“You have a database of all the places to skip?” Clara asked, somewhat incredulously.
She peered over his shoulder and looked at the list of places with names she couldn’t pronounce like Raxacoricofallapatorius (Was each letter pronounced? Were some silent? And seriously, it looked like someone had typed a bunch of letters together then forced people to pronounce it as a way to stick it to outsiders.)
Others like Clom and Midnight were easy enough to say. (Assuming they were said like she’d have said them, not some crazy alien tongue where the C sounded more like a J or something weird like that.)
She was about to ask him what had caused him to go to those planets in the first place and why they’d made the list of Never Ever Ever Return To No Matter What! But his shoulders hunched for just a moment and he looked like he tried to curl into himself as if she’d physically struck him. But then he was grinning over his shoulder at her and looking like the mad man she’d come to know.
In the next heartbeat he’d spun back around and continued to scan through the list, faster now so she couldn’t read what planet names raced by. Shoulders a little less hunched, body a little less curled into itself, but still looking as if he’d rather she did strike him than talk about this list.
“Yes,” the Doctor said absently as he scrolled back to the top.
Clara couldn’t tell if it was an alphabetical list (he was a tad anal like that) or if it was in order of visitations (or maybe in order of never ever—a list of the most dangerous down to the least dangerous but still a no-go?). When he’d said he was over a thousand years old, she hadn’t really thought about it—alien, 1,000+ years old? Sure there were tons of places he’d get around to in his magical box.
Other than Earth.
“And you’re adding Akhaten to that list?” she asked when it became clear he had nothing more to say. Which was odd for him. He liked to talk; she’d gathered that almost immediately.
“On the list of places to be cautious about. Not everything’s black and white, Clara,” he said and whirled to see her. “Some planets just need to be avoided during a certain time frame. Like Apalapucia.” He frowned, waved his hands a bit as if he was going to say more than the “Number 2 in the Top Ten Destinations for The Discerning Space Traveller,” that he mumbled, then shook his head again. “Others need to be avoided at all costs.”
“Like where?” she asked, trying to see around him to the list again.
“Midnight.” The word was flat and for a heartbeat the look in his eyes froze her to her very bones. Terror and pain and dread and revulsion. He shuddered and Clara never wanted to know what was so terrible on the planet Midnight that the Doctor looked like that.
“Why have a database at all?” she asked. “I thought you had this magnificent brain that remembered everything.”
Clara looked pointedly at him, her words teasing as they often were, and waited for the inevitable explanation with wild gesticulations and possible a glower or two as he pointed authoritatively at the general direction of her head. Instead he gazed silently at her, a far-off expression in is hazel-green eyes making them look almost iridescent, shimmery, and more alien than Clara had ever seen before.
She blinked but remained silent. And if her gaze slid from his, she didn’t acknowledge it and neither did he. And if she tried to subtly shift away from him then it was only because she wanted to give him room. And if she lied to herself, well, then, it was only to herself.
Quite frankly, she didn’t know what to say. And wasn’t certain her voice would sound at all calm, teasing, and normal if she did speak.
But then the Doctor waved it off and grinned at her and his laugh was almost natural and his shoulders not quite so hunched and his eyes had lost that glittering alien look that made her shudder and wonder just who he was and what he was capable of. “It’s just a way to keep track.”
Then he spun in that way he had, looking at his feet as if they might do something other than hold him upright, and grinned enthusiastically at her. “Now, Clara Oswald. Where to next?”
She wanted to ask more—clearly it was more than a way to keep track. But then they were off again and she forgot about it.
“I really like this list,” Rory said.
He scrolled through it again, looking for the places they’d visited and smiling slightly at the memories. For a brief moment he thought about asking why Earth wasn’t on there—every third trip they went on seemed to be back to Earth (during some time period or other) because of some alien invasion or menace or other. But then thought better of it. He liked Earth. And he liked going home to Earth.
No point in putting ideas into the Doctor’s head. He had enough barmy ones as it was.
“There’s only one problem I can see,” he said and looked up at his wife and the Doctor.
Amy sat on the edge of the glass floor, legs swinging over the side as the Doctor tinkered with something underneath. Rory never did figure out what the Doctor did when he tinkered. But then he supposed even a ship as magnificent as the TARDIS needed maintenance. Hastily Rory patted the console and tried to infuse as much love and appreciation and warmth into that pat as possible—just in case the TARDIS really did understand.
