That first night was the toughest. Neither of them quite knew what to do with themselves, or with each other. Rose fumbled over her words as she explained she didn’t have an extra bed for him in her flat, and would he want to instead stay at her parents’ until she had one delivered? (He said no.) She apologized again and offered to take the couch, as it would be more suited for her five foot frame than his six foot one. (Again, he said no.)
He desperately wanted to ask if he could simply sleep in her bed, too, with her, beside her, holding her in a way he had been dreaming of for years. Now that he had her back, he was loath to let her go again, and even the prospect of a few hours away from her so that they could sleep made his stomach ache.
But he instead assured her enthusiastically that the couch would be absolute fine, perfect, brilliant, molto bene, etc. She gave him a shy smile as she set extra blankets and pillows on the sofa, and bade him goodnight.
“Rose?” he said, reaching for her wrist before she could disappear down the hallway.
Her breath left her lungs in a soft whoosh as he tugged her into his arms. She was stiff for just a moment before she melted into the embrace and wove her arms around his waist. The Doctor held her closer, relishing her soft warmth and the feeling of her heart beating alongside his newly-singular heart. He buried his nose in her hair, and beneath the metallic tang and slightly oily odor from her not having showered in probably twenty-four hours, there was that comforting smell that the Doctor never could define, but one he always associated with Rose and home. His pillows on the TARDIS had smelled like that for months after Canary Wharf, and he mourned the day they smelled more like him than they did of her.
“Love you,” he whispered, pressing a lingering kiss to her temple, relieved to be able openly show her the affection he’d kept from her and from himself for all those years.
She didn’t say it back, but she must have seen the poorly-concealed hurt in his eyes, because she cupped his cheeks in her hands and softly stroked his cheekbones for a moment before she lifted herself up onto her tiptoes to brush her lips across his. It was a chaste kiss, one he’d seen her give to her mates all the time, but it was better than utter rejection, and he would take that as a win.
“Night, Doctor,” she whispered when she dropped back down to normal height.
“Sleep well,” he murmured, trying to swallow the acidic feeling in his throat as she turned and walked away.
He continued to watch her until she closed her bedroom door behind her with a soft snick. He then seemed to deflate all at once, and collapsed on the sofa.
What a day.
He was so exhausted, and realized with a start that he hadn’t slept in quite a few days. Not since…not since before the events on Midnight.
The Doctor warily scrubbed his hands over his face, roughly kneading his eyes. They were burning and heavy, and he knew he would have to sleep sooner or later. This human body wouldn’t be able to survive on weeks of sleeplessness like his Time Lord body could.
He sighed again. Best bite the bullet. He toed off his trainers and socks, shucked his suit jacket and trousers, leaving himself in his boxer briefs and t-shirt. He reclined onto the sofa, cursing rubbish 21st century Earth furniture, cursing his tall body, cursing the fact that he hadn’t had the courage to ask Rose if he could have slept beside her.
He groaned as he wriggled around, trying to find the least uncomfortable position he could, but knowing he would probably awake with a sore neck and back in the morning.
Finally, he found a position that was reasonable enough to fall asleep in. He hugged the extra pillow tightly, inhaling that lovely Rose-smell, as he tried to calm his racing thoughts enough to fall asleep.
Rose! It was Rose!
Wait. What was Rose doing on the bus? Why was she here? How was she here?
The Doctor shoved aside his questions, and allowed the utter relief to flow through him. His hearts stuttered in his chest as he looked her up and down. She was beautiful. His memories had not done her justice.
His hearts felt fit to bursting as he rose to stand and scoop her up into a hug and maybe a snog…
…But he was stuck. His muscles were frozen. He tugged and pulled and screamed at his body, but he was locked, crouched merely five feet away from his beloved, who was turning and walking away.
Panicked, he tried to call out for her, but his voice got stuck in his throat. He could feel the syllables of her name bobbing in his Adam’s apple as he tried with all his might to shout for her.
She finally turned to him, and he tried pleading with her that something was seriously wrong and he needed her to help him. But it wasn’t Rose. It was Sky, and she was staring at him with those cold, lifeless eyes as she started speaking to him. He could hear himself parroting her words of disgust as she told him how worthless and useless he was, and why would anyone like Rose ever want anyone like him.
Sky crept closer and close to him, verbally berating him, with him echoing the ugly words. Closer and closer she walked, until her hands were on his shoulders and she was shaking him, telling him that Rose was gone and never coming back as she shouted his name again and again…
His muscles unclenched and he gasped in a breath. He thrashed desperately, needing to get away from Sky, needing to protect the other passengers. He felt his flailing knuckles connect with something sharp and solid, and he heard a gasping exhale. But it was dark, and he couldn’t see where Sky was, and for a horrifying moment, he thought he was blind.
