Is it really so bad to see your own future?
He's sitting in the corner of the pub, minding his own business and nursing a bottle of beer when he sees her.
When he sees her and...
His hearts clench in fear. She doesn't look that much older than she does now. She's going to leave him. Soon, if he's any judge of the way she looks at this man. She looks at him like she's known him awhile; there's trust in her eyes. And...love.
The Doctor tightens his grip on his drink and tries not to storm over there.
The man, tall, with a mop of brown hair and pretty boy looks, holds onto her hand even tighter.
The Doctor growls under his breath. He's the one who should be holding her hand. He suddenly misses her so much that he wishes he hadn't come here in a sulk earlier in the evening.
(With Jack visiting a friend on a highly provocative planet, the Doctor had averted the risk of accidently doing something he'd regret, and brought Rose back to London for a few days. One day in, they'd had a row back at her mum's flat which had resulted in him leaving in a huff. He'd told her he was going back to the TARDIS. She'd told him that was fine; see if she cared. He'd told her he'd leave. She'd told him that was alright with her; see ya! They'd both been lying through their teeth, of course. He'd never leave her behind and she'd never want him to. So here he is waiting in her local pub. Sulking. And counting down the seconds of an appropriate length of time at which he can be away from her without her suspecting that he really can't stay mad at her.)
They've reached the bar now. Rose and her mystery man. Her mystery man who can't take his eyes off her. Seriously, it's ridiculous. The way his eyes twinkle down at her; follow her every movement. The way he laughs as she laughs. The way that, when she drops his hand to sip her wine, he doesn't relinquish touching her – he wraps his arm loosely around her waist. So casual yet intimate. Like he's supposed to have his arm there.
The Doctor glances down at his own arm. Remembers last week when he danced with her in the console room. Her in his arms. Like it should be.
What does he do to make her leave? Whatever it is, he hates himself for it. He had thought that she would stick around for a much longer time. She's made for his life, travelling through time and space. She's his best friend, and she gets him, and they fit. Why would she leave all that behind to live a normal life on Earth?
He sees the way the man pulls her in front of him as he leans away from the bar, now wrapping both his arms around her middle. His face goes to the crook of her neck and he must whisper something, because she laughs loudly and says, "Oh, me too."
She looks across the room briefly, as if she knows she's being stared at by someone other than the man behind her. The Doctor sinks down in his seat, hidden in his dark leather jacket in the shadows. Although, some part of him thinks that maybe he should just let her see him. Because maybe she will realise she's made a mistake, and come running back to him. Leave this skinny fellow in a suit and come home.
Except he sees how happy she is, and realises that it must be why she leaves.
She turns in the man's arms, grasps the lapels of his jacket, and drags him down into a kiss.
The Doctor closes his eyes to it; can't watch; can't breathe. He admits to himself, now, finally, that he's jealous. So, so jealous. He wishes he could have that with her. He wishes it so hard his knuckles turn white from their grasp on his beer. He sets the bottle on the table, and opens his eyes, relieved to see they've stopped their public display of affection.
He could just...go say hi.
Hello, remember me? The alien you ran off with a few years ago? No?
He takes in a deep breath.
He stands up.
I miss you?
Starts to walk over to them.
I think I just might lo –
The Doctor stands stock still as comprehension dawns. He's been so caught up with his jealousy and possessiveness that he's completely missed the obvious.
How could she possibly be here? He had brought Rose to her present to visit Jackie. So how could a future Rose be here, too?
Only one solution to that timey-wimey problem. The Doctor must have brought her.
He looks at the tall man again. Narrows his eyes. The Doctor thinks he must have brought him, too. He shudders at the thought. How can he possibly bear it? Watching those two stare at each other and forget all about every other person in existence - not to mention, personal space - all day? It must drive him mad.
Still. At least Rose hasn't left.
Why he'd risk bringing them back to this point he doesn't know. But he supposes that one day he'll find out.
He realises then that the man is impatiently tugging her towards the door. But Rose wriggles away from him, giggling, telling him to wait, and she heads for the ladies' room. The man watches her go. Much like the Doctor does. And then he turns around to face the Time Lord, hands in pockets and rocking back on his heels, and gives him a great big grin.
"Hello!" the man says cheerfully.
