Disclaimer: Doctor Who is the property of the BBC; no infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is set between "The Christmas Invasion" and "New Earth."
She wasn't quite used to the feel of his hand yet. These fingers were longer, more delicate, and his skin was soft, almost like the satin smoothness of a small baby's flesh. She supposed this was due to the sheer newness of him. He looked different, he sounded different, yet Rose was still drawn to the Doctor; some part of her could sense the connection that transcended their physical bodies. The shock at his complete and utter transformation was fading now.
Still, the hand took a bit of getting used to. It wasn't thoroughly familiar yet. Perhaps that was why her fingers slipped from his when they stumbled on the stony plain. They were running again; that aspect of their relationship appeared a constant no matter who or where or what befell them.
His new form was fast and lithe, so he kept to his feet despite the rough ground beneath them. Rose did not fare as well. As her hand wrenched from his, she tumbled down, landing hard on her hands and knees. Pain flared along her palms and shins, and she immediately clambered to her feet to remove her limbs from the sharp rocks peppering the path back to the TARDIS.
"All right?" the Doctor asked. He'd taken her arm to help her up, of course, but he was somewhat distracted by the rapid approach of three large, raptor-like creatures.
"Yeah," she panted. "Let's get out of here."
As he took her hand again, they sprinted toward the welcome sanctuary of the ship. Rose remained steadily on her feet, and she thought the Time Lord's grip on her hand was just a bit more secure.
Once inside, he hurried toward the center console to set the necessary coordinates that sent the TARDIS into the Void.
"That was a close one," he was saying, but already he was grinning, partly in relief but primarily in triumph, at their narrow escape. "Well, I say close. I mean close-ish, because really we've been in much worse scrapes and managed to get out just fine. But then that's what we do, isn't it?"
She smiled at him; his enthusiasm was infectious. "Yeah, it is." And she knew in that moment that he was still her Doctor, still the once-mysterious man who'd taken her hand and said, "Run!"
Glimpses of his old self were occasionally present, though. There was something in his eyes—a haunted and poignant look at times, a righteous indignation at others—that came straight from that dark-haired, brooding fellow in the tatty leather jacket. That person remained within him, was an inextricable part of who he was now.
"So," he said conversationally, "where to next? Ninth moon of Marziphan? Frozen rainbows of Gbriptrian Major? Or maybe the bazaars of Zanzibar from your very own Earth? Ooh, the sixteenth century was a particularly good time, with spices everywhere and the most wonderful smells of cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon in the air—"
She chuckled. "Those all sound great, but gimme me a minute to change first, yeah?"
She gestured toward her legs. Her jeans were torn across the knees and encrusted with ground-in dirt. Her jumper had fared a bit better, fortunately, as she was quite fond of this one. It was a soft and roomy V-neck in a deep sage green. It reminded her just a bit of something that he used to wear…
She glanced up to see an odd expression on the Doctor's face. His gaze had followed the motion of her hand, and now he was staring at her legs.
"So I'll just put on somethin' else an' then we can go wherever you want," she said.
"Rose." His voice was rough for an instant, then he looked up at her. "You're hurt."
"Just got a couple of scratches when I fell. I'm sure I'll live," she reassured him. Her shins and palms did sting a bit, but she'd had worse.
He walked down the ramp and lifted her hands to study the palms. She lowered her eyes to see a few drops of blood seeping from the raw scrapes crisscrossing her skin. She offered him an apologetic smile.
"Come on," he said, placing his hand at her back. "Let's get this sorted."
"Really, it's nothin'. I'll just run some cool water over it, an' it'll be fine."
"My way's much quicker."
He ushered her to the infirmary. She'd seen it a couple of times before—once during an introductory tour of the ship, and another time when Jack had gotten into a hyper-vodka- induced barroom brawl on a dusty planet whose inhabitants sported wicked claws that descended from their wrists with proper provocation. She'd held Jack's hand while her leather-clad Doctor had cleaned and healed the deep gashes marring the Captain's handsome face and toned torso. The Time Lord had expressed scant sympathy for his reckless companion, but his gentle, assiduous actions had belied his stern countenance.
