Disclaimer: I don't own anything, BBC owns it all.
Beta: Thanks so much to Bonnie for beta reading!
AN: Due to general life situations (laptop crashing, attempting to get a new job and move to a new place all at the same time) future updates may be slow in coming. The rest of this story will be posted in the next couple days, but the following episodes might take a lot longer than they have been.
Thanks so much for all the reviews, I appreciate it more than you know!
There were many sounds associated with a ship at full power, the clanking thrum of engines, faint hissing of air purifiers and even the dull groan as the heat of the hull met the freezing temperatures of deep space.
Aboard this ship there were no such sounds, thus it was only the deep, steady ticking of an unseen clock that was interrupted by the wheezing groans of a materializing TARDIS.
"Fifty-first century," the Doctor pronounced, stepping out of his magnificent time ship in favour of a rather run down simple space ship. "None too shabby."
Rose Tyler followed, busily tying her hair into a messy ponytail atop her head as she walked. "'S a bit empty. Where are we?
"On a ship," he grinned when she rolled her eyes. "In a room on a ship," he continued, meandering toward a terminal in the centre of the room. "Bridge even," he added, tapping a few buttons. Panels slid away from the ceiling, revealing a rather spectacular pinkish purple cloud. "Ah. Dagmar cluster, couple galaxies off the Earth."
"Brilliant," she gawked up at it as the Doctor played with the computer a bit more. "So," she paused, chewing her bottom lip. The Doctor didn't look up, but there was an almost unconscious tilt of his head at the sound of her voice. "Fifty-first century then?" he grunted an acknowledgement. "How far are we from the Boeshane Peninsula?"
The Doctor dropped a rather heavy-looking cable, muttered something that sounded like a curse and shot her a dark look. "No, Rose."
"I'm just askin' -"
"I told you already," he went back to the terminal with a decidedly more hostile attitude. "Even if we could, all it would do is cross timelines because he wouldn't be there after we left him."
"Yeah, well, we know where he is after," Rose muttered.
"I've told you to drop it, Rose," he practically growled. "He'll live and he can't travel with us any more, end of story."
"Fine then!" she stood up and crossed to the porthole, taking deep, even breaths as she glared out the window. "So this cluster, got anything good in it?" she managed a fairly good approximation of a calm voice. "What're the people like?"
"Don't know; never been before," he pressed a few more buttons on the console. "Well that's a bit off," he muttered, frowning.
Rose glanced over her shoulder and tilted her head. "Trouble?"
His eyes met hers seriously. "This ship's all wrong. Engines are running full capacity, fast enough to get half-way across the system in a couple of hours."
She tilted her head up at the unmoving cloud above her head. "But...we're not goin' anywhere."
"Thank you, Rose, hadn't noticed that," his tone was dry and he had looked back to the computer bank by the time she turned to glare at him.
"So..." she waited expectantly, and then smiled grudgingly when he looked up with nothing but an excited grin. "You have no idea do you?"
"Nope!" he pulled out the sonic screwdriver and waggled it at her. "Where's the fun in lookin' if you know already?"
She smiled for real and moved back to his side. "All right, come on then, theories?"
"Give us a minute!" he twiddled a few knobs on the terminal and frowned at the display. "No life forms, crew's out."
"We're in deep space; they didn't just nip out for a quick fag," Rose pointed out, rather unnecessarily.
"You've got a knack for pointin' out the obvious," the Doctor pointed out, rather obviously. "Loads of use, you are."
She shot him a disparaging glance. "Do I need to bring up the London Eye again?"
He hunched down, focused entirely on his task. "No."
"Besides," she grinned cheekily, the tip of her tongue just visible between her teeth as she leaned against a desk, "you like me anyway."
He smiled broadly and, before she could act or react, leaned over and pressed a quick and almost entirely chaste kiss against her lips. She blinked dumbly at him.
"I do that," he grinned and adjusted something with the screwdriver. He tilted his head, raising an eyebrow. "D'you smell somethin'?"
Rose recovered her dignity slowly, hampered a bit by the intense desire to seem as if she'd never lost it in the first place. "Um," she hedged for time, waiting for her brain to stop replaying the feel of his lips on hers and actually process what he was saying. She would have to give it a stern reprimand for failing in its duties, if it didn't step it up soon. "Yes?"
He grinned wider and grabbed her hand, tugging her toward a door she swore hadn't been there a minute ago.
"Well, that's unusual," he commented, gesturing to an ornate fireplace that appeared to be set into the hull. "French. Eighteenth century – bit retro for this lot. Three thousand years retro. Actual French – how did they get an eighteenth century French fireplace on a fifty-first century spaceship?"
