He woke slowly, which was the first thing that was unfamiliar. Usually it was asleep, then awake, no in between. But as soon as he was aware enough to contemplate the difference, he remembered why. New body. New-ish, anyway. And completely different than any he'd had before. Except for that one time. He was human, human-ish, and apparently, that meant groggy wake ups.
He breathed deeply of the unfamiliar smells in the air before working up the courage to open his eyes and face this new day. And then a familiar scent filtered to the forefront. Rose. Not just traces left on him and the clothes he'd tossed in a heap somewhere before falling exhausted into this strange bed, but vibrant, real, close Rose. And if he listened closely, he could hear her even breathing to his right, only a handful of inches away.
His mind went through the facts as he knew them and he wondered if this was some kind of trick. He wanted Rose with him so much that he'd dreamed her into his bed. Maybe he'd dreamed it all. Metacrisis, Daleks, Rose, Mickey, all of them. Maybe he'd failed Donna somewhere on a distant rock, and his slow responses were an enemy's poison swimming in his veins. Maybe he was dying and the thump of only one heart in his chest was because the other had stopped.
He took a deep breath and his panic faded, slowly. It had all been very real. The good, the awful, and the downright surreal. The sunlight he could feel on his skin coming through what must be windows in a room in Jackie Tyler's mansion was testament enough to that.
But all he wanted to focus on now was that Rose was here. He could reach out and touch her if he wanted.
He opened his eyes.
She was lying next to him, a respectable distance away on the large bed. Fully clothed, on top of the duvet, she was on her side with her hands tucked beneath her cheek, eyes open and watching him steadily.
“Good morning,” she said softly.
“Hello,” he croaked in return, his voice husked with sleep.
“Hi...” she smiled serenely.
He had a sudden, intense desire to haul her to him and kiss that smile from her mouth, to show her exactly how happy he was to see her. He could see himself doing it, dragging her that foot or so across the bed, shifting her beneath him, snogging her breathless. The fantasy was so real for an instant that he had to close his eyes and shake his head a bit to dislodge it.
“What...?” he began.
“Am I doing in your bed?”
He nodded, not trusting himself to finish the ramble he could feel building in him without saying something to embarrass himself.
“I... I know what it's like, waking up in a strange place–a strange world–on your own. Just thought, you know, a familiar face...” she trailed off.
The flood of desire left his system as quickly as it had come upon him, but the intense emotion it was bundled up with remained. What Rose was going through was just as traumatic as his own... situation, in a way. And here she was, being so concerned for his well-being and comfort.
He reached out a hand from the warmth of the covers and slowly extended it to her face, leaving her the chance to pull away if she wanted.
He settled his palm on her cheek and whispered the words that didn't seem large enough to express what he was feeling.
She gave him another soft smile and then slipped her hands from under her head and clasped his palm between both of hers, sitting up as she did so.
“You're welcome. Now,” she said, pulling his hand a bit more, “you gonna get up?”
He thought about it a moment. All he wanted right now was to stay in bed with her. To pull her under the covers with him and stay here all day. His body was craving her closeness and oddly, even more sleep. It was so alien to him... He was still so tired.
“Do I have to?” He knew he was whining.
She laughed shortly. “Yes. We have stuff to do. Get you clothes, get your ID settled, all that.” She rubbed her thumbs over his hand in a comforting gesture, then released it. When she spoke again, she sounded less sure of herself. “Unless, I mean... do you need to sleep more? Is it... like regenerating?”
He pushed himself into a sitting position, ruffling a hand through his hair. Rose gaped a little and it took him a moment to realise that it was because the blanket had slipped to his waist. He tried to put the thought of Rose staring at his bare torso out of his mind as he carefully considered his answer.
“It's different. I'm not even sure myself. I've never done anything like this. With the chameleon arch...” He'd told her briefly about that, about 1913 and being sort of human on their journey to London from Norway yesterday. “With that, I don't remember any adjustment, if it happened. And switching back into a Time Lord...” he stumbled over the words a bit and saw Rose flinch as if she wanted to take his hand again but dared not. “...it was instant--no ill effects. Physically.”
“Now I want to be warm and”–he searched for a neutral word–“snuggly.” At her look he clarified. “With the covers. Warm and snug under the duvet. I don't feel like getting up. Which is fairly curious and entirely foreign.”
She looked at him most intently, biting her lip, like she was deciding whether or not to say what she was thinking. Again the desire to pull her to him sizzled through him, but he let it pass without action, content to lose himself in the warm dark hazel of her eyes. That haunting gaze that had filled his dreams and waking thoughts alike for years was now vibrant and alive and right in front of him. And then it wasn't enough to only look.
