Disclaimer: Not mine in any universe.
Summary: Ten/Rose. Takes place after s2's "New Earth." Looking and touching, being seen and being held: Rose suffers some after effects of the psychograft.
First Doctor Who fic! Please review!
Her hands cover her face, blocking out the light with short blunt fingers and unevenly polished nails. She's experiencing ten different levels of uncomfortable at the moment, but it's the pains in her head that are in sharpest relief and most in need of mitigation. (Whether this agony is being inflicted on her by her physical limitations or by her frenetic emotions has become a point that is no longer clear to her mind.)
It would be a terrible way to die, she thinks, of embarrassment, in a hallway, alone, with her bra one button away from exposure. Thoughts like this only make things worse, so she tries to will her feeble mind towards happier musings. Doesn't work, of course, but worth the try, and she's back to worrying about the man who isn't there.
The doctor changed. This is the ninth time it's happened, if he is to be believed (and he is, because there he is, and she's seen a lot of other stuff that was weirder and less explainable than this. She's just seen cats as nuns as nurses on a planet with apple grass. If she can shrug that off without any mental break from reality, she can handle this.) He's the same, she reminds herself again with a deep breath. He's the same though he's different and it's going to be like it always was.
Aside from the bit of madness in the beginning (and after going through all he's gone through, she thinks the temporary madness is only fitting), he's reaffirmed that he is, in fact, himself, just a newer, and hopefully, better version. Because what is the point of change, he had asked her, if it doesn't improve things? (This was said dejectedly, when he was still in the sulks over not being ginger. She hasn't worked out precisely what red hair would signify, but as he seems very touchy on this point, she hasn't pressed it.)
He's young now, yet still old, ever so much older than her, and she knows that it will be harder now for her to remember that since he looks so much younger than Before. The floppy ears are gone, for which she is thankful, and the hair is quite nice for not being ginger. (Again, she's not belaboring the point, at least not out loud, but if he wasn't ginger before Before, what was he? Short, fat, curly-haired, olive-skinned? And would the TARDIS have a photographic record of such things—because that could be nifty blackmail to hold over his head the next time he insisted that they go to the outer rim planet of Googlbek 8 when she really preferred to go someplace warm, and you know, inhabited, or vaguely Earth-like.)
He's attractive, she must admit, and it's been a shock that's taking some getting used to. More than attractive, she concedes when she's feeling particularly truthful, but since he seems to have figured out that he can call himself sexy (no, foxy) and get away with it, she is loath to admit to it in front of him. He's arrogant enough. (Hell, he was arrogant enough with the floppy ears, never mind the new pretty freckled face.)
Change is like death in a way, and just as painful, for him (she assumes, shaking away memories of the scent of burning) and for her (she knows). But it happened and there is no way back, no way to fix what's been done, not even with a TARDIS, and so she must accept him, new teeth and all, because he's the Doctor, the designated driver, even if he doesn't particularly look like it.
She had found herself watching him now, ever curious. She began a tally in her head: this is the same, this is different. Just to see, really, what bits really do get changed during a Time Lord Regeneration. Curiosity is only human, after all.
He asked her to come along, again, and she had thought her heart would burst; whether that's from joy or the fright of what's she's letting herself in for, she's unsure. She loves traveling, loves the weirdness and the shiny thrills and the danger and the sheer mad fun of it, and if he was willing to keep her, she was willing to come. He says he travels to see the impossible; not having the luxury of living nine centuries and having a much wider definition of the word, she says she travels to see something new.
The irony of this in their current predicament is not lost on her. She's pretty sure it's not lost on him, either.
He still strokes the TARDIS in a way that seems really improper at times. She checkmarked this under the Same column, until an errant part of her brain remembers his new hands (one newer than the other), which leads to thinking about his new tongue (and the licking of inappropriate things), and the whole cataloguing process managed to get very complicated very quickly. She decided soon after that lists were overrated and useless things anyway.
