In the late afternoon, at the end of an odyssey through the British Rail system, the Doctor and Rose ended up in Harwich, where he stepped into a little shop for groceries. Rose waited outside on the sidewalk, baffled by the idea that the Doctor had hidden the baby TARDIS somewhere in this particular village. When he emerged with a bag-full of food, he hailed a cab, whispered directions to the cabbie, and handed over a wad of bank notes. Thirty minutes later, the cab stopped in the middle of the countryside.
Rose carried the laptop and the Doctor carried the food as they climbed a stone wall and set off across a field, apparently toward the middle of nowhere. The hike felt good, the sunshine warm and relaxing, the sheen of sweat on her skin refreshing. She’d missed this kind of exertion – she’d grown too used to dimension jumps and countdowns and all her waking hours in a lab. Spending the last few weeks huddled in her apartment, hoarding the Doctor all to herself, hadn’t done her much good, either.
“So how come I’m the one who’s having panic attacks and everything, and you’re the one who’s so calm? Being half-human must be … rough.”
The Doctor shrugged, not looking at her, concentrating on the uneven terrain beneath his feet. “Could’ve been worse.”
“Could’ve been Jack who touched the jar instead of Donna,” he replied, lifting his left hand and wiggling his fingers.
“Ohhh.” Thoughts swirled in Rose’s head, wild imaginings of a Doctor with Jack Harkness’ libido. He glanced over at her with a smirk on his face, as though he could read her thoughts. Her cheeks burned with blood and she grinned back.
“And the part-human bit, it isn’t as hard to adjust to as you’d imagine. With regeneration, there’s always a chance things’ll go pear-shaped. Exoskeleton, eyestalks, bald head, tentacles, that sort of thing. This isn’t much worse than a pear-shaped regeneration. It’s taking some getting used to, don’t get me wrong. But it’s something every Time Lord has to face the possibility of, at some point.”
“You don’t look pear-shaped to me,” Rose said.
“Mmm. Outside, everything’s as Time Lord-y as can be. Inside, there’s the one heart, faulty endocrine system, no respiratory bypass. Everything’s less efficient, hence the short lifespan.” He rattled off the information as though reading a shopping list, as though the idea of a drastically reduced number of years to live didn’t bother him. But Rose noticed the twitch of muscle at the corner of his eye, the drumming of fingers on his own hip, and knew she’d have to pry out his real feelings on the matter. But not today. “Here we are!”
They stopped at a small glade of trees on the border between two properties. A herd of cows wandered the sloped pasture below their vantage point. The sun came through the trees, dappling the long grass and revealing a few strangely-shaped stones sticking out of the ground at odd angles.
“There’s a small graveyard at the edge of this grove, hundreds of years old,” the Doctor said cheerfully, leading Rose past the gravestones. “Nobody visits anymore, but nobody’s going to cut down the trees out of respect. I put a perception filter around the nursery, but it’s more of a precautionary measure than a necessity, really.”
“’Course I am!” the Doctor replied, flashing a grin. “She’s just here, nestled between these two trees.”
Rose could see it, but she couldn’t – a hint of machinery and metal, the vaguest humming noise, and a gently glowing bit of rock. Her eyes kept searching for something else, her gaze sliding off to the side as though there was something more interesting just to the right or left of the TARDIS’s nursery.
“Thanks to Donna, it’ll only be five years or so ‘til she’s vortex-worthy. She’ll be small at first – just a console room and living quarters. But she’ll be capable of going anywhere and anywhen.”
“Five years.” Rose took the Doctor’s free hand. “Not so bad. Can you hear her? Like you used to hear the other TARDIS? Will she translate languages and everything?”
“Can’t hear her yet,” he replied. “She’s got to grow a bit. She’ll translate and everything, in due time.”
Propping her chin on his shoulder, she studied his profile. “You miss her. The old TARDIS.”
“Yeah.” His voice was uneven, his brows drawn together. Then, without warning, he jumped away from Rose, dropping her hand and yanking open the grocery bag. “Bollocks!”
“What?” Rose asked, instantly on her guard. She surveyed the trees, the placid meadow beyond, the cows in the distance, looking for any sign of something dangerous. Something alien.
“I forgot the blanket! It said blanket, for a picnic.” He frowned at the grocery bag, as though disappointed at its inability to produce a blanket out of thin air, and whispered again, “Bollocks.”
“Wait a minute,” Rose said, a grin breaking over her face. “It said blankets? Is that what you were doing this morning with my computer? Researching the proper way to prepare a picnic?”
“Well, me being part-human now, it seemed reasonable to do some research about the more obscure human–” he hesitated, rocking up onto his toes as though he was physically avoiding the word that wanted to come out of his mouth “—rituals.”
