A Temporary Feline Affliction by TemporalPhoenix
Chapter 1: Me, My TARDIS, and My 904-Year-Old Cat
Chapter 2: Me, My Hair, and My Rose Tyler
Author's Notes: Life has been really stressful for me lately, so I wrote this adorable piece of fluffiness to cheer myself up--despite having many ongoing projects already. Oh well. I had a lot of fun writing it. (Originally posted in December 2020 on Ao3.)
Rose hunched her shoulders and pulled her leather jacket tighter around herself as an icy gust of wind rushed over her. The dimension cannon rested heavily in her right pocket, rendered useless by one tiny engineering flaw that had made itself known the instant after Rose arrived at her jump destination. She’d blundered right into the local equivalent of a winter holiday festival on a small, frozen planet called Jyotaris. As usual, her intended target was nowhere in sight. Still, the key hanging from her necklace felt a great deal warmer against her skin here than it did in Pete’s World, and that gave her a glimmer of hope.
She was at least on the same planet as the TARDIS and her wandering pilot. (Of course, even small planets were simply too vast for Rose to catch up to the Doctor on foot, and Jyotaris lacked any substantial form of swift global transportation.)
The winter festivities were winding down for the night. The locals in the quaint, delightfully decorated town were bidding tourists goodnight and safe travels, singing a sort of goodbye song as everyone departed for their lodgings. Rose could still hear the melody drifting through the night air, even over the wind of the approaching snowstorm. The song warmed her from the inside out, bringing a smile to her face as she trudged down the main road in search of a place to stay the night. (Even a cupboard or corner of a room would do. Her human body was not made to be out in this planet’s nightly bone-chilling temperatures.)
Rose’s teeth chattered harder and harder the longer she remained outside. Although she had initially enjoyed seeing the colorful orbs of light twinkling along the town’s roof tops, she barely noticed them now, far desperate for warmth to pay the decorations any mind. Her face, bare hands, and soaking feet (stuck in boots that were definitely not made for alien snowstorms) had long since gone numb. She wiggled her fingers sluggishly, trying to convince herself that she could still feel them. She could, no, she would find a way to fix the dimension cannon in the morning. She had to.
Come on, Tyler, you’ve come this far. You can’t stop now, she told herself. If she just got to the end of the street, there was an inn that might have room for her, according to one of the locals. It was a popular time of year for Jyotarian tourism. Most rooms in the bigger towns were already booked and had been for awhile. Visitors often made their reservations long in advance of attending the planet’s famous winter festivals.
Just put one foot in front of the other. One foot. In front. Of the other. Rose repeated over and over to herself as she forced legs to move, mouthing the words just to make sure her lips hadn’t frozen completely. She passed buildings decorated with multicolored lights, dark alleyways, and a row of shops already closed for the night. Only belatedly did she register a distinct flash of blue out of the corner of her eye. Her lips parted in shock and she spun around, backtracking to the nearest alley as fast as her tired body would let her.
There it was. After all this time, there She was. The wonderful blue police box Rose had yearned to see again for so, so long.
She approached the ship as fast as she could without slipping on the ice coating the cobblestones, impatiently yanking her key out from under her shirt. She nearly cried in relief at the heat radiating from the key’s metal surface into her palm.
Her gaze was so fixed on the TARDIS’ front doors that she didn’t notice the little ball of brown fur curled up in the shadows beside it until she inserted her key into the lock.
The snow-dusted ball of fluff suddenly shifted, golden eyes cracking open. Rose started, adrenaline shooting through her veins as her brain raced to catch up with what her eyes were seeing. The creature raised its head, blinking lethargically at her.
“Mrrp?” The cat chirped, tilting its head to one side.
Rose gasped, quickly opening the TARDIS doors and bending down, holding out her hand for the cat to sniff. “You poor thing! Come ‘ere, we’ll get you warmed up,” she invited, shifting a little closer. (If the Doctor had left the poor thing outside because of his illogical dislike of felines in his current body, then she was going to… Well, Rose decided she would do something, but only after she regained feeling in her fingers and toes.)
The cat stared at her hand, then her face, and then back at her hand. It didn’t seem to know what to make of the offered digits. Rose huffed, petting the bewildered creature’s head for a moment before picking it up. “I’m not gonna hurt you, it’s okay, you’ll be warmer inside,” she cooed, “Oh yes you will, you beautiful boy. Nice and warm, much better than sitting out here in the snow.”
The cat really was quite beautiful. He had adorable white paws and soft, chocolate brown fur with thin, dark stripes going down his back. His bright golden eyes glowed softly in the darkness. He had the most intense, otherworldly gaze Rose had ever seen on a cat anywhere. He even seemed to understand her, fluffing his fur out at her praise. (She was probably just imagining it.)
“I’m sure the Doctor won’t mind you staying here until we can get you back to your owners…” She continued in a low murmur, stepping inside the time ship. The door swung shut on its own accord as the TARDIS’ calming background hum increased in volume, sending a tingling burst of excitement through Rose’s mind.
Oh, the TARDIS was welcoming her back. Welcoming her home. Oh, how she had missed this!
Rose took a moment to bask in the ship’s telepathic presence, making her way up the ramp to the wonderfully familiar console with all its eclectic controls. The console room itself was empty for the time being. The Doctor was either waiting out the storm somewhere in town, or preoccupied elsewhere on the TARDIS.
The cat suddenly shivered, sneezing three times in quick succession.
“Oh, bless you!” Rose said, a small laugh escaping her when she glimpsed the cat’s shocked expression. “I bet you’re pretty cold, huh?”
At her words, a blast of warm air rolled over them. Rose grinned. You wonderful ship! Is the Doctor close by? Is he alright? She directed her thoughts to the TARDIS as best she could. She hadn’t gotten a chance to learn much about how the ship’s telepathic circuits worked before Canary Wharf. Remembering everything she had seen, done and changed as Bad Wolf had certainly motivated her to learn as much as she could about her growing abilities in the Pete's World.
