Title: The Breath of Life
Author: Lady Yueh
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: This is where I tell you I don't own Doctor Who. 'Cuz I don't.
Timeline: Pre-"The Empty Child"
Beta: The lovely and brilliant desertrose9. There are no words to express how awesome she is.
Author's Notes: Requested by doctorfan for the Ninth Doctor Ficathon.Thanks for the prompt that inspired this fic. It really snowballed, which was rather horrifying at 3 a.m., and I have to apologize for taking this opportunity to exercise my non-existent romance skills. I really hope that I captured Nine (he's a slippery bastard). After all, that's what the Nine Ficathon is about. Thanks also go tolafemmedarla who organized the ficathon.
--------

'Typical,' The Doctor thought. 'They always wander off.'

Had he been a couple of centuries younger he might still have the energy—no, the naiveté—to be angry. As if that ever helped. It was a universal constant in action he supposed.

He couldn't even summon up frustration much less surprise. He had long since resigned himself to the situation. Might as well chuck the entire rule out of the introduction speech. Except, he was still, foolishly, holding out to see if this particular constant would hold true. He had time. A few centuries, at least. Surely, somewhere, somewhen, in some alternate reality perhaps, there was someone who understood instructions and followed them. Someone who'd stay put when you told them not to wander off. Was it too much to ask for?

Apparently so.

Reconciled with his lot in life, he tried to find the bright side of things. More practice saving companions that seemed to be the bastard children of jeopardy and pandemonium? Fan-bloody-tastic.

Well, if experience had taught him anything then either Rose would appear with an explanation that included her being lost or…

Angry shouts rent the air.

Well, the former had never happened but one could certainly hope couldn't they?

She'd gone and found trouble.

Again.

--------

Time Lords, contrary to their names, did not control Time. They understood it, certainly, but with enough study anything can be understood.

A man could study the weather. Measure, calculate and permutate until he was blue in the face and after a few centuries he could grow to see every pattern, every possibility. But even then, he could not, himself, bend the winds or the tides to his will with the merest of thoughts.

Why else would Time Lords require a TARDIS to navigate the Vortex? They could travel within it, harness it to suit their needs but Time versus Time Lord? No contest.

But, there had been some among them (the more aware and sensitive of the Time Lords) who not only understood, they knew Time. Were acquainted with it to such an extent that they were considered its avatars. The Elite. The Chosen. They not only grasped the laws and rules of Time to a ridiculous degree, Time spoke to them.

Suffice to say, The Doctor had not been and was not one of those.

It was why he hadn't passed his exams.

Why he hadn't merited a TARDIS. One needed to have Time on their side to pilot one with accuracy, after all.

And Time—Time did not speak to him. Or maybe it was that he didn't listen?

Luck seemed to favour him though.

But, by definition, luck wasn't the most dependable of forces.

S'why they called it Lady Luck, after all. But, for all that, it did seem as if Fortuna was watching over him rather doggedly. With all her aspects: the good, the doubtful, the brief and all too often, the bad. Sometimes he wished she'd stop.

This was not one of those times.

Therefore, when he followed the screams he was not in time to save Rose before she was chucked over the cliff. But luck made sure he was there in time to see her go over and follow mere seconds later.

Funny thing about Avethera, lighter gravity and an indigenous avian species completely compatible with humans. Generations later you get a mixed raced with characteristics of both species.

The problem occurred when their society went into an upheaval and the civilization regressed. Then you got the religious fanatics who were concerned with racial purity. Because some people retained less avian traits (i.e. denser bone structure, hair instead of feathers, etc.) you got a portion of the population that was incapable of flight.

Which was the perfect excuse for the bigots to point and say, 'They're evil! Their wicked hearts weigh them down and the sky rejects them!' And evil couldn't be allowed to infect the populace. So they got the offender and threw them off the nearest cliff. If they were pure then they'd fly and if they weren't—well who wants a threat to their society anyway?

Which was why he'd told Rose to stay put.

Luckily for them, the gravitational force was not strong enough that they would be seriously hurt upon impact.

That wasn't the problem.

The Avetherans wouldn't toss someone off a cliff into the ocean if they could just swim to safety. They weren't that thick.