She always cared about him, enough to risk death and dismemberment more than once (and she's always willing to remind him of the specifics) but now that she has several good reasons to fancy him, she thinks she just might be terrified of this new Doctor and what she might risk on his behalf.
But she keeps on looking, because she can't help herself. Because really, he is quite agreeable to look at, especially now, and it is truly unfathomable how someone can be so different and yet the same, and if anyone can excuse staring, it's the befreckled bouncy paradox that happens to be her best mate in all of space and time. (And he only ever noticed the once, so she thought she was safe and not a little bit clever.)
And now, on New Earth, the new Him knows she's been looking, Cassandra said as much. Knows she's been watching him and has been impressed by the tawny hair, the expressive eyes, the slim build. Knows that she likes it (and she's hesitant even to consider if some of her memories impressed Cassandra enough to be carried with her alien consciousness when she jumped into the Doctor as that would lead to some very scary, unwanted discussion. Because This Doctor talks. Not that the Other Him didn't talk, and incessantly too. Just that this model doesn't seem to have the same hang ups about personal space, or personal information, and this predicament of hers happens to be extraordinarily… personal.)
Her head is still aching painfully from what must be the aftereffects of Cassandra's extended vacation and she had cried off from the usual post-adventure chatterfest in order to raid the med bay's supply of paracetamol, but can't quite seem to make it there.
He's probably whacking something technical with a mallet at the moment. Well, good for him, she thinks sullenly, and grips her forehead more tightly.
She's sitting in a nice dim hallway away from all bright lights, breathing deeply in and out, trying to keep her stomach from turning queer and thinking (well, worrying) about how to precisely avoid certain conversations with certain new-ish people. Conversations about looking, and liking, and adrenaline out of control, and actions that weren't hers (though might have been, a little).
She cradles her head with her hands and feels the unnatural crunch of her hair underneath her fingertips. Bloody wonky disinfectant. Leaving through the lift with the leftovers of the Doctor's magic plague stopping cocktail had managed to cause her hair to kink in a very new and interesting and utterly tangled fashion. And of course Cassandra had had comments about that. She had had all sorts of fashion tips to impart before going off to the great beyond. Things You Could Have Done to Make My Stay in Your Chavtastic Body More Comfortable: Haircare, importance thereof; Nail Polish is Your Friend; Chin Diminishing Exercises that Really Do Work. Mr. New New Doctor just decided to go Spock while setting coordinates, pretending not to notice that she was seriously contemplating making Chip's half life into something much shorter with a hair pick through the eye.
It's the psychograft, has to be, she surmises with a grimace. Hormones unbalanced, head thumping and racing with a hundred different thoughts (why is she so stuck on the Doctor's new appearance today? And why the hell is she so distraught that her nails need a filing and that she's alone in the corridor?), stomach clearly having issues with movement, eyes sensitive to light…
Migraine, obviously. She needs drugs and a bit of merciful oblivion to stop the ideas and the pain and the friction in her head, and as the latter isn't likely to come without the former, she's definitely going to need to get up off the floor.
She takes another shaky breath and makes an attempt to rise, propping herself up with one arm against the wall of the corridor. Not so bad for a first step.
And then her whole body stiffens, because apparently today her avoidance skills are severely lacking, and there he is, the unfortunate subject of her addled and aching brain's most recent meditation, in the flesh.
"Hello. How's the old noggin'? Still hurt?" He strolls up to her, hands thrust deep in his trouser pockets.
"Mm, som'fing awful," she says with a weak grin, letting her head fall against the wall so she can hold this conversation with minimal physical effort. "Jus' headin' over to med bay to sort it."
"What, again?" he crinkles his nose in an expression of distaste. "The things you humans ingest… And under the pretense of medicine too. Can't have taken the recommended dose the first go-round, or if you did, you really ought not be taking any more of that vile stuff. Turns your liver into something nasty. We-ell, something nastier than a human liver."
