Disclaimer: Still own nothing.
Three cheers for Bonnie the fantastic beta :)
She was uncomfortable. That was the first thing she noticed. The reason for her discomfort, that she was strapped rather awkwardly to a slanted table, was understood a few minutes later, but at first she focused on the single fact of physical displeasure.
Her eyes fluttered open, and slowly hazel eyes focused on a grinning porcelain mask. "Wha's – what's goin' on?" her breathing came short as her voice raised in slight panic. "Doctor?" she raised her head, trying to peer around the room. There was no answer, no one but her alone in the room.
"You are compatible."
For a moment she thought her heart had stopped. "No, I'm really not. Seriously."
"You are compatible."
"Well," she tried to even out her breathing, thinking of how wonderful the Doctor's timing always was when it came to rescuing her. She didn't think about the people for whom his timing was less than stellar. "You might wanna think about that. You really, really might, 'cause...I, I didn't come here alone. Couldn't, right? I mean, twenty-first century girl, can't get to a spaceship in the fifty-first right?"
The only response to this was the sudden extension of a rather wicked-looking weapon, entirely too close to her face.
"Really, you don't want to do that!" she cursed her voice for hitting such a high pitch. "My driver, the Doctor, he's – you don't want to do that!" she scrambled away as much as the manacles about her wrists would let her.
The saw-like device lowered toward her neck and...stopped. It turned off, and the robot sagged. Around the room half a dozen others were doing the same.
"Sorry about that," a smooth, suave voice drifted from the hall, accompanied a few moments later by a very good-looking man in rather tight trousers. Rose gaped at him. He flashed a brilliant smile. "All right there princess?"
"I…I'm…fine?" Rose shook her head, dragging herself back to her senses. "No, I'm bloody not, can you get me off this table?"
"Oh, but the possibilities…" he winked, but pressed on his wrist and crossed the room to catch her as she slid off. "How 'bout now, beautiful?"
"Better," she smiled slightly. "Thanks for the rescue, but I thought the crew was all gone."
"Oh, they are," he nodded and shrugged. "I'm not crew." there was a pause as he reached for her hand and held it close to his lips. "Lieutenant John Hart. It's a pleasure."
"Rose," she answered, blushing. "Rose Tyler."
"A fitting name," he lowered her hand, but didn't release it. "Now, Miss Tyler, twenty-first century girl on a fifty-first century spaceship, the question I must ask: how did you get here?"
"Oh, um," she shrugged. "Hitched a lift, sort of. My driver's around somewhere"
"Oh, to be in the twenty-first century with a timeship," he grinned. "This driver…just how disappointed should I be?"
"Oh, awfully," her tongue curled over her teeth as she grinned. "Heartbroken reall-" her eyes went wide and she jerked away with a gasp. "Reinette! Oh my god, they took Reinette somewhere! I forgot about her!"
"Relax!" he laughed and tugged her closer. "It's taken care of; what do you think got our attention here? Potential paradox sweetheart. Your driver is a bit of an amateur, I think."
"Don't tell him that, he'll have you," she grinned. "So…you're a Time Agent?"
"What gave it away?" he leaned in. "The stunning good looks? The stellar rescue?"
"That fact that I've met one before," she gave him a sly smile. "Which means I've heard this act already."
He sighed sadly and rested his hands at her waist. "My heart is truly broken, gorgeous, you think it's all an act."
"Maybe not," she giggled, "but I do think the Time Agency puts somethin' in your drinks."
"Oh they do…starting with hypervodka and occasionally working all the way up to Old Janx Spirit…but that's just for the adventurous," he winked. "I'd be happy to educate you."
"I'll bet you would," she laughed outright.
A rather annoyed cough pulled her attention to the doorway; the Doctor leaned against the frame looking quite a bit less than amused.
"Designated driver?" Lt. Hart raised an eyebrow. She shrugged innocently.
"Somethin' like that," she agreed, and then took a step toward the Doctor. "Is Reinette okay?"
"Depends; where's the little version?"
She paused and looked to the Lieutenant, eyebrow raised. "Lieutenant?"
He smiled charmingly at the Doctor. "No need to worry about her, my partner has her secured in our ship. I was just stopping by to be sure our clockwork friends didn't succeed in taking off Miss Tyler's head."
He straightened immediately and crossed to Rose, checking her for obvious damage. "You all right?"
She brushed him off, rolling her eyes a little. "Fine, I'm fine. Had'em just where I wanted'em."
"That was where you wanted them?" Lt. Hart smirked and glanced at her appraisingly. "I didn't think that particular kink came about until the thirty-third century, but hey, who am I to argue? Want me to turn them back on?"
