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Author's Note: HUGE thanks to all the folks on LJ. Originally posted 8 April 2005.
Woolly Jumpers, Choices, and Lemonade
by Tara LJC O'Shea
"I think I want to go home," Rose said, and the Doctor paused in the act of dumping ridiculous amounts of salt into his paper cone of chips.
She laughed. "Just pick up a few things. If I'm going to go off with you, in that box of yours, I ought to at least have a woolly jumper. Spare socks. That sort of thing."
They were standing at the side counter of the chip shop, half-empty malt vinegar bottles and shakers of salt lined up along the cracked orange Formica like soldiers. The shop smelled of grease, and Rose breathed deep as if it was the most heavenly perfume. There might not be chip shops, wherever they might be going next. She felt she ought to appreciate it now, while she still could.
"Woolly jumper," the Doctor repeated, and then nodded appreciatively. "That would be quite sensible. Good idea, Rose."
"What time is it, anyway?" Her wristwatch had stopped, she guessed round about the time the solar radiation was trying to turn her into burnt toast in the observation lounge.
"You're a Time Lord. And you've got a watch on." She pointed to his left wrist.
"It doesn't tell me the time."
"What's it tell you?"
"Not the time."
They stepped out into the balmy spring evening, and Rose caught sight of a newspaper box at the kerb. She stopped and bent down, peering at the date.
"Wednesday. All day," she said as she straightened up.
"What's that?" The Doctor was still popping greasy steaming chips into his mouth.
"It's only the day after I left."
"It's just... it felt like so much longer, I guess."
"We were only gone an hour, remember?"
"Then how comes it's Wednesday?"
"It wouldn't have been nearly so useful, coming back in the middle of the night, would it? For one thing, the chippie would have been closed."
"Can you do that? Just put that blue box down anywhere and any... any when? Right on the nose like that?"
"Of course!" The Doctor seemed almost offended at her question, then grew sheepish as she continued to stare at him, vaguely unconvinced. "Well, most of the time, anyway. There was a tricky bit, a few years back. Couldn't have hit Earth in the late 20th century for the life of me, and let me tell you, it caused me no end of grief."
They began walking down the street back towards the blue police box, which the Doctor had left parked in the shadows of an alleyway as if was up to no good. The chips were hot; Rose burnt her fingers and tongue on the first few.
"Do you ever run into yourself, coming and going?"
"From time to time. Really not a good idea to cross your own timeline, though, if you can avoid it."
"Will it destroy the universe or something?"
"What? Oh, no." He chuckled. "Just... makes things a bit wobbly, is all."
"Doesn't it get a bit confusing? You know—'Hullo, it's me, only not yet.' 'Oh, hullo, me!'"
"It depends on how many of me there are."
Rose frowned. "How do you mean?"
"Well, some of me are an all right sort, but some of me wind me right up. And you get the lot of us in a room together, and it's like herding cats."
"But wouldn't they just be you, only younger?"
"Sort of. And not always."
Rose stopped and stared at him for a second. Then she grinned. "You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"
"Of course. You going to eat those?" he gestured to her own half-empty paper cone.
She held it out, and he fished two chips out greedily. "I thought aliens only ate really weird stuff. Like bugs and metal and spirolina."
"I like chips. One of humans' better ideas, plunging tubers into ridiculously hot fat and then drenching them in wine that's gone off."
"When you put it that way..." She handed him the remains of her chips. "Here, you can have the rest of mine."
When the got to the door of Rose's flat, the Doctor suddenly looked uncomfortable, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his battered leather coat.
"It might be safer if I just waited out here."
Rose could barely hold back a laugh as she turned the key. "Are you scared of my mum?"
"Scared?" He snorted in derision. "I've stared into the gaping maw of oblivion. Fought hordes of darkness. Saved the universe. Loads of times."
"I would be, if I were you." She opened the door with her hip. "She'll have a go at just about any bloke out of short trousers who doesn't have one foot in the grave."
"That's not very charitable," he called through the open door. The remains of the coffee table was gone, and Rose wondered what on Earth her mum must have made of that, when she'd gone out from getting dressed and found the lounge a total shambles.
"It's not that I don't love her madly. I do. But she always has a go at any fella I bring home. Likes to think she's still twenty-five, I guess."
Rose found a hastily scribbled note magnetted to the fridge.Left over take-away in the fridge.
Gone down to the singles night
with Beth and Ariana. Don't wait up.
"It's all right, Doctor. She's gone out with her mates. All clear."
He came inside, head bobbing around corners as if to make certain she had been telling him the truth. That made her grin for some reason. The idea that he could take on whatever goonsquad the universe could throw at him, but was frightened by a bleached-blonde single mother with designs on any warm body in the immediate vicinity.
She went straight to her room, the Doctor trailing behind her, still peering curiously at everything, as if he hadn't just been here the day before.
"It's very pink in here," he said as she pulled her knapsack from beneath the bed.
"Just give me a minute to grab some stuff."