The low hum at the back of her mind abruptly changed pitch, adopting an affirmative yet anxious quality. This gradually transitioned into something else that came across as the telepathic equivalent of a sheepish shrug.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Rose demanded. When she didn’t receive an answer, she dragged her tired limbs over to the jump seat and flopped down onto it with the cat in her lap. Her experiences on Jyotaris had brought a whole new level of meaning to the phrase “chilled to the bone”. If she didn’t have traces of Bad Wolf's power still running through her veins, Rose had no doubt the deep ache under her skin from the cold would have been much worse.
She was also way beyond exhausted. She knew she’d been pushing it lately, had known about the whispers and concerned looks from her Torchwood co-workers behind her back whenever she insisted that she try just one more jump. Maybe she should have given in to Pete’s suggestions and rested more, eaten more before this jump, but she didn’t regret her decision to attempt one more jump that day. She couldn’t regret it, because she had found the TARDIS, and the right TARDIS at that.
Her arms gradually slackened around the shivering cat. The cat didn’t like that idea. He let out a pitiful wail the second he realized Rose was trying to put him down, digging his claws into her leather jacket until she relented and let him stay where he was.
He probably has some kind of trauma, she thought. Being left outside all alone in a snowstorm would do that to most beings. Despite his voluminous fur, the cat’s body was actually quite thin.
Rose’s boots were still soaked through. She pried at their snow-encrusted laces until they came undone, sliding them off her numb feet with a stifled groan. Chunks of snow tumbled out of them onto the console room grating. The TARDIS grumbled unhappily about it through their growing telepathic connection.
”Sorry,” Rose muttered aloud. The ship forgave her, too happy that Rose was back to remain upset for long.
As feeling returned to her body, Rose absently began petting the cat’s ruffled fur. He quickly relaxed into her touch, closing his eyes and purring. Rose hoped the Doctor would return soon, and that she could find a way of explaining the dimension cannon to him without making it sound like she didn’t care about tearing temporary holes in the fabric of reality. She did care. Of course she did. And she hadn’t done it for entirely selfish reasons either; there was something out there in Pete’s World that was taking entire star systems, making them disappear without a trace. It started out so slowly that Torchwood hadn’t noticed it until every photo taken by the telescopes orbiting Earth began showing empty patches of sky that had previously been filled with nebulae, constellations, and ancient galaxies. All of it gone, practically overnight. There was no Doctor in Pete’s World to ask for help, so Torchwood had created the next best thing: a dimension cannon to reach the last Time Lord, their hope for answers and salvation from The Darkness headed for Earth.
Rose was pulled out of her thoughts when her fingers brushed the cat’s collar. She unclipped and held it up at eye-level, eyes widening as she studied it. There was a round silver name tag on it along with some kind of metal charm. The fabric collar itself was brown with a repeating pattern of tiny blue flowers running around it.
Rose frowned. She brought it closer to her face, eyes tracing the tiny floral design. It almost looked like…Well, it had to just be a coincidence, but…
She quickly turned the tag around so she could read the name. Her breath caught in her throat.
One word, two syllables. One very familiar word.
“Doctor?” Rose whispered. Her gaze drifted down to the cat in her lap who had suddenly gone very still. It couldn’t be. It simple couldn’t! And yet… The longer she stared at him and the collar that looked awfully like one of the Doctor’s ties, the more her suspicions grew. The metal charm hanging beside the name tag looked far too much like a miniature version of a blue-tipped sonic screwdriver for it to be purely decorative—unless the Doctor had obtained this cat while Rose was gone and simply forgotten to let him back into the TARDIS tonight. But that wasn’t quite it, was it? Too many factors added up to a different, rather strange yet certain conclusion. The TARDIS’ hum of confirmation only solidified her belief.
“Oh my god.” Rose shook out her free hand, glad that her limbs were significantly less numb than before, and moved it to the cat’s chest, feeling for his heartbeat.
A cat with two hearts. Two hearts. She stared at the cat, sure that the thoughts crossing her mind were ridiculous. Illogical. Too fantastical to be true!
The cat stared back. His eyes were not the chocolate brown she had learned to love after blue, but somehow golden eyes fit this form of him just as well.
“You’ve got to be joking,” Rose whispered, in spite of herself. The cat blinked once slowly and slid off her lap onto the jump seat, sitting up and arranging his gangly limbs with stiff, jerky movements. He looked down at his white front paws, studying them like they were the most interesting objects in the entire universe, ears twitching uncomfortably every few seconds. His tail lashed back and forth, leaving cat hair everywhere in its wake.
It had been years since she’d last seen the Doctor, but no matter the incarnation, Rose Tyler still recognized the infamous Oncoming Sulk when she saw it. “I am right, aren’t I? You’re the Doctor, but you’re…a cat now,” she said, unsure how much he could understand.
The cat—the Doctor—chittered back at her, still staring at his paws. Rose could almost feel the frustration and embarrassment radiating off him.
“Oh come on, don’t be like that. I’m not mad, I’m just really confused. It is really, truly me, Rose, if that's what you're worried about. I made it back to this universe, and I intend to stay with you as long as possible,” she said, scratching under his chin. He resisted at first, hunching lower and tipping his head down. Rose rolled her eyes, shifting to comb through the messy tufts of fur on his back. Eventually, he gave in and leaned into her touch, just like she thought he would.
It really said something about her life that the Doctor getting turned into a cat didn’t send her into a panic, she mused. Then a new thought struck her, and Rose’s smile faded. The Doctor chased after her hand, nudging her fingers impatiently with his nose.
She closed her hands into fists and took a deep breath. She had to approach this whole thing calmly, now that she knew where and what the Doctor was. “If this really is you, then I need you to answer a couple of questions as best you can. For yes, nod once. Shake your head side to side for no. Do you understand all that?”
The Doctor straightened and nodded once. Good, he could understand her then. Bless his Time Lord brains and the TARDIS’ translation abilities.
“Is this permanent, you being a cat?” She had to ask this first and foremost.
He shook his head.
Rose let out a breath of relief. “So it’s not some weird, slightly ironic quirk of a recent regeneration. Good.”
The Time-Lord-turned-cat gave her an extremely unimpressed look.