His chest ached and his lungs burned, and he panicked further when he realized his right heart had stopped. His head spun as he tried to sit up and move away from the hands that were touching him, grabbing him, pulling him towards the fatal rays of the Midnight sun…
“Doctor, stop! Please, stop! Please! It’s me! It’s just me!”
Wait. That wasn’t Sky. It sounded like…like Rose. But it couldn’t be! That was impossible! Rose was gone, she was…
The Doctor finally stilled and took a glance around. His eyes had adjusted, and in the faint light streaming from down the hallway, he saw the small London flat, and he saw the owner of the flat.
“Rose?” he said timidly, his heart hammering in his ribcage.
She was crouched in front of him, looking at him warily, with a hand covering her left eye. Wait. Why was she covering her eye? Unless…
“Oh, God,” he whispered, flicking on a nearby lamp as he urged her hand away from her face. Beneath her palm, the skin covering her cheekbone was bright red and puffy.
“Shit!” he gasped, leaping up from the sofa, scrambling to free himself from the mess he’d made of the blankets. “Shit shit shit!”
He bolted in the direction of her kitchen, hoping she had an ice pack or a package of frozen peas or something. There were no peas, and no ice, but there was a half-eaten carton of Ben and Jerry’s. He grabbed the ice cream and a towel, and as an afterthought, a spoon, before he rushed back into the front room.
Rose was in virtually the same position as the one he had left her in, except she was now sitting on her bum with her face in her hands and her shoulders were shaking. His heart sank. He’d made her cry. He’d hurt her and made her cry.
“Oh, bollocks,” he muttered, rushing over to her. He fell to her knees in front of her, his hands hovering tentatively over her shoulders but not touching. “Rose? Rose, please. I didn’t mean it! You know I didn’t mean to hit you! I swear! The last thing I would ever want is to hurt you, Rose, you must know that! I brought you ice. Well. Ice cream. For you cheek. Or if you’d rather eat it. You always did love ice cream. Always cheered you up. Please, love, let me take a look. I need to make sure I didn’t do any damage to your eye. I’m so sorry, Rose, so sorry!”
“Doctor, breathe,” she said, having looked up part way through his frantic apology. Her cheeks were splotchy and her eyes were red and watery, but they were bright, like the way they looked whenever he’d made her laugh so hard she cried. “I’m fine, I swear. You didn’t hurt me. Breathe.”
The Doctor inhaled deeply at her request, not realizing how much his rapid-fire speech had interfered with his oxygen consumption.
“Are you sure?” he asked anxiously, tilting her head towards the light to inspect her cheek. It was still bright red and puffy, but didn’t look nearly as bad as his mind’s eye had remembered.
“I’m fine,” she assured, swiping at her running eyes. “S’just…it’s you. It’s really you.”
He was a bit taken aback.
“What do you mean? Of course it’s me,” he said, nonplussed.
Rose looked guarded and hesitant once more, and the Doctor wanted to kick himself. Bloody hell, what had he done to make her unsure again?
“Remember that night after the Dalek?” she asked quietly, her eyes scanning his face.
Was this a test? Was she testing him to see if he actually had the memories he claimed he did?
Well, if so, he would pass with flying colors.
“Course I do,” he drawled, cringing at the memory. Rose had found him in the middle of a nightmare, and he’d clipped her in the ribs with his elbow before finally waking up. “Sorry. Ribs are a bit sturdier than a face, though. Are you sure you’re all right. Want to put the ice cream on it? It’ll keep the swelling down.”
“S’all right, don’t worry about me,” she said softly. “Want to talk about it?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m fine,” he said automatically.
Her face shuttered off and she pursed her lips into a thin line as she pushed herself up off the floor.
“Right,” she finally said, offering a tight smile. “Well, seeing as you’re all right, I’d best get back to bed. Night, Doctor.”
Shit shit shit.
“Rose, wait!” he called, lifting himself from the floor.
She turned around, and she looked so tired and wary, and he didn’t know what to say. His stupid voice wouldn’t work and he was sure he looked like a gawping idiot.
Rose had chosen to stay here with him. She had stayed because he had finally told her how he felt, and had offered himself to her fully and completely. Honesty. He needed to be honest with Rose if he had any hope of earning and keeping her trust in this relationship.
“Can you just…” he trailed off helplessly, and flopped down heavily onto the sofa. “Sit with me?”
She regarded him for half a second before carefully settling into the spot beside him. She cuddled into his side, and unexpected warmth fluttered through his chest. A happy humming noise resonated from his chest as he tucked her closer and nuzzled at her hair.
