A distinct, keening metal-on-metal grating noise pitched through the air across the Thames, reaching the ears of a young blonde woman emerging from the Tube. She raised her head and swung it around wildly. It couldn't be. It had been three years but that sound still burned in her memory, the impossible sound of hope and happiness.

Almost reluctantly, she turned toward it, looking across the bridge and down toward the London Eye. She had been fooled before. Three years of jumping and running to the side of exceptionally loud and generally disfunctioning vacuum cleaners. She shifted from one foot to the other, letting people pour out the doors around her, trying to decide what to do.

Oh well. She'd risk a run-in with a faulty appliance for the small possibility it wasn't fake this time. She'd risk it every time.

The sound continued and she took off running, feeling a pang of sadness and remembering the last time she dashed across this bridge, or at least a similar zeppelin-less bridge, hand-in-hand with the manic alien owner of the blue box she desperately hoped she was headed toward.

She bounded down the steps, past the Eye and into the alleyways behind, pleased to note that she was breathing easily despite the running. Yup, still got it, she smiled to herself.

It had to be here. She was sure this time. But then, she had been sure before. She picked up her pace as the sound started to fade away and swung her head to the side again, desperately searching down a side alley for a glimpse of blue...and crashed headlong into something very solid.

"Oof!" she cried, and two figures deposited themselves rather inelegantly on the pavement. She shook her head and raised it to glance at the source of her sudden tumble. It was a man. A man who looked as though he had stepped dramatically out of a Victorian romance novel. Chestnut curls framed his angular face and he was wearing tight gray breeches, a fancy patterned waistcoat, a long black velvet overcoat and had some sort of blousy tie around his neck.

She cocked her head at him. Well, that was odd. She was near the Globe, though. Maybe he was an actor on his way to work. Or perhaps January 25th was "Dress Up Like a Jane Austen Character" day in Pete's world. That was possible.

She figured anything was possible in a world that somehow survived without potatoes. Honestly, a world with no chips. Mickey had almost been afraid to tell her, she thought, laughing to herself. She didn't know which she missed more...the Doctor or chips. Well...that wasn't true. She did know. But it was easier to think of it in those terms sometimes. It helped her get by when she felt overwhelmed by her sadness, by his absence.

The man in front of her elegantly rose to his feet and extended a gentlemanly hand in her direction. "I am quite sorry about that, Miss. I'm afraid I didn't see you there. Are you hurt?" Boy, he was good. He even spoke like a character out of one of her books, a gentle Regency accent falling from his lips and beautiful blue-gray eyes peering at her with utmost concern.

"No, I'm all right," she replied from her place on the pavement, cringing at her harsh accent compared to his own. "It was my fault. Sorry 'bout that. Shoulda been watching where I was going."

She accepted the hand and he pulled her to her feet, maintaining the grasp on her hand a little bit longer than she thought was necessary. He was looking at her strangely now, head inclined gently to the side, interest and curiosity replacing the concern and she felt uncomfortable under his steadfast gaze. She withdrew her hand quickly. Last thing she needed was to be hit on by a nutter in strange clothes when she was busy looking for the TARDIS. Even if he was a good-looking nutter.

"Well, uh, thanks for the hand," she said and backed away from him, fidgeting with the bottom of her jacket and looking for a quick and convenient way out of this conversation.

"Where were you going in such a hurry?" he asked, genuinely interested. This girl was something odd. He'd felt something strange when he touched her hand. There was a very strong, if latent, telepathic field around her, remarkably odd for a human.

His Time sense was reacting very strongly, drawing him to her. What's more, she felt distantly familiar to him and he wanted to touch her hand again and see if the feeling returned. Always up for a mystery, him.

"Just looking for something," she replied, cautiously, eyes narrowing at him as he took a step toward her almost blocking her in the alley. Rose considered the strange man carefully. Why did he want to know? And why was he coming closer?

He, on the other hand, took in her reaction with mild surprise and interest. Eyes narrowed, pulse increasing and a slight smell of adrenaline. That puzzled him. Oh, right. Silly suspicious humans. Always thinking they were under attack. He stepped away, clasped his hands behind his back in what he hoped was a non-threatening pose and gave her his best disarming smile. This body was good at disarming smiles.

She raised her chin and regarded him again, a little less suspiciously but still cautious. Good, it worked then. But she also edged around him sideways so she had a clear shot away and he could feel her tensed and ready to run. Interesting again. This girl had obviously been in difficult situations before. He wondered if she was a soldier of some sort. She didn't really look it. Or a thief. Oh! That would be exciting. His eyes swept up and down her body, assessing her clothing and demeanor. At his scrutiny, her previous reactions returned.

Eyes still narrowed, she coughed. "Enjoying the view?"

"What?" he asked, absently. Oh. He sighed audibly. Humans, honestly. Time to be disarming again.

"I was just attempting to discern why such a lovely young woman was pelting down the street at top speed, ramming into well-meaning strangers," he replied. Ooo...that may have been more rude than disarming. He was usually so good at not being rude in this body.

To his surprise, her expression softened a bit at his comment. Wait...why had rude worked and disarming hadn't? Oh well. Maybe she was used to rude. He thought he could place her accent from the Southern part of London, lower middle class, probably.

"I did say I was sorry about that," she answered. "Are you all right?" she asked suddenly, as an afterthought.

"Me? I'm always all right," he replied, the flip answer coming out easily accompanied by another smile. To his surprise, her eyes widened, her breathing quickened and she took a step toward him, staring him directly in the eyes as though she were searching for something. He felt an odd surge of telepathy around him and he mentally scrambled behind his shields but her mind didn't connect with his as it should have. She obviously wasn't in control of it. Not a very good telepath, then.

