The Doctor opened the TARDIS doors. Earth, he noted, glancing at the scanner. A rainy night, which was unpromising, but he knew better than to trust to appearances, or so he hoped.
Before he could make his exit, a girl ran in through the open doors and came to a sudden halt in front of him. “Doctor!”
He faced her. “The very same. And who might you be, miss?”
She stared at him out of dark eyes and pushed a strand of blonde hair out of her face. “You can’t be him.”
“I must inform you, young lady, that I most certainly am!”
She put down the over-sized gun she had been carrying and gaped at him. It wasn’t flattering. “You’ve changed. I didn’t think — I mean — what happened to you?”
“I think, Miss, that you may be -.”
She shook her head. “Don’t you even remember me?”
“Well, no, technically speaking, but I think -.”
She swallowed. “It’s Rose, Doctor. Rose. I’ve jumped across universes to get back to you.”
“Really?” he said, raising both eyebrows, before giving her a stern look. “I’m not sure that sounds like something you should have been doing, although I admit, of course, I am something of an attraction.”
She said, “It’s important. Probably the end of the universe and… and I thought you’d be pleased to see me.”
“I believe I should explain -.”
Rose drew in her breath. “And what the hell are you wearing?”
“I don’t care for your tone of voice,” he said. “What’s wrong with it?”
She paused. “What’s right with it, more like? Is it — the regeneration trauma thing? Shall I get you some tea?”
The Doctor considered this. One was supposed to humour lunatics and it wasn’t every day that attractive girls leapt into his TARDIS and offered to make him a cup of tea. He smiled. “Why not? I’m sure we can sort out this little confusion over a cup of tea — and if you look on the tin to the right of the food machine, there might even be some chocolate biscuits.”
Rose opened her mouth to argue and then nodded, and left the console room. Moments later she reappeared. “Doctor, how am I supposed to find the kitchen, let alone the biscuits? You’ve moved everything!”
“So,” said the Doctor, after he decided it would be a good idea if he oversaw the tea-making, “what is this universe-ending problem with which you need assistance?”
She thought about it and then said, “I don’t know — nobody does. Stars going out and the darkness coming. But, Doctor, you must remember me!”
“Young lady, I’m a little more concerned about vanishing stars than your feelings.”
She said, “What happened? You didn’t — you didn’t do this on purpose, did you? After I left.”
“What?” said the Doctor, examining her closely at this appalling idea. “I’m sorry, but are you suggesting that I wasted a regeneration on you?”
She flushed abruptly. “No. I mean, I just — yeah. I suppose. Maybe it wasn’t the same for you, Doctor, but I — I was in love. What else did you expect, whisking me off in time and space and being so bloody good at everything? And if I thought -.”
“I see,” said the Doctor, with a spark in his blue eyes. He advanced on her and she realised just how tall and solid he was under that ridiculous outfit. She blanched and backed away, but not far enough. “Well, let’s not waste any more time, then. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s unrequited love.”
Before she do anything more than widen her eyes in alarm, he grabbed her and kissed her with considerable energy.
“Mmph — gerroff!” Rose pushed him away, glaring. “Doctor!”
He faced her with an arch look on his face. “Why, what’s wrong? I thought you said you braved a leap between dimensions to return to me? So come on, let’s get on with this terribly romantic reunion.”
“You really have changed,” said Rose, still slightly out of breath and up against the TARDIS wall with nowhere left to go. “Wh- what do you mean by that, anyway?”
He shrugged. “Well, I’ve never been entirely sure on the exact details of what you humans get up to in these affairs, but I assure you I’m entirely prepared to find out — in a spirit of scientific curiosity at the very least. After all, if you love me so much, isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for?”
“You must be out of your head!”
He looked smug. “There, you see. You humans are so ephemeral. You think you might be in love with a Time Lord, but come the next regeneration, we’re not quite as attractive as we once were — or whatever it is — and you go running a mile.”
“You were proving a point?” Her voice rose. “You did that just to prove a flipping point?”
He smiled. “Rather well, I think.”
“Language, young lady,” he smirked.
“Hey, I’ve seen you change,” she shot back. “I liked you both ways. Don’t you stand there in that ridiculous get-up, calling me fickle. I’m not the one who’s got a girl in every time zone.”
He said, “Oh, it’s like that now, is it? Yes, go on, play it safe. What’s this little business with the universe coming to a terrible end? I think it’s about time we discussed that, too.”
“I do love you,” said Rose, and the anger was clear in her eyes. “Want me to prove it, Doctor? Right, well, you’re on!”
She reached up and gripped his colourful lapels, dragged him towards her and kissed him back with a determination that alarmed even him.
“Ah,” he said, staring back at her in a dazed fashion. “Yes, well, perhaps you have a point…”
It was her turn to look smug. “Maybe you’re not changed all that much,” she told him. “Come on, Doctor, I thought you were up for it — what was all that stuff about unrequited love?”
“Well, I might have been misleading you slightly,” he said, disentangling himself. “Not,” he added, “that it isn’t a flattering proposition, but the thing is, what I was trying to tell you before you got rather carried away back there -.”
“I got carried away?”
He said, “You see, you’ve found the wrong Doctor. I haven’t regenerated, not recently anyway. I simply haven’t met you yet.”
“What?” She frowned.
He said, “I must be an earlier me than you know — what was he like?”
“Well, the first one — northern accent, cute blue eyes, leather jacket, big ears -.”
He winced at the ‘cute’, but said, “Pray, continue.”
“And the other you was skinny, dark-haired, chatty. Cute, too.”
He eyed her dubiously. “Well, when I’m him I shall try to remember to get you a thesaurus. Can’t you think of any other suitable adjectives?”
“You what? Come off it, Doctor, what am I gonna do with a pet dinosaur?”
He opened his mouth.
“Oh, very well. Still, all of this is probably playing havoc with the web of time and you should go. Fling yourself over some future me and hope he’s more grateful.”
Rose led the way out of the TARDIS kitchen, retrieving her gun. “If it makes you feel better, he doesn’t kiss as good as you. You really ought to find something to wear that’s not - not -.”
She said, “Maybe when you get me that thesaurus, I’ll find words bad enough. Serves me right for thinking those trainers looked daft with the suit.”
“I thought you said the universe was in danger of ending?”
She smiled. “It’s nice to see you again, okay? Even like this -.”
“Hmph. I’ll have you know, I’m immune to flattery. And, if the darkness is coming, I really think you ought to get on and see about stopping it, rather than standing round here flirting with me. For such an enterprising young lady, you do seem to have a definite lack of perspective.”
She paused. “Haven’t we mucked up the web of time already? Did you know me when we met?”
“Well, I could have had an attack of selective amnesia. Besides, I don’t remember every single person I run into.”
“Or you pretended you didn’t remember?”
He acknowledged this with a tilt of the head.
“Bastard,” said Rose again. “You really are.”
He said loftily, “I see no reason for you to keep casting aspersions on my parents, thank you. Will you go?”
“Trust me,” she said. “Right away — with pleasure!”
He watched her take her leave and paused to dust the console, raising his eyebrows to himself. Well, that was an interesting start to the evening and he hadn’t even left the TARDIS yet. He beamed at the dull scene on the scanner and made his exit with style.