Trouble is a Woman by ABadPlanWellExecuted
She could handle this, no problem. She’d helped overthrow mad dictators and saved captives from werewolves. She’d (apparently) defeated a whole army of Daleks with a wave of her hand, and…and just last week, she’d gotten a very alien and scratchy sort-of cat down from a very alien and scratchy sort-of tree. So she could definitely handle this.
So what if she could suddenly feel the turn of the Earth under her feet–that was no reason to panic, was it? Even though they weren’t actually on Earth…or any other planet, for that matter. And if the nonexistent Earth somehow spinning under her feet just happened to be turning in the wrong direction, well that was hardly of consequence, right? Because she was Rose Bloody Tyler, and she ate trouble alongside her morning tea. She tightened her grip on the edge of the TARDIS console.
The Doctor bounced through the ship’s doors. “Jeanne Antoinette Poisson,” he announced in a cheery voice, stopping to extend a hand back to the blonde lady waiting at the threshold, “welcome to the TARDIS.”
(Rose didn’t think she could handle this.)
Hours later, Rose lay on her bed, trying to make sense of the complete U-turn her life seemed to have taken in the last week. Not seven days ago (relatively speaking), she’d been in the visitors’ section of the Detrini Meldocon Moon Lab, holding hands with the Doctor and laughing as they bounced on the universe’s largest trampoline, complete with gradated gravity fields and a wide assortment of beach balls. Then they’d followed a class of alien children around on their field trip, and the Doctor had explained about friction and inertia and velocity so much better than the instructor (or at least, with so much more enthusiasm) that he’d soon had a swarm of fuzzy blue kids hanging on his every word.
At the Vacuum Tube Room, he’d set up clever little physics experiments of the sort usually confined to textbooks. Then, with the flourish of a true showman, he’d stepped out of the clear tube and, pressing buttons and spinning dials, he’d evacuated the air and eliminated the gravity. While the class had ooh’d and ahh’d over the kinetic reactions and pressed their little cerulean proboscises against the glass, the Doctor had leaned over and whispered in Rose’s ear about Newton’s law of universal gravitation and the attraction between two bodies of mass, and maybe the innuendo hadn’t been on purpose, but the way he said the words was still enough to make her blush.
Then her mobile rang, and Mickey had summoned them to Deffrey Vale. The Doctor got a good look at the ravages of time on Sarah Jane’s face, freaked out over human mortality, invited Mickey to come along with them, and now seemed to be pursuing some sort of…something with an extremely famous, extremely French courtesan who was now apparently a member of the crew.
In retrospect, Rose thought she probably should have let him keep the horse.
She groaned and rubbed the heels of her hands over her face. And dinner…well, that hadn’t been half awkward. Actually, the whole evening had been like some sort of horrible physics experiment gone wrong.
What happens, she thought, when you take two positively charged ions and try to make them live in a sentient spaceship together?
No doubt she’d have ample opportunity to find out.
Earlier that evening:
When Reinette first entered the TARDIS, she looked around with a quiet, elegant dignity. (No inane “it’s bigger on the inside” observations for Madame de Pompadour, Rose thought sourly.) Mickey just stood there, looking shell-shocked. Meanwhile, the Doctor was bouncing around the console like the complete lunatic that he was. His rambling had achieved a speed that Rose knew from experience meant that he was either hyped up on sugar or trying to distract everyone so as to avoid dealing with something that would, no doubt, come back and bite them all on the arse.
“Doctor,” she said, trying to get his attention.
“Or maybe we should all go to that ice world, what was that called, Coablin 3? 4?” The Doctor snapped his fingers, ignoring her. “Started with a ‘C’ anyway. Spanking good toboggans. And the ice sculptures are amazing!” he chirped, his voice hitting a new and impressive high note. “Always thought I’d like to give that a try, though I imagine it’s rough on the fingers, what with the frostbite and all. Still, marvelously friendly people. And you like ice, don’t you Mickey?”