She feels her eyes slowly going crosswise. "I don't care what my liver looks like so long as it'll stop the pain. But no worries—I haven't been to med bay yet. On my way, though. Get my vile human drugs," she emphasizes unkindly, "and be right as rain." She feels her eyes fluttering closed, just for a second, because the hallway lights aren't quite as dim as she had thought they were a few moments ago.
Suddenly his hands are out of his pockets and twitching at his sides, and his voice has dropped, lower and softer now. "Rose, it's been over two hours. What have you been — have you been out here all that time? In the corridor?"
"What? No. No, can't have been," she forces a laugh. Two hours? No. She had just stopped for a moment, a breath. She raises an arm to her aching forehead and rubs it, hard; once, twice. Can't have been that long…
Her hand is being removed, and the Doctor is closer now, holding her wrist imprisoned and looking at her, very wide-eyed and concerned. (A faint but familiar tingling sensation at the back of her neck warns her that she ought to be worried, but it seems such a small concern; she can pick out his freckles, this close.)
"Rose," he says in a drawn out breath, a weary sigh. "The human brain is very, very fragile." He's speaking slowly, as to a child. His other hand brushes tendrils of kinky disinfectant covered hair away from her face. "That psychograft is banned, outlawed, on all civilized planets because it can and does destroy people's minds. It stretches, and compresses, and nips and tucks; even alters brain chemistry to make room for something that shouldn't be there in the first place: a second consciousness, another soul. People go mad. Or worse."
She's struggling to follow, and the blood in her head is thudding so relentlessly and loudly that she can barely hear what he's saying. She suddenly feels hopeless and helpless and the polish is clear off her thumbnail... She removes her hand from his. "So, you got som'fing stronger than aspirin?"
He doesn't smile, just watches her face as he continues, his eyes impossibly large. "I can knock you out for the worst of it."
This sounds like a plan; oblivion is oblivion no matter how you get there. Yet his mouth is still set in a tight, thin line and the intensity of his gaze hasn't diminished, and suddenly his freckles don't matter and she is very frightened.
"But I'll be alright? After… the worst of it. I'll be back to normal? Doctor?"
He looks at her, and if she was still making her list, she'd add the Doctor's transparency in times of great danger under the Same column. He braces himself against the corridor wall, leaning heavily on one arm, and looks away, down to the floor, up to the ceiling. Her throat begins to close up and her stomach has clearly mutined: she thinks she can count the seconds before she is thoroughly sick on his brand new trainers.
"Rose, you- you will be fine," he says with determination, his hand warm and soft on the back of her neck, just under her pinned-up hair. She almost believes him, and then his face contorts into a manic grin. "Trust me."
And she can just stare into those eyes, which are brown and not blue and feel the thrum of the blood rushing through her head, and everything mercifully goes black.
Shaking. Caught, trapped- somewhere. Here, right. What a rush. Different shade of blond, eyes brown and not blue. Mischievous and enterprising young men had just been whispering scandalous things in her ear: gossip, kinky suggestions. They don't mean any of it, of course, though she's not above admitting that a cheap thrill can still have a certain titillation. Naughty boys with their wicked tongues.
Hold me. Touch me. Help me. Make the pain go away. Make it stop. Please.
The Doctor now looks like one of my naughty boys, she thinks, such a shame. Only goes to prove that Old Earth saying about things that glitter. So desperate for a snog after decades without hands, centuries without arms, and utterly, totally horrifying that He of all people was the only personable, vaguely human, non-plague-carrying thing available—kissing Chip seemed incestuous even then, the poor sickly half life thing. (She blames the vile human child and her sticky, clingy hormones for the aberration.)
Leave me alone. This is not me. Thisisnotmethisisnotme.
Ill all of a sudden. Must have been the canapés. One just can't trust the Pan-Ougonic-Greeks with a proper pate.
