Brittany and I are not even trying to keep ourselves contained. At least we have a road map and we’re not wandering in the dark. So this is part 3, hopefully the last of it. If you need to catch up, here’s Part 1, here’s Part 2, and here’s the gif that started it all.
Tugging him into a small gap in the press of bodies, she turned to him and threw her arms around his neck. She watched his adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, then put his hands on her waist, holding her nearly arms length away from him. He swayed subtly to the beat.
Shaking her head at him, she tightened her hold on him, pulling herself tighter against him. The heels brought her a little closer to his height, close enough that with her body pressed to his, her lips brushed his ear as she murmured, “You’ll find your feet at the end of your legs. You may care to move them.”
The song shifted, a slower, thrumming bass that pounded through her veins. His hands flexed convulsively on her hips before he closed his arms around her, one hand splaying across her lower back as the other moved between her shoulders. His fingers twirled around one dangling strand of hair.
She hesitated for only a moment until she slipped one hand into his hair, scratching lightly along his scalp. God, but he had some really great hair. When she felt, more than heard, his breath hitch in his throat, she grinned against his shoulder.
She moved back just enough to look into his face, still holding him tight enough that he couldn’t slip away. “Are you having fun?” she asked conversationally.
Amusement sparkled in his own eyes. “There’s certainly worse ways I could have spent my evening.” One chilled finger slipped beneath the hem of her shirt, and she arched into him. She had to bite her lip to suppress a moan, and she watched his eyes trail across her mouth.
“I guess you’re right. Who needs to stare up at some stars from a dirty old stable when you could be here.”
He leaned down to her ear. “The stars are always there.” He pulled away, brushing a hand over her cheek and taking some of the hair that had become plastered there with it. “You just gotta know where to look for them.”
The way his voice cut through the pounding music, that distinctive smell that was all Doctor pierced the sweat and stale beer and scotch on her breath, and the way his eyes were staring straight through hers like he could see all that she was and all that she had ever been combined to drop her heart straight into her stomach, where it pooled into a burning warmth low in her belly. His breath fanned over her face as he angled his head down towards her, and she tilted up on her heels to bring herself the rest of the way up.
The noise and the press of bodies around them dropped away with the smooth glide of his lips across hers. He captured her bottom lip between his own, using his tongue to trace the lower ridge. His hand on her lower back pressed her tighter to him, and the growing bulge against her hip and her grinning into the kiss. The hand around his shoulder slipped to his bum and she gave an appreciative squeeze.
He arched into her in response, tongue sliding past her lips as he rocked forward. Her lips parting with a soft moan from the contact. Her hands moved upwards, slipping into his hair, anchoring herself to him, nails lightly scraping against his scalp, urging him on. She could taste something distinctly Doctor under the notes of beer on his tongue and scotch on hers.
The tempo of the floor around them rose, the energy and movement all around keeping them hidden from any possible prying eyes.
They parted finally when both were afraid of the very real possibility of passing out, gasping for breath, half-lidded eyes gazing into the other’s, warm and light headed, still buzzing from both alcohol and one of the most amazing kisses Rose had ever experienced. As the crowd began to thin out, the night winding down, Rose could see Lizzie and Lydia off over by the bar, the latter chatting up the barman, and Lizzie finishing another beer.
“We should probably be getting back,” he murmured against the side of her head, the two of them still swaying and rocking to the remnants of a song.
“Yeah,” she sighed, head turning into the crook of his neck. “Did you want to get Lizzie and Lydia? I just want to make sure nothing’s left at the table.”
“Sure, I’ll meet you by the door.” He smiled before turning to head towards the bar, giving her hand one last squeeze.
Rose smiled back before making her way back up the steps, finding Lizzie’s pocketbook still there on the bench seat, wedged in between the cushions. It was a miracle it wasn’t stolen. As she turned to head back across the club to the main door, she was met with a familiar smug grin.
