A/N: Right, so I lied. I'm always doing that. I'm also impatient, so I'm bringing this to you just as I have finished it! We're looking at a bit of a lighter fic after that brush with death in WDTBWC. Also: Harriet Jones, you are being enigmatic! Enjoy! And I'm not sure if I'll be posting Monday as I have at least one paper due and school is eating my life. But I will try!
It was evening at the Tyler Mansion (well, it was evening for the entire North-Western hemisphere). The Doctor stood with his hands in the pockets of his tuxedo waiting for Rose to finish getting dressed. He heard Jackie giving Tony's baby sitter last minute instructions from beyond the door to Rose's rooms—their rooms, he corrected himself.
"Rose, you're Mum's getting anxious," he called.
"Be out in a minute!" she responded.
"That's what you said ten minutes ago," he grumbled under his breath.
"I heard that!" she snapped back from the bathroom. He grinned and turned his attention to their rooms. It had been a month since Darlig Ulf Strandon, and roughly two weeks since the sickness subsided. The rooms looked better than they had when he first saw them—more lived in. He ran his hand over the single picture frame that sat on top of the vanity. Jackie had snapped it sometime after Rose recovered, sometime when neither of them had been looking. They were walking by the pond. It was one of Rose's favorite places, somewhere she came to think—to breathe. She said the willow trees were peaceful and she loved to watch the ducklings in the spring time. They were holding hands, standing by the water's edge. She had turned to look at him and smiled one of her best Rose-smiles, her tongue caught between her teeth. He was smiling back.
"How do I look?"
He raised his eyes from the picture frame and his jaw dropped. Her hair was swept up in an elegant bun and held in place with clips of jet that sparkled darkly against the golden strands. The dress was black and silky and clung to her when she moved. Although it was sleeveless she wore long black gloves that reached almost to her shoulders. A belt of gold and black hung low on her waist and accented her hips. She wore only the barest hint of makeup, just enough to keep her from looking washed out against the dress. He wouldn't have put her in black—it seemed harsh, but with the gold she glowed against it, a reversed night sky.
"Blimey." It was hard to speak.
She twirled and gave him a look. "What?"
"You're beautiful." He meant it.
She eyed him up and down. "You're not so bad yourself." Her eyes flickered down to his feet again. "Trainers? We're going to a party, and you're wearing trainers?"
He grinned. "Rose Tyler, you know better than most that you should never leave home without sensible shoes." He leaned in close to whisper in her ear. "Never know when you'll need to run."
She lifted the hem of her gown and showed off her own footwear—a pair of sparkling gold ballerina flats. "Don't I know it."
"Are you two ready yet?" Jackie demanded from behind the door. "The car's here!"
"Coming Mum!" Rose replied and rolled her eyes.
"Remind me again what we're doing?" the Doctor asked as he followed Rose to the foyer.
"It's a party, it's for charity," Rose replied patiently with the attitude of someone who had done so many times. "And it'll get the photographers to leave us alone."
"How, exactly?" He sounded doubtful.
"You give them what they want. I know it seems backwards, but you," she kissed him on the cheek, "are an unknown, and it's driving them mad trying to get a glimpse of you. This way they get the authorized story. Just be yourself—charming, charismatic, and normal. For the love of god try to have a normal conversation."
"I can be normal," the Doctor sounded offended, "although why anyone would want to is beyond me."
She chuckled. "Just don't mention aliens. If they think you're a nutter they'll never stop."
It took the Doctor less than thirty minutes to establish that, as he suspected, he was the most intelligent person at the party. It wasn't particularly impressive, considering the guests in attendance. Oh, there were cabinet members and MP's circulating through the room as well as the rich and famous, but they were only human, and he was something else entirely. Almost entirely. Ninety-four percent entirely. Close enough. He selected two flutes of champagne from the proffered tray and turned back to where he left Rose. She was conversing with an older man and his wife. The Doctor paused for a moment. She was so different. Good different, he amended. There was something in the way she held herself that spoke of her change—he wanted to dislike everything Torchwood, but he couldn't deny that her confidence came from her experiences at the institute. She spoke with authority and people listened. The potential had always been there, he realized. She reached out to people, she genuinely cared and that made her a good leader. She could motivate them, keep them working under pressure. When they were separated on Krop Tor she had kept the others together, had gotten them working on a way to escape.
