'Who are you and how the hell do you know I'm pregnant?'
He looks shocked, then concerned and finally settles in conflicted, staring at the empty space between his hands on the bar until it is filled with a glass tumbler.
'I just know.' He tells his scotch.
Rose just stares at him. 'Well that was specific.'
The man looks straight forward, eyes set on the selection of alcohols and Rose examines his profile. The irritation of being watched makes the man slap his hands against the bar and turn to her.
Rose just smirks at him. 'Annoying, isn't it?'
'I was just keeping an eye on you.' His eyes flick quickly to her abdomen and then search her face.
His eyes track all across her face, studying her with an intensity that should put her on edge if she wasn't so used to that kind of gaze already.
'Have you ever heard of a phantom itch?'
The words are so enunciated and unexpected that Rose just blinks. 'A what?'
'A phantom itch. All it takes is just the suggestion, someone just talking about an itch. Then you feel it crawling along your skin, suddenly you can't stop scratching.'
The skin behind Rose's ear is tingling and demanding attention. She brushes aside a few wayward strands of blonde hair and digs into the itch with satisfyingly sharp fingernails. 'What about it?'
'You are by far the most infuriating itch I've ever met.'
'Do you make it a habit?' Rose asks.
'Stalking your itches?'
'Only when I can't scratch them.'
He vanishes from the bar before Rose had a chance to interrogate him further. She feels woozy for a moment, places her hands on her stomach, closes her eyes and breathes deeply.
She opens her eyes only moments later and the chair is empty beside her.
Every time she sees him, he's gone within a few minutes. The second time they speak, she manages to say, 'Torchwood specialises in the discovery and neutralisation of alien threats.'
'I know.' He answers.
They are at a park this time. Children run past all bundled up in parkers and beanies.
'Then why are you here?' Rose asks.
He picks a slinter of wood from the bench and rolls it between his fingers.
'Some say that itching just damages the pain receptors, that it doesn't actually do anything. You can't classify an itch; it's not quite pain because you react to it differently. Scratching is just a reflex. Primoridal actions.'
'You talk a lot without saying anything.' Rose observes. 'I used to know a man like that.'
He stands sharply and stares at her, his eyes narrowing at her gradually growing belly. Something akin to a sneer crosses his features and he turns and stalks away, his jacket flapping in the brisk wind.
'You're a Time Lord.' She says, the next time they meet.
A parody of a smile spreads across his handsome face. 'Then you already know too much.' With his teeth bared like that, he looks like a shark. 'How do you know that? Earth wasn't involved in the Time War, you shouldn't know that.'
'I know all about the Fall of Arcadia and the Dalek Emperor and the cult of Skaro.
'I know how the Time War devastated your home world and your people.'
'I said, stop.'
'And I just have one question for you.' Rose looks him in the eye. 'Where were you? Where were you when the stars were going out?'
The man looks away. 'Running.'
'That's not good enough.'
'I never was.'
By some grand sense of irony, the baby decides that no, Rose will not be eating chips for the next few months. There are no bizarre cravings, only the smell of chips that makes her queasy.
She'd feel more upset if the life inside her hadn't already made her more sensitive to Johns smell still clinging to the blue suit in the cupboard.
'I don't understand you.' He says harshly to her one day, accusing, like it's all her fault he is confused.
He leans in close where she's sitting on the park bench, placing both hands on the backrest on either side of her head, as if staring long enough would force the answers to leap from her mind.
'Sometimes I don't understand me either.' Rose says dryly.
He's trying to intimidate her. He does have a formidable power behind his actions, but Rose has faced down nightmares far more frightening than a man in a suit.
'You reek of background radiation, but it's not a brand I've come across before. There's something… something of the Vortex about you.' He jerks his head at her swollen stomach and sneers. 'And that child, it's not quite human, and not quite Time Lord.' His face is so close to hers now, warm breath ghosting over her skin. 'Why can't I scratch you, Rose Tyler?'
He raises a hand and Rose tenses on instinct, but the man just trails it down over her heart.
His hand lands on her stomach and the baby kicks like it's disgusted.
She sees the man more and more as her belly grows. In parks and restaurants and once on the rooftop of Canary Wharf. She wonders why she puts up with him without pressing for more answers, about the Time Lords in this universe, how he knew her, who he is. He wonders why she's still breathing.
Occasionally she'll offer to share her salad or milkshake or whatever she's munching on at the time. He will always sneer and continue watching the crowd.
And always his fingers keep a rhythm.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
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