“Did you just crash land?”
The Doctor loosened his death-grip on the console of the TARDIS and shot his assistant an annoyed look. “No.”
Rose picked herself off of the floor, grinning. “You did, didn’t you?”
The Doctor shook his head. “The TARDIS doesn’t crash land.”
“Didn’t say anything about the TARDIS,” she remarked, smile widening as she edged closer to him. “I said that you crashed.”
“I don’t crash either.”
“The current evidence says differently,” she said, sending him a cheeky smirk.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. She liked giving him a hard time, this one, and he was fairly certain that he would come to either dread or adore this tendency in his newest companion, this Rose Tyler. Oh, he liked her well enough (more than ‘well enough’ if he was being perfectly honest), and as far as the Doctor was concerned she had more than proven herself. After all, she had already saved his life once, and witnessed the end of her world, facing both danger and despair with a bravery and fortitude that were rare attributes throughout the universe.
Yes, this Rose Tyler was special.
But that didn’t mean that he would sit back and allow her keep jabbering on with her nonsense about crashing.
He turned around and leaned against the console, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Would you like to drive?” he asked her, eyebrows raised expectantly.
Rose tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and muttered a subdued, “No.”
“Didn’t think so.” He spun back to the controls, doing his best to hide a smile. He was well aware that if she knew he enjoyed pushing her buttons as much as she enjoyed pushing his, she would only be encouraged to continue her irritating (or irresistible, he still wasn’t positive) behavior.
So, the Doctor went back to fiddling with the console. “That’s humans for you. Complain complain complain, but when you give them an opportunity to actually fix something…”
“Well if you’d teach me how to drive this thing-”
The Doctor snorted. “Teach you?” He threw her a disbelieving look over his shoulder. “Teach you how to fly a TARDIS?”
Rose glared, grabbing the arm of his jacket and pulling him to face her. “Well what’s so ridiculous about that?”
He blinked blankly at her. “It would take years, no, decades for you to even begin to contemplate how my, frankly fantastic, machine runs, much less be able to fly it. That would take, at the very least, the rest of your natural born life, and even then you’d still have some learning to do.”
“So you’re not going to teach me then?”
“No,” he confirmed, looking back to the console. “So stop your complaining.”
There was silence for a beat before Rose perked up once more, grinning as she asked, “So why did you crash?”
She obviously wasn’t easily deterred.
“I don’t know,” he allowed with a resigned sigh. “And I didn’t crash,” he added quickly. “We had a shaky landing.”
“That resulted in a loud ‘crash’ noise and sent us falling to floor?”
“Exactly,” he said, distracted as he frowned at the console. “This isn’t right.”
“What?” Rose came closer, peering over his shoulder.
The Doctor made an effort not to notice the proximity.
He pointed to the screen he was examining. “The coordinates, they were changed. I set them for 1860, but this says it’s December 1999.”
She furrowed her brow. “Well, who changed them, then?”
The Doctor paused for an instant before locking his gaze on the Time Rotor of the TARDIS. “I have no idea.” He scowled at the green cylinder. “Must have been a malfunction.”
He and his ship were going to have a long serious discussion, and if she continued to be bothersome it was going to involve a hammer.
“What’s there to see in 1999 anyway?” Rose asked, oblivious.
He continued to glower at the TARDIS. “How about you go take a look?”
“Going to do a little maintenance.” He grabbed the hammer that he kept handy at the side of the console. He could almost hear a whimper resonate from the ship. Smirking, he turned back to Rose. “Be there in a mo.”
She shrugged. “Have it your way.” She snagged her jacket from the railing and bounded down to the door, excitement apparent in her every feature.
The Doctor’s leer softened as he watched her. He had almost forgotten how much he enjoyed seeing his companions joyful, and Rose’s smiling face seemed to give him a particularly pleased jolt. She was beautiful, in that instant, running headfirst into the unknown.
Yes, the Doctor quite liked Rose Tyler. Oh, she was young, and naïve, and compassionate to a fault. But despite all of these glaring, so very human, flaws, she made him happy. Happy in a way that he hadn’t been since before he saw Gallifrey burn.
