Why Torchwood Banned Recreational Body-Swapping (2/4)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Series: Talk to the Hand
Characters: Ten-II, Rose Tyler, Donna Noble
Beta: None, though that would've been a damn good idea, don't you think? So if I do something horribly American and not at all British, please point it out! Nicely.
Spoilers: Journey's End, obviously.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, obviously.
Summary: Body-swapping may sound like fun, but it can have disastrous consequences. Especially when the Doctor and Rose are involved.
A/N: Sorry it took so long to update this; I've had this sitting mostly finished on my hard drive for quite some time. My current life situation makes it difficult for me to write. Stupid Real Life; I wish to retire from you.
Two - The Doctor's Brilliant Idea
Despite the impending scandal, and the unfamiliarity of Owen's body, Rose actually manages to get a good night's sleep. Alone, of course; she'd made the Doctor promise to watch Owen and make sure he didn't take advantage of his access to Rose's body. The Doctor hadn't been thrilled by the all night vigil he'd been volunteered for, and Rose wonders if he'd managed to make it through the night without drugging Owen into unconsciousness. It's what she would do, if she had to put up with his lewd personality in her beloved's body.
Still, she hopes not. The only drugs they have around that are strong enough make her groggy and nauseous, and she's not looking forward to something like that when she finally regains her body in - she glances at the time - eight hours.
She skips her usual morning shower, even though she now knows Owen's body far better than any woman in her right mind would ever want to, and heads straight to the living room to see how the Doctor and Owen survived the night.
The answer to the question is less damaging, chemically speaking, than she had feared, but it doesn't do her psyche a whole lot of good. She decides it's best not to ask where the Doctor got a hold of the fuzzy pink pairs of handcuffs locked around Owen's wrists and ankles. Owen is seated on the recliner, glaring sullenly at the Doctor, who is sprawled across the sofa, deeply asleep.
"Have a nice night?" Rose asks sweetly
Owen scowls. "He talks in his sleep," he snaps, jerking his head towards the Doctor. "Incessantly. And I couldn't get comfortable with these," he holds up his manacled wrist. Then he shrugs and grins. "No matter; you'll be the one who feels it later."
Rose's eyes narrow. "Remind me to take some laxatives before we switch back," she says. Her face really is unattractive when she smirks like that, she realises uncomfortably. She resolves never to smirk again anywhere with decent lighting.
Ignoring Owen, Rose heads towards the Doctor and pokes his shoulder. He mumbles and turns away, burying his face in the cushions. She continues poking him in the same spot until he growls and jerks his head towards her. Brown eyes blink in confusion, then his face falls. "It wasn't a dream," he sighs.
"Nope. It's a nightmare," she says with feeling. The Doctor rubs his eyes and heaves himself into a sitting position. "I'll start the coffee," she adds, when the Doctor continues to sit and blink as his sluggish mind struggles to catch up with his body.
"Mmm," he responds thickly.
She really hopes aliens don't ever invade in the morning, because they could completely take over the planet in the time it takes for the Doctor to become a functioning member of society.
Rose heads off to the kitchen and quickly makes up two cups, then makes up a third when she remembers that Owen has her body and her addiction, and therefore will probably have her tendency to become a raving beast without it. She sets his cup on the side table for when the Doctor frees him, then shoves another mug into the Doctor's hands. He begins to greedily gulp it down. Owen eyes his warily, then looks at the Doctor, then his manacled hands, then back at the mug. The Doctor doesn't get the hint.
She takes a sip… then nearly spits it back out. She's never had such a revolting cup of coffee before! What the hell is wrong with Owen's taste buds?!
"You should probably have tea," Owen says, lips twisting into another nasty grin. "Coffee and I don't really agree with each other."
She stares mournfully at the cup, feeling rather betrayed by her beloved pick-me-up. Stupid Owen taste buds, she thinks bitterly. What kind of person can't drink coffee? Now she's going to have to face the day without her caffeine fix. She's afraid that people may die.
She hopes that, since it's Owen's body, she won't suffer from the physical effects of caffeine withdrawal, but she somehow doubts she's going to dodge the psychological component, since, as far as her brain in concerned, she needs it to live. Damn.
For the next few minutes there's silence, except for the Doctor's enthusiastic slurping, which is going to drive her mad. Owen just glares balefully, still bound and clearly not pleased that the Doctor still seems unable to get the hint.
Finally, Rose decides the silence has dragged on long enough, and asks the question weighing most heavily on her mind. "Has Mum called?" Rose asks.
"No," the Doctor says, sounding more than a little worried. "Maybe she hasn't read the papers yet?" he continues hopefully.