"Well, it's built right into the hull," Rose commented, peering through a porthole. "Don't know where the chimney's goin'."
"Oh!" the Doctor's quiet exclamation pulled her back to his side. He peered through the fire, smiling broadly and wiggling his fingers in a friendly wave. "Hello!"
"Hello?" there was a small, pale blonde girl staring back through the flames.
"An' who might you be?" he was still smiling cheerily.
"Reinette," she replied, her voice quiet and suspicious.
"Well, Reinette, I'm the Doctor and this is Rose," he nodded pointedly at his companion until she mimicked his wave and smiled. "Where are you just now, Reinette? Is that your room?"
"Of course it is, Monsieur," she was even more suspicious now. "It is the middle of the night, where else would I be?"
"Sorry, bit slow, me!" he grinned. "An' your room is..." he waited.
Reinette blinked at him. "A bedroom?"
"He's a bit thick, ignore him," Rose rolled her eyes and elbowed the Doctor lightly and ignored his objection to both the poke and the insult. "He means, where is your room? Where d'you live, sweetheart?"
"Oh," she tilted her head curiously. "I live in Paris, of course!"
"Naturally," Rose grinned. "See, Doctor? She lives in Paris, of course!"
"Mademoiselle, what are you doing in my fireplace?"
"Oh," she glanced at the Doctor. "That's a bit...complicated. Doctor?"
He grinned. "Just poppin' in for a visit. Could you tell me the date today, Reinette? D'you know the year?"
"Of course I do," she looked a bit offended and held her chin high as she replied. "Today is the twenty-third of October, in the year of our lord seventeen hundred and twenty-nine."
"Oh, fantastic year, you'll enjoy it," he nodded enthusiastically and started to stand. He paused and shot a small grin at the young girl. "Back to bed now; not to worry."
"G'night, Reinette," Rose called through the flames, waving slightly.
"Good night, Mademoiselle, good night Monsieur," Reinette smiled prettily, then also pulled herself away from the fireplace.
"Well, we know what the power was for," the Doctor pondered the fireplace, rapping his knuckled against the mantle in increasingly irritated exploration. "Now we get to ask why a fifty-first century ship has a hole to eighteenth century France."
"Maybe they're winos?" Rose hid a grin. "What are you lookin' for anyway?"
"The trigger," he muttered. "Got to be one, some way to actually open the door."
Rose shrugged, but nodded and moved around him, running her fingers along the edge of the fireplace. "Can't you just wave the screwdriver at it and figure out how it works?"
"It's not a magic wand, Rose," the Doctor frowned and stepped back, running his eyes over the piece of near-art. "It can't do everything."
"No alohomora then?" she grinned cheekily.
"Rose Tyler, you read Harry Potter?" he folded his arms and grinned back at her. "Remind me to give you the last two books; the end's a heart-breaker."
"I told you already, I do read – got to do somethin' while you're tinkerin' away at the TARDIS," she rolled her eyes and then gasped as she hit something on the edge of the mantle. That something shifted, and with it went the entire fireplace. "Doctor!"
"Oi!" but it was already circling around, like something from an old horror film. "Rose!"
The room on the other side was not, as she had half-feared it might be, the outside of the ship. It was dark still, in the early stages of dawn. She peered through the window at the city beyond – well illuminated as the distantly rising sun's light bounced off of the glittering snow. She blinked and tilted her head; she'd been to the ends of the universe but this was her first trip to Paris. Definitely pretty, but she'd rather see it after the Eiffel Tower had been built.
There was a sudden gasp behind her, making Rose jump. Reinette was sitting straight up in bed, eyes wide.
"Oh, hi!" Rose grinned weakly. "Don't scream or nothin', it's me, Rose, remember? Talkin' in the fireplace earlier?"
"Mademoiselle!" Reinette gaped. "That was weeks ago – that was months!"
"Oh," she paused. "Time travel makes everything complicated, doesn't it? Anyway, you been all right? Nothin' strange showin' up?"
Rose grinned. "You're lucky it was me and not the Doctor; he's much stranger. You got a light in here, Reinette?"
The little girl shook her head silently. "I have a candle, but they haven't come to light it yet."
Rose frowned then shrugged and adjusted the curtains to let in as much of the early morning light as she could. "Still, somethin' odd's gotta be about," she cross the room and sat on the edge of Reinette's bed. "Other than me, nothin' weird's happened to you? Nobody new in town?"
"No, Mademoiselle, nothing," the young blonde pulled her knees to her chest. "Is something bad coming?"
"I dunno," she smiled encouragingly. "But don't you worry. If it does? The Doctor and me'll sort it. It's what we do," there was a pause and Rose slowly began to frown, adjusting herself on the mattress. "Reinette, 've you got a clock under your bed?"