The Doctor shook himself, mentally shoving away the sentimental rubbish. He was a busy man, one who had important things to concern himself with. Specifically, the plotting ways of his conniving ship. He turned back to control panel, giving it a severe look. “What are you up to?” he demanded, suspicious.
The TARDIS was an incredibly intelligent, insightful, and, worst of all, meddlesome creature. Although he had long since lost track of the time he had been traveling on his own (years, decades?), he had no doubt that his ship had catalogued and resented every instant of it. After nine hundred years, she still seemed dreadfully depressed when he was left wandering alone. Privately, the Doctor supposed that she had become a bit bored of him, but he knew better than to give voice to this thought, or even to think it very forcefully. One of the many downsides to having a telepathic means of transport was that his thoughts were rarely entirely his own.
He suspected that she thought this ‘telepathic insight’ made her more entitled to the meddling she appeared to take such pleasure in, and the Doctor had done his best to discourage such sentiments. Hence, his need for the hammer, which, although mostly for visual effect, had managed to make the TARDIS much more cooperative when combined with a bit of dramatic yelling and arm-waving.
Although terribly effective, for the sake of his dignity, this ‘maintenance’ would best be done without Rose’s company.
Or at least that was the plan before he heard a nervous “Doctor?” from the entrance.
In an instant he had dropped the hammer and was running toward Rose. “What’s wrong?”
She simply pointed outside of the blue box.
“Oh,” the Doctor said, looking to see space yawning out before him, the Earth rotating slowly in the distance. “Well that’s odd.”
“That we’re looking at the Earth from hundreds of miles away? Yeah, a little odd.” She gave a shaky laugh, eyes full of wonder. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this.”
“That?” the Doctor asked in an unimpressed tone.
Rose turned to him and scowled, wonder quickly replaced with annoyance.
He gave dismissive wave with his hand. “That’s nothing. We crashed in space, that’s what’s odd.”
She smiled triumphantly, poking him in the chest with an accusing finger. “I knew you crashed!”
The Doctor rolled his eyes, ignoring her comment and rubbing at the spot she had jabbed. “You can’t crash in space. What’s there to crash with? No atmosphere, no gravity. We can’t crash because there’s nothing to crash into.”
She frowned. “But there has to be something.”
“Can you see anything?”
“No, but then what-”
“Wait,” he said, holding out a hand to silence her, an idea forming. “1999.”
“What?” Rose asked as she stared at him expectantly.
The Doctor simply grinned. He grasped her shoulders before gently pulling her away from the door.
She shook her head, obviously confused. “What about 1999, Doctor?”
He maintained his smile, giving her arms a quick squeeze before striding forward to the edge of the TARDIS. He glanced down at the gaping space beneath him before throwing a last look at Rose.
Then, with a gleeful smirk, he jumped-
-only to come to an instant, jarring halt. He shook off the unpleasant sensation before bouncing a bit in place. Once certain that his suspicions were correct, he turned around elatedly, standing level with the TARDIS and looking at the boggled expression of his astonished companion.
“Haha!” he laughed. He grinned brightly and reached out his hand to her. “Come on.”
Rose blinked. “You’re standing in space.” Her eyes were fixated on the spot where his feet were firmly stationed. “On nothing.”
He grinned. “Breathing too.”
The Doctor nodded. “Yep!”
“That’s…” She paused for an instant, slowly tearing her gaze away from his feet and moving it to his face. “Fantastic.” She assumed a smile to mimic his own.
“It is,” the Doctor agreed happily. He extended his hand a bit further, beckoning her. “So what are you doing inside?”
In an instant her hand was clasped firmly in his and she was outside, striding forward and tugging him along, glancing around in sheer astonishment.
She truly was fearless.
“I’m in space! Standing and breathing in space!”
“Sort of, yeah.”
Rose’s exploration came to a sudden halt as she raised a puzzled eyebrow at him. “Sort of?”
“Well, it’s not so much space as it is an,” he waved his hand in a dramatic fashion, “observation deck.”
“But I don’t see-”
“Not supposed to, are you? How can you observe with all of that metal and substance getting in the way?” The Doctor pulled her forward a bit more, guiding the hand that was still grasped in his forward to press against the thick, unseen, frame of the deck. “See?”