Doubtful. Her mum reads the tabloids as part of her breakfast routine. She would have known before even finishing her first cup of coffee. Huh… It's not like her mum not to jump on this. Maybe she's mellowing in her old age…
There's an insistent knock on the door, and everyone freezes.
"Please tell me you ordered a pizza," Rose whispers. Because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.
The Doctor stares at her in confusion as he heads towards the door. "It's seven in the morning," he says, baffled. "If you're hungry, I think we still have some pizza from Friday." He just turns the knob and the door explodes inward, yelping in surprise as a furious Jackie Tyler shoves past him and knocks him into the wall.
Jackie opens her mouth in preparation for what will probably be a truly epic tirade involving the paper she's clutching in one hand, when she catches sight of the still handcuffed Owen-in-Rose.
Wow. Rose doesn't remember ever seeing her mum shocked into silence before. But she's certain this is not a good thing, and that the explosion certain to follow will be the most epic thing Rose has ever seen. Jackie whirls towards the Doctor, who is still pressed firmly against the wall, as though hoping if he pushes hard enough, he can pass through it.
"Jackie," he says, his voice pitched high with panic. "This really isn't what it looks like!"
"I knew you were a little off," Jackie says in this frightfully calm voice that is far more terrifying than her screaming, "but this… To find out about your kinky alien sex games in a gossip rag!" She holds up a crumpled wad of papers that had previously been a magazine. "I didn't want to believe it - thought maybe you were just drunk or somethin' - but this… and with Owen Harper! Owen!" It's this last that she seems to be the source of Jackie's rage, if the sudden raising of her voice is any indication.
"Oi! What's wrong with m- with Owen?" Owen protests.
"Did you always have orgies in the TARDIS? I met your 'friends,' remember? All those pretty women and that beautiful Captain Harkness…" With a soft sigh, Jackie trails off, eyes slightly glazed, and Rose really doesn't want to know where her mum's mind is right now. But then she shakes it off. "And now you've dragged my darling Rose into your lifestyle - in public! With Owen!" She smooths out the paper and shows them the photo of Owen-in-Rose kissing the random girl at the club, the Doctor and Rose-in-Owen holding hands and looking on in horrified fascination.
"If you're going to be like that, at least have some taste and invite Captain Harkness!" Again there's that breathy sigh, and Rose rolls her eyes. Somehow, she's not surprised that her mother isn't mad about Rose possibly having a three- or more-some, but that any imagined orgies include Owen.
Rose is starting to feel rather sorry for Owen.
The Doctor looks thoroughly cowed. "Jackie, it's not like that. Believe me, there was no sex involved. Owen Harper is the greatest deterrent to sex, ever."
"Oi!" Owen shrieks again.
"There is nothing kinky going on here. I'm still new; I barely know the basics. I'd have to work at being kinky!" He cocks his head, considering. "Although I do like licking the edible body paint off Rose. And there was that time with Rose and the Santa beard - "
"Not helping, Doctor," Rose hisses.
"The point is," the Doctor says hurriedly, "this isn't what it looks like. We just went out for Rose's birthday… it was a one time thing, and beyond that kiss, nothing else happened!"
"Then why is Rose handcuffed to a chair?" Jackie demands.
"Because he's a complete prat who was trying to feel me up!" Rose says indignantly.
Finally, Jackie takes her attention away from the Doctor, and Rose quails under the full force of Jackie's glare. Wow, her Mum is scarier than a Dalek… "Don't you dare talk about my daughter that way!" Jackie snarls, completely missing Rose's use of the masculine pronoun, and before Rose can react, Jackie's palm collides with her cheek and Rose staggers backward, stunned. She imagines this is what being hit by a lorry feels like, just concentrated into a tiny surface area.
Rose is rubbing the side of her face, eyes huge as she stares at her mum. "That hurt…" she says numbly. She'd always thought it was funny that her tiny mum could intimidate a man who'd faced incredible danger and saved the universe on a daily basis, but now she understands why the Doctor lives in fear of the Tyler Slap. "That really hurt," Rose says again.
"I'm just getting warmed up," Jackie hisses, drawing her hand back for another.
"Jackie, wait!" The Doctor steps between them, flinching in anticipation of the oncoming slap. "This is Rose!"
"What do you mean, that's Rose?" Jackie demands. To Rose's surprise, she lowers her hand. Then again, Jackie had been subjected to so much strangeness since the Doctor entered their lives that it shouldn't be surprising she'd be willing to listen to something so preposterous.
"Yesterday, Rose was called - by Pete, might I add, so if you want someone to blame - er, right…. She was called in to handle a crashed spacecraft and… well…" the Doctor hesitates, wondering how to tactfully explain it to Jackie.