Before Mickey could even open his mouth to answer, the Doctor had already whirled away, flipping switches and dials left and right. “Or we could check out the White Plasmatic Star Disruption–fantastical upheaval of stellar matter in the Sulrek galaxy: amazing colors, sparkly lights, and one hell of an explosion! Whoosh!” He threw his hands up in the air as he spun around the console.
“Doctor,” Rose interrupted patiently. She’d very casually, and very deliberately, leaned her hand onto the one TARDIS control that she could reliably identify–the handbrake.
“Of course, if that's not your cup of tea, we could always go to…” The Doctor’s voice trailed off as he noticed where Rose was standing. His eyes dropped to her hand, and his thoughts were clearly visible on his face–a) that she was preventing them from going anywhere, b) the realization that she was doing it on purpose, and c) a grudging admiration for the fact that she knew what and where the handbrake was.
Rose rolled her eyes.
“Doctor,” she said again, searching for the right way to say this as tactfully as possible. “I know it’s your ship and all, and not that I want to be unwelcoming, but…”
“Won’t her being here screw up history?” asked Mickey bluntly, nodding his head toward Reinette.
“Yeah, that,” said Rose. “We’re not ripping a big hole in time, are we?”
“Um, no,” said the Doctor, still eyeing the handbrake. “No need to worry about that. Everything will be just fine.” He moved as though he expected her to shift over, but Rose stayed firm.
“It’s just,” said Rose, “I sort of vividly recall you saying something about the dangers of changing fixed points in history. Remember? An ordinary man alive in the world who hadn’t been there before? Altering time? Reapers eating everybody?”
“Ye-es,” said the Doctor slowly, his eyes still on her hand resting on the brake. “But see, I said ordinary man, Rose. An ordinary man is the most important thing in the universe. But a politician?” He winked at Reinette. “Well, they’re utterly interchangeable. Nothing to worry about.”
Rose stood her ground. If he thought he could shuffle her off with that sort of nonsense, he could just think again. When she didn’t react with anything but a scowl, the Doctor sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “It will be fine….because, Reinette,” he said, addressing the courtesan, “I’m afraid you can only come along with us for a little while. Then you’ll have to take your rightful place in history.”
Reinette inclined her head gracefully. “I am quite happy to accompany you for as long as you think wise,” she said with a little smile.
“Happy now?” said the Doctor to Rose, with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“Well…” said Rose, shifting slightly.
“Good!” interrupted the Doctor, taking advantage of her indecision by scooting her off the brake. “Then, as the French say,” he waggled his eyebrows at Reinette, “allons-y! Ooh, I like that. Allons-y! Think I’ll say it more often.” With a flip of the lever, he sent them spiraling into the Vortex.
He seemed ready to pick a location at random and jump straight into adventure again, but Mickey looked dead on his feet, Rose wasn’t feeling all that energetic herself, and Reinette was still wearing the enormous ball gown.
“How about,” suggested Mickey tactfully, “we have some food and maybe a good sleep, and then go planet hopping tomorrow, yeah? We could pick a destination over dinner.”
The Doctor made a face. “But shouldn’t we at least pick somewhere to go eat?” he asked.
“I sort of made curry this morning,” said Rose hesitantly. “We could have that for dinner.”
“You cooked?” asked the Doctor blankly.
“You made curry?” asked Mickey at the same time and with a lot more enthusiasm. “My favorite curry?”
Rose shrugged a shoulder uncomfortably. She had thrown the various ingredients in the TARDIS’s version of a slow cooker that morning, as a bit of an apology gesture to Mickey for being so reluctant to have him on board. Really, it hadn’t taken any real effort, but she’d noticed that ever since Mickey had come on board, everything felt like a declaration–who she spoke to, who she stood closer to, whose favorite dinner she made. And now, with Reinette here, subtly shifting closer to the Doctor, it was worse, much worse, but it was too late to do anything about it. She nodded.
“Oh, babe,” said Mickey happily. He moved in closer and slung an arm around her shoulder. “You shouldn’t have. That’s great, though. You ever had her curry?” he asked the Doctor. When the Doctor just shook his head, Mickey’s smile turned smug. “It’s the best.”
“I’m sure,” said the Doctor with an unreadable expression.
