Coming Undone (1/1)
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.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, obviously.
Summary: Follows Romantic Entanglements. It seems Rose still has some traces of Bad Wolf, after all.
A/N: The 'Rose has Bad Wolf powers' cliché is very frequently used, often with mixed results. There are some very good ones, but, sadly, it's more common that these types of fics usually end up as either a way to make Rose so Super Special she's even better than the Doctor, or as a way to create epic amounts of angst between her and the all-too-mortal Ten-II, usually resulting in him dying and her going off to find the other Doctor. I wanted to do something a little bit different.
Rose scowls as she slams down the phone. "Very helpful, Mum, thanks," she mutters. Louder, she says, "If my mum calls again, don't answer the phone!"
From the direction of the bathroom comes a muffled thud, followed by a yelp. A moment later the Doctor limps out, wearing a pink towel wrapped around his damp hair and a yellow bathrobe patterned with ducks. "Dropped the brush on my foot," he says breathlessly, and Rose winces in sympathy. It's only been a few weeks since the little toe of his right foot had been bitten off by a carnivorous plant, and the wound still pains him, as well as occasionally throwing off his balance. He grins, trying to prove that he's all right.
"Are we shunning Jackie, then?" he asks hopefully. He pulls the towel free and runs his hands through his damp hair, which is growing out of a recent bleaching and is half blond, half dark brown. Any suggestion that he re-dye, or worse, cut his hair has been met with indignation, and Rose has resigned herself to appearing in public with a man who resembles a reverse skunk.
Not that she hasn't been guilty of that herself, back in her days as a shop girl.
He's a bit miffed with Jackie at the moment; in an effort to make the evening perfect, she'd come into their flat while they were at work and stolen his trainers and suits, giving him no choice but to appear at the event in a tuxedo and dress shoes (the shoes he'd worn to work weren't an option, being currently covered with green slime). Normally, Rose would tell him to take it like a man, but the shoes pinch his wounded foot and she has the feeling his limp is going to be even worse by the end of the evening. "Another lecture about keeping that 'alien prune' in line tonight?"
"Actually, this time she called about me," Rose says. "Started off as a pep talk about how I can do this, turned into a lecture about how this night is important for Pete and I can't screw it up, and then she proceeded to remind me of the time I was six and burst into tears during a Christmas pageant because I had to use the loo." She rolls her eyes.
"Ah," the Doctor says, "just make sure you go before you get on stage," he offers sagely, then vanishes back into the bathroom.
"Big help, thanks," she mutters. She really doesn't need this right now. Her step dad is being honored by President Jones herself for his contribution to society, both as Vitex CEO and as head of Torchwood's board of directors, and Jackie had 'volunteered' Rose to give a speech about Pete. She hasn't had much experience speaking to a large audience, beyond giving a handful of oral reports to a classroom full of bored students, doing the occasional interview, or mimicking the Doctor in front of an army of invading aliens.
But this has to be easier than facing down invading aliens, right?
Rose feels like she's about to throw up. This is nothing like the scripted interviews she's given as the Vitex Heiress, or her evasive non-answers used when the press grills her about a Torchwood mission.
She throws herself backwards on the bed, mentally rehearsing the speech. She'll have cards to read off, but she wants to memorize enough that she can look out at the audience and sound at least somewhat spontaneous.
She's running through it a second time when the Doctor comes back out, dressed in what is most definitely not the tuxedo her mum had left out for him. She suppresses a sigh when she sees what he's wearing.
It's in the same style as all the other pin-striped suits he favors, but with a satin waistcoat and crumpled handkerchief stuffed untidily into his breast pocket. Usually, it's a good look for the Doctor. But in this case… the suit is purple. With green pin-stripes.
The suit itself isn't all that bad, really; it's how it looks on the Doctor that Rose doesn't like. All he needs is a green wig and he'll be a dead ringer for the Joker. She's never told him, out of fear that he might either dye his hair green as an experiment, or suggest she dress up as Harley Quinn to match. Or, worse, whine about how he'd rather look like Harley Quinn.
"I thought Mum hid your suits?" is all she says. "She won't be pleased at you for showing up like that."
The Doctor just shrugs unconcernedly. "She didn't get my dry cleaning," he says. "If Jackie really didn't want me to dress like this, she should have been more thorough." He sits on the bed next to her and wraps his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. She leans into him, then nearly chokes when she gets a good whiff of what he's wearing.