“He seems nice,” Jack said, leaning against a nearby table. “Cute, too.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Shut up, Jack.”
“What!? I’m just saying he’s a catch. Is he a good kisser?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.
Rose smiled slightly, stopped in her tracks, a blush creeping across her cheeks.
“Don’t worry,” he said, giving her a reassuring smile. “I’m not gonna tell anyone. Anyways, I think your two friends were too busy talking with Ianto to even notice.”
She knew he wouldn’t, but the fear of having to deal with a talking-to from Jackie again about “the best option for her future” and how rumors could severely impact that future was enough to make her stomach turn at the thought. Rose was more that relieved. “Thank you, Jack,” she said, pulling him into a hug.
“It was great seeing you again, Rosie!” he said, emphasising it with a squeeze.
“Same, Jack. Tell Donna I miss her, yeah?”
Rose hopped down the steps before she heard Jack calling after her.
“You keep an eye on that Doctor, you hear? I haven’t seen you that happy with a bloke since you met me,” he teased. “He’s a keeper, that one.”
Rose didn’t even turn back. She just laughed and shook her head. Oh, Jack. The closest thing to a big brother she’d ever had, and the best.
They left the club hand-in-hand. Lizzie and Lydia took the two seats behind the driver while Rose and the Doctor took the 3-seat bench. Rose instinctively curled into the Doctor’s side as she settled into her seat, fingers still intertwined with his. Gradually, he relaxed against her, resting his head atop hers as they all enjoyed a very quiet, exhausted ride back to the Tyler Mansion.
It was a good night.
Flouncing down the stairs, her hair pulled into a high ponytail, Rose followed the sound of her mum’s voice into the kitchen. Jenny was stirring a big pot of soup for lunch for everyone who worked on the property, and Jackie was slicing a fresh loaf of bread. Rose reached forward to snag a piece, only to have her head slapped away.
“You won’t want to spoil your appetite. René is on his way over. Jenny fixed up something special for the two of you. I’m sure you know of a nice place the two of you can ride for a picnic. Heaven knows you’ve been out on the horses enough lately.”
She’d completely forgotten about René. Sure, he’d mentioned he’d be by again a few days ago. But between catching up on her classes, helping mum do some work on the impending baby’s room, and practicing dressage for a coming competition, she hadn’t had time to think of either of the new men in her life. Things must have been going busy enough on the property, because she hadn’t even accidentally run into the Doctor since they’d gotten back from the club.
“Sure, Mum, I know just where to take him. I’ll just… go upstairs, change into something better.”
Jackie’s eyes raked over the red and black zip-up jacket and black pants tucked into black riding boots that she was wearing, but just when she opened her mouth to respond, a knock sounded at the door. “Oh, don’t bother darling.” She bustled around the counter and down the front hall. “You look just fine in that. Besides, he’s here already.” Jackie pulled the door open, flashing her most flattering smile. “Why René, you look like you’ve just stepped out of one of Rose’s riding catalogues.”
Rose shook her head, stepping around her mum and out onto the porch with René. He looked flawless as ever, with the easy casual grace of someone who grew up carefully maintained. “We’ll be back before dinner. Is the lunch already packed into the saddle bags?”
“Yes, dear, and the stable master already has your horse saddled and waiting for you. Go! Have fun.”
She kissed Jackie on the cheek before closing the door behind her. René stopped her long enough to drop a kiss to her cheeks in a way Rose had grown accustomed to her in time in France. “So do you have somewhere planned? I hope we’re foregoing the race today. I doubt Hyacinth could take another hit to his pride.”
Rose smiled easily, leading him across the lawn. “No, there’s this lovely little hill, I only discovered it myself a little while ago. We should make it by lunch before having to rush away.”
He returned her smile, teeth flashing brilliantly in the noonday sun. “As always, lead the way, madame.”
Rose climbed up onto the back of Wildfire and nudged her towards a trail on the west side of the lawn. “Are you enjoying your time here?” Rose asked as they rode side by side. “Getting any studying done, or are the eligible English women breaking down your door?”
