Vent Thy Folly Somewhere Else by TARDIS_stowaway
Summary: Rose takes the parallel Doctor home to meet the family. Mistaken identity complicates everything as Mickey gets angry, Pete gets something off his chest, and Jackie talks about tree-sitting. Third in the Illyria series.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Ninth Doctor
Characters: Jackie Tyler, Mickey Smith, Pete Tyler, Rose Tyler, The Doctor (9th), The TARDIS
Genres: Alternate, Universe, Angst, Character, Study, Drama, Humor
Vent Thy Folly Somewhere Else by TARDIS_stowaway
Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Mistaken IdentityAuthor's Notes: In which the Doctor is undeservedly chastised.
Here's a bit of a change of pace for the Illyria series. This was originally supposed to be a one-chapter story on the edges of fluff, but it grew and darkened slightly in the telling.
One minute the small park contained trees, well-kept grass, benches, a statue of Lord Nelson, and pigeons. The next it also contained a ticket booth. By the time the doors of the ticket booth opened, its roof was just as crowded with pigeons as Nelson’s shoulders.
“Right, we find a newspaper before going to see my mum, just to confirm that it really is the day after I left,” Rose declared, stepping out of the TARDIS.
“Would I set you down in the wrong time?” asked the Doctor indignantly. Rose’s raised eyebrows communicated as much as a strongly-worded essay in response. After a long moment the Doctor sighed. “Point taken.”
Rose immediately dropped the “how thick do you think I am” glare and smiled brightly at him. “Anything under a year from when we left and you beat your counterpart in the other universe the first time he took me home.” The Doctor peered into a rubbish bin and emerged with a sheet of newspaper.
“I’m guessing five years later would make me the loser,” he frowned, studying the paper.
“What?! Five years? Bloody hell! What she must have gone through…oh God. The only question is whether she’ll be able to spare a few seconds from yelling at me to slap you. Or maybe a few seconds from slapping you to yell at me,” Rose moaned, dropping abruptly to a seat on the bench.
“Did I say it had been five years? I lied. This paper’s from the day you left, so it’s probably the next afternoon.” He grinned impishly. Rose jumped to her feet and smacked his arm.
“You think you’re so funny,” she growled.
“Mostly I think your expression just then was funny,” he smirked.
“Honestly. You’re impossible!” Rose shook her head in exasperation.
“Six times before breakfast!”
Rose tried hard to maintain her annoyed expression, but the corner of her mouth kept twitching upwards. She settled for punching him in the arm again.
“Ow! Can’t we leave the Time Lord abuse to your mother?” he complained.
“I think I can keep her from slapping you, assuming it really has only been a day. It’s not like you’ve done anything to deserve a slap.”
“Well, there’s the part where I nearly got you killed by setting off a booby trap.”
“We don’t have to tell her about that. Besides, if dangerous momentary rashness is all it takes to get a slap, lots of Torchwood people’s cheeks would be stinging, but I think she’s only slapped two of my partners, three if you count Ricky,” Rose said in a vain attempt at reassurance.
“I’ve just remembered the vortex tuner really needs to be recalibrated. You go tell your family where you’re off to while I stay in the TARDIS and take care of that. Go on,” he shooed her, edging back towards the ticket booth.
“Oh no you don’t. Stop running away from my mother when you haven’t even met her yet! You’re going to stay for tea. My parents knew the other Doctor, so they’ll want to meet you.” Seeing his continued reluctance, Rose grabbed his hand. “Look, how about this: I go in first and explain. You can wait out here while I make sure that no slapping will occur. In return, when you come up you’ve got to try not to insult anybody or stare at them like they’re bugs.”
“What if they really deserve it?”
Rose stuck her tongue out. “Just try, alright? It’s my mum and dad.”
He squeezed her hand. “Deal.”
Rose strode up to the garden gate of the largest of the old, handsome brick houses across the street from the park. Peter Tyler had sold the mansion he’d lived in with his first Jackie shortly after Rose and her mother came to this universe. Though just as expensive as the former one, the new house was less ostentatious, to Jackie’s disappointment. The shorter commute and lack of cyberman memories made it a worthwhile move. Rose pressed her thumb to the lock and paused in the open gate.