At a loss in this particular social situation, he simply stared back. Her eyes were a beautiful hazel and there were flecks of gold in them. He started to take another step closer to her, entranced by the gold and feeling her pull on him, but she broke the contact abruptly. Apparently she hadn't found what she was looking for because he watched a flash of disappointment and something else...relief maybe? move across her highly expressive face.

"Anyway. Just, uh, going then. Have fun at your party or wherever you're headed, mate," she said, gesturing dismissively at his clothing. He was about to protest but she turned quickly from him to walk in the opposite direction.

Odd again. His perception filter should have prevented her from thinking there was anything strange about his clothing. None of the other humans he'd passed on the street had given him a second glance.

He watched her form disappear around the corner and debated what to do. The TARDIS had kicked him out because she needed to fix herself after the extraordinarily rough landing they'd had getting to this place and she didn't appreciate his fiddling around the console distracting her. He meant to go find some dinner (chips sounded lovely for some reason) but this girl was quite the mystery.

She'd give him something to investigate since he was going to be stuck here for a few days. He could get chips later. Or maybe he could convince her to get chips with him! That would certainly be easier than stalking her. Less creepy too, probably. Decision made, he hurried off in the direction she had gone. Her mental signature was so strange that it wouldn't be too hard to track her down.

He realized vaguely that he was headed back in the direction of the TARDIS. Maybe he would pop his head in and see if she'd changed her mind about letting him help. He altered his direction slightly and turned down the alley where he'd parked her (well - crashed was probably a better description but who was going to quibble with him over that?) just in time to see a flash of blonde hair disappear inside the door.


His hearts sped up. Suddenly the idea of the girl being a thief didn't sound so appealing. Not that the TARDIS would let herself be stolen (although...come to think of it, that's rather how he ended up with her). He amended the thought. The TARDIS wouldn't allow herself to be stolen from him.

Still an unwanted pesky human inside could do a lot of damage. How had she gotten in? Surely he had locked the door. He tried the handle when he arrived there a few seconds later. Yes, locked. He pulled out his key and slipped inside as quietly as possible, intending to surprise his unwanted house guest.

He found her standing with her back to the door in the center of the main room and he tensed when he saw that her hands were on the console. His tension quickly turned into confusion and interest, however, when he saw what she was doing.

She was running her hands up and down the console, no...she was caressing it. There was no other way to describe her actions. She was murmuring softly and, to his great surprise, he felt the ship answering her even if he couldn't hear what was being said directly. Maybe she knew how to use her telepathy after all. After a few silent moments of exchange, the girl lifted her head and hands and straightened her back.

Rose glanced around, taking in the unexpected view. The TARDIS looked so different, all Gothic with elegant wood paneling and bookshelves instead of green and organic. She was reeling from the shock of actually finding the TARDIS, different as it looked on the inside. It still felt like the TARDIS, sounded like the TARDIS, responded like the TARDIS. But where was the Doctor? He couldn't be far away.

"Doctor?" she called uncertainly back into the depths of the ship where she thought the door out of the console room should be.

"Yes?" he answered automatically, giving away his position by the main door.

She jumped in surprise and whirled to face him. Her eyes widened as she took in the Mr. Darcy nutter from the street leaning casually on the TARDIS doors.

He watched very carefully as emotions fled once again across her face. He identified shock, relief, disappointment and concern before he unceremoniously found himself with an armful of weeping pink and yellow human.

Again unsure how to handle this turn of events, he merely stood stiff in her arms and let her hold him tightly. Feeling he was supposed to do something, he patted her back rather awkwardly.

"Doctor, what happened? Why'd you regenerate? More importantly, why'd you choose that outfit? Never mind, not more importantly. It doesn't matter. I don't care. I'll get used to it. You're here, s'all that matters. I missed you so much!" she sobbed into his velvet jacket. He was baffled by her rambling. How did she know his name? And about regeneration? And what was wrong with his clothes?

He gently sidestepped out of her embrace. "You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You clearly know me but I don't seem to know you," he said, kindly. His words seemed to wound her and she stumbled back a bit, staring at him with wide, damp eyes.

Rose gaped at him, trying to keep new tears from surfacing. It had occurred to her that he hadn't recognized her on the street and his words had just confirmed her worst nightmare. He didn't know her! Maybe that happened with regeneration sometimes. They never had really talked about it. Maybe he sometimes forgot companions.

Or maybe he had just forgotten her. Maybe it had been hundreds of years for him and he'd forgotten her. Or maybe it had only been a few years and he still had forgotten. But he had promised...No. She had to push those thoughts away. He was here, and that's what mattered. She would figure this out. And she wasn't about to let him go.

She stepped toward him tentatively, as though he were a skittish animal, and gently laid her hands to the sides of his face, surprising him again. "Did you hit your head or something? Regeneration sickness again? Why don't you remember me, Doctor?"

He almost jumped at the spark in his mind as her fingers ghosted across his temples. He received an overwhelming flash of emotions and memories too jumbled for him to understand. She really had no control over her telepathy. He was beginning to suspect she didn't even know about it. But with the TARDIS a moment ago...he didn't understand her.

He did, however, carefully disentangle her hands from his head and for a moment they just stared at each other.

"I have not recently hit my head, barring the slight jolt awarded to me a few moments ago by a girl on the street." He quirked the corner of his mouth at her and was rewarded with a small smile in return. "I'm not sure what you mean by regeneration sickness...although I find myself rather interested in that. But I still don't know who you are."

The girl took a deep breath and stared at his shoes. "Well, I know you. We traveled together and we were...anyway, we traveled together," she trailed off, unable or unwilling to tell him more. He felt like there was more she was going to add but she resolutely pressed her lips shut.

"For how long?" he pressed. Maybe she had come along with him for a trip in one of his past lives although he didn't think that was likely. She knew too much for one trip and he would have remembered anyway.