"And now I'm her and she's me," Owen says. "For about eight more hours, anyway."
"What did you do to my daughter?" Jackie howls, poking the Doctor's chest with the rolled-up paper. The Doctor backs away, eyes wide.
"You slapped me," Rose says faintly, oblivious to the drama unfolding around her.
"Me? Didn't you hear what I said? Pete? Crashed spacecraft? Why do you always - no, never mind, you'll never stop blaming the alien, will you?" he asks in exasperation.
"Slapped me," Rose says again.
"See?" the Doctor says triumphantly. "I told you those slaps were dangerous! I think you broke Rose!"
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry!" Jackie says, and looks like she's about to give her daughter a hug before pulling up short. "No… I'm sorry, I know you're Rose, but I just can't hug him."
"S'okay," Rose mumbles. "I don't want to touch me, either."
"And you," Jackie roars, whirling on the still-bound Owen. "If I find out you touched my daughter's body - "
Owen tries to bury himself into the chair. "Wouldn't dream of it," he mumbles. "Like my bits where they are, thanks."
"I'd be doing the world a service," Jackie snaps.
"Don't much like Owen, do you?" Rose asks, impressed by her mother's burning hatred. She resolves to quiz her mum later on just how she manages to keep Owen cowed.
"There was an incident with a vaccination Owen created which had unforeseen side effects," Jackie says. "Basically, it turned Pete's bits green and spiny for a week and we had to get a little creative."
"Ew, Mum!" Rose cries, at the same time the Doctor mumbles, "Really didn't need that image, thanks."
Incredibly, the switch back goes smoothly. One moment, Rose is tall and sullen, and the next, she's readjusting to her former height and center of gravity. She never thought she'd be so happy to have breasts again.
The Doctor launches himself at her and pulls her into his arms, lifting her off her feet and twirling around. "You're much more cuddly like this," he grins. Clearly, he's happy she has breasts again, too.
She's relieved that it's over with. She plans to never, ever think about body-swapping again.
She manages to keep that resolution until that evening.
Rose is sitting on the sofa with her laptop, wading through the paperwork that accompanies accidental body-swapping, when the Doctor rushes into the room, eyes wide and hair standing up in excited spikes. Uh-oh… She saves her progress and shuts her laptop, knowing that what's about to happen is likely to keep her away from her work for the rest of the night.
"Rose!" he cries, eyes bright with excitement, "I've decided… I'm going to do a body-swap of my own. Torchwood doesn't have any regulations against it, and the machine will be ready for use again tomorrow evening." He beams. "I don't have any interviews scheduled for Tuesday and I won't be needed at the Star, so…" He takes a deep breath, then blurts out, "I'm going to be Donna for a day!"
"You… what? What?" Rose squeaks. "What?!"
"Isn't that brilliant?" he beams. "I'm already part her, anyway, and I've always wondered what it was like to be… well, right."
"And she agreed to this?" Rose asks faintly.
"Well…" The Doctor runs his fingers through his hair. "I haven't asked her yet," he admits.
"Let me know when you're going to; I want to see her reaction," Rose says dryly. "I may even feel generous enough to stop her from killing you."
His face falls. "She'd never agree to it, would she?" he says sadly.
He's so crestfallen that Rose bites back her reflexive sarcastic response. "I doubt it," she says. "Why would you want to be Donna, anyway?" she wonders. "I mean, Donna's wonderful, and all, but I prefer you to be… well, you."
"I just… I want to see what it feels like to be right," he slumps into the recliner, his gaze downcast.
"What did you mean, you want to be 'right?'" Rose asks. "You're always right, as you like to remind me, even when it takes you awhile to get there. You make being right an art form."
He stares at her blankly for a moment, puzzled. Then he gets it. "Oh, not 'right' as in 'correct,' I mean… Right. Not Wrong. Not a freak," he says quietly. "This body was constructed when two very different sources that aren't entirely compatible were forced together. I'm like Frankenstein's monster. I'm Wrong." She can hear his frustration at his inability to express the concept, but she's too shocked to pay much notice. He really feels like that? Like an abomination?
Is that the real reason his Time Lord self had left him in this universe? Because he couldn't stand being close to this distorted version of himself?
"Plus," he says, mood once again swinging back to its previous enthusiasm, "I'd be able to wear a dress! A silky one; love the feel of silk against my skin," he sighs happily.
Rose pulls him into her arms and holds him close. He seems startled, and fidgets a bit before wrapping his arms around her. "I didn't know you felt that way," she whispers.