“No, not quite,” he laughed, causing Rose to grip the reins tighter, suppressing a grin. “It’s more like mothers of eligible English women inviting me to lunches, teas, and dinner parties.”
“My mum’s not that bad is she?” Rose asked, taking them up the hill towards the spot the Doctor had shown her. “I’ve tried to keep my distance at those things. It’s hard enough trying to form some sort of mutual tolerance with the other people my age, let alone having to deal with their parents at the same time.”
“Oh, not at all,” he assured. “Your mother is lovely. She doesn’t hide her excitement at things but doesn’t push either, more like a nudge. It’s refreshing to be in both of your companies, but especially yours, Rose Tyler.”
She managed a smile towards him, grateful for the compliment. Most men she met nowadays always complimented her mother, laying it on thick with adjectives that wouldn’t have described Jackie in a million years. René’s honesty was refreshing, but there was still something about how he said her name, how he held her hand, that didn’t quite sit right in the back of Rose’s mind and in her gut. He wasn’t the Doctor, that was for sure, but there was still something very nice about spending time with him that Rose rather enjoyed. He wasn’t hard on the eyes either.
In fact, she spent most of their picnic on the hill overlooking the horizon, sky filled with sunlight instead of starlight, hand holding that of a French Marquis instead of an English stableboy, unable to stop thinking about how he got his hair to do that. With the Doctor, she had a fair idea of how that process went down, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out how René achieved that relaxed yet groomed look from his wavy blonde hair.
“Rose?” he asked gently.
She sat up slightly, resting back on her elbows, as he shifted to face her, propping himself up on one arm. “Yeah?”
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you over the past week. You truly are remarkable and clever. My only regret is not to have met such an amazing woman sooner,” he smiled.
Rose really didn’t know what to say to that last bit. She was used to the same-old repeated compliments, but there was something genuine to his words, there always have been.
He leaned down closer to her, having sensed her loss for words and pressed his lips to hers, just a slight touch of lips-on-lips. He was hesitant at first, giving her space, giving her an out, but soon she was pressing back, her fingers rising to curl into the hairs at the nape of his neck.
She shifted beneath him after a moment before pulling back, both slightly light-headed. “Thank you,” she said, clearing her throat with a smile and biting her lip. René sat there, fairly stunned, an unusual break from his usual sense of grace and confidence in everything else that he did. She’d be lying if she wasn’t just a tiny bit proud of having that effect on him.
“We should probably be getting back,” she suggested. “We’ve, ehm…We’ve been out here awhile and there’s still some assignments I need to get to.”
He nodded, grinning wildly, as he stood to help her pack the horses and head back to the stables. Their conversation resumed on the way back, light-hearted and companionable, full of giggles and laughter, as they’ve both grown accustomed to on their rides.
They both dismounted before entering the stables, René patiently waiting for Rose as she handed Wildfire’s reins over to the stable master, giving her a quick kiss and rub on the nose, before turning back to René.
“Rose,” he started, nervously. “I know you’ve just come back, but I was wondering if you’d like to come with me to France for a week.”
She stood there, rather speechless, as he continued.
“I’ve really come to enjoy your company, and dare I say it, care for you a great deal. It would be my honor to show you my country and home as you have so graciously shown me yours.”
“René,” she began. “I’m not sure what to say. I don’t know…”
He smiled with a polite nod. “I completely understand, Rose. It’s just an offer, but one I would love for you to take. Good afternoon, Rose. Today was lovely.” And with a gentle kiss to her cheek, he mounted Hyacinth and headed off down the road.
Rose leaned against the door of the stable, head lolling back and resting on the worn wood. She took a deep breath, exhaling heavily before pressing off the door with a jolt, as she made her way up the path back toward the main house.
The Doctor emerged slowly from the tack room, knuckles white around the handle of the pushbroom. He’d known Rose had been spending time with René; he’d seen them around the property with his own eyes. He’d even told himself multiple times over the busy hours of the last couple days that the night in the club had been a one-off, probably brought about by a bit too much alcohol.