"'Bout 2 years, I think. 's hard to tell in the TARDIS though, innit? Could have been more," she answered. She seemed to have recovered from her shock and her breathing was steadying. He had to admire her resolve. Obviously this was trying for her and yet she was taking it in stride. Two years was a long time to keep a companion, for him at least. His usually didn't last very long.

"Well, I'm fairly certain that I would remember if we had traveled together that long. So, that only leaves a few options," he answered, slowly, clasping his hands together in front of him.

"Which are?"

"Either you are mistaken and we didn't travel together at all and your memories are invented or planted," he answered, rushing on to get past her deeply affronted expression, "or, we simply haven't met...yet," he finished, emphasizing the "yet". The TARDIS hummed a gentle affirmative at him. So that was it. Well that explained the distantly familiar feeling he felt from her. She was familiar...to a future version of him.

She considered his words, chewing on her bottom lip and staring at the ceiling. "Which body are you on now?" she asked.

He was surprised at her question. Time Lords were notoriously tight-lipped about their particular form of semi-immortality and it seemed strange that a 21st-ish century human would be so candid about it. Oh, well. He supposed he should stop being surprised at her. She obviously knew a lot about his kind. Or about him at least.

Frowning slightly, he answered, "This is my eighth body."

She nodded and blew out a hot breath he could feel from where he was standing. He would never get used to how incredibly warm humans were. He could almost feel her body heat from where he was standing, a meter and a half from her and, for some reason, it was growing increasingly distracting.

"Well, I know two versions of you but you never told me what numbers you were on so that doesn't help much. Seems logical, though," she said, again surprising him with her bluntness and her apparent acceptance of the strange situation. And she had stayed with him through a regeneration? Usually that was too much for his companions. No wonder he had chosen her.

She took in his surprise and simply answered with a shrug. "You get used to weird, timey-wimey stuff travelling with you," she said.

Before he could remark on her use of the words "timey-wimey" her expression turned from thoughtful to horrified. "Wait...does that mean we're making a paradox here, me meeting you before you've met me? Are the Reapers coming?" She glanced around her nervously and he heard her breath speed up again.

Rose started to panic. Even if she wasn't all that fond of this world, she didn't want any innocent people dying because of her meddling in Time again. She should have known something like this would happen.

"No, no," he said, quickly trying to dispel her concern. "If we're careful with the information exchange, it should be fine. Plus, I'll probably have to forget this anyway, so I can set up a memory loop and forget until it's safe to remember."

That seemed to calm her and he could again see her thinking deeply, could practically hear the thoughts churning through her mind. "Why is that? Last time," she caught herself at the sight of his widened eyes and quickly amended the statement, "I mean, shouldn't running into someone from your personal future or past be bad?"

He beamed at her. She was clever. "For a normal person, yes. But it tends to happen to Time Lords a lot. Well, meddlesome ones like me, anyway. So, mostly just me," he said, amused with himself. "I've run into myself many times before. Even had to work with myself more than once. What?" he asked at her playfully raised eyebrow.

"Just trying to imagine two of you in the same place," she said with a snicker. Particularly she was imagining her gruff, methodical first Doctor trying to work alongside the hyper-active, pretty version that replaced him. She imagined a lot of eye-rolling and name-calling. A lot of name calling.

"What's wrong with that? Too much brilliance in one place?" he said, blue eyes twinkling. Ah, there was his instinctual arrogance. Rose smiled. Some things apparently didn't change with regeneration.

"More like too much ego in one place," she responded, teasingly, laughing as he pulled a face of mock affront (another small constant). "Can't imagine it turning out well...at least with the versions I know," Rose continued.

"Oh, it usually doesn't. Lots of shouting and insulting. In fact, once the second and third versions of me got into such a fight, the first version had to come along and sort it out," he said, laughing at the memory.

She laughed with him, marveling at the differences she saw in him. This Doctor seemed so young and carefree. Oh, he was still ancient and alien but there was an endearing innocence playing across his handsome face that she had never seen before.

"Well," he exclaimed, clapping his hands together. "We obviously have lots to talk about and I find myself remarkably peckish. Would you care to join me for dinner Miss, erm...well, I suppose I haven't formally learned your name. Yet," he added cheekily.

"Rose. Rose Tyler"

"All right then, Rose Tyler," he said, letting the name roll over his tongue expressively. It felt so natural. "Shall we?" He extended a gentlemanly arm to her, which she quickly accepted.

Rose gazed at him in wonder from her position attached to his arm as they walked out of the TARDIS. How had he managed to say her name like that? She hadn't expected it. Her Doctors, both of them, had always said her name in a way that made her feel as though "Rose Tyler" were the two most important words ever spoken but this him didn't even know her.

"So, anything in particular that you would like to eat?" he asked.

"Nope. I'm an easy date," she responded and then cursed herself. Date? Why had she said that? To send him running from her?

If he had an adverse reaction to her word choice, he hid it well. "To be honest, I have an immense craving for chips. And we are in London!" Well, some version of London, anyway he thought, eyeing the zeppelins overhead. He thought maybe he had hopped dimensions by accident.

She snorted beside him and he looked at her, both amused and surprised at the unladylike noise. "'fraid you're out of luck there, mate. No chips in this universe. No potatoes, at all," she responded in a sad voice.

"If chips and potatoes don't exist in this universe, how do you know what they are?" he asked, intrigued.

She rolled her eyes at him and turned to give him a look that made him feel as though he had dribbled on his shirt. "You must get smarter as you age," she told him.

"I beg your pardon?" he said, mock affront covering up a small tinge of real offense. She certainly was cheeky, this creature he had found. And that had been a legitimate question!

She let go of his arm and dissolved into a fit of laughter. One look at his offended face and she laughed again, letting her mirth ring out through the deserted streets. This version of him didn't handle female laughter any better than the two she knew.

"What?" he asked, growing irritated at her continued laughter. Obviously it was at his expense and he didn't understand the joke.

