A Second Chance: Meeting Rose Tyler
Burning. Burning, burning, always so much burning. Why couldn't regeneration ever be easy? His eleventh body... the Doctor scoffed from his position on the TARDIS floor and stood, wobbling a bit as he did so. Good thing Donna had left him already, otherwise seeing him like this would have seen her packing for sure. A pounding in his head shook him from his thoughts. He'd have to make it back to his room before the regeneration sickness overtook him. It always did.
He'd heard of other Time Lords who regenerated as easily as they changed their shoes. Romana - now there was a Time Lady who knew how to regenerate. She could even choose what she'd look like for the next go around, which was far more than he could say. He'd been lucky with his latest body, so chances were he'd end up a decrepit old man this time.
He stopped as he past by the bathroom and glanced in the mirror, surprised by the young face looking back at him. Even longer hair this time around, and hazel eyes that were greener than brown. Still not ginger. His skin looked fresh and his body slim, though not so much as his tenth body. He could have passed for twenty easily. He took note of how he seemed to be getting younger with each regeneration and wondered if his final body would end up being a toddler. Then, everything went black.
When the Doctor woke, the first thing that came to mind was Rose. He'd been waiting so long, and perhaps had been a bit reckless in the process. Waiting until it was safe to see her. He couldn't touch her. Couldn't talk to her or interact with her at all, but he could see her without any chance of messing up the timelines, just like Jack had done. He wouldn't seem vaguely familiar to her when he regenerated, and if he got his timing off and saw her after she'd already met him, there was no way she'd recognize him.
Any other time he'd have spent hours in the wardrobe room, trying to find what felt right. The clothes that fit the new man. This time he couldn't be bothered and grabbed the least conspicuous clothing he could find for the 21st Century. Jeans, a t-shirt and jacket and a pair of trainers. He didn't even bother looking at his hair.
The TARDIS was practically yelling at him out loud for what he was about to do, but he ignored her and the sparks that jumped out as he headed out the door. The sun was shining, he was feeling better and he was about to see Rose Tyler. Nothing could possibly ruin his mood.
Except for running smack into said Rose Tyler almost instantly.
And not a figurative run in like passing her by. He ran head on directly into her, nearly knocking her to the ground. He reached out to grab her instinctively and pulled her back up to standing, her hand in his.
Rose let out a breath and laughed lightly. "Whew. Nearly got me there. You practicing for a -rugby match or something?"
He gave her a small laugh and tried to step back from her, but his feet wouldn't move. "Just, wasn't watching where I was going."
"Mmm. I can see that. So, what's your name?"
A million names ran through his head at once. Somehow John Smith sounded far too lame to catch her interest. And really, he shouldn't be trying to catch her interest. In fact he should have run in the opposite direction as soon as he'd realized who she was, but still... He just wanted a few more minutes with her, so he had to come up with a name. What else had he used? James McCrimmon. James was a bit stodgy though. "Jimmy," he muttered, the name sounding familiar. He thought through the rolodex of people he'd met, heard of or seen. Jimmy Hendrix. Jimmy Breslin. Jimmy Carter. "Jimmy Stone."
"Jimmy Stone, huh?"
He blinked, not realizing he'd said that last one out loud. Jimmy Stone; Rose's ex-boyfriend.
"Sounds like a rock star."
He swallowed hard, trying not to stammer. "Yeah, that's me."
"So you're a musician?"
"Yes... Of sorts." This was not good. So far from not good, in fact, that he was willing to classify it as disastrous. Cataclysmal even. It had been a risk to even try seeing her, but getting involved in her timeline was quite possibly the worst thing he could do. He tried to focus on the timeline and see what damage he'd done. Was there a real Jimmy Stone wandering the streets of London somewhere? Or had it always been him? Memories of late night conversations and revelations came to mind and he couldn't make sense of it all with Rose standing right there staring at him. Leaning so close that he could smell her soap and shampoo and the fresh coat of nail polish she must have put on that morning.
"Are you alright?"
He looked up, blinking rapidly. "Fine, yeah. Just sort of... at a loss for words."
She lowered her head with a bashfulness that was anything but genuine. "Why's that?"
"Oh, just..." He swallowed hard, not knowing what he could possibly tell her. Unable to come up with anything he decided to change the subject. "Sorry, have you got the time.
Rose looked down at her watch and swore under her breath. "8:40. Right, well I better get going. If I'm late to school again they just might ask me to stop coming." She gestured to the books in her arms.
He laughed slightly. "Wouldn't know what they're missing." He paused, knowing he was about to do something incredibly stupid but unable to stop it. "You could... not go."
She smiled, glancing at him with a twinkle in her eye. "Hmm, tempting as that sounds, don't know what I'd do otherwise."
"You could come with me." He couldn't help it. She was right there in front of him and all he wanted to do was reach out and hold her. To take her with him and keep her forever.
"Is that right?" She nodded playfully while poking her tongue out between her teeth. It'd been so long since he last saw her do that. Even before Canary Warf, she'd stopped doing it as often as she used to. That innocent and playful flirting. "And where exactly would we go?"
"Oh, we could go anywhere. Right on up to the moon. Picnic on Mars." He quieted when she began to giggle. "Or, we could just go for chips?"
She smiled coyly and seemed to deliberate. "Hmm, not much for chips actually."
"Really?" He couldn't hide the look of incredulity of his face.
