Kissing Rose Tyler by ilianacatspawn



Summary: Back on Pete's World, Rose and the Doctor try to figure out where they've been in order to discover where they're going.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Jackie Tyler, Pete Tyler, Rose Tyler, The Doctor (Duplicate 10th)
Genres: Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Het, Hurt/Comfort, Romance, Series
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Kissing Rose Tyler
Published: 2008.11.13
Updated: 2008.11.13


Index

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Chapter 11: Chapter 11


Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Author's Notes: This is a post-Journey's End AU. Canon junkies beware, I'm with Steven Moffat. Also, if it bothers you that the characters don't always drop their G's just imagine them falling off like leaves from a tree.


Kissing Rose Tyler

 

by Iliana

 

"Ooh!" Jackie Tyler frowned at her mobile. "Of course there's no bloody signal! What we goin' to do now? Walk all the way to Bergen?"

The Doctor turned away from Rose, ignoring the pounding of his single heart. "Give it here." He held out his hand and Jackie deposited the phone.

He opened the back and with his free hand the Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver. "Free upgrade," he said, passing the glowing blue tip across the back of the device before returning it.

"Ta!" Jackie smiled as her mobile connected and she hit the speed dial.

Rose frowned as the Doctor pocketed the sonic. "Were you allowed to take that?"

"Allowed?" the Doctor repeated, deeply offended. "Rose Tyler, are you implying I'd have to ask permission to handle my own property? Besides, it's not like I didn't keep a few spares handy. Well, I say spares. I mean spare parts." He grinned, patting the pocket where he'd placed the screwdriver. "Slapped this baby together in no time flat. Had to. Needed it. Can't be without the tools of me trade, can I?"

"But..."

The Doctor smiled kindly. "Rose, you're forgetting. This body may be mostly human, but I'm not. At least I wasn't when I poured my regenerative energy into this hand." He flexed his right hand and wiggled his fingers. "A Time Lord is more than just the physical. Much more. From my point of view this body, any body for that matter, is just a shell – a container for housing the mind. If I'd wanted, I could have left the physical behind, floating through the cosmos as a cloud of energy," he admitted. "But where's the fun in that!" he shouted, spreading his arms wide as he took in the beach. "Can't see, can't hear, can't smell, can't touch! Might as well be a Dalek or a Cyberman."

"So..."

"So, Rose Tyler, everything I was, everything I am - with a few extra bits from Donna and a slight downgrade on the fleshy side - was recreated exactly as if I'd regenerated and it went a bit wrong. Dodgy process, remember? Not much different from when I changed and left Big Ears behind."

"Oi! I liked those ears!" Rose chided.

The Doctor raised a brow, but didn't argue. "What I'm trying to say is: Meta-crisis induced regeneration or not, it was almost the same as the other. I was still me then. I'm still me now."

"Huh," Rose nodded as her mother rejoined them.

"Pete says there's a resort town about 3 kilometers that way." Jackie pointed eastward. "You remember, Rose. We spent a few days there after..." She broke off at the sight of her daughter's face. "Oh, sweetheart–"

"Yeah, Mum, I remember," she interrupted and hastily moved in the direction of the road.

The Doctor and Jackie shared a glance.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Never you mind," Jackie said as they started to follow. "Take a bit of getting used to again, bein' here. It wasn't easy - for any of us at first. But she's got a good head. Makes the best of things, my Rose does. She'll come 'round."

The Doctor smiled. "So what about you and Pete? Did I do right? Matchmaking isn't really my thing, but I thought..."

Jackie smiled warmly and took his arm, patting it gently. "'Course you did right. Never been happier us. We cried a lot at first, me and Pete. Mourned what we'd lost. His wife. My husband. In the end we realized neither one of us was meant to be alone. And we got on with living our lives. Together."

"Fantastic!" the Doctor grinned. "And Rose?"

"Happy for me. Sad for herself," she confided. "But she understood why you couldn't come for her."

"And this time?" he asked worriedly.

Jackie shrugged. "It's not how she expected things to turn out, but she'll sort through it. Just like she did when Old Leather Jacket disappeared. You watch."

The Doctor nodded and together they walked on, catching up with Rose as they reached the road.

***

"So why are you really here?" Rose asked, falling into step beside them. "'Cause it can't just be that you committed genocide. I committed genocide. Except I didn't. You probably didn't either."

The Doctor grinned. "You're probably right. Daleks are like the proverbial bad penny. They keep turning up. Or like that funny taste you get in your mouth when you burp a couple of hours after you've eaten too many chips. Not really the way you want to remember your delightful spud, is it? All digestive juices and–"

"Doctor!"

He sighed. "Thinking with my heart, not my head," he admitted. "Too much passion, not enough stopping sense. And that's a problem when you're as brilliant as me."

Rose looked puzzled "How'd you mean 'no stopping sense'? I didn't see you having much of a choice at the time."

The Doctor laid an arm across her shoulders. "There's always a choice, Rose. He remembered, even if I didn't."

"Remembered what?"

He took a deep breath. "I never told you how the Time War started, did I?" She shook her head. "A long time ago, centuries really, the Time Lords gave me a mission. Destroy the Daleks before they were ever created. And I failed. Deliberately."

"What?" Rose looked aghast.

"There's always a point in any event where a divergence in the time line occurs. Choices made or not made. It's there, at that point in time, that I can always see what might be, if only..."

"So you saw something that made you want to save the Daleks?"

The Doctor nodded. "I saw, but I didn't look. At least, not hard enough. There was hope for the Daleks as a race. The one you saved in Van Statten's museum changed. Dalek Jasc changed. And, most importantly, Dalek Caan. I sensed them along the time line and I had to give them a chance."

"But the cost..." Rose swallowed hard. "The other Time Lords knew, didn't they?"

"Not everything," he explained. "But they knew enough to be worried. Very worried. And I failed them. The Dalek Emperor rightly took my attempt at meddling as a threat and launched the war."

"Couldn't they, you know, send someone else back? Earlier, yeah?"

The Doctor looked sideways at her. "You'd have made an excellent Time Lord, Rose Tyler. Utterly ruthless."

She flushed with embarrassment. "That wasn't a compliment, was it?"

"No. Well, maybe. Just a little." He smiled wryly. "In any case, the High Council would have approved the idea. No doubt they did. But by then it was too late. What was done couldn't be undone."

Rose stared thoughtfully into the distance as they neared the edge of town. "You didn't try to help Dalek Caan pass on what he'd learned to the rest of the Daleks. Didn't even think about it. But he did, yeah?"

"Got it in one," the Doctor said quietly.

"Then you're not the same," she stated flatly.

"Emotionally, no," he agreed. "In that respect he was right to leave me here. Aboard the TARDIS there was always the danger that, even with my one heart, the temptation to prolong my existence unnaturally would corrupt me. Here, with you, I can be content."

"And we couldn't all be content in the TARDIS?" she asked angrily.

"Maybe. Possibly," he sighed. "But you were also right when you said it wasn't just about me. Letting Mickey stay here was a mistake. I sealed the cracks on the other side of the void, but his presence in this universe – whether it physically weakened the walls between the worlds, or merely gave Torchwood and then the Cybermen the idea that it could be done... Well, it happened. And even sealing the breach left a scar, a weak spot, in the fabric of creation."

"And then I started messing about with that dimension cannon," she finished.

"It would never have worked," he told her honestly. "Not without Davros' mucking about in the Medusa Cascade. Still," he went on, "someone's got to keep an eye on things here. That scar is fragile. You lot might not be able to open it again any time soon, but there's other species in this universe that might want to have a go. And right now, that would be bad. Very, very bad."

"Only now?"

"Well," the Doctor shrugged. "Give it a few centuries at least for the planet to cool down properly. Unless you fancy owning beach front property at the expense of millions of lives? Or falling into the void."

Rose shuddered. "So you're also here to keep me on the straight and narrow, is that it?"

He stopped and pulled her close, tilting Rose's chin up to look her in the eye. "I'd have done it anyway, with or without you here, because it's necessary. Doing it with you, for however long we have... Well, that's a plus. A big plus. The kind that will make this brief life bearable."

"Bearable," she whispered, tears in her eyes. "Trapped without your TARDIS?"

He held her tightly. "Always thinking of me," he said hoarsely, laying his cheek against her hair. "Oh, Rose. She was the closest thing I've had to a home in centuries, but you're my girl now. Wherever you are is where I'll be home."

"Just remember to put the toilet seat down when you're done," Jackie interrupted. "And no soy milk instead of the real stuff. She's a right terror in the morning without a proper cuppa."

"Mum!" Rose buried her head against the Doctor's shoulder laughing softly while he simply stared at Jackie, completely flummoxed.

"I'm just sayin'!" Jackie pretended innocence. "Now shift you two! My feet are killing me."

Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

 

The train to Bergen ran every two hours and they'd just missed it.

"We could rent a car." Rose yawned widely, blinking back tears of exhaustion as they sat outside the railway station on a public bench. "Or not," she grinned, seeing both her companions do the same.

"We're neither of us fit to drive," Jackie commented. "And I wouldn't let himself behind the wheel. Probably end up having to be scraped off a wall somewhere."

"Oi!" the Doctor retorted. "A simple combustion engine vehicle manipulated by gears and levers? Of course I can drive a car," he sneered.

"Stick or automatic?" Rose inquired archly.

"Both," the Doctor said smugly. "And I don't recall you complaining about my driving skills when we motored around on my scooter."

But Jackie wasn't impressed. "We're not driving and that's final. We're going to have a nice lunch and take the next train to Bergen."

"And you're in charge of the itinerary," the Doctor frowned. "Why?"

"She's the only one of us with a credit card," Rose pointed out.

"Ah," he nodded, suddenly standing. "Dinner it is then, ladies. Shall we?"

***

A short time later they were being seated in a nearby café with rustic décor and a menu hearty enough to satisfy a manual laborer after a twelve hour work shift.

"Anyone have a problem with reindeer meat?" the Doctor asked after perusing the menu.

"I'm not eatin' Rudolph," Rose insisted. "You go on. I'll have the braised catfish and a salad."

"Oh, that sounds lovely," Jackie agreed. "And three pints of your house ale," she added to the waiter who'd been standing by.

"So," Rose started gamely after their drinks came and they'd sat for a full two minutes staring uncomfortably at each other. "What have you been up to without me?"

"Oh, you know. The usual. Met Shakespeare, saved the world. Blew up Pompeii, saved the world. Ran into Agatha Christie. Didn't save the world but solved a few murders. And...Oh yeah, Donna and I helped set the Ood free."

"The Ood," Rose smiled happily, remembering those gentle alien beings and how she'd felt such sadness for them. "And their free, yeah? That's wonderful."

The Doctor took a sip of his ale and paused, seeming surprised.

"Something wrong?" Jackie asked.

"Human taste buds," the Doctor muttered. "Weird."

"How's that weird?"

Rose answered for him. "Time Lords can use their tongues like a sort of filter, Mum. Identify chemicals and such just by the taste." She glanced at the Doctor. "So no more licking walls and random objects?"

He ignored Jackie's grimace of distaste. "Apparently not," he sighed. "Oh well, could be worse," he added with a sniff. "Olfactory senses seem intact. Eyesight and hearing too, for what it's worth."

"And how do you know they're human taste buds?" Rose suddenly asked. "Couldn't they be, you know, hybrid?"

"Nope," the Doctor shook his head, leaning back a little as the waiter brought their meals to the table. "Perfectly human buds, I'm sure of it. Spent a couple of months as one of you lot a while back. 'Course I was rubbish at it. Martha was right. But then I didn't know I was me, so how could I be expected to– What?"

Rose was staring at him. "You became human? How'd that happen?"

"Chameleon Arch. Rewrites Time Lord biology to Human. Separates out the Time Lord essence, stores it away and leaves just the reconfigured body with a fake personal history. Excruciatingly painful process... Still, great for hiding out. Especially if you're being tracked by the equivalent of intergalactic bloodhounds with stolen time travel technology bent on devouring you whole. Which I was." The Doctor bit into his reindeer steak and smiled. "Something to be said," he commented around a mouthful of food, "for not knowing exactly which type of fertilizer was used to grow the feed." Jackie and Rose almost put down their forks then gratefully recalled they'd ordered fish, not meat.

They ate in silence after that, not having realized just how hungry they all were. The last thing the Doctor remembered having was a bit of something on a stick and a beer in the market where he'd taken Donna shopping right before she'd run into that fortune teller working for the Trickster. Or maybe she was only working for one of his underlings. He supposed the Doctor Prime would eventually go back and deal with that situation as he would have done if– The Doctor grimaced inwardly. Best not to think about that, he silently cautioned himself. Still, he didn't feel any different. Not really. As far as he was concerned only his physical condition and personal circumstances had changed. He was still the Doctor. Of that he had no doubt. As for the rest... It wasn't his problem anymore, now was it? And besides, he suddenly recalled, hungrily tearing into a piece of bread, that food had never actually entered this body.