“Don’t vanish on me, okay?” She tried to keep her tone light, but an edge of nervousness came through.
“I wouldn’t have invited you if I intended to scarper the moment you were out of sight.”
“Just checking.” Rose flashed a toothy smile. Just before the gate shut she turned back again and waved. “Be back in a minute!” The Doctor waved back.
Left alone, the Doctor sat down on bench to read the scavenged newspaper. Then he read it again, this time with red pen in hand to mark all the grammar errors, punctuation problems, and primitive scientific misconceptions. That took up about three minutes. He shooed the pigeons off the TARDIS a few times before giving it up as a lost cause. The window of a car parked on the street provided a mirror for him to examine himself. The new claw scar across his scalp and forehead was visible but greatly faded thanks to the TARDIS medical equipment and two days spent resting in the vortex. He and Rose both felt that fresh injuries were not the ideal accessories to wear for an introduction to the family. A little bit of makeup had made Rose look completely well as long as she didn’t lift up her trouser leg to show off the bite marks.
He wandered up and down the street attempting to peer into the Tylers’ neighbors’ windows. Nothing interesting to be seen. Bored, he set to work picking up litter in the park. Soon every last crisp bag was in the bin. Still no sign from Rose. A misting rain began.
The Doctor stuffed his hands in his pockets and tried to remain convinced that this was a good idea. When Rose was out of sight and nobody’s life was in obvious danger it was easier to remember the multitude of reasons he really ought to push her away. Danger for her, inevitable future sorrow for him, possible pain for all the people who would grieve for Rose’s loss on Earth, not to mention the annoyance of having to do things like stand around in the rain before having tea with a woman who, if he read between the lines of Rose’s stories accurately, got on his parallel self’s nerves rather severely.
Somewhere out there, galaxies collided in fiery splendor. Somewhere out there, innocent people needed his help. And here he was, a Time Lord, waiting like a teenager picking up his date for the school dance.
He could tell her he’d changed his mind. He could back out now, sever this mistaken attachment before it tied them any closer together. No, he couldn’t. He’d committed already, and besides, there was the way she smiled. That smile hit his face like the first rays of sunrise after the winter solstice night. That smile ought to be a controlled substance, addictive as it was.
“You!” shouted a voice behind him. “What’re you doing here?” The Doctor turned to see a young man striding aggressively toward him. The man had coffee with cream-toned skin and wore an brown bomber jacket and combat boots. He looked shocked and furious.
“Well, I…” began the Doctor, gesturing vaguely towards the Tyler house. The man interrupted.
“Don’t answer that. Of course you’re here for her, but you’ve got some nerve showing up now. Three years thinking you were gone for good, and here you are now, standing on the street looking bored. Probably planning on picking up like nothing happened. Three years, Doctor! At least this time you didn’t make me look like a murderer.”
Understanding hit the Doctor. “You must be Mickey,” he ventured.
“Oh, so you finally remember my real name. Good for you, ‘cept I don’t use it any more. In this universe, I go by Ricky. Everyone calls me that, even Rose most of the time. I took over his life, name and everything. You should be happy, a whole universe willing to go along with your stupid joke, but I don’t use it for you. It’s in memory of him.” The man formerly known as Mickey stood noticeably closer to the Doctor than politeness allowed and jutted his chin out aggressively. As a habitual interloper, the Doctor was used to people chewing him out, and thanks to time travel he sometimes hadn’t met them yet when they accused him. However, listening to grievances about things he not only hadn’t done but was not going to do in this universe simply wouldn’t do.
“Fine. Ricky, then. Listen, I…” the Doctor began his attempt to explain, but he was interrupted again.
“No, you listen for once in your life. I just had a very rough time at work, and I’m not in the mood to take any shit from you. Some alien nutcase thought Starbucks was an interplanetary bank and was holding a branch hostage until they gave him a million Altarian dollars. I’ve been working eighteen hours straight trying to take him down. I’m on my way home to get some sleep, swung by here to drop off some stuff I borrowed and bam! There you were. Knew what you must be here for, and I can’t let you take her away until I say some things.”