"You must be Doctor John Smith." A familiar voice broke through his reverie.
He blinked and turned to face Harriet Jones. She smiled at him. "Madame President," he said and inclined his head. He was on his guard instantly, but a twinge of guilt followed. He liked her, originally, back before she let Torchwood blow up the Sycorax and committed mass murder. She was intelligent and brave. She cared about this country, about the world. She sacrificed her life to contact him. He might as well have killed her.
"I have been told that you managed to find the cure for that mysterious plague." Her tone indicated that she was well aware of the cause.
"Yes," he replied. "I did." It was a statement of fact, not arrogance. "I'm very good."
She laughed. "I believe you are. And here with Ms. Tyler, if I'm not mistaken?" She cast a shrewd, appraising look over him. He nodded. "A most remarkable woman," Harriet Jones continued, "in many ways."
"You don't know the half of it."
"And she chose you." Harriet Jones cocked her head and smiled at the Doctor. "Which says something about you, Dr. Smith."
"You must be quite a remarkable man." Someone called to her from across the room. "I look forward to working with you," she said by way of farewell, and was lost in the crowd. He watched her go for a moment. Harriet Jones. In any reality she was interesting. He turned back to bring the champagne, as directed, to Rose when someone ran—rather rudely—into him.
"Oi!" he exclaimed. He managed to avoid spilling the champagne down the front of his tuxedo and glared with a great deal of irritation at the waiter who had caused the incident.
The other man looked back at him, face strangely blank. "Forgive me, sir. I didn't see you there."
"Just watch where you're going, yeah?" the Doctor grumbled.
"Of course, sir. Let me get you more champagne."
The Doctor deposited the two now-empty glasses with the waiter and frowned. The air tasted—off. Bitter. Alien. And then it was gone. He cast his eyes around the room, searching. There were several Torchwood agents—field, medical, and tech, in attendance. It could have been something left over, a bit of Alien they'd missed washing up. It had been faint, just a trace.
"Your glasses, sir." The waiter was back. He handed the Doctor the champagne and for a moment, just a moment, their hands touched. Goose pimples raced up the Doctor's arm, following the chill of something decidedly Alien. It radiated out from the waiter. The Doctor raised an eyebrow and moved to stop him, but the man, or whatever it was, was gone—faded into the crowd. The Doctor made a face and returned to Rose. They sipped the champagne and made small-talk with her companions. It was the usual: what do you do, where did you go to school, where did you meet—boring questions for which they had convenient lies.
"Fancy a dance?" the Doctor asked after the elderly man and his wife left.
Rose grinned. "With you?"
The Doctor looked hurt. "Yes with me!"
"I don't think swing will go over too well," Rose pointed out.
"Oh ye of little faith." The Doctor made an attempt to sound put-upon before he pulled Rose into a waltz. "Fascinating dance, the waltz," he murmured as they moved around the dance floor. "Invented in the 19th century. It was the first time men and women danced exclusively as a couple. Oh, there were earlier dances when they'd pair off for a while, but never in a face-to-face hold, and never for an entire song."
"Scandalous," she replied quietly, still grinning.
"At the time," he agreed. "It's a very intimate dance, although I suppose by current standards it's old and frumpy."
She smiled. "Something posh people do at fancy parties?"
"Something like that." He was going to smile when he noticed the waiter standing just beyond the dance floor. A familiar bitter taste filled his mouth.
Rose looked at him expectantly. "Your spidey senses tingling?"
"My—? Comparing my amazing Time Lord senses to a human who was bitten by a radioactive spider—which was impossible by the way, is not only inaccurate, it's insulting." He pouted. He was adorable when he pouted.
She sighed. "Fine. Are your 'amazing Time Lord senses' tingling?"
