Straight Up With a Twist
Fandom: Doctor Who
Series: Talk to the Hand
Characters: Ten-II, Rose Tyler
Beta: None, though that would've been a damn good idea, don't you think?
Spoilers: Journey's End, obviously.
Summary: Follows Crossed Wires. The Doctor settles into his new job and gets a BFF. Rose gets abducted by aliens.
A/N: I have decided that this series is going to tackle various clichés that have popped up in the fandom, while also sort of advancing the plot. Crossed Wires used the 'Five Things…' cliché. This is the 'alien virus hurt/comfort' cliché. And yes, sooner or later, I'll get to 'alien sex pollen' and 'shag or die.' *laughs maniacally* Also, I won't be updating this one as quickly as the previous story, due to the holidays.
Part I – The Doctor vs. the Male Ego
"She calls me 'mummy!'" The voice in her ear is part petulant demand for attention, part genuine distress. Rose debates ignoring it so she can finish up her report for Torchwood, but she knows the longer she ignores him, the louder and more demanding he'll become. Sometimes, the Doctor needs more attention than a small child (which he was, in a way, being only about a month old.) Rose saves what she's working on and shuts down the computer. She has the feeling she won't be getting back to work on it any time soon.
She turns towards him, watching him pace back and forth across the small living room. They really need to hurry up and find a bigger flat, she thinks. Rose closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Who calls you mummy?" she asks, wondering if she'll regret it.
His hair is in tufts where he's been tugging at it, and his clothing (jeans and a T-shirt, she's relieved to note) is a little more rumpled than usual. "The TARDIS coral!" he cries. "I was able to link with her today, and she called me 'mummy.'" He flops dramatically onto the recliner and watches her from beneath hooded eyes.
Ooh. He's working himself into one of his Oncoming Pouts. She licks her lips in anticipation. She loves his sexy little pouts – and helping him work through them is even more fun. It's going to be a loooong while before she can get back to her Torchwood report…
Rose moves to the recliner, taking a seat on the broad arm. He automatically puts his arm around her waist. She reaches forward and smoothes down his hair. "Maybe because you love her and take such good care of her?" she says soothingly. And cuddle her and coo at her like she's an actual baby, Rose doesn't add. She finds it adorable, and she doesn't want to make him so embarrassed that he stops. "You are," she purrs, "very good at attending to one's needs."
"S'pose," he mutters, without turning to look at her. Rose frowns; maybe she's misread him, and he doesn't want her attention after all. But then he rests a hand on her thigh and strokes it absently. His nails, she notices, are a pearlescent pink, and very well manicured – unlike her own, which are uneven from bites and breaks attained in the line of duty. Torchwood is hell on nails.
"Would it make you feel better if I called you 'daddy?'" she asks huskily.
He pulls back, regarding her with wide, startled eyes. "Incest fantasies, Rose? Really?"
Well, that kills the mood. And inspires images Rose is going to have to Retcon from her brain as soon as possible. "Ugh," she grumbles, and is about to get back to her feet when the Doctor abruptly grabs her and pulls her into his lap, arms wrapped tightly around her and chin resting atop her head. She shifts around until she's leaning comfortably against his chest, listening to his single human heart.
"That's not what's really bothering you, is it?" she asks softly.
She feels his sigh ruffle her hair. "It's work," he finally admits. She blinks in surprise. Two weeks ago, he'd been hired by the weekly British gossip rag The Star, writing two online columns a week and one long article for the printed magazine. Despite having no experience whatsoever in the world of gossip, his charisma and silver tongue has charmed both the magazine's editors and the celebrities he interviews. And his research skills are impeccable; sniffing out news is nothing to someone who'd once solved the mysteries of the universe. His column, 'Talk to the Hand,' is known for being brutally honest and fair. Even his editors admire him; he won't fudge facts to create a scandal, but he can present the truth in a way that readers find riveting.