“I know, shut up,” she responded automatically, recognizing the expression even on his feline face. “You once told me you could regenerate with two heads! How am I supposed to know what could happen? Never mind. How long will this cat thing last? Can it be reversed?”
The Doctor nodded after a slight pause, turning his gaze to the console monitor. He meowed urgently at it, and the screen changed from a swirl of Gallifreyan symbols to a countdown clock.
17:32:06 / 25:00:00
17:32:05 / 25:00:00
17:32:04 / 25:00:00
It took a moment, but Rose soon understood. “You’ll be like this for the next 17 and a half hours. Okay, we can work with that. And whatever caused this lasts for 25 hours in total, so— Hold on, were you stuck outside the whole time until I got here?”
The Doctor simply meowed lightly and hopped off the jump seat, distracting her from worrying about what he might have done before she found him and the TARDIS.
“Where are you going? Doctor, come back here!” Rose called after him, hauling herself to her feet. He ignored her summons until he reached the start of a hallway that led deeper into the ship. He paused at the threshold, glancing expectantly at her over his shoulder.
Rose crossed her arms, shivering slightly, and stood her ground. “What? No. I’m getting changed into something warm and having a cuppa before going to bed. I’m really tired. We can go on TARDIS adventures later.”
“Mrow!” The Doctor grew more insistent.
“Oi, don’t be rude!” She said. “And don’t give me that look. Yeah, that one. Stop it.”
“Yeah, yeah. Still rude and not ginger.” Rose grumbled under her breath, shoving the collar, tag, and mini sonic screwdriver into her coat pocket and following the persistent feline out of the console room. She needed to go the same way to get to her old room anyway, if it hadn’t been moved or gotten rid of in her absence. She hoped her old clothes were still around at the very least.
Then again, who knew what TARDIS and her designated driver did with the rooms of all his former ‘companions’? Rose had never considered herself that, but she did recognize that the ‘former companion of the Doctor’ label might yet apply to her. The TARDIS may have welcomed her back, which was a very promising indicator, but Rose wouldn’t know what the Doctor really thought of her return until he was his normal self again.
This uncomfortable train of thought slowed Rose’s pace so much that the Doctor came to a halt a few feet ahead of her, twisting around to observe her. He narrowed his eyes, looking her up and down and meowing inquisitively. Rose recognized that look. He was checking her for visible injuries and trying to ask if and when she had gotten hurt. When she didn’t answer right away, he started toward her with a disgruntled huff.
She held up a staying hand. “I’m fine, just really cold is all. I’ll be…I’ll be fine, I promise.”
He meowed skeptically, circling her legs.
“Are you trying to trip me just to force me to go to the sick bay like I know you want me to?” She asked, watching him twine his body around her legs, tail and all.
He froze, then shook his head and meowed in a way that almost sounded like a ‘No'. It was a very half-hearted ‘No’, in any case.
“Thought so,” Rose said, gently pushing him away with one foot so she could continue down the hall. “I appreciate the thought, really, but I don’t need to go to the sick bay.”
(Maybe she could understand the feline Doctor more than she thought. Maybe his underlying personality and habits hadn’t changed as much as she’d feared. Or maybe she was just talking to him like anyone with prolonged feline exposure tended to do. At this point, she didn’t really care.)
The door to her bedroom was in the same place she’d last seen it, but its appearance had been greatly altered. Before Canary Wharf, her door had been mostly plain except for a single rose engraved at eye-level. Now the once-simple design had been expanded to cover the entire door, pink and yellow roses abstractly linked together by swirls of color in the repeating, circular patterns of the Doctor’s native language. Rose leaned closer, inspecting the designs and running her index finger around the petals of the rose next to the door handle. In among the swirls and circles, she could pick out little painted images of objects and places that she instantly knew were from her own past adventures with the Doctor. She would have to ask him about it when his feline affliction wore off. Had he and the TARDIS done all of this purposefully, or had the ship simply decided to memorialize Rose Tyler as best she could, as she had all her long lost passengers?
It was incredibly surreal to enter her old bedroom and find it almost exactly as she’d left it. There was only one obvious thing that had changed: a crumpled brown tie lay on top of the dresser, covering various alien trinkets there like it had been casually tossed over them and later forgotten.
The Doctor had never taken off his tie and tossed it anywhere in her room, on any occasion. It was a fact Rose had long lamented, but the tie's current presence spoke volumes. She shifted her gaze down to the Doctor, who had managed to wrap his tail somewhat possessively around her right ankle while she’d been preoccupied.
She let out a small huff of laughter as she moved her leg away, much to his consternation, and went to the dresser. Reverently picking up the tie, she slowly rolled it into a neat coil. “You came in here after Canary Wharf, didn’t you.” It was a mostly rhetorical question. She didn't need a response to know she was right, and the Doctor didn't offer one.
He watched in silence as she set the tie back on the dresser and began pulling open drawers until she unearthed her old winter clothing. She picked the softest, warmest pair of pyjamas she could find and darted into the loo to change. The lights in her en suite flickered on when she shut the door, and she grimaced as she peeled off her wet, freezing clothes. She glanced at the shower as she pulled the pyjamas on, eventually deciding to put off showering until after she had eaten something and possibly gotten a few hours of sleep. She did feel much better now that she wasn’t standing around in snow-covered clothes. (Honestly though, half of her clothes here were in shades of pink and purple that she hadn’t worn since the last time she’d been in this room, shoving her laundry into a bag on the way to visit her mum.)
Oh, her mum. She desperately hoped her mum was doing well, with little Tony, Pete and Mickey. When Rose didn’t return to Pete’s Torchwood at the scheduled time, they would start making assumptions about what might have happened. Rose had told them before her first test jump with the dimension cannon that if she ever didn’t return, they should just assume that she had found the Doctor but couldn’t find a way to send them a message through the weakening Void yet. That was the best goodbye she could give at the time. Rose sniffed, using her sleeves to wipe away the moisture welling in her eyes. There would be time to process everything later. For now, all she had to do was rest and wait for her Doctor to de-feline himself.
A loud crash came from her bedroom then, followed by a series of increasingly alarming thumps and a high-pitched cry. Rose yanked open the ensuite door, fearing the worst. Then she registered the chaotic mess now covering her floor, a mess that had not been there before.