“Very clever of you, but…”
“Don’t you patronize me. Things are different here. I’m not the tin dog any more, so you’d best not treat me like one,” he snapped.
“Not a tin dog. Got it,” the Doctor agreed, not really sure why it needed to be established that Mickey, no, Ricky was not a metallic canine. “You should know that…”
Ricky cut him off again. “Shut it, big ears. I’m still talking. And speaking of big ears, what’s with this face again? You said you couldn’t change back. Maybe switching bodies seems normal to you, but not for us. You looked different, you were in that coma when we needed you saving the world, and then you were talking all the time and jumping around like a kid who missed a few doses of Ritalin. It was weird. Eventually we got used to Ferret Face, kinda liked him even, but now here’s the old you again, jacket and ability to stand still and all.”
“Ferret Face?” The Doctor raised an eyebrow. If he interpreted that rambling correctly, his parallel self had regenerated during his acquaintance with Rose and Mickey. Rose hadn’t mentioned that. He wondered how accurate a nickname Ferret Face was. Regeneration could occasionally produce some strange results, and if his next incarnation looked like some Egyptian god of ferrets, well, he would have to start being more careful with this body.
“Yeah. I know you thought you were damn foxy like that. I won’t speak for Rose, but Madame Pompadour certainly agreed, and, well,” Ricky flicked his eyes back and forth, as if checking for eavesdroppers, “she wasn’t wrong, but you still looked kinda ferrety. Ferret with a hair gel addiction.”
“Hold on. Madame de Pompadour? Are you sure?” inserted the Doctor, his face wrinkling in confusion.
“Don’t play innocent. You can’t almost strand yourself in eighteenth century France and abandon Rose and me on a broken spaceship for her and then act like you don’t remember! Five and a half hours we waited because you had to be a big damn hero for some girl you’d just met, five and a half hours not knowing if you were ever coming back or what to do if you didn’t and you never asked how it was for us. I’m telling you now: horrible. Rose cried, and you know what she kept saying? She said that the old you wouldn’t have left us like that, and I think she was right.
“Pretty boy might be more fun, a lot easier to get along with, but at least with this version a man knows where he stands. Now, though, I’m not so sure. You said the breach was closed between universes, but here you are. Are you ending the universe with this visit? You told Rose you couldn’t change back. Now you have. What else are you hiding, Doctor? Huh?”
“I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk,” responded the Doctor, deciding that going with the flow would be easier than trying to explain his identity just yet. He flashed a quick, condescending smile. Letting Ricky rant wasn’t just easier than correcting his assumptions, it was also informative and quite entertaining.
Ricky slumped just a tiny bit, his aggressive tone slightly thrown.
“Err, well, I mean, yeah. Quiet! I’ll have the answers out of you later.” Ricky took a deep breath, trying to build his momentum back. “Anyway, you’re here. Great, but why now? Why not right after the breach sealed? What’s a bloody time machine for if not getting where you’re going on time? Maybe you didn’t know how to get through right away. Fine. You didn’t need to make us wait. You could have taken centuries to figure it out and still picked Rose up the day after you said goodbye. Maybe three years seems like nothing to someone pushing one thousand, but it’s a long time for us humans. A long time.” Ricky nodded to emphasize his point. The Doctor kept his face impassive.
“We both know Rose is special. She’s out there saving the world, doing a damn good job of it. She’s a bit moody, but almost everybody here assumes that’s just how she is. I knew her before. There’s no fireworks and wailing like when she and Jimmy Stone split, but I know what Rose looks like with a broken heart. I’m the one always picking up after the mess someone else makes of her. I hate seeing my best mate like that, and you, Doctor, could have prevented three years of it just by a little precision in your time travel. There was a time I’d have given anything to have you gone and Rose on Earth with me, but not like this.” Ricky turned his head away, watching the soggy pigeons pecking at the ground. When he next spoke, the fire had gone out of his voice.