***

"We're here," the Doctor said, gently nudging Rose. She lifted her head from his shoulder, yawning and stretching as much as the narrow train seat would allow.

"You get any rest?" she asked, leaning forward to shake Jackie awake.

"A little," he admitted. And he had, though not in the way Rose might have imagined. He'd actually used the time on the way to Bergen to completely assess his new body and come away with a clearer, if more startling understanding of just what the meta-crisis had achieved. He wasn't so much Human as he was early Gallifreyan – before his people started tampering with their genetic code. Of course, he still had the three lobed brain of a Time Lord, but that was probably due more to the encoding sequence of the regeneration formula which prioritized brain function and memory above all else. Because of that, the Human DNA had been reconfigured to mimic, as closely as possible, the basic template of a normal Gallifreyan male. If it hadn't, this body would never have been able to support the Time Lord brain. And since that was the case, he was more than able to use his increased brain capacity to regulate the new body in almost the same way he'd done every other incarnation. Granted, he no longer had the ability to regenerate – he'd need a proper dual cardiovascular system and redundant internal organs for that – but then neither had his ancestors. And he could, when necessary, do a bit of self-healing. Though it would be more feasible to simply maintain the body at peak efficiency through daily deep meditation, even if he couldn't do more than slow down the process of decay and eventual organ failure by a few years, at most a decade. This was what he'd meant by "a little" rest.

"That's good," Rose murmured, helping Jackie, who really looked exhausted, negotiate her way to the exit.

Without thinking, the Doctor moved to the older woman's side, taking Jackie's arm and assisting her down the steps to the platform.

"Ta," she sighed at the bottom, rolling her aching shoulder muscles. "Oh, I'm stiff all over! Bloody Daleks," she complained. "Kept us kneeling in the icy cold with our hands on our heads the whole way. As if we could've fought them!"

"Right," the Doctor nodded. "I meant to ask. How did you...?"

"Ooh! That was your Sarah Jane. Lovely woman. Posh as you like, but no airs and graces for that one. If I'd known Rose could turn out like her, I might not have minded her running off with you."

"She is brilliant, isn't she," the Doctor grinned, glancing at Rose who was standing on tiptoe trying to look past the crowd.

"Anyway," Jackie went on, oblivious to the fact that it was the Doctor's arm keeping her steady as they left the station. "It was her idea to surrender to those things so we could follow you and Rose. And it was because of her we escaped being evaporated by that weapon they were testing. Then we met up with that American friend of yours, Captain Harkness. I liked him."

"Everyone does," the Doctor muttered and rolled his eyes.

"Well you know the rest," she finished, looking relieved when she saw Rose wave to someone in the distance.

"Actually, Jackie, my shared memories end at the point where I was forced to initiate the regeneration process to heal myself. My personal recollections start not long after. Donna caught me up on what she knew, but the rest..." he shrugged. "Why were you in that universe anyway?"

"I couldn't leave Rose!"

"But you left Tony."

"He's got a father," Jackie insisted quietly. "Rose has only me. What if she got trapped there? Someone has to look out for her."

"Of course," he murmured.

"You know what it's like to be a parent, don't you? Old as you are, 'course you do!" Jackie patted his arm. "That's why you always brought Rose home when she was upset. Sent her back when it was too dangerous. Even tried to force her to leave with me and Pete. And I loved you for it," she added fiercely, hugging the arm still linked with hers. "How could I not try to help her help you?"

"By the way, you prat," she whispered as they reached the waiting town car and driver, releasing him. "If you'd had a proper name, I'd have called Tony by it, seein' as how he'd never have been born if it wasn't for you. But then Rose didn't know it, so I had to make something up, didn't I?"

Jackie would never have been his first choice for a companion. Probably not second or third either. But... Maybe one of us should have let her press a button on the console, he thought with chagrin.

***

The hired car brought them to the airport where a private jet stood waiting. While Jackie spent the two hour flight alternately drinking tea and napping, Rose and the Doctor sat holding hands, sharing stories of their separate adventures. Eventually, she told him some of the things she'd done working for Torchwood.

"We got those Sycorax here, right. First Christmas after I started working there. Bloody mad they went!" she said laughing at the memory. "Till they got some Army bloke who'd won a gold medal in their version of the Olympics to challenge 'em to a sword fight. Beat the pants off that big one right quick."

"And the President?" the Doctor asked.

"She let Torchwood fire a couple of warning shots around their ship, then let 'em go and spread the word that we were defended."

"Finally!" the Doctor sighed. "At least somebody got the point."

Rose nodded, buckling her seat belt as they prepared to land. "Hasn't stopped all the alien traffic, but it's slowed down some."

"Best you can hope for," he surmised. "The scavenger races won't risk it. Too much to lose. No Slitheen, I take it?"

She shook her head. "A bit harder here to infiltrate the bureaucracy. Internal security is very tight all across the planet. Especially after the Cybermen. Triple checks on everything and full body scans before entering government buildings."

"Won't stop a shape-shifter or a direct assault, but it's a start."

***

A short while later they touched down at a small private landing strip just outside London.

"Tell me again, why no zeppelin?" the Doctor asked Rose as they waited for the copilot to open the hatch and lower the stairs.

"I love 'em, but Mum's terrified."

Jackie turned to them. "I'm not flyin' the bloody Hindenberg!"

The Doctor raised an eyebrow.

"She has a point," Rose admitted. "The Hindenberg never crashed here, so they're still using hydrogen instead of helium because it's cheaper. Dad's started a campaign to change that for safety reasons, but it's not very popular. Mostly because only the super rich can afford a zeppy. 'Course, they're really not very useful for much more than leisure travel and heavy transport."

The late afternoon sun was still shining brightly when they stepped down onto the tarmac where Pete Tyler stood waiting. He hugged his wife and then his daughter, finally offering a hand to the Doctor.

"Hello again, Doctor! Welcome to my world."

They shook hands and the Doctor grinned. "You do realize I could contact the Shadow Proclamation in this universe and have the Earth officially re-designated Pete's World on every navigational chart in the galaxy?" The other man was nonplussed. "I mean really," the Doctor went on, enjoying himself. "Earth! What sort of a name for a planet is that? It's like Clom. Clom means 'ground' in Clominese. Of course," he rambled. "Almost every planet's called 'Dirt' or the equivalent by its original inhabitants. You've got your water planets, your ice planets, your mud planets, even your gas planets. Descriptive but boring, don't you think?"

"What about your planet?" Rose asked. "Gallifrey, right? That mean dirt as well?"

The Doctor paused, staring. He'd never mentioned the name of his planet to Rose. He just hadn't been ready to talk about it back then. Still... "Actually, no. Gallifrey means 'center' in the old tongue. As in center of the universe and center of all things. A bit pretentious, but then we were the very first species to evolve and close the galactic center."

"I'm sure it was very appropriate," Pete offered diplomatically, waving them towards the waiting car. "But right now, we've got to go."

"What's the hurry?" the Doctor asked as he climbed into the passenger seat beside Pete, earning a dirty look from Jackie.

"You've obviously never driven in rush hour traffic," Pete commented.

"Ah," was all the Doctor could say. Behind him, Rose was laughing.

***

They were well into the suburbs before the Doctor realized they weren't headed for the fancy house in London he recalled from his last visit. It made sense, once he had a chance to think about it, that Pete wouldn't want to set foot in the home he'd shared with the first Mrs. Tyler. And certainly not when dozens of people, including the President, had been murdered by Cybermen on the premises. His brows rose though when they drove up a wide tree lined road that turned into a broad gravel covered drive. This wasn't a house, he thought, but an estate.

"Moving up in the world then, are we?" the Doctor asked after they'd parked. The ladies had exited the car and were already hurrying into the great house.

"Not really," Pete admitted coming to stand beside the Doctor. "We weren't the only wealthy socialites Lumic targeted for upgrading that night. Bought this place for a song after Jackie and Rose came through. It's out of the way and quiet enough that we mostly go unnoticed by the press. And it's got some unique features I've come to appreciate."

"Like what?"

Pete smiled briefly. "Come on," he said, twitching his head in a direction away from the house. "I've got something to show you."

The Doctor glanced back at the house as a light came on in one of the upstairs rooms. With a shrug he followed the other man. Rose and Jackie would probably be busy for the next hour or so, maybe even going to bed early. He wasn't tired, but both women had been plainly exhausted after their adventures.

They took a long circuitous route around the house to the well manicured gardens at the rear. From there, a narrow footpath led to an overgrown hedge line. "Ooh!" the Doctor exclaimed when Pete opened a deeply weathered wooden door set into an ivy covered high stone wall behind the hedge row. "A secret garden! I love a secret garden!"

Inside, the carefully tended lawns gave way to a scene of wild abandon. The air, moist and redolent with the scent of mossy undergrowth, old gnarled trees and flora of every kind, thrummed with the hum of bees, punctuated by birdsong and the distinct burble of a brook.

"It's this way," Pete said, leading him deeper into the foliage along a track of artfully laid and cracked paving stones cunningly sculpted to appear almost natural. At night, the Doctor could see, the walk would be defined by phosphorescent markers along either side of the trail so one couldn't wander off the track and get lost. They crossed a little wooden bridge – hardly worth the effort since they could have easily jumped across the low shallow water. Still, the Doctor suspected, the little brook no doubt swelled in wetter weather and it made for a very pretty effect. A quarter mile further on they left the woods and the trail opened out into a tiny vale no more than a mile across, at the center of which stood an incredible structure.

"Oh, that's beautiful," the Doctor grinned appreciatively.

"Used to be a conservatory back in the 1800s," Pete explained over his shoulder as he led the way. "Middle of the last century it was turned into an art studio. After that some pop star bought it and expanded the place into a weekend getaway. The previous owner had just finished remodeling it. I expect, given the décor when I bought it, he planned to use it as a love nest."

The Doctor merely raised a brow, saying nothing as Pete unlocked the front door.

"Oh my!" the Doctor exclaimed softly as he stepped inside. The main room was nothing less than a three story glassed in rotunda. To either side, doors led to two separate, open and airy wings topped with more glass and branching out with added rooms.

"What do you think?" Pete asked as the Doctor walked in a circle about the room, hands in his pockets, head tilted back as the last of the day's sunlight shone down.

"It's gorgeous!"

"It's yours."

Startled, the Doctor looked back at Pete, absently catching the set of keys tossed his way. "What?"

"It's all yours," Pete reiterated, looking enormously pleased with himself. "And the land around it. Ten acres. Free and clear. No taxes. No mortgage. All yours."

"But–" the Doctor sputtered.

"Oh, that does feel good. Rose was right. The Doctor at a loss for words! Better than Vitex."

The Doctor's expression suddenly changed to one of suspicion. "What for? Why do you want to give me this?"

"Consider it payment for past services rendered."

"I don't take payment." The Doctor shook his head, holding the keys out to Pete. "I can't accept this."

The other man ignored him, moving to look out the far windows at the setting sun. "All this," he said quietly. "It still exists because of you. You stopped the Cybermen even though you could have gotten in your machine and gone home. Left us to our fate. But you didn't. Risked your life instead, to save us from ourselves. Then the breach," he sighed. "I didn't have to play the heavy and ask you to help us, did I? You'd already figured out how to seal it. Would have done regardless. And for good measure you tossed in Jackie. Gave me back my life. A real reason to live. And this time..." Pete looked over at the Doctor, who had moved to stand beside him. "All of creation at stake and you never hesitated. That's worth something to me, Doctor. To all the people in this universe as well. We'd be honored if you accepted this gift. Or," he smirked, seeing the Doctor staring at the keys in his hand, clearly hesitating. "Would you rather have a mortgage?"

"Now you're playing dirty!"

Pete laughed. "You could always have Mickey's old room." The Doctor's expression turned to one of horror. "You're a little old to live at home with your girlfriend's parents, but if that's what you want..."

The Doctor hurriedly tucked the keys in his pocket. "You've a cruel streak Pete Tyler. I can see where Rose gets her steel spine."

"It was her idea – giving you this place."

"Really?"

"Said you'd need your own space. Jacks and I agreed." Pete took a thick envelope from his inner pocket. "So did the President, by the way. This is for you."

The Doctor gingerly took the packet. "What's inside?"

"Your papers. The deed to this house. Bank cards."

"Bank cards?"

"You've been appointed a Special Consultant to the government. Comes with a sort of signing bonus and a lifetime income. It's not a job," he insisted. "Plenty of people can work nine to five in an office. But you'd be on call in case we run into something we can't handle on our own. Reckon you'd do that anyway, right? So why not make it official?"

"That's very generous, Pete. A little too generous." The Doctor's eyes narrowed.

"Maybe," Pete shrugged. "But it's not like we can call the Doctor in this universe and ask him for help when we need it. Can't find a single trace of that one in our records, and believe me, we've looked."