The last time she'd been in here, then, was with him. She couldn't help the little sigh that escaped her.
The Doctor misinterpreted it as a sound indicative of pain. He gave her a kindly nod then gestured toward the examination couch. She climbed up, noticing the pain that pricked at her shins as she bent her legs. She winced a bit.
He took her hands again and carefully wiped each palm with something that eased the sting almost immediately. He slipped on his glasses to inspect the wounds further. Rose watched his face as his eyes focused intently upon her hands. The spectacles had been a surprise to her initially, but now she found she rather enjoyed them. He looked brainy and serious and a little bit geeky, and it was all quite endearing. There was a vulnerability to this man; he wasn't quite perfect, and he almost knew it.
"Just a little damage to the dermis," he reported with a hint of smile, looking up through his lenses. "It'll just take a moment to repair."
He reached for a dermal regenerator, which she recognized from the incident with Jack. He switched on the instrument.
"Might tickle a bit, but that'll only last a few seconds."
"'Kay," she responded.
She watched as the torn skin began healing, red yielding to pink, then to pale, perfect flesh. In less than a minute, both hands were done.
"There we are," he said. "Good as new."
He waggled his fingers—those new, long fingers—toward her legs. "Get your jeans off, and I'll take care of those, too."
She could now see the bloodstains covering her shins. She'd done a bit of damage there when she fell. The Doctor had turned back to the counter, so he didn't see her momentary hesitation before she kicked off her shoes then unfastened her jeans and pulled them down over her legs and feet. She left them on the floor then got back up on the couch, legs dangling over the edge.
His eyes flicked over her bare skin for an instant, then he wheeled over a stool so that he could sit before her. His soft, slender hands were gentle as he took her left calf and set her foot on his leg. He cleaned the deep scrapes over her shin the healed them with the regenerator.
"All right?" he asked, glancing up over his glasses.
He returned his attention to her right leg, performing the same treatment. He was just setting aside the dermal regenerator when something caught his eye. He looked at her knee, running a delicate fingertip over the jagged white scar.
"How did you get this?" he asked.
"Fell off my bike," she replied immediately.
He touched the tiny marks on either side of the ragged line. "Ten stitches? Must've been pretty deep."
"It bled a lot. Mum was ready to call out the rescue brigade, but Mickey's gram convinced her it wasn't that bad."
He looked up at her. "I can get rid of it."
"What? The scar?"
He nodded. "It'll just take a minute, and it won't hurt."
Her eyes moved back to her knee. "Dunno. I've had it for so long, it's sort of a part of me now."
"You sure? Because really, it's a simple process—"
She placed her hand over his. "It's all right, Doctor. It's a reminder I think I'd like to keep."
Something passed between them; she knew he felt it, too. When their eyes met, he asked quietly, "How old were you when it happened?"
"Twelve," she said softly. "I'd just turned twelve."
"And you had a new red bicycle."
Her fingers threaded through his, easily and comfortably. She didn't realize that tears were in her eyes until she blinked and felt the wetness.
He swallowed. "I'm sorry, Rose."
She wasn't sure what he was apologizing for, but it didn't really matter. "Don't be," she said. "It's all right now."
His eyes were wide, sincere, and possibly a bit anxious as he asked, "Is it?"
She nodded. "It is."
He smiled and lifted their joined hands. "So, Zanzibar?"
"Yeah. But I still need to change." Her cheeks colored just a bit as she arched an eyebrow toward the torn jeans lying on the floor.
"Change," he said thoughtfully, "can be good."
"As long as we don't throw away the old stuff entirely," she added.
"Parts of it always remain with us. They make us who and what we are."
"Scars an' all."
His thumb brushed over her knee again. "Yes," he agreed softly, "scars and all."