Awareness drew slowly for Rose Tyler. It wasn’t the warm yellow sunlight and the sounds of singing birds through the open window that drew her toward consciousness. Typically sounds of that nature would keep her in a state of sleepy bliss. What forced the march toward wakefulness was the heavy grinding, thumping, and rattling of the garbage truck outside doing its weekly run. Aged trucks that squeaked and whined, the operators with their rough treatment of the bins on the curb, Rose was never guaranteed any form of lie-in on a Thursday morning when the trucks came about. With a hiss, a rattle, and a rumble just outside her window, Rose finally gave up trying to remain relaxed. She let out a small groan of annoyance and rolled from her side onto her back and lifted her arm to cover her eyes with the back of her hand.
There was movement at her side, a shift of weight that dipped the mattress and pulled her duvet just that tiny bit tighter than was comfortable, and Rose let out a sigh. “Morning sweetheart,” she cooed without dropping her hand from her eyes. “Did you have another dream about Unicorns?”
There was a breathy laugh of amusement. “Can’t say that I’ve ever dreamt of Tillogrippuls, Rose. And if I was to do so, I hardly think it would terrify me so much that it would drive me toward my mother’s bed.”
Rose froze in place. That was not her daughter’s voice, nor was it one that she even recognised. Slowly she drew her hand from her eyes and shifted her head to look at just who had decided to park themselves on her bed while she was sleeping. She let out a yelp of surprise and scrambled backward enough that she fell off the bed completely. On her butt on a cold wood floor, Rose was far less embarrassed than she was completely shocked. “Who – Who are you, and why’re you on my bed?”
A friendly face with a spray of freckles across her cheeks and nose peered amused blue eyes over the edge of the bed to look down at her. “My, you are a graceful one, aren’t you?”
Rose’s eyes narrowed and she pointed her finger up at her. “No need for the facetiousness,” she growled, more with amusement than shock at this point. Whomever this woman was, she was by no means any kind of threat. “Now answer my question before I get Brax or Romana to come sort you out.”
Blue eyes lifted in a roll, and then the face disappeared completely from view. There was a soft whoof from above that told Rose the woman had moved back up to lie with her head on a pillow. Her voice curled down from above. “It’s me,” she answered. “Romana. Sorry, I didn’t think.”
Rose immediately shot up from her butt to her knees to look over the mattress toward her. She wasn’t quite ready to launch back up onto the mattress, at least not until she got actual confirmation of what happened. “Romana?” she breathed out worriedly. “You – You regenerated?”
Romana nodded slowly as she picked at the soft fabric of her dress. “Yes,” she answered despite the answer being obvious. She rolled her head on the pillow to look toward Rose. “Last evening didn’t quite go as Braxiatel has planned it to go.” There was a sheen in her eye. Not quite a tear, but definitely emotion of some form. “In fact, it went quite sideways.”
Rose scrambled back up onto the mattress. She crawled up onto her knees, her hands curled under her chin. “What about Brax, and the Doctor? Are they okay?”
Romana nodded. “As good as can be expected, I suppose. Brax’s plan to protect his brother was successful, and the Doctor and his companions did come out relatively unscathed…”
She didn’t like the way Romana didn’t immediately extend her answer toward Braxiatel and how he had fared. She swallowed thickly. “And Brax?”
Romana exhaled. “He needs some time to come to terms with what happened.” She inhaled deeply and ran her hand up over her brow and across the top of her head to clutch at her brunette hair. “I wasn’t exactly kind to him when we returned.”
“how do you –“
“I was cruel,” Romana continued with a breath. “And I think I may have taken my anger on him too far.”
“It’s nothing a quick cuddle won’t fix,” she offered. “I know it’s the weekend and all, and the kids are home, but I can take them out and give the two of you some alone time for a couple of hours.”
“He’s gone,” Romana said sadly.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Gone,” she repeated with a sigh. She sat up and then wriggled backward to press her back against the pillows. “I should have expected, really, that it was more than he could handle and so he had to run. Brax is very much like his brother when things become too much for him to immediately comprehend.” She swallowed and looked down to the soft fabric covering her knees. “Despite all his projected self-assurance and smug attitude, Brax is just as insecure – if not moreso – than the rest of us.” She looked up and took a breath. “A lot of things happened to him last night; things that tore him down to the nakedness of his very soul. My rejection of him only added to the cacophony of pain he already felt.”
