This is a follow-up (of sorts) to this fic. They make more sense, when read together.
Less than twenty-four hours since they returned from Norway and Bad Wolf Bay, Rose loses the Doctor. At Tesco, of all places.
She’s in the dairy aisle, buried up to her elbows in cans of yoghurt, asking over her shoulder whether he’d prefer strawberry or blueberry. When there isn’t an answer, she turns around and finds she’s been talking to a befuddled old man who’s waiting for her to get out of the way so he can reach the creamer.
It’s ridiculous, the twinge of panic at the bottom of her stomach, the way her pulse throbs in her ears. The Doctor isn’t in dairy, and she goes straight to her Torchwood training, to her Dimension Cannon landing procedure, executes a quick but precise search pattern through the store, her boots clicking with each harsh, efficient step on the linoleum floor.
Rose’s steps grow erratic as she moves toward the exit, stumbles out the door onto the sidewalk, basket-full of unpaid groceries still in one hand, clerk chasing right after her.
“Miss! Miss! You have to pay!”
“Sorry.” She shoves the basket into the clerk’s hands; he staggers back at the force of it. Scanning the thin crowd, not finding a single bloke tall or skinny or blue-pinstriped enough, she backs up against the wall, clutching at her jacket with numb hands, trying to take deep breaths, because there are black spots dancing in her vision, and the last thing she needs to do right now is faint.
“Oi! You coming?”
She whips her head around and there he is, standing in the entrance of the shop next door. He’s got a basket in his hand, his eyebrows arched.
Rose pushes off the brick wall, is happy to find her legs steady enough to walk on. “I’m gonna murder you.”
“All right,” he says, one side of his mouth lifting in a lopsided grin. “Help me figure this out first, though.”
The shop turns out to be a beauty supply place. The Doctor stands in front of an aisle full of hair products and rubs at the back of his head. “Barbera Prime, it isn’t. But I suppose I’m going to have to make do.” His fingers curl around his hair, lift it up – it’s still got something of the sea air about it, stiff and full and wind-blown, wild from sleeping on her couch last night. He looks more than a little bit mad. He didn’t shave this morning – there wasn’t a razor for him at her flat, something else for them to pick up on their shopping trip.
“Right. Well. You were still using the wax-based product, before …” Rose trails off, tilting her head sideways and rubbing her forehead. How does she talk about that? Before the Doctor became two people? Before he absorbed Donna’s DNA? Before he was stranded here with her, left on Bad Wolf Bay by his fully Time Lord self?
She’s got very clear memories of testing hair products with the newly-regenerated Doctor (the other Doctor), hours spent in that fantastic bathroom aboard his fantastic ship, trying dozens of different hair products one at a time, running her hands through his hair until he’d demanded he get a turn, and he braided her hair while she sat cross-legged on the counter.
When she looks up at him again – this him – he’s got a can of mousse in his hand. “Well-l-l-l, it’s a bit different now, I reckon. Not sure if a wax would do the trick. I think … I’m going to have to road-test a few.” He flips the can of mousse into the air, catching it and depositing it into the basket. Moving down the aisle, he starts plucking jars and canisters from the shelf and tossing them in with wild abandon.
By the time he’s done, he’s having a hard time lifting the basket, and he ends up dragging it to the front of the store.
“Four hundred and four pounds and ten pence,” the cashier says, once everything’s been totaled.
“Ooh, gorgeous!” the Doctor says, grinning at her. He leans forward onto the cash register, chin on his fist, and peers at her side of the computer screen. “Two happy numbers! The four hundred four, and the ten, both of them like larks! But with fewer feathers!”
The cashier grins back, surveying his face, her eyes lighting up with more than just amusement. “You opening a beauty shop?” she says, her gaze flitting to his long fingers, his lips. “I could use a haircut, if you’re a barber or somethin’ – you got a shop nearby?”
