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Don't Wait

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The Doctor had spent the majority of the last several hours buried in the inner workings of his precious TARDIS. For some reason, just as he'd finish remodulating one system, something else would spark off and he'd be caught up readjusting the temporal stabilizers… again.

But it wasn't until he heard music drifting from the hallway that his attention was finally diverted and he sat up from his prone position in confusion.

If She'd had eyes to roll and lungs to sigh, she would have done so ages before, but the TARDIS just watched Her pilot heave himself up to search out the distraction. Plenty of time for her to rework the 'changes' he thought She needed.

The Doctor followed the sound, finding a small dance studio under the wardrobe room. He stopped in the doorway in shock.

Rose Tyler was dancing.

Ballroom dancing.

With his previous self.

And having a lovely time of it, if her smile was any indication.

The Doctor watched her for a moment before he cleared his throat to catch her attention.

Rose stumbled for just a split second before catching herself and grinning to her Doctor in the doorway. "Doctor!"

He arched an eyebrow at his companion before nodding his head to the frozen hologram of his Ninth self. "What're you doing in here?"

Rose blushed and ducked her head, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. He wanted to do that for her, but his self-control was amazingly strong in this regeneration. "I felt like an idiot at the party earlier. Figured, if I knew some of the moves, maybe I wouldn't embarrass you next time. So, I asked Her and She guided me here."

Shocked, he straightened from the door and approached, reaching for her hand to pull her into a hug. "Rose Tyler." He tucked his cheek against the top of her head as she nuzzled into his chest. He could stay like this for hours, but pulled back to look her in the eye. "You could never embarrass me, you know that right?"

Rose blushed, her ears pinking a little at his closeness and her reaction to him. She nodded. "Do now." She tossed her head back a bit, motioning to the still-frozen hologram. "Surprised me when himself showed up though."

The Doctor almost growled at the 'man', but settled for a glower. "Why him?" He released her then to prowl around the hologram, inspecting 'himself'. Wow. His ears really had been that big! And really, that look on his face… Had the way he cared for her really been that obvious?

She looked up to him, a bit shocked at the gruff tone in his voice. Could that be jealousy? No. Couldn't be… "Well, I couldn't very well practice without a partner, but I didn't ask for him to show up. He just did." She watched him carefully. "But he's you, isn't he? Same Doctor, different face, so it's okay."

Her new Doctor of the spiky hair and chocolate brown eyes just grinned at her. "Course it is! But next time you want dancing lessons, you can come find me, okay?"

Rose laughed and grinned again, tongue poking between her teeth. "Gonna show me your moves, Time Lord?"

The Doctor shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, shrugging as he said, "Well, I wouldn't wanna boast…," and wagged his eyebrows at his companion. This set her off into paroxysms of giggles.

"A'right then, Doctor." A sudden yawn overtook her. "Well, I'm gonna go hunt down a quick cuppa, maybe hit up the library before bed. You?"

He shrugged again. "Almost done realigning the thermo-couplings, so I might spend all that time you're sleeping away catching up on my reading as well."

Rose snorted as she turned to the door. "You're so full of it. You've already read 'em all, haven't you?"

"Well, of course, but I can't remember everything, Rose. Need a reminder every now and again."

Her faux shock and astonishment was way over the top, but it made him smile. "You mean the great and powerful Doctor doesn't know everything?" She turned thoughtful for a moment and tapped her finger against her lips. "Well, I guess forgetting is bound to happen in your old age. Besides, you realigned the thermo-couplings last week after you almost fried the protyon unit, remember?" A bright grin and twirl of hair and she's out the door.

His voice rang out after her as his brain caught up to the fact the she had remembered, not only what he'd done, but that that she'd been paying enough attention to know exactly what systems he'd been working on. "Oi! Less of the 'old', thank you very much!" He rolled his eyes and turned back to the hologram that was now watching him carefully, arms crossed over his leather-clad chest and eyebrow arched.

"She right, ya know. We're gettin' forgetful."

Ten just shooed the comment away. "Oh, shut it, you."

Nine shrugged, completely unaffected by his future self's irritation at him. "Not my problem, though." He grinned mischievously. "I still get to dance with her at least."

Ten whirled on him and growled lowly. "Why are you doing this anyway?"

His previous form just stared at him before relaxing his stance and taking a less threatening pose. His voice softened a bit too, bringing Ten's attention to him fully. "She wanted t' be better. For us. An' who are we t' deny Rose Tyler?"

Ten looked at the now-empty doorway and murmured, "Yeah."

"Are you gonna tell 'er?"

The current Doctor turned gaping mouth and shocked gaze to Nine. "Tell her what? That my consciousness imprinted into the TARDIS matrix before I regenerated? That she can see you any time she wants?” His hand sliced the air between them. " No. Absolutely not. She accepted we regenerated. She accepted me. And I…" He swallowed hard as Nine continued for him.

"The Doctor loves Rose Tyler."

"Yes," he nodded.

"Powerful stuff, that." The Ninth Doctor nudged his future self. "If she comes back, I'll not deny her."

"I know."

Silence filled the room for the space of a few heartsbeats before he continued, "Something's coming."

Bleak sadness and fear clouded his dark brown eyes as he watched his former’s blue grow just as troubled. "Something big. And I am truly afraid…" He couldn't say the words, not even to himself.

He tucked his head to his chest and closed his eyes, just breathing for a moment and steadying his hearts. A firm hand clasped his shoulder, catching his attention again.

"Then tell her. I couldn't. You can. Tell her and make the most of all of it, every moment you can get."

"She's worth it," Ten whispered.

Nine smiled at himself. "She is that."

The Doctor nodded, smiled at Nine. "Well, she's been mentioning going to see Jackie." He got a little more pleasure than he should have watching Nine flinch – would that be considered masochism? – before he continued, "Maybe a quick trip so she can give Jackie that bazoolium she picked up, then on to something spectacular. I can tell her then."

Ten turned to leave, but Nine stopped him, grabbing his arm as he turned. "Just… Don't wait. Don't wait too long and don't let it go unsaid."

Ten smiled at himself, nodding. "Thanks," just as Nine smiled and disappeared.