Rose tried unsuccessfully to subtly slide out from under Mickey’s arm. “We don’t have to eat it tonight, if you don’t want…”
“No, no,” answered the Doctor, his eyes skittering away. “I’m sure that would be fine.” He bent down to stare into the monitor. “Well, sounds like we have a plan, then. See you all in the galley in, oh, let’s say an hour.” He gave a firm, quick nod, eyes still on the console.
It was a dismissal, the sort that Rose hadn’t received since the Doctor had gotten a new mole and taken to wearing pinstripes. And back then, she’d always just ignored it–when the Doctor was curt was usually when he needed someone the most, but now…
Now she just didn’t know.
Besides, Reinette didn’t have anywhere else to go. And maybe that was the point–Rose and Mickey were supposed to leave and let famous courtesan Madame de Pompadour cheer up the Doctor.
It was petty, it was jealous, it was unworthy–but at the moment, Rose didn’t care. She wasn’t walking away if Reinette was staying.
“Doctor, maybe Reinette would like to…” she started, intending to suggest that they find her a room, but she trailed off as a new thought hit her right in the gut. Surely, Reinette wasn’t meant to sleep with him, was she? But the Doctor was looking at her impatiently, and so she just stood there babbling, struggling to convey her thought through a series of lame gestures. “Does Reinette, I mean, should she…?”
“Is there a place where I could put my things?” asked Reinette smoothly, glancing down at her valise.
The Doctor blinked. “Oh, right. A room, of course! Rose,” he drawled, “you remember how to find an available bedroom, yes? Why don’t you help Reinette get moved in. I’ll see you all at dinner.”
Sure. She could do that. No problem.
After a brief smile and a muttered this way, Rose led Reinette into the interior of the TARDIS in awkward silence. (Mickey glanced between them both and scarpered, interpersonal tension never being his strong suit.)
As they walked farther from the console room and its occupant, Rose began to berate herself for being so horrible. This was feeling a lot like her first encounter with Sarah Jane, and that wasn’t something she was eager to repeat. She didn’t want to be unwelcoming; she didn’t want to be catty. So, she decided firmly, she wouldn’t be. She could be friendly. She was good at friendly.
“Alright, here we are,” she said as brightly as she could manage as they arrived at a hallway full of doors. “Any of these rooms will do. Let me just…” She pressed a hand to the door, repeating the request in her mind, and then smiled stiffly at Reinette. “There. Now, if I did that right, this ought to be a bedroom.”
She cracked the door open with some apprehension–communicating with the TARDIS could be sort of hit-or-miss sometimes. Peeking inside, though, she saw that the room had been transformed into a bedroom, and she let the door swing open all the way. The room was beige and inoffensive, a bit like a hotel room, actually, and not the TARDIS’s best work, but at least there wasn’t frog wallpaper or paintings of peasants storming the Bastille or anything.
“Er, hope this will do. There should be a loo through there,” she waved a hand toward a door in the corner of the room. “Uh…I suppose it might be a bit different from what you’re used to, but…but it’s mostly self-explanatory, though if you need any help…” She swallowed.
Reinette was still standing near the entrance, quietly watching her, and Rose fumbled for a conversation topic. “Let’s see…oh, clothes!”
She hauled the valise over to a set of drawers and began explaining the complicated garment storage system and how it connected to the laundry and the myriad of ways that it could (and would) break. “And mixing colors is fine, it’s different fabrics you don’t want to put in together–”
“Rose,” interrupted Reinette patiently. Gently. She placed a hand on Rose’s arm. “I think maybe you are not entirely happy that I am here.”
“No,” Rose answered too quickly because this was the last thing in the world that she wanted to talk about right now. “No, it’s…it’s nice that you’re here. It’s good. It’ll be…nice to have another woman on board,” she finished lamely. “Um. I should go. You’d probably like to settle in, and I should really check on that curry.” She started to move, to get away before the restless shifting thing under her skin that she’d been working so hard to suppress could snap its tether and find a voice.