“Rituals?” Rose echoed in confusion. The Doctor sat on the ground and acted very occupied with unpacking bottles of juice. Then it dawned on her what he’d just barely managed not to say. “Oh. Mating rituals, Doctor?”
He mumbled something at the juice and reached for a package of crackers instead.
“Is that what we’re doing here? Performing mating rituals?” she asked, eyebrows rising.
“There was a green-throated Tammarian war-bird living in this grove when I got here yesterday,” the Doctor practically squeaked. “I had to chase him out – nasty thing. And I don’t say that often. But they lure children to secluded areas and drain their plasma.”
Grinning, Rose sat down and pulled out some cheese, breaking off a chunk and handing it to him before eating a piece herself. “I keep expecting something to jump out from behind one of these trees. A cyberman or a Dalek or a Slitheen or something.”
The Doctor shrugged. “We’re waiting for something, but nothing of that sort. We’ve got a while before the adventure’s scheduled.”
“Oh, our adventure’s on a schedule? Is it another mating ritual?” she teased.
He sighed and lay back in the grass, hands tucked under the back of his head as he frowned at her. “Really, Rose. There’s no need to be childish.”
“Didn’t say I minded mating rituals, did I?”
“In Vedic India, they performed a horse sacrifice ritual where the king’s wife simulated mating with a horse. Then the king had intercourse with his wife after the horse was sacrificed. It was supposed to symbolize the unification of the sun and earth. I thought you might object to paying for a horse just to slaughter the poor creature, so I settled for the picnic.”
“Are you trying to distract me from the fact that you brought me to a graveyard for a romantic meal?”
“I brought you to the TARDIS’s nursery!” he protested, even as she lay down with him, head propped on his arm. “Try to see things in the proper context, Rose.” With his free hand, he reached over to tuck wisps of hair behind her ear. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as his long fingers folded across her cheek and stroked downward, caressing the line of her jaw and neck, to the collar of her shirt. His fingers were cool – like she remembered from before, less like his new half-human heat that seemed so strange sometimes. But she wasn’t wondering whether the Doctor was with her now: he was the Doctor, her Doctor, whether he had two hearts or one.
His hand stayed on her shoulder, thumb absently rubbing circles over her collarbone. “Tell me about a good day. One here, in this universe. One that didn’t have anything to do with Torchwood or the dimension cannon.”
“Mmm. Before you came? Good days in that time window were in relatively short supply.”
“Yeah,” he said, the smile evident in his voice. “Before.”
The movement of his fingertips on her skin was positively hypnotizing. “When we first arrived, Mum insisted we have supper together at least twice a week. Her and Pete and me, and then later on, Tony. I was in the lab all the time – or jumping dimensions – but she’d come around to the Torchwood building and haul me home, even when I didn’t want to go. It … helped us to become a family, I guess.” She opened her eyes to find him surveying her face. “Years ago, I held Pete as he died on the street, and now I see him every day in the hall at Torchwood and eat at his table on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This universe’s Pete is left-handed, and my dad was right-handed. Pete isn’t my dad, but he is.”
“You don’t even need an alternate universe to make people different – time apart is enough to do the trick.” Still stroking her collarbone, he leaned forward, his face so close she could feel the gentle puff of his breath on her skin. Grass tickled the back of her neck. His body was long and lean, stretched alongside hers.
“Funny, how lost things become found again. And if they’re a little different – doesn’t matter,” she agreed quietly. “Just as long as they’re not lost anymore.”
“Precisely,” he murmured, and his mouth found hers. This kiss was so very different than the one on the beach. Then, they’d been frantic, clinging to each other out of desperation and relief and, if she was being honest, anger. Now, the Doctor’s lips pressed to hers with reverence, gentle and slow. The sensation – her flesh so sensitive, so long without this kind of stimulus – took Rose’s breath away. She was momentarily lost, forgetting to kiss back, everything in her focused on that point of contact. On the warmth of his skin, nose pressed against her cheek and fingers slipping behind her neck.
He pulled away, eyes blinking open, pupils so large they nearly swallowed his brown irises. “We’ve got five years until the TARDIS is full-grown. Five years of life, day after day,” he said hoarsely. “I’ve traveled nearly everywhere and everywhen, but I’ve never had that kind of adventure.”
“I love you too,” Rose said, her head still in a fog and her body buzzing. As though they were still standing on that beach in Norway, as though he’d only just spoken the words to her a moment ago.