"Waste of time," the Doctor sighed, losing interest in the view and wandering off to examine a series of giant stone planters that each held a full grown tree set around the room.

"How's that?"

"There are no parallels with Time Lords in them," he explained coldly. "As soon as my lot figured out how to cross the universes at will they eliminated any chance that another race of Time Lords might rise to challenge them."

"Do unto to others before they can do unto you, eh?"

"Something like that," the Doctor nodded. "The myths and legends would have you believe we were a kindly and benevolent people who never interfered with the affairs of others. Hardly." He snorted derisively. "Never interfere with lesser species, sure – except when the security of Gallifrey might be at stake. Then all bets were off. Delete them from the timeline, use them as foot soldiers and cannon fodder, destroy them if they betrayed our beneficent trust and started thinking for themselves. Bunch of bigoted, paranoid, self-serving hypocrites," he finished harshly.

"But you're not like that," Pete offered. "You're different."

"Am I?" The Doctor sighed heavily resting both hands on his chest. "This body is part human. And all I can feel for it is a sense of absolute disgust. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help feeling I've somehow been degraded. Made dirty. Debased."

There was really nothing to say to that, so Pete didn't try. "You can take your meals with us up at the house. Or here if you like. The staff will bring you anything you need and the kitchen's fully stocked. Jackie'll arrange for housekeeping. Just tell them if there's any place private you don't want them in."

The Doctor gave a small wistful smile, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Humans," he said softly. "Making sense out of chaos."

Pete felt a shudder run down his spine as he closed the door behind him. Old and alien. Rose had said, but he'd never really felt that before. Now he sensed a depth to the man that was truly disturbing. And Rose had been assigned the task of fixing him? He didn't know if that was possible. Not with a man who loathed his own existence. He hurriedly made his way back along the path, eager for a sense of normalcy. He'd help Rose if he could. And the Doctor. But he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd just witnessed something no Human ever should.

 

 

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Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

The moon had just past its zenith when Rose silently made her way along the path to the conservatory. No, the Doctor's house, she thought, still trying to come to terms with the idea that the Doctor was truly earthbound. Sure, they'd all thought he'd lost the TARDIS back on the Dalek crucible – even believed they'd seen it destroyed. And that moment had, without doubt, been painful. But there hadn't been time to mourn the loss or consider a possible TARDIS-less future for the Doctor. Not when events were moving so rapidly. Yet it was that loss for him, the deprivation of a way of life he loved, Rose realized, that bothered her the most.

She approached the darkened house, wondering nervously if coming here in the middle of the night was such a good idea. Maybe the Doctor was sleeping? She'd certainly passed out on her bed after a nice hot bath – and Jackie hadn't even made it that far. She'd fallen asleep fully clothed in the nursery while Tony entertained himself with his toys at her feet.

The sound of someone playing the piano drifted to her ears with the night breeze. Rose quietly opened the front door and peeked around the edge. There wasn't much furniture – the decorator Jackie had hired had been something of a minimalist – and what there was had been haphazardly unveiled; dust covers lay on the floor or hung off the exposed furniture like unmade bed clothes.

"Rose!" The Doctor's voice softly calling her name sounded like both a benediction and a caress.

She looked around the edge of the door. He was sitting at the black baby grand – the decorator had insisted the space required one even if no one knew how to play the piano – his jacket tossed on a nearby chair, trainers lying where he'd simply kicked them off.

"Can I come in?" Even in the dim moonlight she could see his surprised expression. "I should have knocked, but I didn't want to disturb."

"Rose, you're always welcome to come and go as you please."

"Thanks," she grinned, stepping inside. "But it's still your house," she pointed out. "People don't just walk into other people's houses without knocking first – unless they've got permission. And yeah," she added. "You can barge into my house any time you feel like it too. Just not my bedroom first thing in the morning, yeah?"

"Bedroom barging only in the afternoon and evening hours. Got it!" he teased, shifting a little to make room for her on the bench.

She sat quietly, just listening as he played. She wanted to ask how he was doing. Instead, she took a lighter approach. "That's really good. Money in it too. Bistros, piano bars, posh hotel lobbies..."

The Doctor inclined his head slightly. "Might do," he said, suddenly picking up the tempo and segueing into Blue Suede Shoes. "I was thinking more along the lines of Vegas lounge lizard. What do you think?"

She laughed as he launched into the song. They sang the chorus together then laughed a bit more until he abruptly stopped.

He reached out to gently touch her cheek. "Have I mentioned you've grown more beautiful over the years?"

"For a Human."

"For any species." The Doctor frowned, resting his hands in his lap. "You do know I had to say that, right? Cardinal rule of the traveling Time Lord. Never show that sort of interest in your companions or they'll start showing that sort of interest in you. Everybody gets hurt in the end. Best to just pretend it's never there and never happens."

"I know." Rose took his hand in her own. "I kind of figured that out for myself. Had loads of time to think about stuff. Nothing much else to do around here – outside of work."

"What? No boyfriend du jour? No parties? No nipping down the pub with your mates when there's a match on?"

Rose snorted indelicately. "Tried that. Didn't work."

"Why not?" the Doctor asked curiously.

She shrugged, attempting to put the failed circumstances of her life into words. "It's like you and me just now, yeah? You played an Elvis tune and we sang it. I say Elvis or Madonna or Sex Pistols and you just know who I mean. More often than not that doesn't happen here. And I couldn't really tell anyone about my Earth and how it was different, could I? Hard to hang with your mates when you don't share the same language."

"Oh, Rose. I'm so sorry. I never thought..."

"But that's how it is for you, isn't it?" She squeezed his hand gently. "Nobody to speak Time Lord with. Stuff you know that no one else remembers. Missing all the little things you took for granted before."

"A common frame of reference usually makes things easier," he agreed.

"Harder on Mum though," she remarked. "The Jackie here left most of her old friends back on the estate when Dad made his money. They didn't really know her anymore and don't want to know her now. The ones she didn't ignore died when the Cybermen attacked. Even the family's hard to talk to," Rose admitted. "Mum's got to pretend she's got retrograde amnesia half the time. There's relatives that never existed in our universe or marriages that never happened – so no cousins where there should be and some where there ain't. And me," she rolled her eyes. "I was 'secretly given up for adoption as a baby and returned to the bosom of my family' through a series of bizarre coincidences. Mum's idea," she added at the Doctor's disbelieving look. "It's a real mess. We just sorta keep to ourselves, mostly."

"I'd no idea." The Doctor looked pained and wrapped his arms around her, offering comfort. "I just thought..."

"Yeah," she nodded, resting her head on his shoulder. "Me too. Mum and Dad back together and everything's perfect. Still, she's better since Tony was born. Got him all signed up for early education classes, play dates and stuff. She's met loads of new people. Even had a couple of dinner parties. But I see it, even if Dad doesn't. There's always something a little wrong with the picture. And now Mickey's gone..." she sighed. "Could be worse."

"Worse?" the Doctor asked, clearly appalled.

"She can still talk to Dad. He likes to hear all about our Earth. Made a mint recreating Starbucks," she laughed. "Gave most of it to Mickey though so's he could look after his gran. And there's Jake. He was always at the house with Mickey. She's sort of adopted him too."

"And you?"

"They listen, but no one really understands about you. Mickey sort of got it, but he wasn't around much when I was home. And then the stars were goin' out and I got so involved in building the dimension cannon and trying to find you that I never had time for him."

"So you noticed the stars first," the Doctor said, sounding relieved.

Rose looked up at him. "Yeah. What'd you think? I'd collapse two universes 'cause I was hard up for a bloke? Even if he is the best bloke in two universes."

"Just the two?"

"Oh, shut up!" She laughed and pulled away just enough to sit straight. "Doctor, we were desperate. No one knew it wasn't just this universe. And there was no handy Time Lord to be found here saving the day. So I suggested we look for you."

"You took a very big risk, Rose."

"It worked though, didn't it?"

The Doctor relented. "It worked. And it's just as well you did risk everything. You saved us all by saving Donna, and for that I am entirely grateful."

"You'd better be," she threatened, suddenly looking around. "Now, let's see this new kitchen of yours. Or aren't you going to be a good host and offer me a cup of tea?"

***

"So? You like it, yeah?" Rose spun on her heel, arms spread out as if to encompass the entire building.

They were walking down one of the wide, glass enclosed corridors and the Doctor paused to watch her twirl in the moonlight.

"I love it! Thank you."

She grinned, taking his hand and walking backwards. "Look here," she pointed to the hinges around one of the oversized windows. "You can replace most of these with screens when you want to. And here," she moved ahead and fiddled with a panel that looked like a cross between a light switch, environmental controls and a comm system. It turned out to be all three. "Now which one is it?" she muttered, flicking switches, pressing buttons and turning knobs. The overhead lights set in the struts between the panels suddenly grew brighter. "Right. This is it. See?" She pointed to the ceiling. "All the windows have this gas inside them and you can change the colors. The glass reflects the light so you can have it Earth normal, or..." She pressed a button and the light shifted to burnt orange. Then another and it shifted to turquoise. With a twist of a dial it deepened into a jewel toned blue. "Just like in the–" She swallowed the word. "Just like Gallifrey, right?"

"Right," the Doctor said so softly she barely heard him. He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall facing her. There was no way these specially treated windows had been installed between the time he'd appeared in this universe and arrived here. "This was meant to be your home, wasn't it?"

She shrugged and glanced away. "Yeah. So? I did try," she insisted. "It's just... It was...too big, you know. Empty."

The Doctor nodded. "I do know."

"So it's okay?" she asked, hopeful. "You can stay here, right?"

"Better with two." He took her hand. "After all, your home is now my home and my home can be your home. If you want."

"You're asking me to move in with you?"

"Just pick a room."

"Ooh! Thank you!" Rose threw her arms around his shoulders and he hugged her tight. "Oh my god!" She drew back. "What'll Mum say?"

"Your mother can–"

"Hear you two loud and clear! Bloody hell! Travels through space and time, but spend five thousand quid for an intercom system and she's hopeless!"

"Sorry, Mum!" Rose covered her face with her hands.

"Hopeless?" The Doctor interjected. "I'll tell you what's hopeless, Jackie. 'Secretly given away for adoption'? 'Returned to the bosom of her family'?"

"You leave my bosom out of this!"

"I wouldn't touch your–!" The Doctor's mouth gaped as he realized what he'd been about to say.

Rose was screaming with laughter, holding her stomach while over the intercom they could hear Pete howling.

"Oh, for the love of– Pete! It's not funny!" There was a loud thump followed by a cry of pain and Pete's laughter ceased abruptly.

The Doctor glared at Rose until she quieted down to giggles and snorts. "Sorry," she gasped, slapping a hand over her mouth when a new round of laughter threatened to erupt at the Doctor's expression.

He hit the off button. "Leaving aside the distinct possibility you may have inherited your mother's violent tendencies–" A tinny shriek came from the wall.

"That would be the video on, not the audio off switch, Doctor."

He looked over at the comm panel screen to see a bemused and shirtless Pete leaning over Jackie who'd ducked under the covers.

"Right. Sorry." He hit the correct switch and, just in case, pulled Rose down the corridor ignoring her hysterical laughter.

 

 

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Chapter 4: Chapter 4

Chapter 4

 

"Are you sure about this, sweetheart?"

"Mum!" Rose frowned in exasperation. "It's not like we haven't lived together before." She was hanging the last of her clothes in the wardrobe of her new bedroom. "We spent years in the TARDIS and got along just fine."

"I'm just sayin' is all. It's different now. He's different."

"What your mother's trying to say," Pete interjected before they had another row. "Is that the Doctor wasn't exactly what she had in mind for a son-in-law." He glanced out the window at the man in question, who was presently sitting in a tree pointing his sonic screwdriver at Pete's old laptop while exclaiming loudly over whatever it was he was looking at. Pete silently had to agree with his wife.

Rose snorted with laughter. "What? You'd prefer I settle down with a woofter like Jimmy Stones? Or some actuary with a job in the High Street? The Doctor's a genius, Mum. He saves lives. Whole planets and civilizations! And he does it because that's just who he is."

"But that's the point, Rose," Jackie explained. "That's who he was. What'll happen when he gets bored sitting in one place? It's all new to him now, but later... I don't know – and neither do you, sweetheart. That's what worries me."

"It'll be fine, Mum. We'll be fine. So quit your worrying and just, you know, be happy for me."

"I am happy for you," Jackie said quietly. "I just–" She sighed and shook her head.

"I know," Rose nodded. She put down the jumper she was folding and went to her mother. "The Doctor's not perfect. But I love him. Always have. And I can't just leave him now he's here. He needs me." She hugged Jackie tightly to show she wasn't upset over the doubts her mother had expressed.

"But is that enough, Rose? Is it really?"

"No, but it's a place to start." They all turned to see the Doctor standing in the doorway. He had the laptop tucked under his arm.

"You going to make an honest woman of my daughter?" Jackie demanded.

"I'd have to dishonor her first," he retorted. "Have I your permission then?"