"I think there's enough turned on 'round here," she grinned cheekily.
Hart's smile widened genuinely. "Oh, I like you!"
"Fifty-first century blokes are so easy," her tongue peeked out behind her smile.
"You don't know the half of it, sweetheart."
"If you're done flirting," the Doctor interrupted irritably. "There are still open time windows. Don't suppose shuttin' them down entered into your grand plan?"
"There shouldn't be," he turned all business in just a few moments, crossing to the computer terminal opposite the 'operating' tables. "They should have been shut down with the robots."
"If the world always did what it should do I'd have a lot more free time," the Doctor answered scathingly.
"An' no idea what to do with it," Rose muttered. She followed and peered over the agent's shoulder, pretending to understand any of the readings it gave off.
"Oi, I heard that," the Doctor frowned, leaning over the controls himself. "Looks like here's still a robot in the field, emergency override."
"Standard safety features, we don't want anyone left in the past causing paradoxes," Hart muttered. "But where? And when?"
"Doctor!" Rose grabbed his sleeve and tugged him away from the console just before it began to spark.
"What –" he broke off, once again brandishing his sonic screwdriver as the robots came back to life. "Took care of them, did you, Lieutenant?"
"I did!" he fiddled with something very much like the wrist-strap Jack had been so proud of. "They're ignoring commands, the corruption in the computers must be overriding it."
"She is complete," the robot which so recently had been attempting to remove Rose's head sounded as pleased as a machine ever could. "It begins."
"They've found the window where she's thirty-seven!" the Doctor started running.
"Thirty-seven?" Rose tried not to sound winded, but honestly, it had been a rather trying day.
"What they've been scannin' for, that's how old the ship is. They think she has to be the same age!"
"Oh, fantastic," she panted sarcastically.
"No clue why they want this particular woman?" Hart seemed to have no problem keeping pace with the Doctor.
"Good taste?" the Doctor grinned and stopped suddenly, causing the Lieutenant to skid past and nearly pitching Rose into his back. "Right then, plans. First, Rose…"
Madame de Pompadour whirled, eyes wide and body stiff. There was a pause as she processed, then a wide smile spread across her face. "Rose," she half-whispered, reaching out her hands for the now-younger girl.
"I can't stay," she said reluctantly, though she did accept the aristocrat's brief embrace. "I'm just here to warn you."
"Warn me?" her voice sounded odd. "And…the Doctor is not with you?"
Rose raised an eyebrow, and then shook her head. "No, not now. The monsters are comin' back, in five years. You remember the…sky vessel?" she waited until Reinette nodded. "They found the way to when you're the right age, and they'll be comin'. It's five years off, sometime when you're thirty-seven. That's when they need you. He's already on his way, right now, it's just…for you…"
"As ever, I must take the slower path," she smiled sadly. "I fear it has been my destiny since I was seven years old."
"It wasn't your destiny though," Rose leaned forward, shooting a quick glance toward the hall. "I mean, this was all your destiny. Versailles an' all. Those creatures have been messing with history; none of this was ever supposed to happen to you."
"Supposed to happen?" Reinette's voice hit an odd pitch. "What does that mean? It happened, child!"
Rose jolted a bit at the term 'child' – she thought she deserved a bit more respect, having played babysitter for the woman just a few hours earlier.
"And I would not have it any other way," she continued, her voice trembling slightly. "One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel."
Rose bit her lip as the Frenchwoman stepped away to gather her bearings. "Guess so," she murmured. She glanced to the door again and started – Lieutenant Hart had appeared somehow. She stood quickly, raising her eyebrows curiously.
"Sorry, gorgeous," he smiled slightly. "Found the window, we've gotta run before the rest of them shut down."
"Right," she forced a grin for Reinette and waved. "Just stay safe, okay? An' when they get here, keep'em talkin' until the Doctor gets there. He'll show, promise."
"May five years pass swiftly then," she nodded firmly, and the pair departed from the room.
"Bit too swiftly on our side," Rose muttered.
Hart smirked and wrapped an arm around her shoulder as they darted beneath a tapestry into the fifty-first century. "You worry too much. You know, I got some great stuff from a roommate the last time I was in rehab, makes all your cares seem so much less important…not to mention what it does to your inhibitions."
"I'm honestly amazed that people in your century accomplish anything, with the way you all shag."
"You and me both, sweetheart."
"Just break the damn thing!"
"It's not that easy!"
Hart paced, his anxiety becoming more pronounced by the moment. "We can blast it! I have a sonic cannon!"