A little less gentle this time, a little more blunt with his need, and her tongue touched his lips and his mouth opened, and … oh. She had missed everything about him – his manic enthusiasm, his one suit, his perpetual alien faux-pas – but this she missed most keenly. He’d never been good with words, chattering all the time but rarely about things that mattered, and his feelings for her were never made more plain than when he touched her. With the stutter of breath, the blush of skin, the taste of sweat and the pounding of blood, he didn’t try to hide or deflect anything. He was here with her, worshiping with hands and lips and body, and the rest of the universe could be on fire and he wouldn’t have given it a second glance.
Except this time, he didn’t pull away with a hail of chatter, distracting her until she fell asleep. This time when she reached for the buttons on his shirt, he pulled at hers, too, until there was flesh against flesh. There was nothing elegant about this moment, but it was perfect all the same. It was him, grass stuck in his hair and need in every line of his body; he was fumbling and nervous and beautiful. It was her knees and back chafed by the bare ground as she gasped incoherent words into his skin. It was them together – finally, why had it taken so long to get here.
The sun set, but Rose didn’t notice until the stars faded from her vision (he’d promised to show them to her, once upon a time, and she wondered if this was what he’d meant, even then). She squinted in the darkness, plucking pieces of grass from his hair, and kissed the stubble along his jaw.
“I think we missed the last train home,” she said. “It’s dark, and we’re in the middle of a farm, in the middle of nowhere, without a tent.”
He smiled, eyes sparkling; he looked nearly as satisfied as she felt. “Not to worry. There’s a plan.”
“Someone forgot a blanket.”
“I thought the mating ritual went quite well without the blanket,” he replied earnestly. “And even if I forgot the blanket, I did remember to research the mechanics of human intercourse, which seems to have paid off – twice for you, I might add.”
“I meant that we’re going to get cold! But you – you were watching porn on my laptop this morning, in addition to researching horse sacrifice mating rituals?” Rose collapsed onto his chest in a fit of giggles, hardly managing to get out her next words: “Doctor, what am I going to do with you?”
“Just wait, Rose,” he said confidently, pulling in a deep breath of the cool night air. “Just wait.”
They got dressed and she waited, to humor him and because it meant cuddling together for warmth. They talked and the Doctor carefully arranged their trash around the TARDIS coral – “Just the nutrients she needs, Rose. The plastic polymers are a bit different than the kind she would’ve been given on Gallifrey, and the atomic structure of the paper’s off because of the genetic difference in Earth trees, but she’ll still grow. We’ll have to have lots of picnics here in the future.”
Eventually Rose did doze off, but the Doctor woke her some time later: “Rose! Rose, it’s time! Right now! Run!” He shook her gently and took her by the hand, pulling her to her feet.
Laptop clutched in his other arm, he took off out of the grove, across the field, toward the small country road at a dead run. Rose’s sleepiness was gone in an instant, her instincts taking over. Fingers threaded with the Doctor’s, she took the uneven terrain at a ground-eating pace. This kind of running meant an emergency.
Rose didn’t realize it until the Doctor turned to grin at her, but she was laughing and hooting in excitement. In the distance, a car wound its way along the country road, headlights bobbing in the dark, almost as if it were coming to meet them.
It was a taxi, and it pulled to a stop just as they breached the stone wall and tumbled onto the side of the road in a heap, laughing and breathless. The driver’s window rolled down and he surveyed them as though they were a pair of drunken teenagers.
His gaze settled on the Doctor. “Well, you said two in the mornin’ and I figured I’d never see you again, out here in the back end o’ nowhere. You two been tipping cows this whole time? What’s there to do in this godforsaken spot?”
“Tipping cows?” the Doctor asked with sudden, focused interest, his eyebrows rising perkily.
“You’re here for us?” Rose said at the same time.
“He paid me fifty pounds to be here at two in the morning, promised another hundred extra if I’d take you home,” the cabbie said, gesturing toward the Doctor. “Not the weirdest thing I’ve done for an expensive fare, if I’m bein’ honest.” He squinted at them, his face stern. “But I won’t have any indecency in the back o’ my cab – so long as we’re clear about that, I’ll take you wherever you need to go.”
“Rose Tyler,” the Doctor said, taking Rose’s hand and opening the back door of the cab for her. His grin couldn’t be contained. “It’s two in the morning, and we’re on a streetcorner – welllllll, close enough. Will you catch a ride home with me?”
“Every time, Doctor,” she replied, popping onto her toes to kiss him before she climbed in.
# The final installment of my TenToo/Rose fic # I'll still write TenToo/Rose but this is the linchpin of my headcanon # And mostly goes along with the other TenToo/Rose fics I've written # Two fics in one day is a record for me and a feat probably never to be duplicated # Doctor Who # The Doctor # Human Doctor # TenToo # Rose Tyler # TenToo/Rose # OTP to end all OTPs # fanfic # ficlet # episode613wasalie # ANNA THANK YOU FOR YOUR FLAWLESS BETA
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