To Danielle on her 21st birthday. Here's to another ten years of friendship and more. Love you!
It never ceased to amaze Rose how being immersed in a new culture could make you see everything in a new light. She was too stubborn a person for her fundamentals to be trifled with, but when she had to play a part to fit in, little things would be changed. Like that time on Velox 4 where everyone was obsessed with their hair. Not only was Rose grateful that she'd just been back to mum's to have her roots done (something she still thought the Doctor timed on purpose but couldn't prove), but she found herself spending a bit extra time in the morning preparing it.
A smile graced her face as she recalled that by the time they left, everyone was so grateful to the Doctor that the new style was the crew cut. Everyone was doing it. The Doctor had put on a fake pout when she refused to let her new friend, Timah, all but shave her head.
"I have to live with him," she'd said. "I don't need to look like him."
"You don't like the way I look?" He'd asked pitifully. If his lower lip stuck out any further, he'd trip on it.
"I think you're gorgeous." Rose responded truthfully. "I just don't think I have the ears for it."
Rose sighed fondly at the memory. This time had been different. This time what the culture prized had been modesty. Rose had always thought she was modest. By estate standards, she was practically prudish.
But, she'd learned, by Napoleonic Europe's standards, she was worse than any slapper, for all that their idea of Lady Liberty was a woman whose top had been ripped to show off her eerily pointed breasts.
From what she could tell, they'd gone there on a lark. Napoleon's coronation sounded like fun. Jack had been particularly excited.
"Hell, that guy's famous in my time." He'd said. "We gotta love a man with big enough balls to take the crown from the pope and put it on himself."
"I refuse to comment on the fact that your lot just likes people with big balls." The Doctor said dryly. Rose blinked. She was ninety percent certain that he knew what he'd just done. At any rate, it spared her saying it.
Of course, while they were there, Rose just had to ask why the crown didn't look like the one in the painting; the Doctor just had to recognize it as some doomsday device, and it just had to turn out that there was some alien plot to make Napoleon emperor of Earth.
They'd ended up staying for three weeks. In Vatican City, arguably the most holy city in the world. Certainly the most holier-than-thou. Turned out some alien was impersonating the pope. To give a dictator the power to rule the world. Rose really hoped that his more planet had a word for ironic.
Rose had never been more pleased to leave a place. It had to be all the insane rules that were driving her nuts. The first day, Rose had been dressed to the nines to see the coronation. The Doctor hadn't looked at her twice, though Jack's wolf-whistle had elicited the usual glare. This was normal. This was expected. Rose comes out in a dress which has a bodice that flaunts her cleavage, for all that if comes from a supposed age of gentility, and the Doctor hardly grunts. It was standard operating procedure. It was safe for both of them.
Maybe the three weeks of being in the women's quarters, three weeks of women's work, three weeks of collars that came up to her chin and skirts that swept the ground were what caused this insanity that plagued her.
Despite the psychic paper declaring the Doctor to be her guardian, nothing could spare her from the fate of the maiden's quarters. She was an unmarried woman, and that was that. Rose still felt the Doctor could have fought a little harder on her behalf. He'd been just a little too eager to have her ensconced in gossip central to see what she could find out.
"When in Rome, Rose." The Doctor had said with a dopey grin and a shrug while Jack rolled his eyes and took a step back, out of range of Tyler fury.
Rose glared at the Doctor. "You're just saying that because we're actually in Rome. You don't have a curfew of sunset." She groused.
It was the next day that Rose started to hallucinate. It was the only way to describe it. She was provided dresses that didn't expose an inch of skin that wasn't part of her face or hands. But, for all that, it still tried to not waste an ounce of cloth. Each one was a muted color: greys and browns and black, and each one was skin tight until it reached the skirt where it flared gracefully around the round of her bum. Every swell, every dip, every curve was perfectly followed. Almost as if it was tailored for her. Still, she could move in it, and it never much mattered what she wore as the Doctor never paid any attention, and there was no one else she really wanted to impress.