Rose nodded, bringing up her other hand to the frame. “And what are we observing, exactly?” she questioned.
The Doctor smiled, smug. “The end of the world.”
She almost sounded disappointed.
He did his best to suppress a grin, crossing his arms irritably in front of his chest instead. “Well, someone’s getting spoiled, aren’t they?”
“But it’s 1999,” she persisted. “The world doesn’t end until-”
“Shut it, would you!” the Doctor interrupted, grabbing her hand once more and giving it a light shake for emphasis.
Just for emphasis, mind.
He leaned forward. “You’re going to ruin it!” he whispered.
Rose frowned. “Ruin it?”
“Yeah,” he said as he gestured behind her. “For them.”
He thoroughly enjoyed the sight of her shocked expression when she turned around to see the massive collection of aliens littering the deck’s surface. Apparently, her wonder at seeing the Earth rotating outside her window had been so great that she had managed to block out the sounds of the huge gathering of incredibly large, chatty, and boisterous extraterrestrials. From a quick estimate, the Doctor made out at least thirty different types of species, most of whom were from nearby planets, and all of whom looked prepared for some grand event to occur.
Many of those present had chairs situated in small circles under umbrellas, hiding under the shelter of the canopies from the light of a highly filtered sun. Others appeared to be cooking, several groups having set up large bonfires with various suspicious types of roast being prepared over them. And still others had playpens set up over the deck, young children of a multitude of species playing together in their small, happy cages.
From the way Rose was staring blankly at the scene, mouth slightly open, the Doctor gathered that she was having a hard time taking it all in.
He thought it best to explain.
“With all the noise you lot were making about the end of the world, people out here started to believe it as much as you did.”
She kept her eyes locked on the mass of aliens. “And so they built an observation deck?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Everyone loves a good apocalypse.”
“There are kids here!”
“Entire families, actually.”
“And they’re just waiting for the Earth to blow up?”
Another shrug. “It’s like watching fireworks.”
She finally turned to him, lowering her voice. “And what happens when the world doesn’t end?”
“Then they’ll watch the fireworks.”
She blinked pointedly at him. “Seriously?”
“Fireworks and apocalypses.” The Doctor grinned widely. “The two things that everyone throughout the galaxy loves.”
Rose let out a bark of laughter, staring at the group once more. “The coming of the millennium and Earth was the spectacle of the universe.”
“Well it’s what you usually are.”
Rose promptly slapped his shoulder.
“Oi, what was that for?”
“You’re insulting my planet!”
He smirked. “It’s not exactly undeserved.”
“Then why do you come back?” she asked, staring at him intently. “If the planet’s so ridiculous and if we’re just apes anyway, why keep showing up here?”
“Because I like you lot.”
She seemed surprised by the statement. “Really?”
The Doctor nodded. “Yep. You’re interesting, if stupid.”
He quickly clarified. “You’re always on the brink of grand potential, and you’ve got the universe at your fingertips without even knowing it. It’s all about possibilities with you people, even if you’re not always aware of them. You’re all about the ‘what if’s, the ‘could be’s, something that the rest of the galaxy has long since forgotten.” He grinned. “And because of that your planet’s the most fun a Time Lord can have on a trip through time and space without ritual slaughter involved.”
Rose sent him a horrified look.
The Doctor shook his head. “Don’t ask.”
She smiled before regarding him seriously. “So, you really like us?”
“Well,” he said, readjusting his stance. The question suddenly seemed more intimate than it should have. “You’re all right for apes.”
Rose beamed brightly at him, her hand gripping his a bit more firmly.
The Doctor didn’t know what to make of it- so, trusting logic that had been in use for millennia, he decided to ignore it entirely.
“Well,” he said, pulling her back towards the TARDIS. “We’re off then.”
Rose dug her heels into the deck, bring their progress to an abrupt stop. “You want to leave? Already?”
The Doctor eyed her in confusion. “You want to stay?”
She smiled sweetly at him, swaying back and forth a bit while keeping a hold on his hand. “Everyone likes fireworks.”