"You used my perfume again," she sighs.
"I like it," he says defensively "It lasts longer and smells better than any of those colognes I have. Besides," he continues seductively, leaning forward to nuzzle her neck, "I usually end up smelling like you anyway. Why fight the inevitable?"
Great. He's having one of his frisky nights and she can't even take advantage of it. She sighs and pushes him away, ignoring his wounded pout. "I have to get ready," she reminds him. "If we're late, Mum will kill you. Later, though…" She stands and heads to the bathroom to finish dressing before she can change her mind.
The Doctor is still waiting on the bed when she finishes, hands folded in his lap and back straight, as if he'd been waiting patiently the entire time. Only the slightly more rumpled condition of his suit and a tuft of hair sticking out a perpendicular angle to the rest of his hair prove he's been fidgeting.
They have about ten minutes before the Tyler limo is due to pick them up, and the Doctor heads into the living room and drapes himself over the sofa. Rose paces in front of the window, and the Doctor's eyes follow her back and forth. Finally, he can't take it any more.
"Are you going to be all right? You look a little tense. Worried about your speech?"
"I'll be fine," she lies through clenched teeth. "I've handled worse."
"Really? Blimey, you're brave. I've stood up to Daleks and Cybermen and Sycorax and… well, too many to count, really, but they never really listened to me. Giving a speech to an attentive, judgmental audience? I'd be terrified!"
He's really not helping. Feigning casualness, she shrugs. "I'll just imagine everyone naked."
The Doctor blinks. "Naked? Really? And that helps?" He's giving her that humans-are-weird-and-I'll-never-understand-them look he's perfected.
"Yeah. I mean, most people visualize the crowd in their knickers, but I like 'em naked." She grins wickedly and licks her lips. "Especially when my sexy boyfriend is sitting in the front row," she purrs.
He brightens at that. "It's just that humans have all these hang ups about nudity," he says. "I would have thought imagining everyone starkers would make you more uncomfortable, not less." He raises his eyebrow. "And Jackie's going to be sitting next to me; are you going to imagine her nude as well?'
He would have to find the flaw in her plan, wouldn't he? "I just won't look at her," Rose says flatly. Before he can further poke holes in her brilliant plan, she decides to distract him. "So, Time Lords don't have hang ups about nudity, then?"
"Nope," he says breezily. "When you don't have a sex drive, why would you care if anyone sees your bits? Besides," he continues, oblivious of Rose's stunned expression, "the formal robes we wore itched, and it felt good to just shuck them off and have a good nude run through the red grass."
Now Rose is certain he's pulling her leg. Well, mostly certain.
"In fact," the Doctor continues cheerfully, "I spent five years at the Academy as a nudist."
Fortunately, before her brain can attempt to process this and likely overload and ooze out her ears, the limo pulls up. The Doctor pulls on his coat, then gallantly holds out his arm for Rose. She accepts, trying to smile even though she feels as if she's heading to her execution.
The evening is off to a good start. Her mum had managed not to kill the Doctor for not wearing his tux, though she'd done her best to induce spontaneous combustion with her smouldering glare.
The event is being held in a massive, elegant ballroom with a stage set up for the speeches and the presentation of a massive plaque that is Pete's reward for his service to his country. Rose's stomach lurches when she sees just how many chairs have been set up for the presentation; it seems that half of London has been invited to the ceremony.
As the guest of honor, Pete is seated at a long table on the stage, along with President Jones and several CEOs from Vitex's international divisions, as well as two members of Torchwood's board of directors. He looks as uncomfortable as Rose feels, and she expects at any moment that he'll duck behind one of the dried flower centerpieces decorating the table.
As the last guests take their seats, Harriet Jones stands and walks to the podium, and begins a speech full of praise for Pete and his heroism against the Cybermen, his company's boosting of the economy, and his contribution to charities. It's all very flattering, and very true, but Pete still looks as if he'd rather be anywhere else.
Rose is seated in the front row, between the Doctor and Jackie. Her hand is wrapped so tightly around the Doctor's that she wonders if he has any feeling left in his fingers. She's being ridiculous, she tells herself. It's just a speech. In front of several of the country's most powerful politicians. And Vitex investors. And Torchwood investors. As well as everyone else who counts for something in high society. No pressure.