"No, there is just the one on the mantle," she pointed, "and it is broken."
Rose swallowed hard. "Then...what's tickin'?"
Reinette went pale.
"Right, sweetheart," Rose reached out and took the girl's hand, voice very low. "When I say, you jump off the bed and stand by the fire, close as you can without gettin' burned, all right?"
"Yes," her voice trembled only slightly.
"Good girl," she nodded encouragingly, and then slowly swivelled, climbing over the carved foot board. Her trainers hit the plush rug silently, and she reached for Reinette, pulling the child off the bed and pushing her toward the mantle. "Run!"
There was a blur of motion as something at least as tall as the Doctor burst from under the bed, moving after them. Rose held Reinette behind her, trying her best to look intimidating. The creature before them looked like a life-size harlequin doll, but there were no eyes peering out from the ceramic face.
"If you want her, you gotta go through me," she declared boldly, puffing out her chest defiantly.
"It wants me?" Reinette repeated fearfully, arms wrapped fearfully around Rose's midsection. "You want me?"
"Not yet, you are incomplete," a mechanical voice intoned.
"She's what?" Rose put her hands protectively over Reinette's. It didn't answer. "Oi, answer!"
"Why me?" the little girl cried against the back of Rose's top.
"You are compatible," it repeated. It stepped forward, and Rose stepped back. Another step, and suddenly she was very aware of how close Reinette was to the smouldering coals in the fire. The creature's arm extended and a slowly spinning blade was extended toward Rose's neck.
Rose reached behind her, fingers fumbling against the edge of the mantle. The French girl whimpered. With a triumphant laugh, Rose caught the latch and the fireplace once again spun around, faster than the murderous toy could follow.
She hopped off the platform and grinned broadly, taking Reinette's hand. "Safe now, yeah?"
The child didn't answer, but Rose found herself questioning her declaration a moment later when she realized that the Doctor was nowhere to be seen.
There was only one logical course of action after seeing Rose vanish behind a spinning fireplace: follow her.
He was a bit surprised however when he hit the latch and realized that the eighteenth century French room he was standing in was not only a good deal brighter than it had been when he'd peered through the fireplace, but also empty. It was lavish, absolutely the higher end of the nobility - truly quite magnificent - and utterly bereft of small blonde companions.
"Rose?" he stepped further into the room, a deep frown marring his face. "Reinette?"
There was no answer; which worried him more than he liked to admit. It hadn't been long enough for her to go far. He crossed to the window, peering at the city beyond. Paris – he'd developed something of a grudge against Paris; things always seemed to go rather bad there. And the French didn't drink nearly enough tea to make up for it.
There was a delicate 'ah hem' from the doorway. The Doctor started, dropping the curtain and turning quickly. Not Rose, not little Reinette either; a lovely Frenchwoman in a rather low-cut gown was watching him, smiling faintly. He grinned. "Hello!" he greeted cheerfully. "I'm looking for a blonde girl, answers to name of Rose? Seem to have misplaced her today."
She was still watching him, looking not at all surprised by finding a strange man in a child's bedroom. From the hall a woman's voice cried for Reinette. The blonde smiled secretively. "Go to the carriage, Mother, I will join you there!" her eyes did not leave the Doctor. "It is customary, I think, to have imaginary friends only during one's childhood. You are to be congratulated on your persistence."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Reinette," he shook his head, smiling slightly. "Looks like I've missed a few birthdays."
"And yet you do not appear to have aged a single day," she approached quickly, gathering her skirts. "That is tremendously impolite of you."
"Never been one for convention, me," he grinned at her for a moment, and then shook his head a bit roughly, pulling himself back to the present. Or past, whichever. "I was lookin' for Rose; she's gone and vanished...again."
"Rose?" Reinette frowned and reached out to touch his arm briefly. "I wish I could say she has been here, but I have seen nothing of her since our last encounter."
"Which was when?" he looked hopeful.
"Over a decade ago, Doctor," she twisted her fingers against the ornately beaded bodice of her gown. "I have not seen you, either of you, since I was seven years old. I had nearly convinced myself that it was all merely a dream."
"Ah," he nodded slowly, eyes drifting past her thoughtfully. She reached a hand toward his face, stroking his cheek gently. His eyes widened, attention brought definitively toward her.
"I fear I am having difficulty believing in your presence, Doctor," she told him quietly. "For reason tells me that you cannot be real."
"Reason's overrated, wouldn't trust it," he replied, a rather weak smile crossing his face. He glanced briefly to the door as a man's voice summoned on her mother's behalf.
