AN: See if you can spot the teensy BtVS shout-out word. :)
Suddenly the man, who'd seconds before been gawping at her with wide, surprised eyes, has dropped to his knees in front of her, squeezing his arms around her middle, his face pressed into her stomach. "Rose," he sobs, and she can feel the warmth of his tears near her belly button.
She manages to get her other leg behind her and catches herself before the force knocks her over. She is more startled than she's been in nearly 250 years. "Um," she says, for lack of better words, her arms hovering uncertainly out to her sides.
He squeezes tighter and mumbles her name into her shirt like a religious chant. "Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose."
She doesn't recognize the man, doesn't understand why his tears are rife with grief and joy at the same time, and, if she's being at all truthful with herself, is a little uncomfortable after all these years of solitude with such a blatant show of emotion. Her first instinct is to comfort, but she's a little out of practice. "There, there," she says and pats him awkwardly on the back.
He snorts in an unattractive way and Rose tries to ignore the snot he's probably just gotten all over her shirt. His whole body is shaking with his sobs now.
"Sorry, I'm a bit rusty at this," she apologizes and rubs at his back. Hadn't her mother done that for her once? She definitely remembers doing it for little Tony.
A sound escapes him that doesn't really resemble sobbing and she looks down.
Oh, of all the - "You're laughing!" she accuses and thumps him on the head.
He pulls his face away from her abdomen, but his arms still encircle her, albeit a mite more loosely. "You're terrible at this," he informs her, the first words he's spoken other than her name.
"Oi!" she protests. "I'll have you know I'm a champion comforter - comforter? comforterer? comfortador? comfor- I'm rather great at comforting people! Least when they're not bloody strangers rushin' me in the streets!" Her arms are crossed and she's glowering at him pointedly with her best "I-mean-business" face.
He chuckles a little. "Sight for sore eyes, you are, even with that sourpuss look on your beautiful face."
She tries to contain her blush ("You're 637 bloody years old!" she yells at herself). "Flatterer," she accuses. "And we need to talk about where you know me from exactly. Or, more importantly probably, when," she tacks on the end.
"As you wish," he tells her.
She catches the reference and snorts. "Well, we can't very well have this conversation in the middle of the park with you on your knees like some daft creature from the asylum. Fancy a bite to eat?"
"Chips?" he asks, looking up at her with wide, knowing eyes.
Her eyes narrow. "Okay, seriously, this is a bit ridiculous. Who are you?"
"I'm hurt you don't recognize me, Rose Tyler," he says, finally standing.
Rose gasps. She'd left that name behind a long time ago, when the last of the Tyler's had died or moved on. Now the name was only a legend, a bed-time story still told in the Tyler family. She went by Rose Smith now, a little tribute to Mickey, long since buried.
"I mean, I know I've changed again. Still not ginger, as you can see. Rude as ever though." He grins at her.
Breath catching in her chest, Rose reaches both hands out, cupping the man's face. "Doctor?"
"In the flesh."
She launches herself at him, arms around his neck, legs going around his waist, and sobs into his collar. Clarity. She understands now how tears can be both joy and grief. "Doctor," she whispers.
He kisses the top of her head and squeezes her back. "My Rose. I've missed you ever so much."
It's several minutes before she finally lets go and slides back to the ground. She puts a little distance between them and immediately kicks him in the shin.
The grin slides off his face. "Ow!" he exclaims.
"That was for taking so long to come and get me," she informs him levelly.
He's still a little preoccupied with the pain in his leg, so he's quite surprised when she grabs the lapels of his tweed and pulls him down to mash their lips together. Pleasantly surprised, she hopes. Her hopes are affirmed when his hands tangle in her hair and he opens his mouth to her.
It's another several moments before she releases him and he slides his hands from her hair. He's grinning and she pushes him back a little and studies this new him for a second.
He's still tall-ish and dark-haired, but this new face is so young and soft. His eyes are green and he's got a much bigger nose. It's possible his new hair is even more unruly than before. He's got an old-man-type tweedy jacket on over a light pink shirt with a red bow-tie and black slacks that reminded her a little of her first doctor. She catches sight of the buckles clipped to his pants and pushes his jacket to the side. She grins at the discovery of red braces.