"That I love silk? Not a big surprise, surely? New skin, still sensitive, and all these fabrics men seem to favour are scratchy - "
"That you're Wrong," she says.
"Ah," is all he says. He's silent for a long moment, then says finally, "I don't know enough about being a human to know what's normal for a human body. If I could just be completely human for awhile - preferably female, since I seem stuck with the hormones - I can figure out what is normal for me to be feeling, and what's a product of my genetics gone wrong." He ruffles his hair in frustration. "If I knew, I might be able to figure out what my problems are and how I can correct them. Or at least ease them."
She'd never even thought about that. She'd known there were differences - they were rather hard to not notice, after all - but she'd never thought about the consequences his unique birth would have on him, physically. "Tell you what," she whispers. "I'll swap with you."
The Doctor pushes her away so he can better see her face. "Really?" he asks, his voice hopeful. "You'd do that for me?"
She nods. She's surprised herself by just how serious she is about this; she hadn't thought she'd want to be a man again, but she'd gladly do it for the Doctor. "Yeah. I'd rather be you than Owen any day, and it might give me a new perspective on you."
He's beaming now, that infectious grin that makes her smile as well. "I'm warning you; it's hard to be me. Clever, handsome, brave… modest… it's quite a burden."
"Tell me about it. I have to live with you, remember?" she teases. "Being you should be easy."
He pouts, lower lip outthrust, and she gives in to the urge to kiss it. "Now, Rose, being a man is very different from being a woman. We're very complex creatures, you know. It takes more than a day to figure out the ins and outs of being one of us."
"I already mastered peeing standing up while I was Owen. What else do I need to know?"
The Doctor thinks on this for a long moment, then shrugs. "That's about it, actually."
"Complex creatures, indeed," Rose laughs. "Just wait until you try being a woman and all the emotional baggage that goes with it." Although, with his problematic hormones, he gets most of that emotional baggage anyway, so this won't be that big a change for him.
He launches into a ramble about which of her outfits he's going to wear first, and Rose rolls her eyes. "You do know it's just for the day, right? I need to be me again by Thursday - Mum has that birthday dinner planned for me, remember?"
"Twenty-six hours," the Doctor nods solemnly. "Twenty-six brilliant hours!"
"Oh, and Doctor? Don't you dare ask if any of my outfits make your bum look big," she scowls, hands planted firmly on hips. "You'll give me a complex."
His brow furrows. "But I ask you that all the time! Why would this be any different?"
True. He's more paranoid about his bum than any woman Rose has met, though she suspects he asks because he likes her reassurance that it's a very nice bum, which is usually followed by a more physical demonstration of how much she likes said bum.
"Besides," the Doctor continues, "I already know your bum looks lovely in all your outfits, so why would I even need to ask?"
He really makes it impossible to be angry with him. Bastard.
This is going to be… interesting, Rose thinks. A learning experience, certainly. And it's just one day… if she can survive a day as Owen, a man who makes her hackles rise and skin crawl, then living a day as the man she loves should be easy.
There's actually paperwork for recreational body-swapping. Not the generic 'personal use of safe alien tech' forms that one would normally have to fill out, but actual forms created years ago for the purpose of intentional body-swaps.
Hundreds of them.
Printed out, they're the size of a thick book. The Doctor stares at them in dismay, prods the unyielding stack with a finger tip, then backs away.
"Oh no you don't," Rose growls. "You're the one who wants to do this. You're going to take responsibility for this." She shoves the pile of forms towards him, and he gives her a sad-puppy look. When that doesn't work, his shoulders slump and he begins flipping through the papers at a far quicker rate than Rose or any human could manage. Sometimes she's insanely jealous of his superior alien biology. Still, it takes him forty-five minutes to finish going through the forms. She's not even half way done in that time, and he expresses his impatience by first twitching in his chair, moving on to drumming his fingers against the desk, and finally moving on to pacing around the room. Finally, Rose can't take it any more and she flips through the rest of the paperwork, signing wherever there was a line without bothering to read the documents first. She manages to finish before the Doctor drives her to murder.
As soon as she pushes aside the massive tome and stands, the Doctor bounces over to her like an excited puppy and grabs her hand, pulling her towards the door before she even has the chance to catch her balance.
"Ready?" he squeaks, voice dangerously close to the audible-only-to-dogs pitch.
"Ready as I'll ever be," she says, feigning resignation. Though she won't admit it, after spending a sleepless night thinking about the upcoming switch, she's kind of looking forward to it. After all, how often does she get the chance to be an alien? It could be fun!