"It's just," she sputtered, "You sound so posh! 'I beg your pardon' and all. Neither one of my Doctors ever would have said that!"

Before he could dwell too long on her use of the possessive pronoun, she continued, "I know about chips because I'm not from this universe."

"Oh!" he cried, affront forgotten. "That explains a few things!"

"What sort of things?" she frowned at him, crinkling her brow adorably.

"There's just some odd things about you, that's all," he said dismissively, waving his hand and offering his arm again.

She didn't accept. "What sort of things?" she repeated.

He blew out a breath. Explaining Time sense to humans was always so complicated. "You know that the human species has five senses. Well, I've got more. 27 to be exact. And most of them have to do with seeing Time which means..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know all about that. Superior Time Lord biology and all," she cut him off in an irritated voice. "Doesn't answer my question."

He was a bit deflated by her dismissal. He'd been gearing up for a big speech. Why did he feel he needed this girl's approval?

"Well," he huffed a bit, "It would seem as though this universe's timelines are compensating around you, making tiny little exceptions because you're here. It's not very safe. You don't belong here," he said, frowning.

"Tell me about it," she responded, almost bitterly.

Once the words were out of his mouth, he could see it much more clearly. He watched as timelines bent and twisted to avoid her. Her own timelines were completely shrouded to him and he didn't know what to make of that either. She didn't belong here but without seeing her timelines he couldn't tell where she belonged. And eventually the Time here was going to start unraveling around her if she didn't get back to wherever that was.

"How did you get here?" he asked, although the answer seemed rather obvious.

"Got trapped by accident. Been trying to get back but no luck yet. In fact, you told me yourself that it was impossible." Rose looked away from him with pain-filled eyes, remembering their final good-bye.

"Really? Why would I say that? We do it all the time," he answered, confused.

"Who's 'we'?" Rose asked, furrowing her brow again.

"The Time Lords, of course," he responded, giving her a Look. Rose blanched but luckily for her, the Doctor had turned away to bluster on, missing her distressed face. "It's a bit inconvenient but certainly not impossible. I didn't exactly mean to get here this time, not sure how it happened. As it is, I'm going to have to call Romana when the TARDIS is functional again and have her help me back through."

He turned back to her and watched for a flicker of recognition. Receiving none, he was puzzled again. This girl had travelled with him for two years and he'd never once mentioned Romana? His friend and the PRESIDENT of the Time Lords? She was staring at him again and thinking, with something that looked curiously like pity on her face.

Rose understood now. This was him before the Time War. She wondered how long before the war it was. No wonder he seemed so light and carefree. Gallifrey was still there and flourishing, he still had his family and his world. It pained her to imagine the broken soldier he would become, the destroyer of worlds, the Lonely God and to know he would struggle to smile again for so long.

He watched her studying him, deep thoughts turning in her human brain and knew instinctively she was seeing a different face. He wondered what he would become to garner a look like that from her. It frightened him a little.

"So, dinner?" he asked, wanting to break the silence and escape from her piercing gaze.

"Right. Well there's a place..," she was suddenly cut off by the ringing of her mobile phone. "Sorry, 'scuse me," she said to him and flipped open the mobile. He heard a woman's voice on the other end, chattering a mile a minute.

"Oh, Mum! Um, yeah. O'course I'm coming to dinner tonight." He raised his eyebrows and she looked at him apologetically. Slightly irritated sounding words issued from the phone. "No, I didn't forget! Just got to go get my car from work and then I'm out the door." More sounds from the other end of the phone. "No, I haven't been at work this whole time. Went downtown to do some shopping and got a bit...distracted. I'm not lying! And I'm not a workaholic. Yes, Mum. Ok. Hang on a mo'," she put one hand over the receiver and turned to him.

"Sorry. I've got to go to dinner with my family tonight," she apologized. He simply nodded and she fidgeted nervously. "Erm...I don't suppose you would, uh, want to come?" she asked politely, fully expecting him to decline as her first Doctor would have. Except she really, really didn't want to let him out of her sight. What if he left? But he surely had much more important things to do and Mickey and her Mum would make things very complicated.

To her surprise, his face lit up. "Oh! I'd be delighted! Full on human family meal. Sounds fascinating!" She gaped at him for a moment and he wondered if that was perhaps not the answer he had been supposed to give. She recovered quickly and turned from him, speaking into the phone once more.

"Is it all right if I bring a friend?" He watched as whatever her mother said on the other end of the phone made Rose blush a bright scarlet. "NO, Mum. Ok, good. Thanks. See you in a bit." She snapped the phone shut and turned to him.

"My parents live on an estate just out of town," she said. "We can take the Tube over to my work and then I'll get my car from the garage, if that's all right with you."

"Lead on! Your universe and all," he said, smiling broadly at her and allowing her to take his arm again as they began to walk. To his surprise, instead of being cloying, it was comforting having her warmth at his side.

"No, actually, it's not," she responded stiffly and stopped moving.

"Oh, right. Sorry," he quickly tried to cover his mistake and as he felt her begin to withdraw her arm, he covered the hand grasping his arm with the other hand to prevent her from letting go. She seemed as surprised at his action as he was and they simply began walking again.

The Doctor considered her words as they walked silently along. She seemed very touchy about the whole "wrong universe" thing. Come to think of it, she had said she'd been trapped here. Against her will, it sounded like. And he had, apparently, said it was impossible to return.

Maybe he had stuck her here on purpose? Maybe she was dangerous. But surely then she wouldn't be so friendly with him, now. And hadn't he known it would rip this universe's timelines apart to have her here? So many questions and so few answers.

Maybe dinner with her family would open up some answers. Hang on. If this wasn't her universe, how did she have a family here? He asked her as much when they had chosen a secluded seat away from the other passengers on the Tube.

