"I told you," he said uneasily. "I don't do domestic. Too loud, too human. Too complicated."
"Rubbish!" she retorted.
The Doctor sipped his tea and watched Rose eat.
She had a wholehearted way of enjoying her food. Some of his companions had picked at meals. Some of them had eaten like wolves (Leela did come to mind). And of course Romana had had that horrid nutrition bar machine brought on board — it had been the bane of Ace's life till it saved them during the Time Crash. Even with a piece of toast spread with marmalade or a basket of chips, Rose casually savored every bite, as though it were just as wonderful as a five star meal.
"What are you staring at?" she said. "Have I got a crumb?" She wiped at her face with the back of her sleeve.
"No," he said quietly. He couldn't explain what it was that captivated him so.
"Okay," she said, lowering her eyes.
"This is good," she said, mouth full. Her manners weren't very polished.
"I'm glad," he answered.
"I didn't even know you had a kitchen on the Tardis," Rose said, taking another bite.
The Doctor watched her front teeth bite into the toast. He watched her lips and tongue gather in the crumbs.
"Galley," he said. "The Tardis is a ship, so we call it the galley."
"Oh! Right!" Rose smiled. "My mum asked me, you know, did you eat and drink?"
The Doctor scoffed. "What did she think? That I live on air like a chameleon?"
"Well, who's to know, superior Time Lord physiology and all," Rose answered. "She said, what if he eats grass, or safety pins... then she offered to make shepherd's pie and went looking for the amaretto."
"Vegetarian, me," the Doctor said, softly.
"Oh!" Rose said. "I never ... never thought of that. Sorry!"
"The thought of meat — can't bear it, anymore." He shuddered.
"Sorry," Rose repeated, sincerely. She turned her attention back to the toast.
"Not so sure about Amaretto either," he said breezily. "It's a bit, well, alcoholic. Poison, really. Can't really enjoy it while I'm busy metabolizing the toxins out of it."
"Ah," Rose said. A short silence fell. "But now I know how you take your tea— white with two sugars! How's that so bad, being domestic?"
"Gwyneth knew," the Doctor said directly. "Ask her."
Rose's eyes went wide, then she frowned.
"What?" he said.
"That's not fair," Rose muttered.
"What isn't? Gwyneth was a beautiful young girl, dead because of me," the Doctor said. "It's only right to remember her."
Rose fixed him with her deep brown eyes. "I don't understand you," she began. "You tried everything to save that girl — you saved the whole world — and now you're still feeling guilty about it."
"Seems to me you understand me quite well," the Doctor said, staring back at her.
She blushed and looked away. "Someone has to make the hard decisions," she said softly. "But..."
"But what?" he said. He didn't quite understand why he was inviting her judgment — a nineteen year old girl to give her opinion on the ways of a Time Lord? But he was curious, and he'd already come to value her insight.
"Of course not everything turns out for the best — it can't, not for everybody. And you end up feeling all the pain — regardless of the decisions people around you have made." Rose looked at him meaningfully, and he remembered the terror and admiration he'd felt when she'd fearlessly put her life in his hands.
"If you'd died today— " the Doctor said. He couldn't finish the thought.
"But I didn't," she said, leaning forward. "I didn't. And if I had — " She suddenly reached out and took his hand. "If I had, that's not on you. That's on me, for wanting to go wherever you go."
"But I'm meant to keep you safe," he said, harshly.
Rose shook her head. "Mums are like that. Unreasonable. She's already changed her mind about you, you know. I'm really sorry she slapped you," Rose said, covering her face. She was laughing.
"Oi! Now you're laughing at me!" the Doctor said.
"You should've seen your face! She can slap!" Rose laughed.
"And you wonder why I don't want to stick around?" he returned, rubbing the place where the slap still rang shockingly through his memory.
"Yeah — I do that. Why don't you? Why's it so important for you to scarper at the first sign of a sitdown?"
The Doctor felt as though he might drown in those eyes. They searched him so deeply— never over-awed, never shy, never prying — merely demanding, as her right, that he let her in and show her the truth of him. He was terrified that someday, he'd do just that.
"I told you," he said uneasily. "Don't do domestic. Too loud, too human. Too complicated."
"Rubbish!" she retorted.
The Doctor frowned at her with a pained expression.
"Rubbish!" she repeated. "Everything about you is complicated. Time travel — that's complicated. It's like the whole thing with Gwyneth, is what I think. You're afraid to get close in case something happens." She searched his eyes for something — confirmation?
He just gazed back at her, but he couldn't let go of her hand, her little human hand warming his.
"Yeah," she sighed, when he'd said nothing. "But that's life, innit? You have to take those chances, Doctor — or you're only half alive."
"Do you have any idea how young you really are?" the Doctor said, challenging her.
"Well, yeah," she answered. "You're 900, I'm 19. So?"
"So?" he exclaimed. "So? You're giving me advice on how to live?"
"Yeah, I am, if it looks like you need it," Rose replied, with some attitude. "You can't keep running away all the time."
"Running away?" he scoffed.
"My mum invites you for tea and you can't run fast enough," Rose said.
"Hm," he said, close-lipped.
"It wouldn't hurt you, just to hang around for a day or two," Rose said.
The Doctor remembered the crowded flat, the jumble of humans interacting and reacting around him, trying to quell their anxiety about the aliens, all talking at once, about nothing, everything and nothing.
"Ha," the Doctor said, noncommittal.
"You know what mums are like," Rose muttered, rolling her eyes.
"No, I don't," he suddenly blurted. "Never had a mum. Or, if I did, I can't remember."
"What?" Rose gasped. She blanched, the laughter draining out of her face. "What — were you orphaned?"
"No," the Doctor said. "We weren't born, Time Lords. We were made. Genetic looms. Assigned number of cousins per House. And my cousins hated me, most of them. Destined for greatness, me," he said with quote fingers. Why was he telling her any of this? He didn't have to tell her these things.
"No mum?" Rose said, looking at him with a terrible sympathy. "Ha, then, we're alike then. Since my dad, you know, died when I was little."
She never, ever said what he expected. The big revelation, the most freakish thing about him, and she thought it made them even more alike.
He made no reply.
"You looked good with that little kid on your lap — Andy? Alfie? I've forgotten his name."
Wrestling a little boy for control of the remote, staring face to face into depthless, fearless eyes, such a live little thing — the tiny human had no idea what kind of person he was facing, who the Doctor was, the things he'd seen and done. Such a little life, so fierce and yet so delicate.
"Just, please, Doctor. Give us a chance," Rose said. "It's not so bad, having somewhere to go, somewhere that stays the same — a home."
"This is my home," he said, "the Tardis."
"I know, and she's lovely! You have to show me more of her!" Rose beamed. "But I have a home too, and you know, mi casa es su casa."
The Doctor had to laugh at her terrible accent, and his heart filled with light. This human girl — all that seemed to matter to her was his happiness — his welfare — while all the time he was thinking of her as a fragile creature, just like that little boy.
"The next time my mum invites you, you have to stay. No running away," Rose insisted. "Promise me now. Promise!"
"I promise," the Doctor muttered. "Okay?"
"An ill grace, that," Rose muttered in reply. "But noted. Okay, now, what else can this galley do besides toast?"
The Doctor blinked. Besides toast and tea, what was there?
"Let's find out!" he said, and he felt his own face matching her brilliant smile.