Rose manages to hold on to that thought delusion until the transfer actually happens. In the span of a heartbeat, she goes from gazing at the Doctor, who's giving her that broad, manic grin she loves so much, to being tall, skinny as a broom, and in excruciating pain. She cries out and doubles over, hands to her temples and eyes squeezed shut to ward off the assault on her senses. The world is blurry and out of sync, and even with her eyes closed, she can see still see everything around her, like it's been burned into her retinas. It's as if she can see the past, present, and future all at once - she can see herself and the Doctor walking in, at the same time she sees herself and the Doctor touching the body-swapping device, and she can see the Doctor's lanky body curled up on the floor in pain, and techs swarming around something emitting oily black smoke… And the skin of her body feels like a raw nerve ending, the slightest brush of cloth against it making her flesh shudder.
Then she feels a gentle touch at her temples, and it's as if a veil is draped over her mind. She can think clearly again, and when she opens her eyes, the world is mostly in focus.
"Sorry," the Doctor murmurs softly. "I should have warned you. I'm just so used to that by now that I didn't even think about how it would affect you."
"What was that? And what did you do?" Rose croaks.
"Those are my temporal senses, which are a bit buggered, thanks to the human in me. I'd hoped they'd transfer along with my mind, but they're too much part of my biology, so they remained with you." He frowns, a look he manages to make rather attractive on her features. She wonders if he'd practiced it. "Fortunately, my telepathic abilities are with me, and I was able to put up a wall in your mind so they wouldn't be so overwhelming."
"Is it always that bad?" The thought that the Doctor is always in such pain is horrifying.
He shrugs. "Some days," he admits. "Mostly when my hormones are acting up; they affect my control. Usually I can keep up a wall like the one I built for you."
"And… the clothing… is that always how it feels for you?" she demands, appalled.
"That's why I like silks," he says softly.
"When this is over, we're going shopping and buying you the softest outfits we can find," Rose vows. The Doctor beams. "So," Rose continues thoughtfully, "is that how you always see things? Everything, all at once?"
The Doctor shakes his head. "Not always, no. It's sort of random. A full Time Lord could, though we're trained to control it so we don't see every possible timeline all at once. I no longer have that level of control, but I also don't have temporal senses as strong as I used to, so it evens out. I just get random impressions. I'm used to ignoring them."
That's a relief. Rose can't imagine what it would be like to have that curse, 24/7. And then what she saw sinks in - the shouting, the smoke…
"Wait… Doctor, I saw - "
"The machine!" someone cries out. Suddenly there's a flurry of activity as the techs rush forward, where the alien device is smoking, the casing bubbling up and oozing like wax. Oily smoke billows upward, and the techs rush to contain the damage. Rose and the Doctor can only watch in horror as they struggle to save the machine.
In the end, they're mostly successful. The machine is mostly intact, but the battery has melted into an acidic green goo that is eating through the counter. The Doctor and Rose can only stare as the lab techs frantically work to stop the leakage before it can burn through the floor.
"Oh, hell," Rose groans.
"Oops," the Doctor says weakly. "Guess we should have checked the battery life before doing this, huh?"
"Now what are we going to do?" Rose turns to the Doctor, and is momentarily disoriented by the fact that she has to look down to see him in her short body. "I don't want to be stuck as you for the rest of my life. I mean, I like your body and all - well, love it, actually - but I prefer it from an outside perspective."
The Doctor is examining the machine, all the while absently groping his sides for pockets and brainy specs that are not there. "It's not badly damaged," he says at last. "Nothing I couldn't repair with the tech on hand. It's the battery that's the real problem."
"We can get a replacement battery through one of our extra-terrestrial contacts," one of the techs says, looking up from the melted wreckage of the lab table. Despite his reassurance, he won't meet her eyes. Crap…
"And how long will that take?" Rose demands.
"Could just be days. Or… it could take weeks." The tech scurries away before Rose can react.
"Weeks?" Rose screams, and surprises herself with just how high the Doctor's voice can really get. The Doctor looks startled by this as well, and a little dismayed. "We can't live like this for weeks! We have lives!"
The Doctor rests one delicate hand on her forearm. "It won't be that long, Rose," he says calmly. "Pete will be able to persuade his contacts to make it a rush order. And even if that takes too long, I can probably whip up something to power the device. It may take some time, but it won't be more than a week, I promise. So, please quit yelling and making me sound like a girl?" he pleads.
Rose immediately calms. He's right, of course; the Doctor is brilliant after all, and he's built more complex devices in a much shorter time. Still, it's not something that's going to happen in the next few hours (she did, after all, promise the Doctor a day in her body and she may as well let him have that) so there is one tiny little matter which needs to be taken care of, and tells him so.
"What's that?" the Doctor says uneasily.
"You're going to be the one who explains this to Mum."