"Ooh!" Jackie huffed angrily and moved to leave. She paused at the door to wag a finger in the Doctor's face. "You hurt her and I promise you'll wish you'd never been born!" She pushed past him "Pete!"

The other man shrugged looking vaguely embarrassed and followed Jackie from the room.

"Dishonor me will ya?" Rose grinned.

"Well..." The Doctor temporized. "The thought had crossed my mind. But there's plenty of time for all that! Look here." He opened the laptop and went to set it on the desk.

Rose stared quizzically as the Doctor seemed to backpedal away from the issue. It wasn't the first time she'd wondered about this. Clearly the Doctor had intimacy issues, but she'd always believed this was related to his status as a Time Lord. The whole "you can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend mine with you" conflict. But that problem no longer existed, so why...?

Rose inhaled slowly as an idea came to her.

"What," she asked, sidling closer and laying a hand against his lower back, "if I dishonored you?"

She felt the change in his body language like an electric shock along her finger tips. He stiffened, yet did not pull away. Instead, he pressed back against her hand, leaning into the caress. Interesting. And the Doctor did like strong, independent women. Aggressive women. But was it a sexual preference or a cultural one?

Rose moved to block his view of the laptop and pressed herself against his side. "Never mind that now." He looked at her with hooded eyes, lips parted in excitement. "Tell me about the...courting rituals on Gallifrey." She could almost feel his relief as his body perceptibly relaxed against hers.

"There were far fewer females born on Gallifrey than males," he quietly explained. "State approved marriages were arranged only for political or important social reasons, but private liaisons..."

"Go on."

The Doctor swallowed hard as she rubbed the base of his spine. "The male indicates interest through a series of verbal and nonverbal cues. If the female is willing..." She was slowly pressing him back against the nearest wall. "That is, if she wants to take it to the next level..."

"She makes the first move," Rose stated, easing her leg between his thighs. "So there's no mistaking her desire. No question in anyone's mind she wants his attentions."

"No questions," he breathed hoarsely.

"So this," she lowered one hand down to cup his buttock, while the other drifted across his pelvis to gently run her nails along the growing bulge in his trousers, "would be one of them nonverbal cues, yeah?"

He closed his eyes, completely letting down his barriers to becoming physically aroused. "Oh, yeah," he sighed.

"Good to know!" Rose said cheerfully, giving his manhood a little squeeze before releasing him and stepping back.

"What?"

"Rose! You forgot–"

The Doctor snarled at the sound of Jackie's voice and pulled a cricket ball from his pocket. He tossed it hard against the opposite wall and watched as it shot around the room until it finally hit the half-open door at precisely the right angle to slam it closed. He pointed his sonic at the lock, deadlocked the mechanism and turned to Rose.

"Well that's new." She was moving toward the bed, grinning delightedly. "So, what else can you do with your balls?" The Doctor stood frozen as she stripped off her blouse. "That would be the verbal cue," she stage-whispered. "In case you–"

He growled deep in his chest as he paced forward like a cat stalking its prey until he had her by the waist. With very little effort he picked her up and dropped her back on the bed.

Standing on the other side of the door Jackie heard a squeal, followed by more growling, a shriek and her daughter's laughter.

"'Bout bloody time," she muttered, returning to the car wearing a smug look on her face.

"What is?" Pete asked as she took her seat and closed the door.

"Two years he spent in that TARDIS with my beautiful Rose and not once..." She winked at her husband. "I was beginning to wonder if he was some sort of outer space eunuch."

 

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Chapter 5: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

 

The Doctor looked up as Rose, dressed only in his red tee, joined him in the kitchen. For nearly five minutes he'd been standing by the open fridge trying to decide what it was he wanted. She gave him a bemused look, reached past him into the freezer compartment and removed a pint of iced cream. Linking her arm in his, she snatched a spoon from a drawer and led him outside onto the small patio. There, Rose curled up on an oversized, heavily cushioned loveseat, drew him down beside her then opened the carton and spooned out a mouthful for herself. She gave him the next spoonful and he sighed, nodding in appreciation. Oh yeah, he thought, that was it. Leave it to Rose to know the best post-coital snack food.

Rose grinned at his expression and commented, "A bit Wild Kingdom your lot, once they get the scent."

"Oi!"

"Not complaining, mind. Just a bit surprised." She winced as she shifted position. "And a little sore. Nice though." She leaned forward and licked a tiny drop of iced cream from his upper lip then kissed him lightly on the spot.

"Yes, well..." The Doctor felt a flush of pride mixed with a tinge of embarrassment. Time Lords didn't do the post performance round-up commentary the way Humans tended.

"Ooh, look at you!" she teased. "If you were a peacock you'd be spreadin' your tail feathers for me."

"Must be my human half," he responded drolly. "Biological imperative meets Time Lord expertise. Devastating mix. Who knew?"

Rose laughed and settled deeper into his side. He put his arm around her shoulders, enjoying the comfortable feel of her against him.

"This is a good look for you." She ran a hand down his lapel, letting her fingers brush against his bare chest. "Very Miami Vice."

"Mmm." The Doctor raised a brow. "That's because someone stole my only shirt."

"Borrowed."

"In that case, can I have it back?"

She handed him the iced cream and reached to pull it off.

"Oi! Not here!"

"Why not here?" she teased him again.

"Ah... Your mother might come by?"

Rose rolled her eyes. "You'll have to do better than that. She's me mum. She's seen me naked lots of times."

"Then have a little respect for my ancient Time Lord sensibilities. I've only got the one heart. If it stops now we'll both be disappointed."

"Okay, I'll buy," she laughingly agreed and settled back against him, reacquiring the iced cream. After sharing it back and forth for a few minutes she finally asked, "Now, what was so important earlier that you almost distracted me from my mission in life?"

"Mission?" the Doctor repeated around a frozen mouthful.

She let her eyes slowly sweep the length of his body and he suddenly remembered that look. "Really? Since our Christmas?"

After taking care of the Sycorax and Harriet Jones he'd gone back to the TARDIS to choose his new costume, something he always did first chance he got after regenerating. He'd joined her family – well, Mickey and her mother – for dinner when he was done.

"I thought you were just checking out the new wardrobe." Rose's smile broadened. "Undressing me were you?"

"Nah! Just remembering."

"You didn't? I thought Mickey–" The Doctor pursed his lips as Rose burst out laughing. "Oh, never mind! At least I met with your approval. That's all that mattered to me then as now."

"Glad to hear it. Now back to the point."

"Which point?"

"The laptop," Rose said, exasperated. "What did you want to show me on the laptop?"

"Oh, right!" he exclaimed excitedly. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. "Come have a look!"

 

***

 

"It's a suit."

The Doctor nodded happily. "What do you think?"

Rose bit her lip, leaning closer to the screen. "It's a red suit."

"Copper," he corrected.

It was also Italian silk and cost twice her monthly pay packet. "Very smart. Very you," she decided. In any event, it wasn't like he'd ever blend in. Brown pinstripes or copper pinstripes, the Doctor never cut a sedate figure unless he chose to modify his behavior. And he was generally too gregarious to do that for long, even when he chose.

"It is me, isn't it?" he grinned.

Rose smiled back. "You going to order it or you want to visit the shop and have it tailored?"

"Good question. The TARDIS did all my tailoring. I suppose I'll have to go to the shop." He looked a bit put out by the notion. "Still," he added in resignation. "I'll need shirts, ties, a proper coat. God I'm going to miss that coat. Did I ever mention Janis Joplin gave me that coat? I loved that coat."

"We could check the internet," Rose suggested. "Maybe she's still alive in this universe. You might could buy it off her, yeah?"

"There's a thought." The Doctor had his screwdriver out and pointed at the computer. "That's odd. There it is again."

"What's odd?" she asked as he put on his glasses.

"That little hiccup there. The one that looks like a glitch but isn't. See?" Rose peered over his shoulder and the Doctor repeated what he'd done to cause the effect. "Hold on. It looks like there's another desktop hidden behind the main one."

"There can't be," Rose insisted. "Dad would have stripped all that off."

"Stripped what off?" The Doctor looked back over his shoulder.

"Torchwood. Security protocols. You can't just log into the mainframe from any computer. You've got to have the hardware on board."

The Doctor changed settings, pointed his sonic at the drive and the screen suddenly switched to the hidden desktop.

"That's not Torchwood!"

"No, it's not," the Doctor agreed tapping the very official logo splashed across the background. "When I went shopping I reversed the remote access to see everything in stock, not just whatever the shops wanted me to see. Must've pulled in this lot – whoever they are."

"Military," Rose stated succinctly. She pointed to an icon on the desktop. "Trilateral Acquisitions Department. TRIAD we call 'em. That's a defense protocol. An agreement between the Republic of Great Britain, the Union of European States and the Russo-Asian Confederacy. Supposedly it's all about transparency in weapons sales and monitoring trade in advanced technologies."

"Supposedly?"

"We caught one of that lot sniffing around Torchwood a while back. Came in as a file clerk in Data Encryption. She filed stuff alright. Right into a nifty little device that passively recorded and transmitted everything that came up on the surrounding computers to a virtual storage dump. We never could trace who owned the site. Best we could do was tie her to TRIAD, give her the boot and keep an eye on her movements."

"Which were?"

"Cut short in a freak accident." The Doctor's brows rose. "Apparently, she fell in the bath fully clothed holding a running hair dryer."

"Ouch!" The Doctor grimaced.

"Anyway," Rose moved to leave. "I'd better call Torchwood and notify them of the hack."

"Could do. Or we could..."

Her eyes widened with excitement. "Yeah, we could, couldn't we?"

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Chapter 6: Chapter 6

Chapter 6

 

"We can't just rush in on our own," Rose insisted. She was sitting in the passenger seat of her car holding the laptop as the Doctor drove them across the estate to Pete's house.

"Why not? It's always worked before."

"Because we have to live here," she reminded him, sounding more than a bit frustrated at the fact. "We can't just disappear in the TARDIS and show up six months later after the storm we caused dies down. We need a base of operations and back up, with stuff like secret orders and plausible deniability for everybody involved."

"Oh," the Doctor frowned. "I hadn't thought of that."

"Neither did I until I almost messed it all up for Pete. Nearly got myself arrested for treason," she admitted. "Dad made me promise never to go off on my own again. Said he'd trust my instincts and help where he could, so long as I trusted him. Seemed fair."

"Very fair," the Doctor had to agree. They pulled up in front of the house and he set the brakes. "Good man your Dad. Always wondered what he saw in your mother. Still, no accounting for taste I suppose."

Rose sighed and hopped out of the car. She leaned in through the window to respond. "Give her time. She's changed a lot since she's been here. Really, Doctor, she'll grow on you."

"Like a fungus," he muttered, getting out himself and following her slowly into the house.

***

Pete paused on the landing, leaning over the banister to stare in disbelief at the room below. The Doctor was pacing around snatching up books and magazines, flipping through the pages at lightening speed then tossing them aside as Rose and Jackie sat drinking their tea – completely oblivious to his bizarre actions while they calmly chatted. This must be normal behavior for the Doctor, he thought, shaking his head. Jackie had always said the man was daft, but he'd thought that was just her distaste for the Doctor's vagabond lifestyle.

Well, Pete imagined, shrugging it off and joining his family, geniuses were entitled to be a bit eccentric – as long as they weren't John Lumic's sort of eccentric.

"No way!" the Doctor shouted, startling everyone. "You're kidding me! But that's brilliant!" He held up a book to show them. "Author Elizabeth Windsor?"

"I know!" Jackie nodded excitedly. "The Queen writing mystery novels and political thrillers for a living! Of course they've all got horses and dogs in them, but they're really very good," she added. "And can you believe it, she's an American! They're all Americans now the Royals. Run away during the Socialist Revolution of 1933. That's when Britain became a republic."

The Doctor chortled with glee and went to sit beside Rose. "Oh, I think I'm going to like it here. Everything's different! Everything's new!"

"Not that different," Pete pointed at the laptop and the Doctor sat up straight, his expression changing to one of absolute seriousness.

"Any idea what these TRIAD people want? And why'd they pick your computer? What exactly do you do for Torchwood?"

"He's Director of the Doctor Division," Jackie announced proudly.

"The what?"

"That's not the department's official name, but that's pretty much what we do. Or did until yesterday," Pete explained sheepishly. "Like I told you, our primary mission was to find your counterpart in this universe. Once the stars began disappearing we decided to figure out a way to get Rose across to your world and beg help."

"Well, that explains why they targeted you," the Doctor surmised. "Critical missions get carte blanche when it comes to support in any universe. You'd have access to everything – and so would they."

"What if it's more than that?" Rose suggested. "Department heads also get copied on all sorts of important stuff."

Pete had to agree with that assessment, and yet, "From the looks of it, none of my passwords or access codes have been used outside the department. Everything matches up with my personal logs. I've got Jake triple checking the main logs just in case, but... I'm just an administrator, not R&D or field operations. I always passed on anything that might be of interest to Rose or Mickey to investigate."