"Yep." He popped the 'p' and swung her into a back-breaking dip. "That fellow there."
"The waiter?" she asked after he pulled her verticle again.
"The waiter," he confirmed. "Like I always say, if you want to know what's going on—"
"Work in the kitchens. I remember." She glanced back at where the strange man had been standing a moment ago, but he had vanished again. "Can't take you anywhere, can I?" she asked with mock irritation.
He grinned. "Nope. Trouble is my middle name."
"John Trouble Smith?"
"That's Doctor John Trouble Smith to you." He made a face. "All right, that sounds horrible; I'm never saying it again. Happy?"
She laid her face against his chest as they continued in the measured steps of the dance. "Yes," she murmured into his jacket. He smiled.
They were quiet on the ride home, home still being the Tyler mansion. The Doctor knew that Rose loved her family and that she enjoyed having them close, but they really needed a place of their own. He got on well with Pete, and even Tony, but living under the same roof as Jackie was going to drive him to an early grave.
Two phones rang. Pete and Rose pulled them out—his from his pocket, hers from her tiny purse, and how did she fit anything in there? It wasn't bigger on the inside, why even bother carrying it? They flipped the phones open and had almost identical conversations.
"Hello…Yes…When?...Are you sure?"
Rose glanced at him. "He's here…of course not. I'll fill him in."
The Doctor waited somewhat impatiently for the two of them to finish. "What's going on?" he asked when they put the phones away.
"You would know," Rose said severly, "if you bothered to carry your phone with you."
He shrugged. "It makes my pockets sit funny."
She rolled her eyes. "The phone doesn't do you any good if it's not with you! I can't exactly send you a message via psychic paper, now can I?"
Mentally he added psychic paper to the list of things he would build, right under sonic screwdriver and pockets that were bigger on the inside. And a device to grow the TARDIS. The little fragment of coral was sitting on the vanity in their bedroom.
"Are you listening to me?" Rose's voice brought him back to the present.
"I always listen to you." He sounded hurt. "Except when I don't," he amended when she glared at him. "So what was that about?"
"Torchwood picked up some strange energy spikes," Pete replied. "It's a kind of energy we've never seen before."
The Doctor perked up. Rose grinned at him. "And who knows, it might be linked to that waiter." Pete raised an eyebrow. "There was this waiter at the party," Rose explained. "The Doctor thinks he's alien.
"Not think, Rose. I know he was alien." The Doctor looked smug. "Can't fool me, even in a human shape. He felt distinctly alien and he was radiating a sort of energy. Doesn't take a genius to put the two together." He paused. "Or maybe it does."
Rose poked his chest. "You're getting a big head."
The Doctor smoothed his hair. "Good," he replied absently, "I need a bigger head. More space!"
"I don't know which one of you is madder," Jackie commented, looking from Rose to the Doctor.
"Oh, me without a doubt," the Doctor replied. "What's that they say about genius and insanity?"
"There's a thin line between the two," Rose supplied.
"Think you're a bit south of the line," Jackie muttered.
"Anyway," Pete cut in, trying to bring the conversation back on track. "We'll find out more tomorrow."
Rose tapped her toes impatiently as she leaned against the door to the rest of the Tyler house. She crossed her arms and checked her watch again.
"Oi!" she called out to the Doctor. "You're worse than a girl!"
"I am not!" his muffled response came from the bathroom.
"You've been in there for fifteen minutes, post-shower! It doesn't even take me that long to get ready and I've got more hair!" She loved teasing him. Both of his regenerations were smart-asses and it was only fair that she was as well. And he would always be a smart-ass. No more changing his face and changing himself. No more having to re-learn how he liked his tea and what foods he would eat, when she could get him to eat. No more coming back from the dead. One life. "I've only got one life, Rose Tyler. I could spend it with you, if you want."
"Well don't just stand there!" He bounded up to her, chin and cheeks smooth, hair perfect, eyes bright and tie in place. "We're going to be late!"
"We're going to be late because you took forever primping," she reminds him. As he does with everything he disagrees with or dislikes or just doesn't feel like dealing with, he ignores her.
