The chips were gone long before either Rose or the Doctor moved, sitting on the ground beside his bike, eating chips and talking about everything and nothing. And when the moon rose higher and the Gulfstream trailer closed up for the night, she began to shiver, so he draped his coat over her shoulders. She held onto the lapels, pulling them close around her chest. When he got up to put the empty chip box in the trash can and she thought he wasn’t looking, she closed her eyes and nuzzled the soft fabric.
The Doctor had only intended to stay in Los Angeles for the night, but if things continued along this promisingly, he might have to stay a bit longer.
Halfway back to Rose and the bike, the screeching of tires and car horn broke through his euphoric haze. Someone shouted, a sharp sound that ended abruptly. Then came another scream, high-pitched and panicked. Traffic on Sunset skidded to a halt in front of the chip trailer, and just down the street, a gaggle of late-night pedestrians was gathering around the front of a car.
Without thinking, the Doctor took off running, limbs akimbo as he closed the distance to the traffic accident. He pushed his way through the crowd. “I’m a doctor! Let me through!” Sure enough, lying on the ground in front of the car was a bleeding man, crimson trickling from his nose and mouth.
Dropping to his knees, the Doctor gestured to the crowd. “Stand back! Give him some air!” He leaned over his patient, opening a leather jacket and shirt to look at the mangled torso beneath. The man’s eyes were wide, pupils contracted in pain. “Hey what’s your name, mate?” the Doctor asked, trying to distract him. Trying to see if he could talk, or if there was too much damage even for that.
“Sam,” the man rasped, lips hardly moving.
“Hey, Sam. I’m Rose, and this is the Doctor. He’s going to help. Okay?”
The Doctor hadn’t seen her running behind him, but Rose was already kneeling at Sam’s other side, smoothing the hair back from his forehead. She didn’t seem fazed by the blood or the mangled state of his body, or anything else, really.
A look passed between the two of them – silent acknowledgement and thanks and something more – and the Doctor turned his attention back to Sam. There was a concave area just below his heart, slick with blood and bubbling with escaping air.
Cradling Sam’s hand in her own, Rose was conducting a one-sided conversation with him, as though they’d just run into each other in a bar, as though everything was perfectly normal. Asking about his family, his wife and kids, even though he didn’t answer. Giving him something to focus on. A woman nearby was still screaming. In the distance, sirens sounded, growing louder by the minute.
The Doctor looked at the crowd around them. “Vaseline and a bandage – a cloth of some kind! Anyone? Does anyone have either one of those?”
Someone shoved a white undershirt into his hand, and after a moment, miraculously, someone else procured a sizeable jar of petroleum-based hair pomade. The Doctor scooped pomade onto the shirt and pressed it to the gaping wound, trying to trap the air so Sam could breathe. He pressed the makeshift bandage down on three sides, leaving a small opening on the fourth side, just enough for a bit of air exchange.
Rose was still talking to Sam, holding his limp hand, stroking his forehead. Another woman had come to kneel beside her. The sirens were shrieking now, only a few blocks away. Sam was unconscious, but still breathing.
The ambulance screeched to a halt. Still kneeling, the Doctor rocked back on his heels, giving the paramedics room to get Sam onto a stretcher. He told them what he’d done for Sam’s collapsed lung before they lifted him away and carried him to the ambulance.
Adrenaline coursed through the Doctor’s body – he felt he could do anything. He closed his eyes, trying to calm his frantic breathing. When he opened them again, everything was so very vivid: the pebbles in the asphalt of Sunset Boulevard, the white gleam of the Ford that had struck Sam, the flashing red and green stoplights overhead. The stars, distant pinpoints of light in the night sky, seemed reachable; all he had to do was stretch his hands upward and they would bend down to meet him.
The Doctor lived for these moments, these glimpses of purpose in his otherwise aimless wandering. Proof that he could alter events, his existence mattered, that his next breath actually meant something. A taste of otherwise unattainable atonement, for sins he couldn’t go back in time to change.
Rising to his feet, he looked for Rose. She was gone. Panic rising, he spun around, staring down both sides of the street, desperate to catch sight of blonde hair or a pink skirt or anything to prove that he hadn’t just spent the last few hours of his life talking to a perfect figment of his own imagination.
When he finally spotted her in the crowd around the back of the ambulance, his heart slipped down into his stomach and fluttered erratically. Rose was helping a woman into the back of the ambulance, the same woman she’d beckoned over to sit with her by Sam, a woman with a ring on her left hand. The Doctor hadn’t noticed her – because she was peripheral, domestic, unimportant to the issue occupying him – but Rose noticed her. Rose had calmed her hysteria, brought her to sit with her husband, and was now pulling her into a reassuring hug before the paramedics closed the ambulance door.
When the ambulance pulled away, Rose took in a deep gulp of air, her shoulders lifting and falling. She looked up and made eye contact with the Doctor, giving him a brave smile – shaken, but not traumatized.
He went to her, opened his arms, and she fell right into him. She held him as though she was sinking and he was a lifejacket, right there in on the sidewalk of Sunset Boulevard. He hadn’t realized he needed steadying, too, not until she was leaning into his body and his thoughts weren’t racing a million miles a second anymore.
He was beginning to feel lightheaded – adrenaline and shallow breathing, the medically-trained portion of his mind helpfully informed him. Rose, every other part of him sang.
# Pretty sure I'm only entertaining myself with this one but that's okay # I like singing to myself sometimes # Doctor Who # The Doctor # Rose Tyler # AU fanfic # ficlet
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