Title: Concatenation
Author: castrovalva9
Rating: PG
Characters: One/Rose
Summary: Why do you think the Doctor has generally travelled with young women over the years?

Even though she had held an important position at Torchwood for nearly four years, Rose Tyler still found herself listening for sounds of the TARDIS nearby. Surely the Doctor, with his wonderful brain, would figure out a way back to the woman he loved. On that point, she held little doubt.

Then, one day, it happened. Rose was enduring a boring budgetary meeting when suddenly, she was certain her ears caught an echo of the TARDIS materialisation noise. It was so distinctive, she couldn't have been mistaken.

Rose shot out of the meeting room and down the corridor, hurdled a chair, bypassed the far-too-slow lift, and galloped down nine flights of stairs. Panting, she shoved open the outside door and emerged into the open air.

There was no sign of the TARDIS. Rose clutched a painful stitch in her side and hobbled around the building at as fast a pace as she could manage. Still no TARDIS. She must have been wrong.

She was about to drag herself back indoors when she spotted an old man nearby. He was staring at her, and he looked incredibly sad. For a moment, in the face of his obvious pain, Rose forgot her own trials. She approached the man and gently said, "Hello. Are you all right?" Then, before he could reply, an exciting thought struck her. "Did the Doctor send you to me? The time-and-space-travelling alien Doctor, I mean. Is that why you were watching me? Do you know him? Do you?" she fairly screamed.

"Know him?" The man threw back his shoulders and clasped his lapels. "Young lady, I am the Doctor!"

"Oh, no, you've regenerated again!" Rose blurted, just managing to avoid the unflattering addendum of "And into an old man, too!" Nevertheless, the thought that the trauma of losing her had forced the Doctor to regenerate into a much older and (let's face it) far less sexy persona was a tragically romantic idea that greatly appealed to Rose's fanciful side.

"Regenerated again?" the man cried, promptly bursting her bubble. "Why, I've never done it even the once yet. This is my original body."

Rose deflated. "Oh. It's just that now you look old enough to be my grandfather, and the Doctor I knew most recently looked old enough to be my slightly-older-by-about-15-tiny-little-years boyfriend."

"Miss, in actual fact, I am already, in my first incarnation, old enough to be at least your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather," the Doctor declared.

In making this statement, he sounded so much like the Doctor who had rattled off "New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New Earth" to her that tears again infiltrated Rose's eyes. In the next moment, she found herself spilling out the entire epic tale of her and the Doctor's adventures and undying love. It was a long story full of detailed explanations and reenactments, but Rose wanted to make sure she properly related the complete story. "And we loved each so, so much," she finally concluded on a sniffle.

"There, there." The old Doctor patted her hand. "Never be so upset."

Rose smiled bravely. "I do feel better after talking to you."

"That's very good to hear." The Doctor smiled and reached out to clasp her hand.

Rose beamed; the way he held it reminded her very much of her own two Doctors. And no matter how old and wrinkled this man looked, he was still the Doctor, she firmly reminded herself. "I don't suppose," she said tentatively, "that is, would you mind very much if I travelled with you? At least until we find my Doctor? I think we'd have a better chance as a team."

"Certainly you may!" The Doctor hugged her with such great enthusiasm that Rose felt like all the air had been squeezed from her lungs before he eventually withdrew. He studied her face, then remarked, "You know, the reason I was staring at you earlier was because you greatly remind me of my granddaughter, Susan. She was a brunette, too."

"I'm blonde!" Rose protested.

The Doctor gallantly refrained from staring pointedly at her dark roots and instead draped an arm around her shoulders as he steered her down the street and around the corner. Rose caught her breath; there stood the TARDIS in all her glory, looking so wonderfully familiar and homely. She tried to quicken her steps, but the Doctor was clutching her like a lifeline and she was forced to match his deliberate gait.

"Sometimes I think I'll never get over the loss of dear Susan," he remarked. "She was around your age the last time I saw her." He hugged Rose a bit closer and took a shaky breath before he went on. "Vicki, Katarina, Sara, and Dodo were all lovely, but they weren't my Susan." They stopped in front of the TARDIS and the Doctor inserted his key into the lock, all the while maintaining his tight hold on Rose and moving his lips close to her ear. "Ah, yes, you and I are going to get on wonderfully. You know, I like young girls!"