Rose reaches past the Doctor, shoves a bank card in front of the woman’s face. “We’ll need some bags,” she says.
The cashier blinks, as though she’s just remembered there’s someone besides this bloke in the shop. “Right, sure.”
They order a pizza for supper and sit together at the chipped formica table in the small kitchen of her flat, and afterward he strips off his blue pinstriped jacket, rolls up his shirtsleeves, grabs the three bags of hair products.
“Well?” he says, invitation clear in his voice.
The flat’s only loo is located inside her bedroom, and it had been surreal last night, waking up in the dark and hearing him close the door, hearing him relieve himself and step quietly back into the living room, to the couch.
“Go ahead,” she replies. “I’ll clean up the dishes, while you take care of that.”
He swallows, his adam’s apple bobbing, before he turns around and disappears into her bedroom. The bathroom door closes behind him with a click.
Rose cleans the dishes and then sits on the couch, restlessly flipping through satellite channels and finally leaving it on a documentary about wombats, just because she can’t find anything more interesting. She’s thinking about the Doctor, being here. In this flat. In this place she’d always considered temporary, certainly not home.
At some point she’d grabbed a pillow, and she’s squeezing the life out of it, working the stuffing into lumps, mangling the fabric.
There are scars on her hands now. One running the length of her left ring finger, two on her right palm, one on the pad of her pinky finger. Incidents with firearms at Torchwood, things that happened in the field, during Dimension Cannon jumps, wounds so deep that stitches and meds didn’t keep the skin from mangling as it healed.
He’s held her hand four times since the first time on Bad Wolf Bay. He hasn’t mentioned the scars once. Has he not noticed? Does he not want to notice? Has he decided that the scars don’t matter?
Rose is on her feet, knocking gently on the bathroom door.
The doorknob twists, the door cracks open. The Doctor stares down at her.
“I thought” – she clears her throat – “you might need some help.” Her gaze goes to his hair, a goopy mess atop his head. “Obviously I was right. I’ve always had good instincts.”
“Wax is definitely not the way to go,” he sighs, stepping back and opening the door the rest of the way. “Same old Doctor, but some things are a bit new. Regeneration energy does that.”
Being half-human does that, Rose thinks.
“You’ll have to rinse it out, before we can try again,” is what she says, reaching into the cabinet for a towel. She puts it in his hands and points at the shower. “You know how to work the knobs?”
The Doctor’s mouth flattens into a smirk. “Rose Tyler, what do you take me for?”
There are so many answers to that question, none of which she’s sure of. So she grins at him, her tongue resting on her bottom lip. “Give a shout when you’re done, and we’ll get this sorted.”
She waits on the bed for him to finish, staring at her ceiling, listening to the water run and his voice warbling with it: “I could be handy mending a fuse, when your lights have gone; You can knit a sweater by the firesi-i-i-ide, Sunday mornings, go for a ri-i-i-ide.”
The taps turn off and a few minutes later, the door swings open. He’s already at the counter, two jars in each hand. He’s got on his trousers, but he hasn’t put on a shirt, and he’s missed some wet spots on his back. His hair is like a porcupine, towel-dried but still damp, sticking in every direction imaginable.
The room is humid, and smells like her shampoo.
“What about this one?” she says, plucking a canister from his long fingers. Turning around, she hops up on the counter and twists off the lid. It’s a sticky pomade of some kind.
The Doctor steps front of her, his thighs pressing against her knees, and she’s breathless with the memory of the first time they did this, about how naked he seemed with his shirtsleeves rolled up. And now he’s standing in front of her, droplets of water still beaded in the hair on his chest, staring down at her face with his lips parted, his eyes so very soft. Her new, new Doctor – then and now, always the same man, with a few details out of place.
Rubbing her hands together, spreading pomade across her fingers, she lifts her hands up. He leans down into her touch, makes the quietest of humming noises when she takes two handfuls of his hair.