Rose frowned. "But every time you read your mail or opened a file they'd see it, yeah? So eventually they'd know everything worth knowing – without running any risk of triggering an alarm. Which reminds me," she wondered aloud. "Why didn't your security program alert us when your operating system was first compromised? Come to think of it, why wasn't theirs when the Doctor reversed the access?"

"In Pete's case, probably just a flaw in the code they managed to exploit," the Doctor responded. "As for my tinkering. I'm really good." He grinned, tapping his forehead. "Sentient scripts. Once I'm in, I'm in."

"Yes, well..." Pete went on, ignoring the chill of anxiety crawling up his spine. "As for what they want, TRIAD may be under military jurisdiction, but the day to day operations are run by civilians. My best guess would be industrial espionage. Someone on the inside looking to make a lot of money off alien technology."

"You lot," the Doctor looked slightly puzzled and scratched the back of his head. "What is it about money – and power – and prestige – that makes you all so...so... Willing to eat your own?"

"Classic underachiever," Rose confided in her parents.

"Oi! I passed my exams. Well, the second time. Well, most of them. Well, the ones that counted anyway."

Pete smiled as he felt his anxiety dissipate. The Doctor might be a genius, but he wasn't driven to succeed like the Lumics of the world. More importantly, he didn't feel the need to prove himself to gain status or acceptance. Had probably never felt it – no doubt to the despair of his parents. Still, for a man whose job it was to evaluate people, Pete was suitably impressed. Of course, he would never have hired the Doctor for anything other than Research and Development or some task that required problem solving. But then only a fool would waste a man of the Doctor's obvious talents on administrative work.

"Just out of curiosity," Pete asked. "Have you ever held a real job?"

"Of course I've had jobs!" The Doctor sounded deeply offended. "On my planet everyone had a job – whether they wanted one or not," he added ruefully. "Right out of the Academy I was assigned to monitor the interdicted corridors. And just so you know, that black hole was not my fault! How was I to know the Eternals had played tiddlywinks with supernovas throughout time and space? Not like they left us records," he huffed. "Of course, after that I collated and logged anomalies in the time line."

"They made you a file clerk?"

"Didn't last long. I took a position in the Panopticon. But I had a bit of a falling out with the Council so I... Well, I appropriated a TARDIS and left." He frowned mightily. "Last job they tried to rope me into was President, if you can believe it. Who'd want to be President, eh?"

"You stole the TARDIS?" Rose gaped.

"I wouldn't call it stealing, per se. She was being decommissioned along with the rest of the Type 40s. Old girl still had plenty of life left in her."

"Never mind that," Jackie interrupted. "Who'd want to make you their President? Must've been desperate."

"Very," the Doctor agreed.

"Let me get this straight," Pete asked, still trying to process the information. "They offered you the Presidency of your entire planet, and you turned it down?"

"No, they made me their President. Will I, nil I. So I left. Took off. Absconded." The Doctor grimaced petulantly, crossing his arms and slumping back on the sofa. "You would've too if you'd seen what they wanted you to wear to work every day. I don't mind a bit of the gaudy now and then, but colorful draperies and a silly hat? Collars so wide they'd knock the head off your neighbor at twenty paces?" He shuddered. "Imagine me, Rose, running around dressed like a cross between Elizabeth I and a mediaeval monk!"

But Rose was already laughing so hard she couldn't respond. And Jackie simply pursed her lips in disapproval while Pete coughed to hide a smile.

"Yes, well..." Pete cleared his throat and glanced at his watch. "Tony'll be up from his nap soon," he reminded them. "Let's get back to business."

"Right!" The Doctor sat up straight as Rose composed herself.

"So, what's your plan?" Pete asked.

"Oh, you know, the usual. Uncover whatever nefarious goings on that are on going. Right some wrongs. Wrong some rights. Blow something up. Burn something down. Rescue the creatures. Destroy the damsel. Quell the uprising. Foment rebellion. And maybe, just maybe, if we're very, very lucky, save the day."

"Or," Rose suggested. "We could just trace the signal to its source and break in."

"A brilliant idea!" The Doctor sprang up from the sofa, snatching up the laptop. "Now, where did you say Mickey had a workroom? I'm going to need some parts..." He hurried from the room and bounded up the stairs, as excited as an eight year old on a treasure hunt.

"Not really a big believer in plans, is he?" Pete asked.

Rose shook her head and stood. "He's got his sonic screwdriver, his brain and me. What else does he need?"

"A bit of sense would be nice," Jackie muttered. "No chance of that though."

As he watched Rose eagerly follow after the Doctor, Pete silently had to agree.

 

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Chapter 7: Chapter 7

Chapter 7

 

The Doctor came to an abrupt stop at the top of the stairs, closing his eyes and taking a deep calming breath. As a Time Lord he'd never been very good at dealing with The Parental Inquisition. More to the point, he'd never thought it necessary to explain himself to anyone. He still didn't think it necessary, but Rose had been correct when she'd pointed out his need to live here and remain on relatively good terms with the people around him. And he'd certainly managed to do that on Gallifrey until he'd become – at least in his own young and foolish mind – old enough to tell people what he really thought and stop towing the socially acceptable Time Lord line. But now he was here, and telling someone the facts of his life did not mean they knew him – even if they believed they did.

"You passed."

"What?" The Doctor swallowed his discomfort and turned to Rose.

"Educational background and job history, done." She ticked the items off an imaginary list. "I don't think church affiliation or family history will come up, but you might want to prepare just in case."

The Doctor looked worried. "Was I that transparent?"

"Only to me," Rose admitted, taking his arm and leading him up another flight of stairs. "You don't– Didn't usually talk about personal things."

"And you," he patted her hand, "were always kind enough to never ask."

"You told me the important stuff. As for the rest, I reckoned you'd tell me in your own time if you wanted me to know."

"I would have, yes," he agreed. "When I lost you–" He smiled sadly. "There was so much I wanted to say to you, Rose. I only realized how much after you were gone."

"Well, you're certainly talkative now," she grinned.

"Oh, I think you'd have to thank Martha and Donna for that." Rose looked at him quizzically. "Dr. Jones must have aced her psych rotation," he smiled wryly. "She pushed me about Gallifrey. Until then I couldn't even think the name of my planet without wanting to scream. Then Donna... Something happened while we were traveling. I had to face up to the loss of my family. To think about the possibility of...of..." He swallowed hard, unable to talk about Jenny even now. "My children are dead, Rose. And it hurts," he finished simply. She took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze – offering support without platitudes – and for that he was immensely grateful.

They reached the end of the hall and Rose opened a door. The Doctor looked inside and raised both brows in astonishment. A half a dozen state of the art computers backed by a small server farm took up one whole corner of the room. The opposite corner held what looked to be a telecommunications network made up of ham radios and oscillators augmented by a small microwave dish. Along another wall work tables and benches were littered with parts, tools, diagnostic equipment and small appliances in various states of repair.

"Never thought I'd say this. Mickey the Idiot, a man after my own heart."

Rose watched him happily surveying the room as he crisscrossed the workspaces, occasionally picking up an item of interest and putting it in his pocket. "Got everything you need?" she finally asked.

"I think so," he nodded. "A cup of tea would be nice," he added hopefully.

"Right. Back in a bit then."

The door closed behind her and the Doctor went back to sorting through the nominally organized mess while clearing himself an area. It's a funny old universe, he mused, hooking a chair with his foot and dragging it over. And in any universe, as far as he was concerned, Rose Tyler was simply remarkable. From the girl she'd been to the woman she'd become he could see a clear progression in which she'd never lost the pure, uncomplicated clarity of spirit that made her so unique among Humans – or any other species for that matter. She still knew – with some instinct he'd never been able to fathom – the right thing to say to him at the right time. Or not to say, he thought, taking a broken Game Boy from the "To Be Repaired" pile.

There was a knock at the door and he glanced over his shoulder, surprised to see Jackie coming in with a tray.

"Sorry to disturb. Couple of suits from Torchwood downstairs. They want to debrief Rose."

"Ah," the Doctor nodded, shoving a pile of loose bits off to the side so she could put down the tray. "Did they mention me?"

"'Course they did." Jackie gave him a playful smile. "Barely a foot in the door and demanding all sort of things. Well, Pete's having none of it. Says you're a private citizen and they can make an appointment like everyone else. Also said you were free to decline like anyone else."

"Really?" The Doctor looked at her, vaguely confused. "You know, I don't think I've ever made an appointment. Will I have to have a book? Keep a calendar? Own a rolodex?" He was horrified at the thought.

Jackie laughed softly. "Look," she said, "I brought you something special." She pointed at a cloth covered plate.

He eyed it suspiciously.

"Oh, go on. It won't bite."

The Doctor tentatively removed the cloth. "Tea cakes!" He grinned delightedly and snatched one up. "With edible ball bearings!"

"Rose said you liked the dragees, but," she warned as he bit into the cake. "They're only for special occasions and not too many at once. That coating's real silver. The warning on the jar said large amounts can be toxic. You're supposed to take them off before eating, but I don't see the harm in having a few every now and again."

The Doctor paused in mid chew. He hadn't thought of that. Consuming trace amounts of metals was nothing to a Time Lord. He could have easily metabolized the silver. But this body, for all it had been adapted to support his Time Lord brain, was still essentially human.

He swallowed, not quite as enthusiastic about the treat as he had been. "I'll be careful. Thank you, Jackie."

She nodded and turned to go then stopped.

"Something else?" he asked.

She wouldn't meet his eyes and looked rather uncomfortable. "I always meant to apologize. Really, Doctor, I did. I just never... Well, now your with Rose... And I feel a bit funny about it. Anyway, sorry about the 'strange man in my bedroom anything could happen' remark."

The Doctor laughed. "Of all the–"

"Could we just forget it ever happened?" she added hurriedly. "And never tell Pete. Or Rose."

"I've tried very hard to never remember that moment," he assured Jackie, ignoring her angry moue. The bribe of the tea cakes now made perfect sense. "I certainly can't think of a reason I'd ever want to tell anyone – at least, not at the moment," he grinned, pushing just to see how far she'd go. "How about that slap? I think that deserves an apology as well."

Jackie's demeanor changed abruptly and the Doctor drew back as she took a step forward.

"Don't you dare!" she shouted, suddenly enraged. "Twelve months I thought my Rose was lyin' dead in a shallow grave somewhere. Tossed away like rubbish! Or worse, chained in some filthy basement bein' raped and tortured. For a year I went to sleep cryin' every night – wakin' up every day to an empty home and an aching heart. Do you know how many corpses those detectives showed me? How many poor dead girls I had to look at tryin' to identify my Rose? Never knowin' if I should be happy or sad when it wasn't her. I could've killed ya!"

He clutched his chest as his single heart raced and he felt the sharp knife of shame clawing up his throat. "I– I–" he stuttered, imagining for the first time how he would have felt – would feel now if he had to endure what he'd inadvertently done to Jackie. And he'd thought her silly for complaining, especially when she could see that Rose was perfectly fine and had been all that time. Treated her anguish with such cavalier disdain that she was crying even now as she remembered. He really had deserved that slap. And if truth be told, he realized, "You should have hit me harder."

"Ooh! Don't be daft." Jackie shook her head, wiping her cheeks. "You didn't mean it to happen. And you've done your best to do right by Rose – and me – since then, I'll give you that. All the same, it hurt."

"Yeah," he breathed softly. "It hurts."

For a long moment they remained silent, a quiet understanding growing between them. Finally, Jackie held out her hand. "Truce?"

"Truce," the Doctor agreed, shaking on it. "Although, half the fun of bringing Rose home for visits was finding new and creative ways to insult you. Still, I suppose–"

"Oh, don't be stupid!" Jackie chided, backing towards the door. "I reckon it's good fun making you look a fool sometimes. Gonna be even funnier when you find out your new name."

"My what?"

"Your new identity. Can't have you going around without a proper name. Doctor's just a profession in the real world. So Pete left it up to me."

"What did you do, Jackie?" the Doctor demanded, hurriedly checking his pockets for the envelope Pete had give him the night before.

"Well, first I thought 'Anthony Newley' but you were never that sexy and I couldn't have everyone thinking you were Tony's father. Then I thought, 'Marvin Gaye's nice' but Rose Gaye just sounded stupid. So I thought, what about Poindexter?"

"Poindexter?" He stared at Jackie, the unopened packet forgotten in his hand.

"Yeah, a posh geek. That's you. Poindexter Vandersnit." She stepped outside, leaning in through the half closed door with a wicked smile. "Enjoy your tea cakes, Doctor."

She was gone and he dropped the envelope as if it were on fire, utterly appalled. He rubbed his head; mind seething with ideas about how to get Pete to change the name. How to change it himself if Pete refused. How to convince Rose to–

The Doctor's eyes narrowed as he glanced from the envelope to the door and back. Rose Vandersnit? "She'd never agree to that!" Chuckling, he bent to pick up the packet, slid out the documents and–smiled.

