in the world? But this is senior year and no one has time for the drama."

His face is numb, he may not even be blinking, but his mouth is definitely open, and however he's staring at Donna, it's probably not flattering.

"What?"

"We're done. So here's what's gonna happen -- Jack and I are going to homecoming -- yeah, should've let me finish that story, huh? -- Jack and I are going, we're meeting there, we're each bringing one of you, and you're gonna talk. That's it, sort it out."

She brushes her hands together like she's washing them clean of the situation.

"Got it?"

He feels himself nod, but answering her with words is out of the question -- he's gonna talk to Rose tonight, like, they're gonna make sure he talks to Rose tonight.

Oh fuck, what is he gonna say? What if she slaps him? Which costume should he wear? How is he --

Donna snaps her fingers in front of his face. "Hey, hey, it's gonna be all right. She likes you, just don't give her any more reasons not to and you'll be fine. Okay?"

He blows out a breath that makes his cheeks puff up. "Yeah."

&&.

The costume thing ends up being the first question that needs answered.

Standing in front of his bed, he's got both options laid out on the comforter -- the Mulder suit and badge, and the Lloyd Dobler trench coat and Clash t-shirt.

There's a boom box that's supposed to go along with the latter, and it's an interesting thought -- some sort of grand, sweeping, Say Anything moment to apologize to Rose.

Tugging the boom box from the corner of his room, he practices hefting it over his head in front of the mirror.

He looks like an asshole.

That's a no, then.

Besides, it'd probably embarrass her, and definitely embarrass him, which -- that's fine, he'll embarrass himself every day for the rest of the school year, if that's what she wants, but bringing her down with him is probably, like, less than ideal.

He puts the boom box back in the corner, gathering up the coat and shirt, and setting it in a pile on top.

From the moment he asked Rose to homecoming, he was never going to be Lloyd Dobler, and if she wanted him to be Mulder -- whether they were going together or not -- well, give him some sunflower seeds and call him Spooky.

&&.

When he steps out of the car at Donna's, it's perfectly timed to magic hour, the sun sinking in the sky, orange and warm and perfect, and he feels good for the first time all week.

He feels hopeful.

Then Donna comes charging out of the house, dressed as a cowgirl as she barrels past him to hide behind his car.

Wilf's on her heels, holding a camera in the air. "Oh, come on, sweetheart, just one? It's your homecoming!"

From the far side of his car, Donna frisbees her cowboy hat at Wilf, groaning when it stops short and lands on the lawn.

"You took one!" she shouts. "You took ten!"

Wilf grins at the Doctor, offering a thumbs up with his free hand. 

"Aw, Donna, come on, honey, take one with the Doctor, at least," Wilf says. 

"No!"

The Doctor winks at Wilf and then turns to call out to Donna in an affected and sappy tone. 

"Please, Donna? If my parents were still alive, I know they'd want --"

He's cut off by the sight of Donna charging around the car. 

"Oh, goddamn it," she seethes, grabbing him roughly by the arm and pulling him to stand next to her in the grass. 

"Fine, Gramps, please take as many photos as it'll take to get this one," she clenches her hand around the Doctor's arm, "to stop emotionally extorting me."

The Doctor rocks back on his heels, grinning down at her before gesturing across the lawn. "Now, Donna, you know my parents would want you to wear your hat."

"I'm gonna kill you," she says, "and then you can ask them if that's true."

He laughs, swooping down to scoop up her hat and plop it on her head. Donna's the only one that doesn't make it weird, all the stuff about his family, she’s the only one that doesn't make him feel like a leper about it. 

Well, Donna and Rose. 

“Say cheese!” Wilf shouts, and the Doctor smiles.

Cheese

&&.

By the time they get to the school, it’s completely dark out. 

The school is lit up though, all the lights on, and Halloween decorations hanging from every available inch. There are skeletons and scarecrows and a portable CD player hooked up to speakers, belting out ‘Monster Mash.’

The walk through the parking lot is like a costume parade through MTV — they see two Slim Shadys, a trio of Beastie Boys dressed like the ‘Sabotage’ video, a trio of Beastie Boys dressed like the ‘Intergalactic’ video, and a couple of girls done up like Gwen Stefani and Eve, complete with fake paw print tattoos on “Eve’s” chest. 

Donna had mentioned in the car that while she looked like a cowgirl, technically she was Madonna from the ‘Don’t Tell Me’ video, and the Doctor had nodded, like he knew what that meant. 

He hadn’t, but when they enter the school, Jack flags them down, wearing a cone bra and a blonde ponytail wig on top of his head, and the Madonna thing clicks into place. 

It’s a little bit distracting, because Jack has the legs for garters, and seems like he knows it, but then he’s tugging them down the hall and into the gymnasium, the tinny sounds of ‘No Scrubs’ growing louder as they reach the doors.

The Doctor wants to ask where Rose is, but Jack keeps smirking at him, and whether it’s about the garters or Rose, he’s not gonna give him the satisfaction. Instead, he dutifully troops into the gym behind Donna, doing his best to mentally name the costumes he passes. 

Scream mask, Spice Girls, Mario Brothers — there doesn’t appear to be another Mulder, but there doesn’t appear to be a single Scully, which means Rose has come as something else. 

He lets his eyes scan the crowd, the couples on the dance floor, the people lingering at the edges. By the refreshments table, his gaze locks onto an outstanding ass in red leather pants.

With considerable effort, he takes in the rest of the costume — black tank top, blonde hair, wooden spike in hand — ah, Buffy, of course. 

Wait, that hair looks … Before he can complete the thought, Buffy turns around and she’s — 

Rose

He’s staring, he’s definitely staring, her pants are leather, and that tank top is tight, and even if she shoves that stake right through his heart, it’ll be a good death. 

Raising her free hand, Rose waves, a tiny, shy gesture that he almost assumes isn’t for him, until he feels Donna’s hands on his back, shoving him forward. 

“Go talk to her!” Donna says, and his feet carry him the rest of the way.

“Hi,” Rose says, when he’s standing in front of her.

“Sorry.” 