It feels different than before – Rose had spent an inordinate amount of time cuddled with him on the couch in the TARDIS, stroking his hair as they watched telly – she has a very clear memory of the weight and thickness of it, how it felt as it grazed the sensitive skin on the sides of her fingers.
It’s still superhumanly thick, but the strands seem just a touch finer, the texture silkier. The Doctor’s eyes are closed, and his head tips forward further as her fingers stretch around to the back of his scalp, working pomade into the crown of his head, moving down toward his neck. He isn’t breathing, but then again, neither is Rose.
Her hands reach the skin along his neck, her fingers curl inward and she traces the line of his hair over his ear, her thumbs trailing down his sideburns. The pattern of freckles on his cheeks are exactly like she remembers, and she hardly stops her thumbs from continuing their paths, tracing across his cheeks, touching them to make sure they’re real.
To make sure he’s real.
His hands are balled into fists beside his legs, knuckles barely grazing her knees.
“There,” she whispers.
He opens his eyes, closes his mouth. With visible effort, lifts his eyes to the mirror behind her head. In a gesture so familiar that it sends warmth thudding through her chest, he swivels his head to the left and right, pursing his lips and wrinkling his brow. His own hands come up, yank at the locks that don’t have the lift he’s used to. “Well, that’s not quite it.”
“No, not quite,” Rose agrees.
With the speed borne of impulsiveness, the Doctor plucks her hand from her lap and sucks the tip of her index finger into his mouth, releasing it with a pop. She stares at him in open-mouthed shock as he wrinkles his nose and delicately places her hand back on her lap. “Tastes all wrong, too.”
“If you’re looking for edible hair products, we ought to be shopping in the kids’ aisle,” she retorts. He grins at her as she picks up a tube of gel from the collection and reads aloud: “’Super-extreme-hold.’ Sounds drastic. That should be about right.”
“Hold on, let me clean this mess up, first,” he says, backing away from the counter, his hands falling to the button on his trousers without a second thought.
Rose hops down, clearing her throat, her eyes glued to the floor. “Right. Just give a shout.” She closes the door behind her as he turns on the shower.
Afterward they resume their positions at the counter – the Doctor’s trousers are wet at the waist, like he was in such a hurry to pull them on he couldn’t be bothered to dry the small of his back. His thighs press against Rose’s knees, and her legs shift open a little bit, so he can come closer, so she doesn’t have to reach so far. His gaze settles on her face and doesn’t move as she squirts gel into her hands, rubs it across her palms, and reaches up to spread the cool substance into his hair, as damp and humid as the room is.
His eyes don’t close this time; he’s surveying her face, attention gradually shifting between her mouth and her eyes. His mouth falls open just a little bit, his bottom lip sticking out in the way it always does – did – has done. The stubble on his jaw is thick, because they’d been so busy stockpiling hair products they’d still forgotten to buy razors this afternoon. It stretches down the line of his neck, across muscles that lengthen as he leans into her touch, into her fingertips as she massages his scalp.
Shifting forward a few inches, he rests his knuckles on the counter beside her hips.
Rose is trying not to turn her face up toward his, because she can feel his breath – cool, still; at least, cooler than the humid room – against her cheek. She can hear it, soft and slow; she sees it, his chest rising and falling in front of her. But she wants to look up at him, to put her face against his. Her heart hammering, heat prickling across her shoulder blades and the back of her neck, her own breath quicker than it should be – oh god, she wants to.
Her fingers keep working, spreading gel across the hair behind his temples, massaging it into the crown of his head, and when she hazards a glance at him, his eyes have finally fallen closed. When her hands move around to the back of his head, he leans forward a little bit more, and his forehead is inches away from her shoulder.
The Doctor says one word, so soft she’s hardly sure he spoke at all: “Rose.”
