A/N: The sequel to Never Quite Normal, published under Jessa's user name.
Disclaimer: We own Doctor Who. However, in this Universe, Brittany Spears is President. Not having it, so we're off.
"Oi, d'ya mind?" said Dr. Joshua Stewart to the small creature sitting on his chest. "Only, I'm on vacation."
Rose Tyler giggled. There wasn't a lot else she could do, really. She was standing in a side street off the Champs Elysees on a perfect day for two people in love. Even had her bloke with her, but it didn't look like this one was going to be anything like normal.
She and Joshua had been walking along the most famous Parisian street, enjoying each other's company and the beauty of the sights around them. They'd just stopped, to share a moment and maybe discuss what to do for a meal, and now Joshua was flat on his back in the rather nasty street (not much different from London, that) with something that resembled a cat on his chest.
It wasn't a cat, couldn't possibly be anything Rose had ever seen before, in fact. For one thing, it was a vivid apple red. For another, it was making an appalling screeching noise like the toddler who lived two flats down from her mum. Finally, while it was sitting a bit like a cat, it was kneading Joshua with tiny cloven hooves.
"What is it?" Rose asked, almost unable to believe what she was seeing.
Joshua laid a hand on the creature's head and rubbed its incredibly large ears. "It's a Nerfifflet, I think. A pet." The creature quieted with the soothing sound of his voice and the gentle petting he was giving it.
"What's it doing?" she wondered. What it was doing seemed to be trying to stick a very, very long tongue up Joshua's nose.
Joshua turned his head away from the questing little creature. "Hopefully, it's not trying to eat my brain."
"Your brain is a sewer, Joshua," Rose teased. "It would get sick."
"Oi," he protested, "just for that, I won't tell you what I order you at supper." Carefully, one hand securing the little animal, Joshua rose to his feet.
Trembling and, frankly, completely out of her depth, Rose stepped slowly toward her lover and the creature he carried. "It's… alien," she realized. Alien. Not from Earth., from the stars. Alien. Rose tilted her head and peered attentively at the little creature. "Where did it come from?"
She hadn't even seen it at first. Just, one minute she was listening to Joshua talk and the next she was haring down the street after a bright red blur, caught by the hand in Joshua's wake. He'd pushed her away just before he stepped in here, and by the time she'd reached his side, he was flat on his back.
"Nyra, if I'm right, an' it does not like you." He was frowning down at the little animal now, as it had erupted into a shrill, alarming cry the moment Rose stepped toward them.
"Obviously," Rose agreed, her hands over her ears, leaning over to peer at the ridiculously colored creature.
Joshua shook his head. "No, this is odd," he said. "S'makin' this particular noise, meant to warn others there's a predator nearby. That's what it's for, they're bred to give warnings 'bout these great big canines they've got on Nyra. Bloody awful things, nearly tall as me, an' that's not standin' on its hind legs, you understand."
"Great, well, could you tell it I wouldn't eat it if I had to, yeah? That racket's awful." She leaned closer.
"It's not sentient, Rose, it's just a pet. An' watch out for the…"
Rose was suddenly flat on her back, staring up at Joshua and the Nerf-cat, which was now trying to climb up onto his shoulder. "What happened?" she demanded, feeling quite a bit disgusting to be lying on the pavement in a grubby side street.
"Sorry," Joshua said. "Their tails stretch. It tripped you."
She shook her head, about to say something completely rude, if she could just figure out what, when she was interrupted by the sound of a soft voice clearing its throat. "Excuse me," the voice, decidedly masculine and vaguely familiar, said, "do you mind returning our pet?"
Joshua rounded on the voices, putting himself between the newcomers and Rose in very little more time than an eye blink. Rose took the opportunity to climb to her feet while her boyfriend dealt with the Nerf-cat's owners.
"D'ya mind tellin' me what you're doin' with a Nerfifflet on a Level-five planet?"
"We didn't mean for humans to see him," came another voice, female this time, but still slightly familiar.
Rose found her feet at last and peered incredulously at the two people standing in the mouth of the alleyway. It didn't make any sense at all, so she rubbed her eyes and looked again. Since nothing had changed, she decided it might be best just to let Joshua hide her until she could understand something about what was going on.
"We were just taking him for a walk," the man continued. "He's been cooped up in our ship; it's a dreadfully long flight, as you seem to know."
Joshua's body slowly relaxed. "What're you lot doing here, then? Jus' sight-seeing?"
"Well, yes," said the woman, and Rose thought she sounded apalled that anyone might think otherwise. "The place is famous throughout the galaxy." The woman sniffed and Rose thought she sounded astonishingly like Jackie when she continued with, "Though I can't think why. It is dreadfully primitive, isn't it?
"Oi," Rose protested.
Joshua stilled her with a hand reached back behind him and placed firmly on her arm. "Level-five planet, yeah?" he repeated. "What'd you expect? Spaceports and conversion towers on every street corner? You're gonna need ta give us a bit o' time."
"I think it's charming, if a bit quaint," said the man. "But if we can just have Mymmicky, we promise to get him back to the ship straight away."