Her feline Time Lord had evidently decided, in all his infinite wisdom and boundless curiosity, to go exploring. The casualties of this adventure happened to be almost everything that had been on top of her bookshelves, the dresser, the nightstand, the vanity, and the desk. The only thing missing from the mess was the actual perpetrator himself.
“Doctor? Doooooctor?” Rose called, moving further into the room. A pitiful meow came from somewhere by the bed. She knelt down and pulled up the side of the duvet, peering into the dark space under the bed with some trepidation.
There was a small thump, a metallic clang, and then a blur of brown fur came hurtling out of the darkness, colliding headfirst with Rose’s knees and flopping to the floor in an inelegant heap.
She jerked back, hands hovering over him, ready to help if she could. He remained exactly where he’d fallen, giving a series of pleading meows when she didn’t do anything. Rose could only giggle, and giggle, and giggle, until she finally lapsed into full-blown laughter. “Only you…only you would manage to—to get the…only…21st century…Kleenex box in the TARDIS…stuck on…your…head…the one time you’re a cat!” She said in between laughs, pressing a hand over her mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to stifle them. The Doctor did not find his predicament so amusing. He flailed around, screeching and hissing until Rose took pity and removed the box from his head. Upon realizing he was free from his impromptu prison, the Doctor shot to his feet, glaring daggers at the offending box in Rose’s hands.
When her giggles finally subsided, Rose recalled why she had been looking for the Doctor in the first place. “Did you really have to knock over every other thing in my room?” she demanded, pointing an accusing finger at him. The Doctor went a little cross-eyed trying to watch it. Rose bopped him lightly on the nose, unable to resist the urge. He sneezed. “Thanks. Cat snot all over my hand now,” she said dryly, making a show of wiping her hand off on the edge of her duvet.
The Doctor huffed, ducking his head and hunching his shoulders. He looked embarrassed about the Kleenex box incident, and possibly apologetic about the mess he’d made of Rose’s room. She ran one hand over the unruly fur between his ears that refused to lie flat. He leaned into her touch with a deep, steady purr.
“What were you trying to do anyway, climbing all over everything? Just couldn’t help yourself?” she asked, keeping her tone light.
To her surprise, the Doctor shook his head and bounded over to the largest pile of fallen items in front of the dresser. He rooted through the pile for a moment, emerging with his tie clamped in his jaws. He glanced back at her, searching her perplexed expression for something. Then he bolted from the room, both ends of the tie fluttering behind him.
Rose leapt to her feet and ran after him. “Where are you— Oh.” She broke off, coming to a stop in her doorway. He had already vanished from sight.
She debated going after him, but her stomach rumbled, promptly reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since that morning before the dimension jump to Jyotaris. It had been a rushed breakfast of toast, jam and tea in the kitchen of the Tyler Mansion.
A trip to the TARDIS kitchens was in order, it would seem. If she was lucky, maybe there would be something already prepared that she could reheat.
“I’ll be in the kitchen. Feel free to join me if you like!” Rose told the empty hallway, raising her voice just in case the Doctor was listening. She heard the patter of little cat feet racing down a corridor one floor above her, growing more distant by the second. “Or not,” she added quietly.
Thankfully, the kitchen turned out to be only a few doors away. Rose found a bowl of soup, a spoon, and a hot cup of tea waiting for her on the kitchen counter. The sight of them stopped Rose short. The TARDIS liked her, had done little things like this for her before, but never so readily and never without Rose asking first and putting in some effort to make it happen. On some of the bad days though, after an adventure had gone horribly wrong, Rose would return to her room and find a cup of her favorite tea waiting on her bedside table.
Funny how some of those bad days seemed a little less horrible in light of everything she had fought so hard for after getting trapped in Pete’s World. But she didn’t want to dwell on those lonely years now. The warm food and tea waiting for her and the gentle encouraging hum of the TARDIS insisting that she eat convinced her even more that she was truly home.
She sat down on a stool at the kitchen island, finishing the bowl of soup in almost no time at all. (She was pretty sure the soup wasn’t from Earth, but it mostly tasted like chicken noodle and the TARDIS had set it out for her so she wasn’t going to complain.) The tea was just how she liked it. She had dearly missed this particular tea while in Pete’s World. It was from a planet whose name she could never remember in the Andromeda Galaxy. She had never been able to find a tea quite like it on Earth.
A door was flung open elsewhere in the ship, followed by the sound of something falling to the floor with a thud, something else shattering, and a heavy object being dragged across the floor. There was a hiss of annoyance, and then silence. Rose carefully set down her cup, eyeing the kitchen door suspiciously. After another minute of silence, she started to get up, thinking that the Doctor must have gotten into something he shouldn’t have.
She started violently and fell back onto the stool when soft, fluffy fur brushed against her legs. “God, don’t do that!” She scolded, pressing a hand to her pounding heart and glaring down at the Doctor. He meowed apologetically and rubbed his cheek against her right calf. Rose refused to be swayed by his adorableness, crossing her arms and giving him a stern look.
He chirruped in response, looking up at her with a wide-eyed, forlorn expression
Rose cocked an eyebrow. “What? You scared me, appearing out of nowhere like that! I was worried you’d gotten hurt messing around in a storage room or something.”
The Doctor looked over his shoulder at the small cat flap that had appeared in the far wall.
“Okay, so you didn’t appear out of nowhere,” Rose corrected, “but my point still stands!”
His ears twitched restlessly again. It seemed to be one of the feline replacements for his usual nervous habits, like running his hands through his (glorious) hair, tugging his ear, or rubbing the back of his neck… And that line of thought was not helping her stay on track.
“We have so much to to talk about when you’re back to normal, and I won't let you run off when that happens.” She informed him. (And there she went again, talking to the Doctor like he could respond with actual words. Too bad the TARDIS couldn’t directly translate cat.)
While Rose considered the pros and cons of the sentient time ship being able to translate animal vocalizations, the Doctor sniffed the air, golden eyes quickly zeroing in on the cup on the table. He stood up on his hind legs with his front paws on Rose’s shin, eyeing the steam rising from her tea. She rolled her eyes when she realized what he was after, gently pushing him back to the floor.
