Jackie walked away, heading out of the courtyard of the Powell Estate. Rose watched snow swirl around her mother’s back, thinking about how this New Year’s wouldn’t be so bad, really, if Shareen or Mickey were in town to distract her. She couldn’t bear another year like the last, waiting for Jackie to come home past the small hours and into the next day, wondering what kind of shape she’d show up in.
Crossing her arms over her chest, wishing she’d worn a heavier jacket, Rose shuffled toward the stairwell.
The noise was soft, hardly a grunt and the scuff of feet, but Rose whipped around, instantly on guard. A man stood in the shadows of the building behind her, head bent, leaning heavily on the wall. He didn’t look too steady on his feet.
“You all right, mate?” she called. If he answered, she’d let it go; if he didn’t, well … maybe she’d call an ambulance.
He looked up. She couldn’t see his eyes, buried as he was in the darkness of the doorway, but the weight of his gaze was like a touch. She shivered, but it wasn’t from the snow or because she was frightened. Warmth suffused her, starting from her chest and flowing outward, like the sight of this man had awakened some kind of golden fire in her veins.
Which was ridiculous.
Rose had only had one pint at the party, and that was an hour ago, and she certainly wasn’t drunk. But that was the closest thing she could equate to this sensation.
“Yeah,” he said, but he didn’t sound all right, not at all.
“Had too much to drink?”
“Something like that,” he replied, the tails of his long trenchcoat quivering as he fought to stay upright. This bloke had been into something, certainly.
“Maybe it’s time you went home,” Rose said.
“Yeah.” His voice was thick, dismissive.
Rose turned toward the stairwell again, but it was as though that golden fire in her veins had formed some kind of connection – a slender thread – to the drunk man in the shadows, and it tugged at her even as she took her first few steps.
Without thinking, she spun right back around. She couldn’t leave him out here in the cold like this; what if he passed out and died in the snow? “Can I call someone to come get you?”
The bloke shook his head. “Nobody left.”
His knees buckled.
Rose dashed forward, too late to catch him before he hit the ground. He was on all fours, his body shaking, and when she reached out to help him to a sitting position against the wall, she could feel how feverish he was even through his suit and coat. His head lolled back, his brown eyes panicked and gleaming with the same heat that was consuming the rest of him. He was trying to shoo her away, pushing at her ineffectually, but he was too weak.
“You have to leave. Go! Please,” he wheezed, his fingers spasming against her forearms.
“Easy now,” Rose said soothingly, pulling his arm around her shoulders. “Just stay calm, yeah? Let’s get you inside, get you a cuppa, maybe call for some help or something.” Bringing a strange man into the flat, even one in this condition – Jackie’d have plenty to say about that, about Rose picking up a stray. His suit was nice enough; if he’d been living on the streets, he hadn’t been out here for long. He didn’t look like he was in shape enough to be dangerous, anyway.
“No,” he said firmly, commandingly – at least he probably meant it to be. The next word sounded like begging, “No.”
She heaved him to his feet. “C’mon, here we are. Not far to my place. Let’s get you sorted.”
“No,” he said again, and the word was so raw that she nearly dropped him.
She turned to look at him, twisting her head up and back. He was pretty, this one, with his wild chestnut hair and fine features and the freckles across his flushed cheeks. But he wasn’t talking to her this time; his eyes were focused on something across the courtyard. She followed his gaze.
“That wasn’t there a minute ago,” he said, shivers traversing his body in waves, trembling against her even as she started to help him across the courtyard.
“What, that?” she replied, happy that he wasn’t deadweight anymore, he was at least shuffling his feet. “Dunno. Kids around here tag everything, every chance they get. Management can’t keep up; they only paint over it once a month or so.”
“Bad Wolf,” he said, reading the graffiti aloud.
“The gangs around here are more bark than bite,” Rose said dismissively. “C’mon. Just up a few flights, then a nice spot of tea and some blankets. I’m Rose, Rose Tyler. What’s your name?”
He stumbled up the first steps, his free hand gripping the railing so hard his knuckles turned white, but they kept moving. “It’s the” - a pause - “John Smith.”
“Nice to meet you, the John Smith.”
“I’m a … I’m a doctor,” he stuttered as another wave of tremors shook him. His fever was getting worse, seemed to be burning hotter through his clothes by the second, and Rose started to move faster, wanting to get him inside before he collapsed again. They reached the door and she had the bolt open in record time. Inside, he tumbled straight onto the couch, sprawled out in pain.
She knelt beside him, resting a hand on his forehead. His eyes were enormous, focused on her with the intensity of a man in the throes of a religious vision, full of love and worship.
“Rose Tyler,” he said, and the words were a prayer and a plea.
“I’m going to get you that cuppa,” she said. Before she could get to her feet, he grabbed her hands. His long fingers curled between hers, threaded together as though he had a right to, as though he’d held them a thousand times before.