He had been out farther in the property this afternoon, on the all-terrain vehicle, pulling up weeds that could be potentially hazardous to the horses if they stumbled across and ate them. He’d seen Rose and René ride to the hill he’d shown her at the beginning of the week. Whistling a light tune and feeling friendly enough to meet the bloke Rose seemed to like, he’d jogged over for a quick hello.
Of course he’d managed to crest the hill just in time to see her kissing him, arms wrapped around his neck in a way that made the hair on the back of the Doctor’s prickle. He’d turned to hurry back to the stables, and had spent the last hour trying to tell himself that he should have seen this coming, that she’d never promised him anything, that he was happy to see her enjoying herself. The way he hid in the tack room as soon as they’d rode up proved how much he believed himself.
He heard her light feet carrying her towards him in not enough time to hide from her. Instead, he focused on closer on the wood in front of him, missing a strike of a nail and accidentally hitting his thumb.
“There you are, stranger!” she called out to him, and her scent of mangos and sunshine washed over him in a way that made him take an involuntarily deep breath in. “I haven’t seen you for, what, five days? Where have you been hiding?”
Keeping his eyes decidedly away from her face, he sucked on his thumb, waving his hand to the stall he was repairing. “I’ve had work to do.”
Out of the corner of his eye he could see her expression falter, but she reached out a hand towards the one against his face. “Let me…”
He jerked away before she could touch him. “It’s fine, Rose. What can I do for you? Did you want Silver saddled today? Maybe Wildfire again, for a ride in the hills? Or how about Hespera? She hasn’t been out in a while.”
He finally risked a glance at her, watching the hurt, confusion, and uncertainty wash over her features. “Doctor, did… Did I do something wrong?”
“No, Rose, I’ve just… I’ve got work to do. Let me…” He walked around her, heading towards the other end of the stalls. He could hear she’d stayed rooted behind him, and his heart broke while at the same time a dark voice in the back of his head growled, wondering why she even cared.
“Doctor,” she called out.
He willed himself to push forward, to run away, just like he’d always done, but something froze him in his tracks. Oh God, did he wish she’d just have let him go. It would have been easier. It would have been for the best. But try as he might, he stood still at the end of the barn, swallowing hard, as her footsteps drew closer.
“Doctor,” she said again. Softer, confused, hurt.
He reluctantly turned around, jaw clenched, as she took his hand. Her warmth like fire to his skin. He should’ve ran.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said bluntly, forcing a smile. “I’m fine. Just been busy. Horses to look after, land to maintain, equipment to fix. Stable boy stuff.”
The way she was looking at him was worse than he could’ve imagined. He should’ve ran. Ran right out the door, as far away as possible, but something about her made him stop.
“I could help if you… “
“Rose, please,” he begged, dropping her hand. “I need to go.”
This was it. Now or never. If he stayed any longer, he’d surely break, and that wasn’t the point. The point was that this was about her and her happiness and future, not his. Of course, this wouldn’t be easy for either of them, but the quicker, the better for all. He wasn’t going to get in their way. He was a wandering stable boy with only a horse to his name. René had a profession, a life, a comfortable life, a life he’d just hinted at giving Rose. He couldn’t match that. Not in a thousand years in the whole universe of time and space.
“Don’t,” she pleaded, but it was too late.
He had already pushed his way through the door of tack room. Taking a seat on the bench. He wanted to make it stop, the ache in his heart, and he had thought the hard part over, the plaster ripped off. That was until he heard Rose let out a shaky breath, just before the door closed, and his heart finally broke in two.
It had been a week since the incident in the stables. She’d poked her head around a couple times earlier in the week, but to no avail. Eventually, she just gave up. He was either genuinely busy or he was avoiding her, and the thought that she’d done something to hurt him, made the glance towards the lit-up stables at night, pang even more.