"It's a bit complicated. Pete, my dad (sort of) is from this universe. My dad back home died when I was a baby. There was a giant mess here with Cybermen," she paused as he stiffened and hissed at the name. "Don't worry. You and me, we sorted it out. With a lot of help." He relaxed a bit.

"Anyway, the version of my mum here died then. And when we left, one of my friends stayed and replaced the version of himself here who died. Then there was another big mess back in our home universe with Cybermen and Daleks," she paused again, knowing that the name would elicit the same reaction. It did, except this time she watched as his jaw clenched and the hand over hers on his arm tightened painfully.

"We fixed it, but I..." she faltered a bit and felt hot tears coming to her eyes as she pictured the Doctor's face as she slipped off the lever...it was so hard to re-live. This Doctor's expression softened and he turned in his seat awkwardly to face her. He could feel her grief and sadness leaking through her unshielded telepathy. "I got separated from you and to save me from the Void, Pete grabbed me and I got trapped here. My mum came along as well. And now, well, here we are."

His heart swelled for this brave girl, facing Daleks and Cybermen, seeing her family split apart, being torn from her universe and trapped here. His grip on her hand tightened again.

"You're right. That is complicated," he said softly. The doors of the Tube whooshed open and Rose stood abruptly, letting go of his arm and pointedly walking out the doors without a look back. He scrambled up after her and they emerged from the station without another word.

Wanting to bridge the newfound gap of silence, he asked "So, where is it that you work?"

She pointed to the large, shining multi-story building in front of them surrounded by very heavy security. "What is that?" he asked, incredulously.

"Torchwood. Agency formed to communicate and coordinate with alien lifeforms that find their way to Earth. Know a lot about aliens, me," she responded, tapping him lightly on the chest. "I just started on full time. Did a lot of consulting while I was doing my A-Levels and finishing up University. Graduated in December," she finished proudly.

"Congratulations," he responded, giving her a pleased smile.

"Just wait out here. I've got to go in and get my car and you don't have clearance. Probably best that they don't find I'm running about with an alien genius anyway," she winked and quickly strode away to the security point outside.

A few moments later, she emerged from the gate in a small blue sporty sedan. He climbed in the passenger side. They rode in silence for a few moments and just as he was starting to feel fidgety, Rose suddenly spoke.

"How's come no one else seemed to notice that there was a Victorian toff sitting on the Tube?" she asked.

He laughed slightly at the name. "Perception filter. They see what they want to see and I can wear what I like."

"Bit like the psychic paper then?"

"Exactly! Very good, Rose!" She glanced at him when they stopped at a light and he grinned at her broadly. She marveled at how that huge manic grin looked the same no matter on which face it appeared.

"So that's why you never changed your clothes no matter where we went," she said, thinking out loud. He nodded slightly. "I always wondered. There we'd be, standing in the middle of ancient Rome, me struggling with my toga and you chatting up Julius Caesar in your leather."

"Well, dressing up is all part of the companion experience!" he laughed. Then he wrinkled his nose. "Leather? Really?"

"Don't worry, you wear it quite well," she assured him. Rose laughed lightly as he preened a bit. Guess his little vanity streak didn't change either.

"Could be worse," he said. "Once I had a thing for capes. And scarves. And lurid colors," he shuddered.

"Why doesn't your perception thingy work on me?" she asked.

Staring out the window aimlessly, he thought for a moment. "I'm not sure, actually. It should. I mean when we travel together you see me in my regular clothes because you know I didn't change. But here it should have worked because you and I haven't met yet. Could be that you know me too well," he said, carefully. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye but didn't say anything so he continued.

"And your mind is rather...complicated. Strange. Might have something to do with that." He watched her for a reaction but other than a slightly stiffened posture, she offered him no information. No answers on that right now, apparently.

"Have you been looking in my head?" she asked, suddenly angry.

"No! Not on purpose, anyway. I just get an overall view like I do with anyone else. I see minds like you see faces," the Doctor responded, struggling to describe the Time Lord brand of telepathy. "I can't see you very well, though. You're different," he said, frustrated.

She relaxed a bit. "Good different or bad different?" she asked.

"Just different," he replied and was slightly puzzled at her faraway, amused glance.

They fell into easy conversation, mostly carried by the Doctor. He told her some light stories of his adventures and she asked questions and laughed in all the right places. He was really starting to enjoy her company. She was kind and compassionate, she made him laugh and she was very bright. He could see why future him had asked her to travel with him. He suddenly wished he could do the same.

Just outside the outskirts of urban London, they pulled up to a large, beautiful manor. It was not what he pictured from her accent and demeanor. It was, to use her word, very posh. She seemed to read his thoughts and laughed slightly. "'s not like this in my universe. Pete here is a millionaire, head of the Vitex corporation. Pop up here and suddenly I'm an heiress. The tabloids follow me everywhere," she said, rolling her eyes.

As they walked toward the front door, the Doctor noticed that Rose was very carefully not touching him. In fact, she seemed to be trying to keep as far from him as possible. He was about to question her on it when the door pulled open and a loud brassy blonde stepped outside.

"There you are! Took you long enough to get here! Dinner waitin' on the table an' your brother cryin' up a storm. Don't you look at me like that, Rose Tyler," she scolded, taking the girl's arm and dragging her inside. The Doctor followed hesitantly. Something told him this was a formidable woman he did not want to cross. She continued a litany of reproofs until the Doctor lightly coughed from the doorway.

"Oh! Rose's friend! 'ello there, sweetheart!" she said, blustering over to kiss him full on the mouth to his enormous surprise. "And who might you be?"


"John Smith. Friend of mine from University, Mum. He's a medical student," Rose quickly said. The Doctor raised both his eyebrows and looked at her but said nothing to disprove her statement. She purposefully avoided his eyes.

"A future doctor, then?" Jackie said in an impressed tone and looking at Rose with what he thought was motherly approval, making him choke a bit . Past, actually, he thought.