Joshua seemed to consider. "Got practically the same name as Ricky," he observed to Rose. "Explains the shrieking, anyways."
"You're so not funny," she said sarcastically, even as she bit back what might very well be hysterical laughter.
"Please," said the woman. "We just want our pet."
Joshua tensed again. Rose, peering around him, saw the very strange couple start back a bit. She guessed Joshua was giving them the baleful stare. "It's all right," she said softly. "I'm sure they didn't mean anything. Jus' let 'em take the Nerf-cat an' go home, yeah?"
Joshua nodded once, then stepped forward and carefully handed the struggling creature into the woman's arms. "Don't let 'im go this time. Anyone else coulda hurt the poor little thing, all right?"
Both nodded and backed quickly away, never turning their faces away from him until they were back out on the main strip. Rose followed them until she reached Joshua's side. There was a whole group of people on the sidewalk, which the two with the cat joined. They all looked alike – completely alike.
"Back to the ship," said the woman holding the Nerf-cat. "Quickly before someone sees."
"Thank you," said the man, waving at Joshua and Rose as his group hurried off down the street.
"They all look like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman," Rose said incredulously. "Every last one of them."
"We'll always have Paris?" Joshua quoted questioningly.
Rose giggled again and found she couldn't stop. "An entire crowd of aliens looking like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman," she exclaimed through her laughter.
Joshua put both hands on her shoulders and shook her gently, then watched her intently until she finally managed to get herself under control. "It's all right, Rose," he said insistently. "It's just a disguise."
"But won't someone notice?" she wondered. "You did. I did," she added, because he was supposed to notice these things.
"If you didn't know aliens existed, what would you think?"
Rose frowned. "Casablanca convention," she decided. "Or something like a look-alike contest."
"Exactly. Humans can rationalize anything, you'd be amazed."
Rose stared up at him incredulously. "I just met my first aliens!" she exclaimed, unable to decide if she was excited or just completely lost.
Joshua grinned and tugged her into a tight hug. "You did fine," he said into her hair.
Rose clung to him until the confusion went away, until the worry that she was wrong and the trembling both stopped. "I think we'd better both go change," she decided. "We smell like we been lyin' in an alley."
"Well, we have. Just not in a good way." He smirked at her. "We could do something about that."
Rose gave him her best we-are-not-amused look and a small shove towards the mouth of the alley. "Change. Then dinner. And then you're still not getting it in this alley."
"So, other alleys are still up for debate?" he murmured wickedly.
"Out, you," was the only response he got, Rose pushing back to the main street.
Joshua laughed, grabbed her hand, and pulled her to her rightful place by his side. They walked back out into the ordinary world together, smiling.
A block and a half down the street, he started laughing again. "What's so funny?" Rose demanded.
"Nerf-cat," he said finally and kissed the top of her head. "Rose Tyler, I dunno what I'm gonna do with you. Nerf-cat."
"I believe you said something about the shower, Rose?" Joshua said hopefully.
Rose laughed. "I believe you have one a one track mind, Joshua," she answered playfully.
Joshua glanced out the window, thinking quickly for an answer to that. His eye caught on the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Once the tallest man-made structure in the world, and considered a complete eyesore, it was now one of the most well known tourist destinations, a veritable symbol of the city that had once reviled it. Several things about it tugged at him at once and he winced.
"Joshua?" Rose put a hand on his shoulder, snapping his attention back from his dark thoughts.
Joshua forced a grin and turned to her, keeping his voice playful through will power alone. "I have over a thousand tracks in my mind, Rose Tyler, but every last one of 'em orbits around you."
Rose smiled hesitantly - she obviously suspected something - but she didn't push. "Come on then," she said, and gave him his favorite smile.
She was much more interesting than the Eiffel Tower, anyway.
Joshua's French was flawless, if the look on the waiter's face was anything to go by. "Nah, he just can't get over my accent," Joshua said cheerfully when she asked about it.
Rose nodded and watched him carefully while he people watched. He was distracted from conversation by studying the various comings and goings of the patrons of this rather simple cafe he'd chosen. She gathered that he'd been here before, though he was a little vague on the details.
Something was bothering Joshua, and Rose knew it, even though she had no idea what it might be. From the puzzled expression she saw from time to time, though, she wondered if he knew what it was, either.
A man at a nearby table was drawing a picture of him. Rose noticed this and grinned, keeping it to herself. She just indulged herself in the rare opportunity to admire her lover's profile while he admired France around them. He hadn't shaved this morning, she realized, and the dark shadow along his jaw was just begging to be nuzzled.
Rose shook herself. She was going to turn into a complete sex addict at this rate. Joshua caught her movement, turned to her with bright eyes twinkling mischief, as if he could read her mind.
This seemed to annoy the artist mightily, because the older man stood, caught Joshua's eye, and very deliberately balled up the sketch. He tossed it to the floor, complete disgust on his face, as he stormed out of the cafe.
The waiter who had just returned with their order sighed and gabbled something in French at the pair of them. Joshua nodded while Rose leaned over and picked up the sketch. The waiter went to take it from her, looking apologetic, but Rose held onto it. "Can you tell him I want to look?" she asked.
