Settling into a new relationship was a strange experience. Rose found it to be an interesting mix of contradictions. On one hand, everything had changed and their relationship was completely new, but on the other hand, Rose felt more comfortable around the Doctor than she had ever felt before. She had always assumed in the past that if her feelings for the Doctor came out in the open, their closeness would suddenly become awkward. She thought that they would question their limits, worry about what was okay and what was a step too far. In the end, that wasn’t the case at all. There had been so much discomfort during the weeks following the Doctor's return, but the moment their feelings were out in the open, they completely relaxed around each other.
Suddenly, holding hands meant more than it did before. After escaping a close call on their adventures they still hugged, but both lingered a little longer than before, cherishing the moment of feeling each other in their arms. They were separated on a particularly dangerous and stressful rescue operation, and this time, when they reunited, the Doctor didn't just rush over to hug her. He kissed her, deeply, and passionately, a gesture that was filled with the complete and utter joy that he felt at seeing her again.
Everything about their relationship felt right now. And she was happier than she had ever been before in her life.
Rose was exhausted after returning to the TARDIS after a day of chasing a particularly nasty lizard all over the streets of her modern day London. Her body ached and her feet were sore, so she left the Doctor alone in the console room, and headed back to her bedroom to run a bath and soak the day away.
She groaned happily as she sank under the hot bubbles and almost immediately felt her muscles begin to relax. The hot water soon rejuvenated her, and she slipped from the tub and toweled off, wrapping herself into her bathrobe, before heading back into her bedroom.
She froze as she reentered the room, surprised to see the Doctor lying on her bed, waiting for her. Pinched between his thumb and forefinger, he held John Smith's wedding band up over his face, studying it closely.
Rose's heart fluttered at the sight of the ring. For weeks she had wondered what had become of it. The Doctor hadn’t been wearing it when he returned from the war, and Rose had no idea if it had been lost in Europe, or if the Doctor had kept it safely tucked away.
"What are you doing with that?" she asked him curiously, making her way over to the bed.
"Come here," the Doctor requested, nodding to the empty space beside him. She climbed up onto her bed, and curled up beside him staring up at the ring that he still held in his fingers.
"You hesitated," the Doctor mused.
"I did?" Rose asked, confused and wondering what she had done wrong.
"When John Smith asked you to marry him," he explained further. "You didn't say yes right away. You hesitated. You needed to think."
"Yeah," Rose confirmed. "I did."
"I remember what that felt like for him. He was so confused. He was scared that he had misinterpreted things with you. You had been dating him for months at that point. You were kissing him, and touching him, and it felt like you wanted him. And then you hesitated when he asked." The Doctor lowered the ring, and turned his head to look her closely in the eye. "Why did you hesitate?"
"I cared for him," Rose tried to explain. "But I wasn't sure whether I loved him, or whether I loved him because he was you. I didn't want to use him to get closer to you." Rose hesitated and tried to pick the right words to say. "I didn't want to marry him for the wrong reasons, I guess."
"And then, while you avoided the issue, somehow you realized that you did love him?"
"I guess, I realized that I loved having him in my life. And I realized how empty and lonely I would feel without him. And then I just decided...yeah, I did want to be with him. You were gone. There was no one else I would rather be with than him. And with the war starting, I guess I just realized that you've got to hold on to the good things you have while you still have them."
"Yeah," the Doctor agreed, his eyes darkening with need, as he looked into Rose's eyes. "I can understand that feeling." He reached over and with a free hand, twisted a lock of her wet hair behind her ear, and then leaned down and kissed her. Though his lips were cold as always, his kiss felt hot and demanding, and Rose found herself quickly growing breathless. The Doctor's hands slid down to her hips, as he rolled himself over her more fully, blanketing over her body. He suddenly pulled his head back and looked down at her with deeply hooded eyes.
"Rose...this is okay, isn't it? I mean, I could..."
"Don't stop," Rose interrupted. "Please keep going."
The Doctor argued no further. He made love to her for the first time with a reverent grace, as if he was trying to show her with every touch and every thrust how deeply he adored and worshiped her. Rose tried to express the same with her own responses and actions and hoped desperately that she was showing him even a fraction of the love that he was expressing to her.
Afterwards, when they were done giving themselves to each other completely, when they had awoken after sleeping in each other's arms, Rose felt something under her thigh. She reached down to find the ring, forgotten in the jumble of their lovemaking. Rose held it between them and the Doctor’s gaze focused on the tiny piece of metal in her hand.