"Gone already. He went in early today; 's just the two of us."
"Must be bad if they're calling in the Director," the Doctor mused.
Rose shrugged. "Won't know until we get there. If we get there, because at this rate it'll be noon before we do!"
They managed to arrive before lunch time, although they were ten minutes later than usual.
"That little bit of human," the Doctor explained, "is trying to throw my internal clock off, apparently by ten minutes."
Rose snorted. "Yeah." She flashed her I.D. at the young woman who had taken Alex's place behind the information desk at Canary Warf. The woman glanced at her and the Doctor and nodded them through. Rose felt a momentary pang as she remembered Alex's funeral. So many people died from that miserable illness. Not only field agents, but support personnel, people who hadn't exactly signed up for the same dangers that she and her team had. They rode the elevator in silence.
Florence was at her desk. She smiled at the two of them as they exited the elevator.
"Commander Tyler, Doctor Smith," she said by way of greeting.
"Just the Doctor," he interjected and smiled at her absently. Rose could almost see the wheels in his head turning as he pondered the events of the night before. Florence raised an eyebrow but didn't question him.
Rose led them through the white-washed corridors to a large meeting room. A large screen took up most of the wall opposite the door. Chairs lined the other two walls, and a desk took up most of one corner. Toshiko Santo sat behind the desk manipulating a computer. The Torchwood seal vanished from the large screen and a map took its place. It was of London and the surrounding countryside. A glowing red dot hovered over a portion of the screen, and below the map a bar graph charted the flow of, something. Pete was talking quietly with Jake and Dominic. Martha stood on the fringe, listening but not exactly part of the group. She looked more at ease than she had at the funerals, but not completely settled.
Rose nodded a greeting to Toshiko, who gave her a small smile. Dominic glanced in their direction and said something to Pete, who looked up.
"Good. You're here and we can begin. Toshiko?"
"Over the past five days we've been picking up energy signatures that have no business being where they are," the woman began. "Originally they were small, almost negligent. Recently, though, they have been increasing in size and duration." The bar-graph took center stage. "Last night was the largest and longest spike we have recorded so far."
"What kind of energy is it?" the Doctor inquired.
Toshiko shook her head. "We don't know."
"But you can detect it," he pointed out.
"This technology was salvaged from a ship that crashed here three years ago," she admitted. "We aren't completely familiar with all of its workings yet. We managed to track the signatures to this location." She pulled up the map on the screen again.
"Where is it? What is it?" It was Pete's turn to ask the questions.
"It appears to be a spa."
"A spa." He did not sound convinced.
Toshiko nodded, tapped a few keys on the keyboard, and images of a posh, gated spa danced across the screen. "It was constructed last year and has earned a reputation as a haven for the rich and influential." She pulled up the client list. Rose recognized several of the names; some were politicians, some were intellectuals, some were corporate heads, some were simply blessed with an overabundance of inheritance. All were important players in national and international relations.
"So," she said slowly. "What we need right now, is more information."
Pete glanced at her suspiciously, but nodded. "We need an insider's perspective. Maybe we can get someone a position, have them case the place out a bit."
Rose grinned. "I don't think that's necessary."
"You don't?" He was sure that she was up to something.
"Nope." She popped the 'p.' "The Doctor and I can do it."
"What?" Her father and the Doctor asked at the same time.
"We've got made-to-order cover," she pointed out. "Rose Tyler—Vitex heiress and her new beau, Doctor John Smith, on a lover's holiday. No one expects me to be anything other than a spoiled little rich girl. They won't know what hit them."
Pete still looked doubtful, but the Doctor seemed to be enthusiastic. "Undercover again!" He grinned at her. She grinned back.
"As long as I don't have to be a dinner lady again!" They both laughed. "But seriously, a spa. I've crawled through the sewers, through the bowels of wrecked space-ships, been dragged through forests and deserts and rivers and lakes. It's about time we investigated something cushy."
"No way around it," Pete concluded. "Your mother's going to kill me."
Rose smiled, her tongue stuck between her teeth. "I won't tell if you won't."