On the stage, President Jones is finishing her speech, and the butterflies in Rose's stomach increase their fluttering. She's up next… The President formally introduces Rose, who rises, removes her hand from the Doctor's, and heads onto the stage accompanied by the crowd's polite applause.
Rose sucks in a breath and heads toward the podium. From his seat in the front, the Doctor gives her a wide grin and a thumbs up. She plasters a smile to her face and takes her place behind the podium, setting the cards with her speech in front of her. She takes another, steadying breath and, teas her eyes away from the audience, which seems to have doubled during her short walk. She focuses on the printed words before her, and opens her mouth to begin.
It's a good speech, she tells herself reassuringly. She'd written it, the Doctor had snuck onto her computer and re-written it, then she'd handed it over to Pete's speech writer who had tossed out the whole thing and given her a better speech which was shorter and somehow managed to have little personal touches that made it seem as if Rose had written it. The Doctor had scoffed over it and made a few suggestions for 'improvements', which she'd ignored.
Rose starts off strongly, only glancing at her note cards twice. But it's as if she can feel all eyes in the room on her, judging her, dissecting her… and finding her lacking. It's just your imagination, she tells herself firmly. But the next words she speaks are tinged with the rough accent she'd tried so hard to hide, and the more she speaks, the more it comes through. Someone in the crowd stifles a laugh at her pronunciation of a word, and she falters.
She's losing her composure. She pauses, takes a sip from her water bottle, and reminds herself that it's all right, she has a plan. Just imagine the audience is naked. She concentrates on the Doctor, who somehow seems to sense what she's thinking because he stops his fidgeting and smirks.
Maybe she'd better not focus on him; she feels herself growing very warm and uncomfortable. So she fastens her gaze on a point behind him. Naked, she tells herself. You're all naked. All exposed and vulnerable and not smugly superior to me because I can see everything. Strangely, she feels the heat intensify, and she takes another drink.
Rose hesitantly continues, but she's lost the flow of words, and it's starting to sound stilted. There's a pressure in he head now, slowly increasing. It doesn't hurt, not yet, but it's not pleasant.
Once again Rose comes to a halt, and this time she can't go on. It feels as though her poor background has been laid bare, for all to see and judge. Soon they'll realise she's not one of them, merely a pretender. Not as good as them. Not worthy of being on stage to speak to them, not worthy of the Tyler name.
The crowd starts muttering uneasily, but Rose no longer hears them. There's a sound in her ears, alien and yet strangely familiar. It's almost like singing - or the memory of a song
The Doctor finally realises there's something very wrong; she can see him mouth her name as he leaps to his feet and springs onto the stage, but she ignores him.
A wave of calmness suddenly settles over her. They may think they were superior, but she would show them otherwise.
"You think you are better than me," she says, her voice suddenly very polished and powerful.
"No, they don't," the Doctor says soothingly. She ignores him.
"This armour you all wear is as nothing to me. You think your fine, expensive clothing protects you from the judgment of others? Hides all the ugliness inside? I can see through it, and soon, so shall everyone."
"Um, Rose, I don't think the 'imagine them naked' trick works this way." The Doctor reaches her side and tries to take her hand, but freezes when a golden light flares up around her. His mouth drops open in realisation and horror.
"I see every atom that shrouds the truth…" Rose raises her hand, "and I shall divide them," she concludes. With that, a wave of golden energy spreads out from her, sweeping through the audience. The last thing Rose hears are the screams, and she collapses to the stage.
At first, Rose thinks she's back at Bad Wolf Bay. All around her, she can hear the roar of the sea, the high-pitched cries of gulls screaming into her ear, the pounding of waves throbbing against her skull. She absently wonders if it's a vacation, or if she's been abandoned again. She should probably be more alarmed about that, she thinks, but she's more interested in burying herself in the sand, where it's nice and warm.
Except… waves don't crash against the inside of her skull, do they? And that roaring sound isn't quite right; she can almost make out words. Not a beach, then. In fact, she seems to recall having been in a crowded ballroom.
As for the gulls…
"Rose! You're awake!" the Doctor cries, his voice hitting that not at all manly pitch it acquires whenever he's panicked.
