When one has been alive for 953 years, it wouldn't seem like three years would be a long time. The Doctor had known, from his experiences in the past, that even one year could change so much. Even a few minutes. One minute, a Timelord with a title, the next a pariah. One minute, a condemned man, the next a free one. One minute, a planet with ten billion souls, the next, dust.
One minute, 51st century spaceship, with a TARDIS and two companions, the next, France. Trapped in a time, in a place that wasn't his. The Doctor had sacrificed his life for that woman he'd only known for a day, for a promise he made to protect her. To return to her when she needed him. He would not fail her. In the end, he took Arthur's reins and leapt through, three thousand years between himself and his TARDIS. Three thousand years between himself and Rose and Mickey and everything he knew.
Knowing that she was alive, that was worth it. Even that night, where she couldn't comfort him as he stared at that fireplace that had failed to free him, he knew it was worth it. One life. Everything was worth it for just one life, wasn't it?
In the end, she had saved him just as much as he had her. She gave him a home, an occupation---her personal physician---and the support of a companion, which he so desperately needed. Three years. It could've been worse.
He uncoiled the red ascot from his throat and sighed heavily at the mirror. A lock of his growing hair curled just above his eye, and his sideburns now splayed out to the edge of his jaw. The styles of this century were complete rubbish, in his opinion, and no matter how hard he'd tried to tame his hair, it simply refused to submit to anything, even a simple ponytail. He pulled it out of the ribbon, letting the brown locks sway just longer than shoulder length.
He had experimented with facial hair the year before, but found himself looking more like a villain than a French physician. The Gallifreyan vowels that usually slipped from his tongue gave way to period French, accentless and smooth. He hadn't aged in the last three years. That wasn't surprising, of course. He hadn't expected himself to. In a few more years, though, others would notice, he would have to move, or make some sort of an excuse for it. In a few more years, Reinette would be gone, as would his reason for staying in France.
They had kept that connection, for three years. Occasionally it would dim, but eventually they would hold hands, silently ask the other for permission to connect, to feel completely with someone for that time. She had lost her daughter and father two years before, and he had lost his planet and people two decades before…somehow it seemed to fit. They filled the holes in each other's missing space.
Nights turned into weeks, that turned into months, and by the time Hailey's comet shot across the Parisian sky, the Doctor had the first inclination that perhaps he would not leave France, not through technology and cleverness. The slow path. Slow paths were more difficult paths, the Doctor discovered, though it was made easier with a companion, a constant. A friend.
He wasn't sure exactly when it happened, when that companionship became something more. The night where they were having tea and discussing the politics of France and Gallifrey and suddenly something happened that changed it. Taking Madame de Pompadour as a lover was probably dangerous in more ways than the Doctor would've liked to think---indeed, while she was no longer his official mistress, Louis XV was less than impressed with the amount of time the Doctor took that had once belonged to him. She respected the King, still loved him in a way, but love changed as time did, and she could not be the younger mistresses she assigned to replace herself.
Two years, and the Doctor came to realize that Reinette had become his mistress, in a way. He'd dealt with that sort of situation before, and found that Reinette was not one he wished to force into that sort of a role. Weeks were spent trying to take into account the time, the customs, and a very comical sort of plan was drawn out for courting. Marriage, while not unpleasant an idea, was both a good idea and a very, very bad one. Good, in that Reinette's first marriage had ended so poorly, it might regain her faith in that institution. Bad, in that being the husband to Madame de Pompadour would only put the Doctor under a microscope, his name would be questioned, his origin, the reasons why he did not age.
The Doctor glanced back in the mirror. Some things would've been so much easier, were he human like the woman he loved.
The ascot was dropped onto the nightstand, and a dark blue one was tied in its place. The Yew Ball. Almost ironic, that, considering it was that night many, many years ago that the Doctor had made his promise to Reinette that had him here.
"Reinette?" he called into the next room, "You ready to go?"