The contact triggered something – that golden fire again, like alcohol running through her veins, except this was the opposite of intoxication. Everything became clearer, sharper; she could see the pores on his face, the stubble on his jaw, the flutter of his pulse (beating so very fast) in the hollow beneath his ear. The string binding her to this bizarre stranger thickened, threading and multiplying until it was a chain, infinitely strong and light as a feather.
He blinked rapidly, his expression slowly shifting into one of horror. “No. Rose, you have to fight it.”
She gave him a grin, tongue touching the corner of her mouth, warmth rolling through her in waves. Was he having some kind of hallucination? “Oi, I’m not the one with a fever, sweating on a stranger’s couch, doctor Smith. What exactly do you think I need to fight?”
“Your eyes,” he said, still gripping her hands. She shook him off and stood up in the dim room, turning toward the kitchen; he needed an ambulance much worse than he needed tea, and the phone was on the hook by the kitchen door. There was a mirror on the opposite wall, a small one beside the window, and she caught sight of her reflection.
Her own eyes gleamed back at her, seething with yellow fire.
She gasped, jaw dropping as she stumbled backward. Her calves hit the coffee table and she sat down with a hard thump – it was a miracle she didn’t break the glass.
“You have to go, Rose!” the man on the couch said thickly, just before he grunted and doubled over in pain. The next syllable out of his mouth was hardly coherent. “Run!”
“Doctor!” she cried, lunging toward him, that feather-light chain that linked them tugging at her so hard she couldn’t help but obey. She gripped his shoulders, forcing his torso upright, her hands lighting to his face. As she held his head, his skin began to shed the most delicate yellow sparks; they danced into the air as gracefully as fireflies, pouring off of him in waves.
“It’s starting,” he said, resigned and full of agony. “Please. Run.”
“Doctor,” she whispered, and the word wasn’t just his title, it was him, it was this creature in front of her. The chain binding them tightened and Rose leaned forward, her own vision dissolving into a storm of golden fire, her face burning in the heat radiating off of his skin. Her lips touched his – delicate, a soft brush of flesh, and with it something passed between them. A breath slipped from her mouth to his, and he shuddered.
Without hesitation she did it again, brought them together, her lips parting and her tongue slipping into his mouth – seething and scorching as it was. He kissed her back like his life depended on it, even as the rest of him gave one last shudder and went rigid, back arching and arms flung to the sides. His head tried to pull back – a muscle reflex linked to whatever the rest of his body was going through – but Rose held him steady, clamped on with a grip she’d never imagined she was capable of.
She climbed onto the couch, straddling his lap, her capacity for coherent thought evaporating in the golden fire raging between and around them. They were consumed; if anyone had walked into the flat, they would have borne witness to something positively otherworldly, two bodies clinging together in the center of a storm of blinding light.
Rose was engulfed in warmth that quickly grew into agonized burning, and the bit of instinct she had left screamed at her to get away, she was going to be turned to ashes, run! But her physical self was incapable of obeying, and after another second the instinct was gone, dissolving into incoherency and anguish.
As suddenly as it had started, the golden fire vanished in a final, sputtering shower of sparks that swirled around them both like a vortex. When Rose came back to herself, she was still tangled with this man, lips still moving with his, sucking on his tongue as it explored her mouth, her hands buried in his hair. He clutched her to himself, fingers digging into her hips and needy noises coming from the back of his throat.
With a gasp, she broke away. He stared at her, and he was still the same man she’d found in the courtyard – same chestnut hair, although sweat had plastered down across his forehead; same expressive brown eyes, now full of wonder and confusion and gleaming hope; same fine features, same freckles.
“Doctor,” Rose said, and she wasn’t speaking his title, it was his name. The realization made her dizzy – it was like remembering the future, her brain reaching forward into things that hadn’t happened yet for the information.
“Rose,” he breathed.
“We’re not alone,” she said, because she’d seen it out of the corner of her eye – someone was with them on the couch. She turned to look and screeched, leaping to her feet and stumbling across the room to the opposite wall. The Doctor stood slowly, leaning down over the unmoving girl on the couch.
It was Rose.
Same clothes, same long blonde hair, same jeans – everything identical. With a concerned look and infinitely gentle hands, the Doctor touched the spot just under the other Rose’s ear, feeling for a pulse. She was breathing; Rose could see that from across the room. Next, the Doctor rested his fingertips to the other Rose’s temple, closing his eyes for a few quiet seconds.
As she watched everything happen, waves of vertigo washed over her, memories from a future that hadn’t happened spinning through her head. She remembered her dad alive when he shouldn’t be, she remembered flying creatures devouring the Doctor (bigger ears and darker jacket, then – would be – was), and Pete Tyler bleeding out in her arms on the street.
“Are those creatures going to come, like they did – will – when I save my dad?” Rose managed to ask.