“You should know Rose and I were back together for a while, after. We’re not now. She might not say anything, but I know it’s because she’s still not over you. Probably never will be. It’s bad enough to steal another bloke’s girl, but you stole her from the entire human race, maybe forever, ‘cause nobody can ever measure up.”
The Doctor shifted his weight uncomfortably. He’d seen the evidence that Rose had been close to his doppelganger, but the way Ricky talked made it sound like they’d either been lovers or Rose had an unhealthy obsession. This was exactly why he’d always kept his companions at a distance and then stopped accepting company altogether: too much potential for somebody to break a heart. Or two.
“I didn’t intend to,” he said, which wasn’t exactly a lie, even if it did deliberately promote Ricky’s false assumptions.
“That’s exactly it! You didn’t intend. You never intend, and you never do anything about it!” burst Ricky, his anger back in full force. “All that time you pranced around the universe acting like just mates. I don’t know if you were too thick to see what was right in front of you, or too stubborn to say anything, or too high and mighty to admit feelings for a human, or what, but it wasn’t right.
“Look, it’s mostly your fault that Rose and I can’t work, but I don’t mind that anymore. Old history. I’ve got other things going on in my life, unexpected good other things, but I still look out for Rose. She’s like my little sister, uh, except I don’t think real little sisters ever start talking about what you’re like in bed during drunken truth or dare games. Anyway. What I mean is that you can’t expect to just have her hop back in that TARDIS like nothing ever happened, even though she might let you get away with it. She told you she loved you. Now that you’re back, you’d best be finishing that sentence that got cut off, and it had better not be some nonsense about fruit. If you break her heart again I will personally use your ears as Christmas tree ornaments.”
The Doctor felt a headache developing. He felt unusually close to Rose after just a few days, but did he really want to bring aboard somebody whose past could turn the meaning of TARDIS into Time lord Angst and Relationship Drama In Space? In a desperate attempt to avoid the tangle of emotions and choices raised by Ricky’s speech, the Doctor seized on the one aspect of it that he could think about safely, the only one that wouldn’t drag him deeper into the complicated soap opera that developed whenever humans were around.
“Fruit is very important, I’ll have you know!”
Ricky made an odd noise that sounded like the bastard offspring of a groan of frustration and a laugh. “I didn’t honestly expect you to apologize and make promises, but completely ignoring my point? You’re way more alien than half the green tentacled things I know. Still, I guess if the bloke who saved the Earth with a thrown Satsuma says fruit is important you’ve got to believe him.” Ricky sighed, exasperation warring with amusement, then suddenly grinned and surprised with Doctor by thumping him on the back.
“Hey, remember how you said to always bring a banana to a party? It works. There were these spiny guys, Bethippians I think they were called, who showed up and told Torchwood they wanted to do business with Earth. We had this reception for them, boring finger-sandwich sort of affair, and they tell us what they want to buy is Earth’s oceans. All of them. We’re trying to explain that the oceans aren’t for sale and find some alternate trade deal, they’re not having any of it and are threatening to take the entire planet by force, when all of a sudden I remember that I’ve got a banana in my bag. I convince the brass to offer that as a possible trade item and the spiny guys love it. Now Torchwood sells produce to five star systems and I got a promotion, all because I had a banana.”
“Everyone loves bananas,” the Doctor commented, deeply relieved to be on safe topics of conversation like fruit and apocalypse rather than the dangerous ground of emotions.
“Lucky for Earth. You know, Doctor, this is in no way forgiving you for abandoning Rose and all the rest, but it’s sure good to see you again.” Ricky smiled warmly and thumped the bemused Time Lord’s back again. “Hey, I don’t think anyone ever tried offering a banana to the Cybermen. Maybe that’s all they wanted.” Ricky speculated jokingly.
“Why don’t you try that the next time you meet a Cyberman and tell me how it works out?”
“Real funny, Doctor.” Ricky made an annoyed face at the Doctor’s sarcasm. Suddenly, he did a double take, seeming to notice the ticket booth for the first time. “This wasn’t here before! What the hell? Wait, I get it! Is that the TARDIS in new camouflage? You know, this really isn’t any less conspicuous than the blue box. Maybe a little less retro, but it’s still kind of a crap disguise.”