“Oh, Romana,” Rose breathed out. “I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
“It is,” she assured her in a voice that demanded no further question on it. “And I expect he needs some time to come to terms with his new circumstance.”
“A new body for him as well?” she questioned softly. It made sense that Brax probably went through a regeneration of his own. There would be no way that Rose could see him allowing Romana to get into any circumstance that would force her to regenerate.
“In a way, yes. I suppose you could say that,” Romana answered with her brows high on her forehead. “Same face, different man.”
Rose’s brows snatched downward into a confused frown. “I might need a power point presentation or a box of crayons for me to understand what you’re talking about,” she admitted. “A different kind of regeneration then?”
Romana petted Rose’s knee and gave her a smile. “We are a unique species,” she admitted with a faltering smile. “With as many adorable nuances to our physiology as you humans.”
From anyone else it would have been a condescending statement, but Rose took it very differently. She held open her arms and gave her a sympathetic gaze and smile. “Need a hug?”
“I need something,” Romana admitted. “Not entirely sure just what it is that I need, but yes. I’ll accept the offer of a moment of – oh how did Brax define it during that TV show we watched last month?”
“I believe he called it a…” she chuckeld and held up a finger to ask a moment. “Let me get this right and channel the old boy.” She put on a disdainful expression, thumbed at her nose and motioned the hold of a whiskey tumbler in her hand. Her voice fell to something close to masculine. “Well that’s a shameful girlie weeping huddle mass of makeup, hair, and fake lashes, isn’t it? Humans, I don’t know…”
Both of them snickered. Rose moved along the mattress to sit close to Romana’s side. “Closet snuggler he is, though,” Rose said with a firm nod of her head. “Loves a cuddle much more than he’ll admit.”
“Especially in his current incarnation,” Romana agreed softly. “We’ve shared experiences I never thought we’d share together. Experiences that his previous form considered too repugnant and messy to even think about engaging in.”
“I have been meaning to ask you about that,” Rose said with a giggle. “And am very curious to know if he’s anything like his brother…” she blew out a breath of admiration and awe. “Shall we compare the power of a naked Lungbarrow lad?” Rose watched Romana’s face redden and fall into an expression of horror and let out a laugh.
“You humans actually discuss things like this amongst each other in casual conversation?”
Romana shook her head. “Well, no,” she said with a crease in her brow. “I’d much rather not, if you don’t mind.” She looked ahead of her. “Let the discussions of the power of a naked Lungbarrow lad remain behind closed bedroom doors.”
“You really are no fun at all, are you?”
She shrugged. “I’m a Time Lady. All the fun was carefully carved out of the genetic sequence they used to loom me.” She drew in a deep breath and held it a moment. After a long exhale she drew in another breath and looked toward Rose. “How are you feeling, by the way?”
“Hungover,” she answered with a shrug. “Like I drank an entire bottle of Arcadian Whiskey and chased it with a bottle of Magnolia wine.” She lifted a knee to support her elbow to hold at one side of her head. “Though, I don’t recall emptying any bottles of booze last night. I do remember Brax stopped me from downing the really good stuff and handed me a bottle of wine.” She looked to her dresser, where a three-quarters full bottle of wine stood silently next to her hairbrush. “And I didn’t get to the bottom of that bottle.”
“Is the evening spotty in your mind, then?”
Rose inhaled deeply and shrugged. “If I try to remember it, I can. It’s just not at the forefront of my mind right now.” She leaned forward with a purse in her lips as her legs crossed to seat her in a relaxed Lotus position. She leaned her forearms on her knees. “I remember getting upset when I lost a good friend in the med capsule. I yelled at the Doctor and called him a few choice names.”
“Tried to drink Braxiatel’s hard stuff,” Romana added helpfully. “And managed a good deep swig of it before he was able to save both you and the bottle.”
She nodded and lifted her head to the ceiling. “Then I came up here with the wine.” She looked to the window and then to her bedroom door. “The Doctor came up, then. Came into my room…” Her eyes widened and her hands flew to her mouth. There was as much amusement as there was horror in her voice. “Oh my God, Romana. I kissed him! I kissed the old man…”
“I’m sure he’d be thrilled to hear you call him that.”
Her head fell into her hands. “God. I made a fool of myself last night, didn’t I?” She lifted her eyes up over her fingertips. “What else did I do?” Her eyes widened. “Oh, please tell me I didn’t try and sleep with him as well.”
“You don’t remember?”