His only flaw is that his writing is as wordy as his gob; he tends to run off on tangents that seem relevant to him, or drop names that no one on this planet – or universe - would have ever heard of. Rose helps edit his articles when she has time, but it's an arduous task, made worse by the way he flinches whenever any of his precious words are sacrificed. "Are they getting on your case about article length again?"
"No… though they've been trying to find me a part-time assistant for that. I've already gone through two."
That was news to her. "When did they decide this?" she demands. And here she's been editing his articles and neglecting her Torchwood reports…
"You went through two assistants today?"
He shrugs. "It takes a special kind of person to be my… assistant," he says, kissing the top of her head. "Not everyone's cut out for it."
Rose suppresses a grin. She suddenly gets the feeling his style of reporting is more… vigorous than most. Probably a lot of running. And possibly even aliens; it wouldn't be the first time he'd uncovered alien plots while reporting in the rich and famous.
"Is that what's bothering you? I'm sure you'll find someone suitable. It can't be as difficult as finding someone to see the universe with. "
She hears the smile in his voice as he murmurs into her hair, "I've already got someone in mind for that position, anyway." She shivers in anticipation. It will be at least a year before the baby TARDIS will be able to travel, and even then the trips will be short, but she'll be out among the stars again, at the Doctor's side. She can't wait. "Greg spoke to me today." Greg Johnson is the editor-in-chief of The Star. "He wants me to do another column."
"Oh?" For most people, three columns and an article a week would be arduous. The Doctor could do three times that with no difficulty. He's the fastest typist she's ever seen, and he never seems to suffer from Writer's Block, typos, or grammatical errors. She knows he can handle the extra work without difficulty. So, what was the problem?
"One of the writers is leaving. Greg asked me to take over his column." He swallows. "It's… the homosexual lifestyle column."
This world is far more blasé about homosexual couples. It has gone through the same history of bigotry as her own world, but in the past five years, there has been a level of acceptance that far surpasses what her home universe had achieved.
Still, it's odd… The Doctor barely grasps the concept of the heterosexual human lifestyle, though Rose is doing her best to teach him. She is not going to educate him on playing for the other team! "Why you? I mean… this isn't really your thing. Right?"
"Because of my 'experience,' Greg said. When I asked him what he meant…" The Doctor yanks his hair in agitation. "Rose, they think I'm gay!"
Rose can relate, having once thought much the same thing. She suspects he must have fanboyed one too many male celebrities within the editor's hearing. The cosmetics probably don't help either, but at least he hasn't gone to work in women's clothing. Yet.
"He wants me to act the part," he continues. "Go to pubs and strip joints, offer advice on clothing, share my experiences… Beyond a kiss from Captain Jack, I don't have any experiences!" he splutters indignantly. "Though that was a good kiss, if I do say so myself," he preens. "Not bad for someone with no experience."
She shrugs. It doesn't seem like a horrible problem to her. "Just tell him you're not gay," she says. "Problem solved."
"I did! He didn't believe me. He just got all sympathetic and told me he understood if I couldn't handle the pressure of having another column to write, and I didn't need to make excuses. So I told him that wasn't it, that of course I could handle another column, easy-peasy, and… next thing I know, I have another column due in a week."
Rose groans inwardly at how easily the Doctor has been manipulated. He's still new when it comes to human emotional responses, and implying that he was incapable of something… well, what male ego would stand for that? She had hoped that his alien nature and his streak of Donna-ness would temper that impulse.
Transvestite tendencies and PMS aside, it appears the Doctor is all man, after all. "You're brilliant," she murmurs, intentionally stroking that male ego to soothe his ruffled feathers. "You'll think of some way to get out of it."
He just laughs softly and tightens his grip around her.
It isn't until later, as she's sliding into bed next to the Doctor's recumbent form, that she realizes how neatly she's been played. He'd steered the conversation towards a silly issue, exaggerating until it seemed the world's fate hinged upon him proving he was a manly man, as straight as they came. If one ignored the cross-dressing.