“Oi, don’t insult the TARDIS!” said the Doctor sourly. “Apologize to the lady!”
Ricky, who had never quite accepted the TARDIS as a sentient being, rolled his eyes. The Doctor glared, tapping his foot, but Ricky pointedly ignored him and watched a stray dog sniffing lampposts across the park.
Suddenly, a bright voice disturbed their irritated silence.
“Mum’s not home right now, but I just explained everything over the phone. You’ll be glad to hear that I think you’re going to have a slap-free introduction. She might even try to give you a kiss, so don’t panic, right? I told her that the first place you took me was a nice restaurant, which made her just giddy with happiness. Let’s not mention that we started a massive food fight and ran for our lives there. Oh, hi Ricky!” Rose smiled, suddenly catching sight of him standing on the far side for the Doctor. “I see you’ve met the Doctor from this universe. Found him in New Jersey and confused us both to no end until we realized what was going on.”
Ricky glanced back and forth between Rose and the Doctor, his jaw working silently as he tried to process. Rose took in Ricky’s apparent confusion and the way the Doctor’s obvious irritation. Her lips thinned.
“What happened here?” she demanded.
“He didn’t tell me he wasn’t our Doctor!” Ricky accused.
“Did you not notice me trying to get a word in?” said the Doctor, exasperated.
Ricky had the grace to look sheepish. “Sorry. Bit of an idiot, me.”
“Yup,” affirmed the Doctor. Rose gave Ricky a look that insisted on elaboration.
“Rose, you remember that party at Gemma’s last year where we got drunk and I told you about the speech I had worked out for the Doctor if he ever showed up? The one about how he had no right to make you wait for years?”
“You didn’t!” It was Rose’s turn to drop her jaw.
“He did,” the Doctor confirmed. “With bonus rant about my face.”
“Ah,” said Rose. In her years under the shadow of zeppelins, she had told Ricky about her feelings for the Doctor more directly than she’d ever told the Doctor himself. Talkative as the two time travelers were, so much had always lain unspoken between Rose and the Doctor. Ricky had never really grasped the necessity and delicacy of that silent understanding. She remembered Ricky’s plans all too well, had tried to dissuade him from giving that speech (or, frankly, any talk of personal matters) to her Doctor if he ever showed. To have this commitment-shy Doctor hear all of it…awkward didn’t begin to describe the situation. A drop of rain slid down the back of her neck under her coat. She could think of only one way to respond.
“Cup of tea?” she asked, voice squeaking slightly.
“That’d be great!” Ricky hurriedly replied.
“Yes, of course, brilliant idea,” the Doctor simultaneously agreed.
Before they could head inside, the trio noticed that the stray dog had wandered closer. Now that it was near, they saw that it was not a stray dog but a thylacine, the marsupial also called the Tasmanian wolf or tiger, extinct in Rose’s home universe but alive in Tasmania and feral in Britain in this one. Ignoring the people entirely, the thylacine strolled right up to the TARDIS and began sniffing. Suddenly it lifted its leg against the ticket booth.
“Oi! You! That’s my ship!” yelled the Doctor.
“No! Bad wolf!” Ricky said firmly, clapping his hands to startle the animal. It yawned lazily, its mouth gaping open far wider than any dog’s, then ambled off. “Mrs. Hastings down the street feeds them, and now they think they own the place,” he explained.
At that point, Ricky noticed that Rose and the Doctor were regarding him with wide gapes much like that of the thylacine. “What?” he asked.
The Doctor switched from dumbfoundment to glaring.
“What?” Ricky asked, still confused.
Rose raised her eyebrow. After a moment, Ricky realized what he’d said.
* * * * *
“At that point, I’m dripping slime and Winslow’s eyebrows are totally scorched off. Everybody’s crawling out from under the tables and they start applauding us. Actual applause! Then this one nob notices that the girl behind the counter is finally conscious again, and he says, ‘Hey! I never got my grande soy latte!’ “ Ricky finished retelling his day, jabbing his finger in the air to imitate the obnoxious customer.