“I see how it is,” she teased, “you really just want me for my tea.”
The Doctor wrinkled his nose, a low rumble rising from his throat. He shifted so he could wrap his tail around Rose’s ankle again.
Rose reconsidered her sentence, covering a wide yawn with her hand. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m so tired I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Don’t mind me.”
If the cat at her feet could have raised an eyebrow at her, he would have.
A new realization came to Rose a few moments later. “Do you need to eat while you're like this? I didn’t even think about that. ”
The Doctor’s eyes were still fixed on the cup of tea.
He meowed unhappily, ears folding back.
Rose narrowed her eyes. “Don’t take that tone with me, mister! I’m not giving you my tea and that’s that.”
She received a low, ominous rumble in response.
“But can cats even drink tea?” She wondered, trying to appeal to a more rational line of thought for his sake.
Despite Rose currently being the only one with opposable thumbs and easy access to the kettle, the Doctor somehow won their argument. Soon, he was happily lapping up his own small bowl of milky tea, Rose shaking her head in fond exasperation the entire time.
When they had both finished their tea, Rose put their dishes in the sink with a mental promise to the TARDIS to do them the next day. She headed for the door, wanting to sleep until all of her loneliness and exhaustion from the parallel universe were gone for good.
The Doctor stopped her just outside the kitchen, meowing insistently.
Rose sighed. “What is it now? I’m just going to bed. It’s been a—” she stifled a yawn— “loooong day, probably for both of us.”
He met her weary expression without blinking. Then he glanced pointedly down the corridor at something behind her. He shifted his gaze between the two once more, waiting for her to understand his request.
She got the gist. “You…want me to follow you? Where?” She was not in the mood for more feline charades.
He meowed softly, brushing past her legs and looking over his shoulder to make sure she would follow.
“Fine, but after this I’m going straight to bed, and you better not wake me up until you’re yourself again.” She grumbled.
If the Doctor could have smiled at her just then, he would have. He led her deeper into the TARDIS, finally stopping at a dark green door with trim made of hundreds of tiny sapphire butterflies. The Doctor placed a front paw on the door, and it opened just enough to let him slip through.
“Hey, wait for me,” Rose said, pushing the door open further. A blast of hot, humid air hit her as she crossed the threshold, and upon glimpsing the room beyond, her mouth immediately fell open in wonder. A warm, tingling sensation from the TARDIS went through her as the door swung shut behind her.
Breathless laughter escape her as she took in the seemingly endless bioluminescent tropical jungle she’d stepped into, complete with moss-lined streams and ponds glowing with turquoise, pink, and purple algae, and small aquatic lifeforms from every corner of the universe. The air was earthy and fragrant, laced with a floral scent Rose couldn’t quite identify. The ceiling high above her had been transformed into a virtual starry night sky, courtesy of the TARDIS.
And everywhere, everywhere, there were butterflies. Glowing butterflies, butterflies with iridescent wings and bodies that glinted like gemstones, butterflies that were from Earth and butterflies that were not.
Rose had never seen this room before. She held out her arms as a few pink-and-white butterflies fluttered toward her, laughing in delight when one of them landed on the back of her right hand. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d simply enjoyed something like this, without monsters or nightmares or lingering regrets chasing her. It must had been before Canary Wharf.
A distant meow drifted through the night air, and Rose caught a glimpse of brown fur darting through the underbrush away from her. “Doctor!” She called out, voice barely above a whisper. It felt wrong to disturb the quiet beauty of this room. When there was no reply, she set off after him, marveling at the butterflies and bioluminescent plant life along the way.
She found the Doctor sitting primly at the edge of a small clearing. All the trees around the clearing had been wrapped with fairy lights, attracting various moths with their warm white glow. However, it was the flower in the center of the clearing that held Rose’s attention the most. It was a rose unlike any she had ever seen from Earth. Luminous from the inside out, each petal had a border of pink around it that gradually faded into a bright golden-yellow.
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Rose breathed, slowing her stride as she approached the flower, and the Doctor. His head swiveled around, bright golden eyes observing her without blinking. A shiver traveled up her spine. That particular look in his eyes, burning with the barely restrained might of Time behind it, that hadn’t changed in spite of the Doctor’s feline affliction.
He meowed lowly in greeting.
“You ran off again,” Rose said, but there was no heat behind her words and she couldn’t keep a small smile from spreading across her face. Her gaze fell on the folded blue picnic blanket at the base of the tree on his other side. She spread it out and sat down with a heavy sigh, bringing her knees up to her chest and resting her arms on them. After a moment, the Doctor joined her.
It was so still in the clearing, the only sounds other than her own breathing being the trickle of distant streams, the fluttering of wings, and the Doctor’s faint purring. Rose loved it. She had been running for so long, had fought so hard to get back to her original universe. She still loved the running, still loved the thrill of adventure, but for now she was simply content to sit quietly with the Doctor at her side.
“Did you plant this?” She asked him, nodding to the glowing rose.
There was a meow that sort of sounded like a ‘Yes’, and then the Doctor leaned affectionately against her leg. It seemed to be another habit of his, a cat version of holding her hand that had carried over into his feline form.
“I never knew this room was here. Is it— Is it new?” Rose turned her head up to the night sky as she spoke. It was an alien night sky, she realized. There were no constellations recognizable to her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Doctor shake his head.
“Then thank you for showing it to me now,” she said, looking down at him fully. She reached over and ran a hand down his back, digging her fingers into his thick fur. He arched into her touch, silently begging her not to stop. She obliged, and was soon lulled into a state somewhere between asleep and awake by the quiet pulse of life from the surrounding jungle. The Doctor eventually curled up at her side, a deep, rumbling purr emanating from his chest that Rose could feel all the way up her arm.
She didn’t mean to fall asleep, but she was just so tired and the stress of the last few years was starting to catch up to her. Her last thought before she drifted off was that maybe the Doctor had meant for her to fall asleep there, leaning back against one of the tropical trees wrapped in fairy lights in the room full of butterflies and glowing flowers.