Rose kept her face impassive and nodded, anxious to get her mother's attention off the Doctor. At least she couldn't see his odd clothing. "So, dinner, you said? Mickey here yet?" she asked nervously, eyeing the Doctor again. He looked confused.

"You're late, remember? Everyone's been here ages. Me slavin' away in the kitchen for hours and this is the thanks you give me," she said, slipping back into castigation.

"Oh, come off it, Mum. The servants cooked the food and you won't even have to clear up," Rose said, irritated. It was a risk, lying about who the Doctor really was but it seemed less risky than telling them all the truth.

She had no idea how Mickey and Jackie would react to having the Doctor here, especially since it wasn't either form they knew. Mickey had been a steady friend through her emotional ups and downs over the past few years but she knew he still had some unresolved issues with the Time Lord. Jackie had been pestering her to "move on" for almost three years and had been desperately trying to force them into "one big happy family".

And Rose fully intended to make him take her out of this universe and back to her own, back to her Doctor when he left, a fact that her family would surely contest. She didn't want to have that fight now, especially not in front of him and especially because she hadn't ask him yet.

Dinner was a bit stiff, the Doctor thought. Pete was friendly enough but excused himself early for a business phone call, Jackie wittered on about various gossip that interested him in no way, the little boy screamed, the young man across the table kept glowering at him and Rose was uncharacteristically quiet. And Rose's lie meant that he had to keep coming up with background stories and effectively cut him off from asking the questions he had really wanted to ask. By dessert he was ready to capture Rose on his arm and make a hasty retreat and, judging by the look on her face, she was too.

"Well, Mum, that was lovely. Thank you for dinner! But John and I should really be getting back into town. His car's parked downtown and I've got work in the morning," Rose said, giving him a meaningful glance, rising up from the table and he did the same. He had to admire her ease at making up stories. He wondered if she got that from him.

"It was quite the pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Tyler," he said, gallantly, using his brightest, most disarming smile and kissing her hand. She flushed with delight and shot Rose a look laced with meaning and Rose blushed scarlet as well. "Mickey. Nice to meet you as well," he said even though it hadn't been. The feeling apparently was mutual because the young man took his outstretched hand rather unwillingly and shook it with a bit more force than he thought necessary.

"Good then. We'll just be off," Rose said, ushering him to the door and pulling on her coat. Jackie grabbed her arm and whispered something in her ear. Even with his superior Time Lord hearing, he only caught a few words like "looker" "about time" and "moving on".

A red-faced and tense Rose brushed past him abruptly out the door and he had to jog slightly to catch up with her outside.

"What was that about?" he asked, although he really thought he probably knew the answer and didn't really like the implications. Or maybe he did. Maybe that was the problem.

"Nothing. Just her sticking her nose in where it doesn't belong. She does that a lot," Rose answered tersely.

"Rose, you and me, what..." he started.

"None of your business," she snarled, whirling on him, hands clenched into fists. She was reacting much as she has when they first met in the alley, morphing into what he recognized as 'human-under-attack' mode.

"Actually, sounds like it is my business. A lot of my business," he said, stopping by the car, crossing his arms across his chest and glaring at her with steely blue eyes.

Rose stared daggers at him. It was so unfair, to have him standing there in that familiar position, with that familiar look even if the eyes were the wrong shade of blue. He wasn't her Doctor and he didn't deserve to ask her that question. Especially since she didn't know the answer. Her Doctor hadn't finished thatsentence on the beach and even though she thought she knew what he was going to say, hoped for it, prayed for it...he hadn't said it.

"Ok, ok. Never mind. Forget I said anything," he replied, pulling the car door open and depositing himself on the seat in a huff. He'd sat through that whole ridiculous human dinner ritual and had no more answers than when he'd started.

Rose opened her mouth and then closed it. She had been gearing up for the knock-down drag-out fight she would have had with the leather or pinstriped versions of him and he had surprised her with his easy surrender even though he clearly wanted to keep talking. Apparently he was passive aggressive this time 'round. Denied the release of yelling at him, she settled for storming around to the driver's door and pulling out of the driveway rather more violently than was strictly necessary.

"Would you care to slow down a bit?" he said, breaking the strained silence when they arrived in the outer shell of the city. "I'd rather make it back to my ship in one piece, if it's all the same to you."

Rose muttered under her breath in response.

"I beg your pardon?" he responded, shortly. The words she'd found amusing earlier now grated on her and highlighted again to her just how different he was.

"I said at least if something happened to you then maybe you'd regenerate into someone I actually like," she retorted. She heard a sharp intake of breath beside her and knew she had gone too far. Remembering how sensitive her second doctor had been any time she had mentioned his predecessor she should have known it would hurt him now. Maybe that's why she had said it. She was about to back track, to apologize, when he spoke again.

"Sounds like you did a lot more than that," he said in a low, dangerous voice.

"Excuse me?" Rose said, her voice rising instead of lowering but matching his in danger.

"I heard what your mother was saying. What did you do? Desire me? Lust after me? Is that why you lied to them about who I was? Didn't want too much information out?" he said, his voice gaining some of her earlier snarl.

He recognized the warning signs, knew he needed to stop talking before he said something he couldn't take back, but this body had nasty verbal streak when provoked. Undaunted and unable to stop himself he continued pretentiously, "No wonder future me hasn't come back to get you. I've dropped companions more qualified than you for less than that before." He heard her gasp, a horrid, raw sound and cursed himself. She slammed on the brakes.

"How...how dare you," she sputtered, twisting in her seat to face him. He was stunned by the expression on her face. He imagined this must be what it was like on the receiving end of his Oncoming Storm face. Or perhaps hers was even more terrifying.

"Out," she commanded.


"I said out," she repeated, power and pain crackling underneath the surface of her voice.