The Doctor turned to her, closing the distance between them in a few long strides. If he was fazed by the fact that she remembered something that hadn’t happened yet, he didn’t show it. His face had gone into his don’t worry I’m a professional when it comes to wildly improbable situations, everything’s in capable hands expression.
Rose knew — would know — did know better.
“This is different, nothing to worry about,” he said, taking her pulse as well. Then he lifted his hands toward her temples. “May I?”
She nodded. He touched her head and she felt him, a brush of consciousness more intimate than a kiss, hardly a trace of contact before it was gone.
He snatched his hand away and stared at her. “Well.”
She arched her eyebrows right back at him. “Well what, Doctor? What is all this?” She gestured vaguely at the room.
“Oh, she’s fine – just sleeping, she’ll wake up and not remember anything that’s happened in the last fifteen minutes. I’m afraid this was a bit of a regenerative incident. I’ve had one before – shifted my regeneration energy into a biologically compatible jar-in-a-hand, my handy jar –”
“I was there — will be — I remember,” Rose interrupted impatiently.
His eyes popped open a bit wide. “Right. Yes. ‘Course. Anyway, seem to have created another human-Time Lord metacrisis. This is becoming a bit of a habit. Going to be dozens running around, if I’m not careful.”
“You mean she’s a metacrisis me?” Rose asked in disbelief, gaze locking onto the version of herself sleeping on the couch.
“No. I mean you’re a metacrisis you.” She blinked at him, trying to fit her head around the words, thinking about a Doctor in blue and an alternate universe and how the girl on the couch was going to be snogging him on Bad Wolf Bay in a few years. Rose felt dizzy again.
“The good news,” the Doctor continued, snapping her concentration back to the present – the past – whenever this was, “is that your body is still mostly human. Your brain was the only thing affected. I’ve seen this before –”
“Donna,” Rose said, she knew she was right, memories of the future swirling and coalescing.
“Exactly,” the Doctor said. “Donna. But Donna got a Time Lord’s consciousness while her brain was still biologically human. The two were incompatible. Your … whatever’s happened, it means that your brain is fully, biologically Time Lord.”
Rose blinked at him again. “Oh.”
“So everything’s … compatible.” He rocked onto his heels with nervous energy, rubbing the back of his neck.
“There are … two of me.”
“Yeahhhhhh.” The corners of the Doctor’s mouth were twitching, like he was trying to contain a grin.
“You left me – you’re gonna leave me – on the beach! In Norway!” Rose snapped, reaching out to smack him on the shoulder. “You didn’t even say goodbye, just hopped into your TARDIS with Donna, you selfish prat!”
He wrinkled his nose. “Sorry.”
She smacked his shoulder again. “You bet your skinny Time Lord arse you are!”
“Would it help if I told you I love you?” he blurted out. His eyes went wide, his mouth hanging open a bit, as though he might swallow the words back down his throat, if given the opportunity.
She crossed her arms, trying for stern and failing spectacularly, a grin spreading across her face. “Maybe.”
“What if I offered to take you for chips? There’s this place in twenty-third century Shanghai, the New Mongolian Empire – best chips you’ve ever wrapped your lips around. No exaggeration.”
Rose glanced at her other self, still sleeping on the couch. “She’s gonna be okay?”
The Doctor followed her gaze to look at the other Rose, even as he reached out for the hand of the woman standing beside him. Their fingers laced together. “She’s gonna be brilliant. She’s going to have a great year, y’know.”
“I suppose I do.” Rose squeezed his hand. “So I’m going to have to pay for these chips, aren’t I?”
The Doctor shrugged unapologetically. “No money.”
Rose sniffed, sparing a long glance around her mum’s flat before she tugged him toward the door. She was leaving for the first time – leaving again – leaving for the last time, and none of this was sad, it simply was. “Fine, I’ll pay for chips, but you’re gonna owe me.”
“Surely we can work out a form of compensation, we’re both reasonable beings,” the Doctor said, following along behind her.
“I’ve got some ideas,” Rose said, shooting him a wicked smile. His adam’s apple bobbed and he grinned back, bouncing on his toes as they dashed down the stairs. “Where’d you park the TARDIS?”
“I’ll beat you there!” She dropped his hand and really started to move, taking the stairs two at a time and bursting out the door into the snow.
The Doctor caught up, long legs moving in a blur as he ran beside her. He was beaming like a maniac, and apparently completely unaware of the technical details about how to win a race, because he snatched her hand again and pulled her along even faster, shouting, “Allons-y!”
# I was having sad End of Time Part II feels # So I wrote some wildly unlikely and horribly self-indulgent revisionist twaddle to cheer myself up # You have been warned - unapologetic cheese within # Doctor Who # The Doctor # Rose Tyler # Doctor/Rose # OTP to end all OTPs # fanfic # ficlet
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