He heard her name come from his lips in a rough whisper as he moved towards her. But at the same instant, she'd decided to get up and stand. Without touching her, he fell back against the headboard.
She was at the wardrobe now, her back to him, going through things that had been Mickey's. She was chattering about finding him something to wear and about all they need to get done today, and wasn't it funny, that she was the one hassling him to get out of bed, and good thing it was still pretty early, and wouldn't some of mum's tea be nice?
He sighed wearily without even thinking and she spun around, looking concerned.
“Tea too much? If you'd rather we all gave you some time, left you alone today, then–”
“No!” he blurted, more sharply than he'd intended. He took a breath and started again. “I don't need to be alone. Tea. Breakfast. Shopping. It's fine.” He summoned a grin. “It's better than fine–a brand new adventure!”
She looked pleased at that and he was about to throw off the covers and chance giving her a hug when he remembered his lack of clothing. So he settled for swinging his legs, still wrapped in the duvet, over the edge of the bed, making it clear he intended to stand.
“Oh! Here!” she said awkwardly, tossing several folded items of clothing onto the bed and then heading for the door. “I'll just umm... take your time. I'll meet you downstairs, yeah?”
“Yeah,” he said quietly to the already closed door.
He glared at the pile of clothes suspiciously. Standing, he lifted each article in turn. Too big, too short, too... wrong. Rose was right, they needed to get him clothes. Rose was right, he thought again as he wiggled his toes in the fluffy carpet, when so much around and within him was just so wrong.
> > >
Setting the Doctor up with identification and a back-story was a fairly simple affair. They managed it over breakfast. Just had to give Pete a name the Doctor would hardly ever use and some contrived details about his 'history,' and Pete promised that Torchwood would have the paperwork to them tomorrow. It was a lot easier than when she and her mum entered this world. Inventing a new person was apparently much easier than resurrecting a dead woman and inventing a grown daughter for her widower. And it would take much less finessing the press. Thankfully.
It was the shopping that was the ordeal. Jackie insisted on coming along, and while Rose was initially grateful to have that buffer between her and the Doctor to smooth out those awkward silences that seemed to be becoming their new norm, her mum's presence quickly grated on both their nerves. She insisted that he needed things he didn't, like a shoe tree and "spicy" cologne, and kept shoving smart outfits at him that he'd never wear in a million years. Rose’d had to physically haul the Doctor away more than once when she suspected he was about to lose his patience in spectacular fashion.
But eventually, and without major incident, they'd left the shops successful, with a budding collection of essentials, (He'd refused most of Mickey's garb–just borrowing a t-shirt and opting to re-wear his blue suit.) even a couple pairs of jeans he looked very good in that she'd convinced him to buy. They'd visited a tailor as well and had measurements taken for two new suits, which lead, in turn, to having to purchase more ties and shoes.
It was a good way to spend their first full day together–to be utterly distracted by the tasks they needed to accomplish. To get used to each other again, doing totally mundane things. No saving the world today, and no time for sharing longing looks or not talking.
It was exhausting, though. All three of them were shattered when they got home in the late afternoon. Her mum set to fixing tea, but she could see the Doctor needed rest. Whatever adjustment his new body was going through, it clearly sapped his strength, not to mention the toll of the emotional strain they weren't discussing.
And she hadn't exactly recouped much of her sleep debt last night, while she'd tossed and turned in bed, going over and over everything that had happened on her native parallel world and after they'd returned here. Finding the Doctor, saving the multiverse, losing the Doctor, and yet having him right in the next room.
The Doctor turned pleading eyes to her while her mum was preparing sandwiches and she knew that as grateful as he was for the Tylers' apparently unconditional support, he'd not make it gracefully through another meal with her mother right now.
“Mum,” she said distractedly, still holding his gaze, “Do you mind if we skip tea?” I think the Doctor and I need a little kip. Bit of... universe-hopping jetlag is all.”
Her mum dropped the knife she was using with a clatter, causing them both to look at her in alarm. “Well I seem to recall jumping though universes as well and I'm–”
Rose gave her mother her own version of pleading eyes and she stopped mid-sentence. “Fine. Go on. But don't sleep long, or you'll never sleep the night through. Your sleep schedule will be bolloxed for days.”
The Doctor had her hand and was mumbling thanks to her mum and dragging her out of the room before Jackie had even finished talking.
They trudged silently up the stairs, exhaustion pulling heavily at their limbs. The door they came upon first was the room where the Doctor had spent the night. When they stopped he dropped her hand and turned to face her, looking very worried. Nervous, even.
“Em,” he said, looking down and sliding his hand to the back of his neck, “would you...?” He cleared his throat and looked at her, “Would you have a nap with me?”
