No Run for Your Life

(not yet, anyway)

~x~

What if the Time War hadn't happened? What if all his people were still alive, and Gallifrey had not burned? What if he'd met Rose Tyler during his tenth incarnation instead of his ninth, and instead of being guilt-ridden and vulnerable, he was as rude to humans and as cast out from the Time Lords as he'd always been?

What if they'd met in an entirely mundane and ordinary way? What then?

With no danger to run from, would he have still taken hold of her hand?

~x~

The Doctor sat on a bench in a park in London with a bag of chips in his lap. He watched the hustle and bustle of the commuters and the tourists, and jiggled his leg restlessly. He was so bored.

He couldn't believe they'd gone and exiled him again. Honestly, he'd only been trying to save a Zorkton's life, but apparently that particular Zorkton was a spy that needed to be gotten rid of, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. So what if he'd got in the way of his high-and-mighty President's assassination plan? He hadn't done it on purpose!

(Oh alright. Maybe he had. But only because he wasn't keen on the way his species were becoming more pompous and self-righteous and interfering [in all the wrong ways] by the nanosecond.)

So here he was, banned from returning to Gallifrey for the foreseeable future (not that he'd want to go back to those arrogant, egotistical, ungrateful bastards anyway) and exiled to Earth (again) without the use of his beloved blue box. His poor TARDIS. At least he still had her with him, so he didn't have to do something awful like get a mortgage. But they'd disabled her 'flying' abilities for six whole months.

To make matters worse, Liz and Jo weren't here like they were last time he had to suffer this fate, UNIT had gotten even more gun-friendly, and the Brig had retired. So no way was he going back there.

Add to that the fact that he was in the twenty-first century, which was arguably even worse than the previous one in terms of culture, music and social conventions, then he was well and truly miserable.

Plus, every time he'd try and cause some trouble

(it was the only way he knew how to meet people; forgive him for it)

things'd be resolved far too quickly, just to spite him. And any sort of conversation he'd engaged in thus far with these primitive apes had ended up as boring at best, largely depressing at worst.

Why couldn't he find anyone interesting to talk to in this over-populated, under-evolved world –

"Blimey, you look like you could use a hug!"

The Doctor blinked in confusion as a kind female voice registered in his close proximity. He turned his head swiftly and found himself staring at a young woman – nineteen? Maybe twenty – with dyed blonde hair and over-mascara-ed eyes.

Great, he thought sarcastically, another random, probably uneducated teenager pestering – hold on.

Had she just offered him a hug?

That wasn't right. These happy-slapping, ASBO-holding London youths didn't offer hugs to complete strangers...

He sniffed in contemplation; maybe this one wouldn't be too bad.

"Hello?" she called, sitting down next to him and starting to giggle. "Anyone home?"

He realised he hadn't yet replied to her. Oops.

"Yes, sorry," he said, clearing his throat. "I'm the Doctor."

"I'm Rose." She squinted at him thoughtfully. "So, people call you that, do they? Just, 'the Doctor?'"

"What's wrong with that?" he retorted indignantly, before eating another chip with a frown on his face.

"Nothing," she assured him. "Pretty unique. It's...nice. Anyway! I just wanted to tell you that it's a bright, sunny day and the birds are singing, so you've got no business sitting here looking so miserable."

He raised his eyebrows. "Is that so?"

"Yep," she grinned. She moved closer slightly then added, her expression softening, "Course, if something terrible has happened to you then fair enough. Want to talk about it? I'm a good listener, apparently."

He blinked at her in confusion. "Um. No, I'm, I'm fine, thank you," he mumbled. "Why do you care, anyway?" he found himself asking (a bit rudely, but then, when wasn't he? Rude and not ginger, that was him.)

Rose shrugged. "Felt like making conversation. I was sitting over there, on my own and bored - " she paused, and nicked one of his chips. He grinned randomly as he watched her do this, not knowing why he was doing so but realising that it felt good, it was good to grin – why didn't he do that more often? - and she, well...

She was...

Interesting.

Worth grinning at, surely.

The way she ate that chip –

No, wait, hold on, that...that...that was nonsense, he was the Doctor, he didn't think about things like girls and the way they ate chips! He shook his head. What was wrong with him?