The very next time Rose saw the Doctor after first donning one of these dresses, he seemed to stare at her for longer than usual before breaking into his customary grin. When he refused to let her hide out in his room rather than spend another evening embroidering, Rose could have sworn the tips of his ears turned pink.
From then on she caught smoldering stares and longing glances being cast her way. She had to tell him twice that for three weeks the Pope hadn't been eating well. He'd been too busy staring at the buttons that ran down her bodice as if they might either do a trick or explode, and he wasn't sure which.
Worst of all, every lecture on French, Italian, or Roman history that he chose to share with her ended or began with someone famous shagging some one else. Sometimes it both ended and began with it.
She couldn't be held responsible if she stood even closer to him, flirted more than usual, returned a few of the looks he gave her. She was only human, and she didn't care if he wasn't; she'd wanted him practically since she'd met him.
A few more days of snooping and knicker-drenching gazes, and the real Pope was discovered in what the Doctor loftily insisted on calling the "hypogeum" of the Coliseum, and what Rose and Jack called the "underground."
So, the person who was, at the time, the most important man in Christianity was being held captive in the underground cells for prisoners and animals in one of the most impressive structures of the pagan world that had been indoctrinated into the Christian tradition. The captor was impersonating said holy man so he could equip Napoleon Bonaparte with a doomsday device that would ensure his victory over the world. Rose was beginning to worry that his language didn't have a word for irony and was wondering how to introduce the concept to them.
Alrighty, evil alien securely detained in the TARDIS, proper Pope gratefully restored to his pointy hat, time to retrieve the killer crown from the newly self-coronated emperor. They couldn't take the TARDIS, the Doctor said, because they were fixed in the time line now, and if they were off in their landing, terrible things could happen.
"In other words," Jack teased. "You're afraid of screwing up and landing us in the middle of the New and Improved Battle of Waterloo, now with lasers." He grinned cheekily through his announcer impersonation.
"No," The Doctor said with irritation. "It's much more serious than that." He sighed heavily and studiously avoided Rose's gaze. "I'm afraid of calling down the Reapers."
Rose stilled. "I'll go pack." She said numbly and turned towards the TARDIS.
"Rose!" The Doctor almost cried her name. It seemed as loud as a shot in the quiet halls. He grabbed her elbow and pulled her so close to him that she could feel his breath on her face. "They won't get you." He promised. Rose just stared at him. "They won't get me, either. Not this time. Not ever. I promise."
There was a sincere warmth in his voice that opened a floodgate somewhere in Rose. She fisted her hands in the lapels of his leather jacket and cried, not caring if she ruined his jumper. "Don't disappear on me again." She whispered.
"Never again." He returned determinedly. His arms tightening around her, trying to ward off the pain.
After several seconds, Jack coughed. And then smirked as they jumped apart.
"I'll go pack." Rose repeated, this time with some life in her voice. Again she turned to the TARDIS, and again her progress was arrested by the Doctor.
"I don't want either of you going in there without me until we get rid of our prisoner. We need to leave as soon as possible. I'll go secure a carriage."
"I could do it." Jack offered gallantly. "That way you could take Rose to the wardrobe room."
"And use what as money?" The Doctor asked.
"No. You are not acquiring transportation by shagging the stable master."
"Well you could give me enough to cover it, then."
"So you can go get a prostitute? And then shag the stable master?"
"You can get a prostitute in Vatican City?" Rose asked.
"You can get everything in Vatican City." The Doctor said wearily.
"You can get a prostitute absolutely anywhere." Jack said with a knowing grin.
"No." The Doctor said firmly. "I'll get the transport. You will tell our hosts that we thank them for their generosity and that we'll be back within the month,kl and you," he rounded on Rose and then softened. "You can take the dresses you've got here. They'll be...fantastic." Rose stared at him in disbelief. When she looked over at Jack, he shrugged, but had a knowing glint in his eye.