“Please,” said Reinette, still gently holding her arm. “You think I don’t understand. I do, truly. Rose–” Reinette looked at her gravely. “I know exactly what it is like to love a great man. To feel both the ecstasy and the burden of that love. And to know that even though your heart is his, you are not the only thing his eyes see.”
Rose pulled her arm free as that feeling–resentment–that she’d tried so hard to suppress bloomed up inside her.
“But that is the way with men such as these,” continued Reinette. “You can’t change them, and it would be folly to try. And really, it is no matter. We are not the same thing to him; we fill different roles in his life. Rose,” she said, offering a soft, friendly, horrible smile, “he can love us both.”
Rose curled her fingers into fists, pressing her nails into the palms of her hands. There were words in her mind, ugly words–child and chav and whore–and the exact sound her hand would make striking that perfect face. She took a long, slow breath in through her nose, trying to remind herself of different moralities–Gwyneth, who’d been shocked by her tales of boy-watching, and Jabe casually asking in public if she were the Doctor’s prostitute. Jack–ever-flexible Jack–telling her that the best approach when faced with these things was usually to be direct and then laughing at her when she blushed. She let the breath back out.
“The Doctor’s not my lover,” she said at last, bluntly, and then watched as Reinette’s expression shifted to pity. Not smug, self-satisfied pity–actual, genuine compassion. Once again Rose fought back the urge to smack her.
“Well,” said Reinette delicately, “I suppose I was mistaken. And…Mickey?”
Rose shifted impatiently. “Yeah, Mickey’s not my boyfriend either, not anymore.” She gave Reinette a hard stare, an Estate stare. “We done here?”
Reinette drew herself up. “I apologize if I was too forward. I understand that, one way or another, the Doctor means a great deal to you. He means a great deal to me as well.”
“Right. The Doctor. Totally worth the monsters, like you said. Thing is,” Rose straightened her shoulders, “your monsters? Yeah, those were my Tuesday afternoon. Which reminds me…you’re going to need some better shoes.”
“Shoes?” Reinette asked blankly.
“For running.” Rose’s face creased into a sharp smile. “There’s loads of running. Away from the monsters, generally, although sometimes we mix it up and run toward an explosion or a fire or an alien invasion. You’re going to want some different clothes too, now that I think about it. Can’t run in a dress like that. Let’s see…”
She laid a hand against the wardrobe door and struggled to rein in her less than generous thoughts. But when she popped open the door, every single item inside was a uniform shade of lime green, and she winced and quickly shut it again. “Sorry. That’s not right.”
Come on, she thought to the ship, trying not to be a complete arse. Help me out here. The second try turned out better–there was an acceptable mix of attractive and practical, and everything was a reasonable hue. “There we go. If you want more–” she waved a hand at Reinette’s ball gown, “posh stuff, you’ll need to check the wardrobe. I’ll show you later.
“Right then.” Rose looked quickly around the room, but she couldn’t think of anything else that would require a demonstration, and there was no way she was staying for any more chats about the Doctor. “I’ll just let you have some time to look around. Gotta go check on dinner.” With that, she beat a hasty retreat to the door.
Just as she was crossing the threshold, Reinette spoke up. “Rose?”
Rose turned to look back.
For a moment, Reinette looked like she was going to say something else. Then she ducked her head. “Thank you.”
Rose gave a quick nod and a horrible half-smile. “‘Kay.” Then she left and quickly shut the door behind her.
In the corridor, she took a moment to breathe in and out.
God, she was just…
Did she have to be so…
Why did he have to…
Letting out just one little frustrated groan, she hung her head. The trouble was, it really wasn’t Reinette’s fault, as much as she’d like to tell herself otherwise. Reinette was just coming along for the ride, same as Rose. If she happened to fancy the Doctor, well, who could blame her? And for all that Rose would’ve liked to blame the Doctor, it wasn’t really his fault, either. Heated looks and perpetual handholding aside, they really weren’t together–she had no claim on him. Just because he was her friend didn’t mean he couldn’t be friends with other people.
She slid down against the corridor wall and threw her head back against it with a solid thunk, sure she had just managed to be the biggest bitch in the universe.
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