Rose shook her head. There was panic in her eyes. “Please tell me I didn’t. Tell me I didn’t proposition him like that.”
“You didn’t,” she assured her. Her brows lifted curiously. “Although if you had, it would have made a marked difference on how the remainder of the evening went, I’d expect.” She turned on the mattress to set her feet on the floor beside the bed. She waited a moment, with her hands on the mattress either side of her. “My understanding is that you were furious with him, Rose, not willing to mate with him. Your rage was such that you ended up leaving the house in a furious state. Brax went after you.”
Rose gave a small smile. “Brax. Always lookin’ out for me, isn’t he?”
Romana let out a small huff. “Not always,” she admitted quietly. She pushed her hands into the mattress and leaned forward to give herself leverage to rise to a stand. She held her hands on her hips for a moment, her back to Rose, and let her mind drift over the myriad of events that happened over the past 24 hours. She forced a smile onto her face and turned on her heel. “Well, Rose. Perhaps it’s time we head downstairs to take tea and prepare to face our day. The children have been up for a while now. It’s time that we joined them.”
Rose’s brows pinched. Typically both of her children would wake her by leaping onto her bed demanding to be fed or to play. “They left me alone this morning?”
“We felt it best,” Romana said with a nod of her head. “You needed your rest. Carein has been tending to the children this morning and will likely assist you with their care for the remainder of the day until you’ve received full clearance form medical.”
Rose’s jaw fell and she watched Romana walk around the bed and head toward the door. “Clearance from who? From Medical?” She scrambled from the bed and onto the floor with little grace. “Romana,” she called out as she made chase down the stairs. “What happened to me that I needed medical assistance?”
Rose got caught up against the back of Romana, who had stopped short at the base of the stairs. The living room and hallway was crowded with a thick throng of Gallifreyan refugees, soldiers, medical personnel, and resistance members.
“What is the meaning of this?” Romana bellowed angrily as she pushed through the crowd of people toward the loving room. “The living quarters of Lady Rose is off limits to any non-approved personnel.”
Rose took a shocked look around herself. The rule that no one was to breach the kitchen door without express consent from Romana or Braxiatel had never been broken – well, except of course for the Doctor, but he saw rules as a challenge, not something to be adhered to – and so to see her home now completely overrun as it was, was jarring. Her own jaw gaped and flapped as she fought to find the words to either calm or agree with Romana’s ire.
Something that because very apparent quite quickly was the shell-shocked demeanour shared across them all. She saw tears, heard weeping, watched as stunned and unsteady Gallifreyans embraced and supported each other.
God. What had happened?
She pushed forward with sudden urgency. Without Braxiatel here to support her, Rose couldn’t let Romana face bad news on her own. She called out to the Time Lady as she pushed through the crowds. She finally made it to a small opening within the crowd and found Romana down on her knees, her delicate fingers twisting a dial on what Rose knew was a Gallifreyan radio set.
“Romana?” she asked gently, her voice a vow to offer any support she needed right now.
Romana lifted her head to Rose and followed her descent with her eyes as she fell onto her knees at her side. There was a tear in her eye and a small smile on her face. “It’s over,” she breathed out quietly. She took Rose’s hand in hers and gave it a tight squeeze. “It’s over.”
Rose hoped beyond all hope that what it was that was over was the war that had torn apart the people of Gallifrey, but she was far to scared to believe it. “What’s over?” she asked on a hoarse whisper.
Romana twisted to dial to put it at full volume, and then sat back on her haunches. Her hand didn’t leave the security of Rose’s hold at all, in fact she only held that hand a little tighter. “He did it, Rose. He saved us.”
The news report continued from the century’s old radio. Filled with hiss and static, the feed coming through from two hundred and fifty million light years away was a fairly jumbled mess of distorted Gallifreyan dialect. Rose considered herself fluent enough to survive comfortably and communicate without a translator, but she struggled to understand it through the static. Romana saw the pinch of struggle in Rose’s brow to understand it and began to softly and loosely translate it to her.
“They thought the battle lost,” Romana said against Roses shoulder, quiet to allow those listening to the radio would not have any for of distraction to the news. “The Daleks had broken through the barricades and taken Arcadia. Capsule fleets were struggling to hold the sky-trenches.” She drew in a breath to listen to more and exhaled just shortly. “Rassilon and the council … By the Gods, Rose. They were ready to abandon Gallifrey completely and consider the war lost.”