Blimey. He'd only been here a couple of days and now it seemed he was picking up bad habits.

" – and you looked to be in a similar predicament, so I came over," she concluded.

"Right. Okay. Nice logic," he approved.

She took another chip. "Thanks!"

He coughed awkwardly, feeling a little bit flustered when she turned that brilliant smile on him again – goodness knew why he felt so...intrigued...by this virtual stranger, but...

Anyway.

"So, you live around here?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Nope. I live...far away. Well, sort of. I s'pose I don't really have a home, more a...spaceship."

He winced internally, thinking he'd probably just gone and lost her company with that not-clever sentence.

"Spaceship," she replied flatly.

"Yeah," was his meek response.

"Either you're insane or just really into sci-fi."

"Or an alien," he suggested, wanting to see how she'd respond to that, for some inexplicable reason.

She laughed. "Prove it."

"Okay. I'll show it to you later."

"Show me what?"

"My spaceship. The TARDIS. Time and Relative Dimensions In Space."

She raised her eyebrows but nodded placatingly. "Right. Okdokey, you do that." She paused, considering his words again. "Unless that's a really cheesy pick-up line that I've not heard before and so don't understand?"

"It's not a pick-up line!" he retorted, offended. "But never mind that. You, in any case, are from here, I take it?"

"Nah, I'm from Mars, mate," she joked, winking at him.

He shook his head. "No you're not," he told her. "You look nothing like an Ice Warrior."

She giggled again, highly amused. "Alright then. I'm just plain old human. I live at the Powell Estate, London, England, Earth, the Solar System. It's a rubbishy place, you wouldn't have heard of it, but I grew up there, so I guess it's home. I live in a flat with my-"

(If she said boyfriend then he thought, rather oddly, that he'd be immensely disappointed)

"- mum, Jackie."

(Ah. Good. Good. No but wait, she might still have a boyfriend...how could he ask, without it seeming very human, like he was asking her on a date or something? Which he wasn't, course not, absolutely would never do that, no. Never. He didn't do dates. Besides, she was a young, pretty human woman; she was bound to have a boyfriend...)

"Right," he nodded. "So. Um..."

"So, returning to your sci-fi obsession," began Rose. He rolled his eyes but before he could interrupt she continued, "My friend – well, ex-boyfriend – Mickey, he's into that stuff. Not as much as he likes video games, but he does watch a lot of sci-fi type films. Bet you're more of a fanatic, though. And comic books; I bet you like comic books! You look the type."

(He did like comic books, actually, but he highly resented being told he looked like 'the type.')

"How do I 'look the type?'" he asked her, baffled.

She shrugged his question away. "So, Star Trek or Star Wars?" she grinned.

"Neither," he answered, crossing his arms in distaste. "They are far too inaccurate. Weeelll, apart from – no, never mind. No, I point and laugh at shows like those. Humans won't make scientifically accurate sci-fi shows for another few centuries."

She rolled her eyes. "Science fiction, Doctor. Not s'posed to be accurate. If aliens even exist - "

"You've got one sitting right in front of you!" he pointed out, but she still seemed to think he was lying about that fact because she ignored him and continued on.

"- and anyway, thought you said you had a spaceship, not a time machine," she grinned.

He rolled his eyes impatiently. "I told you – the TARDIS, Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Time-travelling spaceship."

"Soooo, what kind of alien are you?" she asked indulgently.

"I'm a Time Lord. I come from a planet called Gallifrey," he told her honestly. "Highly evolved and telepathic, we are."

"What am I thinking right now, then?" she asked him, her smile widening as she thought she'd caught him out.

"I can only read someone's mind if I'm touching their temples," he informed her.

She caught his hand in hers and lifted it to the side of her head. "Go on, then."

"No," he refused, shifting uncomfortably. "It wouldn't be right. It's...it's..."

"Intimate?" she suggested, and giggled when he blushed.

He cleared his throat. "Yes," he muttered.

"Alright then, I'll let you off that one," she smiled. She giggled again, and he considered that he was swiftly becoming very fond of the sound. "Well, I certainly didn't expect this conversation," she said.