“You don’t list why they’re to be avoided or why they’re a good place to go.”
“I remember.” The two words, short and succinct and so un-Doctor-like made Rory pause and blink.
“You remember why they’re fun or dangerous or hazardous to one’s health, but you can’t remember the planets or timeframes?” he asked, highly skeptical.
“I like the list, Rory,” the Doctor said in that tone Rory associated with So shut up because I’m the Doctor and I know what I’m talking about so there! Rory half (more than half honestly) expected the Doctor to wave wildly and jump up just so he could jerk Rory out of the way and stroke his monitor as if somehow Rory had hurt the list’s feelings.
“And it’s a great list,” he heard himself say. “I especially like the Top Ten Destinations for The Discerning Space Traveller column. We should see some of them. I just didn’t think you’d let people like us see a list. Or have any input in it.”
“It’s a great list,” the Doctor said in a quieter voice that also didn’t sound Doctor like and had Rory eyeing him. “Best to keep these things written down, just in case.”
“What’s Raxa…I don’t even know how to pronounce that,” Rory admitted as he stopped on one of the planets listed under Never Ever Ever Return To No Matter What!
For the first time in, well, ever, Rory felt a hush-stillness-calm but not tranquility, never that, fall over the entire ship. He’d have sworn, but not admitted, that the TARDIS even hummed quieter, a melancholy spreading from ship to driver and back again with a thread of despondency that wove around them both, binding them together.
“What is it?” Amy asked, looking over her shoulder at him.
The moment was broken and Rory shrugged. “Raxa-cor-i-co-fall-a-pato-rius,” he tried, carefully sounding it out.
“Raxacoricofallapatorius,” the Doctor said softly in a measured beat as if he’d said it dozens of times before. He had a faint smile on his face as he did say it, memories-past-happiness-sorrow in that smile. “It’s a planet. Just another planet not to return to.”
Peering at him through the glass flooring, Rory saw the Doctor look into the distance, that small, soft smile playing around the edges of his mouth. In the next heartbeat, the Doctor shook himself and returned to whatever it was he was doing to the TARDIS.
Whatever the Doctor was doing caused a rainbow arc of sparks to shoot out. Rory just watched while the Doctor mumbled at his fingers, at the TARDIS, at the tool in his hand. Finally the other man looked up to where Rory stood by the console, but Rory had a feeling the Doctor didn’t look at him. He was even more certain of that fact when the Doctor’s next words were a series of musical gibberish that Rory couldn’t understand.
It was clear he spoke to the TARDIS but whatever the Doctor said it was meant for the ship only. An intimate-cherished-memory ladened moment. Then Amy laughed and jumped up and the moment of silence-reserve-unidentifiable heaviness shattered.
Rory never brought it up again, because they were off to a new planet and a new culture and a new adventure, but he never forgot, either. He eventually chalked it up to one more eccentricity of the Doctor’s.
But he didn’t really believe that.
Because as much as he couldn’t figure the Doctor out, he knew that the other man had a reason for everything. He had a reason for running and a reason for staying. A reason for keeping him and Amy around and a reason why he never spoke of River Song. He had a reason for dancing around the console and a reason he never spoke of the past.
The Doctor had many reasons. Amy always tried to hush him and divert Rory’s attention whenever he got too close, but the longer they traveled together the more Rory thought it wasn’t to save the Doctor’s feelings or to dissuade Rory from asking uncomfortable questions.
It was because, for all her professed best friend status, she didn’t know him as well as she thought she did.
But Rory let the Doctor have yet another secret. He let the Doctor think he fooled him. He let the Doctor carry on, because that was what the Doctor seemed to do. Carry on.
Carry on but not live.
“But why does he have a list?” Amy asked. “Especially if he doesn’t follow it!”
“He likes to think he remembers everything,” River whispered back with a surreptitious glance at the Doctor. “I think this is his backup.”
Then she smirked at Amy in a way that said how well she knew the Doctor, better than anyone, that their history was long and complicated and ultimately shared. Amy ignored that, yes there was a twinge, but only a twinge, of jealousy, but she didn’t really fancy the Doctor that way. Really.
And she knew River and the Doctor had a history—though often it seemed as if he avoided as much as he embraced that (history? Future? Past?). But then the Doctor was a mass of contradictions and silence and inconsistencies with a past he didn’t talk of but that River seemed to know intimately. Or was that his future?
