Reaction Time

"Ooh, this is good, isn't it?" the Doctor asked his companion, digging into the fruit salad they had ordered at one of planet Shan Shen's famous market stalls.

Rose took a forkful and closed her eyes as she popped it into her mouth, a blissful smile spreading over her face. "That is the best thing I have tasted in a long time!" she declared, going in for another bite.

The Doctor took a second bite as well then started picking through the alien fruits. He paused, his utensil hovering over a purplish-blue spiked berry, then stabbed it and held it up in front of his face to get a better look. "What!? What?!," he began stammering. "No, no, no, no! Naboo berries. Oh, not Naboo berries! Not good. This is not good!"

"What is it? What's wrong with Naboo berries?" Rose asked, putting her fork down, staring at the man in front of her. "Oh, God! Are they poisonous? Are we going to die? Please tell me we're not eating toxic berries!"

"Well…they're not exactly toxic."

Rose's eyes went wide in panic, "Doctor! What do you mean, 'not exactly toxic'? What, exactly, is wrong with them?"

"Well…Naboo berries aren't fatal. Well…they may be fatal to some life forms. Well…they're not fatal to humans." Seeing Rose's expression change from concern to abject horror he put up his hands and quickly added, "No! Don't worry. They're not fatal to Time Lords, either. But...well, see…the thing is… just so happens that…aah…well, I'm allergic to Naboo berries."

"Allergic? You're allergic. To Naboo berries. Which you've just been eating," Rose said in a measured tone, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Yeah, that about sums it up. Should've checked for them before I started eating, but it's been about five hundred years since I last saw one. Kind of forgot I was allergic," he said, running a hand over his face and looking rather sheepish for a Time Lord.

"Doctor! How could you! What does this mean? Wait! Can you…can you detox, like that time you were poisoned with cyanide? Purge the toxins somehow?"
"No, no. Doesn't work like that. It's not, strictly speaking, a poison, just an enzyme in the fruit that doesn't react well with my system."

"Well, what's going to happen? Do you get itchy? Have trouble breathing? What? Do I need to get you to hospital?"

"Nah! I'll be fine. As I said, they're not fatal. I'm just going to feel really sick for a day or two."

"Well, we'd better get back to the TARDIS, then, yeah? You're sure there's no way to stop you getting sick?"

"Ah, Rose. I wish that were the case, but, no."

"Best get moving then. The TARDIS is about half a kilometer from here."

The pair stood up, and after disposing of the offending berries, they made their way slowly through the dusty, crowded market. They had been walking for about ten minutes when the Doctor stopped abruptly, groaning and clutching his abdomen.

"Doctor? Are you alright?" Rose asked, concerned.

"Mmmnh. Stomach cramps. First symptom," he said, eyes closed, hands pressed into his stomach.

"Is there anything I can do? Do you need a rest?"

He bent forward, hands on knees, took a few deep breaths then stood up. "No, let's keep going. I'm fine." He took a few unsteady steps down the lane.

Rose eyed him suspiciously, keeping in step beside him. He didn't look fine. He was pale and shivering, a hollow look of pain on his face. He stumbled and she grabbed his elbow, steering him out of the dense throng of beings into a nearby alley.

For a moment, he was doubled over in pain, then, the Doctor leaned back against the yellow brick wall, breathing rapidly. He managed to whisper, "Ooh, I'm going to be sick," just before bending forward and narrowly missing vomiting on Rose's shoes. She yelped in surprise and took a step back before moving to the Doctor's aide. Never had he looked so fragile to her. She wanted to get back to the TARDIS as soon as possible so he could rest and recover.

"Uggh. Sorry about that," he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

" 'S okay. Do you feel better?"

"Maybe a bit. Won't last though."

"Well, let's get moving while we can." Rose slung the Doctor's arm over her shoulder to help support him and rejoined the mob of alien life forms teeming through the market. The bodies soon thinned out, and Rose could make out the familiar silhouette of a police box in the distance. The Doctor was leaning more and more heavily on her, his breathing ragged. He clutched his stomach again as they approached the TARDIS. "Just a little farther, yeah, Doctor? Hang on for me, okay?"

After what seemed an eternity, they were standing next to the blue box which was really a time machine in disguise. The Doctor sank down next to the TARDIS, shivering and wrapping his arms around himself as Rose searched for the spare key in her pocket. Rose unlocked the door and pulled the sick Doctor to his feet and inside.

"Cold, Rose. I'm cold. My head hurts," he moaned, clutching his head in his hands.

"I know. Let's get you into bed. You do have a bed in here somewhere, don't you?" she asked, glancing around. The TARDIS was bigger on the inside. Much bigger. There were areas she had yet to see, even after traveling with the Doctor for months.

Looking ready to collapse at any moment, he pointed a shaky finger down a corridor and said in a wavering voice, "Back there, next to the library."