It wasn't the impact that killed you.

It was the water.

Well, what passed for water in these parts.

Unlike water, this fluid was viscous. A body hit the liquid with such force as to be propelled to the bottom of the ocean floor. Stunned, the victim would lose precious moments and be unable to surface before their meagre supply of air was exhausted. If conditions were favourable one might lose consciousness. The unlucky ones were in for an excruciating and slow death by asphyxiation. Those very few that did reach the surface could expect a strenuous obstacle: reaching the shore. Most of them, too exhausted, simply sunk again. The rare times that one did achieve the impossible, usually by walking the ocean floor and then surfacing, only served to showcase the cruelty of their tormentors.

They were taken and thrown off the cliff again.

And again. Until they no longer emerged from the densely undulating surface.

That would not happen here.

He wouldn't allow it.

He'd executed a rather impressive dive which had cut through the air and put him that much closer to Rose.

She still hit the ocean first.

He ignored the uncomfortable sensation of the thick liquid and forced his eyes open after his body absorbed the shock of the collision.

It was almost impossible to see so he stretched his considerable senses to find Rose.

He had the briefest of windows in which to reach her before…

No. He would reach her.

He thanked whatever powers governed the universe that Rose had decided to wear a bright red top which was a stark contrast to the purple liquid which endangered their lives; it made things much easier.

His advanced physiology was already at work. His superior strength and the lack of currents to sweep her away meant that he could reach her swiftly.

The Doctor could see her struggling on the ocean floor in an attempt to gain some sort of elevation. Her face was turning colours from lack of oxygen and a large dose of panic.

He ignored the flurry of warmth that filled his hearts that was a result of the expression of relief and absolute trust that transformed her face when she blearily caught sight of him.

He stretched out his hand.

She took it.

He pulled her close and wrapped an arm about her middle to anchor her to him. As her hands went to his shoulders, he used his other hand to ruthlessly clamp down on her nose and fused his mouth to hers.

Rose stilled. Then the basic human response when suffocating, the instinct to fight for air, took over and she thrashed against him.

Her mouth opened in what should have been a last futile attempt to breathe.

Oxygen filled her mouth and travelled to her starved lungs. The shock of it almost made her choke but The Doctor's mouth was attached to her own with such force that all she managed were tremors and spasms.

The air burned in her lungs but they fulfilled their function and stripped it of the necessary oxygen.

She exhaled.

The Doctor took her breath.

And then he returned it to her moments later.

'How is he?' Rose could not even put a name to whatever phenomenon was occurring. They were literally sharing a single breath.

She exhaled, he inhaled.

He exhaled, she inhaled.

She lost count of how many times the process was repeated. Every time she tried to move away, make some motion to question how they were going to leave, he only tightened his grip until she stopped making such attempts.

They couldn't stay attached like this forever!

A minute or so in, The Doctor had released his hold on her abused nose and she knew not to attempt to breath through her nostrils. She was comforted further when he took her hand while the other still had his shoulder in an iron grip.

A minute after that, and a considerable amount of breaths later, she was calm and reassured that she wasn't going to die at that very moment. At least not from oxygen deprivation.

Which was when her traitorous body decided to realise that she was plastered against The Doctor; held tighter against him than ever before. So close, in fact, that she could feel the odd double thump of his hearts against her front.

She was acutely aware of the strong arm that held her against him, the large hand that enveloped her own.

And what had to be the longest lip-lock in the history of mankind! Seriously, it had to have been at least five minutes! How long were they going to be doing this?

She'd been too panicked before to recognise that there were lips—his lips against hers—and open mouths that would make it oh-so easy to just flick her tongue. On accident, mind you. Not just to get a taste.

But his eyes. They had turned that shocking shade of blue that she'd first noticed when he'd first told her to run. That colour which made his gaze so thrilling and intense. Those eyes that were mere centimetres from her own.

She hoped he wouldn't feel the shiver that overtook her body but knew it was futile. Especially when she felt a feeble blush fill her cheeks.

His gaze seemed to sharpen and there was concern there. A silent question was conveyed with his eyes.