He ignored her, leaning towards the photos tacked up over her bed. Mickey, Shareen, Nance and Tom were in most of them, Rose's blonde head tucked under Mickey's arm, her cheek pressed up against Shareen's as they blew kisses to the photographer. She felt a sudden pang, which she tried to ignore.
Rose began sorting through the chest of drawers, tossing things into the open neck of the bag. Socks, spare knickers, a hair brush. She found a pink jumper on the back of a chair that was clean enough to make do. There was a pair of jeans atop the stack of clean wash sitting on the end of her bed that went into the bag, along with some tops, and—looking to make sure the Doctor's eyes were elsewhere—two frilly lace bras and one plain white cotton one. She pushed the clothes down roughly, trying to make more room in the bag. It suddenly occurred to her that she had no idea how long she'd be gone, or what to expect when she got there.
"I'm going to grab some stuff from the bath—don't go anywhere."
The Doctor waved her off, still engrossed in the wall of photos. She threw toothpaste, antiperspirant, and, after a few moments of uncertainty, an entire box of tampons into the zip pocket of the bag. She caught a glimpse of her face in the bathroom mirror, and stopped.
She didn't look any different than she had when she'd left to go meet Mickey the day before. Her make-up was smeared. Crying as she'd seen her world hang in space like a glowing red cinder had done in her mascara completely. It seemed like forever ago, but she was reminded it had been only an hour.
She didn't look any different. But here she was. Rose Tyler—time traveller. She thought she ought to look different. Older. Wiser. Less like an unemployed shop-girl who hadn't slept in two days.
The Doctor was sitting on her bed, frowning as he went through the stack of cds from the table, and tossing them onto the floor as he scanned each one.
"Hey!" She snatched them up from where they'd landed.
"So much for traditional Earth ballads. Really, Rose. Kylie Minogue?" He looked vaguely horrified, and held the cd case away from him as if it was diseased.
"It was a gift," she muttered, blushing. From Mickey, actually, but she didn't tell him that. He didn't have a very high opinion of Mickey, and she knew her going out with him must have made him think she was daft. But they'd been together for ages, and it hadn't been serious, not really. Just someone to hang out with. She hadn't realised just how much she wasn't really in love with him at all until he was clinging to her in that alley while the Doctor had made his invitation.
"You don't happen to have any Queen, do you?"
He shuddered, and she laughed.
"Right, then." He stared at the bag. "You got everything you needed?"
"Yeah. I think so." They stepped back out into the lounge and she took a long look around at the flat, biting her bottom lip. "I suppose I ought to leave some kind of note for Mum..."
"You can if you want to," the Doctor said with a shrug.
"Well, I've got the magic mobile. I suppose I can ring her up any time I like, from 100,000 B.C., right?"
He flashed her a grin.
"Hurrah for jiggery-pokery," she gave him an answering grin, and shouldered the knapsack.
Rose was amazed that no one seemed to notice or even care that a 1950s phone box was perched on the corner across from her flat, even though it hadn't been there until a moment earlier. Mrs Dougall was walking her dog—a yappy little ball of fur named Ambrose who piddled when he got too excited—as they bounded down the concrete steps. Rose gave her a little wave, which she answered half-way, and then gave Ambrose' lead a sharp tug.
"Rose!" a voice came from behind them, and for a second, Rose was worried it was Mum, and she knew that if she actually saw Mum, she'd never set foot in the box—what had the Doctor called it? TAR-something—again. But it wasn't her mum at all, but a slight dark-haired girl with skin like coffee-and-cream and close-cropped brown hair.
"Shareen!" Rose dropped the knapsack at her feet, and got the other girl in a quick hug. It seemed like ages since she'd seen her, even if it had been just Saturday night.
"Where've you been? I rang last night, and your mum said you were out. I rang round to Mickey's, but you weren't there."
The Doctor cleared his throat meaningfully.
"Oh. Doctor, this is my mate, Shareen."
"Shareen of song and legend? I've heard a lot about you." He pumped her hand enthusiastically.
"Shareen, this is the Doctor."
"Exactly." His face lit up with a grin.
Rose shook her head. "Never mind."
"Mickey's mum said he'd gone all funny. Took all his little brother's Spawn toys and chucked them in the bin. Kept going on about the plastic being alive."
"That Mickey, what a joker," she said with a forced laugh.
"So what you gonna do now, with Henriks gone and all? You going to go on the dole?"
"I think I might travel a bit."
"What, to like Corfu or something?"
"Yeah. Just thought I'd take off for a bit. Get my head on straight, see the world." The end of the world, she amended silently.
Shareen raised both eyebrows. "Without Mickey?"
"Yeah, without Mickey." Rose grinned, shaking her head. "Definitely without Mickey."
"'Bout time. I always said he was nothing but useless, that one. When are you leaving?"
She hefted the knapsack. "I just came by to get some stuff."
"What, you're going today then?"
"Well, you can't go without a proper send off. C'mon, let's go down to the pub. First round's on me."