“I said, ‘hi!’” She looks nervous and her voice is louder this time, carrying over the ear-bleeding cacophony of Sugar Ray.

He shakes his head. “No, no, I heard you — I was saying sorry. I was apologizing.”

Her eyebrows draw down, like she hadn’t expected him to be so upfront about it, but this is it, and if she decides she doesn’t want to talk to him anymore, at least he’ll have said it. 

“Oh,” she says. 

“Yeah. Do you wanna — can I talk to you for a second? Like, away from Smash Mouth,” he gestures at the ceiling, the opening strands of that fucking ‘All Star’ song dry-heaving from the speakers. 

She nods and he goes to take her hand, to lead her some place quieter, but the one closest to him is still holding the spike, and instead he tips his head toward the doors, and then sets off, hoping she’ll follow. 

It takes a few seconds, the longest few seconds of his life (— hey now, you’re an all star, get your game on, go play —) and she finally does, catching up to him as they exit the gym, and walking with him down the hall. 

They try a few doors, locked, locked, locked, and he’s about to say fuck it. He’ll just plead for her forgiveness right here in the middle of the dimly-lit hall, surrounded by lockers and the smell of floor wax, when she lets out a little triumphant noise. 

She’s opened the door to the teacher’s lounge, and is smirking at him like a challenge. 

“If we get caught, I’ll say it was your idea,” he teases, walking by her into the darkened room.

“No, you won’t,” she says, shutting the door behind her, but leaving the light off. 

She sets her spike on a small table and crosses her arms in front of her chest, the stance looking all the more vampire slayer for the moonlight streaming in through the windows. 

“No, I won’t,” he agrees. “You want me to serve detention for you, Rose Tyler? I’ll do it.”

She picks her way to couch in the middle of the lounge, sitting down, and the room is so quiet he can literally hear her pants squeak as she moves. 

“It’d be a start,” she says when she’s settled. 

He sits on the opposite end, lifting one leg, bent at the knee, onto the cushions, before turning to face her. 

“Yeah, it would,” he says. “What else?”

The air in the room is thick, it feels heavy and warm and smells stale — like school and anxiety and sweat. 

 Underneath his fingertips, the fabric of the couch is rough and worn, and he realizes he’s clenching the cushion, waiting for her answer. 

“Write it on the board, like Bart Simpson,” she says.

He nods. “Fifty lines? Or a hundred?”

“A hundred,” she says, picking at a loose thread on the couch with her nails before meeting his eye again. 

“Done,” he says. “What else?”

“Sing at the next assembly,” she says.

“What song?”

“Mambo #5.”

“Done. What else?”

Her hand reaches out, index finger tapping at the FBI badge clipped to his suit jacket. “Stop watching TV.”

He tracks the movement of her hand, watching it retreat, holding his breath to see if she’ll touch him again. When she doesn’t, he answers. 

“Done. What else?”

“Shave your head.”

“Done. What else?”

She stares at him for a long moment, her gaze fixed on his and giving nothing away. His heart is beating in his ears, blood moving thick in his veins, and he’s not getting enough air, or he’s getting too much, his entire system feels like it’s being overloaded, and then she blinks. 

“Tell me why you did it.”

It all slams to a stop, like he’s suddenly been stripped from reality and dropped into space. 

He shrugs, and Rose’s expression fold in on itself as she moves to stand.

“No, wait,” he says helplessly. “I just — I don’t know.”

“Yeah, that’s not any better than the shrug,” and she moves to stand again.

His hand reaches for her, fingers encircling her wrist, and he’s struck with how fragile she is, how fragile they all are, they’re all so fucking small, high school is so fucking small, and they stomp around like giants, hurting each other, and it’s all so —

“I was scared,” he says. 

She glances from his fingers on her wrist to his face, and he pulls his hand away immediately. 

“I was scared,” he repeats. “You just — I like you a lot.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” she says, the ghost of a sneer tinting her expression. 

“I know. I don’t talk to anyone like I talk to you, I don’t like anyone like I like you.”

Her shoulders square, like she’s prepping herself to have this discussion as a battle, but when she speaks, her voice is quiet.

“Reinette knew your car was your dad’s,” she says.

He lets out a sigh, nodding. “Yeah, because I told her. When I was drunk.”

“Before or after you kissed her?”

He wants to stand up, pace, walk around, tug at his hair, but he owes it to Rose to have this discussion whatever way she’d like, and if it’s with the two of them sitting perfectly still on this couch, that’s what he’s gonna do. 

“It was after.”

“You’re not gonna tell me that she kissed you?”

He shrugs. “It shouldn’t matter. I didn’t stop it.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m a fucking idiot.”

At that, she tilts her head, gaze breaking away from the ugly rug in front of them to glance at him.

“You sort of are,” she says, a tiny, tiny smile pulling at one side of her mouth. 

“I really am,” he says, and shifts closer to her on the couch, not touching, but close. “People stop hanging out with me. Or people literally die, Rose. Everyone I like, everyone I love, I fuck it up, or the universe fucks it up, something fucks it up, and it’s like — I don’t know. It’s like it’s easier to not even try, because then it won’t happen again.”

She stares at him, biting her lip, and he gives her a moment to see if she’ll speak, but she doesn’t, so he continues.

“And that’s dumb, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I did it, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I’m sorry you didn’t get to wear your Scully costume, because it was fantastic.”

She smiles this time. “Yeah? You don’t like these?” She slaps her thighs, the sound of skin meeting leather making his stomach flip.

“Oh, no, I love those, Rose Tyler.”

“Is it going to happen again?”

He shakes his head. “No. I swear it.”

“All right,” she says, and stands, reaching her hand down to help pull him up. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“To find a razor, you’ve got a head to shave,” and she leads him over to the desk in the corner, dropping his hand to rifle through the drawers. “Scissors will do.”

“Wait, wait, you were serious? I thought you liked my hair? Rose, Rose.”

Her shoulders start shaking and he realizes she’s laughing at him.

“Oh, that was mean!” 

She turns to face him, her hands slipping up his chest before finding his hair. 

