Author's note: My familiarity with the Eighth Doctor comes from only the TV movie—about which I can only say thank providence for Paul McGann. He was amazing, even if the rest of it sucked.

Chapter 1

On the floating city of Kastoris VII, a youthful woman rested against the shimmering walls of the Midranian marketplace and sighed. Pale sunlight filtering through the environmental bubble danced across her, setting her blonde hair aglow and shining off the silver key hanging in the deep vee of her purple jumper. A grey leather jacket hung loosely from one hand while the other ruffled her long hair.

Another miss. Rose leaned her head back against the wall, letting out her frustration in a deep sigh. How many years had it been, now? Traces of the Doctor were scattered across all of time and space, and she'd been searching for him, the right him, for so long. She scrubbed her face with her hand impatiently. The few times she'd been able to arrive somewhere when the Doctor was actually there, it was never her Doctor, the one she'd last seen on the beach in Norway. Whether old and crotchety and being dragged along by a dark-haired young woman, curly-haired and stocky with an atrocious coat, or short with a question-mark embellished jumper, she always knew him— and oh, how she was going to tease her him about his wardrobe when she found him again. Rose snorted with her eyes closed, full lips twitching upwards. He'd teased her about wearing too much pink, had he? At least she'd never worn a decorative vegetable.

Letting her face tilt to the last meager rays of sunlight, Rose sighed again and slowly opened her eyes, only to jump backwards with a yelp. A slender man with thick chestnut curls was resting against the wall disturbingly close to her, his brilliant blue-green eyes focused with laser intensity on her face.

As wide brown eyes met sharp aquamarine ones, his face shifted in a blink from fierce concentration to a vague congeniality. "You know, not many people can claim to have a trans-temporal stalker. I feel rather flattered."

Rose's eyes widened further. "'M not stalking you!"

"Oh? So repeatedly turning up where I am and watching me from afar, that's simply an antisocial way of saying hello?"

She stepped away from him, nerves jangling with the knowledge of who this finely-dressed gentleman was— and who he wasn't. Yet, at least. "I shouldn't be talking to you. There's a reason I never approached you, y'know."

"Oh, I'm sure there is. I find myself incredibly curious, though— it's always been a particular failing of mine, curiosity." His wide lips quirked upwards. "It leaves me feeling rather akin to a cat, sometimes, though I have a few more lives than they." He paused, considering. "Well, had."

Rose bit her lip to hide a smile, remembering the many indignant lectures she had been subject to about the "feline menace" after the cat nuns' hospitality on New Earth. The Doctor's eyes caught on her mouth, then moved to meet her eyes with a disarming seriousness.

"I've seen you before, always on the edges, and never thought there was anything particularly odd about you. Well, other than the fact that you kept showing up—but you could have been yet another Time Agent. This regeneration is a bit more psychically adept than most of mine have been, though. More connected to the timelines. Please, I must know. What are you? You're unlike anything I've ever seen."

Rose's teeth worried her lower lip, and he glanced down at her mouth again, although he quickly moved his eyes back up to hers. Was that a blush on his cheeks? Superior alien physiology, my round bottom. His eyes widened, and the flush on his cheeks deepened.

Rose's jaw dropped. "Are you listenin' in on my thoughts?"

This long-haired Doctor coughed lightly and straightened his cuffs. "It's not that I mean to, it's just you're, well, broadcasting. A bit."

Rose raised an eyebrow. "Sure. 'Cause peekin' in my mind would be just rude, and Lord knows you're never rude."

"I'm not! And you said 'Lord knows'—but you're not human, I could have sworn—"
His eyes met hers again for a long, charged moment, and a shock passed through Rose as if she'd just grabbed onto a live wire. She gasped, and shut her eyes reflexively. Who knows what that was, but he couldn't know too much.

A gentle hand brushed her cheek, and Rose flinched and opened her eyes. The Doctor was standing right in front of her, his face a breath away from hers. This Doctor was closer to her height than either of her other Doctors had been, only a few centimeters taller than she was. His blue-green eyes watched her intensely, a curious smile flickering about the corners of his mouth.
"Oh, Rose Tyler." Her mouth opened in confusion, and his smile grew. "I believe I mentioned that this regeneration is somewhat more psychic than most, yes?"

At her cautious nod, he leaned in even closer. "I can see what you are, what you will be to me." His eyes softened, and a long-fingered hand tipped her face up towards his. "I've never seen anything more beautiful."

Rose's eyes widened then fluttered shut as he pressed his cool, smooth lips to her own. A small voice in the back of her mind snickered at the thought that her first real, non-possessed kiss with the Doctor was with a regeneration she had never seen before, but subsided as he flicked his tongue gently against her lips. Oh, well. They'd never done anything in order before, anyways—she'd moved in with him before she'd known him a week. With a sigh, Rose opened her mouth and stopped thinking. This was where she was supposed to be. Here, in a quiet corner of an alien market, in the Doctor's arms—no matter that those arms weren't leather-clad or covered in pinstripes. Her mother's voice drifted back to her, from a day full of naivete and pain that had happened years ago.