Joshua relayed this to the waiter, and also something that made the young man chuckle while he set down glasses of dark red wine.
"What'd he say?" Rose wondered.
"Just not to mind that bloke, he's apparently been doing this for years, and sees things, so the drawings never make sense."
Rose opened out the paper in her hand and looked at it, puzzled. It was obviously a sketch of Joshua but just... wrong. His expression was utterly blank, dull and dead, and the eyes... tiny clocks had been set into his face in the place of irises. "Nutter," Rose pronounced and went to crumple up the page again.
Joshua took it from her and paled the instant he saw it. He stared, wild-eyed and absently horrified. Rose thought it absently because he didn't seem to her to be looking at the picture in his hand so much as at a memory. Sharply, he shook himself and reached across the table to take her hand. "Nutter," he agreed and crumpled the drawing into a tiny ball.
Even though she clung to him tightly, Rose pretended not to notice that Joshua's hands were trembling.
The Louvre was open late on Fridays, so they decided to tour it for the afternoon, at least catch a few of the better known works, such as the Venus de Milo, the works of Rodin, and of course, the Mona Lisa.
"He used entirely the wrong shade of green," Joshua said, joking really, as they walked up to perhaps the most famous painting in the world. "La Joconde. Elle est l'epitome du mystique feminin."
Rose glanced at him blankly and he smiled, shaking his head. "The very model of the mystery of your gender, my love," he said. "Her eyes seem to follow you, and her smile has been considered an enigma of the ages."
"She's... quite beautiful," Rose said softly. "I don't think I got to see her this close."
"I've always been a bit amused by her mystique. To Leonardo, she was just another commission. She was stolen once and no one even noticed at first. They thought she'd been sent to the photographers. Since the theft, however, she's become quite difficult to appropriate. She's a grand lady, La Gioconda, a creature of myth and legend, over five centuries old and forever young." As these last words left his lips, he looked at the ancient painting.
Blue magic marker on five of six poplar planks, a note, scribbled backward because the dyslexic artist liked to read that way. Blue, always blue... and blonde. Golden blonde...
Joshua felt dizzy and for a long, horrible moment, the whole world seemed to skip a beat, just like it had back... back... ?
"Right," he murmured, tugging at Rose's hand. "I just don't..."
She looked up at him, and her eyes went wide. "Let's get you out into fresh air," she said determinedly, and drew him away from the painting, away from the gallery, away from the Museum altogether.
Joshua didn't even notice. Something was clamoring for attention in his mind's eye, something he'd put off earlier, something painful and difficult. He let himself be led, quailing inside like a lost child. He didn't want this, no please, not like this. Memory all golden and screaming inside him... it was too hideous to contemplate, not now, not ever. "Rose," he croaked, trying to pull away from the small woman who had his arm wrapped around her shoulder, her arm wrapped around his waist.
"I've got you, Joshua," she said. "Not gonna let you go. You just need to rest, that's all."
He frowned. "I'm not tired," he complained.
"No, but something's wrong. Headache?"
He considered. "Yeah, why not? Headache it is." He nodded decisively, continued with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. "Just need a nap, an' I'll be good as new. Too much running after aliens, that's all, tired me out. Gettin' old."
Rose shook her head, leaned in to his side, and ran a soothing hand up his arm. "You're not old, love," she promised gently. "Just... startled."
"Right. Startled. Thanks."
Rose watched Joshua sleep. He really was tired, apparently, which surprised her. He hardly ever rested, especially not when he was as excited by something as he'd been by the whole idea of their trip to Paris. They'd not even had the chocolate mousse, yet, but it didn't seem like that was going to happen immediately, either.
She'd been frightened, really, by how pale and shaky he'd suddenly gotten in the middle of the Louvre. His blue eyes had gone so dull and distant and even when she started leading him away, it didn't seem like he was anywhere - or when - near where she was. He'd been sweating like he had when he endured detox and when she'd let him lean on her, she'd also checked his pulse to find his hearts racing.
Like they were doing now. He'd pulled her down onto the bed with him, holding her like a frightened child's teddy bear, and she hadn't minded, until just now. Something had woken her; she just couldn't put her fingers on what it was.
Nothing seemed to be going on, so she decided to just pop into the loo. When she came back, she wished she'd never left his side.
On the bed, Joshua was curled into a fetal position, his hands out of her reach. He made a low moan that sounded quite a lot like agony. She flinched and looked at his face, noting it contorted with pain. Tears started then, and Rose knew how much he hated her to see him cry, so she tried to shake him.
He curled even tighter and whimpered. "No..." he moaned, fear and a sort of helpless rage utterly apparent in his voice. His eyes squeezed tighter. Rose climbed onto the bed. "No!" Joshua shouted. "You can't, please, no!!"
He was saying something now, in a language she didn't even understand. Rose reached out for him, touched his brow, smelled fire. Joshua sat bolt upright, his flooded eyes flying open, as he gave a horrible, strangled cry. "No!!! ROMANA!!!!"