Rose laughed, wincing as a sip of tea tried to burst out of her nose. Ricky chortled at her expense. Even the Doctor, tilting his chair back at an alarming angle as if to distance himself from the Tyler family kitchen table, cracked a smile.
“Too funny! Wish I coulda been there!” Rose said, catching her breath.
“No you don’t,” Ricky said, suddenly serious, his eyes darting between her and the Doctor.
“He’s right. Fribint mucus is a nightmare to get out of long hair,” the Doctor jumped in to rescue them from the awkward pause that threatened.
“I’m not even sure it’s out of mine,” Ricky complained. “I feel like I could shower for about a week.”
“Worse than the time with the Oubourians in the sewers?” Rose asked. Her nose scrunched up in remembered disgust.
“Okay, maybe not that…” Ricky was interrupted by the ring of his mobile. When he saw the caller ID, his face brightened.
“Hey!...Yeah, I’m fine, I just got delayed at the Tylers’. You won’t believe who I ran into!...Don’t be ridiculous, of course it’s not the army of Michael Jackson clones again. That only happened once, and anyway, I still don’t think a dozen clones make an army…Not him either…It’s the Doctor!...No, the universe isn’t gonna explode, though I’d keep an eye on the department stores and government buildings. He’s actually from here, not there…What? ‘Course not. No competition…Go ahead, I’ll be home soon…Same to you. Bye, Jake.” Ricky hung up.
“You’re going?” Rose said plaintively.
“Yeah. I’m guessing you won’t be here when I wake up.”
“Hey, I could leave, watch a star be born, save half a dozen planets from destruction, and still make it back before you wake up. Time machines are handy like that.” Rose smiled up at him, but Ricky didn’t smile back,
“Not what I meant. You leave, you’ll never really be back. You might stop in to do your washing, but it’ll just be a quick pause on your way to somewhere else. That’s how it was before. Always going.”
“Ricky...” Rose began, reaching up to catch his hand.
“’s okay.” Ricky took a deep breath, steadying himself. “These past three years were just a really long laundry stop. I already knew that. You haven’t been meant to stay put since he blew up your job.”
Rose almost apologized, but she stopped herself. What was the use in apologizing for a part of her nature she wouldn’t change if she could? Anyway, Ricky, bless his soul, had forgiven her long ago. So she just stood up and drew him close, hugging him hard.
“Take care of yourself,” he ordered.
“I won’t pick a fight with anything I can’t outrun or outsmart,” Rose reassured him.
“More to it than that,” he said, staring over her head at the Doctor.
Rose gave him a final squeeze, then tilted her head back to kiss his cheek.
“Thank you,” she told him sincerely, pulling away. Ricky nodded and turned towards the Doctor, who had been watching the proceedings uncomfortably. He didn’t like the intimacy these two obviously had. He tried to convince himself that it was only because he was worried that Ricky would be grieved if anything happened to Rose. That was true, but seeing Rose embracing the other man unaccountably filled him with irritation.
“Doctor,” said Ricky, extending a hand. The Doctor took it only to have his fingers crushed, so he returned the vise grip with vigor. Rose noticed the faintly pained expressions on both of their faces.
“Boys! Cut it out with the testosterone contest,” she instructed, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. They let go, leaving Ricky to massage the feeling back into his hand as unobtrusively as possible.
“Good to meet you, Mickey Smith.”
“I told you, I go by Ricky,” he said with a long-suffering tone. “Sorry about the mistaken identity back there.” The Doctor shrugged.
The three of them walked to the door. On the steps, Ricky turned back with one last remark.
“Hey, I know you’ll probably stop in sooner, but in case I don’t see you, I want to invite you for Christmas. It’ll be nice, even if my tree is a bit bare of ornaments.” Ricky tugged pointedly at his ear. The Doctor, recognizing the warning reference, smiled with studied blitheness. Rose looked confused, wondering just how Ricky’s sleep debt was affecting him. Before she could ask him what he meant, Ricky walked away, collar turned up against the rain.
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