How to even begin? The memories and images of the dream were still so vivid in his mind, and he shuddered as he flexed his fingers against her hip. She felt so warm and soft beside him, and though they were both half-naked, he relished the closeness rather than be afraid of it.
Rose leaned forward to grab the carton of ice cream and the spoon, before helping herself.
“Want some?” she asked after slurping the first bite from the spoon.
“What flavor is it?” he asked, even as he held his hand out for the utensil.
She loaded the spoon for him as she said, “Choco pretzel crisp crunch. It’s vanilla-chocolate mix with bits of chocolate covered pretzels and crisps mixed in. Never had this flavor back home. It’s one of my favorites.”
The Doctor eagerly popped the cold treat into his mouth, and moaned at the taste. The salty-sweet blend was absolutely delightful.
He passed the spoon back to Rose, and they both traded off bites until the ice cream was finished and the silence no longer felt as heavy.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Rose finally whispered after she set the empty carton back on the coffee table. “S’okay. I understand.”
“But I want to, Rose,” the Doctor said earnestly, turning slightly to face her. He absently toyed with strands of her damp hair, enjoying the fresh rosemary and eucalyptus scent that wafted to his nose when he tousled her hair just so. “I want to be able to talk to you and share things with you…but it’s hard. Over a thousand years I’ve spent running from place to place to ignore my emotions…”
“A thousand?” she interrupted, pulling back slightly to look at him. “You said you were nine hundred! Unless…did a hundred years really pass for you?”
She looked so worried and heartbroken, and he cursed himself for the slip.
“No, Rose, it was only about three,” he assured.
“Then why’d you tell me you were nine hundred?” Rose asked curiously.
“Truthfully, I don’t know my exact age,” he answered. “I keep making it up, to be honest. And secondly, I didn’t want you to know I was that old.”
“Nine hundred was all right, but a thousand was just too much?” she teased, and the Doctor’s heart fluttered in his chest.
“Pretty much,” he conceded with a sheepish grin. “It’s sort of like when your Mum refused to accept she was forty.”
“Oi!” Rose exclaimed, poking him in the ribs, but she was giggling, and the Doctor couldn’t help the goofy grin that split his face.
They settled into a thoughtful silence as they both watched rogue drips of chocolate leak down the carton of ice cream.
“You should get back to bed,” the Doctor said softly when he heard Rose stifle a yawn against his shoulder.
“M’fine,” she mumbled, her slurred speech belying her words.
“C’mon, to bed with you,” he said, jostling her with the arm she was lying on.
“What about you?” she asked as she stood sluggishly. “You still need to sleep, and I don’t want you having another nightmare.”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “Promise. Centuries of experience in dealing with bad dreams. I’ll be fine.”
He smiled brightly, even as he knew he wouldn’t risk falling back to sleep tonight. Her eyes roamed his face, making him feel like she could read his every thought. He’d always felt that way around her, and he wasn’t used to the intensity. So he looked away and his eyes landed upon the mess they’d made. He leaped up from the sofa and gathered the empty tub of ice cream, the spoon, and the towel and fled to the kitchen. He tossed the spoon into the sink and the towel on the counter, and began opening doors and cabinets at random, hoping to find the rubbish bin.
“You could sleep with me?”
The Doctor let out an undignified yelp, not expecting to hear her voice so close to him.
“What?” he squeaked.
“Bed,” she said. She reached behind him to open a cabinet door that revealed the garbage and wordlessly took the ice cream container from him to chuck it out. “With me. To sleep. If that’ll help?”
The Doctor opened and closed his mouth wordlessly for a few moments, before swallowing the words that wouldn’t come and simply nodding his head. Rose nodded too, and she took him by the hand and led him to her bedroom.
Her bedroom was not what he was expecting. It was sparsely decorated in tones of blue and gray, colder colors made warmer by the dark wood of the furniture. Gone, it seemed, were the days of the pinks and reds, but the Doctor still thought this room suited her.
Rose wriggled under the duvet on the side of the bed nearest the door, and patted the pillow beside her in invitation. He didn’t need telling twice. With a grace and ease he didn’t feel, the Doctor slipped beneath the blankets with her, the heat from her close body already making him feel too warm. It was a good warm, though, and he desperately wanted more of it.
“Can I–?” He lay down on his back and opened his arm, hoping she would realize what he wanted, and hoping she wanted it too. He breathed out a soft sigh as she rolled onto her side and tucked her head against the dip of his shoulder as her hand rested lightly on the ridge of his ribs. He pressed his lips to her hair and stroked at her back, overjoyed and in awe that this was now his life.
They lay together silently for several minutes, neither of them saying anything, and neither of them sleeping. Rose traced random doodles across his stomach as he traced words of love in his native language across her back.