Rose glanced back at the blue police box, which Ambrose was still investigating while Mrs Dougall tugged on his lead impatiently. "Oh, I dunno—I dunno if we have time—"
"Of course we do," the Doctor assured her. "Time's the one thing we always have."
It was early yet, so the pub wasn't crowded. Shareen had grabbed them a table in the back, and sent the Doctor up to the bar with a drinks order. Remembering he didn't have any money, Rose despaired of what slightly psychic gadget he may use on the poor barman. While he waited for the round, the Doctor's eyes kept straying to the telly. There was a match on.
Men, Rose decided, were all the same. Even when they were time travelling aliens.
"So who's the new fella then, eh?" Shareen asked, nodding her head in the direction of the bar.
"Yeah. Kinda dishy."
Rose's mouth dropped open in shock. "Shareen!"
"Don't you fancy him, then? I mean, you just said you're going off with him..."
"God, Shareen he's—" an alien, she was about to say, then stopped. "He's got to be, I dunno, forty at least."
Shareen raised an eyebrow. "Clive Owen's forty. That didn't stop you from seeing Closer three times."
"Jude Law was in that, too."
"He wasn't in Second Sight , and I remember you bloody well glued to the telly, every time that came on."
"It's different when it's an actor and not a real person," Rose said, feeling a blush creep up her neck. "And could you keep your voice down?" She had no idea if his sort of alien had crackerjack hearing, and didn't want to take any chances.
"Still think he's dishy. How'd you meet him, anyway?"
"He came in the shop." And then blew it up. "It all happened so fast... He's a bit mad, really. But sweet, too. I dunno. Lonely. Someone's got to look after him. I might as well."
"You gotta stop picking up strays, girl. Is he rich, then?"
"His place is enormous," Rose said immediately. "Much bigger than it looks from the outside."
"I'll miss you," Shareen said, suddenly serious, and enveloped Rose in a one-armed hug. "Will you send me exotic postcards from far off places?"
Rose wiped at suddenly smarting eyes. "If I can."
"Here we are," the Doctor said as he slid two pints across the table, and scooted in next to Rose.
"What are you drinking?" Rose asked, almost afraid of the answer. Maybe aliens drank battery acid, or petrol. She had no idea. They hadn't got to the drinks and chit-chat part of the party at the end of the world, on account of murder and mayhem.
The Doctor grinned. "Lemonade."
"And?" Shareen prompted.
Rose took his glass and had a small sip. "Just lemonade," she confirmed. The Doctor elbowed her, and cradled his glass close to his chest. She elbowed him right back.
"You the designated driver, or something?" Shareen asked as she took a long sip of her beer.
The Doctor laughed. "Yeah. Sort of."
"You know, it doesn't work the way you think it does," the Doctor said as he and Rose walked side by side down the darkened street.
They'd bundled Shareen off into a taxi, and taken the tube back to the block of council flats Rose called home. She'd had a few pints, and her cheeks were flushed, but her gait was steady and she'd had no trouble keeping up with him, even though his legs seemed miles longer. He'd stuck to lemonade all night, though as they'd watched Shareen's cab disappear into London traffic, he'd confessed he liked a drop of port every now and then, and champagne on New Year's Eve.
She'd wondered how many New Year's Eves he'd dropped in on, over the years. Centuries, if Clive's website had all been true which—she suspected—it must be. Pictures of her would start popping up on Clive's website, now. That was a funny thought. That maybe she'd been in them all along, just hidden from the camera.
"What doesn't?" Rose asked, tucking a stray wisp of blonde hair behind her ear. The Doctor had taken her knapsack and slung it over one shoulder as they'd left the bar.
He looked up into the night sky, stars only visible here and there, paled by the sodium lamps. "The universe."
"You mean Einstein was wrong? About E equals em cee squared and all that?"
"Not all of it. Not his fault, really. If he'd known that he ought to have been thinking in four dimensions instead of three, well, who knows what you fuzzy little apes might have got up to on your own."
She would have taken offence at his constant categorisation of the human race as primates, but he said it with such obvious fondness she could quite work up a convincing scowl.
They reached the TARDIS, which sat in a pool of light from the street lamp. He held out her knapsack, and she took it. The Doctor reached up into the cubby-hole behind the P in POLICE and fished out the key. The door opened with a creak. He turned to her with an expectant look.
Rose chewed on her bottom lip, staring at the dark interior of the TARDIS.
"Doctor, since I've met you, you blew up the shop I worked in, ripped off my boyfriend's head, saved the world, then took me to see the end of it all, and I got spit on by a little blue man, and almost burnt to a crisp."
The Doctor looked at her gravely. "So you're still having second thoughts?"
"No. But I'm not so sure about the spitting."
"But you're all right with the occasional running for your life?"
"It'll keep me fit." She shrugged. "Otherwise, I'd just sit around all day, eating chips and watching telly."
He grinned, and stepped inside, swallowed by the rickety old telephone box.
She followed him into the TARDIS without even a backward glance.