“Like I would ever,” she says, tugging at the strands. “I’m only in it for this in the first place.”

He bumps his nose against hers, arms winding around her waist. “Yeah? You only want me for my hair?”

She nods and he moves closer, brushing his lips against hers. 

“Fine by me.”

Chapter Text

If he lives to be 90, hell, if he lives to be 900, he is always going to remember this moment.

Making out with Rose Tyler in the teacher's lounge during the homecoming dance -- it's destined to become one of those stories he tells, and retells, a testament to his glory days, and he is living it right now.

She's pressed up against him so close, her hands in his hair and her tongue in his mouth, and she's forgiven him, or she's going to, and they're gonna be okay, things are gonna be okay, and, oh, god, oh, fuck.

It's so much all at once, all the guilt from the week, all the anxiety and the fear and the hope, it's all sloshing around in his body, the way beer gets too foamy, the way soda cans explode, the way his cock gets hard and his fingers get greedy.

He's got one hand on her ass, slick, soft leather, and warm, soft Rose, and he's using it to keep her pressed against him, her breasts and her hips and her mouth.

The other hand is easy to lose track of, instead he gets fleeting snatches of input from his senses -- this is Rose's hair, this is Rose's cheek, this is Rose's bare back, and that's the clasp of her bra.

His fingers fumble there, stall out, his hand up the back of her shirt, waiting for permission or denial or anything.

Then Rose is shuffling backward, but keeping him with her, until she's backed up against the edge of the desk, leaning but not seated, and oh, fuck, he's between her legs.

He arches into her, scattered, urgent rutting that creates so much friction on his cock that he can't even keep kissing her, instead his mouth is just pressed to hers, unmoving, as he forces himself to slow down, not to thrust and thrust and thrust until he comes in his pants.

She's not helping though, or she's helping too much, these fucking devastating noises breathed out against his lips as she winds her arms around his hips, her hands finding his ass and breaking his rhythm, re-positioning him, changing the pace and the angle, friction and friction and friction.

He drops his head, his mouth pressing against her neck as he slants himself over her, and she reciprocates, but her mouth is so much more active, there's licking and sucking and biting and kissing.

She brings a hand up to move his collar out of the way and then she just fucking latches on, and he groans against her, and oh god, oh god, oh god, his hips are still working, and she has to stop, this has to stop, or he'll do it, he'll fucking come inside his boxers and, stop, stop, stop, his hips are still moving, moving, moving.

When the suction breaks between her mouth and his neck, he hears it, a wet sound that he cheers with a grunt, and he wants to keep it up, wants to pound his cock against her, she's so hot and soft and where -- where are his fucking hands?

It's so much effort to locate one, to find it still curled into the skin of her back and that's it, he's unclipping her bra, his fingers flubbing only once before he gets it, the elastic tension giving way, and his hand smoothing over skin and ribs and around to the front.

There's a split second where she stops, like she's waiting on him, and then he's there, palming her breast in a way that sizzles right to the very base of his cock, and oh, jesusfuckingchrist, there's a skill to this, he's sure he has it, but it's gone right now, completely evaporated.

All that remains is the way Rose's nipple is puckered, the way she bucks into him when he pinches it, the sexy as hell little moan she makes, and he wants to suck on it, he wants to fuck her, he wants to never, ever leave this moment.

His other hand is there then, and he backs up on reflex, making room between their bodies and, thank god, it eases some of the pressure on his cock, and it gives him a chance to look at Rose.

Her face is flushed and her mouth is wet and she's smiling at him, panting, she looks happy and shy and embarrassed and aroused, and he probably looks like a fucking idiot, but he's touching Rose's breasts and it doesn't matter, nothing matters except how his hands looks moving under her shirt, the outline of her bra where it's bunched up near her neckline, the way her nipples feels against his palms, his fingertips, everything soft and pliant and warm.

She's so responsive, everything he does, she's so active, and he's never asked what it's like for girls, the hormones and the need and the blood on fire, he doesn't know if they get like that, but Rose seems as urgent as he does and it's amazing, it's sparking and fizzing and so, so hot.

His right hand slips away, smoothing down her ribs, her stomach, the top of her hipbone, and then he flips it around and curls his fingers into her waistband, right over the button of her pants.

He moves his other hand out from under her shirt, too, resting it low on her hip, his fingers pressing into the leather covering her ass, and then he looks at her.

"Can I ...?"

Rose bites her lip and looks down at his fingers on the button.

"Yeah," she breathes.

"Yeah?" His fingers tighten, thumb edging the front to lever near the snap.

She nods. "Yes."

In a swell of movement, he's got the button open and her fly down, moving the hand on her hip around to the desk behind them and his other hand, oh god, his other hand --

He stands up a little straighter, shifting slightly to the side, until he can get his palm flat on her stomach.

Then he moves slowly, slowly downward, until his finger meet the top of her underwear, it feels lacy, and if there were any blood left not in his cock, it's damn well there now.

He scratches the edge of his nail against the lace and Rose is nearly vibrating in front of him, her entire body tense and waiting and then she arches her hips the tiniest bit.

It's like a reflex, his hand moves immediately, slipping underneath the fabric of her underwear, past short, textured hair and down, down, down until his fingers find soft, wet heat.

Rose gasps and he forces himself to go slow, rubbing at her gently, making everything slick as he slips his fingertips back and forth, back and forth.

It's a tight space, but there's enough room for him ... if she wants ... he could ... with the pad of his middle finger, he presses into her gently, just the slightest bit.

"Oh, fuck," Rose pants and he moves in deeper, up to the first knuckle, and it's so easy, so fucking easy, just to curl his finger, everything wet and hot, and his finger, his finger feels so thick, and she feels so tight, and then he's inside of her, he's got a finger inside of her, and Rose is breathing in his ear, pleading, needy noises he feels low in his stomach.

He pulls back a little, starting a shallow movement in and out, in and out, in and out, and he can hear her, hear how wet she is every time his finger moves, and then she's grinding down on him, lining up the base of his finger until she's sort of like, god, riding his hand, his finger stroking inside of her and the top of his palm pressed to her clit and there's not enough space to get another finger inside of her now, not enough space to do anything but follow her rhythm, to let her fuck herself on his hand.