"Ungh," she mutters.
"How are you feeling? Your heart's beating faster than normal and you were having difficulty breathing a few moments ago, but you seem to be all right now. You fainted. No, swooned! Much better word, swooned."
Shut up, she tries to say, but all that comes out is a faint, "Shuuuh."
Naturally, he ignores her. "Like I told Jackie, you're going to be fine, and if I were wrong, she'd probably," he pauses dramatically, as if she couldn't predict what he was going to say next, "slap me. In public."
Actually, Rose figures, being in public is likely the only reason Jackie hadn't slapped him.
She's still cold. And now that she's a bit more aware, she has a theory about why. But it's a silly theory. Impossible, really.
"Rose… about your mum…" he continues.
Mum? There's something wrong with her mum? She tries opening her eyes again, and this time can make out a dark shape looming over her, which she assumes is the Doctor. She wants to ask about her mum, but she can't seem to make her mouth form the words.
"Rose," he says urgently, voice dropping to a whisper, "she's naked."
Rose blinks. The world is coming into focus now, and the dull roar around her is gradually becoming recognizable as raised voices, the most strident of which is her mother's. Ah. She's all right, then.
"And angry. But mostly, naked."
Yeah, that about sums it up. Wait… naked?
"Rose… she has a tattoo!" He shudders dramatically.
Rose can finally see the Doctor, crouched beside her head, as well as a crowd of yelling guests behind him, all of whom are clad only in their birthday suits.
Yep. Naked. And so is she, for that matter, except for a pair of seat cushions positioned carefully over her chest and thighs. So her theory hadn't been so silly, after all.
He hadn't been kidding about the Time Lord lack of modesty; while the guests around them are all clutching whatever they can find in front of them, the Doctor is crouched over her, completely unconcerned by his nudity. And, fortunately, oblivious to the admiring glances several women are sneaking.
Rose turns her head in the direction she'd heard her mother's voice and winces at the stabbing pain in her skull. But at least now she knows Jackie is all right. It sounds to Rose as if she were trying to nag Pete into covering himself up with something that he was a little reluctant to have near sensitive areas.
Oh. Wow. Her mum does have a tattoo. He's right; her mum's tattoo is something she would have gladly lived the rest of her life not knowing about, much less seeing.
"Do you think I should get a tattoo?" the Doctor muses. "I'd look quite roguish with one, wouldn't I?"
"Mngh," Rose replies.
The Doctor's brow furrows. "I'll ask you later, when you can string together coherent sentences," he decides.
"Why's ever'one naked?" she slurs. "Wha' you do?"
"Me?" he asks, giving her a wounded look. "Why is everyone blaming me?"
"s'usually your fault," she points out.
"Is not!" he says petulantly. "Well, mostly not. Wellll…" He shakes his head. "It's not my fault this time."
"Oh, really?" Jackie says, coming up behind him. She's holding Pete's award plaque in front of her; it's just long and wide enough to cover her entire torso. "And whose fault is it?"
"Rose's," the Doctor says cheerfully. "I had nothing to do with this, Jackie." He seems positively gleeful about this whole situation, which Rose thinks is totally uncalled for. It also makes Rose suspect he knows what's happening; otherwise, he'd be in a panic.
"My Rose wouldn't do this to Pete!" Jackie snaps.
"Not on purpose," the Doctor agrees.
Rose tries to follow the exchange. Most of it goes over ahead, but she does pick up on one thing. "I did this?" she mumbles.
"Yup!" the Doctor says. "Some alien device she forgot was in her purse, most likely," he continues, when Jackie's face darkens.
No, that's not right… Rose wants to protest that she'd never do something that careless, but the Doctor shoots her a look. Oh… so it's something that would freak out her mum, then.
Jackie scowls, but backs down for now. "Rose, honey, are you all right?" She shoots the Doctor a dark look. "Someone wouldn't let me near you; said you needed 'breathing room.'" She huffs.
Rose is grateful for this, actually; waking up to her mum yelling at the Doctor would probably have caused her to retreat back into unconsciousness. Not that she'd ever admit that to Jackie or the Doctor, of course.
"'m fine," she says. "Really. Room's just spinnin' a bit, and I could use somethin' for my head, but I'm okay."
Her mum scrutinizes her for a moment, then nods. "All right. But promise you'll let me know if you start feeling worse."