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Something kept tickling Rose’s chin and nuzzling into her neck. She shifted, trying to brush away whatever it was so she could go back to sleep in peace. She felt more relaxed than she had in years, and she wanted to luxuriate in that feeling for as long as possible. Then a warm puff of air hit her clavicle, followed by the same tickling sensation that had woken her.
Arms tightened around her. Her eyes popped open. Memories from the day before came flooding back into her mind.
Jyotaris. Dimension cannon failure. Snowstorm. The cat. The TARDIS. The Doctor. Butterflies and glowing roses and—
Rose tensed, coming to the abrupt realization that she was still lying on the blue picnic blanket in the butterfly room, in the arms of a sleeping Time Lord who was very much not a cat anymore. He was on his side with his face buried in the crook of her neck, his untamable hair lightly brushing her chin. She was on her back, head turned towards him and arms clutching him just as tightly as he held onto her. Thank god the day before hadn’t just been a crazy, wonderful dream.
Rose scooted back in order to see the Doctor’s face better, grimacing at how sticky her skin felt from spending all night in the humid jungle air.
The Doctor wore the same brown pinstripe suit he had always favored in his current body (despite owning a number of suits in other colors.) A small smile tugged at Rose’s lips when she noticed that a small blue butterfly had landed in his hair. It fluttered away when she slid her hand into his locks, brushing them this way and that, enjoying how soft the strands felt beneath her fingers. None of this helped him look less like an electrocuted hedgehog, but that didn’t really matter. He was Rose’s adorable, electrocuted-hedgehog-haired, no longer feline Time Lord. If he wanted to be, that was. If he still wanted her to stay for as long as their forever could be.
He looked so much younger like this, asleep and not caught in the throes of a nightmare of dark days past. He also seemed to be purring.
Wait, purring?Rose’s hands stilled as she held her breath, listening intently for the small sound she thought she'd heard. It was quiet for a few seconds, and then...there it was. She felt it first and then heard it, because pressed up against the Doctor like she was, it was impossible to miss the slight vibration of his chest and the accompanying rumble that came from low in his throat. She almost laughed, but the thought of waking him up and ending this moment of peace and quiet quickly sobered her. It wasn't long before his breath hitched. Rose tensed as she watched his slow return to wakefulness. Surely her brief reprieve would end the moment the Doctor realized where he was, who she was, and what had happened to him the day before.
Her fears remained blissfully unrealized. Instead of pulling away or demanding to know exactly how she had returned to her original universe, the Doctor simply burrowed further into her embrace. Rose forced herself to breathe evenly as she resumed carding her fingers through his hair. She knew he was awake, could feel it in the more conscious way he held her. He wasn’t letting go though. And he was still purring.She started to withdraw her hands, needing to sit up and talk face-to-face about everything she had done to get back, but she promptly returned to her task when he mumbled, “Please don’t stop.”
“You’re purring like a cat,” she whispered.
“No ‘m not,” he said, a lazy smile spreading across his face.
“I’m pretty sure you are though,” Rose insisted, unable to hold back her laughter when she heard his ‘purring’ abruptly cut off. “Always you and your hair this time around, isn’t it?”“Yep. Me, my hair, and my Rose Tyler. Oh, and our TARDIS, can’t forget about her.” She was utterly unprepared for him to say it so blatantly, like her presence was still a fact in his life and not a nearly impossible chance. She was even less prepared for him to press a kiss to her neck, cool lips lingering just long enough for his tongue to flick once against her skin before he pulled away. She pushed herself up, hovering over him and studying his features for any sign that being turned into a cat had somehow addled his brains. Did the Doctor mean what he’d said? Did he really understand how his words would be perceived by her? Rose had come too far, given up too much, to muddle her way through a mess of misunderstandings now. As if sensing her humor fading, the Doctor rolled onto his back, watching her with dark eyes brimming with warmth and something else she didn’t dare put a name to yet.
“Are you serious?” she asked.
The space between them fizzled with a thousand potential timelines, hummed with hundreds of possible responses. He reached up, cradling her cheek in his right hand while his left tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Yes, if you want,” he said.
If? Rose thought she had made it relatively clear what she’d wanted with him years ago. She was about to point this out, because the Doctor must have known how she felt even before the worst day of her life on Bad Wolf Bay, but the painful uncertainty in his eyes made her pause. She changed course. “I do,” she said, “I do want that. Everything. Always.”
He clenched his jaw, swallowing thickly. “Do you, though? Really?”
And now their conversation was starting to sound a little familiar.
“Well, back to the Tardis. Same old life.”
“On your own?”
“Why, don't you want to come?”
“Do you, though?”
“I just thought, because I changed…”
“Yeah, I thought, because you changed you might not want me anymore.”
“Oh, I'd love you to come!”
The Doctor’s oddly sedate reaction to her now made Rose wonder if he didn’t really believe she was there with him. (If he had suddenly shown up in her bed at the Tyler mansion in Pete’s World, she probably would have thought she was dreaming too.) “You once asked me how long I was going to stay, and I told you forever. At least my forever, if not yours. Did you think I didn’t mean it? Because I did then, and I do now,” she told him, wanting to provide as much reassurance as possible.
The stunned look the Doctor gave her took her by surprise. It was almost the same expression he had given her as a cat, staring up at her with golden eyes in the snow outside the TARDIS. “I...I wanted to believe it,” he admitted. “Oh, how I wanted to believe it, to believe in you.”
She tenderly brushed the fringe back from his eyes, understanding that talking openly like this probably went against every instinct in him screaming for him to run, to not face something directly. “Do you still believe in me?” She asked.
He hesitated to answer, but the single word that slipped out next sounded more confident than before. “Yes.”
Rose smiled. “Then believe that I’m really here.”
The Doctor’s expression darkened. “Tell me something only Rose would know. How do I know you’re—that you’re not just a figment...or some kind of TARDIS interface—”
“Stop!” Rose put her hand over his mouth. He froze, mouth still half open to speak. “How about this: I don’t know what you were going to say at the end of those two minutes at Bad Wolf Bay. If I was some figment of your imagination—Oi, don’t lick my hand!—then I would probably know the end of that last sentence, right?”