He'd deflected her from what was really bothering him: he was lonely. In this world, all he has are Rose and the rest of the Tylers. He has love, he has his adopted family, but he needs friends. He's a social butterfly, desperately needing to surround himself with people who like him. And today's 'crisis' seems to have driven home just how different he is from everyone else. How alien. And that inherent strangeness will make it much harder for him to find people he can connect with.
Rose shifts close to him, until she can feel his human-warm flesh against hers. He automatically leans into her, craving contact even in sleep.
Usually, he can't wait to start the day. He tends to wake up before Rose, his hybrid body needing only about half as much sleep as she. Sometimes he'll stay in the flat and read until she awakens, making breakfast for them and discussing their plans for the day. Other days, the domesticity will be too much for him and he'll head towards Torchwood, spending a few hours with the growing coral before heading off to The Star's offices.
Today, though, the flat seems unnaturally silent, and he can't concentrate on his book. Worse, he doesn't want to see the coral; he's not sure if he can handle being called 'mummy' right now, and he doesn't want the infant TARDIS to pick up on his distress.
And there's a lot of it. Rose is right (though the Doctor is unaware that she has worked this out) – he does need friends. He loves Rose fiercely, but they can't spend all of their time together. She has a life she built while they were separated, and he doesn't want her to change it just for him. And he is accustomed to people responding to his charm and following him into unusual and often dangerous situations, trusting him implicitly to get them through alive and, most of all, enjoying every minute of it.
His experience with the two potential assistants yesterday has shown him that he's lost something, and it isn't just a second heart. His somewhat hands-on research method frightened away the first assistant, and the second hadn't spoken English very well and had almost had a mental breakdown trying to transcribe the Doctor's babbling.
He needs someone who can not only keep up with him, both physically and vocally, but can also handle the occasional alien encounter his research sometimes turns up. And he needs someone who will enjoy it, who will laugh about it with him later. It just isn't as much fun alone.
The Doctor sets his book aside with a sigh of frustration. He needs to get out of the flat, to burn off this restless energy and clear his mind. So he grabs his flat keys and spends the next few hours riding the underground to random locations all over London, courting disaster by sitting in cars with passengers of questionable intent and traversing dark, empty stretches of city to reach the next station.
Danger, human-style. He misses traveling the universe. It was a thousand times more dangerous, but at least it was exciting. Never gave him so much time to feel lonely. Never dull enough that his biggest problem was figuring out how to get out of writing a column he was completely unsuited for.
Speaking of which… his sense of time is telling him it was almost time for him to head for the office. He sighs and hops on the train that will take him closest to the office, and sets his mind on how to wriggle out of his new task while still saving face. Maybe if he tells them he is with a woman? He'd somehow left that out of his 'not gay' protestations the previous day.
He heads straight for Greg's office. His secretary waves the Doctor in, and he enters to find the editor-in-chief speaking with Kelly Saunders, who is in charge of The Star's fashion aspect. (The Doctor had debated working that angle as well, but decided to start off with a light work load and settled with celebrity gossip).
As always, his eyes fasten on the photo of Rose, taken by a paparazzo and blown up to poster size for display, like a hunter's trophy. It's hard not to stare at it; it's been given a place of honor right over Greg's chair.
They'd caught her on a bad day.
A really bad day – she looked sort of like what the Bride of Frankenstein (well, technically, Frankenstein's monster) would look like if she'd caught the Bubonic Plague. One of these days, the Doctor is going to ask her the story behind it.
"Good morning, John," Greg says pleasantly, and Kelly echoes him. There is no 'Doctor' here; in this shallow world where looks got a person further than brains, a writer with the title of 'Doctor' would annoy or intimidate the celebrities.
"I don't think I'm the best person to take over Gareth's column," he says. "I've never even been to a same-sex pub or club; I wouldn't know where to begin writing about something like that!"