He stared at her passively, unimpressed.
Obviously noticing this, she stopped the swaying. “Oh, come on Doctor!” she pleaded. “This is all new to me. Waiting for the apocalypse?”
“One that you know isn’t coming,” he reminded her.
“Watching fireworks from space?”
“You’ve seen them before,” he pointed out.
She sent him an incredulous look. “But not like this.”
The Doctor tried to resist, he really did. But then she smiled at him again, and did that thing with her eyes that only women, of every species, seemed to be capable of.
And then he realized that he didn’t really have much of a choice at all.
He let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine, fine.”
Rose all but squealed, throwing her arms around his waist and hugging him.
And although he tried to ignore it, a part of him reveled in the contact. In the sensation of her fingers tugging at the back of his jacket, at the way he could almost feel her smile through his jumper, in the simple warmth and weight of another body next to his.
It had been far too long since he had had anyone to touch.
But the embrace only lasted an instant. In the next, Rose had removed herself from him and was blushing slightly, likely remembering that she had just met this (alien) man two days ago.
Giving a small cough, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before saying, “Thank you.”
“Humans and their amusements,” he muttered, planning a speedy retreat back to the TARDIS. He had already decided to shove all of the emotional rubbish into the bin, but he was finding that task a bit difficult around Rose Tyler. Best to establish a little distance between himself and the girl for a bit, just to be certain that the sentimental rot stayed where it belonged.
Besides, he still had a bone to pick with his ship.
“Let me go get the sonic screwdriver out of the TARDIS and shut her down.” The Doctor pretended not to feel the weight of the screwdriver in his pocket. He pointed down the deck where a particularly large group of aliens was gathered around a screen the size of a football field. “Go pick out a spot next to the telly over there.”
Rose nodded eagerly and headed off, the Doctor watching her go with a faint grin before striding purposely back inside the TARDIS.
Once the door was firmly shut he walked to the console and eyed his ship in annoyance.
“Stop, would you?” he demanded.
The ship made a displeased noise at him.
“No, I mean it,” he insisted. “I do know what I’m doing. Nine hundred years and I’ve had my fair share of travelers on board, all right?”
His declaration was met with silence. A silence that the Doctor chose to view as an assenting rather than skeptical one.
“So stop your meddling.” The Doctor concluded, giving a firm nod and turning on his heel, heading back to the entrance of the TARDIS.
Only to promptly trip on something.
He looked down to see a basket in his path with a blanket carefully draped over it.
He regarded the objects with horror. “No.” The Doctor shook his head firmly. “No no no.” He glared at the control panel. “I refuse to picnic.”
The TARDIS rumbled ominously.
The rumble was repeated, only louder.
“I’m not afraid to take out the hammer. Is that what you want?”
The entire ship gave a gigantic jolt, throwing the Doctor to the floor and causing the basket and blanket to land on his lap.
He scowled at the TARDIS.
“Fine,” the Time Lord muttered, getting to his feet and grasping the basket handles awkwardly. “But don’t you think that you can do this all the time.” He brushed off and straightened his jacket. “No more rough landings, no more mixing up destinations and times, no more showing off to the assistant, and, most importantly, no more picnics. I’m impressive enough on my own, got it?”
The TARDIS let out a satisfied hum.
So, basket and blanket in tow, the Doctor stalked out of the ship, nearly slamming the door closed on his way out.
After a bit of a walk he reached Rose, who was sitting comfortably behind a large group of metal-like creatures, Mariltons, from just a few solar systems away. When she heard his stomping she tore her gaze away from the aliens, smirking at him with clear amusement as she eyed the objects he was carrying. “I thought you said that you didn’t like domestics?”
“I don’t,” the Doctor said irritably. He flopped onto the ground and tossed his burdens in front of Rose, sulking.
“But you’ve got a picnic basket. And a blanket.” She was obviously resisting the urge to snicker. “Seems like you’re getting pretty homey there, Doctor.”
“You’re on an invisible observation deck, hundreds of miles away from your planet, six years into your past, and you’re waiting to see whether or not your world’s going to end. You think this is homey?”