"What did you expect?" he asked anxiously.

She shrugged. "Wasn't sure you'd even talk to me, actually. Thought you might tell me to shove off."

"Why would I do that?" he asked wonderingly.

"One of three reasons. One – you're pathologically depressed and feeling very anti-social right now; two – you think I'm a nutter for randomly chatting away to a complete stranger; or three – you're waiting for your girlfriend or wife who wouldn't take to kindly to seeing you talking to a young blonde." She grinned at him, and stole another – now cold – chip.

He grinned back. "Weeelll, one – I'm not pathologically depressed, just bored; two – I don't think you're that much of a nutter, and the percentage of crazy that I do think you are is exactly the right amount a person should be; and three – I don't have a girlfriend or a wife."

(Her mentioning the girlfriend thing had reminded him about his earlier ponderings about her possible boyfriend. He remembered she'd said something earlier about an ex, though...which was promising...

Not that it actually mattered to him at all whether she was attached or not. No. Course not.

But it would make things easier if she was single, considering he maybe sort of fancied her a bit.

Even though he couldn't possibly fancy her, because he was a Time Lord. Time Lords didn't do that sort of thing, and he'd certainly never entertained the notion before.

Except maybe she was the exception, because blimey – her giggle...and that smile...)

"No?" she asked innocently.

"Nope."

"Boyfriend?" she inquired casually.

"Nope," he repeated.

"Right." She nodded, as if coming to a conclusion. "Commitment-phobe," she surmised.

"Hey!" he protested. "I've been married, actually."

"But you're not anymore."

"Well, no..."

"Because...?"

"Well, I...sort of...wandered...off. But anyway!" he added hurriedly. "It was an arranged marriage, so it doesn't count!"

Rose rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "If you say so."

"Why were you so surprised, before?" he asked her curiously, subtly edging closer. "That I don't have a girlfriend or whatnot?"

"Well. 'Cos you're sort of handsome, I s'pose."

"'Sort of?'" he repeated, wrinkling his nose up.

"Yeah. Sort of," she nodded, looking like she was suppressing a grin.

"Right. Right," he muttered.

"I don't have a boyfriend, in case you're wondering."

"Why would I wonder about that?" he denied.

She shrugged. "Same reason I wanted to know if you had a girlfriend, probably."

His eyes widened. He thought for a moment. "Rose..."

"Yeah?"

"Are we flirting? Is that what we're doing here?" he asked her, genuinely interested.

She blinked at him in confusion. "Blimey, you really are an alien."

He grinned. "Told you." Then his grin faded. "Hang on, was that an insult?"

"Maybe," she laughed. "Definitely."

"Oh. Well, that's rude."

"Sorry."

"I forgive you."

Both are silent for a few long seconds, simply staring at each other, both slightly leaning in; then Rose piped up, "Okay, so this is gonna sound really weird."

"I told you I'm an alien and you think whatever you've got to say is going to sound weird?"

"Good point. But it is a bit weird."

"I'm intrigued. Go on."

"Do you want to go for a drink?"

He raised his eyebrows. "How is that weird?"

"Well, because we met like five minutes ago and I'm asking you on a date."

"You're asking me on a date?" he spluttered.

"Alright, don't then. Your loss." She shrugged, and stood up.

He quickly grabbed her wrist to stop her walking away. "Did I say no? I don't recall saying no. I'm just surprised, that's all. I don't really do the dating thing. I never thought I'd be asked for a date from a random stranger in a random park in London."

"Well, life's just full of surprises today, then," she grinned, gripping his forearm and pulling him up to stand next to her. The remaining chips fell to the floor, forgotten.

How very unenvironmental of them.

"You don't have a hidden agenda, do you? No one's sent you to kill me or something?" he asked her, narrowing his eyes to look her over.

"Nope," she laughed. "I could just use a drink right now. With a sort of handsome guy who interestingly thinks he's an alien. You fit the bill perfectly. Let's go."

"I think that the correct thing to say, is allons-y!"

"That's French, right? I did French GCSE."

"Yep."

"It means the same thing I just said, doesn't it," she stated, suppressing a grin.

"Well, yes. But it's much more fun to say!"

He took her hand and let her lead the way.