Time travel. Difficult.
“I’ve never even seen this,” Amy said again and hated that she’d been reduced to repeating herself so many times over something so seemingly trivial. Something about it wouldn’t let her go, however, and she kept returning to it. “How do you know about it?”
“I stumbled on it a while ago,” River said with a negligent shrug.
Her voice is light and dismissive as usual, but there was a hardness in her eyes Amy didn’t understand. Jealousy? Bitterness? Over what? This list? Over the reasons why he had this list? Over a past incident she didn’t know about?
Amy was under the impression, given by River to be fair, that River knew all about the Doctor. Past, present, future. Was it the length of his life that limited the stories? The fact he’d lived so long was bound to be an issue over a forgotten story or two, but if River had directly asked, which she seemed to have done, then why hadn’t the Doctor told her?
Especially when it seemed as if he’d told her a great deal more about his life anyway?
“He never said why he has the list,” River added after a moment. Grudgingly-bitterly-enviously, and avoided Amy’s steadily burning gaze. “Only did that laughing brush off he likes to do.”
Amy nodded, all too familiar with that laughing brush off. She’d been travelling with him for a while now, a couple months at least, (Time travel. Difficult.) and had learned early on that when the Doctor didn’t want to talk about something he did a very elaborate song and dance (sometimes literally) to divert attention.
And she’d been all too willing to be diverted. Diverted with the future and the past and hell even Vincent van Gogh! (Which was totally awesome.)
“It’s hard to keep track,” River mused and stared hard at the screen. “Meeting out of order makes things like this hard to keep track of, but I don’t think he’s had the list long. Sometimes I’ve seen the places he actually talks about with a fond smile or a long story about this or that. But there’s an entire chunk here he never mentions.”
She tapped the row with Library and Messaline and FICTION WORLD, both Where to Never Ever Ever Return To No Matter What!
and Amy wondered what that was about. But she didn’t ask and didn’t look further, and suspected River hadn’t either.
Spoilers. Wasn’t that what River liked to say?
“But I just don’t understand,” Amy began.
“Oi, what are you two whispering about?” The Doctor asked as he closed the TARDIS door behind him with a resounding click.
“Amy,” River said in that warning voice that told her to tread carefully around the Doctor.
Amy ignored her.
“What’s this list?” she demanded, jabbing a finger at the screen. “The one about good and bad planets to visit.”
The Doctor froze.
Amy only really noticed it because he was in constant motion, moving, shouting, dancing, always moving, running, cause and effect. The fact that for several heartbeats he stood stock still and simply stared told her this list was more than a list. It was important, so very important to him and she wanted to know why.
Or maybe he’d frozen in place like he’d seen a ghost simply because she and River had been snooping. But Amy doubted that.
“It’s just a list of places I’ve been to,” he says almost immediately. Almost. “It’s best to keep a tally, don’t you think?” He continued with an almost lightness as he grinned and shooed them away from the console. Almost. “This way I don’t cross my timeline, not that there’s ever really a chance of that.”
Another glance at the monitor with an almost imperceptible hesitation. Almost. Or was that sadness? Regret? Memory, definitely.
“And I don’t get my companions caught up in something like a slave market or a prison camp or...” He trailed off and looked between she and River, but the look was inscrutable.
And Amy wondered what he was hiding. She was about to ask, about to pry and yes she knew she did that when people really didn’t want to talk about things, but they always end up telling her anyway and she wasn’t about to let the Doctor ruin her record.
A small niggling voice asks if she wants to know to help the Doctor or because she was just nosy. She refused to answer that voice’s question (no matter how much louder it asked) and did her best to block it out with a mental slamming of doors.
But River spoke first. “The list gets longer,” she said in that I know you way. “Lots of other places to add to be wary of.”
Amy had to wonder, with that twinge of not-jealousy, if River was bragging about her relationship with the Doctor (the future Doctor) or if she was simply stating the fact that this list is long and important and he continued to use it.
Amy wasn’t sure, and though she tried to ask him about it several more times, as out of the blue as she could manage, she never received a better answer than the one he’d already given.
And then there was the running and the end of the world and it didn’t matter any more.
Not to her, at least.
“You have a list,” Donna began and watched the Doctor’s shoulders hunch slightly. “You have a list of places to avoid at all costs?”