"A moment!" Reinette called back, irritation in her voice. "If it was not a dream, then I must express this: my gratitude, Doctor," then her hands were at the back of his neck, pulling him down to her. She kissed him deeply, the force of her enthusiasm nearly pushing him back into her dressing table. His hands rested lightly at her waist, neither pulling her closer nor pushing her away.
"Mademoiselle Poisson!" the man's voice came again from the hall, closer now.
Reinette pulled away suddenly, dashing across the room. She didn't look back, sparing only a moment to pick up a small bag from the table as she ran from the room. A servant stood at the doorway, gaping at the Doctor.
He adjusted his coat casually, and gave the man a jaunty wave. "This almost makes up for the lack of tea," he informed him, quite seriously. He grinned and ran to the fireplace, hitting switch with sudden enthusiasm.
"Who the hell are you?!" the man finally demanded, getting over his shock.
"I'm the Doctor," he informed him as the fireplace began to spin. "An' Paris is fantastic!"
"Right," Rose muttered. "He shouts at me for wanderin' off, well this time who was it?" she kept Reinette's hand firmly in hers – it would absolutely not do to lose a little girl on this mad ship. Particularly an eighteenth century French aristocratic-type girl who was likely going to grow up and have a magnificent French aristocratic life doing something important. That was how things always worked with the Doctor.
"Mademoiselle, where are we going?" Reinette asked tearfully, hurrying to keep up with Rose's quick strides. "Please, not so fast."
She slowed, smiling apologetically. "Sorry, Reinette, I need to check if the Doctor's gone back into his ship. An' since I'm not exactly sure how long it will take for us to get rid of the monster from your room, an' we're absolutely not sendin' you back until we do, I'm gonna get you a pair of shoes."
The little girl nodded appreciatively. "Thank you, Mademoiselle."
"Really," Rose shook her head, pulling the girl faster. "You should just call me Rose. 'S my name, don't need to be so polite, friendly company an' all."
"All right," the girl seemed a bit awkward. "Thank you, Rose," she corrected herself.
They were in front of the TARDIS. Rose crouched just a bit to be at eye-level with the child. "I'm going to run inside, okay? You need to stay here, but I'll be back so don't be scared okay?"
"I am not scared," she replied firmly. She held her head proudly, even though her cheeks were still streaked with the evidence of frightened tears.
Rose smoothed the girl's hair gently, smiling. "Oh, I like you. All right then," she pulled out her key and slid it into the lock. "You just sit, right there, and I'll get you a pair of shoes. Don't move from this spot, don't touch anything, I'll be right back."
Obediently the child sat on the edge of a desk, her legs swinging lightly below her. Rose flashed an awkward smile then quickly turned the key, humming a nervous little tune to herself as she unlocked the door. She stroked the faux-wood panels gently as it swung open, hoping desperately that there were actually children's shoes somewhere in the ship. The wardrobe had a tendency to display things in the size of the person looking; she'd never had to find something for someone else. She froze just inside the door – sitting just beside the time rotor was a pair of tie-dyed lavender plimsolls, utterly mismatched by a pair of hot pink socks with embroidered yellow frogs. "Right, psychic ship," she muttered after a moment, quickly reaching for the shoes.
There was still no sign of the Doctor, but she wasn't terribly surprised. He would never retire to the TARDIS to wait while she was stuck on the other side of a fireplace, and especially not while there was an unexplored spaceship – which happened to be doing any number of absolutely mad things – he could be interfering with. He was out there somewhere, probably muttering about humans being too much trouble and getting himself into some.
She grinned at the thought and headed for the door, quietly locking it behind her. She held the trainers aloft for Reinette's viewing pleasure. The young girl simply blinked at them, though whether she was baffled by the fashion choices themselves or simply unsure of their purpose was never established. Rose hopped up on the desk beside her and faced the young aristocrat. "Okay, give us your feet."
There was a blank stare. Rose raised an eyebrow and the young girl swivelled slowly, placing her legs in the Londoner's lap.
Rose grinned and pulled out the socks, quickly sliding them on Reinette's feet. "Haven't done this since I stopped babysittin' Mo's daughter," she mumbled to herself, and then gently worked the shoes onto the French girl's feet, being sure to tie the laces securely. "Most comfortable your feet've ever been, promise," she proclaimed, pulling the girl with her as she stood.
There was a moment as Reinette rocked on her heels, testing the give and flex of the trainers, but then she smiled widely at Rose. "I like them!"
"Good," her hand was gripped firmly, and the pair once again set off to break the first rule of travelling with the Doctor.
Elsewhere in the universe a rather large red light began to flash in a rather small cabin, and a course was set for the Dagmar Cluster.