Light, then darkness, then light again, dimmer this time. Buzzing noises—irritating really. Flies. Sanitation is appalling in the outer planets. You'd think that if the Klagons of the Mediterranean of Piraxis 1 had mastered Gorstein's interfractal algorithms for improbability that they could grasp the simplistics of indoor plumbing. More flies. Beat them down, down, down…
OhgodthepainthepainthepainthePAIN, pressing, pounding, pulsing and it won't stop… slicing through eyelids, clawing upwards, pinpricks all over…
Doctor, help me. Doctordoctordoctordoctordoctor.
Oh, no, not him. Never Him. The hypocrite with his new face, beautiful in cheating death, just like she herself had been. Disgusting, unnatural, probably mutant Thing—he had never respected the sheer breathtaking quality in purity, in being so thoroughly human amidst all that alien grotesqueness. Like her gorgeous porcelain skin, which had always been one of her best features. Which coincidentally enough had been one of the easiest things to maintain, even now. Good pureblood genes, that.
Save me, help me, heal me…
Being this beautiful is really very tiring. No one seems to understand the effort perfection takes, how sapping to the strength.
iii: being seen
He's laid her down in the medbay, arms and legs carefully arranged along the central bed. She's hooked up to his scanner, and her heart rate is high, her breathing shallow, as if she's been running a marathon.
She looks peaceful, as if she's sleeping, except for the tell-tale movement behind her eyelids that shows she's anything but, that her mind is racing with a thousand different thoughts, not all necessarily her own. Her face is flushed, and her hair, kinky and blond and not quite as long as it was, frames her face and she looks beautiful.
He hesitates for a moment; how to solve this problem is clear, but this is Rose, Rose for gods' sake, and that was a difficulty. Because it was Rose, and she'd seen him traverse through other's heads, and had expressed great disapproval with it. Because it was Rose, and he'd never needed to bother with any mind reading or subconscious tricks or Vulcan mind-melds or whatever she liked to nickname simple Thought Transference, because she wore her thoughts on her face in brilliant technicolor. Because it was Rose, and what if something went wrong?
(He shook his head at that last fleeting thought, because he was a genius, was he not? Simple error was not probable. Making things worse, or doing something irreparable, in the realm of possibility of course, along with an eighth Harry Potter book, or the Mangfroisson Trio getting back together, but worrying about possibly screwing up was so… human, not to mention futile.)
He allows himself the one, very human, moment – of worry, of fondness and admiration, of memory and future hope, but only a moment; closing his eyes, he holds out his hands to either side of her face and begins.
iv: being held
When Rose finally wakes up, she's not in medbay, but in her room in the Tardis, surrounded by fluffy pink pillows. She vaguely recollects being carried here by the Doctor, but the specifics elude her. A slight turn of the head affords her with slight vertigo, the knowledge that her hair is probably permanently kinked as it crunches underneath the weight of her head, and a view of the Doctor, sitting in a nearby chair.
He's fiddling with something complicated, exposed wires looping over his long fingers and little pin-pricks of light reflect up in his glasses and it's all very Spock, she thinks cheekily. He's wearing a look of intense concentration, tongue between his teeth, and hasn't seemed to notice that she's making an attempt to return to the land of the living.
So she closes her eyes again, and tries to get a handle on her thoughts. She remembers collapsing, and there were lights, and a cocktail party and …
The Doctor, smiling at her and beckoning her to follow. And she did. (She always does.) Their fingers linked around one another, clasped tightly like a life-line. He's speaking but she can't really understand what he's saying, what with the party and the lights and the flies and the buzzing in her ears, but it sounds like her name.
"Rose. Focus. Rose. My Rose."
And she watches her own memories flit past her like a film reel, the first time he took her hand and ran, ran, ran; the weight of his fingers as she watched pieces of Earth float past a window; the surety in his voice when he agreed to go down fighting in a damp basement in Wales; his hand on her waist as they jitterbugged across the Tardis' main hub platform; the disappointment on his face in the church where Jackie and Pete got married; his lips burning beneath her own and surrounded by gold light.