They’d just dropped Martha back on Earth and he jumped and dance around the console like normal. Quieter, perhaps, if she ignored the babbling. Sadder, if she actually caught his eyes. Slower, if she stepped back and studied him.
“Yes,” he said somewhat defensively. Then he grinned and almost, almost laughed. “Wouldn’t want to accidently end up on Raxacoricofallapatorius again.”
And for a heartbeat she saw him stop, utterly freeze as if caught in a memory. Donna didn’t have to ask, she’d seen that arrested look on his face, the lost, desperate, love-loss-adore-devastation look that screamed Rose.
So she resisted the urge to ask about Raxa…whatever it was he’d just spouted as if that ridiculous word was the most natural thing in the universe. She’d tried; oh she’d tried not to pry into his Rose-life. Tried not to ask about where they’d gone and who they’d met and all the adventures they’d had.
But now, with Messaline behind them and poor Jenny dead, Donna wanted-needed-was desperate to know about Rose. She didn’t know where that desire sprang from, whether it was her own curiosity (nosiness-prying-meddlesomeness) or because she thought it about time the Doctor talked about Rose.
In fact, she’d been about to bring up Jenny and properly grieving and maybe (maybe most definitely, not certainly) ask if Rose would’ve liked her as a segue into his grief about Rose.
But then she saw the list.
“Why do you have a list?” she asked. Again. “I thought you had a big Time Lord brain for remembering everything.”
“Oi!” he said, glaring at her. Behind that glare lay all the emotions he never spoke about and never admitted to and never, ever let on. “Genius, me! I keep it,” he said, not looking at her, “because it’s fun. A nice little list of places I’ve been to.”
“And don’t want to go again,” she said softly. Not a question.
Donna scrolled through the list and noticed there weren’t reasons for why the planets (or time frames) were listed. Only the columns: Fun, Beware Time, Great Food, Probably Shouldn’t Go Just in Case, and Where to Never Ever Ever Return To No Matter What!
The list was huge. All neatly categorized, sometimes under two columns, color coded, and hidden. She’d been traveling with him for a while now (she didn’t know how long, it’d been a few days (or weeks) for her gramps and mum, but Donna knew more time had passed for her. She just didn’t know how long.) and had never seen this list before today.
“Where are you going to put Messaline?” she asked softly.
He didn’t look at her as he shrugged. “Not sure, I’ll have to think about it.”
And she knew he lied. If the Doctor ever thought about anything for longer than a minute or two (at the absolute most), he didn’t know, truly didn’t know—and Donna had never before seen him not know. Or not have an inkling. Or at the very least talk his way very quickly out of the situation no matter what he did or didn’t know.
“It’s a good list,” she said instead. Leaving Messaline alone. For now. “What made you decide to keep one?” He looked at her as if she’d been the one to go mad. Donna shrugged and kept her exasperation in check. “Keeping track of places you’ve seen isn’t your style.”
“It’s like keeping a tally,” he said softly then shrugged and moved around the console again, all energy and liveliness and momentum. “It’s best to keep a tally, don’t you think?” he asked. “And I like the list.”
And then Donna realized: Either this was some esoteric Time Lord thing he did because he was the last or it was a Rose thing. Because everything she learned about him boiled down to one of three things: His craziness. Time Lords (or the thought-memory-idea of them). And Rose.
Donna nodded in silence, which earned her a sharp glance of suspicion. “I say you put it under Beware Time,” she said and turned to leave the console room. She needed a shower. Badly. “Who knows what the future for that planet holds? Maybe they have a hundred-thousand years of peace and prosperity.”
She didn’t look back as she rounded the corner and headed down the hall. Didn’t look back but knew he wouldn’t put it there. In her head, she saw him caress the screen as if it were his daughter’s face, the big TARDIS column slowly pulsing up and down in sympathy and shared grief and heartbreak. In her head, she imagined him whispering to the TARDIS and the screen and even the list.
In her head, she heard him talking to Rose about his daughter, about Jenny.
And knew he wouldn’t put Messaline anywhere but on the Where to Never Ever Ever Return To No Matter What! list.
“Why do you have a list of planets never to visit again but not time periods on Earth you should avoid?” Martha asked when she’d recovered enough after his I’ll have to add this to the list bombshell.
She peered at the screen but it was no use; she couldn’t read anything on it what with how fast he scrolled through it. Frustrated, Martha folded her arms over her chest and waited. It was her one and only option when it came to the Doctor and how he often ignored her.