Her palms come to rest on each side of his neck, her fingers still buried in his hair. Her head moves sideways, just far enough so his stubble scratches her cheek. He turns just a fraction, his forehead pressing into the place where her neck joins her shoulder. His bare back is arched, the curve of it blocking her view of anything else. Her breath is erratic, her fingertips curling until her fingernails scrape gently across his scalp.
Rose turns her head enough so her lips find the edge of his jaw. It’s a gentle touch, but it seems to break something in him. He lets out a stuttering breath, his fists on the countertop uncurl, long fingers stretching along her thighs. He says her name again, louder this time, pulling his head back, his cheek sliding against hers. His hair tickles as it brushes her forehead, his breath cool against her ear, his lips pressing to her jaw, an echo of the kiss she gave him.
She leans into him more, both her hands sliding down his neck and across his shoulders, her palms coming to rest flat against both sides of his chest. The heart on the left side hammers wildly, and the right side is still, except for the way it rises and falls with his quick breathing.
The Doctor’s hand comes up across her neck, sweeping her hair out of the way. His fingertips slide beneath the collar of her t-shirt, his other hand gripping her thigh.
“Missed you,” Rose gasps.
“Yeah.” His throat moves as he swallows – words or emotions, disappointment or relief, she’s not sure.
Rose plants small kisses along the shortest line between his cheek and mouth, until her lips find his. Clumsy, at first; unsure but wanting. His response is immediate, the hand at the back of her neck drawing her closer as his mouth opens to her. She’s still got her hands against his chest, fingernails digging into his skin, chest hair tickling her palms as she scoots closer, her heels hooking around the back of his knees.
It’s only lips the first few kisses, tasting each other, sharing breath. Rose’s tongue has always had a mind of its own, and it slips forward, licks the open edge of his bottom lip. His mouth opens wider, his tongue meeting hers. He’s warm and gentle and the room is so humid, she feels light-headed. It’s amazing – he’s amazing, the way he’s exploring her mouth, teasing her tongue with his own. The hand on her thigh slips back, around the curve of her arse.
Rose is lost – so incredibly lost – more lost than she’s ever felt on any dimension jump, in any alternate universe. She yanks away, her head thumping against the mirror. The Doctor’s eyes are half-lidded, his tongue running the length of his own bottom lip.
“I’m not the shop girl anymore,” she says in a rush, hands still curled against his chest. “I’m not the girl from the Powell Estate in the basement at Henrik’s, I’m not –”
“You’re Rose Tyler,” he interrupts, gentle and utterly certain. But he waits, gazing at her steadily, eyebrows slightly lifted.
She nods, a small movement of her head.
“And I’m the Doctor.” It isn’t a question, it’s a statement. But he waits again, searching her face, his skin radiating warmth and his single heart beating away under her hand.
She studies his brown eyes, so very ancient, so very familiar. Her head moves again, another small nod, a slight parting of her lips as a single syllable slips out: “Yes.”
His hand curls at the back of her neck, his arm stretched between them. “Everything else is details.”
He believes it, with every fiber of his being. Believes in her, what and who she is.
Believes in them, together.
“Okay,” she says.
“Good.” He clears his throat, stands upright, gesturing to his hair. “Now that we’ve got that decided, this is completely unacceptable.”
With all the snogging, Rose has somehow managed to shove his hair up into a mohawk, straight down the center of his head.
“As a matter of fact, this is ridiculous,” he continues. He sighs and tilts his head toward the shower. “Once more into the breach. Want to come?”
Rose grins, reaching out to hook the waist of his trousers with her index finger, her knuckle sliding against the hair on the lower part of his stomach, her thumb circling the blue button on his fly. “Matter of fact, I do.”
It’s less than two minutes of fumbling with each others’ clothes before they make it into the shower. It’s just over two hours before they get back to hair products. And it’s a full two days’ worth of experimentation before they figure out the perfect concoction necessary to maintain the Doctor’s coif.
# Apparently I'm on a tear # Doctor Who # TenToo # Rose Tyler # OTP to end all OTPs # fanfic # ficlet
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