One of the soldiers thrust a fist into the air and let out a loud cry of victory. “Praise to the Lord Doctor,” he called out loudly to incite the rest of the group into cheering the same. “He is the saviour of us all.”
Rose held off on remarking how much that sounded like it would become a gospel chant. Instead she looked down to Romana, whose face was lit in an expression of pride and happiness. “What did the Doctor do?”
Romana swept her eyes toward Rose. “He saved it,” she answered. “he ended the war.”
Rose couldn’t hide the smile that spread across her face at the news. “How? How’d he do it?”
“I don’t know,” Romana sang out. “And right now, right at this very moment, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that our home, our people they’ve been saved. The war is over.” She threw her arms around Rose’s shoulders in an excited hug. “He did it, Rose. That crazy man in his blue box actually did it!”
There were tears of happiness, and of relief, a sentiment shared by every single Gallifreyan in this room and beyond.
“We need to celebrate,” Rose managed out after a minute of weeping congratulations with Romana. She wiped at her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt. “Let me. Let me try and put something together. I’m pretty sure the Southern Mountaineers have more than enough of their moonshine to share around…”
The hopeful sound inside his son’s voice, and his reddening eyes were close to his complete undoing. The Doctor’s hand shook as he moved it forward to press against the much smaller hand of the youngster against the flywire mesh that separated them.
His mind played the newly replaced memory of a glass-like barrier in between he and his family so many centuries ago. A memory that showed the red-rims and tears inside his child’s eyes as an expression of terror rather than the hope he was seeing now. Urgency and desperation rose within him quickly, and the Doctor tugged on the doorhandle of the locked screen door.
“Open up, open up, open up,” he chanted urgently. “Gods, please open.”
Carein quickly shook off her own lackadaisical effort at letting the Doctor into the house and stumbled to unlock the door under his urgent desperated urging. “Of course, Lord Doctor,” she breezed out breathily. “Just give me a moment to find the key.”
The Doctor wasn’t willing to wait a moment longer. With a snap of his hands and a flick of his coat, he pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. There was a look of determination on his face as he held the device down toward the handle. His teeth grit together as he activated the device and heard the snick of the lock releasing.
His child was out of the door before he had a chance to open it himself. Mark immediately shoved open the door and weaved around it to launch himself into his father’s arms. The force of impact was such that the Doctor stumbled backward awkwardly, but he managed to remain on his feet to embrace the young boy. He had Mark off his feet and spun them in a twirl on the doorstep.
“Please don’t be just another visitor Dad,” Mark pleaded against his ear. “Tell me that you’re home. Please.”
“I’m home, Mark,” he vowed against his ear as he finally collapsed to his knees, his child held firm against his chest. “I’m home.”
“Promise me,” he whimpered against his cheek as he shifted his arms more tightly around his father’s neck. “Promise me that, Dad. Don’t wanna say good bye again.”
He made a further vow against his son’s ear in a fiercely passionate and hoarse whisper. His eyes lifted to the doorway, and to the woman who watched the reunion of father and son with obviously misty eyes. At her hip, a smaller child waited. A beautiful young girl with golden blonde hair and huge blue eyes. Oh, she may have been years younger than the woman he’d met on Messaline, but there was no mistaking that little pout and fathomless gaze. Still on his knees and holding his son, he held out his arm to her.
“Alirra, darling,” he cooed. “Papa’s home.”
Her curious eyes blew wide and her tiny little pout of wonder stretched into a wide smile. She squealed out for her Papa and fled out the door. A little tiny blonde comet, she collided hard with her father’s side. His cheek was quickly covered with soggy kisses from a tiny pair of lips, and his thigh became the trampoline for his daughter’s excited bouncing. Oh, he knew that leg was going to feel a considerable amount of bruising and pain from it over the next couple of days, but right at this moment, he couldn’t care less about it. It was worth it to see this adorable little girl so excited to see him.
He was graced with a couple of minutes to enjoy this tender reunion, but only a couple. Carein petted both children on their shoulders. “Okay Mark, Alirra. Let your father breathe and get back on his feet.”
Mark pulled back dutifully. Alirra, however, she shook her head and grunted in the negative, and circled her arms tightly around the Doctor’s neck. When Carein attempted to pry her away again, the Doctor waved her off with a quick flick of his hand. “It’s okay – I’m sorry, your name?”
