The Doctor stomped out of the TARDIS, a petulant expression on his boyish face. He let the door swing back so that it collided with the face of his giggling companion.
Rose grabbed the door before it could do any damage and tried to hold back her amusement at his reaction to her "innocent" enquiry.
He heard her muffled laughter and folded his arms with a huff.
"I'm sorry," Rose placated, attempting—and failing—to sound repentant. "Seriously though—"
"Its tradition!" he interrupted petulantly.
"But John Smith?" Humour was evident in her voice. "Come on!"
"There's years of tradition in that name." The Doctor turned to face her. "Centuries even. No one questions John Smith."
Rose wrinkled her nose. "But it's so boring. I mean, think about it, you could be anyone, yeah? You could come up with weird and wonderful names."
"Like Rose Tyler?" Amusement glittered in his eyes as Rose crept closer, laying her hand on his arm.
She beamed up at him. "Like anything, I dunno; Marco the deaf Italian, Hans the gay German."
He raised an eyebrow as he slipped an arm around her waist. "Gay?"
"Anything but John Smith."
He rolled his eyes and ducked in for a kiss.
It had been two months since the Doctor had ridden in on…well, a shiny blue split in the fabric of time and space, and rescued her from an alternate universe. Although she missed her family, to Rose it felt like coming home.
Well, coming home to a man that looked like her new new old boyfriend but who acted like her old old boyfriend. It was a source of worry for Rose that the Doctor was acting more and more like his previous self.
She had tried to bring up the changes again and again but it only seemed to make him even more unstable and so she set it aside; for now. It hadn't escaped her notice that he was not only avoiding the subject but he was not allowing her to talk to Jack.
Every time she suggested going back to visit the Time Agent the Doctor managed to entangle them in yet another adventure until she had forgotten her desire to get answers from the Captain.
Rose was certain now, that in his coming through the Rift to get her, he had risked more than the fabric of reality and was slowly coming unhinged—and she had no idea what to do about it.
With her he was tender and sweet if a little on the acidic side and he had an odd habit of phasing out, like he was listening to some inner dialogue. But with others he was guarded and sarcastic, unfriendly and territorial; Rose had to almost rein him back on several occasions and it was worrying her more than she let on.
Maybe soon she could convince the Doctor to let her see Jack, but for now they slid from one adventure to the next, just like old times; facing danger with a smile and a joke, just like days of old; held hands as they ran, just like before, and kissed like…well, that part was new.
In fact Rose was getting comfortable with the way the Doctor would slide his arm around her waist, letting his fingers trail across the curve of her jeans as the other hand tangled in her hair, dragging her lips to his surprisingly soft ones in heated abandon the moment the TARDIS doors closed.
She was quite content with her new physical relationship with the Doctor; she only wished that he would take it further. The Doctor, however, seemed like he was taking his sweet time before starting them on the next step to intimacy. It was almost like he was waiting for something, something Rose was clueless about. She only wished she knew what it was so that she could hurry it along.
The Doctor released her slowly, a satisfied look on his face at the dazed expression on hers. He poked her nose bringing her back to her senses. "All right, let's see where we are then."
Rose took in their surroundings, and for the first time, was not impressed.
"It's a bit dingy isn't it?"
And dingy it was: grey and dirty as only a major city could be. The stone brickwork on the houses was caked in mud and things best not looked at too closely.
The cobbled streets were grime-encrusted and stank with an acrid scent that clawed its way into your throat.
Rose clapped a hand to her mouth and tried not to gag. "That's sick!"
"No," the Doctor corrected, "that's the Thames."
Rose's eyes bulged. "What? We're in London?"
"Yep," the Doctor rocked on his heels and breathed deeply. "Early 17th century unless I miss my guess which, being brilliant, I don't."
Rose rolled her eyes but kept her hand clasped to her nose. "It stinks."
"Oi! That's your culture you're insulting," the Doctor replied archly.
"By my generation we'd invented the flush toilet," Rose said primly.
He smirked at her over his shoulder. "And how's that global warming going?"
Rose glared at his back as he inhaled deeply and she wondered if it was beneath her to poke her tongue out at him.
Instead she slipped an arm through his with a sly: "Well stink or not, yeah, at least it's not Cardiff."
It was his turn to glare as Rose grinned to herself.
"So," Rose encouraged. "Tell me about this time. 17th century?"
The Doctor tugged her in closer to him as he started to stroll through the dark London streets. "Oh, fascinating times these," he enthused. "Tudor and Stuart years were a laugh. You got your Spanish Armada, Civil War, The Black Death, plagues and boils, witch hunts and, of course, the Great Fire of London."
Rose paled and glanced back towards the TARDIS. "Well, that sounds like…fun. I'll wait for you here shall I?"