Oh god.

He wants to talk to her, to tell her how pretty she looks, how good she feels, but all he can manage is encouragement.

"Yeah, yeah, yes, that's it, oh god," and he's talking into her hair, and everything feels sweaty and hot and he can smell her, running his tongue over his teeth in his mouth, he wants to go down on her, he wants to lick her and kiss her and tongue-fuck her and really fuck her, and, "Oh, god, yes."

She's got one hand braced on the desk behind her, but she moves to wrap the other around his forearm, squeezing it so tight and he hates this fucking suit, he hates all his clothes, he just wants her to touch his skin, and it's like she senses it or something because suddenly her hand is wrapped around the back of his neck, her nails curling into his skin.

His hips have found her side, he's rubbing against her in time to his hand and if this goes on for much longer, he's gonna come, he really is this time, can feel it building in his balls, sweat breaking out at his temples, and, "Rose, come on, please."

Suddenly her hand is off his neck, and in his hair, wrapped tight around the strands and clenching and pulling and she's talking, she's pleading, "Fuck, god, fu --"

It snaps off into a groan, a long, broken noise she muffles in the shoulder of his suit as she shudders and tenses into him.

He works her down as gently as he can manage, slow, comforting strokes, until his finger stills entirely. He won't be able to pull it out of her at this angle, she's gonna have to move, but she's sort of slumped, and he's not gonna, like, rush her.

When she shifts a few moments later, he gets the hint, slipping his hand out of her, and her underwear, leaving behind a damp trail up her lower abdomen.

His fingers are slick, his fucking lucky middle one most of all, and he's itching to lick them, but he doesn't want to weird Rose out, so instead he lets his hand sort of ... dangle at his side, surreptitiously brushing his fingers against his pants.

A second later though, he wipes his mouth on accident (... on purpose) and gets a taste anyway.

Rose is staring at him, flushed, her fly unbuttoned and her shirt bunched up, and he’s so hard, his cock tenting the front of his pants, embarrassing and insistent and when she reaches for him, palms him through the fabric, he nearly shoots off.

Instead he scrambles backward, he doesn’t even know why, just that if she touches him, if she rubs and grips and strokes, if she unbuckles his belt, if any part of Rose touches any part of the Doctor, it’s going to be messy.

And she just — she wasn’t even talking to him an hour ago, he doesn’t deserve this. As much as he wants it.

She’s looking at him funny — confused and glassy-eyed and … hurt?

“Don’t you want …?”

He positions himself near the couch before he speaks.

“I do,” he says, and oh god, is that his voice? It sounds so thin.

“Then why are you over there?”

He shrugs, one hand reaching down to adjust himself in his pants, hopefully under the cover of a couch pillow. “I don’t know.”

Rose sizes him up, licking her lips as she tilts her head in consideration. “Idiot thing or scared thing?”

The laugh he lets out surprises him, but then he’s shaking his head, smiling. “Both, I think.”

She nods, looking down at her open fly, and then buttoning herself up. Her hands reach behind her back to re-hook her bra and it leaves a big patch of her stomach bare. There’s a tiny shine of wetness there, and his cock throbs when he notices it.

Why — why is he doing this to himself?

It doesn’t even make any sense, he wants her, he wants her a lot, but it just seems like … oh, fuck it, he doesn’t know.

He just — he needs to make it up to her a little bit first.

A little bit more.

“And you’re sure?”

He swallows, forcing himself to nod.

“Forever?” she says.

“For now. Let me just — can I dance with you? Can we go dance with everybody?”

He feels nervous, and scared, and a little bit overwhelmed, they moved so fast, not just tonight, but this whole thing, and he is sure — he is completely sure, but god, he just watches movies, this is real life.

This isn’t fooling around with the neighbors, you-show-me-yours-I’ll-show-you-mine games, this is a girl — a woman — he likes a lot, and he can’t even fucking think straight right now.

“Yeah,” Rose says, and somehow her smile calms him down. “You can dance with me.”

&&.

The walk back down the hall is only a little bit awkward. Turns out that weird, existential panic works gangbusters on an erection and he’s able to move with only slight discomfort.

When Rose takes his hand, and he realizes it’s the one that had been in her pants, he feels a lurch in his boxers, but the thing stays down, which is sort of a triumph.

They'd spent a few moments trying to straighten themselves out, hair, clothes, general, like, rumpled-ness, but he's not entirely sure it worked.

Rose still looks like she'd been thoroughly fooled around with and he can't imagine he's faired much better -- something that's confirmed when they finally make it to the gym and Jack leers at them from the dance floor.

Jack's dancing with Donna and when she catches sight of the Doctor and Rose, she smiles, and then shakes her head, exasperated or something.

Rose uses her grip on his hand to tug them to the other couple, joining in on the weird, hopping-dancing they're doing to a heavily-edited version of the Thong Song.

Donna's hand taps at something on his neck, right above his collar, and then she turns to Rose with her eyebrows raised. Rose grins at first, but her cheeks go pink and she ducks her head with a shrug.

"Good for you," Donna mouths at him.

They dance like that, in a group, for a few more songs -- "Big Pimpin'" -- "Gettin' Jiggy With It" -- "Livin' La Vida Loca" -- music with apostrophes where G's should go, and he's making an ass of himself, but Donna's laughing and Rose is laughing, and Jack's wearing a fucking cone bra, and it feels good --

It feels great. Sweaty and happy and great.

When the music finally, finally changes to something slow, it's that Jerry Maguire song, the Bruce Springsteen one -- "Secret Garden," that's the name of it --  and he moves to ask Rose, but she shakes her head.

He feels his stomach plummet -- how -- what -- had he misinterpreted ...?

Then she's tugging him down by the shoulders before gesturing to where Donna's walking off the dance floor.

"Ask Donna," she says, right in his ear.

"What?" He pulls back to look at her and Rose nods, confirming he heard her correctly.