Seriously, who flirted like that, kissed her like that (and honestly—genetic transfer? Please.) and took her to so many places and times and adventures only to ignore her?
Bet he never ignored Rose. But the thought was bitter and heavy and angry, and she hated being like that.
“I like Earth.” He looked up at her with an absent smile that told her he’d only been partly paying attention and that she wasn’t who he’d envisioned standing there when he eventually did look up.
Martha hated the fact she was so damned jealous of a woman who’d left him. And what did it mean, anyway? Lost her. How? When? Where? But he never even pretended he’d answer the many questions she had about Rose, but oh, he’d talk about her all the damn time, wouldn’t he.
Again with the bitterness.
She sighed and pushed it to the background. She was cold, wet, tired, hungry, and felt as if a pound of grimy exhaust coated every inch of her. She wanted a shower, a hot meal, a nice cup of tea, and the sofa in the library in front of the telly so she could watch a mindless intergalactic soap or something.
Anything that wasn’t heavy and moral and significant. Fluff. What she needed was fluff.
“I like Earth, too,” Martha pointed out, bringing herself back to the conversation at hand. “But even Shakespearean England had aliens trying to take over the world.”
But the Doctor just grinned and tapped the screen. “New Earth,” he said with a wistful glance to the side.
Jealousy twisted in her gut and once more Martha tried to push it away, tried to remember the Five Stages of Grief. Tried not to hate Rose. Or hate herself for being so weak.
“I think I’ll have to add it to the Beware Time column.” The Doctor tapped the screen again and the TARDIS hummed softly in the background and Martha finally got a look at the screen.
It was a spreadsheet of planets with big bold columns identifying them as places to go or not to go. New Earth was already there, listed under the Great Food column. What had it been like before the drug craze and the deaths and the giant traffic jam? And a big Face of Boe head floating there? What had New Earth and the humans there looked like?
She remembered the video feed of soaring cars and grassy planes. They hadn’t eaten while there, which Martha was just as happy about. What kind of food had they had? She wanted to ask about what the planet was like before, what kind of food garnered it the Great Food column, but kept her mouth shut.
Because then Rose would be brought up and even if the Doctor said anything about her and that first trip, Martha doubted she wanted to hear it.
Which saddened her, because she had a feeling that she probably would’ve liked Rose. Normally a friendly and outgoing person, Martha didn’t like this resentment-envy-ager-dislike that clawed inside her. The way the Doctor made her feel second best. Or maybe how she let him make her feel second best.
When she wasn’t ecstatically travelling with him and ignoring all that in favor of new and exciting places and times and people.
“How about we go to one of those other places?” Martha asked in a complete change of subject. “Maybe one under the Great Food column. I’m starved. But I’m going to shower off this unidentifiable grime first. Then you can take me to one of the planets with Great Food.”
“Done!” he said and she knew, with a sinking heart, that it was just the distraction he wanted.
She didn’t have to ask why he had a list. Either because Rose wanted it or had suggested it or something else connected with Rose. Martha didn’t think the Doctor did anything that wasn’t Rose related.
Under the shower, always the perfect temperature, always the perfect spray, she scrubbed off the grime and soot and acid rain and whatever else clung to her skin. And with it, she tried to scrub off the bitter resentment she felt and embrace the new life and the new adventure and the new planet with new food she was about to try.
“I still think we should add in a column for space ships, space stations, and space satellites,” Rose said somewhat cautiously.
She raised an eyebrow as he shot her a disbelieving look from in front of the console where he looked at absolutely nothing so far as she could tell. Still looking at her, he tapped the keyboard a couple times and she knew their Database of the Universe was now listed on the screen. Rose shrugged and grinned and watched his gaze slip from her eyes to her mouth. He straightened and cleared his throat, eyes now back on hers, and held out his hand, immediately wrapping his fingers through hers and holding tight.
She didn’t breathe a sigh of relief, though she wanted to. But the knot tightening her stomach eased. Rose hadn’t known what to expect when he’d returned from France, sans Reinette, and looking as if he’d lost his best friend, lover, and puppy at the same time.
One look at him and she’d known he was grieving for Madame de Bloody Pompadour, and her heart broke. Before she could offer her condolences or even find the words to express her (somewhat lack of) sorrow, he’d tugged her into his arms and held tight.