***

An hour later Rose still hadn't returned and the Doctor, refusing to ignore that niggling sense of doubt about her safety where this world's Torchwood was concerned, went in search of her. They had, after all, allowed her to cross alone through multiple parallel universes. And while he didn't question Rose's ability to survive just about anything, not every version of London contained such benign alternatives as zeppelins.

He finally found her in one of the smaller drawing rooms staring pensively out the window. She turned to face him as he entered, welcoming him with that warm, inviting smile that was uniquely hers.

"Bloody great barn of a house!" he complained, throwing himself down on the window seat beside her. "Had to ask directions. Twice!"

"Don't knock it," Rose chided. "This barn's got perks you wouldn't believe."

"Try me."

"Seismic, motion and heat sensitive sensors, hidden weapons platforms, laser shielding, a bomb shelter, a heliport, panic rooms, secret passages... Oh, and a bat cave."

"Really? A Bat Cave?" Now the Doctor looked interested.

"Yup! There's a cave." She pointed down at the floor. "And it's full of bats."

The Doctor grinned.

"Never go down there myself," Rose admitted. "But the head gardener swears by guano." She nodded toward the lush gardens outside.

"I'll bet."

They sat there just smiling at each other for a long moment.

"So," the Doctor finally broke the silence. "All done with your debriefing?"

Rose shrugged. "For now. I told them you weren't there for most of it, seeing as how you–"

"Didn't exist for most of it?" the Doctor finished neatly.

"Something like," she agreed, suddenly falling silent; a sober expression once again coloring her emotions.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Just..."

"You're worried about him." Rose nodded. "I shouldn't have told you about Donna," he sighed, recalling their midnight conversation over tea and biscuits.

"No, I'm glad you did," she leaned forward and gripped his arm. "But you have to remember, I saw you dead in that parallel world. It happened because no one was there to make you leave. And now he's got no one to look after him. He'll be on his own. Afraid to–"

"Afraid to what?"

"Afraid to find someone else. Another companion."

"Don't be silly," the Doctor gently admonished. "Oh, he'll mope around the TARDIS for a bit. Have a good sulk. Think he's better on his own. But that'll pass. Always does."

"Not this time," Rose shook her head.

The Doctor's brows rose quizzically as he stared at her, surprised by the absolute certainty in her tone. "How'd you mean, not this time?"

"Something Davros did–said."

"Davros!" He snorted. "You never want to listen to anything he says."

"But you did listen. I mean, he did. And..."

"And what?"

"And your soul was revealed."

 

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Chapter 8: Chapter 8

Chapter 8

 

"A revelation and a prophecy?" the Doctor mocked. "No wonder the old git was consigned to a vault. Bet I had a good laugh over that one."

"You were nearly in tears!" Rose hissed furiously, moving away from where the Doctor indolently lounged against the window.

"Was I?" he shrugged. "Can't imagine anything Davros might say that would leave me in tears."

"Let's see," Rose enumerated. "You 'butchered millions' and even though you hate violence you 'take ordinary people and turn them into weapons'."

The Doctor's eyes narrowed coldly. "That would be billions – no trillions if you count all the effects of the weapons used in the Time War. Or did you imagine the Nestene Consciousness and the Gelth were the only collateral damage? As for the rest–"

She waved his response away. "It's not true. I know that. You just live your life. You set an example. We're free to make of it what we choose. Like Harriet Jones chose to die in order to get you to Earth in time to save us all."

Ignoring the Doctor's stunned expression she went on, cruelly driving the point home. "'How many have died in your name?' Davros asked. And he said you run. 'Never looking back out of shame.' Is that what he did, this time? Ran away out of shame because he thought I believed all that rubbish? Is that what you'll do first time there's repercussions you don't want to deal with? Tell me, Doctor, because I want to know in advance just how screwed I really am."

"Rose, I–"

But she was too angry to listen. "Oh, never mind! These came for you." She pointed to one of the sofas where a suit bag lay beside several packages from high priced shops. "Might as well get changed. I know how important your outward appearance is to you once you've regenerated. And before you ask," she said tiredly. "This morning. While you were in the shower."

"But how–?"

"Autopsy report," she answered succinctly. "They measure everything, remember?"

***

Rose didn't bother to slam the door on her way out, but she might as well have. The very absence of her presence was like a cold slap in the Doctor's face. He sat alone, back bowed, head in hands, elbows resting on his knees.

Harriet Jones dead. The thought made him queasy. He'd really liked that woman – once. But then she'd disappointed him and he'd taken his revenge. Destroyed her career. Ended Britain's second Golden Age years before it should have done. And for what? he wondered. His pride? In the end she'd been right. Oh, not right to destroy the Sycorax after he'd laid his honor on the line defending the Earth. But exactly right that there would come a time when they'd need him and he wouldn't be on hand. It wasn't like he'd given them a Bat Signal or anything. Just Martha's phone, tossed his way because she was so very clever and knew he'd want to help if he was needed.

Then he wondered if Harriet had been responsible for creating that sub-wave network. Because it certainly wasn't Jack or UNIT. The former was too self-confident, not to mention a bit too paranoid to think of something so practical. And the latter would never think to rely on civilians for defense even as back-up. Especially not with Martha Jones playing for team UNIT and her having instant access to himself. Could Sarah Jane have done it? Possible, but not likely. Her absolute faith in "the Doctor" made it doubtful that she would ever imagine a scenario when he wouldn't show up and save the day. But Harriet? Harriet had been practicality personified. And forward thinking even in extremis. Even out of power she'd have worried the question and worked the problem until she came up with a solution. So it had to have been her.

Now he could imagine just why the Doctor Prime had been driven nearly to tears. How many had died in his name? Too many. Far too many. In just these last two regenerations he'd left a trail of pain and destruction behind him that almost rivaled all his earlier incarnations put together. Rose was right. His original wouldn't be auditioning any new companions for quite some time.

Still, he thought, as he rose to examine his new clothes, there was the relationship with River Song to which the Doctor Prime could look forward. He wasn't about to tell Rose that, of course. Not when it might be centuries before he ran into the woman who was to become his wife.

His wife! No doubt his counterpart's mind still reeled at the prospect. But then, at least in River's case, he wouldn't have to watch her grow old and die since he'd already experienced her physical death. Her mind though... He smiled briefly at the thought. With Gallifrey and its Matrix for housing the mental essences of deceased Time Lords destroyed, the Library computer core would be a near perfect substitute when the Doctor Prime's days of running finally ended.

Putting aside this particular train of thought as unproductive (at least for him), the Doctor sorted through the clothing items Rose had purchased. Raising a brow, he held up a pair of pants in the exact size, color and style he currently preferred – though at the moment he was going commando, having grabbed the first thing to hand after he'd suddenly found himself naked on the floor of the console room. There really hadn't been time to root around in his drawers for clean undergarments. He wondered at the accuracy of Rose's choices then realized, "Ah, yes. The ubiquitous autopsy report."

With an internal shrug he also put aside the distinctly creepy feeling he got knowing she'd read the thing. Probably memorized it too, he shouldn't wonder. Of course, the only thing he and the Doctor Prime really had in common any more was brain pan and clothing size. Well, maybe one more size, but then he'd actually have to be juvenile enough to measure that. Although... He had noticed the hair down there was liberally scattered with ginger strands. Maybe Donna's DNA had wrought a few more changes than he'd originally thought.

He got out his sonic and began the tedious process of increasing the impermeability of all the cloth. He'd had all this automated on the TARDIS, but no matter how tiresome the exercise might be he still preferred to remain stain, wrinkle and tear free. And then there were the pockets to do. Really a very simple process of realigning the molecular structure of the–

"What did you do to Rose?"

The Doctor turned at the sound of Pete's voice, but didn't respond.

Pete sighed. "Well, it's your business. Just thought you might want to know she's baking brownies."

The Doctor's eyes widened in dismay. Rose only baked when she was really upset with him. She'd done it more often early on when he was in his ninth regeneration, but then he'd been something of a callous bastard and said a lot of things he really oughtn't. "Double or triple fudge?"

"Triple. With espresso fudge chunks."

"Ooh," he acknowledged with a pained expression and Pete barked a laugh.

"What are you doing there?" the other man asked as he watched the Doctor cup one pocket of the jacket he'd turned inside out. The material in his hand seemed to bend unnaturally, sparkling with power as he ran the sonic screwdriver over the satin lining.

"Time Lord science," he grinned.

"Bigger on the inside," Pete nodded and came forward into the room. "Mind if I...?"

The Doctor shrugged, tossing him the finished jacket as he began to work on the trousers.

"Doesn't seem any bigger," Pete offered after reaching in and testing the size of one pocket.

"That's because there's nothing in it," the Doctor explained. "Also, my brain perceives space as well as time differently than yours. And for a Human, there's a bit of a mental trick to getting what you want out of there as well. Rose has done it several times, though she's never asked how."

"A mental trick? What, you mean like you have to be psychic?"

"Sort of, but not quite," the Doctor said. "If you know something's in there you have to picture it specifically. Rose isn't telepathic, but she knows what she wants and her desire is strong enough to trigger the program to give it to her."

"Telepathic?" Pete inquired nervously. "Are you...?"

The Doctor nodded absently. "I'm a Time Lord, Pete. But you needn't worry about the sanctity of your thoughts or anyone else's while I'm around. With Humans and other lesser species I have to make a real effort and be in physical contact to see anything at all. Rather unpleasant really," he mused. "Your minds tend to be terribly disorganized. All full of random thoughts, trivia and the daily minutiae of your lives." He laughed shortly. "Fifty, sixty, even seventy years on and you lot are all still vividly recalling the times you embarrassed yourselves in grammar school!"

"And you don't?"

The Doctor smiled indulgently and tapped his forehead. "All neatly tucked away and compartmentalized. Accessible, but not randomly bouncing about and coming to the fore at the most inopportune of moments. After all, I've got nine hundred odd years of memories stored in here. Still, all that randomness and disorganization can lead to some amazingly brilliant leaps of understanding and creativity where pure logic and scientific methodology fails. It is, at least for me," he acknowledged, "one of Humanity's greatest charms."

"One of Rose's greatest charms," Pete commented knowingly.

"Oh yes!" the Doctor emphatically agreed and started to undress.

"There's a, uh, bath down the corridor," Pete offered.

"Nah, I'm clean." He sniffed his shirt. "I think," he added uncertainly. "Weird."

"Excuse me?"

"Honey. To Humans, Time Lords smell like honey. Or so I've been told. Never noticed it myself, until now. I can sort of smell it, but it's blending with the Human salts."

"A bit more than I wanted to know, Doctor." Pete turned to leave. "Like I said, bath's just down the hall on your left."

"Yeah," he murmured to himself, the other man entirely forgotten as he gathered up his new clothes. "Best have a bit of a wash before seeing Rose." Especially since the very thought of what he was going to have to say to her was already making him sweat bullets.

 

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Chapter 9: Chapter 9

Chapter 9

 

"You could fit an army in this place," the Doctor commented entering the kitchen, "and the entire family actually lives in a ten room guest suite?"

The women in the room both gazed at him with bemused expressions.

"Ah," he nodded in understanding. Given the family's combined experiences, the fortress like nature of the estate's security arrangements, and their association with Torchwood, they might one day have need of an army. "Say no more."

"Haven't said a bleedin' word," Jackie remarked. "Though I'd like to say something about that suit."

"Mum," Rose warned.

"What? I was only going to say it suits him is all."

The Doctor smiled with delight. "Thank you, Jackie."

"'Course, it also says loads about your current state of mind," she added.

"Really."

It hadn't been a question, but Jackie happily ignored that fact. "Been takin' these psychology courses online," she explained. "The black leather – well that one's obvious – you were in a very dark place emotionally. The brown suit: You were doing better, but remaining neutral. The blue was you willing to start opening up and take chances again. But that shade of red–"

"Copper," Rose and the Doctor said simultaneously.

"–means you've got a lot of suppressed rage."

He stared at Jackie, surprised at the accuracy of her assessment. Still, "Thanks for the lesson in pop psychology," he retorted.

"Doctor," Rose warned.

He was saved from having to deal with the whole awkward situation by Pete and little Tony. The strong scent of horses joined them in the room as they entered, giving the Doctor a glimpse of a vegetable garden through the open side door. The boy, who appeared to be about five, took one look at the Doctor, screamed and ran – straight past the scary stranger. One long arm snaked out to lift the boy by the back of his shirt so they were eye to eye. The other shoved something in his hands.

"Hi, Tony! I'm the Doctor. This is for you."

He put the boy down and watched him run away even faster, laughing loudly. The Doctor ignored the family's stunned silence and used the opportunity to grab Rose's hand and a couple of brownies; leading her out the side door without so much as a by-your-leave.