"And in forty years' time, fifty, there'll be this woman, this strange woman walking through the marketplace, on some planet a billion miles from Earth. But she's not Rose Tyler. Not anymore. She's not even human."

Rose laughed quietly, sadly, into the kiss, and the Doctor broke it off, a quizzical expression on his already familiar face.

"I may not be the most sophisticated of paramours, but I have to say, my kisses generally don't inspire laughter."

"Jus' thinking about somethin' somebody said once." She smiled and curled a hand in his soft hair. "C'mere, you."

He came back to her eagerly, his lips curving against hers in a shared smile. One of his hands trailed up her sides, pausing to caress the smooth skin beneath the hem of her top. At her soft gasp, his tongue flickered again into her mouth, exploring and playing with all he found. Rose's mind went blissfully blank, shrugging off the aching weight of the loss of her family and the paralyzing fear that she'd never find her Doctor again. With a rush of mind-numbing relief, she dove into the flood of sensations playing across her body—the soft pressure of the Doctor's lips against hers, the smoothness of his tongue brushing against the roof of her mouth, the chilly caress of his fingers against her side and the chillier air that his hand bunching up her shirt had allowed in. She shivered, her body trembling from the overload of impressions.

The Doctor pulled away from her lips reluctantly and rested his forehead against hers. His chestnut curls brushed against her cheekbones, drifting in and out with his soft breaths. Rose kept her eyes closed, freezing this odd, perfect moment in her memory—the cool skin of his forehead, the gentle tickle of his hair, the cinnamon-scented breath that fell in waves against her lips.

She opened her eyes with a sigh, only to squeak when she found the steady gaze of the Doctor already fixed on her from a centimeter away. A small smile touched the edges of his mouth, but his eyes remained serious; hesitant, even. They never wavered from her own. He expelled a nervous breath and spoke: "Come with me."

A surge of mingled excitement and disappointment flooded through her. "What? No, I can't—you know that. I didn't— won't travel with you 'till later in your lives, an' there's no way I'm messing that up." She frowned. "An' I hate how time travel messes with my grammar."

The Doctor's eyes crinkled in amusement. "Be glad you never had to learn Gallifreyan. We had to know all hundred and forty-seven temporal tenses before we entered school."

A wince flickered across Rose's face when the Doctor mentioned his planet, no matter how hard she tried to conceal it. His eyes were still steadily fixed on hers, and the smile he had been wearing grew sad.

"Something's coming for me, Rose. I can see it in the shadows in your eyes when you watch me, and I can feel it in the murmur of the universe." He took her hands in his own, sliding long fingers between hers. They still fit perfectly—Rose had a quick, flickering thought that they would always fit. "Whatever is coming, though, it's not here yet." He brushed her hair behind her ear and drew back, his hand caressing her cheek gently. "Stay with me. Please."

"What about my past? Our future?"

He smiled cheerfully. "Oh, I've bungled my own timeline plenty of times. Hazard of being a Time Lord, especially if you're somewhat reckless, as I have to admit I often am. It's quite simple to adjust my own mind, to hide or eliminate memories until they're safe for me to access."

"So if I were to travel with you now—"

"Whenever we end up parting, I'll hide my memories of you until I can see you safely again."

Rose froze, her memory taking her back to Bad Wolf Bay. Her Doctor's face swam before her, the heartbreak that he tried so very hard to hide from her clear in his eyes. "Will—will the future you be able to remember this after we were separated?"

The Doctor in front of her shook his head slightly, his eyes full of empathy. "I'm afraid not. It would corrupt the timelines if my future self could remember meeting a you you'd not yet been, and that's not something I could risk. My future self will only be able to safely remember this when this you finds him again."

Rose had closed her eyes in disappointment, but she smiled at the quiet confidence he instilled in the when. Her Doctor would still hurt, but he was out there. She would find him. She had to.

"You've been at this for too long without rest, Rose." She looked up into the clear aquamarine eyes of this Doctor. "Come with me, at least for a while." He smiled, a tender, private gleam in his eyes. "I find myself jealous of my future incarnations for monopolizing so much of your time."

Rose looked across the quiet alien marketplace, the slender opalescent figures of the Midranian merchants almost dancing in the dim twilight as they shut up their stalls for the day. She turned back to the Doctor and beamed, feeling more at peace than she had been for decades.

"Yeah. Yes, I'll go with you." She nudged him lightly with her elbow as she took his hand. "Not 'cause I need rest, though. I'd have to be barmy to think I'd get any rest travellin' with you."

"Yes, well." His mouth quirked. "A salient point." His head came up like a hunting dog's, his gaze moving across the marketplace. "Now, where did I park the TARDIS?" Rose burst into laughter, and he shot her a glare that was weakened by the upwards tug of his lips. "Oh, hush you. Come on." She followed him, still giggling, into the darkness.