“I missed you,” he had whispered into her hair, arms tight around her. “So much lost time…” She couldn’t hear everything he said, his voice rose and fell, and sometimes he slipped into Gallifreyan.
Rose couldn’t understand what he said, then, but knew he repeated the phrase over and over, the words harsh despite their musical sound. She tightened her arms around him and hoped he understood she was still here and she wouldn’t leave him and she would comfort him even if her heart felt as if it had shattered.
“Don’t leave me.”
She hadn’t realized he’d said those words in English. In fact, Rose didn’t know if she heard them or her heart simply knew them. Either way, she’d held him tightly, body perfectly aligned with his, and let him grieve-mourn-speak-hold.
Then he’d stepped back and into himself and away from her. Hurt, angry, she’d let Mickey distract her for a bit, but eventually left him to his own devises and found her way back to the Doctor.
Now, once more pressed tightly against his side, Rose looked up at him and wondered what happened in France. And if his whispered words of missed-wasted-lost time and Don't leave me, Rose, please don't, I couldn’t bear it, were anything to go by, if now they’d finally move beyond the static circling of their relationship and onto something more intimate.
“If I add that column,” the Doctor said, one hand caressing her shoulder, the other pointing at the screen, “do you know how many places we’d have to add? Satellites and Platforms and,” he waved his free hand, “it’s too much.”
“And not once have I been to one—ship, station, satellite, or platform—where someone hadn’t tried to kill us.” Rose stopped, tried to push away the memories of Daleks and Anne Droids and insanity. And regeneration and death and lost friends and missed opportunities and the changing face of love.
But maybe that’s what love was, she thought as the Doctor continued his argument against adding Beware of Objects Floating, Sailing, or Limping Through Space as a column. It changed. Same man, same Doctor, same love, different face. And maybe a more relaxed love, maybe an easier love.
Rose rested her head on his shoulder even as he turned to lean against the console and tug her against his chest. She tried not to think about how intimately they stood for the second time in as many hours, or how intimate she wanted to make their stance. Instead, Rose stood between his legs, one hand on his right heart, her head resting against his left, and listened to all his arguments as to why adding to their list was a bad and unsound idea.
“Okay,” she finally said. Laughing, she looked up at him and caught her breath. The hungry look in his brown eyes made her heart flip and a slow heat build low in her belly. “We won’t add it,” she agreed in a soft whisper of a voice.
“No,” he agreed, his own voice low and…and what? Hungry-possessive-hard-dark. All that and more as the word slid over her skin in a sinfully sensuous whisper of need.
“Good,” he said and cleared his throat. The Doctor pushed off the console, the all-enveloping hum of the TARDIS soothing across her suddenly sensitive skin.
He stepped away from her then stopped. Holding out his hand once more, he tugged her close to him and guided her slowly from the console room into the depths of the ship. “I like the list as is,” he added, “and I think we should go back to Achatzia.”
She looked over at him, eyebrow once again raised. “That planet with the fantastic chocolate cake?”
“Yup!” he grinned down at her. “And the extensive wine list.”
With Jack. He didn’t say it, but they’d gone there with Jack. Rose took the hurt and sorrow and grief over the loss of her friend and her first Doctor and held it close to her heart, but didn’t say anything about their last trip to Achatzia.
“I loved that place,” she said instead. “So much great food I still want to try.”
“Done!” the Doctor said with another grin. Not quite as crazed, not quite as sad, not quite as hyper as normal. The grin he reserved for her.
A small part of Rose wondered if he’d grinned at Reinette that way, but she pushed that jealousy aside. If he hadn’t taken her in his arms and she hadn’t heard his whispered sorrow over lost time between them, Rose had a feeling she’d be feeling far more insecure over his grief at the other woman’s death.
Then, to her utter shock, the Doctor raised their joined hands and brushed a kiss over her knuckles. His smile softened and his eyes bore into hers, nearly black with that same hungry look. Breath trapped, Rose tried to stop herself, but before she realized what she’d planned, she was already leaning up on her toes and brushing her lips across his.
“And maybe,” the Doctor said as he pulled back, one hand now cupping her cheek, “we’ll figure out a few more places to add to our Great Food column.”
Smiling, she nodded and let him lead her to the library where they spent most of their time when not out exploring. There, they lay on the overly large sofa, hands entwined, bodies side-by-side in what anyone else would’ve considered a lover’s embrace, whispering and laughing and for the first time pressing soft kisses to sensitive necks and palms of hands.
