“Morning Rose,” Sarah yawned sleepily as she padded into the attic. “Morning Mr. Smith.”
“Good morning, Sarah Jane,” Mr. Smith chimed in his usual distinct manner.
“Hi Sarah,” Rose yawned. Sarah smiled and came over to ruffle her hair.
“Up all night studying?” She asked sympathetically. Rose looked up from the desk and slowly peeled the piece of paper off of her face, inhaling deeply of the proffered mug of tea when it was offered and cradling the mug in her hands.
“Four years of school, and I’ve just started the five for my doctorate, and U.N.I.T. want me to analyze that wormhole to the metal manta ray planet,” she mumbled, taking a large swig of her beverage. “Mm. Luke left early for school. Wanted to meet up with Clyde, Maria, and Rani to go over the study packet for the test today in biology.”
“Clyde wanted to study?”
“Correction: Maria threatened to reveal something embarrassing to Rani should Master Clyde not make an appearance,” K-9 barked as he wheeled around the corner of the central column of the attic. “Blackmail.”
“Hush you,” Sarah sighed with a soft chuckle. She fell silent for a few moments, merely gazing out the window into the garden, before turning back to Rose. “Are any of them... you know... here?” She asked quietly. Rose did a quick recon and then shook her head in the negative.
She’d told Sarah within two months of moving in about her ghost problem, an explanation that Sarah both was inclined to believe and felt answered the questions she’d had about some of Rose’s knowledge. They’d bonded quickly upon her realizing they had a common acquaintance... of sorts... and Sarah would sometimes talk about the Doctor when she knew one of him wasn’t currently in the same room as them. This morning was, apparently, no exception.
“I just wanted to know what sort of... relationship... you have with him,” she began awkwardly. Rose blinked. This was not going the way she had initially expected it to. “You see, to speak of him with such an affection that I feel it goes beyond pure friendship. I- I don’t mean to pry, it’s just the journalist in me. Keep scratching at an itch until it goes away.”
“I’ve known him since I was six months old,” Rose began. “But I never saw him as a paternal figure, because no one else could see him. He started out as my childhood imaginary friend- the first three of him mind, it was like I was trying to collect the set or something- and as I got older it developed into a real and true friendship. We’re the best of friends now, all of him and me, despite them being ghosts.” Her cheeks stained a light shade of red and Sarah gaped slightly.
“You and he aren’t...?”
“There was some... mutual yearning, around the time his fifth incarnation showed up,” Rose admitted, forcing herself to make eye contact and taking a large gulp of tea for liquid courage. “I was too busy for anything to be pursued, looking for a job and a uni after graduating. And waiting for my A-Level results to come in was... stressful. But um-“ she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and the blush deepened further- “a month or so after his sixth incarnation showed up, things moved beyond platonic. I wouldn’t say they were romantic per se, just overtly-platonically affectionate maybe?”
“But now, four and a half years later...” Sarah summarized slowly, her eyes widening slightly. Her gaze flicked to the pictures Rose had nicked of all his incarnations from U.N.I.T. and traveled over all seven, lingering on his third and fourth with affectionate nostalgia, before returning back to Rose.
“I think they’re afraid to say anything because- well- they’re dead, those versions of him anyway, and I’m too uncertain of what it is exactly we have to press? But I’ll get a soft ethereal kiss on the forehead, the cheek, the side of the mouth, a ghostly hand brushing my bangs out of my face or fingers trailing featherlight across my cheek... tiny terms of endearment none of them had ever used with me before now like ‘love’ or ‘darling...’”
“You’re confused, aren’t you?” Sarah asked sympathetically. Rose huffed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes, and nodded with a sort of tired long-standing exasperation. “Do you love him back?”
Rose opened her mouth hesitantly to answer when a loud rapping of knuckles on the door broke up their conversation. She checked her pocket watch and swore loudly in Gallifreyan as she ran for her bedroom. Sarah shook her head with a soft smile and moved to open the door.