His eyes shift to Donna at the edge of the dance floor, she's turned to face the crowd, and when she spots the Doctor looking, she smiles, quiet and proud and, god, Donna. What would he do without Donna?

"I'll get the next one," Rose says. "I think you owe her this one."

He grins at Donna and then turns back to Rose. "Yeah, I do."

Giving Rose a quick hug, he jogs over to Donna and extends a hand.

"Donna, will you dance with me?"

"What?" Donna slaps him on the shoulder, "No! Go dance with your girlfriend!"

He opens and closes his hand a few times, emphasizing that he wants her to take it, and shaking his head. "No, I wanna dance with you."

She squints at him, trying to figure out the gag, but he's insistent. "Please?"

Rolling her eyes, she relents -- "Fine" -- but he doesn't miss the tiny smile she directs at the ground.

Leading her to the middle of the dance floor, he sets his hands loosely on her waist and she links hers behind his neck. There's plenty of room for the holy spirit between them, if they went to Catholic school and he weren't an atheist, but it's comfortable, it's friendly.

It's Donna.

In the seventh grade, they opened a Bath and Body Works in the mall and Donna's smelled like apples since.

He can smell it now, the apples, and there's a way his mom smelled, too, not like apples, but something else.

There are traces of it around the house still sometimes, he'll catch it moving something from the corner of a closet, opening a box in the garage, and it always smells like home, like being safe, and loved.

Donna's not his mom, Donna would probably slug him if he ever said that, but it's ... Donna is family.

What he said to Rose, that wasn't completely true, he's not alone -- Donna hasn't left, he doesn't think she will, and Rose saw that, Rose knows, and just -- he is 18 years old, he is at the homecoming dance, and he feels like maybe he's found his place.

It's between these two women.

He squeezes Donna's side lightly, grinning at her, trying to tell her without telling her, and she slaps lightly at the back of his head like she understands.

"Do you remember when we saw this movie?" she says, lifting a hand briefly to gesture at the music.

"Jerry Maguire? Yeah, you cried, Donna Noble."

"Did I? I must've gotten the idea from you."

He gasps. "How dare you -- I thought we weren't going to bring that up, uh, ever?"

She smirks but doesn't answer, and he lets himself lead her in a slow, swaying circle, listening to those few soft chords build and loop, over and over again.

"What do you think, Doctor?" she says after a moment. "Does Rose Tyler complete you?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. I think I was ... I think I was more complete than I thought."

"Yeah," Donna says. "You were."

"And anyway, I've got a quirky, red-headed sidekick, just like the movie. Go on, ask me if I knew the human head weighs eight pounds. Does your neighbor have three rabbits?"

"I'm gonna kill you," she says, but it's muffled in his shoulder as he pulls her into a hug.

She returns it tightly, and over her shoulder he can see the entrance to the gym, see the guy that just walked in -- it's Shaun, in a “Temple Family Reunion” t-shirt, his head swiveling as he looks for Donna.

"I think someone's gonna try and cut in," he says, trying to keep the grin from his voice.

Donna pulls back. "Oh, is Rose ...?"

"Not for me, for you." He turns them so Donna can see the door, feeling it in her frame the second she spots Shaun.

"Oh my god," she says, and she sounds delighted, just absolutely ecstatic.

"Go!" the Doctor says, giving her a light shove toward the door.

She doesn't need any further encouragement, leaning up to press a quick kiss to the Doctor's cheek before basically, like, skipping away to Shaun.

Shaun grabs her up in a hug and the Doctor nods his head at him behind Donna's back. It's a friendly gesture ... for now. Hopefully it'll stay that way.

Before his mind can tumble down the path of all the things he'll do to Shaun if he hurts Donna, the song ends, moving on to another slow one, and he catches a flash of blonde hair out of the corner of his eye.

He turns, expecting to see Rose, but instead he's greeted by the sight of Reinette, dressed up like ... he can't even tell -- Marie Antoinette?

Lately his strategy has been to literally run from Reinette, but if he runs now, Rose is gonna see him, the whole school's gonna see him, and he just -- he doesn't want to run anymore.

"Hey, Reinette," he says.

"Hi, Doctor, I was just wondering if you'd seen Louis?"

Whatever he'd been expecting, it hadn't been that. "What?"

"Louis, my boyfriend, he's dressed like a king ...?"

"You're going out with Louis?"

Reinette gives him a funny look. "Um, yes. Since like fifth grade."

All right, sure, technically he knows that, they really have been together forever, but he just assumed, with her kissing him and all --

She seems to catch on, her eyebrows raising in comprehension. "Oh, that, yeah, we usually break up like once a month, keeps things interesting, and, well ... dra-ma. I did try to tell you, and, like, apologize, but you kept running away. I didn't realize you and Rose were going out exclusively, and -- oh! There he is!"

In a flash, Reinette's darted away, leaving him standing in the middle of the dance floor looking dumb for a few seconds.

This time when he sees blonde hair, it is Rose, and she doesn't look entirely happy.

"What was that?" She winces to herself, almost like she hadn't meant to say that, or maybe not quite that way.

"Reinette was looking for Louis. She, uh, she apologized, sort of. Said she didn't know you and I were exclusive."

Rose's face twitches, it's a split second, and then she's got it back under control.

He waits for her to say anything else, but she doesn't, leaving them both standing in the middle of the floor while some boy-band croons in the background.

It seems like he should say something, ask her to dance, do a dance, anything, and so he takes a deep breath. "I knew though, or I knew what I wanted, or what it was, like, without saying it and -- I'm sorry. Again. Still."

She nods, beginning to shift on her feet in time to the music, and he takes his cue.

"Do you wanna da-- no, you know what? Do you wanna be my girlfriend, exclusively?"

Her grin is so bright it sends his stomach flipping.

"Yes," she says, and he scoops her up in a hug that lifts her feet off the ground.

When he sets her back down, she laughs. "That was pretty cheesy."

"Yeah? You ain't seen nothing yet," he says, and bows deeply, in invitation to dance.

She accepts.

&&.

The rest of the dance passes in a blur.

He slow dances with Rose and fast dances with Rose, drinks punch with Rose, makes out with Rose under the bleachers, it's Rose, Rose, Rose, and Rose.