“Carein,” she answered with a smile. “I assist her Lady Rose and his Lord Cardinal in …” She smiled. “Well, in a lot of things, actually.” She held down her hand to offer to assist him in getting to his feet. Alirra wasn’t quite as light as she looked. “Let me help you up.”
“It’s okay,” he said with a grunt as he eased himself up on knees that had near locked themselves in place on the cement. “Think I’ve got it.” He juggled his daughter on his hip to get the both of them more comfortable, and then looked to Carein with curiosity. “So you assist in many things? Are you a Nanny? A Housekeeper, perhaps?”
“Processing mainly,” she answered with a shrug. “As the refugees arrive, the ladies and I ensure they are properly processed and homed within one of the residential travel capsules in Lady Rose’s yard.” She pursed her lips. “When Rose is working with the medical teams in the Med Capsule, and we are at a break with our refugee cases, then I perform other duties as assigned by the Cardinal or Lady Romana.”
“I’m sorry?” he asked with wide eyes. “Who and what?” His eyes narrowed with question. “Refugees? Medical Capsule? Really, what are you talking about?”
She gestured toward the front door. There was an expression of unsureness in her eyes. Her voice was slow and careful. “I think that perhaps you might want to come inside, Lord Doctor. It appears that you aren’t wholly aware of what your Mate has been doing in your absence.” She walked to the door. “And just what importance it has to the Gallifreyan people.”
“Well this does sound interesting.” He looked to his daughter, who kept poking at his sideburn with a pointy little finger. “What has your mother been up to, darling? Hmmm?”
“While you were saving the planet,” Carein answered him as she pulled open the door. “Your mate has been helping save her people.”
He scratched at his sideburn with his free hand and followed behind her. “Yeah. Not quite sure how successful I was in my last attempt.” He sighed. “Although I’d like to think that we succeeded and that Gallifrey burns no more with the fires of war.”
She paused in the doorway and turned back to face him. “Lord Doctor,” she breathed out with a smile. “The war is over, and Gallifrey lives.” Her head tilted to one side with honest reverence toward him. “You saved it. You ended the war.”
His face lengthened with hope. “Really?” He grabbed her arm with a shaking hand. “Are you sure that it’s over? That it’s really over, and Gallifrey survived. The Daleks, they’re gone?”
“Yes, Sir,” she said with a wink in her eye as she tipped her ear toward the interior of the home. “Can’t you hear them, Lord Doctor? Can’t you hear them chanting and cheering?”
The Doctor quickly walked in through the doorway. His eyes were wide and his jaw slack as he took in the bustling and busy foyer and hallway. Men and women cheered, whooped, and sang in victory as they held up glasses filled with aromatic spirits. He stooped to let his daughter down on the floor and kissed her on top of her head. “Go play, darling,” he urged her gently with a light pat on her bottom. At her hesitation, he kissed the tip of her nose. “I’m not going anywhere.”
He stretched to his full height and slid his hands into his trouser pockets. “There are quite a few people here,” he noted with a lift in his brow. He leaned lightly to one side, toward Carein. “Just how many, exactly?”
“Five residential capsules that are equipped to handle twenty five thousand each. Medical capsule has a capacity of about the same, although it’s not used for residence.” She thought a little. “Staff, not including the Ladies Romana, Rose, nor The Cardinal, is fifty-strong in processing, seventy five in medical.”
“With exception to Lady Rose, yes. All of them from Gallifrey.”
He pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “So I never was the last, was I?” he remarked mainly toward himself. “Hidden in a little home in Chiswick, thousands upon thousands of them lived.” He shook his head with a smile. “I wish I’d known about this place.”
“Thought you did,” she remarked. “A younger incarnation of yours – your warrior incarnation – was here only yesterday.” She shrugged. “Memory gaps, Lord Doctor. You might want to have someone in medical assess you before this outpost shuts down.”
“Nah,” he drawled. “No need for that.” His quiet analysis of the hallway ended when a soldier up near the end held up his glass and called out to him to join in the festivities. He smiled gratefully and waved a hand to decline the offer.
“You really should join them,’ Carein urged him. “This is your victory.”
“It’s theirs,” he corrected her. “It’s all of theirs. This was a battle fought by all of us, not just me.” He smirked with a little bit of self-pride kicking in. “I just ended it.”
“After centuries on the front line, yourself.”