Rose knew when she had to give in. "Okay." The Doctor pressed a swift kiss to her forehead and strode away down the hall. Jack took a different hall, and Rose could've sworn she heard him say
"Schoolmistress type. Figures."
With an unsteady breath, she headed back to the maidens' dormitories. Her forehead still burned from where he'd kissed it. This is ridiculous, she insisted to herself. After all, he'd done as much before. Still, somehow that simple caress had never seemed so charged before.
Maybe when they got out of this godforsaken city, the Doctor would go back to normal and only give her these heated looks in her dreams.
By the time she'd finished packing, the Doctor was leaning against her doorframe, waiting for her to be ready. She could feel him watching her. Rose Tyler knew very well that it wasn't wise to goad the Doctor, to antagonize him. It was even less wise to try and tempt him, but a small experiment never seemed like it could hurt.
Rose slowed and exaggerated her motions as she continued to pack. She curved into a stretch a bit more that was strictly necessary; she bent over just far enough so that he could get a good view of her bum. She smirked when she heard him catch his breath. Turning to look him in the eyes, wondering if they would be darkened, Rose felt the heel of her plain, serviceable, black boot break beneath her.
Before she could fall, the Doctor was at her side, arms around her.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly. His face was winches from her, and Rose was pleased to see that his nostrils were flared, and his pupils were dilated. She sent up a quick prayer that arousal showed itself the same way in Time Lords and in humans.
"Yeah." She breathed. "My shoe broke." The Doctor settled her in the nearest chair, his touch lingering longer than it should. His fingers trailed down her arm to the wrist.
He dug in his pocket until he could triumphantly flourish his sonic screwdriver. "Soon have it fixed." He knelt in front of her, and pushed her skirt up over her knees so it wouldn't get in his way. Rose shivered at this caress and hoped he didn't notice.
His fingers skimmed down her legs now clad only in tights. Rose felt every nuance of his touch as though he were exploring her bare skin. Did he even know what he was doing? When the Doctor's touch stopped at the top of her broken shoe, Rose gulped down a huge breath of cooling, stabilizing air and tried to force herself to calm down. She closed her eyes in an attempt to block out the image of the Doctor kneeling between her legs.
The buzzing stopped, and Rose opened her eyes to see the Doctor staring up at her with the same heavy-lidded expression he'd had when he caught her. She swallowed nervously.
"Good as new?" She asked breathily. She was scrambling for familiar ground, desperate for normalcy in this rush of the unexpected and unknown. By reminding the Doctor of his role, of the part he played, maybe she could remember why she wanted the safe path they'd been treading.
"Better." He murmured. They remained a frozen tableau for several long, tense minutes while the Doctor searched her face. What he found, she couldn't know as she didn't even know what she should be showing him, much less what she was.
Feeling like she couldn't breathe, couldn't think, Rose let the Doctor indulge in his lazy perusal. Her hands clenched the wooden arms smoothed not by a craftsmen's care but by the use from dozens of women maybe in her exact position: thrown for a loop by the man they fancy like mad, dizzy from his mere proximity. And at a loss for low to regain their composure and equanimity.
That was another thing about travelling. She tended to pick up their manner of speech at least for a while.
Rose was aware that her mind was grasping at straws, trying to ignore its reality to protect itself from taking this too far.
With painstaking care, the Doctor lowered Rose's skirt. He stood, tension in every muscle. Rose tried to scold herself for the thoughts racing through her mind. She tried to tell herself that she was the only one affected, but when the Doctor offered his hand to help her to her feet, Rose felt a tremble, knew that he gripped her tighter than normal.
"Knock knock!" Jack's voice rang out.
Neither of them would admit to jumping apart, but the smirk on Jack's face as he leaned against the doorframe spoke volumes towards what he'd witnessed.
"All packed?" He asked calmly. Rose knew her face was flushed and unsuccessfully tried to will her heartbeat back to normal. She forced a smile.
"Yeah. Just got to lock the trunk." She eyed the bulky wooden contraption. "One of you gets to carry it." She declared with all the gravitas of a lady.