***

"Oi! What was that about?" Rose shouted even as he pulled her along the path to the conservatory. "You didn't have to scare my little brother half to death!"

The Doctor laughed. "Oh, he's not scared. Well, not anymore." He led the way into their private gardens, pausing only to make certain he was going in the right direction.

"How do you mean 'not anymore'? He was flippin' terrified of you. Tony doesn't like strangers."

"I'm not a stranger. I'm the man who gave him a brilliant toy that will give him years of extremely noisy, yet educational fun. Trust me, Rose, the next time Tony sees me it'll be hugs, kisses and stories about his best mate."

"Think you're so clever, don't you?"

"I am so clever," he grinned back at her. "Never, and I do mean never," he advised. "Meet a small child, especially one you'll be seeing often, without a peace offering. Bribery, at least in these cases, is good."

Rose looked as though she wanted to argue, but gave it up with a rueful, "I'll bet it is. So that's what you were working on up in Mickey's room? Toys For Tots?"

"That and a few other things."

"Mum said it was some kind of scanner made out of a Game Boy."

"And Jackie would know because...?"

"Because we all thought you were off to find a way to track down that TRIAD hacker."

The Doctor snorted in amusement. "Did that this morning while you were in the shower. Right," he announced, stopping just the other side of the little bridge by the brook. "Here we are then." He sat cross legged on ground and motioned for Rose to do likewise, handing her one of the two bottles of ale he drew from his pocket.

She didn't bother to ask how, merely accepted the fact that this was the Doctor and he did things like that – even when the clothes came from a perfectly normal shop. Wondering aloud about it would likely earn her a bemused glance and a complicated explanation about some aspect of Time Lord science. Probably followed by a staccato info dump having to do with a party, an open bar and gate-crashing alien hordes. The first part would be true, but the second... Rose glanced at the bottle and hid a smile. Pete kept a stock of the same private label in his study.

"So, why are we here?" she asked after they'd each had a brownie washed down with Pete's good beer.

"Ian Chesterton."

"Who?"

"Ian Chesterton," the Doctor repeated.

"Never heard of him."

"Well, you wouldn't have, would you? Long before your time. Before Sarah Jane's as well. Anyway... To Ian Chesterton," the Doctor raised his bottle. "One of the finest men I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. And the man I most wanted to be like when I grew up."

Rose cocked her head and smiled, raising her own beer. "To Ian Chesterton. Who was he then? Someone famously brilliant, yeah?"

"Nah!" The Doctor leaned back on his elbows, staring at the scenery. "Ian was a science teacher at the Coal Hill School in London. Specifically, my granddaughter's science teacher."

Rose went very still, afraid to say anything that might stop the Doctor talking. He glanced at her. A tight little smile lifting the corner of his mouth.

"You once asked me who I was and I told you some nonsense about me feeling the turn of the earth and the universe all spinning. Not because it wasn't true, but because I was spinning out of control. Back then, I didn't really know who I was anymore. I'm not sure I know who I am now. But what I do know is that you grounded me. You gave me something to hold on to and I stopped spinning. You did that, Rose Tyler. You."

"And Ian?"

"He showed me how to be a better person, just by being who he was. What you said earlier, about Davros, about running away. It reminded me of who I was before I met Ian."

"Who were you then?"

The Doctor looked away, embarrassed. "A lot like I was when you first met me. Worse, actually. You'd have utterly despised me back then. And the me today... Well, I wouldn't have blamed you in the least."

"Tell me," Rose said quietly. He was silent for a long time. "I won't despise you, I promise. Whoever you are now, you aren't that man anymore, yeah?"

"Yeah," he agreed softly. "Least ways, I hope I'm not. He was– No, I was a real piece of work back then. Fairly typical Time Lord mentality, even if I thought I was a bit of a rebel. Ooh, I was so brilliant! I knew better than everybody!"

He paused, groping for words. "For you to understand, I suppose I'd have to start with the Academy. We all got sent there as children. That place, it worked on young Gallifreyan minds in more ways than just educating them. We were taught to regard emotions like compassion as mere self-indulgence and trained to repress or ignore them. There was an important reason for that," he explained. "Time Lords weren't meant to interfere in the affairs of lesser species. The belief was that feeling compassion led to that slippery slope of interference. A studied indifference was thought best."

"But if your people were all taught to be indifferent to your feelings doesn't that mean you were indifferent to the feelings of others? And not just the lesser species?"

"Not everyone who went to the Academy became a Time Lord. But we were generally the ruling elite. Because of that, they worked us harder when it came to stripping away emotional reactions. It was Gallifrey paid the price for our indifference, of course. Simple kindness and joyful passion were replaced by greed and a lust for power. And in my first life, before I ever regenerated, I was little better than most of my colleagues."

"You wanted power?"

The Doctor shook his head. "Not power for power's sake, but I've always been tempted by having the power to make things better. There was something in me even then that could see where our disregard of emotions was leading us. Political intrigue would eventually trump the rule of law."

"So that's why you left?"

"I left," he admitted sardonically. "Because I lost an argument during a council session. After a bit of political maneuvering on my part I was about to be appointed the youngest Chancellor of the Academy in Gallifreyan history, but I wanted to alter the curriculum. I wanted to have young Time Lords in training actually explore the wonders of the universe before they graduated. Not just sit back and read dry text books until they were sent out into the vortex to do a job. "

Rose merely nodded and he went on with a wistful sigh.

"To prove my point, I didn't just take a TARDIS and leave. Oh no. I took my fifteen year old granddaughter along so that when we got back everyone would see how much better she was for the experience."

Rose swallowed hard, but asked the question anyway. "She wasn't...?"

"Killed? No," the Doctor shook his head. "Not then, anyway. The Time War took care of that."

"I'm sorry," Rose said gently and the Doctor gave her a sad smile.

"You'd have liked Susan. That was the name she chose once we got stuck on Earth. She was a lot like you. Brilliant and full of life. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, and I really do want you to understand about me. About who I was back then."

"Okay. But why do you call her Susan if that wasn't really her name?"

"I called her Susan because she chose that name, just as I chose Doctor. On Gallifrey there were three types of naming. The first were the familial names given as mere designations until one got old enough to choose a public name – usually a representation of who or what you believed yourself to be. Sometimes people liked their family names so they kept them. Others, like myself, weren't quite so happy with what they'd got, so they changed them."

"Changed it from what?" Rose asked hopefully.

"Theta Sigma."

Her mouth gaped as she thought about it. "But that's not a name! That's just–"

"The alphanumeric code on the petrie dish in which I was created," he finished blandly.

Rose's hand went to her mouth stifling a gasp of horror. "But your parents..."

"Were Time Lords. Very old Time Lords who'd finally gotten permission to create offspring – to whom they were utterly indifferent. Why choose a name when a simple factual designation would do just as well? It wasn't like it was a real name. Only I would ever know my true name, my private name, unless..."

"Unless?"

"My name is more than just my soul, Rose Tyler. It is everything I am, everything I was, everything I ever will be. Sharing that... Well, it isn't done lightly. And it's dangerous. Maybe in time..."

Rose smiled shyly. "When you're ready – if you ever are – I'd risk it. But," she added. "Even if you never tell me, that's okay, too. You'll always be the Doctor – my Doctor – no matter what."

Comforting words, but he got to his feet, too nervous about what was coming next to sit still. Telling her his name was the least of his worries at the moment.

"So, me and Susan, yeah?"

Rose, bless her gentle heart, remained quiet and encouraging.

"We knocked about time and space for a bit like I'd planned. Nothing so exciting as what you and me got up to, just really playing tourist because I was still all about not interfering. But everywhere we went it seemed we ran into Humans. This Great and Bountiful Human Empire, that Glorious and Beneficent Human Republic. You lot were everywhere and every when. Annoying as hell to me, but Susan was fascinated. Wanted to see where it all began. Some planet called Earth she kept hearing about. 'Ooh, and wouldn't it be grand to go back and see it all at the very beginning?'" he mimicked.

Rose laughed. "Pestered ya, did she?"

He tilted his head back and grimaced. "Worse! She presented me with a six hundred page treatise on the subject. A very logical argument on the educational benefits of examining the early days of Human space flight and the cause and effect of war on their technological advances to explain why they became the dominant humanoid culture in the universe – something along those lines anyway. Personally, I think she just wanted to see the Beatles." He grinned as Rose's eyes widened in surprise. "Don't ask. But I let her input the coordinates and instead of the Soviet Union in 1957 and the launch of Sputnik we ended up in a London scrap yard in 1963."

"And that's when the chameleon circuit got stuck?"

"The TARDIS broke down as well," the Doctor nodded. "Looking back now, I suspect Susan might have had something to do with that. If memory serves, she was far too complacent with the whole situation – and out the TARDIS doors before you could say John, Paul, George and Ringo, come to think of it."

"Good for her!"

"Yeah," he breathed, sadness seeming to suddenly envelope him. "It was good for her. But me... Well... Anyway, after a couple of weeks with me fussing about trying to fix the TARDIS, she decided she wanted to go to school like all the other kids her age."

Rose smirked. "I'm guessing you didn't half love that idea."

"I was livid!" the Doctor recalled, much bemused at the memory. "It was so far beneath her educationally. But no, she was going to study the Humans in their own environment, she insisted."

"And you fell for that?"

The Doctor shrugged and sank back down beside her. "Not really, but I was old and crotchety because I still hadn't regenerated and didn't have time to argue with the child. If she wanted to go to that silly school and play at being Human," he sighed. "I was completely clueless, Rose. Susan was lonely and needed to be around people her own age."

Rose suddenly gasped. "I think I saw a picture of you from back then."

"Really? Where?"

"UNIT. I worked with them in the parallel world that creature created around Donna. Sarah Jane introduced me to your friend, that Brigadier."

"Lethbridge Stewart."

"Yeah, him. I got access to your files. There were a couple of old grainy black and white pictures with not much info. But when you say 'old and crotchety' you mean really old. Like ninety, yeah?"

"Not quite that old," the Doctor protested. "But that was me when I first came to Earth. Not much to look at, eh?"

"He looked a lovely old gentleman. All that soft white hair. Gentle eyes. A friendly smile. Probably smelled of lavender. I sort of liked him."

"Looks can be deceiving, Rose. That man was inherently cruel."

"That's a bit harsh. I can't believe–"

The Doctor shook his head. "Believe it, Rose. If it hadn't been for Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, Susan's history teacher, I'd eventually have gone back to Gallifrey and been just another typical, albeit brilliant, Time Lord."

"So, what happened to change your mind?"

"They showed up for a home visit."

"You're kidding me?"

"Nope. We really weren't very wise in the ways of your world," he admitted. "Susan used the scrap yard address and the owner's surname on her registration papers. And she was just too well educated. She didn't know to tamp it down and pretend she was an average student. Hell, neither of us knew much about the specific details of Earth history or scientific achievements at that point. She answered questions as she would those of any instructor at the Academy."

"She was too smart and they noticed," Rose surmised. "Just like you did with those kids given that Krillitane oil."

He nodded. "Knowledge way beyond planet Earth. Apparently, Ian and Barbara compared notes and came looking for her parents to get some answers. They found the TARDIS instead."

 

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Chapter 10: Chapter 10

Chapter 10

 

The Doctor suddenly started to fidget again – fiddling with his tie, rubbing the back of his neck, mussing his hair. Finally, he grabbed their empties, shoved them in a pocket and jumped to his feet.

He held out his hand. "Let's walk," he said.

Rose allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and they walked alongside the stream until the path they were on turned. They followed the upward slope of the land to a small gazebo with a sweeping view of the property.

"Sunset's beautiful from here," Rose commented.

The Doctor gave her a troubled smile and leaned with both hands on the white wooden rail facing west. He really didn't want to talk about this, he silently admitted. But he kept hearing Donna's voice in his head saying, "Go on, tell her!" And he remembered how good he'd felt when Rose had touched his chest and realized that she could have her dream. The one where they shared a life, growing old together. His dream too, if he was brave enough to admit it. Was it any wonder then that he'd fallen in love so easily once he'd transformed himself into a Human? That part of the very human John Smith was still there inside him. Perhaps it had always been a part of him. But he was afraid. Afraid of what she'd think of him, even if she never knew the true extent of his moral failings. Because that's what they were in human terms. Complete and utter moral failings.

He felt her arms slide around his waist as she came up behind him and laid her cheek against his shoulder blade.

"If you don't want to talk about this you don't have to," she said softly. "It's hard when there's something you're ashamed of in your past. But I always knew there was bad stuff there. Things I probably wouldn't like, 'cause you'd told me that already, yeah?"

The Doctor turned to face her. "Did I?"

She smiled up at him. "When we argued about Gwyneth opening the rift so the Gelth could use corpses for bodies. 'Different morality' you said, and I'd better get used to it or go home, remember?"

"But you were right that time."