A sigh escapes past her lips and she senses, rather than sees that he's stopped fussing with his gadget momentarily.
"Mm-mmm," she murmurs, cracking an eye open. He's hovering slightly closer, the mechanical thingamabob set aside on her nightstand, grinning madly.
"Hello right back at ya," she counters, smiling up at him.
"You were out of it for quite a while. How do you feel?"
She hesitates a second, assessing. Her headache was gone, the room had remained in one, stationary place for at least a minute, and all fingers and toes seemed to be accounted for. "Pretty good, I think." She slowly, experimentally props herself up on her elbows. "Hungry," she adds.
"Practically ravenous, I should think. What's it been? Almost 48 hours by now, I'd wager," he says absent-mindedly, rifling through his pockets.
"I've been out that long?" she asks, her mind boggling. He's paying no attention, however. A wrench, a ball of twine, a packet of Pop Rocks, three pencils, and the sonic screwdriver are unceremoniously dumped on her nightstand before he manages to find what he's looking for.
"Aha! Just what you need," he says holding out one banana, with one tiny bit of lint clinging to one end.
She wrinkles her nose fastidiously. She really is very, ridiculously hungry but she can't help her next question. "How long has that been in your pocket?"
It seems to stump him. "We-ell, hard to say really." He sniffs the banana experimentally, plucks the lint away with a quick flutter of his fingers. "Seems okay to me."
"Then you eat it."
"Bananas are good!" he counters indignantly, waving it in her face once more.
"I have no doubt, but that one in particular, is highly suspect." She swings her legs round the side of the bed. "I think I could do with some waffles."
"Drenched in syrup?"
"And heaped with butter."
"Oooh. I like yours better," he admits, tossing the fruit aside with the rest of the hoard from his outturned pocket. He clasps her hand tightly in his. "Breakfast?"
"Breakfast," she agrees, and hand in hand they head toward the kitchen. "So I was out for a while, then, huh?" she presses, not willing to give it up that easily.
"Oh, yes. But you're right as rain now. Just Rose in there, nobody else. Double, triple checked! Only your memories, your thoughts."
"Hmm. You know, it's funny. I had the weirdest dream," she says, giving him a sidelong glance. "You were in it quite a bit, I think."
"Rose Tyler, dreaming about me?" he waggles his eyebrows suggestively. "I think I'm going to blush. Am I blushing? Do I blush now?" he asks sincerely, presenting his face to her for evaluation.
"Damn. I bet if I was ginger I'd blush."
She smiles, squeezes his hand reassuringly, and doesn't press the point. "I wonder why that is, though. I mean, it was pretty horrific, before you showed up. Greeks… and pate, and…"
"Left-over transference," he says with a wave of his free hand as if it's nothing. "Doesn't mean anything. Dreaming about me, on the other hand…" he says with another blinding grin that bespeaks mischief. "That's something else altogether."
"If you don't want to tell me, you could just say so," she says slightly petulantly.
He sighs, and begins drawing circles on her palm with his thumb. "Rose, your tiny human brain was like a knitting bag that the cat got into. Different balls of string got all tangled up and caught up with one another in a heaping mess."
"All you needed was a little bit of focus. One thread, that you could follow…"
"That my tiny human brain could follow…"
"…to make sense of all the rest of it."
"So, knitting metaphor aside, you were like, what? My happy thought?"
"As in Peter Pan? Not as effective as say, the new Kylie album or the view from banana groves at Villengard at dawn, or…"
"A really salty, perfectly crunchy, skinny chip?"
"Mm. Now I want chips. Can we do chips with waffles?"
She laughs, and he laughs, and the kitchen is bright and warm and soon filled with wonderful, delicious smells. So she figures it doesn't matter. However he fixed her, she's whole again and as happy thoughts go, even if he's not ginger, even if he's slightly rude and a little bit foxy, he'll do just fine for now.