He grabbed her arm as she tried to slide it away. "And here was me thinking you liked adventure."
"Adventure, yeah," she retorted, "boils, plague and black death, not so much."
The Doctor continued as if she hadn't spoken. "Oh there were wonderful things that happened too. Shakespeare was around at this time."
Rose's eyes lit up. "Seriously? Could we—"
"No," he cut her off quickly, "William Shakespeare was a womanising ponce and you are going nowhere near him."
For a second Rose could see anger in his eyes but it was brushed away with an easy smile inviting her to share the joke.
Reluctantly Rose let it go and slid her hand into his hesitantly. "Okay, so what else?"
He pulled her back as three men in red soldiers uniforms ran past quickly, swords strapped to their sides and brandishing halberds and muskets. Their feet thundered on the cobblestones as they yelled out warnings to any in their way.
The Doctor and Rose waited until they had passed before continuing on.
"Uh, Galileo pioneered his theories that the Earth went around the sun and nearly got killed for it," the Doctor continued, "They started importing sugar. Just think Rose, before this time they'd had tea without sugar! Of course tea wasn't around until the later part of this century."
"Animals," Rose said with a shake of her head.
"And the music wasn't bad."
Rose wrinkled her nose as they stepped over a drunk vomiting into the gutter. "Didn't they sing ring o' ring o' roses?"
"Nah," the Doctor shook his head. "General ignorance, that one. That song went back as far as Massachusetts in 1790 and there are versions in French, German, American and Gaelic. Nothing to do with the plague whatsoever."
He looked incredulously at her. "Rose Tyler are you doubting me?"
"Never!" she rolled her eyes.
"Good, because I was—"
But what he was Rose never got to find out. Having safely negotiated the piles of horse droppings in the middle of the street they were caught off guard as a man barrelled into them, sending the Doctor flying.
Rose grabbed at his arm to stop him falling into the filth of questionable origin smeared on the ground but the man was less lucky and slipped in the horse manure careening into the wall—head first.
The impact sounded like a dropped melon and he slid to the floor and lay still.
The Doctor righted himself and knelt over the prone man, feeling his pulse. "Unconscious," he decided. "Knocked himself out cold."
"He was in a right hurry," Rose observed flicking her hair over her shoulder to stare at him. "Wonder why?"
"Probably late home and figured the misses was going to give 'im hell."
Rose nudged him with her foot. "Doesn't look much like working class, though."
The Doctor bit his lip and ran a hand through his ruffled hair. She was right. The man was wearing clothes of much superior quality than those poorer men wore. His doublet was silk and matched his tights and tunic. His ruff was pristine, save for the manure smeared on it where he fell, and he was well groomed.
The Doctor stared at the man with a raised eyebrow. "What is a man of wealth doing down the back alleys of London?"
"Dunno. What are we going to do with him?" Rose asked. "We can't leave him here."
The Doctor agreed. A man with money wouldn't last long on these streets. "Let's find the local magistrate. If he's as well off as he looks he's as like to be some kind of bigwig. The judge should know who he is."
He leaned down and hefted the man onto one shoulder with Rose coming over to the other side to help prop him up.
Despite the late hour the streets of London were bustling with activity. Women in dresses of scarlet with eyes as hard as coals peddled themselves on the corner, while men in grubby clothes with desperate expressions searched their pockets for a few coins to buy them temporary oblivion—either in liquor or flesh.
Street urchins with filth encrusted faces danced between the pressed and dressed gentry, sometimes dipping a quick hand into an unwary pocket.
Raucous cheers came from well lit taverns as drunks were thrown out onto the streets. Fistfights and brawls spilled blood and more onto the cobbled stones whilst darkened faces slunk back into the shadows where a glint of silver was caught by lamp light.
In fact, the Doctor and Rose carrying an unconscious man barely merited a glance.
A coin bought the location of the local magistrate's place of business and a well placed elbow kept Rose from being pawed.
The door was opened by a servant only too eager to fetch her master who was still awake and dressed despite the advanced hour.
"Yes?" he asked imperiously his eyes taking in the three people at his door.
"Sorry it's late, mate," the Doctor said, "But we found this bloke unconscious and wondered if he were, by any chance, a friend of yours?"
Rose rolled her eyes. So much for convincing the magistrate that they were gentry!
The magistrates face changed from open distrust to one of reluctant interest. "Please, come in."
They carried the man into the gloomy home of the magistrate.
"Please forgive my manner," the magistrate apologised as they walked through the long hallway and he ushered them into the parlour. "There is an ill wind tonight and it hastens with it mistrust."
"Trouble?" the Doctor asked cheerfully as they deposited the man on a large beech table that took up most of the room.
"With you, is there anything else?" Rose muttered as the magistrate fumbled with an oil lamp on the table.
