Summary: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
A/N: This started as a 200-word drabble and exploded into three pages of...whatever this is. Not sure how I feel about it...I think it needs more work, but then again, the plot bunnies were begging to be shared right now. Feedback is certainly appreciated.
“Do you mind? I’ve had to use the loo for hours. Human bladders are obviously not up to par.” She looked up to see him grimace, and she knew he was thinking of having to deal with all this ‘human rubbish’ for the rest of his life.
He headed down the hall, glancing around him at the small flat, and before she could think better of it, she was speaking.
“Bet you wish it was bigger on the inside, huh?” She was trying desperately to fall back on their pattern of easy banter, but that was obviously not the right thing to say at this moment.
He whipped back around, eyes tight and face pinched, like she’d punched him.
Realization hit, and she scrambled to take it back, to fix what she had just stomped on without a thought. “Oh, God…Doc—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean …” she trailed off, blushing at her idiotic attempt to break the ice, and how she’d made this awkward situation even worse. “I meant your bladder,” she blurted out, feeling like an absolute arse. “Like, ‘bet you wish your bladder was bigger on the inside’… It was supposed to be a joke. I wasn’t thinking, I…I’m sorry.” She looked sheepishly at him, her hands twitching with the need to hold him, even though he was halfway down the hall.
Instead she watched as he composed himself. The armour slipped back into place—not as easily as it used to— and his eyes sharpened, shielding the still-raw pain. His mouth twitched into something resembling a smile. And just like that, he looked exactly like himself again.
But not even that—he reminded Rose of her first Doctor, all rough exterior and squishy insides. Of leather and big ears and eyes that burned like ice, hiding things he didn’t want to deal with.
“No…its fine. Was a good joke, really. I’ll just…” He gestured towards the loo with one hand as the other automatically went up to scratch at the back of his neck. The motion caused an odd, lumpy weight to settle in her stomach, seeing that habit of her pinstriped Doctor mushed with the echo of old-him, morphing into this new version of himself. Layers of hybridization, she thought, which would be a good title should he ever decide to write his memoirs and why was she babbling to herself like this? Mickey was right; she was more like him these days.
“I’ll be out here,” she answered, voice barely more than a whisper.
He nodded and disappeared into the bathroom.
She fell onto the sofa while she waited for him to return, and tried to work out how to move forward with this man she hardly knew. It burned, how it seemed like someone had ripped apart her Doctors and spliced them back together, adding in bits of Donna here and there for variety’s sake.
And here she was, screwing things up right from the get-go, without even giving him a chance to prove himself, and wasn’t that just like them, hurting each other unintentionally?
This could end very, very badly. And Rose was terrified to give this a chance, to give her heart to this man for the third time only to have it shattered.
But she already loved him. So much that she ached with the need to hold his hand, feel his one heart beat under her palm, fall asleep wrapped around him and never, ever let go again.
Could she really afford to do this again?
Could she afford not to?
He closed the door behind him, somewhat thankful for annoying bodily functions in that they provided a handy escape route. Running away again, he thought, somewhat tiredly. Except now he had nowhere to go.
It hadn’t really hit him until Rose had spoken exactly how trapped he now was, and exactly how vacant his head felt without the old girl’s comforting hum in the background.
But the more he thought about it, the more he recognized that he was…okay, he really was. The realization was a bit staggering, but when it came right down to it, he knew he would be all right in time—something he had a good deal less of these days, but enough.
Somewhere between Run and a vast white wall, that pink and yellow human had become his home, not the TARDIS. He would miss her, of course. Her long, winding corridors that never led the same place twice, her remarkable ability to get him into trouble—and out of it—on a daily basis, and the echoes of Time itself that lingered in every nook and cranny. Oh yes, he would miss his TARDIS, his oldest companion, but she was in good hands.
Even though he hadn’t had much of a choice in the matter, he wasn’t the one holding the short straw in this arrangement. That was the full Time Lord, in another universe with the weight of everything still on his shoulders. But he would never really be alone, he had his brilliant ship. The Time Lord had the TARDIS, and he had Rose.
He was quite lucky, after all. He had a chance at something new and different—a life on the slow path with the woman he loved. And, as much as he hated to admit it, he had Jackie (the woman who had taken on the mantle of pseudo- mother-in-law long before he gave any thought to that actually becoming her title), and by extension, Pete and Tony. A ready-made family, just there within his reach. He never thought he’d have that again.
This could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him, and he was hiding in a bathroom.
He finished, washed his hands, and took a second to stare into the mirror before going back out to face Rose and…life. He was surprised to find small dark circles under his suddenly too-bright eyes, wide with anticipation and a hint of trepidation. His hair was a mess, but that was nothing new. What was new was the faint but unmistakable glint of red in his hair. He was a bit ginger.
He had to tell Rose. He had to tell her…everything. All the things that he’d seen, done, and felt while they’d been apart…how much he loved her. Not a day would go by without her hearing those words, he resolved.
But first, they had to get though tonight.
They sat on the couch together at that awkward distance between too close and too far apart. She picked at her nails and avoided his gaze until his voice washed over her, warm and familiar and she closed her eyes to savour it.
“To answer your question…yeah. Yes, I do wish it was bigger on the inside. My stupid bladder and your flat.”
She opened her eyes and he was smiling. It was small, but there. His eyes clear and focused on her face. Hope flared to life again and she couldn’t keep from smiling back, tongue poking out for the first time in what felt like years. “Yeah. Me too.”
And this, this right here, smiling and being ridiculous and basking in each other’s presence, this was them. And they were going to be just fine.