(Except when it's Jack, and, of course, of course, the one time the yearbook photographer shows up is the one time he's dancing with Jack Harkness in his cone bra and ponytail.)

When the DJ puts on "Closing Time," Donna finds him, teasing him about needing a ride home, but then Shaun's at her side, car keys in hand, and she doesn't even try and keep up the joke, grabbing Shaun's arm and pulling him toward the door.

Jack's got an arm slung around Ianto's shoulder, and with a wink at the Doctor and Rose, they, too, are sauntering out the door.

It leaves him standing next to Rose, in a quickly emptying, Halloween-themed gymnasium.

"I guess I'll walk you to the bus stop then?" he says, tone teasing.

"Of course," Rose says. "My mom will be surprised to see home though, she'd given me permission to crash at Jack's."

The Doctor feels heat pinprick across his skin.

"Seriously?"

Rose nods. "Yeah, she loves Jack ... and I may have told her it was a big sleepover."

"And is your mom the type to call and check on you?"

She nods again. "Yep, and Jack is the type to cover for me one hundred percent."

"Oh, that's awesome."

&&.

Rose gets wandering hands on the drive home, severely wandering hands, dangerously distracting wandering hands.

Hands that start on his thigh and work inward and upward.

Hands that feel warm and soft and heavy through his thin suit pants.

Hands that get him hard and then tease him.

Rose Tyler's hands.

When they pull in his driveway, he barely gets the car in park before he's leaning across the center console, fingers in Rose's hair as he pulls her toward his lips. 

There's not even, like, a sequence to events, he's just reflexively kissing Rose with his mouth open, with his tongue against hers, with grabbing hands and wet noises. A dark Halloween night, everything chilly, crisp, smelling of leaves and Rose, and his skin feels hot and cold at the same time. 

She's so fucking squirmy, and he's so fucking into it, massaging her breasts through her shirt, pressing down on her hand when it cups his cock through his pants, everything urgent and reflexive and noisy. 

When he moves his mouth down to her neck, pressing wet, sucking kisses along her throat, Rose groans. 

"In the house," she says, "Let's go in the house."

He's out of the car and around to her door so fast that she hasn't even unbuckled her seatbelt. He flings the door open, and reaches across her to release it, kissing her again as he pulls her up and out of the car before slamming the door behind her.

She turns fully into him, wrapping her arms around his neck, and he's got his wrapped around her waist, and if he dry-humps her right here, right in his front yard, who would the neighbors even tell?

Rose pulls away him from with a noise he feels in his fucking teeth, and then she's scampering up the drive, down the path to his front door. 

He follows her immediately, or follows his stupid, insistent cock, the one literally pointing at her, and he can't even touch her as he unlocks the door, keeps dancing away from her hands, because if he doesn't get them inside the house, he's probably going to die. He will come, he will explode, and he will die, all on the porch.

It's a struggle, but he finally fits the key into the lock and gets the door open. He lets Rose enter before him, reaching an arm out to slap the foyer light on and watching as Rose pulls off her shoes. 

The sight is sort of mundane, but it makes him slow down and take a breath. He does the same, tugging off his shoes, and kicking them toward hers, and then he shuts the door, locking it behind him.

"Are you hungry or anything? Thirsty?" he says, following the weird, latent reflex to be polite to a guest in his home.

"Water, I guess, please?" she says.

He nods, leading her into the kitchen, flipping lights on as he goes. He gets out a glass -- Mayor McCheese again -- and pours her some water, handing it to her before pouring one for himself. 

The situation in his pants has mostly settled, and he feels a little bit more level-headed, or, well, clear enough to realize he's hungry. He hadn't eaten before the dance, too anxious about what was going to happen, and it's catching up to him now.

"Is it cool if I make some Bagel Bites?" he asks, pulling the freezer door open to make sure he has some.

"Yeah, of course."

"Cool," he says, turning the knob on the over to preheat. "Do you want some?"

She laughs. "Yeah."

&&.

They eat Bagel Bites on the couch, and she watches Saturday Night Live literally next to him. Not on the phone, not in her bedroom, but next to him, on the couch, in his house.

It's so surreal, that this is his Saturday night now, this is his life, with his girlfriend, that it starts to make him nervous again. 

Which is why he's so grateful for Rose. 

When the show flips to commercial, before what he knows will be Weekend Update, Rose looks meaningfully at the stairs. 

"Do you have a TV in your room?"

"Yeah."

"Do you wanna watch the rest up there?"

Once, in a store, as a kid, he pressed the button for an air-horn, the thing went off in his hand, and he heard ringing for weeks. It was literally years ago now, but suddenly that ringing is back, jangling on repeat in his ears as he feels himself nod.

Rose stands, stretching up on her tiptoes and he can see her stomach again before she reaches a hand down to help him up off the couch. 

He keeps hold of her hand to walk her up the stairs, turning the lights off as he goes. It's not like he's not hoping something will happen in his room, but, really and truly and honestly, if she just sleeps next to him, he thinks he'll be all right with that. 

No, he knows he will.

"You're, um, you're gonna sleep here, right?" he says, when they reach his bedroom and he gets the light on.

"Yeah, if that's cool with you." She's tugging at the bottom of her tanktop, shifting a little nervously on the carpeting.

"It is," and the ringing in his ears grows louder. "Do you want a t-shirt to sleep in? I have boxers, too."

"That'd be great," she says.

He rifles through his drawers, grabbing her a white undershirt and a pair of flannel boxers. It's sort of his favorite pair, his lucky pair, a blue and brown plaid pattern, and seeing Rose in them is going to elevate them to, like, Hall of Fame status.

She takes the clothes from him and he points her in the direction of his bathroom across the hall, offering up face wash and stuff, whatever she wants, really.

While she's gone, he puts his pajamas on. He briefly considers sleeping in the same thing as her -- boxers and a t-shirt -- because it’s what he normally sleeps in, but it seems weird, so he digs out a pair of pajama bottoms. 