"Suppose I could make an exception." She hooked an arm through his and started to guide him down the street.
"My Mum says this place has the best chips," she told him as they rounded a corner. "I've never really liked them though."
"Really? Never?" He was starting to wonder if he'd stumbled into another universe somehow.
"Nope. They're way too plain."
"Oh, you've just never had them made the right way."
They entered the shop and sat down at a tattered booth. A waitress came over almost immediately since no one else was looking for chips that early in the morning.
"Can't believe I'm missing school already." Rose commented while they waited.
"Yeah, well, I was sort of suspended a little while back."
The Doctor laughed lightly. "What for?"
"I convinced the school choir to strike. Not my fault really. They kept changing schedules and canceling thing without telling us, and then punishing us when we didn't show up.
"I never knew that."
Rose frowned. "What do you mean 'never knew'?"
The Doctor mentally smacked himself and fought the urge to panic. "I mean, I never knew you could do that. For a choir to strike, I mean."
"Oh, well yeah. Technically I guess you can't, which is why I ended up getting kicked for a few days."
"Oh, your Mum must have loved that."
"She was proud of me actually... once she stopped yelling."
The waitress brought over two platters of chips and the Doctor immediately reached for the salt and vinegar, seasoning them exactly as Rose had forcibly taught him that first time they had chips together.
"Oi! I'd like there to be more potato than vinegar on there," Rose admonished, obviously displeased with his apprehending of her food.
"Trust me." He sprinkled on the salt, adding a bit more to the crispier chips, then pushed hers over. She stared down at it apprehensively. "Really, just try it."
She picked one up and slowly brought it to her mouth, placing it inside with an agonizing amount of caution. Her eyes fluttered closed as she took her time chewing and swallowing. By the time her eyes opened back up she was smiling.
"That was good."
"Told you so."
She reached for another and popped it in her mouth without her previous trepidation.
"Careful now," he warned, taking a chip for himself. "Eat too many of those and you'll regret it."
She froze, fried potato hanging halfway in her mouth. "I'm gonna get fat, aren't I?"
"Nah! Just gotta stay active. That's the key to everything. Plenty of running and adrenaline pumping and you can eat a bag of these every day."
"You know, that's true. I used to be so slim when I was doing gymnastics. A lot shorter too... and I had no breasts whatsoever."
"Such a shame."
Rose's head snapped up, her eyes wide. Realizing he'd spoken aloud, the Doctor groaned and attempted to slide under the table and into oblivion.
"I can't believe you just said that."
"Neither can I." He hung his head low, daring to peak at her from the corner of his eye. She was positively beaming at him, and once she caught his eye, she burst out laughing.
"You don't have to laugh you know."
"But... I can't help it. Just look at you! What are you twenty"
"Twenty years old and turning red as a tomato."
"I am not that red!"
"You so are! I've never seen a guy blush like that."
"Blush?! I'm not blushing! Time L-... Time for me to go if you're just going to make fun of me."
"No, don't go." She reached to grab his wrist before he was able to stand, though he had no real intention of leaving. "Come on. It was cute."
"Cute?" He hoped his disbelief was clear in the look he was giving her.
"Yes, cute. Come here." He leant forward and it took all his physical prowess to not fall from the seat when she kissed his cheek.
"What was that for?"
She shrugged. "Just felt like it. Seemed like th-"
"Rose Marion Tyler!"
That time the Doctor did fall from his seat when the voice of Jackie Tyler shot through him, stopping one of his hearts.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Rose jumped up, ignoring the Doctor as he tried to get back up while maintaining some level of dignity.
"Mum! It's not how it looks. He's... he's..."
"A tutor." The Doctor supplied, no longer caring about timelines and how wrong this all was and instead focusing on survival.
"Oh really?" Jackie gave him a scrutinizing glare. "What kind of tutor takes their student out of school?"
"Well, technically I didn't take her out since she never went in." Her glare worsened. "Right, but, my uh, teaching methods are very unorthodox, but effective."
"He's one of the best. Specializes in GCSE exams." Rose added.
Jackie rolled her eyes. "How thick do you think I am? You wouldn't go to a tutor if I forced you to, let alone pay for one yourself. And you, "she pointed at the Doctor, "have no idea who you're trying to fool. How old are you anyway? She's only a kid. What are you, some kind of pervert?"
"No, Rose. You have no idea what a bloke like this is like. Only looking for sex. Shame on you, tricking a young girl like her to come with you."
The Doctor stood stock still, pondering his best move, and then he started laughing. He couldn't help it. The entire conversation was so familiar, he couldn't get over it. If only Jackie had known when she first met him... a few years from now.
"He's an absolute nutter." She took Rose's hand and pulled her towards the exit. "Come on."
"See you around." The Doctor waved, not knowing if it was true but enjoying the relief of having survived the wrath of Jackie.
None of this had gone how he'd planned and it seemed he was doomed to foul things up from the get go. Couldn't even look at her for a minute before he'd bumbled into her and let her lead him astray. This was her fault entirely. He couldn't be blamed for falling for her again and being unable to walk away.
But that still left the question of how to proceed. He was almost certain now that there never was another Jimmy Stone to begin with, and he was just filling the part that had been left for him, which meant he'd definitely be seeing more of Rose. A lot more. It was quite possibly the most dangerous thing he could do, and a greater gift that he'd ever have asked for or expected, but for some reason fate seemed to be giving him a second chance.