Greg considers. "A fresh perspective might be just what the column needs," he muses. "Gareth was very confident in his sexuality; it might have been intimidating to readers still coming to terms with it. A column about your first time and what you learned to do or not do in a club could boost readership. Do you have a partner to take with you, or are you single?"
"I have a girlfriend," the Doctor says, wincing inwardly at using such a juvenile term to describe a much deeper, more mature relationship. But he doesn't think gender-neutral terms like 'partner,' 'lover,' 'soul-mate,' or 'companion with benefits' will help his case.
"Oh?' Greg and Kelly exchanges glances. Kelly tries to hide a grin.
"Yes! And she's definitely female, with the breasts and estrogen and everything," the Doctor continues emphatically. "I know; I've looked. A lot."
"John, if you don't want to do the column, just come right out and say it-" Greg begins.
"I'm dating Rose Tyler!" he blurts out. Oh, now he's done it. He's just told London's largest gossip rag that he's with one of their favorite subjects.
Early on, he and Rose had decided to keep their relationship out of the public eye, at least until the Doctor has managed to establish a life for himself in Pete's World. Except for the Stone – Jones wedding incident (which no one remembers anyway, thanks to the wonders of Retcon) they've managed to successfully keep the press unaware, thanks to the use of holographic projectors 'borrowed' from Torchwood, as well as disguises when necessary. It appears that they've been extremely successful – and now the Doctor has ruined it, all because he needs to prove he's a Real Man.
Sometimes, being human sucks.
Rather than gasping in shock at this revelation, Greg merely raises an eyebrow, and glances between the Doctor and the poster he's focusing on. "Are you," he says, amused. The Doctor blinks, confused by the editor's indifferent attitude to what should have been front page news. Then he realizes: his gaze has been on the picture of Rose the entire time. Greg just assumes that, in his desperation, the Doctor said the first name that came to mind, the name of the woman he'd been staring at. If his gaze had been a few centimeters to the right – no, that was no good, that was a picture of Johnny Depp, and while he was dreaming, saying his name wouldn't have helped the Doctor any – okay, if his gaze had been on the poster to the left of Rose, Greg probably assumes he'd have said Angelina Jolie.
Which also wouldn't have helped, really, given how her preferences were different in this universe.
Later, the Doctor will realize that Greg had offered several openings for him to refuse the column without consequence. He's too riled up to realize that now, however. "I can prove it! We can do dinner Friday. Me, Rose, you and your, er, wife? Significant other? You have one, right? Anyway, bring her, him, or it along, and I'll introduce you to Rose and prove that she and I are shagging! Er, not that we'll demonstrate, of course – it won't be that kind of restaurant." A thought strikes him. "Do those kinds of restaurants exist? They're all the rage on Orbais VI, but I don't think they've caught on here. Horrible things, sextaurants. Everyone's naked and there's nowhere to properly hide a sonic screwdriver! And the food is all suggestively shaped and chock full of aphrodisiacs – which it turns out I'm allergic to – and then –"
"John?" Greg says, his voice strained, before the Doctor could describe in detail just what happens in Orbais VI restaurants. "If it means that much to you, I'll go. To a nice, ordinary restaurant. Along with my wife. She's been nagging me for a night out, anyway."
Kelly is watching the exchange with evident amusement. "Can I go, too? This could be amusing."
And before the Doctor quite realizes it, he's agreeing that he and Rose will spend Friday night with several people they barely know in one of the city's most expensive restaurants. Without even asking if Rose had plans.
Oh, well… she won't mind too much, right? He's sure she'll do it, so long as it helps him get out of writing the column.
Later, the Doctor will also realize that he'd never come out and actually said he didn't want to do the column, only that he isn't suited to it. It's something that will come back to bite him in the bum later.
Kelly follows him out, stopping him with an impatient tug on his sleeve. "If it's about the column," he begins.