"I will, Mum," Rose says. "It's just a headache. Really."
Jackie doesn't look convinced, but she doesn't push the issue. Instead she walks over to the table and picks up one of the centerpieces. "And you! Cover yourself up!" Jackie howls, hurling it towards the Doctor. The Doctor catches it and stares at the bundle of dried plants in confusion. "Hold it down there, you prune!"
"Ow, prickly," he mutters, but holds the centerpiece over his groin anyway.
"I'm going to call the limo," she says, then stomps off.
Now that they're as alone as they can get, Rose asks, "What really happened?"
"Bad Wolf," he says simply. Rose's eyes widen. "Don't worry!" he adds hurriedly, seeing her panic. "Not the all-powerful version you wielded at Satellite Five; I pulled that out of you. But it looks like I missed something, a tiny portion with limited range and capability. At full power, Bad Wolf could disintegrate an entire Dalek army. You seem to have retained just enough to disintegrate clothing."
Rose sits up with a start. "But… Doctor… Bad Wolf almost killed me! It did kill you! Please don't tell me you - " She can't finish the sentence; it's too much to bear, thinking she'd lost him again because he'd had to be the hero. And this time, he wouldn't regenerate.
"I didn't do anything," he says reassuringly. "I don't think you have enough of the Vortex in you to kill you - as long as you discharge it, anyway. If it was dangerous to you, you'd be dead by now, instead of getting better. You seem to have had it building up for awhile, and now you've used it all. You should be fine. Until it reaches critical levels again. Then things might get awkward." He frowns. "And chilly. You humans really feel the cold, don't you?"
"Why hasn't this happened before?" Rose demands.
"I suspect it's triggered by a certain combination of factors. How often do you visualize people naked when you're insecure and stressed out?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.
Oh. That's just brilliant. Now that she's aware of this, she just knows she's going to think about nudity every time she's stressed. She stifles a sigh as she foresees a future fraught with wardrobe malfunctions and embarrassing diplomatic incidents. Maybe she should just resign from Torchwood now and save everyone the trouble.
"But… why did you have to do it tonight? I liked that suit!" he whines.
"If you'd just worn the tuxedo like Mum wanted…" Rose says, not at all sympathetic to his plight.
"It's bad luck," he protests. "If I had, then your power would have probably manifested in some really horrible way. What if you disintegrated hair?" he gasps, eyes widening in horror. He pats his head, as if to reassure himself that catastrophe had been averted.
Rose rolls her eyes as Pete comes over to check on them. "I can always count on you two to liven things up, can't I?" he says dryly. "I'm not sure whether to yell, or thank you for saving me from a long, dull evening."
"Do we have any Retcon?" Rose asks.
Pete smiles wryly. "I've learned that when you two are around, it's wise to keep some on hand." He grimaces and runs a hand through his thinning hair. "But not an entire ballroom's worth. You do like to challenge me, don't you?" He walks away, mumbling about finding a phone and calling Torchwood.
The Doctor watches him leave with some confusion. "Did he just imply that we're trouble?"
He looks so honestly befuddled by this that Rose can't help but laugh. She leans forward and plants a quick kiss on his lips. "We are," she murmurs. She sits back and glances around the ballroom, which is slowly being brought under control. "At least there's a bright side; after this fiasco, there's no way Mum will make us attend the Vitex 20th anniversary this year."
The Doctor pouts. "Aw, really? But I'm having a new suit made. It's pink! With black pinstripes! Isn't that brilliant?"
Rose just stares for a long moment, imagining how her mum will react to that. She suddenly grins. "Definitely," she agrees. And if he does, she's going to wear a tuxedo, no matter how much her mum protests. Pete's right; with the Doctor around, even the most boring events usually end up being an adventure.
Special thanks to SilverWolf7/Malice Haughton for suggesting the scenario in which Rose's powers appear.
I think I'm going to take a bit of a break with this series. I have plenty ideas, including the dreaded baby!fic, the body swap cliché, and the "character is sold into slavery/harem/etc" cliché, which will star the Doctor, Donna, and Martha, because they deserve time to shine. But I want to work on some serious fics, and I don't want too many works in progress at a time. I doubt I'll be gone from this series for very long, though. The muse makes me write it.