The Doctor swallows thickly, and eyes the man with carefully crafted contempt. "Hello," he grumbles.
"Look, there's really no need to sound so depressed," the man says knowingly. "Now, this can't take long, 'cos Rose didn't see you, so you have to leave before she comes out of the bathroom. Basically - "
" – what year are you from?" the Doctor interrupts.
The man blinks. "Ah. I'm afraid I can't answer that."
"Because...stuff...happens. It's all very..." he trails off momentarily, looking despondent, as if remembering something upsetting. "You know, when it happened, I forgot about this meeting. I shouldn't've, but I did, somehow. Which is very silly of me, because if I'd remembered, I'd've known it would all work out, in the end, wouldn't I? Ha. Timey, wimey; circles and loops and paradoxes and all that. Then again, when I was you, I told myself this very same thing, but you – I – we, still forget. I don't know why. I suppose we're just reluctant to let ourselves believe. Probably thought it was just another future us and her were not supposed to have." He leans closer and confides, "We're a bit thick."
"It's her fault," the Doctor retorts. "I never used to be this thick."
The man nods and grins.
The Doctor squints at him. "So...you said, 'when you were me'...I regenerate soon, then?"
"Meh, fairly soon," the man now established as the future Doctor shrugs evasively.
He wrinkles his nose at him. "And I turn all...pretty..."
"Hey!" the pretty Doctor says indignantly. "Don't pretend you aren't glad! Stroke of luck, that was. Or maybe not. Actually, I think it was sort of intentional. Rose fancies me even more, now, thank you very much. And, I bet you're very pleased to discover that I'm not some random human bloke she's left you for!" he says smugly.
The Doctor raises his eyebrows but says nothing. Then, "Wait. So...Rose stays? When I regenerate, it doesn't...push her away?"
"She's remarkable," the future Doctor murmurs as his answer, a wistful expression taking over his face. "She stays and she falls in love with you again and it's brilliant."
The Doctor nearly stumbles over. "She what? What do you mean, 'again?'"
The older Doctor rolls his eyes. "Why do you think you have such massive rows? All those passionate emotions flying about that neither of you know what to do with, so you shout at each other instead! All that unresolved sexual tension hidden beneath the surface – hey now, don't deny it! I was you; I know how I felt. What I wanted. She wants that too. But it doesn't happen yet. Don't force it. Because this bit is nearly as much fun. It's a bit of a game, a battle to see who breaks first. It's really, really frustrating, but I wouldn't've missed it for the World."
The Doctor opens his mouth but the future one answers before he's even voiced his question. "And no, I'm not going to tell you who wins." He appears to consider that for a moment. "Weeellll. Truth be told, it's a win-win situation; but you know what I mean. Anyway! Best be off!" He turns around and briefly bites his lip. "She ought to be back out by now, I wonder if she's alright..."
The Doctor frowns. Does he really get so...clingy, in the future? he thinks.
The future him turns to face him again. "Yes. You do," he answers. "But you have good reason to."
"Right," the Doctor nods. Because something in his future self's eyes tells him it's the truth.
"Now, off you go. Can't risk her seeing you."
"Scared she might throw herself at me?" the Doctor smirks.
"Quite frankly, yes. She did that with the next one," the future Doctor sniffs huffily.
"Blimey, it sounds like she's going to be pretty constant in our lives, then," the Doctor murmurs, and he can't help it if he sounds joyful at the prospect, because he is.
The other Doctor smiles. "Hopefully, yeah."
"So I'd better..." he gestures behind him.
"Yes. All my love to long ago," he winks.
The Doctor smiles. "Likewise. To the future, I mean."
And then he turns around and leaves, wondering three very important things.
Thing number one: when will he get that new face?
Number two: how long will he have to wait before he gets to kiss her?
Three: what on Earth did he mean when he said, 'when it happened?' When what happened?
He lets himself into the TARDIS and finds Rose sitting on the jumpseat, arms folded and a reluctant apology written all over her face.
"I'm sorry," she mumbles, staring at his shoulder.
He smiles and sits down next to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and drawing her into a hug. "Me too."
"You didn't leave," she points out.
"Never could," he replies.
She smiles into his leather jacket, and he thinks it's almost as good as how her hands will grasp pinstripes.
A/N: I'd love to hear what you think of this. Did I get Nine's voice alright? xx