By the Light of the Asteroid played quietly in the background as they discussed other planets to visit for the sole purpose of trying their cuisine. And when her eyes closed and she laid her head against the Doctor’s shoulder, Rose swore she felt his lips brush hers and his voice promise never to leave her.
“A list?” he asked, voice harsher than he’d intended, blue eyes wide with surprise. He didn’t need a mirror to know he probably looked comical, but her proclamation took him by surprise. “What sort o’ list?”
“One of all the places we’ve been.” Rose stated again. She leaned against the railing, head cocked to one side, studying him as if she could read his mind. And heart. And soul.
The Doctor cleared his throat and tore his gaze from hers. Folding his arms over his chest, he leaned against the console opposite her. So close. Not close enough. They’d been travelling for weeks since their last stop in London and she’s never once mentioned anything like this. It sounded, he thought suspiciously, like a journal. A diary.
But she smiled at him and shook her head in that way that reinforced his theory she could read his mind-heart-soul.
“You know,” she said with that look in her whiskey eyes that had first captivated him. “Places that are fun with fairs and markets and such. Or places that could be fun if we’d landed in the right time.”
The Doctor huffed and glared at her, but it was only a half-hearted glare and she ignored it as she so often had. Her laugh trilled out and wound its way around his heart. He cleared his throat and said quite clearly, “Henricus senex II will be a peaceful, beautiful, fun place to visit.” He felt his lips twitch at her smirk. “In another hundred years or so,” he allowed.
Rose laughed again and pushed off the railing. She rounded the console, never taking her eyes from him, until she stood before the keyboard and monitor. He’d only recently installed a standard UK keyboard—for her. He hadn’t told her that, she hadn’t asked, and thus far they’d managed to ignore the implications quite nicely, thank you.
“Okay,” she said and watched him rather than the monitor she now stood before. “So we’ve got fun and markets, and beware the time period you land in. What else?” she tilted her head and studied him.
The Doctor wondered what she saw when she did that, but ignored it as he did so many things. Better to ignore the big emotion stuff and focus on the little things instead.
“How about a column for planets with really great food? I can take you to Achatzia. Best chocolate cake in three galaxies and a very impressive wine list.” He dropped his arms and moved to stand next to her, fingers automatically reaching for hers.
Clearing his throat, the Doctor pulled his supposedly impressive mind back to the present subject and away from the feel of Rose’s hand in his. “Right.” He cleared his throat and manipulated the screen with a couple taps of the keyboard. “Probably should add in a place for the planets we should skip. Just in case.”
He winked at her and felt his hearts warm at the soft blush coloring her cheeks. Rose smiled then ducked her head, resting it against his shoulder. So very tempted to bring his other hand up and embrace her, to keep her tight against him, the Doctor cleared his throat again.
“And,” he added with as much levity as he could muster though he knew he fell short, “probably a place for never returning to.”
Rose’s head shot up and she looked at him quietly. Her eyes held a hint of sadness-remembrance-pain. But then she smiled and took a deep breath and forced the memories of Savoselia and seclusion and deprivation away. She hadn’t slept in her own bed for a week afterwards, and he’d held her on the sofa, their sofa, in the library every night until the nightmares lessened and she’d returned to her room.
They still spent most of their downtime in the library, on their sofa, reading or watching that ridiculous Sto soap opera, By the Light of the Asteroid. Rose seemed to like it and as much as he grumbled, even he couldn’t ignore the comfort he felt when she curled into his side and they watched the continuing adventures of the Crystal family. He shook his head and wondered when he’d become so soft.
“Yes.” The word was clipped, harder than he’d intended, and he tried to take the sting of it out by squeezing her hand.
Rose smiled and rested her head back on his shoulder, and the Doctor returned his attention back to their list. Though when exactly he’d decided this list was a good idea, he really didn’t know.
“It’s good to have a tally,” Rose said as if she once again read his mind.
He was getting transparent in his old age, as well as soft.
“So,” Rose said with that laughter back in her voice and her fingers curled tightly around his, “the winning categories are: Fun, Beware Time, Great Food, Probably Shouldn’t Go Just in Case, and Where to Never Ever Ever Return To No Matter What!”
Her laugh echoed around the TARDIS, light and free, and threading its way through his soul. “Yes,” he repeated in a voice he didn’t recognize as his own. “It’s good to have a tally.”