"Actually, I have someone in my department that might make a good assistant for you."
"Can this one speak English?" he mutters. He can't wait until the new TARDIS's translation circuits grow in.
"All the time," Kelly says wryly. "C'mon, she's in my office sorting through paperwork if you'd like to meet her."
The Doctor follows reluctantly. "Is she any good?" He knows he's not high on the priority list for getting an assistant, and, as a result, he hasn't exactly been getting the pick of the litter. At the moment, he'll settle for a small measure of competence.
Kelly smiles faintly. "She's good, yeah. She types nearly as fast as you, and there's no faulting her dictation skills. Her spelling and grammar are good, so her proofreading skills are more than adequate. She can even think for herself," she says, as if this is a rare commodity.
The Doctor raises an eyebrow. "So what's wrong with her?"
Kelly looks uncomfortable. "What makes you think there's something wrong with her?"
"Oh, maybe it's because the last few assistants you all had me try out were barely competent, and if this one were even half as good as you say, one of the editors would have snapped her up for themselves."
She sighs. "Okay… she's a little… abrasive. Disrespectful. And opinionated. And loud. She made Nerys cry, and the head of PR is threatening to quit if we loan her to him again. But she's a nice person. A good person. Deep down. Somewhere." Kelly's shoulders slump. "I'd send her back to the temp office, but they're short on work offers right now, and she really needs the money because her father's dying." She stops at the door. "Brace yourself," she murmurs.
The Doctor squares his shoulders, prepared to face this she-devil. Kelly throws open the door and walks in, and the figure hunched over a stack of papers looks up.
The Doctor stops dead, jaw slack and eyes wide.
"Oi! Who's the skinny streak of nothing, Kelly?" a familiar voice barks. "Hey, skinny, quit giving me that boggle-eyed stare!"
Then, he shrieks (which he'll fervently deny later, of course), "Donna!" and lunges forward to give his old friend a hug.
It's been one of those days.
Rose had first spent three hours navigating London traffic (with Jake hanging on for dear life) pursuing a transmat signal that had been appearing at random intervals and locations all over the city. Initially, they'd feared it was some sort of scouting mission for an invasion, until they noticed the pattern of locations: strip joints, adult film cinemas, adult bookstores and toy stores, and even a brothel. They'd eventually caught up with the teleporters, a pair of fourteen-year-old boys who'd found an alien device and were using it to sneak in to adult locations. Their only real crime had been to swipe a couple of dirty magazines.
Next, she'd been sent to investigate a UFO sighting that turned out to actually be a weather balloon. Rose has never seen one before, and now realizes why the mistake is so common.
The incident with the wide-eyed fuzzy bunny things that resembled furry basketballs with chainsaw teeth had been really inconvenient – though their fatally allergic reaction to her perfume had thankfully ended that encounter pretty quickly. But not before they'd chopped off a huge swatch of her hair as neatly as any razor.
But this, Rose decides, takes the cake. She'd been pursuing another UFO sighting outside the city limits, tromping around a muddy field looking for evidence, when a beam of purple energy seized her foot and began to pull her upwards. Upside down. And now, she is being hauled towards an ovoid silver spaceship by the most agonizingly slow tractor beam she has ever been caught in (it's been ten minutes, and she's still only halfway up) all the while keeping her arms tightly folded over her chest so her shirt doesn't slip towards her neck and reveal her bra to the world.
Finally, she nears the ship's hull, and a hatch slides open. She is dumped unceremoniously on the floor, face down. Scowling, she sits up, brushing her hair back out of her eyes (inwardly cringing when she realizes how little of it is left to push back) and is prepared to unleash the full force of an irate Tyler woman upon her captors. Until she catches sight of the alien standing over her.
"Buck? Buck buck buuuUUUUCK!" it tells her coldly.
Rose just stares. It looks for all the world like she's just been abducted by giant purple chickens.