"Library? Since when is there a library on the TARDIS?" Rose frowned, mumbling to herself. She had to find his bedroom. He looked exhausted and she didn't want to just leave him lying on the floor again like when he first regenerated, nor did she relish trying to drag his unconscious form through the ship. He looked skinny enough, but he would be dead weight and she wasn't sure she could lift him into his bed if he passed out in the control room. Slinging his arm around her shoulder once more, she managed to locate his room and half-walked, half-dragged the Doctor to his bed. He swayed on his feet for a moment as she stepped away to pull back his duvet. "Lie down," Rose said guiding him. He did as instructed with a soft moan, curling on his side. "Let's get your shoes off, yeah?" Rose removed the Converse trainers he always wore, exposing his bare feet. "And your tie," she said, undoing his necktie and pulling the blankets over his shivering body.

The Doctor was barely conscious but, just as she was about to leave, he called out feebly, "Rose, stay with me? I'm so cold."

Her heart nearly broke. He was always the one in charge. Her strong, confident, cocky Doctor. To see him laid so low, to hear the pleading in his voice, how could she refuse?

"Of course I'll stay. I'm never leaving you, remember?" she said softly, returning to his bedside. "What do you need?" she asked, stroking his hair. "Is there anything I can get you? Tea, maybe? It helped before."

"No, Rose. Just you. Would you hold me? I can't get warm." He was a sorry sight, body curled into a tight ball, still in his rumpled pinstripe suit, blankets pulled up to his neck. Rose hesitated, then took off her own trainers and climbed into his bed, wrapping her arms around him, absently rubbing her hands over his chest and stomach.

He sighed at her touch and, slowly, his trembling seemed to abate. The Time Lord fell into an uneasy sleep and Rose soon dozed off herself.


A few hours later, Rose was startled awake, biting back a scream when the Doctor sat bolt upright in bed. He lay down just as suddenly, sweaty, his breathing rapid, trying weakly to push the blankets away.

"Doctor, what's wrong? Are you going to be sick again?" she asked, sitting up in a panic, trying to get a look at her alien travelling companion in the dim light.

"No. Hot. Too hot. Think I have a fever. I need…I need to cool off," he panted, still struggling with the blankets.

Rose rubbed her eyes and got out of the bed. "Here, let me help you," she said, pulling back the covers. "Can you sit up? Let's get some of your clothes off."

"Rose Tyler. Are you trying to take advantage of me?" There was a faint smile on his lips as he struggled to sit up.

Rose smiled and shook her head, "You're absolutely mad! Just let me get your jacket off." She pulled his sport coat off, and then asked, "Can I unbutton your shirt?"

The Doctor nodded and Rose undid his shirt buttons. He was wearing a t-shirt beneath, so she stripped him of his dress shirt as well. "Hmmm…what 'bout your trousers?" she asked.

"Ooh, Rose. Now you are being naughty. If I didn't feel so awful…."

Turning a bright shade of pink, Rose exclaimed, "Doctor! Stop teasing! I'm trying to help!" He was still very ill but it was good to see a little of his mischievous personality returning. "I only meant it would make you cooler if you weren't wearing so many clothes. Are you…uhh…you are wearing pants, right?"

"Yeah. 'Course I'm wearing pants!" he said. "Your face is turning rose, Rose!"

"Shut up! I'm just making sure! Can you, umm, unzip your trousers?"

The Doctor arched his eyebrow, but complied and unzipped.

"Okay. Lift your hips a bit, yeah? Like that." Rose pulled his trousers off then turned away, trying not to look at the prone form of the Doctor before her wearing only his t-shirt and pants.

"Oh, that's brilliant! Much better!" he murmured.

"That's good. Let me just get you some water and something to cool you off. Be right back."

Rose returned with a glass of water, a bowl of ice water and a cloth to cool the Doctor.

"Here, can you drink this?" Rose asked, holding the glass of water for him. He drank the water, flopping back on the pillows once finished. Rose hopped back in bed next to him reaching across for the bowl of ice water. She dunked the cloth then wrung it out, placing it on his forehead. He sighed into the coolness and turned on his side. Laying his head in Rose's lap, he wrapped an arm around her hips. She brushed a stray lock of damp hair off his sweaty brow and readjusted the compress on his head.

"I still feel ill," he said, a note of disappointment in his voice. "I don't like being ill."

"No one does. Try to get some rest. You'll feel better in the morning."

"Thank you, Rose. My sweet Rosy Rose." He pulled her tighter and nuzzled his head into her lap.

Rose smiled and pressed the damp cloth to his face. Must be his fever talking. "Shhh, Doctor. Go to sleep."


"Rose! Rose, wake up!"

The Doctor was sitting next to her in the bed, shaking her shoulder. She was groggy, and a bit confused at first. She must have fallen asleep after he had drifted off, head in her lap, but she snapped awake at his touch. "What's wrong? Are y'okay?"

"I'm better than okay. I'm all better, Rose! Oh, you were brilliant, you! I feel right as rain!"

"That's wonderful! You had me a bit worried. I don't like seeing you sick."
"You don't ever have to worry about me. I'm fine. I'll always be fine. But, thank you, for taking care of me."

"Well, we take care of each other, don't we? You've never let me down and I hope I'll never let you down."

"Rose, you never will. I do have one question, though." He had an odd expression on his face. The Doctor looked almost…embarrassed.

Rose tried to hide a smile. She thought she knew his question now she was awake and had a proper look at him. She asked anyway, "Yeah? What's that?"
"Rose Tyler, do you know what happened to my trousers?"