The Time Lord beneath her blinked, then looked pointedly down at her hand. She rolled her eyes and removed it, wiping her palm off on the front of his oxford.
“Your hand and neck both taste exactly like Rose Tyler,” he promptly informed her, as if that was the biggest news of the year, or possibly the decade.
Her eyebrows shot up. “Oh my god. You’ve been licking me just to find out if I’m really me?"
“Sorry?” He didn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “If it helps, I believe you now. I mean, I did before, and after you, well, I had hoped…Oh, but none of that matters now. Come here,” he said, sitting up and gathering her in his arms. Everything that had been bothering him about her reappearance seemed to dissipate the instant she returned his embrace.
“If I’m yours, then does that make you mine?” She asked, reveling in the familiar feel of him and breathing in his scent that she still associated with wonderful old libraries and books, pine forests, and the electrifying feeling in the air right before lightning struck.
The Doctor let out a shuddering breath, drawing back to look her in the eye. He took her hands in his, thumbs rubbing soothing circles into her warm skin as he spoke. “Oh my brave, brilliant Rose, my precious girl, I am so, so sorry for ever making you doubt that. I tried to show you before, but... I always was a bit of a coward with these things. I was so afraid of losing you that when I did, I was...I didn’t even try to tell you in time. A mistake I’ve regretted every day since.” He raised their joined hands between them and kissed the backs of hers. “In truth, I’ve been yours for, oh, such a long time now. Whole lifetimes, bodies, years. Because I…”
Rose squeezed his hands in reassurance. “Even if you can’t say the words, I think I know. You did try to show me before, in other ways. I just didn’t see it at the time. Sometimes I would think I knew how you felt, but then you’d do something and I would doubt you felt the same way all over again.”
“I think, no, I know I want to say this. I need to tell you the truth.”
She could see it in his eyes, in the way he held himself then. He was determined to not run from this one thing, wanting to do it no matter the universe thought. She had never been given such a gift, two hearts willingly placed in her hands.
“I love you, Rose Tyler.”
Rose felt her breath leave her lungs, replaced by pure wonder. She slowly leaned forward, giving him a chance to pull away. He didn’t.
She had intended to give him a brief, chaste kiss, just to test the waters. The urgency with which he kissed her back, and the quiet, relieved moan that escaped him when their lips finally met quickly changed her mind. And when she molded her body to his, desperate to erase every millimeter of distance that had ever been between them, the way his tongue boldly explored her mouth, the helpless noises he made as he licked and sucked his way down her neck, and the rather impressive bulge in his trousers were more than enough to convince her that the Doctor was, in all likelihood, quite capable of dancing.
Eventually, their frantic kisses slowed until they finally broke apart, her straddling him with their foreheads pressed together, sharing the same air. Rose smiled giddily after a moment. “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” she whispered, fingers that had been buried in his hair now brushing against his temples. A bright flare of overwhelming love and affection burst into her mind, and without thinking, she sent her own spark of the same emotions back in the direction the flare had come from.
The Doctor jerked back, panting slightly (and wondering when, exactly, his respiratory bypass had ceased to function properly.) “You just reacted to me telepathically,” he said, eyes glimmering with curiosity and more than a little hope.
“I think Bad Wolf did a little more than just save you, get rid of most of the Daleks, and make Jack immortal." Rose admitted, worrying her bottom lip. This was the part she hadn’t been looking forward to, as much as it needed to happen.
Realizing that she now knew about everything that had happened on Satellite 5, the Doctor bowed his head with a resigned sigh. “I’m sorry I never told you the full story. You have to understand, it wasn’t because I wanted to lie to you, but I was sort of dying at the time, and then there was that whole incident with the Sycorax, and so many new things were happening all the time, and I was afraid that if I brought it up, you would start burning again, or hate me for what I’d done so much that you’d leave."
“I’ve had a long time to think about it,” Rose replied softly, “and while I wish you hadn’t kept it from me, and you better not do that ever again, I think, in a way, it had to happen that way. Bad Wolf was simply dormant inside me after Satellite 5, waiting for the right moment to show herself. I think when I saw all of space and time back then, Bad Wolf chose to guide me toward this timeline. As horribly unbearable as it was, I learned a lot in that parallel universe, especially after Bad Wolf Bay. That was when I began to be able to do all sorts of new things because of Bad Wolf, including basic telepathy.”
The longer she talked, the more worried the Doctor’s expression became. “What?” He finally choked out. “What other new things? How? I took the Vortex out of you!”
“I think Bad Wolf let you take most of the Vortex out of me. Some part of her remained hidden away until I needed her in the parallel universe. I worked with Torchwood there to make this thing, we called it a dimension cannon, so I could…”
“So you could what?” The Doctor’s eyes bored into hers.
A sly smile graced her lips. “So I could come back, of course. Among other things.”
The Doctor grinned, hands tightening their grip where they rested at her waist. “You’re amazing, Rose Tyler. Absolutely brilliant. But, hold on, what were the other reasons you came back?” He frowned slightly, catching onto the second half of her explanation.
“I’ll get to that later, because it’s a very long, very important story that I want to tell once uninterrupted.”
“No, first, you owe me an explanation about why you were a cat for 25 hours yesterday.” She spoke adamantly over his protest.
He required very little persuasion in the end, giving into her insistent hands carding through his hair far more easily than he would ever outwardly admit.
“Fine. But just for the record, it’s quite embarrassing, and I would really rather not go into it," he said, grimacing as he remembered the events of the previous day that had led to his feline state.
Rose simply smiled her tongue-touched smile, patiently waiting for him to stop stalling in the face of the inevitable.
The Doctor sighed dramatically, tugging on his ear with mild discomfort. Then he looked up at the simulated sky above them that was slowly transitioning from pre-dawn light to a brilliant sunrise. “I may have done something I shouldn’t have,” he said, quickly and quietly.
Somehow, this didn’t surprise Rose in the slightest. “How shocking. What was it?"