“Doctor...” she began uncertainly.
“Only, I find that I don't want to be alone just now. Is that all right?”
Her heart broke a little at the unfamiliar vulnerability she heard in his voice. From any other bloke in existence, it would have sounded like a horrible chat up line: sleep with me, I'm lonely. But from the Doctor, she believed it. And he wasn't so much lonely as terrified and he actually meant sleep.
“Yeah, it's all right.” She took his hand again and pulled him into her room.
She'd dreamed of him in here, amongst her new things, almost as often as she'd thought about being back in the TARDIS. The fairytale fantasies she'd indulged in late at night, that he'd come charging in on their beloved ship, wave a quick hello to her family and then take her upstairs for a proper, thorough hello, before heading back home in the ship.
Now, though? No TARDIS, no desperate shagging, no rescue, and the suit was all wrong as well. But she had the Doctor–the most essential part of her dream come true. Didn't she?
He stood in the centre of her room at the foot of the bed, looking around the space.
“Nice,” he said and then bent to untie his trainers.
She removed her shoes as well and then joined him at the foot of the bed. As he straightened and looked at her, she could see every one of those 900 plus years in his eyes. And so much more besides. Weariness, sorrow, loss, but also if she wasn't mistaken, hope and love. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him so unguarded.
She quickly took off the leather jacket that was almost a second skin to her these days, and slowly, as if they were engaged in some bizarre undressing ceremony, he mirrored her, removing his suit jacket.
The tension in the air between them was heavy, thick, but not oppressive. And though it was confusing, it was almost familiar–natural–the anticipation she felt.
And when he reached for her this time, she didn't back away. She knew they both needed to be held. And maybe everything would be okay if they just allowed themselves this simple touch. Holding back for awkwardness or fear didn't do them any good. So she wrapped her arms around him and clung, feeling his warmth and the thud of his heart through his shirt. He buried his face in her hair and breathed out her name.
She felt a faint tremor go through him and he clutched her even tighter for just a second before letting go. She reluctantly loosened her arms as well. Immediately he brought his palms to cup her face and slid his fingers into her hair as he bent and brushed his lips over hers.
A shiver passed through her at the contact. This was so different from that first intense kiss on the beach the day before. This was restrained, but somehow just as desperate, as if he was begging her to respond. She did, lightly returning pressure. And even though part of her was screaming for it, she didn't dare deepen this kiss; she didn't trust herself to stop.
He slid his hands to her shoulders, ending their delicate kiss with a small groan. When she opened her eyes, she found him looking at her as if surprised she was really standing in front of him.
“Rose Tyler,” he said, full of awe. And she couldn't help thinking about Norway again, of hearing the other Doctor say her name much like that before he–
She must have seen something in her expression because his altered into a more neutral one and he stepped away from her.
“Suppose we should...” he said, indicating the bed.
“Right,” she agreed approaching the side of the bed, feeling some of that awkwardness return, but she was too tired to care just now.
He slipped quickly under the covers, still in his trousers and t-shirt. She knew she'd never be comfortable wearing her jeans, though, so she sat at the edge of the bed and removed them before quickly sliding under the duvet as well, turning onto her side towards the middle of the bed.
He turned from his back to face her then. She blinked, her eyelids already getting heavy, but she didn't want to close them yet; she loved studying his face. She'd looked her fill this morning, but now it was so different... he was studying her as well.
“I know this must be a little strange for you,” he said, still searching her face. “You’ve been, well... saying 'a good sport' hardly seems adequate. I know we–” he paused to yawn and she tried to recall if she'd ever seen him do that before. “Sorry. I know we have...” his voice began to taper off and his eyelids drooped, “a lot... to talk about.”
His eyes closed then and his breaths evened out immediately. Without thinking, she ran a hand over his cheek and then his forehead, brushing his hair from it.
His eyes popped open and she tried to snatch her hand back, but he caught it and placed it back on his cheek.
“I like that. Do it whenever you like.”
She flushed with warmth. “Touch you?” she asked, surprised her voice didn't quaver.
And then he kissed her again. Slow and undemanding, drawing her bottom lip between his briefly before pulling away.
“I love you,” he said roughly.
He put his fingers to her lips, stopping what she might have said. Which was just as well as she wasn't sure what to say. That she loved the Doctor wasn't a question, but...
He shook his head as if to say, 'that's ok,' and closed his eyes again. In moments his hand slipped from her mouth to fall limply between them and she knew he was asleep.
He didn't stir when she shifted him a bit, wrapped her arms around him and tucked her head beneath his chin.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story archived at http://www.whofic.com/viewstory.php?sid=30444