She squeezed his hand and tried to put as much assurance that she was fine into her own eyes.

That was when her unconscious habit kicked in.

The motion of her tongue was instinctive and quick. It brushed across the inside of The Doctor's lower lip. To his credit, he didn't flinch and endanger their air supply. His eyes darkened, he stilled and squeezed Rose's hand tightly.

He saw her eyes widen in shock. Her mouth flexed against his own and she squirmed against him. He tried to ignore the tingling warmth of his lip. He held back the impulse to run his own tongue across the exact spot that her own had—and maybe even further—to see whether he could taste her there. The sensitive inside of his mouth was definitely interested in the warm, slippery appendage that it had just been acquainted with.

Fortunately, he had better self-control than that. Risking their lives for a snog? Risking Rose's life? Never.

Surely it had been long enough that the Avetherans had written them off as dead and gone home.

He released Rose's hand, attributed the giddiness that filled his stomach to the lack of oxygen (never mind that his physiology took care of that problem) and not to the feel of her hands grasping tightly at his shoulders.

He manoeuvered in an attempt to withdraw his sonic screwdriver and ignored the soft flesh he'd had to brush in order to reach. He really did; it was the effort of moving through the thick fluid that made his hand tremble minutely.

Rose froze, her lips quivered and he had to adjust his breathing to match her short breaths.

She pulled at his hand and he withdrew it from the awkward angle he'd had to use. He tensed then forced himself to relax as she plunged her quick little hands into the depths of his pockets. It was nothing to get worked up about. She'd done it plenty of times before.

'But we weren't fused at the lips before,' the more traitorous part of his mind taunted.

He ignored the stray thought as Rose unearthed the sonic screwdriver. He then tried to concentrate on remembering the correct setting as she handed it to him.

This was going to seriously deplete the battery.

He pointed it above his head and kept his grip on Rose.

Rose blinked in surprise as she felt the thick liquid around them become runny. She gasped in surprise as The Doctor scissored his legs furiously. He didn't falter for a moment; synchronizing their breathing, as if it were second nature, while he swam them up with powerful movements.

They quickly broke the surface and for the first time in almost half an hour they broke apart from their embrace and breathed deeply.

"What," Rose gasped, "was that?!"

Much more composed than his companion, The Doctor answered, "No time. We have to swim for the shore. The sonic screwdriver can't modify the basic structure of this much liquid for an extended amount of time."

He motioned for her to go first and she glared to show she wasn't giving up the topic before starting to swim for the shoreline.

The sonic screwdriver sputtered out as they reached the shallow where the waters only reached Rose's knees.

"Now tell me," she demanded as they trudged through the gooey purple waters. "What—How did you do that?"

"Rose, you know I have two hearts and a pulmonary bypass system, is it so hard to believe that my body is advanced enough to process and recycle used air?" The Doctor questioned briskly.

Rose blinked. "That's rather handy."

"Not really," The Doctor denied. "I can't do it by myself, need a second person to keep the cycle going. If it had just been me I would have slowed down my breathing and heart rate until I was sure they were gone. And what part of 'Don't wander off' is givin' you so much trouble? D'you know how close it was? What if I had been further away? I might've never found you in that sludge!"

Rose smiled. "But you did. And we're both safe as houses. I can't believe it. All of this because I asked for the best gumdrops ever," she grumbled.

The Doctor, thankful that their underwater escapades were not going to be brought up, was eager to initiate their usual banter.

"You're soaking in a couple loads of 'em," he pointed out cheerily.

Rose made a face of disgust and horror. "They make gumdrops out of that!" she screeched as she pointed to the lilac ocean.

The Doctor nodded.

"And they lob people off of cliffs into the stuff? We're going to put a stop to it right?"

The Doctor beamed.

"That's the plan."

Rose nodded decisively, an oddly authoritative gesture considering that she was coated in lavender coloured gunk. "Good."

--------

Prompt:
Ninth Doctor Pairing/Other characters you'd like to see on the story: Rose
Up to three things you want in your fic: swimming, something really alien about Nine, gum drops
Up to three things you don't want in your fic: badly written smut, Martha, Ten