“Mickey, Martha,” she said politely. “Rose will be down... well, sometime I expect.”
“Studied through the night again?” Martha asked.
“I keep sayin’ she’ll burn out if she keeps that up,” Mickey grumbled. He pecked Martha on the cheek and stepped inside; by now all four of them were well-versed in this song and dance routine.
Martha’s new flat was nearby, and she was getting it ready as best she could while Mickey closed out the lease on his own flat. They’d married just that summer with a sudden and unexpected elopement after a whirlwind romance and still had numerous loose ends to tie up two months later, but they were progressing toward fully unified living at a steady clip. The pair took the Underground into Ealing every morning and then carpooled into work with Rose, because she was the only one with a car.
Bessie sat proudly in the driveway next to Sarah’s little green transport in all her resplendent glory, tech still fully intact. She had been in the U.N.I.T. motor pool for a good long while; the Doctor had installed a special failsafe and no one could get her started, but since he’d shown her the trick command had said she could keep the plucky antique car. Mickey, try as he might as a base mechanic, had no idea how she did it.
Martha had recently finished medical school and had been begging for a job. She’d run into Mickey, who introduced her to Rose and Sarah, and quite suddenly she was Dr. Jones - later to be Dr. Jones-Smith - working for U.N.I.T.
Recently, the schedule had altered with Rose’s hectic study schedule. Mickey now stalked into the house to berate her for not being on time through her bedroom door like the older brother she had come to see him as growing up, and she would holler abuse back. Martha and Sarah would remain at the door pleasantly discussing the latest updates in their lives, and then they would be off.
This morning was no different.
Kate, Malcolm, and Osgood were all elbow deep in a new ‘toy’ when Rose walked in that morning, and with a hum of curiosity she suited up to join them. Seven curious ghosts peered curiously over her shoulders and were even so bold as to climb the equipment to get a better look, and her frustration with this was tempered by the soft murmured words of affection or gentle affectionate touches all of them bestowed upon her throughout the late morning and afternoon. Six was especially guilty of pecking her on the cheek as he walked past, and the newest addition - the seventh one - seemed determined to prove he fit right in with the rest of the bunch like there was no tomorrow.
No shortage of endearments were withheld from her. Loving words rolled off his lips with elongated and rumbling ‘r’s and when he smiled it was with this mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Of course, she could see him go extremely dark - they all could, if pushed far enough - but he was the darkest yet. This was, oddly enough, more thrilling than chilling and Rose found herself asking not by any means for the first time why it was the electric pulse of the Storm attracted her so.
It was trouble with a capital T.
Maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t entirely real. Yes, the affection and romance was there, but there was no true physical closeness in their relationship. It was the very definition of ‘long distance’ in a way only Patrick Swayze could understand, and that made it less - ha! - tangible.
But she did, really. In answer to Sarah’s question that morning. There was no good way to define how, or in what way, but she did. She loved him. All of him. Even when he was being a pain and arguing with his other selves-
...Speaking of which...
«Knock it off!» Rose ordered in Gallifreyan, not bothering to turn around and check if she was being obeyed. At best, she’d bought herself five minutes of peace.
The soft tap of the Doctor’s umbrella against the wood floor of the attic made Rose smile slightly as she flipped through her coursework that evening. Soft, quiet moments between one of them at a time seemed to be something they had all come to the conclusion was a necessity, and judging by the frequency this happened it was something they craved. She herself looked forward more and more often to such moments and tonight was no exception.
A soft ghostly kiss to the top of her forehead was the signature greeting from this particular version, and Rose hummed as she smiled up at him.
“Fancy a little stargazing?” He asked quietly, nodding to the large telescope in the window. Biting her lip to hide a grin, she nodded and rose from her seat to join him.
They sat side by side on the window ledge and took turns using the scope; Rose would pick a star and then have him tell her about the planets and people belonging to it. It was a past time they’d begun only just recently, just the pair of them, but...
She rather liked it.