They're plaid, too, so he still matches her, but it's not, like, underwear

He hears the toilet flush and the tap going and then she's back in his room, face scrubbed clean, hair up in a ponytail, and wearing his clothes

She looks fantastic. 

(She is clearly not wearing a bra.)

(She looks fantastic.)

"I'm just gonna --" He gestures across the hall to the bathroom and she nods. 

He pees, and then brushes his teeth, noticing the brush was dry, but that his mouthwash had been moved, before washing his face. 

It's only a few minutes before he’s back in his bedroom. Rose has turned the TV on to the right channel, but she’s sitting sort of awkwardly in his desk chair, and the bed is untouched.

“Um,” he clears his throat, “you don’t have to sit there. You can —” He moves to the head of the bed, unfolding the comforter and the top sheet. No one’s checked that he’s made his bed in years, but he still does it almost every morning, and he’s grateful for that reflex now. He slips under the covers on the side he usually sleeps on and gestures to the other side, “— if you want.”

She bites her lip, but then grins, standing from the desk to shuffle over to the bed before doubling back to turn the light off. 

It leaves them in just the flickering of the TV as she slides in next to him, and his brain starts shoving shit at him, the same flickering light in the movie theater, the feel of Rose’s breasts in the teacher’s lounge, the way her hair smells, just a thousand stupid, rapid-fire reminders, and he grits his teeth, clamping down on all of them. 

Weekend Update is wrapping up, but neither of them are paying attention, not really, both of them propped up on pillows in his bed, legs under the covers and a desert of mattress and sheet between them that he wants to cross, but isn’t sure how.

“I can’t believe you have a TV and a computer and a queen-size bed,” she says, turning to look at him. 

He shrugs, sort of feeling embarrassed now that he takes all that stuff for granted. 

“Well, you’re, uh, welcome to use any of them whenever you want,” he says, and then tries to figure out if that was dumb or not. 

She tilts her head, considering. “So I can use your bed whenever I want?”

He nods. “Yeah.”

“Is that, like, to sleep or …?” Her tone is teasing and her mouth is wet and he’s decided the way to cross the desert is just to fucking cross it.  

“Yeah, I think some sleeping,” he says. “Eventually.”

Then he leans toward her, as slow as he can manage it, which isn’t really very slow at all, but she meets him in the middle, fitting herself against him and kissing him.

Whatever restraint he’d had at the school is completely shot, he’s obviously not gonna insist or anything, but if she reaches for his pants again, there is no power in the galaxy that will make him stop her this time. 

They slip down on the pillows after only a few moments, kicking the covers clear off the bed and shifting until Rose is on her back and he’s on top of her — he is on top of her, his body between her legs and one forearm braced on the mattress under her back. 

It leaves with him a hand free, and while his hips start up some manic rhythm, his hand touches everything it can reach, but mostly her breasts. 

He touches her breasts a lot

Rose’s tongue in his mouth and his tongue is in her mouth, and everything is grainy, slipping friction and hot, wet movement, her teeth on his lip and little gasps of breath between gaps in the kiss. She’s got one hand in his hair and one hand up the back of his t-shirt, and, oh, of course, she’s so smart, he can go under her t-shirt.

It only takes a second to move his hand down and past the hem of her shirt before he’s back, this time skin on skin, a whole handful of naked breast, the perfect texture of her nipple, and he’s moved his other hand from behind her back before he can even think about it.

With both hands free, he pushes her shirt up and when Rose levers forward a little, they work together to strip it off entirely. It’s a good idea, a great idea, and he takes a second to tug his own shirt off before swooping back down to take a nipple in his mouth. 

Oh, fuck

She’s squirming under him, twisting her hips back and forth, clawing at the back of his head as he tries a few different pressures, swipes his tongue against her, sucks, and, oh, god, she has a whole other one and he needs to taste that one, too, his hand picking up the slack, massaging the breast he abandoned.

His mouth is wet, her skin is wet, there’s sweat and spit and when she yanks him up by the hair to kiss him again, he can barely tell any of the parts of his body apart, they all feel like one hot, vibrating mess. 

She works a hand down the back of his pajamas, slipping past his boxers, too, and then she’s squeezing his ass, but also pulling him into her, and trying to catalogue everything, trying to parse the things that she’s doing — pulling — from the things he’s doing — thrusting — is proving completely useless.

He lifts his mouth from hers again, moving to kiss at her neck, back to her breasts, down her stomach, licks and nips and sucks, so much smooth, pale skin, and she’s got little freckles and moles, he can only just see them in the light from the TV, but every time he finds one, he puts his mouth on it. 

When he reaches the waistband of her shorts, he’s about to ask permission, but then she’s got her thumbs there, pulling them down all by herself, shimmying her legs underneath him until he helps pull them off of her feet. 

He tosses them somewhere, the floor, the desk, the moon, it doesn’t matter, because, ohfuckohfuck, she’s taken her underwear off, too, which means Rose Tyler is naked on his bed.

Moving back toward the head of the bed, he braces himself on his forearm again, leaving a hand free to meander down her body. But it’s less meandering and more like when he’s late to class and a hall monitor tells him not to run, so he walks, as fast as he possibly can, to get there instead. 

He plays with her breasts again, but it’s more in passing greeting, and he presses his mouth to hers before moving his hand to stroke against her inner thighs.  

Her legs spread open, deliberately, and this time he does go slow, he fucking forces himself, and he edges his fingers up, up, up, until he’s rubbing against her, and she’s wet and warm and soft and when he presses his finger into her this time, she moans

She breaks the kiss, and she fucking moans.

He moves his finger slowly, pushing it deep and then pulling it back out, learning what she likes, trying to remember what had worked in the teacher’s lounge, but it’s a lot to keep track of, and he ends up just experimenting, trying to find his way. He adds a second finger, stretching her a little bit, he can feel it, the way it’s a tighter fit now, and, ohhhh, Christ

There’s not even a pretend kiss going on, he’s just watching himself finger her, and she’s watching him, he can see her out of the corner of his eye, and, “Rose, can I … with my mouth?”

He sees her eyes widen, something like alarm or panic, and he snaps to face her, stopping his hand half inside of her. 