Rose shrugged, standing up and stretching. “Life with my mother will do that to you.” She picked up the blanket and grinned widely. “The blanket’s even got little moons and stars on it.”
The Doctor glared at her.
She smirked in reply. “Very cute.”
“Sit down and eat your food or else no fireworks.”
Rose laughed, shaking out the blanket before sitting on it happily.
The Doctor, however, refused to touch it on pure principle.
When he told her, Rose laughed again, and he found himself, against his better judgment, smiling as well.
She opened up the basket and he couldn’t help but marvel at the way her face broke into a wide grin. She was beautiful, wasn’t she?
“Chips!” she exclaimed, sending him a grateful smile as she pulled out her prize and began to munch on it. She ate for a few minutes, the Doctor happy to watch her, before asking, “So how much longer do we have, anyway?”
“Until the last time zone clears midnight?”
She nodded, suddenly serious.
The Doctor looked down at his watch. “Ten minutes.” He furrowed his brow, staring at her in puzzlement. “You all right?”
“What, me?” She seemed startled that he had asked. “Yeah, just… I’m watching the end of the world for the second time in as many days.” She gave her head a light shake. “And I remember this too. I was so scared, thinking the world was going to end. Just, everything, over in a blink of an eye without any reason for it.” She laughed, looking down at her hands and playing with one of her rings. “And I remember being furious because I hadn’t even had a proper snog yet.”
“A snog?” The Doctor grinned in incredulity. “Judgment Day was coming and you were worried about exchanging saliva with a prepubescent?”
“Oi!” She nudged him playfully. “I was only thirteen! I had my priorities to think about!” Her smile slowly faded, and she twisted her ring absentmindedly. “Everyone was so terrified, so panicked, not knowing what was going to happen.” She paused before throwing down her hands, giving a nervous laugh. “Things look a lot different from here.” She gave her head another shake. “Seems so silly, now.”
The Doctor regarded her gravely. “It wasn’t.”
She looked at him hopefully. “You think?”
“Yeah.” He grinned. “Doesn’t mean the lot of it wasn’t a bit ridiculous anyway…”
She rolled her eyes.
“But every planet’s got its first apocalyptic scare to get through,” he reassured her. “Like taking off the training wheels.”
“Even your planet?”
“Yep,” he said, thoughts returning to red grasses, two suns and silver leaves. “Especially mine.”
He was so absorbed with these thoughts that he was startled when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I am sorry, you know,” Rose said, moving her hand to entwine her fingers in his. “About your planet and your people.”
He found himself staring at her, taking in every detail. Her sincere eyes and her beautiful face, the way she looked at him in the eye without fear, the way her lips were quirked in a cautious smile.
It was then, sitting on an invisible observation deck and waiting for fireworks, that the Doctor first thought that he might love Rose Tyler.
And that might have been the reason why, for the first time in what must have been centuries, the Doctor couldn’t think of a thing to say.
Fortunately, he was spared the task of fumbling for words when a loud bang broke their gaze.
“Here we are then,” the Doctor said, turning to the large screen as the fireworks were displayed and a groan of disappointment echoed throughout the deck.
Rose smirked. “I thought you said that everyone likes fireworks?”
“They do,” he assured her. “Just not quite as impressive as saying you got to see an apocalypse.”
Rose laughed and focused her stare on the screen, holding the Doctor’s hand throughout the entire show.
The Doctor tried not to notice.
When it was through, she looked to the Time Lord and grinned. “That was brilliant.”
“And those were just fireworks,” he remarked, breaking his hold on Rose’s hand somewhat reluctantly as he stood up and gathered the, now empty, basket. “Want to see what else the TARDIS can do?”
She stood also, regarded him intently as she folded up the blanket and gave him a wide, easy, smile. “Yeah.”
With that they went back to the TARDIS, Rose packing away the basket and blanket while the Doctor re-set his original coordinates. And then, after a bit of yelling, asking Rose to hold down various bits and ends, and bragging about his (very impressive) time machine, they came to a violent halt, both travellers flung to the ground once more by a shaky landing.
The Doctor made a mental note to get out his hammer.
“Doctor?” Rose asked from the floor.
“You crashed again.”
They both burst into laughter.
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