The Doctor wouldn’t have imagined there would ever be a time when watching Rose Tyler kiss someone else might bring a fond half-smile to his lips. But despite himself, he found that her grin when she waved the boy she’d just been kissing on his way was infectious.
He reasoned that, actually, there was no reason for him not to be amused. It wasn’t as if it had been more than a brief peck, for all that the boy had blushed dangerously red as he retreated to rejoin his laughing circle of friends.
Not that the Doctor would have a problem if it had been something more than an almost perfunctory press of lips, of course. Not him. No sir. Why would he mind?
Though the Doctor did have to admit that his smile slipped a little when one of the boy’s slightly older-looking friends swaggered up and plonked a coin into the collection jar. He was nowhere near as shy as the other boy and was a little too keen to demonstrate it, kissing Rose so enthusiastically that he very nearly pulled her bodily over the hastily-erected panels of the wooden booth that separated them. The Doctor glared, wishing he could yank the boy’s wandering hands away from her – only because he was worried for her safety, of course – but Rose herself came away from the kiss seeming unperturbed. Well, perhaps ‘unperturbed’ wasn’t precisely the right word; she was giggling so hard she had to grip the sides of the stall to keep her balance.
Jackie would not have approved of such a display, the Doctor thought, but Jackie wasn’t here to stop her daughter from doing exactly as she pleased. That was probably the point. If Rose had been desperate to make money while on holiday staying by the sea with Jackie’s cousin and her kids, there were any number of easier avenues she could have taken; honestly, who ran a kissing booth hoping to turn a profit? He was convinced, then, that this must have been one of those ‘teenage rebellion’ things that humans seemed to be so well known for, and he could hardly blame her for it. If Jackie Tyler had been his mother... he shuddered, and decided that he really ought to support Rose’s show of independence, whatever misgivings he might have about her methods.
When each of the group of hollering boys who had rightly decided that one quid was a bargain price for kissing a girl like Rose Tyler had stepped up to take their turn and then disappeared down the boardwalk, the Doctor made his approach.
The Doctor rarely carried money normally, so it seemed a strange coincidence – or perhaps fate – that today he managed to pull an overflowing handful of coins out of his pocket. As he stepped up to the booth, Rose was absently circling her mouth with a tube of something bright and glittery that bore the label ‘Lip Smacker’ and even from a distance smelled vaguely of banana, which also seemed eerily fortuitous. Her lips shone when she bestowed a smile on him as their eyes met.
The Doctor dumped the equivalent of about ten pounds in her jar. He’d rather have given her thousands, for all the kisses he’d one day hoped to share with her, but he had no idea how he’d go about explaining that to her.
For a brief moment, as she eagerly beckoned him closer, he thought that he might actually go through with it.
This girl didn’t know him. Not yet. While the Doctor had a long history of doing things he knew he shouldn’t and taking things that didn’t rightly belong to him, he found he couldn’t do it to her, of all people. It would be unforgivable for their first real kiss to come long before Rose had any idea how much it should mean to her and how much it already meant to him.
And, after all, the girl who stood before him now was only sixteen years old and not yet an adult. He didn’t doubt that he would love her just as sincerely at any age, but he’d spent enough time around 20th century humans to pick up certain aspects of their morality. Three extra years probably shouldn’t mean much to a man of nine hundred years, yet those three years made all the difference in the universe.
There were few things he wanted more than to kiss Rose Tyler, but that alone didn’t make it the right thing to do. Not today. Not like this.
So instead of a kiss, he reached out and brushed his fingers tenderly over her slightly flushed cheek, rounder than it would be in a year or two when the last vestiges of childhood had faded away. Then he stepped back out of reach, letting his hand drop to his side.
“Hang on, what about your kisses?” she called after him as he backed away.
The Doctor shook his head. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I got my money’s worth.”
Rose looked doubtfully into the jar that was significantly fuller than it had been a moment ago, but then obviously chose not to argue with him. With a puzzled smile, she shrugged. “All right, then. Hey, have a nice day!”
“And you,” he replied. He already knew that she would from what Rose had told him months and months ago about her recollection of this day; that this had been one of the last happy and carefree experiences she’d had before she’d returned to London, when she’d almost immediately met one Jimmy Stone and proceeded to dig herself into a hole. He’d wanted to see her now while she was untouched by those worries. This was the way the Doctor wanted to remember her.
She might never remember this as their first meeting, but it was still a cherished memory for her, and he was glad of that.
Somehow it comforted him to be able to walk away without Rose being particularly bothered to see him go. He had long since grown tired of constantly breaking her heart.
This time it was only his that were aching. As it should be.