He blew out a breath. “Yes. Yes, you’re right.” His eyes fell upon the new incarnation of one of his oldest friends. Romana gazed at him with a smile from the back wall of the living room. She dipped her head in a bow of thanks, and then gestured toward a door beyond the kitchen. He assumed she was gesturing toward when Rose might be hiding.
“Are you quite sure you don’t want to take a moment with the soldiers, Sir?” Carein asked him.
“Later,” he breathed out. “Right now…” He gave her a desperate look of pleading. “Right now I just want to see my wife. Where is she?”
“Of course you do,” she said softly, her voice full of understanding. “She’s speaking with the medical teams as they prepare to wrap up operations. Come with me.” She walked forward, grinning, and then laughing as she was drawn into spins and twirls from Soldiers and refugees lined up along the walls. “Not now, my Lords,” she chided with humour. “Just because your job is done, doesn’t mean I’m not still busy.”
The Doctor kept his head low and his hands deep inside his trouser pockets in a somewhat vain attempt to remain inconspicuous and unrecognisable. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as good at hiding as he had thought, and too many times he was the victim of a hard slap on the back of the shoulder from the other men. Despite the hallway being relatively short, and the trek only needing to take about five seconds from door to kitchen, the constant stoppage from weaving and curling around the throng of people, and having to stop to accept and join in with cheers, it took a goof minute to make it back. The Doctor wondered if he was still the butt of the universe’s joke, and that it was being deliberate in keeping him away from his wife for as long as possible – if only to see him spontaneously combust from the frustration of it.
Eventually Carein was able to lead him into the Kitchen and toward a capsule that had been carefully parked just beyond the doorway. She stood off to one side and gestured for him to enter. He drew in a deep breath and adjusted the seat of his tie. He then smoothed the sides of his hair and ruffled the front of it to coax it to full messy attention. “How do I look?” he asked almost pathetically.
Romana’s voice chuckled in his ear from over his shoulder. “You look fine,” she assured him. “Not nervous in the slightest.”
He spun in place and rewarded her light tease with a wide and toothy smile. “Romana!”
He rubbed at the back of his head. “I’d really like to take a moment to have a bit of a chat and find out just what you managed to pull off here. How you managed to do it. How unbelievably proud I am of you that you did it…”
“But that can all wait until after you’ve seen Rose,” she finished for him. “I know. I understand.” Her eyes flicked to the doorway. A smile stretched across her face at a cheer about the Doctor being the saviour of their planet. “Well, now, Gallifrey’s saviour. Don’t let me keep you waiting. Go get her.”
His grin only widened. “Oh yes.” He turned back to the doorway and drew in a deep and grounding breath. He could do this. He was perfectly controlled and respectable, and perfectly able to properly restrain himself until he could get Rose alone…
…And then he’d completely snog her senseless. Well. Snog and maybe a little bit more than just snogging when the lights went out. Or maybe he’d leave the lights on. Rose was always incredibly beautiful to watch in those very intimate moments they shared.
Those kinds of memories flooded his mind as he stepped into the doorway of the medical ship and he may have let out the smallest of pathetic peeps at the graphic imagery his mind provided him with. That small peep caught the attention of at least thirty people wearing scrubs and uniforms in a variety of colours and shades.
“Yep,” he managed to croak out under their sudden scrutiny. “Probably not a good time to remember that, was it?” He let his eyes shift across the group in search of her. His hearts pounded hard against his ribcage as he began to finally accept that this was it – that their separation was finally at an end. That in mere moments, he’d have his wife in his arms.
The reunion he’d pictured a million different ways over the years. The scenario he was most fixated on was the rush of them toward each other, their arms open wide to accept the inevitable bone-crushing embrace. He’d hold her up above him, and lift his head to watch her over him, her head thrown backward as she pealed a laugh so brilliant that it would sing in his ears for the rest of this life, and across every remaining regeneration he had. And then, once he finally set her feet back on the ground, he’d take her hand in his. Take her hand, lean into her with a smile, and say “run”. And together they’d flee into the closest cubby hole of privacy that they could find, so he could wrap himself completely around her, crush his mouth against hers, and curl her toes with the most soul-searing kiss he was capable of…
…Anything else that filled his mind post snog he needed to censor. Medical Capsules were tricky beasts to think in. Telepathic and then some. The machines and their pilots.
So for now he’d stick with the soul-searing, toe-curling kiss against the wall as his go-to mental image.
He heard her laughter, and his head snapped quickly in her direction. Immediately, his breath fled and his brain began to fail him. The image of a happy go lucky fairy-tale reunion fell from his consciousness to be replaced by the hottest sensation of territorialism he’d ever felt.