"Fantastic plan," the phrase 'dripping with sarcasm' had not been coined specifically for the Doctor, but there had been few sentences in the history of the universe where its usage was more appropriate. "An' after the history books rewrote themselves completely from seventeen fifty-eight onwards – with a headless Madame de Pompadour and eighteenth century French clockwork robots – what were you plannin' on doin' for your next universe-melting paradox?"
"Okay, so we have to get the robots out first!"
"Thanks for that, wouldn't 've thought of it meself!"
"Boys!" Rose stepped between them, arms extended out. "Can we puff out testosterone later?"
The Doctor let out a breath. "Someone has to go through and deactivate them before they kill Reinette."
"But it's solid," Rose pointed out, not entirely sure if she was being thick or if the Doctor was once again missing the very, very obvious.
"Yeah," he nodded. Thick it was. "And breakin' it will sever the connection. No way back."
She chewed her lip, processing. "Can't we go in the TARDIS?"
"There's a whole job lot of…stuff about. Residue from the time windows, muckin' up the vortex."
"In English, please," she rolled her eyes.
"It means we can't take the TARDIS," he adjusted the sonic screwdriver and did a few more readings around the edge of the mirror. "It's like when there's water on a tile floor; you put your foot down on the wrong spot and you end up on your backside."
"So…if we tried to land in seventeen fifty-eight, we'd end up on our backsides? Worse than usual?"
"Metaphorically, yeah," he glared at the sonic tool and shoved it back in his pockets. "It doesn't matter. The TARDIS wouldn't let us within a decade and a million miles of this."
"There's always my vortex manipulator," Lieutenant Hart suggested, holding up his arm.
"When the TARDIS doesn't want to do somethin'," the Doctor replied scathingly, "there's a good reason. You don't want to slip in the vortex."
There was a flash of anger. "If you're so brilliant, then you suggest something!"
"I've already figured it out!" he glared at the human. There was a pause, silence as he caught Rose's eye. "I promised," his tone was almost apologetic, but too flippant to be genuinely sorry.
"Yeah," she nodded, staring at the floor. "An' you're the Doctor."
He was gone by the time she looked up, leaving broken glass and hoof prints behind.
"Well," Hart stared at the shattered remains of the time window. "He's got a flare for the dramatic, I'll give him that."
"Yeah," her voice was just a bit thick.
"You know we can take you home," he gave a smile that was almost entirely not a leer. "Got my own agency provided ship, not far off this one."
"Nah," she wrapped her arms around her torso. "He'll be back for me. Can't leave without him."
"He's trapped three thousand years in the past, Rose," his tone was rather gentle. "Besides, you haven't met my partner. It'd be a party."
"No," she shook her head slowly. "You should get goin'. More deeds to be done, time to travel through. Willin' aliens to shag."
"There sure are," he grinned. "You're a great kid," he shrugged and threw his arms around her, kissing her soundly. "Take care of yourself. If he doesn't show and you change your mind, you press this," he held up a small red button. "The battery'll die in two or three days, it's just a disposable, but it's linked to my wrist strap. I've got no problem coming back to give you a lift."
"Thanks," she smiled faintly. "Take care of yourself. Don't let the Agency wipe your memory and leave you stranded in nineteen forty-one."
He raised a delicate, scarred eyebrow. "I'll do my best to avoid it," he grinned and ruffled her hair. "See you later, gorgeous."
There was a dim 'ping' and flash of light, and then Rose Tyler was truly and utterly alone…three thousand years in her future and two point five galaxies from home.
The first day was largely spent staring at the hole left by the mirror. She amused herself by compiling a mental list of every adventure they'd had, with particular emphasis on the ones that had seemed utterly hopeless before ending relatively happily. She made it to the departure of Adam before giving up and returning to the TARDIS for a shower and a kip.
The following days melded together in a haze of desperate distractions. Reading in the library one day, working herself to exhaustion in the gym the next. It was actually four days before John Hart's beacon stopped blinking. Rose tossed it into the Doctor's 'junk closet' without a second glance.
She was half-way through learning to control the spatio-temporal regulator on the Doctor's TiVo when she felt the floor jerk beneath her; she was on her feet, running for the console room, before the remote hit the ground.
He was there. He stood at the console, his back to the hall, his long, graceful fingers running over the controls in what could only be called a caress. She stood in the door, trying to catch her breath after the sprint up several flights of stairs.
Slowly he turned, the dim amber lights creating deep shadows in his features…or perhaps the shadows were simply there. He was wearing different clothes…his jacket remained, but his jeans had been traded for rough-sewn trousers, and he wore an odd, ruffled sort of shirt that would have looked feminine on anyone else. She took a step closer, and something shifted in his eyes. He closed himself off and moved around the console.