"Yeah, but for the wrong reasons. You saw the bigger picture. I took it personally. Both right. Both wrong. But both thinkin' with our hearts, not our heads." The Doctor huffed a laugh. "The thing is, I stayed with you. I reckoned if there was anything you'd done or would do, no matter how awful I thought it was, you probably had a good reason or you'd never have done it. But Davros didn't know I knew that. And I'm thinkin' you never guessed. Which is what gave him the power to hurt you."

The Doctor closed his eyes, sighing as he rested his forehead against Rose's. So Human, he thought. But so very right and true. Humans talked so much about their thoughts and feelings, hashing out over and over again where they went wrong or what they could've done better. To each other, to strangers, to people paid to give them counsel and guidance. How many companions had he traveled with besides Rose who would have offered him such an opportunity? Likely all of them – though his friends during those early years would surely have been less comfortable with such emotional sharing. They came from times where it was less socially acceptable to spill one's guts as it were.

"You won't like it," he whispered, laying his hands on her waist.

"I don't have to like it," she breathed. "I only have to accept it. It's all just part of the bigger picture that's you."

He squeezed his eyes shut as if in anticipation of a blow. "I wouldn't let them leave, Rose. Ian and Barbara. My first companions were my prisoners."

She didn't move, even though he could feel the shock of what he'd said rocket through her body.

"You didn't hurt them."

It was a statement, though he could sense the underlying question in her voice.

"No," he swallowed hard, pulling back a bit. "But if it hadn't been for Susan, I might have."

"Why?" Rose asked simply.

He stepped away, shoving his hands in his pockets to hide their trembling. "Time Lord training. I thought they'd seen too much and if I let them go the impact on Earth's timeline would be too great." Rose gave him a questioning glance and he nodded, rolling his eyes. "Yeah. Me. Rigidly following the rules. Took a while before I accepted the fact that the universe just compensates around those little anomalies. And, given what I'd seen of your world then... On Gallifrey we didn't have much original fiction in our literature. I honestly thought movies like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still were extrapolations based on sociological fact."

"Okay," Rose said. "So you considered eliminating the problem. But you didn't kill them. And not just because Susan wouldn't have liked you murderin' her favorite teachers, but because you also feared what it would do to the timeline."

"Yup!" he grinned, please she understood. "Had no idea what to do with them, not really. So I took them with us, hoping a solution might present itself."

"Couldn't you have just wiped their memories like Donna's? No harm, no foul?"

The Doctor shook his head. "Skills change with every incarnation, Rose. And even if I'd had enough control over my mental abilities back then, the very thought of entering the minds of primitives would have been disgusting. And I couldn't ask the other Time Lords for help."

"Why not?"

"Arrogance. Fear," he shrugged. "They weren't pleased with what I'd done in the first place. Screwing up by allowing a pair of barbarous Humans to gain access to advanced technology... Let's just say the consequences would have been more than I thought I could bear."

"But you survived being exiled on Earth."

The Doctor smiled. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing that she'd seen his UNIT files. "I'd mellowed quite a bit by then. But I really hated it," he admitted.

"The Brigadier said as much. He was very fond of you, you know. Tried not to show it, but he was heart broken when he thought he'd have to give the eulogy at your funeral. Never seen anyone so relieved at finding out we could fix things if we just found the right moment in Time when it all went wrong."

"He's a good man. Took a bit of work training him to think first and shoot later, but it all worked out for the best, I suppose."

"So, what happened to Ian and Barbara?" Rose asked. "They weren't mentioned in the files."

"Went home eventually. Got married. Had a couple of kids."

"But not before they changed your life."

The Doctor gazed out at the horizon where the late summer sun was starting its descent, silently appreciative of the fact that Rose was gently encouraging him to talk it out. More importantly, she was listening without passing judgement. Still...

"Ian was a man's man," he explained. "What used to be called 'a most excellent gentleman' in every sense of the phrase. Of course, I didn't have much respect for his knowledge, though being a teacher was to his credit."

"Generous of you."

"Very," the Doctor agreed, slightly mocking in his tone. "And he was foolishly sentimental. All that compassion! Our first port of call was the Stone Age and the stupid fool wanted us to help save some injured savage while we were all running for our lives. Imagine that!" Rose took his hand and he held it tight. "And what did I want?" he asked rhetorically. "No interference. He was dead anyway. Best get the hell out. Why risk our lives for nothing? Oh, and while I was at it, I picked up a rock and decided to stave the poor bloke's head in and save myself the trouble of arguing the point."

She paled and her fingers went limp in his hand, but he wouldn't let her go.

"Ian stopped me, Rose. If I'd looked like I do now and not a frail old coot he'd have thumped me good. But it was the look in his eyes, Rose," the Doctor shuddered, remembering that moment. "I'll never forget the utter contempt. He was furious. Bad enough what I'd done to him and Barbara, but the very idea that I'd bludgeon an injured man to death just to save my own skin–no matter how much I might have claimed it was to save us all. It shook me, Rose. To the very core of my oh so superior soul. This lowly Human made me feel like I was two inches tall. More, if he'd stepped on me he'd have hurriedly cleaned the disgusting mess from the sole of his boot and never looked back."

"Oh, God!" Rose softly exclaimed.

"I look back on that man – the man I was – and I despise him now, just as much as Ian did. Of course," he went on hurriedly. "I didn't change over night, but I was much less inclined to take the most expedient route to solving a problem."

"You've reverted," she whispered. "He knew that. On the crucible, when you destroyed the Daleks. Because after the war, he was the same."

The Doctor nodded. "It's worse than you know. Because through all those centuries and all those regenerations, I did my best to follow Ian's example. His courage, his kindness, his selflessness and passion, even his derring-do at times. And I'd made it, Rose. I became that better man. In my eighth regeneration I was all that I could have hoped to become. The best I've ever been. And I was happy, Rose. For the first time in my life I was truly happy." She lifted a hand to his cheek, wiping away a stray tear.

"He was so gentle, Rose. Not weak. But strong enough at his core not to be afraid of showing his emotions, or fighting for what he believed in, or just following his bliss. A bit daft, but that was just me being me. 'Course, you’d probably have laughed at the whole Byronic Edwardian style I chose. But then it did take a while for me to get the hang of Earth fashion sense. And then he had to– I mean– I mean I had to– In that form– Because the Daleks–"

The tears were flowing freely as he sank to his knees and Rose dropped down beside him, pulling him close and holding on as if she'd never let go.

"I tried everything to stop the war. But it wasn't enough! It was our choice to sacrifice ourselves, but I pulled the trigger! That version of me died that day," he choked. "I meant to die with my people, Rose. But the TARDIS..." He took a deep sobbing breath. "You've seen her. Will of her own sometimes. Dematerialized and slowed down that moment in time just long enough to avoid complete destruction. And I was so out of it, so badly injured by the backlash from the weapon I'd launched, I didn't even remember that I was supposed to die."

 

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Chapter 11: Chapter 11

Chapter 11

 

Rose suspected she'd met him not long after that. Just long enough for him to regain a semblance of sanity and decide there was nothing much left to do except continue traveling. She stroked his back, sensing that this time his tears were not for the loss of his planet or his people, but for the man he'd been. That happy, well-balanced fellow who'd matured into 'a most excellent gentleman' and been forced to survive the horror that should have ended his life. No wonder he'd been angry and vengeful. After everything he'd done to better himself, and in the end he'd used the most expedient method to end the Time War. Smashed it all to bits with a high tech rock and made a mockery of all he'd sought to achieve.

When she felt the quiet sobs ease into soft shudders, Rose gently led him over to a westward facing bench. The Doctor's face was a mask of anguish that slowly softened into the more familiar one of sorrowful acceptance at his fate. She finally spoke as the sun began to set.

"He isn't dead, you know."

"Who?" the Doctor asked, startled out of whatever quiet place his mind had gone.

"The man you were. The one you wanted to be. He's not dead. Just a bit lost is all."

The Doctor's lips twisted. "Maybe if I had a few centuries..."

"Don't be stupid," she chided. "He's been here all along. Fell in love with him, didn't I?"

The Doctor sighed, obviously prepared to argue the point.

"Yeah, I know," Rose went on. "Had the stuffing knocked out of you – twice. The war and now this. Someone kicked your dreams to the gutter and it hurt. Think that hasn't happened to me?" She snorted derisively. "What makes your pain so much more special than anyone else's?"

"I didn't mean–"

"Course you didn't," she acknowledged. "But everyone thinks that, even just a little. Can’t help it, not really. But you move on. You taught me that. You make new dreams and you live 'em. And as for the things you did way back when," she shrugged. "If you'd known some of the things I got up to on the estate before I learned better, you'd probably never have asked me to come with you once, much less twice."

"Like what?" he asked curiously. Rose flushed. "Go on," the Doctor grinned. "Can't be worse than kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder."

She felt a bit ill at the memory, but he had opened up to her, so... "I joined a gang when I was fourteen," she admitted. "It's not funny," she said sharply at his expression. "There was an initiation period to show your loyalty. I reckon it was also meant to give the older members leverage in case you got pinched and thought about talking."

The Doctor nodded, face thoughtful and serious. "What did you have to do?"

"At first it was just acting lookout and ringing up if the cops showed. There was a lot of drug dealing involved higher up, 'cept I didn't know it also involved guns. Buying and selling. Found that out much later. Not something I ever got into," she assured him.

"I'm glad," he said, clearly relieved.

"Me too, but there were other tests. Going out with members who nicked cars or did smash and grabs. And if that wasn't enough to put me off, which it wasn't, my next to last test really should have." She paused to catch her breath and calm her racing heart.

"It's okay, Rose, you can tell me."

Her eyes glistened with tears as she choked out the words. "I stood by and let 'em kick stomp a fifteen year old boy bloody because he was wearing the wrong colors. And it wasn't just 'cause I was high at the time. It was 'cause I thought it was our right. Him being on our turf and all."

"Oh, Rose," the Doctor said softly. He held her close as she'd held him, letting her sob out the rest of the awful story.

"The last test... The very last test was... Givin' it up to the blokes runnin' the gang. All of 'em. In one night." She felt him stiffen in horror and blurted out the rest. "Older girls said they'd give me something so's I wouldn't really care. And after that I'd be earning my own way, just like they were. They'd been setting me up to be a prostitute all the time and I was too stupid to see it coming."

"My god!"

"But I couldn't do it, Doctor. I just couldn't. I ran off with Jimmy Stones 'cause one guy was better than twelve and he said he'd look after me. Said he'd make sure there'd be no trouble for me or Mum. And at least he wasn't askin' me to whore in some filthy club." She sniffled a bit, wiping at her cheeks. "Happened a lot 'round our way," she explained. "You see your folks, like I saw Mum, working hard all their lives and never getting anywhere. And it's just so tempting to take the easy way out 'cause the gangs look like they're having so much fun and they're not working all that hard to get the fancy cars and the posh clothes. Anyway," she finished. "A couple of years later the police cleaned out most of the scum from the estate, so you never got to see it at its worst."

The Doctor kissed the top of her head. "I'm sorry for what you went through, but you really are brilliant, Rose." The gob-smacked look she turned on him brought a smile to his lips. "It wasn't that you couldn't do it," he told her. "It's that you wouldn't."

She grimaced a bit and nodded. "Too virtuous, that's me," she joked weakly.

"Oh, virtue had nothing to do with it," the Doctor pointed out. "You've already proven you can do anything you want to do. You simply wanted more."

"Suppose so," she admitted. "Drug addicted sex worker would have been a step down from shop girl or hairdresser."

"There you are," the Doctor grinned. "And the boy you saw beaten?" he asked seriously.

She looked away. "He was okay in the end. A bloke can't really grow up where I did and not expect to take a beatin' sometime. You get used to the idea. Life's gonna grind you down. And before you know it you're living your parents' life. Working in a shop, playing the lottery, hoping you'll win..."

"Bringing the cash to the cellar," the Doctor added. "Finding yourself surrounded by killer shop window dummies. Running for your life."

"Meeting an alien who blows up your job."

"But offers you all of Time and Space in exchange."

Rose nodded. "No rent, no rules–"

"No running off."

She smiled with pleasure. "We really did make some good memories, didn't we?"

"We'll make more," he assured her.

"Mmm," she agreed. "Like tonight."

"Now, Rose," the Doctor cautioned. "I can’t promise to go four rounds every time. Not in this body."

She burst out laughing, lightly punching his arm.

"Ow!"

"You conceited–! I meant the op. Hacker tracking, remember?"

"Oh, yeah!" The Doctor nodded, looking a bit crestfallen. Then, "You're right, sunset's lovely from–"

"Of course," Rose interrupted, swinging her leg over his hips until she was kneeling on the bench facing him. "We've got a couple of hours we can while away before we need to leave."

"You're blocking the view," he complained.

"Oh, shut up!"

The Doctor smiled as she settled on his lap. "This is me, shutting up."

"Now kiss me."

"And this is me," he leaned forward as ordered. "Kissing Rose Tyler."

 

 

 

 

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