Rose was leaned up against a gurney in the middle of the room. Her hands were held either side of her hips, and she clutched at the mattress with a tight grip as she chatted and laughed with a very handsome – and very young – Time Lord medic who leaned on the gurney beside her. Whatever that marauding male was saying to her was so brilliantly amusing to her, that Rose would lean completely forward in laughter.
He stood still for a moment and simply watched her. For too long she’d just been a suppressed memory in his mind, the one that got away, or the image of regret for an action not taken, or a decision made wrong. He didn’t want to do that anymore – to make a wrong decision, or to let her walk away from him ever again.
With another peal of laughter from the target of his affection, the Doctor clenched his fists at his sides and made a deliberate and fast stride forward. There was no longer any form of deviation, nor wold he let anyone take his attention away from the task at hand. The stalk was only ten strides, but the distance felt so much greater than that. His breathing deepened, each breath lengthening with each step forward. His hands lifted slowly in front of him until, when he was finally directly in front of her, his fingers were able to immediately slide across her cheeks. His movement was fluid, his forward momentum flawless as his fingers stroked her cheeks and his face approached hers. She barely registered it was him, didn’t even get to say his name, before his lips were upon hers. He dipped his head to one side to draw her into a deep connection and inhaled a deep hard breath through his nose as one arm snapped tightly around her waist to pull her close.
Rose was so startled by his quick approach that she didn’t immediately respond or reciprocate his passionate embrace. Her eyes were wide open and her breath held completely. Her grip on the mattress of the gurney tightened. The smallest of surprised peeps flew from her mouth into his, and the Doctor quickly pulled back.
His eyes searched hers as he stroked her cheekbone with his thumb. Panic flooded him at that moment that he may have triggered a bond-guard. The last time he had kissed her, he’d done that.
“Did that hurt you?” he asked worriedly. His lips were still only a fraction of an inch away from hers, and he desperately hoped that she would say it was all good so he could go right back to curling her toes’
“D-Doctor?” she peeped out with question.
He rested his nose against hers and smiled with his lips against hers. “It’s me,” he assured her, although unnecessary. Of course, he was the Doctor. Who else would he be? “The one and only.”
“You – You’re here,” she breathed out with quickening breaths. “Really here?”
“Yes, honey,” he purred cheekily. He circled his other arm around her waist. “I’m home.”
Her arms lifted and very timidly circled around his neck. Her fingers toyed with the short hairs at the back of his neck. “It’s really you,” she breathed out almost inaudibly. She moved to pull away but found herself held tight in his arms. “The kids,” she said almost excitedly. “I have to find them for you. Have they seen you, yet?”
“They got to me first,” he said with a chuckle as he heard the pair of them squeal and bound into the room. He gave them a quick look, and then looked back to her. “You had to come in second to them. That okay?”
She nodded, the tip of her nose bumping against his. “Yeah,” she answered. “Just as long as I get a placing, yeah?”
“Always,” he vowed. He looked into her eyes with an expression of absolute and utter reverence. “My hearts beat for you, Rose,” he vowed fiercely. “Of course you do.”
“Say that again,” she said wit a hiccup in her voice.
He gave her a smile. There was part of him that really wanted to give her a tease about just what it was she wanted him to repeat, but now really wasn’t the time to do that. Not once in his body had he ever been able to actually say the words out loud to her. Now wasn’t the time to play with it.
“My hearts beat for you,” he repeated fiercely. He repeated it in his own language to further drive it home to her, and then spoke three words in her language that meant the same.
“I love you too,” she whispered in reply. “Doctor.”
He should have asked, but really, after declarations like that to each other, what was the point? He shifted his head forward to capture her lips once more. This time there was no hesitation. Rose immediately responded with a part in her lips, a sigh in her throat, and a slide of her arms around his neck.
He ignored the cheers that erupted across the medical deck of the ship. He ignored come of the more suggestive hoots and hollers from the doorway from soldiers who had partaken in perhaps a little too much fragrant liquor.
All he wanted to focus on was the touch of Rose’s mind against his, of the shifting of their mouths against each other, and of the knowledge that finally – after centuries of pain, loss, loneliness, war, and struggle – he was finally home.
Where they went from here was going to be an exciting adventure to embark on. This time their path would be entirely of their choosing – and it was going to be brilliant.