There were no dramatic embraces or declarations of affection…she could say she hadn't expected them, but it wasn't entirely true. She'd had a lot of time to day-dream recently after all.
"Still here then?" he didn't look at her.
She frowned, slowly entering the room. "Shouldn't I be?"
"Thought you'd have caught a ride with the agent," something was very, very off in his voice. Not jealousy – she knew exactly what that sounded like from his lips.
She shook her head slowly. "He offered," she wrapped her fingers tightly around the back of the captain's seat. "How did you get back?"
"Oh, how I figured I would," he smiled entirely too cheerfully. "Found an old self, hitched a lift. Almost changed history; nearly interrupted meself before I could tell James Watt the trick to the steam engine. Would've been a right mess, that."
She murmured something vaguely affirmative.
"Don't know about you but I've had a long trip," he grinned quickly and moved around the console, giving her a wide berth. "Need a bit of a kip. We're safe in the vortex now."
"Okay," she nodded, biting her lower lip. "I'll…see you in the morning then."
She waited for him to remind her, as he had so often in the past, that there were no mornings on the TARDIS…but he just gave a tight smile and moved deeper into the ship at near a run.
She had not cried while she waited. As she had quite firmly told herself, there was no cause. The Doctor would be back, they would have more adventures just like always…it was silly to cry because she was left to amuse herself for a while.
She had not cried then, and she would not cry now – no matter how the tears burned in her chest. She finally allowed herself the closest she could come to admitting there was a problem: she wore her comfort pyjamas, purchased by her mum after The Jimmy Stone Incident, and curled into a tight ball around a tattered old teddy bear that she'd had since birth.
She never heard the door slide open, or the whisper of fabric against skin as he moved into the room, but the faint movement of her mattress, the sudden weight near her feet, drew her attention. She opened her eyes slowly, her gaze sliding to the wretched figure at the end of her bed. The Doctor was hunched forward, elbows on knees and head clutched in his hands. She'd never seen him in pyjamas before; he looked small and vulnerable without his jacket; the dim blue light of her room made his bare chest seem almost incandescent. She shifted to her knees, drawing herself closer – slowly, terrified that he would run again.
"Doctor?" her voice was low and even, but not even she could keep the worried note from it.
"Oh, Rose," he lifted his head and met her eyes; she was startled by the despair in his expression. She had never seen him so exposed. He took in a shuddering breath and then somehow he had pulled her to him, clutched her to his chest with a ferocity that shocked her – not since Van Statten's bunker had he held her so desperately.
He was embarrassed when he let her go, pulling away quite suddenly and staring blankly at the fake starscape projected onto her ceiling; the sky as seen from the English countryside in the twenty-first century. Rose took his hand and laced their fingers together; refusing to let him go.
"Might need that back," he told her softly.
"Tough," she scooted back, toward her pillows, and tugged him along with. "You're stayin'," he looked at her strangely, and she hesitated. "Just, I've been alone, and…" she trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
"Me too," he allowed himself to be tugged, and somehow a few moments later found himself spooned behind her beneath a heavy duvet.
"Seven years," the soft admission ruffled the hair against her ear; she fought to repress a shiver. "It's been seven years for me."
She shifted in his embrace until she was on her back and able to look up at him. He was watching her almost hungrily, like a starving man at a steak dinner: desperation and a dose of disbelief filling his eyes. "What did you do?"
"Same old life," he grimaced. "Travellin' is a bit harder on foot, but I managed."
She bit her lip lightly. "You didn't stay with Reinette?"
"Nope," his fingers clenched around her arm almost painfully, belying his light tone. "Bit rigid there. Never been one for social structure, me. Stayed for a week or so disassembling the robots, then moved on. Nothin' to keep me there."
"Oh," she let out a breath and curved herself closer, listening to the quiet beat drumming under his skin as she rested her head against his chest. It was soothing and she felt herself beginning to drift.
She blinked sleepily. "Hmm?" she paused, thinking. "Oh. Two weeks, give or take a few days. Hard to keep track."
"Why did you stay?"
Her brow furrowed and she looked up. "Why would I go?"
He very studiously did not meet her eyes. "You could have gone back to London."
"Yeah," she nodded slowly. "Could've." there was a long silence. "You expected me to be gone." It wasn't a question.
"Guess I underestimated you, Rose Tyler."
"Yeah," she shifted, wrapping an arm around his waist. "Don't do it again."
They both knew what she meant.
He let out a soft sigh and rested his head against her hair, wishing he could give her the answer she wanted. But there were no promises in his life.