The week was filled with dinner parties galore. It was barely tolerable until Jackie got wind of René’s offer. She was so happy and delighted in thinking that Rose had finally met someone like herself. It was true that René wasn’t the normal posh prince normally found at these events. She had even gotten into the habit of picking him out in the crowd to escape the shallow conversation around her, but if she was honest, she didn’t know about him, about this life he was essentially offering.
He was nice, charming, funny, and genuinely cared about her, not just Pete’s money, but all the parties and titles and formal dress, that’s not her life. It never was, and she doesn’t want it to be. If it were, she’d feel like it’d be dreams of a house in Versaille, instead, it was the view of the lit stables out of her window at night, and the man who’s shown her the stars within it.
With that thought running through her mind, she hurried down the stairs, searching out her Mum in the kitchen. Papers were spread around her at the table, and Jackie hunched closer to one of them, a pen tapping against her lips. Party planning was her favorite time of year.
Jackie heard Rose enter the room, and looked up, her look of concentration shifting into a grin. “Hello, sweetheart. I’ve invited René along to the Vitex party here this weekend. Is that alright with you?”
“Sure, Mum,” she agreed distractedly. “Do you have any invitations left?”
Jackie shifted some papers around and produced a crisp, clean white envelope trimmed in black. “Invite all the friends you like, dear. The Bennets will be dropping by as well.”
“Great.” She snatched the card, hurrying out the back door. With any luck, he’d still be working in the stables. She didn’t dare sneak a peek inside as she hurried past into the darkening line of the trees.
There weren’t any lights on in the guest house. Breathing a sigh of relief, Rose stepped up to the door and slipped the envelope underneath, darting one last look around before she ran back towards the house.
The Doctor was laying in the center of his floor, one arm tossed over his eyes. All the lights were off in his little home. He’d been laying there for most of his afternoon off, in the dark and the quiet, hoping some of the ache in his chest would sink into the hard floor beneath him. He’d made a mess of things, and he couldn’t see a way out, unless he had a time machine and could go back in time and stop himself from ever meeting Rose. He sighed, rubbing the crook of his elbow over his eyes.
He heard a whisper of movement, and turned to see something slide in under his door. Apathy warred with curiosity until he got to his feet, slinking over to pick up the little trimmed envelope. Surprised, he glanced out his window, but couldn’t see anyone around.
He dropped onto the couch, all his weariness focused on the paper in his hand. With gentle fingers, he pulled out a single card that read:
You are hereby invited to attend the 22nd annual
Vitex Summer Fundraiser
Celebrating the announcement of Vitex’s Fall Line innovations
This gathering of staff, investors, and friends will be held in the
Tyler family home. Please wear something business casual
that will not be too uncomfortable for an intimate affair.
He flipped the card over a couple times, rereading the date and time, and the lofty words. He hadn’t expected a low stable boy like himself to be invited to something like this. But the card had said staff, and with the generosity that Pete had given him since coming here, he knew he couldn’t decline the invitation. He looked back to his room with a sigh. He did have one suit…
She wasn’t sure if he had shown up or was even going to show up. It was a bit of a long-shot, she knew that, but she missed him. She missed his smile, his wild rambling, his messy hair, just everything. It was a comfort to see him every time she went to the stables, but the past week had felt heart-breakingly empty.
She was wearing a simple, yet elegant little number, off-white with an empire waist, hitting just below the knee. It was one of her favorites for the summer functions. Classy enough for most of the functions held at the house, yet still breathable enough to help with the summer heat. It was a little step up from business casual, but most of the women who attended these things usually did.
She had just gotten her first Scotch of the night when she saw him from across the ballroom.
He was wearing brown pinstripes, tailored, accentuating his thin frame, but not too tight like some of the men here. Instead of his signature button-up she was so used to seeing, he wore a dark blue henley underneath with the top few buttons undone, exposing the slightly tanned hollow of his neck. It looked almost like the same shade of blue as Tardis’ saddle blanket. He must have been experimenting with backcombing or something because his hair looked unbelievably gorgeous tonight.