She was staring out the front window now as though she had been turned to granite, putting up an immutable wall between herself and him. He knew he needed to fix this, to take it back, to make it better but nothing he could say would reach her now. Why was he such an idiot? He reluctantly pulled open the door handle and stepped out. As soon as he snapped the door shut, she sped away, leaving him stranded in the middle of zeppelin-filled London.

By the time he reached the TARDIS, his feet hurt and he was in an incredibly foul mood. He yanked the door open and made to storm across the console room to his bedroom but stopped up short when he realized that the door was gone.

"Where's the door?" he growled at the TARDIS. She had offered him a greeting when he walked in but he had ignored her. "Nothing's wrong with me. Now put the door back." She refused and sent him a question.

"I don't know where she is. Her flat probably." An irritated hum.

"How should I know?" The irritated hum increased in pitch.

"How can she 'belong' here? We just met. And she doesn't belong anywhere. Certainly not in this universe." Irritated sounds turned to angry ones.

"All right, all right. We had a fight, ok? Both said some things we didn't mean. You know how bad I am at controlling my mouth in this body." The TARDIS made a derisive noise. "Ok, fine. Any body." Pressure on his mind. "Fine, I'll show you." He played back the memory of the evening for her, cringing as the hurtful words flew from his mouth and he was forced to watch Rose's reaction again.

He yelped and drew his hands back as the TARDIS sent a sharp current through the console at him accompanied by a heavy mental command. "Apologize? Why do I have to the be one to apologize? She was cruel, too," he said, childishly.

"What do you mean 'we' need her? Who needs her? This me or future me? Or hell, past me! I don't know. Us? Since when have you ever needed a human around, if that's even what she is? This is all too confusing!" he shouted, slamming his fist down on the console. Another shock and he stuffed his burnt fingers in his mouth.

"Fine. I'll go find her right now," he said around a mouthful of fingers. To his surprise, the TARDIS sent him a negative. "Well, make up your mind!" A calm response. "How do you know she won't want to see me tonight? You barely know her."

Her response stopped him in his tracks and all his anger melted away. "What do you mean by that?" The TARDIS didn't respond. I know her better than anyone, she had said so resolutely, so calmly... as though she were simply stating a universal constant.

"I promise tomorrow I will find her and apologize. Now can I have the door back?" She hummed an apology at him and he immediately felt very selfish as he realized for the first time how tired the TARDIS sounded.

"I'm sorry. Was the damage really that bad? No, don't waste your energy with the back. I'll just stay out here. Don't need to sleep tonight anyway." Actually, he probably should...it had been weeks since he had slept last but the TARDIS couldn't support another room right now and he could help her out here anyway. With a sigh, he pulled out the sonic screwdriver and slipped under the console. How was he going to fix things with Rose?

Rose got back to her flat and collapsed in bed fully clothed. She had managed to get upstairs before the tears had overwhelmed her but she hadn't been able to stop the traitorous thoughts his harsh words had brought up.

What if she had scared him away with her confession of love? What if this Doctor was right and hers had merely left her in this universe because she had gotten too close? Asked for something that he couldn't give? It was a convenient way to leave her behind...telling her it was impossible to return because she didn't know any better. Maybe this damn universe was her Aberdeen. She cried until she was exhausted and then fell into an uneasy, restless sleep.

When she awoke, she felt like hell. She was still in her clothes from yesterday and her make-up was smeared across her face. She briefly considered calling off work for the day but dismissed the thought. If she didn't go to work she would spend all day brooding about the Doctor. At least at work there would be distractions.

However, when she arrived at work it seemed people had other ideas. Her co-workers were greeting her strangely and kept dissolving into little groups as she walked by. She sighed. She recognized their reactions. This lot seemed just as fascinated by the tabloid coverage of her life as her fellow University students had been. Something must have shown up in today's tabloid. She eyed the cubicles and walked over to the one she thought would be her easiest target.

"All right, Mitch. Hand it over," she said gruffly. The young man squeaked at her nervously and looked away. Even though she was new, she ranked much higher than him and he was a bit of a nancy anyway. Not meeting her eyes, he handed her a magazine.

She gasped. Displayed proudly on the front cover was a picture of her arm-in-arm with and smiling dumbly up at an unfiltered, beaming, Victorian Doctor with the caption "Romance Novel or Real Life?" Well, that was inconvenient.

How she managed to make it through the rest of the day, she didn't know. By five o'clock, she was sure she had heard every comment a person could possibly make about Jane Austen, BBC mini-series, Shakespeare and romance novels. Their conversation from the previous night did not help her irritation and by time she got back to her flat, she was ready to kill the next person who spoke to her.

She was just about to turn the key in the door when a soft voice behind her tentatively called, "Rose?" She whirled around and standing before her was a person she wouldn't mind killing at the moment. The Doctor was standing there with a bouquet of lilies, looking sheepish and apologetic. She'd seen that look before. Usually because he had taken her on an adventure that had ruined her favorite jeans. Or been incredibly rude. Or accidentally sold her into slavery. The look had never come accompanied by flowers before, though. Must be the pre-Time War reaction.

"What the hell do you want?" she asked, coldly. For a moment he looked like he was at a loss for words. Well, that was a first. Rose took his silence as an opportunity to yank the door open and slam it shut behind her until she discovered that there was a foot blocking it. A foot that was quickly followed in the door by its owner.

She made an irritated sound and continued into the flat, dumping her bag and coat on the couch and retreating into the kitchen. She'd make tea. She wasn't sure how to deal with any of this, so she'd make tea.

He hesitated, unsure whether to follow her or not. Oh well. He was here. He might as well go for broke. He found her in the kitchen, standing over the tea kettle. She turned back to face him, hands on her hips. He held the lilies out in front of him, half as a peace offering, half as a shield. Flowers seemed like a silly thing to give her but the TARDIS had told him to get them.