“Midnight,” he finally whispered, and the fingers that were strumming up and down his ribs froze for just a second before returning their trek back down the bones. “It’s a beautiful planet. Deadly though. It orbits an X-tonic star. Kill you dead in less than a second. So of course humans decided it would be the perfect plant for a leisure palace.”
Rose snorted softly and her hand stilled on the upstroke to rest on his chest over his heart.
“What happened?” she asked softly.
The Doctor closed his eyes against the memories of being a prisoner in his own body.
“I went on a bus tour by myself to see the planet’s renowned sapphire waterfalls,” he said. “And… Well… It all went a bit wrong.”
He spoke softly and mostly to the top of her head about the fiasco of a trip, and Rose listened silently, offering her support in the occasional one-armed squeeze around his waist. Once he started he simply couldn’t stop. He’d forgotten how good it felt to be able to talk to Rose, knowing she would never judge him or think poorly of him, and knowing that she would always have the right words to say.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you, Doctor,” she said when he fell silent, and she tilted her head to look up at him for the first time since he began speaking.
He clenched his jaw and stared at the ceiling, unable to look at her. He already felt more exposed than he’d allowed himself to be in a long time, and he exhaled in relief when she returned her cheek to his chest.
“I really missed you,” he whispered into her hair.
“I missed you, too, Doctor,” she said, pressing her lips to his chest.
He rolled onto his side so he was facing her. The absolute love and trust he found in her eyes was nearly his undoing. His eyes stung with all of the memories and emotions he had been trying to repress since he’d lost her.
The Doctor tugged her closer to him until his face was buried in the junction between her neck and shoulder. He clung to her tightly, as he tried to sort out his memories and regulate his hormone and neurotransmitter levels. But he realized his human body couldn’t be regulated, and try as he might, he couldn’t stop the first tear from leaking through his clenched eyelids.
“Shhh, you’re okay Doctor,” Rose murmured, having felt the drop of moisture hit her skin. “I’m here. I’ll always be here for you. You’ll never be alone again. I’m here. I’m so sorry, Doctor. I’m so sorry.”
This bloody human body was so bloody awful and he felt so bloody much! He was angry with himself for not be able to control himself and he was angry at Rose for making those big brown eyes he could never say no to and making him talk about things he’d much rather forget about, and bugger it all, why couldn’t he stop crying?
“Shhh, you’re okay,” Rose repeated, rocking him softly as she rubbed her hand up and down his back. “Let it out, Doctor, if you need to. Don’t be afraid. I’ve got you. I’m here. I love you, Doctor. I’m here.”
At Rose’s profession of love and the gentle little kiss she pressed to his ear, the Doctor felt his muscles let go all at once as he melted into Rose. He stopped trying to swallow his tears and he let them flow freely, cathartically, and allowed Rose to comfort him.
God, he’d missed this woman. He swore that not a day would go by where she didn’t know how loved and appreciated she was by him.
When his eyes finally dried and he felt exhausted enough to attempt sleep, he pulled away marginally to look down at Rose. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her cheek was still a bit puffy, but she was so beautiful.
“I love you,” he whispered, before he angled his face down to catch her lips between his.
It was slow and sweet and chaste, but held more promise and love than their earlier parting kiss in the living room had held. Their lips tasted salty and the Doctor couldn’t tell whose tears he tasted, but ultimately decided it didn’t matter, as long as Rose kept kissing him.
Kissing Rose was the most wonderful thing he’d ever experienced in his one thousand years. Her lips were so soft and full and they moved perfectly against his. He loved hearing that little inhale whenever he suckled, bit, or licked her lip. Her hands moved restlessly, burrowing into his hair to deepen the kiss. His hands clutched at her lower back, aching to move an inch lower to her bum to pull her flush against him, but he didn’t think she was ready for that, and truthfully, neither was he. Just kissing Rose made his head spin and his heart race, and he feared his poor heart might give out on him if he tried doing anything more with Rose.
He eventually eased them out of the kiss, and soothed Rose’s whimper of dissatisfaction with a series of gentle kisses across her lips and cheekbones, until he finally pressed his lips to her forehead.
“I love you,” he panted, pleased that she seemed out of breath as well. He rolled onto his back once more, tugging Rose along until she was nuzzled up against his chest once more.
“I love you, too, Doctor,” she whispered, pressing her lips atop his racing heart. “I never said it, but thank you for staying here with me, for wanting me.”
“Oh, Rose, thank you for wanting me,” he said, squeezing his arm tightly around her shoulders.
Rose chuckled into the soft cotton of his sleepshirt and said, “It’s been a hell of a day. Well. Last few years, really. But we’ll always be all right, you and me, yeah?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said immediately, pressing his lips to her forehead once more. “Just you watch us, Rose Tyler, because we are gonna be fantastic.”