She’d never seen him in anything but jeans before, and had wondered what he’d even wear if he even decided to come at all, but looking at him now, she couldn’t imagine him wearing anything else. It was suitably the Doctor.
Rose leaned against the back wall, gently swirling the drink in her hand, debating whether or not to go to him or to wait for him to come to her. She saw him make his way to Pete, presumably thanking him for the invite, and in-turn, watched him be forcibly introduced to nearly everyone in the party, his face flushed and stammering for words. He looked cute when he was out of his element.
She decided she should probably rescue him from the social onslaught, after all, that wasn’t why she wanted him to come. She saw the Doctor grab what looked like a Scotch of his own the moment he was able to break away from the crowd. Lagavulin she remembered, the thought bringing a smile to her face, but before she could make her way across the floor, he headed out towards the balcony, the same balcony that René had just stepped out onto a few minutes earlier.
Rose stopped suddenly, deciding to wait until at least one returned to the party. Whatever was going to be said, whatever needed to be said out there was better off done without her in the mix. She’d only complicate things. Oh, this was not going to plan at all.
For his part, he’d been trying. Trying hard than he had in a long time. The press of people, the constant barrage of fake smiles and inane chatter, all the things he’d stayed far away from at the Prydonian Academy, and he’d endured it for Pete. A small part of him added and Rose, but he squashed it down. The sooner he admitted that was over, that there was never anything there to begin with, the better he would feel.
He leaned against the rail of the porch, eyes skating over the fields as he sipped on his scotch. The cool air lapped at his skin, easing away the tension of the too-crowded party.
“Nice night, isn’t it?”
His head whipped around at the smooth, polished voice so fast he felt a twinge in his neck. René leaned against the far end of the railing, straightening and turning to the Doctor with a polite smile. Nerves and anger and jealousy bubbled up inside him but he grabbed the emotions and stuffed them as far down as he could.
“Hello, it’s a pleasure to meet you. You must be the Marquis de Pompadour. I’ve seen your horse in the stables. He is a beautiful stallion.”
“Thank you. We get the best care possible for him.” René looked him over curiously. “Please, call me René. And you are..?”
The Doctor thrust his hand into René’s outstretched one, shaking it more vigorously than necessary. “Right, sorry! I’m the Doctor.”
René’s smile became a bit more genuine as he released the Doctor’s hold, leaning back to look him over. “Ah, you’re Rose’s friend, the one who works in the stables. She speaks of you often.”
The Doctor felt his throat close, so he only nodded in response. Rose had been talking about him, when alone with René? No, bad Doctor, stop with those thoughts.
“She’s a remarkable woman, isn’t she?” The Doctor followed René’s line of sight through the large window of the house, and came to a stop on Rose in a pretty summer dress, talking and laughing with Lizzie and a group of her friends. “Despite her rough upbringing, she has grown up absolutely incredible. A woman like that, she deserves all the finer things in life.”
The Doctor couldn’t take his eyes off of her any more than he could stop listening to every word coming out of René’s mouth. The younger man was right. Rose was smart, adventurous, the kindest soul he’d ever met, and the most beautiful woman he’d ever had the chance to see. She deserved to never go back to the life she’d been born into. She deserved everything she could ever want. Everything he could never give her.
“Well, it has truly been a pleasure to meet the infamous Doctor. If there’s ever any chance you could be stolen away from Pete, just let me know. Someone like Rose does not give her praises lightly, and we could use your talent in our stables back home.” René, oblivious to the Doctor’s inner decision, clapped him on the shoulder and made his way back inside, dissolving almost instantly in the press of people.
The Doctor took one last look at the gilded world he didn’t belong to, would never belong to, had no right to belong to, and turned away from the music and laughter. Heavy steps brought him down the path away from the house and into the quiet stables shrouded in the darkness of the night.