Rose’s flat was above a travel agent’s shop, up a steep flight of stairs. Following her through the door, the Doctor stepped into the living room to find one of her flatmates lounging on the couch. The woman was a few years older than Rose, with flaming red hair pinned up in curlers, a mouthful of chocolate, and a romance novel in her hand. She didn’t move, just kept chewing her chocolate as she surveyed the Doctor from head to toe. He felt like a side of beef, up for inspection at a processing plant.
“Don’t mind me, Rose,” she said in a deep Southern accent, apparently deciding the Doctor wasn’t to her taste and turning her attention back to her book. “I’m just to the good part.”
Rose was standing slightly in front of the Doctor, so he couldn’t see her expression, but she must’ve made some kind of face at the other woman. “Ohhh, all right.” With a huge sigh, the woman stood up and brushed bits of chocolate off her houserobe.
“Doctor, this is my flatmate Donna,” Rose said, stepping to the side so they could do proper introductions.
The Doctor extended his hand. “Pleasure, Donna.”
“Land sakes, you found another one of your kind, did you?” Donna said to Rose, shaking his hand vigorously. “Pick him up down at the Piggly Wiggly? They selling Brits in the produce section now?” She squinted at him. “This isn’t Mickey, though. Mickey wasn’t a doctor, he was a movie producer’s dog-walker or something. What’s your name, again? Doctor what?”
“Just the Doctor,” Rose said, shrugging.
Donna turned her calculating gaze on him again. “Well, if that’s the case, everybody calls me the Mouth.”
The Doctor smirked at her. “I don’t blame them. Nice to meet you, Mouth.”
Donna’s hands went to her hips and her gaze darted to Rose. “Oh, he’s ornery.”
“So are you, Mouth. You two finish whatever you’ve got going on here,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “I’m gonna find some grub.”
She walked through the door to the kitchen. The Doctor moved to follow her, but Donna grabbed his arm, fingers pinching like talons through his jacket. Eyes boring into his, her smile long gone, she stared up into his face with a startling intensity. “Rose is my closest friend, and she’s a nice girl. She deserves nice things. You’d better be a nice thing, Doctor. You put a foot wrong – rough her up, break her heart, leave the toilet seat up – and I’ll end you. Got that, sunshine?”
The Doctor stared at her, wide-eyed, and swallowed. Curlers and romance novel notwithstanding, he could imagine this woman tracking him down and, at a minimum, giving him the most thorough chewing-out he’d ever had in his life. Or shanking him with a bit of rusty pipe, depending on her mood.
“Got it, Mouth,” he replied gravely.
Donna gave a sharp nod, as though that was taken care of. “Rose and I share a bedroom, and I’m not sleepin’ on the couch tonight. Just so you know,” she said, shooting him one last stern look before she plopped down on the couch and turned her attention back to her novel.
Moving a bit more quickly than he intended, the Doctor sought refuge in the kitchen. Rose had shed his overcoat; it was draped neatly across the back of a kitchen chair. She was plucking ice cubes from a tray and dropping them into two coffee mugs. She emptied the contents of his flask between them, distributing the amber liquid evenly.
“Thought you were coming in here for food,” the Doctor said, accepting the chipped mug from her hands.
“Nope.” Without hesitation, she tipped her mug up and emptied the contents in a few long swallows. He was gawking at her until she dropped the mug on the counter and bent in half with a coughing fit. Her face was red, her eyes bulging, and she was holding her neck as though she was choking.
“This isn’t helping your nerves,” the Doctor said, taking her by the arm and leading her to sit at the Formica-covered kitchen table. Squatting in front of her, the Doctor took her face in his hands and inspected her eyes before putting his middle and index finger in the spot just below her ear, feeling her pulse. She stared at him, her eyes watery from coughing, her pupils enormous. Her skin was warm and flushed pink, her generous lips several shades darker, and the Doctor found himself staring back, his hand still resting on her neck and his own pulse quickening to an embarrassing speed.