“How was I supposed to know that licking an ancient Jyotarian mosaic to determine its composition while exploring the buried ruins of their ancestral capitol would activate a curse that would turn me into a cat for a day? And on the day you found me again too!” He scowled, bottom lip jutting out ever so slightly.
Rose was sorely tempted to burst out laughing at how ridiculous and so very him that entire explanation sounded, but she held back, not wanting to make him close off. “I thought you were quite cute,” she offered. “Your eyes were gold instead of brown, though. I thought it suited the cat you, made you look all mysterious and otherworldly. Why gold though? Your fur was the same color as your suit. Why would your eyes change?”
“Because I am mysterious and otherworldly?” The Doctor said uncertainly, half statement, half-question.
“I seem to remember you getting your head stuck in a box under my bed yesterday, and throwing a literal hissy fit until I took it off,” she pointed out.
“You are merciless, you are! Can’t a Time Lord let embarrassing moments from his past lie in peace?”
“Okay, okay,” Rose relented, “just two more questions. Why’d you knock over everything in my room just to get the tie you left on my dresser after Canary Wharf? And where did you run off to after that? It sounded like an entire storage room of spare TARDIS parts got knocked over.”
The Doctor’s cheeks flushed pink. “Can we not talk about all the stupid things I did yesterday?” He asked weakly.
“Come on, they aren’t even hard questions to answer.”
The Time Lord scoffed, but did as Rose wanted. “I think some part of me was embarrassed I left that in your room. The last time I was in there, shortly before Bad Wolf Bay, it was not a good day. I just wanted to get it out of your room because I didn’t know what you thought of it being there. And I didn’t like thinking about that day.”
He sounded so dejected as he remembered whatever had made him enter her room after Canary Wharf. Rose’s heart went out to him, and she briefly pulled him into another hug.
He sighed into her hair, some of the tension leaving his body as he added, "Also, I left to, um, find the holiday decorations room, I think. And to find this room."
"Why did you want to find your holiday decorations?” She asked, nonplussed.
The Doctor shrugged. “Because this winter solstice festival on Jyotaris is a bit like your Christmas, and my cat self wanted to make you…happy. I think I also decorated your room with the TARDIS’ help while you were eating. Oh, that sounded much worse out loud than it did in my head.”
Rose simply smiled, adoring her wayward Time Lord no matter his embarrassing, dangerous, or hilarious antics. It was all part of being with him, traveling with him, and she wouldn’t change any of it. “I think it’s kind of sweet, actually. You showing me this room with the glowing plants and butterflies was too. I want to know more about this place later, by the way. Oh, and you were so cute and fluffy last night it was almost ridiculous." She said.
The Doctor opened his mouth to protest that he was The Oncoming Storm and Last of the Time Lords, and therefore he could not possibly be “cute” or “fluffy”. He promptly forgot everything he was about to say when Rose ran her hands through his hair again, scratching and massaging his scalp. His eyes slid shut and a deep purr rose in his throat before he could stop it.
“Aha! You are so purring!” Rose exclaimed triumphantly. “Wow, it’s kind of like having a superpower or something, doing this.”
The Doctor immediately straightened, his dazed expression clearing in the face of indignation. “Time Lords do not purr!”
“Suuuuure, Doctor." Rose nodded, though she was not at all convinced.
“Maybe it’s a lingering side effect of the cat curse?” She suggested, truly serious this time.
“It bloody well better NOT be a side effect!” The Doctor said, shoving one hand into his dimensionally-transcendental suit jacket pocket and feeling around inside it.
“What are you looking for?” Rose asked, sliding off his lap to give him more space to conduct his search.
“My sonic screwdriver! I need to make sure there aren’t anymore side effects of the feline curse. It would also be prudent to check that Bad Wolf hasn’t negatively affected you somehow, actually...” He trailed off, moving on to search his trouser pockets.
“Don’t think she has,” Rose muttered. Then she thought of the collar she had taken off the Doctor the night before. “Oh, wait!” She grabbed the Doctor’s hand, hauling him to his feet as she stood up. “I think the sonic’s in my room, with my clothes from Pete’s World. It was on your collar. I put it in my pocket.”
The Doctor froze. “I’m sorry, did you just say my collar? As in, cat collar?”
Rose tugged on his arm, pulling him back through the jungle in the general direction of the door. “Yeah. Tie, collar, same difference according to the curse, apparently. Your sonic was attached to it.” She intentionally left out the fact that it had been shrunk to miniature proportions, hoping that the sonic might have also returned to its normal size when the cat curse had worn off.
The Time Lord matched her stride, barely looking where he was going because he was so focused on her. “So, moving on from the collar bit… Assuming I get my sonic back safe and sound, after I do some scans, could you explain exactly how you got here without collapsing multiple universes? I tried, Rose, I really did. I looked for a way to safely bring you back for a long time, but it seemed impossible.”
A flurry of heartache and love for him went through Rose. She took a deep, steadying breath and turned to face him. “The dimension cannon didn’t work at first. It only started to work after the stars started going out. We figured that something or someone, probably in another universe, must have done something truly apocalyptic to cause that. We had to find you to get answers, and I needed to find you because you’re home for me. Not any other universe, now matter how much I’ll miss my mum, Tony, Pete and Mickey. But they’re happy, and I’m happy here. That’s the most important bit.”
The Doctor stared stonily at something over her shoulder, no doubt blaming himself for the fact that she had ever felt she had to choose between him and her family. Rose pressed a kiss to his cheek, looping her arms around his neck. “Hey, look at me. Don’t go there,” she implored.
It took a few moments, but eventually his gaze slid over to meet hers.
She gently framed his face with her hands, holding him still. “I’m here now, Doctor. I’m here because I love you and I want to be here. Forever, better with two, remember?”
He smiled faintly. “Yeah.”“Good. Now, we have a lot of things to do and talk about, so let’s get your scans out of the way, yeah? The multiverse could be ending, and it would be unfortunate if that happened without me getting to snog you again.”
He laughed as his hands found her waist, pulling her closer. “Very unfortunate,” he agreed. “Maybe we should do it again now, just in case.”
“Just in case,” Rose murmured, and proceeded to make good on her word.
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