As the magistrate turned around Rose could see that he was a portly man with a huge jowls. His robes were stained but expensive and there was an air of nervousness about him that she immediately didn't like. He reminded her a little of that Bishop from Robin Hood, the one who was in Alan Rickman's pay. The very thought made her flesh crawl and she stepped back quickly wondering if it was safe to leave their cargo here.
The Doctor just sniffed and rolled the unconscious man over.
The magistrate peered at him before doing a double-take. "Upon my soul, it's Sir Digby!"
"So you do know 'im?" the Doctor asked.
The magistrate nodded. "Yes, yes. Sir Everard Digby, one of the most distinguished men at court. A fantastic swordsman, musician and a wonderful horseman. A real credit to our country."
"Terrible sense of balance though," the Doctor muttered even as he frowned. Sir Everard Digby sounded so familiar. Why did he know that name?
The magistrate looked the two of them over. "You found him, you say?"
The Doctor nodded still wondering at the identity of the man.
The magistrate smiled weakly. "And might I have the pleasure of your names?"
"I'm John…" the Doctor caught Rose's smirk before he could finish his usual pseudo name and bit back the words. "John…uh, John Johnson."
Okay, it was pathetic but it was a start.
"I see," said the magistrate slowly. "And you Miss—?"
"Rose," she replied automatically and the Doctor gave her a knowing look. She cursed silently and searched around the room for inspiration. Her eyes fell on the table. "Wood. Rose… Wood."
The magistrate gave her a calculating look. "Rose Wood."
"That's right," Rose said defensively.
The magistrate nodded and walked over to the door where the servant stood like a statue. He leaned down and whispered something to her as the Doctor and Rose exchanged uneasy glances.
The servant ran off and he turned back to them. "I've instructed my servant to prepare a meal for us. Sir Digby is one of my favoured parishioners and I know he would want me to thank you for your assistance."
"Wine?" the magistrate gestured to a large decanter of wine and started to pour three glasses.
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you," said a voice inside the Doctor. He sighed.
It had been at least two days since he had last heard the voice of his inner prisoner and he had hoped that it would be more before he had the pleasure of his future self's dulcet tones.
He inhaled and spoke internally. "Thanks for that, I might never have been suspicious of him if it wasn't for you."
"Oh all right, play it your way, but don't come crying to me when he poisons you and runs off with Rose."
The Doctor felt his temper start to rise; a common side effect of dealing with his alter ego. "Unlike you, pansy, I don't cry. And the last thing I'd do is let Rose run off with someone. That's more your deal, isn't it?"
The voice was silent—briefly. "Just don't drink the damn wine, all right?"
The Doctor offered a suggestion that was immoral and possibly biologically impossible before turning back to the conversation at hand.
Rose stared at him oddly. He'd been staring off into space again. "You okay?"
"Yep," he said with a manic grin. "So, we'll be off then. Places to see and all that."
"Please stay," the magistrate said smoothly. "I'm sure Sir Digby would wish to thank you in person."
Now Rose was more than slightly apprehensive. The magistrate seemed to want them to stay rather badly and she had a sneaking suspicion that the servant wasn't going to bring her a cheeseburger.
"Nah, really we gotta go," she said and made a move towards the door. Before she could take more than a step towards it, there was a loud bang as the door flew inwards and several armed soldiers stormed into the room.
The Doctor grabbed Rose's hand and pulled her against him.
A man dressed in soldier's regalia strode into the room and pointed a long sword at the Doctor. "Stay yourself!"
"Good advice," the Doctor said pleasantly.
"This is they," the magistrate moved out of the way. "Bold as brass did they confess their identities. This is John Johnson and his accomplice Ambrose Rookwood who brought Sir Everard Digby here to me."
"Rose Wood!" Rose insisted but the soldiers ignored her.
The head guard seemed to find the magistrate every bit as slimy as Rose did and he wrinkled his nose at the fat man.
"Your loyalty will, no doubt, be rewarded by his Majesty."
"Just doing my duty," simpered the magistrate.
"Excuse me, but what are we supposed to have done?" Rose asked, not liking the way the guns were pointed at her in such a small space.
The guard faced her. "You are under arrest," he stated firmly. "For the attempted murder of the King."
Rose's eyes widened. "You what? I don't even know who the King is!"
The guard smiled thinly. "Then you shall meet him." He gestured to the soldiers who grabbed Rose.
It was as the men hauled them both towards the door that the name suddenly clicked in the Doctor's mind and he groaned.
John Johnson and Ambrose Rookwood were collaborators of one of the most famous assassination plots in England.
This was not going to end well.
"What?" Rose looked over her shoulder. "What?"
He rubbed at his ear. "You're going to laugh when I tell you."