Spoilers: slight ones for S1 and S2
Synopsis: The Doctor has some time to reflect on his feelings for Rose
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, If I did you'd be watching this story on TV
A gift for earenwe, for the Secret Santa exchange at oh_she_knows.
The Doctor braced his feet against the rough bark of the tree limb in order to scoot his body into a more comfortable position. Rose murmured something unintelligible against his chest in her sleep, burrowing closer to him as a chilly wind blew over them. Easing his back against the tree’s massive trunk, the Doctor cuddled her closer, making sure his long coat was securely wrapped around her shoulders, and gently resting his cheek against her hair, feeling its softness. She quieted then, easing into a deeper slumber, her trust in him as palpable as the tree supporting them both.
He’d wanted to take her someplace beautiful; somewhere guaranteed to bring out one of those glorious smiles he loved so much. They’d become an addiction of sorts, the determining factor in almost every decision. He couldn’t plot a course, choose a decade, or even enter a vortex, without first asking himself, “Will this bring me a smile? Will she think I’m brilliant? Is this good enough for her?”
Admittedly, he’d gotten it wrong a few times; coronations instead of concerts, Scotland instead of Sheffield, gone for months instead of hours. But this time; oh, this one glorious, spontaneous, impossibly perfect time, he’d gotten it so right.
It had been dark when they arrived at the research station, the observation window a massive black wall. He’d held her hand in his and pointed to the horizon, just as the second sun rose on the autumnal equinox. A massive forest of trees, reaching hundreds of feet high and stretching as far as they eye could see, had been suddenly illuminated. Rose had gasped as a firestorm of color swept over the landscape; painting a sea of crimson and gold, and tinting the world orange. Turning away from the splendor before them, she’d given him his reward for a job well done; flashing him a smile so beautiful it could rival anything this planet had to offer.
“Come on then,” she’d said, pulling on their still joined hands as she did so, “Let’s go play in your ginger world.”
The scientists, the only sentient life on Sankearn, had lowered them down into the canopy on hydraulic lifts, warning them to be back before nightfall. “You’ve got five hours before the second sun sets,” a bookish, overworked woman, had explained. “If you aren’t back by then, you’ll have to wait another five hours for the first one to rise again. We can’t risk lowering the lift in the dark.”
He hadn’t been concerned, and neither had she; their quest for adventure overshadowing any doubt that they’d make it back in time. But while they’d been skipping thorough tangled limbs hundreds of feet above the planet’s surface, swinging from vines of ivy, and hiding behind mattress-sized autumn leaves, the last Lord of Time had lost track of it.
He, who was supposed to be the Master of Minutes, hadn’t even noticed their passing, until the first pink rays of sunset finally filtered through the branches and into their wonderland. Even then they’d laughed, chalking it up to business as usual and challenging each other to a race back to the lift. They’d leapt from branch to branch; cheating death over and over again on their way, only to stop minutes later as night came crashing down in stark reality.
He’d suddenly remembered explaining Sankearn to Rose when they’d first arrived; how the duel suns alternately ruled the day, while leaving the moonless world in complete darkness during the exchange. “From brilliant light, to stark night,” he’d rhymed, charming another musical laugh from her.
It hadn’t been so funny later, as they’d sat, clinging to the branches lest they fall to their doom with one misstep. Guilt had ripped at the Doctor’s stomach as he listened to Rose’s teeth chattering, not two feet away from him.
“Rose,” he’d gently called her name, an apology for his carelessness just forming on his lips.
She’d cut him off; assuring him that all was fine, that she could hold out for as long as she had to, before asking him between clenched teeth, “Exactly how long was that again?”
Carefully shifting along the bark to get closer, the Doctor had wrapped an arm around her shoulders, at once alarmed by the fatigue he felt in her posture and the chill of her skin. “Lean on me,” he’d said, removing his trench coat to wrap around her shoulders, and pulling her into his chest. “I won’t let you fall.”
She’d snuggled into him, sighing in contentment as he wrapped his arms around her. “I know,” she’d told him, just as Morpheus caught her in his grasp. “Just didn’t want to leave you alone in the dark.”
The Doctor still held onto Rose, four hours and thirty minutes later; now acutely aware of every second that passed, every hour that ticked by. Her last words rang incessantly through his head like a mantra on steroids, bringing up new and old memories alike.
He’d been so alone before he met her; wrapped up in a darkness of his own making, hiding away in it lest any light be shed on the wounds he’d refused to let heal. She’d changed him, drilling holes into his dark world and forcing the light inside. He hadn’t felt alone since: not even when he’d sent her away, fully prepared to die on that game station; or in the bowels of an impossible planet, fighting impossible odds.
She was always right there with him; his conscience, his hearts, his very life. The Doctor’s whole universe was wrapped up in denim, coated in scented lotion, and dipped in peroxide. Rose made him feel like a person again, and not just a hero, or a villain. The whole of Gallifrey would roll over in their collective graves if they knew, but Rassilon help him, she made him feel so very human.
The absurd image made him laugh out loud, joy spilling out of his body as tears burned at his eyelids. It was the first time he’d been able to think about his people without the crushing weight of guilt paralyzing him, and it was all because of the girl in his arms; his Rose.
And in that moment, as the first golden rays of Sankearn’s first sun began to filter through the trees, and the outline of Rose’s lovely features finally came into focus, he finally admitted to himself just how much he loved her. And as the realization grew, so did his laughter; an irrational reaction to an irrational feeling that felt too right to be wrong.
Rose stirred, obviously awakened by his unexpected mirth. Her brown eyes sparkled with undiluted happiness as she gazed up at him, her lips stretching into another perfect smile.
Overwhelmed, the Doctor, finally, impossibly, lost control. In a heartbeat, his lips were on her smile, kissing her with all the passion he’d been storing up over the past two years, drinking her in. She stiffened at first, obviously a little surprised, but recovered quickly, cupping his face in her hot little hands and leaning into him. He ran his fingers through her hair and over her face, desperate to map every plane and curve of her features, to memorize this moment, to keep it forever.
Drawing back a moment later, the Doctor rested his forehead against hers, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He needed to regain the unbending control that was usually such a part of him; lest he lay her down and make love to her right here in the trees. A gloriously romantic notion, he thought absently, but hardly safe.
Rose let out a slightly hysterical laugh, her joy unconfined. “What’s brought this on then?” she asked, her voice sounding as breathless as the Doctor felt. “Not that I’m complaining or anything.”
He opened his eyes to gaze back at her, his smile for once as bright as hers. “I was celebrating,” he told her, his hand coming up to once again caress her cheek. “The sun is finally up.”
Check out "Sun Up", the gorgeous drawing that aimeekitty made me for this story.