"What do you want me to do with it?" the Doctor wondered. "It's your choice, of course."
Rose studied it, and remembered back to the first morning the Doctor returned, when she noticed his naked finger and her heart had broken. It had felt like rejection at the time, but now Rose knew otherwise. The Doctor had removed the ring, not because he didn't love her, but because he did, and he wanted to remove the constant reminder that she was not his. It was all ancient history, now.
"Will you wear it?" Rose asked him.
"It's not mine," he reminded her, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"Yes it is," Rose insisted. "I put that ring on his finger, yes. But he's a part of you. And I think you were a part of him too. Now that I know how you feel about me, I think that maybe the reason he fell in love with me so easily was because you loved me. Like your feelings for me bled through and embodied themselves in him."
"That's a thought," the Doctor mused. "He did dream about you, after all. And that was before he even really knew you. Perhaps I did play a part in it somehow. I know that I didn't want you to be alone while I was gone, even before I put the chameleon circuit on my head. I was worried about you as I enabled it. Maybe somehow, instinctively, that desire for you to be taken care of was pushed into his own subconscious."
"Maybe it was the TARDIS's way of taking care of me too," Rose considered. "You told me that the TARDIS would create an identity for you, but I would be on my own. But the TARDIS and I have been connected for a long time, ever since I looked into her heart. Maybe she couldn't create a life for me like she did for you, but she was connected to the Chameleon Arch, so she was able to imprint that desire for me into John Smith's personality. So that when we did finally meet, I left an impression on him, and he quickly grew to want me in his life."
"You know, I think that's a very plausible theory," the Doctor agreed. He reached over Rose's head and stroked her bedroom wall. "Well done, old girl!"
"So will you?" Rose asked again. "Will you wear the ring?"
The Doctor smiled gently at her. "I will." He offered her his left hand and she carefully slid the ring back onto his finger.
"For better or for worse," Rose murmured.
"In sickness and in health," the Doctor responded.
"For as long as we both shall live," Rose said sadly, looking up at the Doctor and realizing that she might be opening old wounds.
He met her gaze head on and with a firm, but mournful voice concluded, "Until my dying day.
They spent a day in bed together, a vacation from all of the running and world saving. It was almost like their own version of a honeymoon. A day of resting in bed, cuddling, and talking. One full day that they spent completely lost in one another.
But the day ended, and in the morning Rose awoke to a rustling sound. She sat up to see the Doctor collecting his clothes from the various corners of her room where they had been haphazardly discarded a day earlier.
"What're you doing?" she mumbled, running an errant hand through the mess of her rumpled hair.
"Time to move along," the Doctor murmured. "Take as long as you need to get up and get dressed. I'll be in the console room when you're ready.
It was about an hour before Rose wandered into the console room, showered, dressed, and eager for an adventure. The Doctor was already busy pressing buttons and pulling levers, the TARDIS shaking and wheezing its way through the Vortex. The Doctor paused briefly in his motion to give her a quick kiss, and then danced around to the far side of the console, to twist a dial and pull a last lever into place.
"Where are we going?" Rose asked him, as she settled down on the jump seat to watch him.
"Ah, nowhere exciting yet, I'm afraid. Gotta make a pit stop first. Good ol' Cardiff Bay. We'll just open up the engines, soak up some rift energy, and be on our way, quick as that!"
"Cardiff," Rose laughed, as she felt the TARDIS settle into its landing. "Even after all of these years, I still think it's hilarious that Cardiff is the petrol station for time and space travel."
"Still, could be worse! Of all the places in the galaxy to have to go back to, Cardiff is not the worst we could do!" The Doctor claimed. He turned the console monitor towards him with one hand, as he tinkered with some buttons on the other, setting the refueling sequence into motion. Suddenly, his expression froze, his eyes glued to the monitor.
"Doctor?" Rose asked. "What is it."
"Gotta go!" the Doctor insisted. "Now." His fingers flew across the buttons as he closed down the engines, and quickly threw a flip to navigate the TARDIS into the Vortex. The TARDIS started wildly shuttering out of control.
"What's going on?"
"We're accelerating into the future!" The Doctor exclaimed. "The year one billion...five billion..five trillion...fifty trillion! What? The year 100 trillion! That's impossible! We're going to the end of the universe."