Clearing his throat, he quickly let go and sat down on the opposite side of the kitchen table, putting the expanse of Formica between them.
“What’s your professional opinion? Am I in shock?” she asked, dabbing at her mouth with the back of her wrist.
“Nah. Just a bit overwhelmed, I’d say.”
She giggled and leaned her head back against the wall, blond hair stark against the garish orange wallpaper. “This evening has been the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in the last year. Overwhelmed, yeah. Overexcited, definitely.” Pulling in a deep breath, she closed her eyes. “Ooh, it’s warm. What was that stuff? Brandy?”
“Whisky. Good thing too, because putting brandy on the rocks would be a crime.”
“Mmm. Whisky. S’good. My nerves are feeling steadier already.” She peeked at him from under her mascara-covered lashes. “All that blood and stuff didn’t seem to rattle you one bit. What does make you reach for that flask, I wonder?”
“You need something to eat. Where’s that Baby Ruth?”
“Quit doctorin’ me, Doctor,” she murmured. “I’m a big girl. Had plenty of chips not long ago.”
Sure, it was easier to settle into his professional persona in a crisis. And Rose absolutely qualified as a crisis. The fact that she’d seen through his go-to tactic and called him out on it … well. If his nerves hadn’t felt frayed before, they certainly did now. He took hold of his mug and gulped down a mouthful.
Because he was thoroughly, embarrassingly entranced by this woman. This woman who worked in shop and wanted more for her life, who had run alongside him into the most gruesome of circumstances after only knowing him a matter of hours. Like she enjoyed it. This girl, with her apple cheeks and easy grin and warm arms. Who had cleaved to him on his bike and giggled in his ear when he kicked the old blue machine into a higher gear around a corner, taking it at near-reckless speed.
He was staring at her profile again, his pulse still racing and whisky burning in his stomach, and he didn’t make himself look away this time. Her eyes were still closed as the silence stretched on between them, until she finally said, “Tell me a story about your traveling. Tell me somethin’ interesting.”
“You can’t ride a motorbike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.”
She cracked open an eye, eyebrow arching to an impressive height. “Is that a fact?”
“It is indeed. Can’t ride a motorbike, but you can ride a mule. Fifty cents gets you to the bottom and back up again. Unless you’re me, in which case fifty cents gets you to the bottom, your curiosity gets you lost in the caverns, and your terrible sense of direction leaves you stranded for three days.”
Peals of laughter. “No!”
“Yes,” he retorted.
“Tell me more,” she commanded, and he obliged, until his throat was parched and his whisky was gone and he was sucking on ice cubes. And after a while, he realized there was a soft snoring sound coming from across the table. Her head delicately tipped against the wall, her throat long and pale in the dim kitchen, she was thoroughly asleep.
The Doctor stood up and peeked into the living room, but Donna had already disappeared. Gone to bed, most likely. Feeling a bit nosy but unsure what else to do, the Doctor went to the other side of the flat. The first door led to a bedroom, fashionable clothes strewn across every available surface and a dressing table full of make-up, but otherwise unoccupied. The second door led to another bedroom; on the far side was a twin-sized bed with a sleeping Donna-shaped lump under the covers. On the near side was another twin bed with a pale pink comforter.
The Doctor returned to the kitchen. “Rose,” he said, gently shaking her shoulder. “Rose, you can’t sleep here.” She swatted his hand away and turned her face the opposite direction, murmuring something inaudible. He tried twice more, with little success, and finally leaned down to scoop her into his arms. She murmured something else, settling her head against his shoulder. Trying not to bang her feet on the doorframes, he carried her into her bedroom and laid her atop her comforter.
He dithered over whether to take off her shoes – sleeping in them would surely be uncomfortable, but undressing her in any way while she was asleep just seemed ungentlemanly. Leaving her as she was, shoes and snores and all, he closed the door behind him as he left.
# Entertaining myself and that's okay # Doctor Who # The Doctor # Rose Tyler # Rose # AU # AU fic # fanfiction # fanfic # ficlet
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