“I don’t have to — I mean, not if you don’t want … I don’t have to,” he’s stammering, rambling, and Rose is shaking her head, and nodding, and what does that mean?

“I just — I’ve never had … that,” she says.

“Do you want … that?” He’s trying not to flip through all the boys he knows she’s dated, trying not to think angry thoughts about his idiot gender and their fucking ridiculousness. 

She shrugs, the movement scrunching up into the pillow. “I don’t know. I mean, yeah, but — but you don’t have to, or… what if it’s weird?”

“Do you want to try? And I’ll stop if you don’t like it? Or no? You can say no.”

He’s torn between a thousand different emotions, excitement that he’ll get to be the first, fear that she won’t like it, hope that she’ll say yes, and then she’s nodding.

“Okay,” she says, letting out a breath. “Yeah, let’s try it.”

He grins at her. “You’re sure?”

“Yeah.”

Slowly, he pulls his fingers from her, wiping them on the sheet beside them, as he moves down her body.

When his torso’s between her legs, he looks up at her again. 

“I’m gonna … start, okay?” 

“Yeah.” She seems to be looking for a place to put her hands, they’re fluttering around his head, her stomach, the mattress, so he grabs one and puts it on the side of his head.

It’s insanely hard to concentrate, he wants to just dive in, literally face first, but he moves slowly, kissing up one thigh, but abandoning the other, because he’s so close now, and fuck it, with the very tip of his tongue, he licks up to her clit.

She groans, a loud, breathy groan, and he grins to himself, repeating the motion, firmer, and with more of his tongue. He does it a few times, lapping at her slowly, and then … not quite as slowly.

It’s all sort of a blur then, he tries everything he can think of, stroking inside of her with his tongue, tapping out a rhythm on her clit, sucking and licking and she’s grinding down on him, keening, and he sticks with the circuit, working his mouth against her, deeper and harder and faster, everything’s so wet, and she tastes like a girl, she smells like a girl, and she sounds close, she sounds really close, and then  she yanks at his hair and fucking shouts, rocketing up off the mattress, until she’s half-sitting in front of him, squirming toward him and away from him at the same time. 

He tries another swipe, and that does it, she bucks backward, and he smiles, pulling away to wipe his mouth on her thigh before looking up at her.

She’s staring at him, looking incredulous, nearly laughing, and it’s somehow a good thing, somehow makes him feel proud.

“Yeah?” he says.

“Oh, yeah,” she confirms. 

“Cool,” he says. 

She tugs him up then, getting hold of his shoulder until he slips back up her body, and the friction from his pants and the mattress and her legs, it’s like a firework the way his cock makes itself known, and he has to take a moment to pull himself together. 

It doesn’t last for long though, because then Rose’s hands are at his waistband, shoving meaningfully at the elastic, and he pulls back, shifting awkwardly until he can kick his boxers and pants off. 

When he lays back down on top of her, and it’s all naked skin against naked skin, and when his cock naturally settles between her legs, he almost comes. Right there, right then, he almost comes. 

It’s only through some miracle of time and space that all the variables don’t quite match up and he keeps it together. He kisses her again, just to distract himself, but when it leads to rutting against her, the angle getting precarious, he pulls back. 

“I, um —”

Rose runs a hand through his hair, tracing his cheekbone with her thumb. “Do you have a condom?”

“I think so,” he says, shifting his torso off to the side of her to rummage in his nightstand. 

They’re not where he thought they were — in the drawer, and he’s sort of pawing around in it helplessly, hoping to hit on one, so it takes him by complete surprise when Rose wraps a hand around his cock between their bodies.

He groans, going completely still, waiting for her to do it again, oh, god, please do it again. 

She does, she tightens her hand, and strokes him up and down, rubbing her thumb under the head, trying a few quick moves like she’s learning him, and he’s not able to move at all, his entire body feels heavy and wanting and tense. 

“Here, come here, roll over,” she says, moving her hand to tug at his shoulder and maneuvering him until he’s lying on his back. 

Then she’s scooting down the bed, stretching out on her stomach on the mattress near his knees, and angling her head over — oh, fuck, she’s gonna — 

Her mouth fits over his cock in one smooth movement, her hand coming up to grip the base of it, and then she’s sucking at him, bobbing her head, tightening her fingers, and just, oh, god. 

It’s so hot, her mouth is so hot, and wet, and sucking, and he feels every cell in his body arrow toward his cock, everything poised in that exact direction, waiting and sparking and moving, and he feels it build so quickly, the way she tightens her mouth and slips her tongue around him, and he’s gonna —

“Rose, Rose —“

She shakes her head, a tiny movement, but he catches it, and then he’s lost, hurtling, his balls drawing up and he’s whining, grunting, groaning, pleading, and oh, fuckfuckfuckfuck —

Fuck.

He shouts, coming in a series of spurts he feels down every vein of his body as Rose sucks at him, collecting everything and then swallowing it all down, and he collapses against the bed, going boneless into the mattress. 

“Holy shit,” he breathes, when Rose’s head appears in his hazy line of vision.

“Yeah?” she says, an echo of his earlier.

“Oh, yeah,” he parrots back. 

He lifts his arm, letting her settle her head against his chest, and then curls it around her shoulders. She fits herself against him, throwing an arm across his stomach and a leg over his own. 

There’s maybe a minute where he’s awake to enjoy the feeling of her against him, and then he falls asleep. 

&&.

The next morning, he sneaks downstairs and makes Rose some Eggo’s and a glass of orange juice. He sets the Cinnamon Toast Crunch out, too. And some Triscuits. And a thing of cookies. Because he has no idea what Rose eats for breakfast, but he’s excited to find out. 

(She eats the waffles, and the juice, but sneaks a cookie when she thinks he’s not looking.)

When she reminds him that Henrik’s is closed, he’s even more excited, because they’ll get to spend the day together. He gets to spend the day with Rose. With his girlfriend

She asks what he had planned, what he’d do if this were a normal Sunday, and he almost lies, but then he doesn’t.

He takes her to the video store.