Rose accepted his proffered flowers and reached up for the vase on top of the refrigerator. She had always loved lilies. She took a deep breath and almost sighed. The TARDIS had always put a vase of them on her night stand. They smelled like home to her. The Doctor watched this with interest. Apparently the TARDIS had been right. He'd have to thank her again.

Rose's eyes hardened again and she turned back to him. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Rose. I was angry and I lashed out at you. I know I don't understand your relationship to future me and it was wrong of me to make unfounded assumptions like that." When she said nothing in response, he stepped closer to her and took her hands in his own. She tensed at the contact and he was careful to avoid the clamor of her unshielded mind

"More than that, I'm sorry for what I said about coming back to get you. I'm sure if I could, I would. You're something special, I can tell that even now and, to tell you the truth, it scares me to death." She softened at his words and was blinking up at him. He could tell there were tears near the surface. He needed to finish and he edged even closer to her.

"I want to make it up to you. We both know you don't belong here. Will you let me take you back when I leave?" She really didn't have a choice. The timelines here were ripping and it was his duty to remove the source of the tear, but it felt important to offer it to her like this.

With Rose in heels they were practically the same height and, as she stared into his eyes, for a brief moment, he thought she was going to kiss him. To his surprise, his reaction to the thought wasn't entirely negative. Indeed, some part of him was something else entirely...hopeful? That was curious. Maybe he would have to investigate this whole kissing thing. Instead, the tea kettle whistled, making them both jump and leaving his question hanging in the air unanswered.

She released his hands and busied herself making the tea but he stayed close to her and studied her movements. She moved gracefully, almost too gracefully for a human. Her hands were steady as she poured the tea and her brow was furrowed as it had been before when she was thinking heavily.

Wordlessly, she handed him a cup of tea and left for the living room. They sat on opposite sides of the couch and stared ahead, drinking and thinking. Finally, she sat her cup down, removed her shoes and turned to face him, curling her legs underneath her body and leaning against the arm. He twisted to face her, folding one leg up on the couch.

"You have to take me back, don't you?" she asked. He tried to cover his surprised, guilty expression but she simply nodded. "You said I didn't belong here...that it was dangerous. Makes sense."

"Yes, I do," he confessed. "But I won't just dump you somewhere and then abandon you. I can track his, well, my, TARDIS down and make sure you get to him at the right time," he said, hoping the offer was good enough.

"He might not want me," she said so softly he almost didn't hear it. His hearts stopped for a moment, knowing that doubt was his fault.

"Not true, Rose. Not possible," he said. He scooted a little closer to her and laid his hand on top of hers across the back of the couch.

"How do you know? You're the one that said it," she responded with some of the fire from last night flaring in her voice.

"The TARDIS told me that I need you. That we need you," he responded seriously, shifting uncomfortably.

"Even this you?" she asked, using her free hand to poke him gently in the chest between his hearts. How did she always know exactly what question to ask?

He used his other hand to hold the poking hand to his chest, splaying the fingers so she could feel the thrum of his double heartsbeat. "Yes," he said softly.

"I'll go," she finally answered, giving him a bright, full-wattage Rose Tyler smile. He released her hand and wondered if she had noticed his hearts speeding up. Something else to investigate.

"Good," he said, beaming back at her and suddenly more aware of how close they had shifted together on the couch. "The TARDIS should be ready in about three days and I'd like to spend them with you, if that's all right," he said, almost shyly. Since when had he been shy?

She cocked her head to the side slightly and considered him. "It's all right with me," she said. "Fantastic, in fact." He grinned at her again. She leaned forward and for the second time that evening, he thought she was going to kiss him. Instead, she reached behind him and grabbed her black bag. "We've got a slight wardrobe malfunction, though," she said, pulling out a magazine and handing it to him.

He eyed her quizzically and accepted the magazine. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw the picture of them smiling up at him. "Tabloids, remember?" she said. "They're having a field day with you. Perception filter doesn't work on cameras, I take it?"

"No, it's based on brain waves and thought patterns," he responded, shocked. This was certainly a new experience for him. He snorted, imagining what the Council would say if they could see him now. A Time Lord reduced to tabloid fodder.

"Mum already called and asked if we went to a costume party after we left dinner. I've been deflecting people all day. So many Jane Austen jokes!" she groaned and collapsed back against the couch. He laughed and leaned back against his arm of the couch, thumbing through the magazine.

"Do you really think I'm a 'dashing and suave mystery man with chestnut curls and piercing eyes'?" he asked, reading from one of the columns.

"No, I think you're rude and not ginger," she responded, sticking her tongue between her teeth and nudging his knee with her bare foot. He pouted for a moment and then retaliated by tickling her outstretched foot. She squealed and pulled it back underneath her body with the other one. "Anyway, we can't go outside with you still dressed like that," she said.

"Well what do you expect me to do about it? I don't suppose you have any men's clothing lying around here?" he asked, suddenly wanting to know. He certainly hoped she didn't.

"Nah, what to do you take me for?" she asked, taking up his familiar face of mock affront.

"Well, I do recall you told me yesterday you were an 'easy date'," he said, raising his eyebrow at her.

She gaped at him in the face of his blatant flirt. He was a bit surprised himself, but he wasn't about to back down now. Finally, she laughed. "Can't you just to back to the TARDIS and change into something more normal?"

"Ah, yes, well...that's a problem at the moment. She was so damaged in the landing, she's closed off the back rooms to use her energy repairing herself," he replied.

"So you're locked out of the rest of the ship? Where did you sleep last night?" Rose asked.

"Time Lord. Don't need to sleep," he said even though it was a slight lie. He really needed to get some sleep tonight.

She shot him a knowing glance. "Uh-huh. Don't forget I've known you for a while. You don't need to sleep MUCH but you still need to sleep. Can't count how many times I've found you in the library, snoring, with a book across your chest."

"Time Lords do not snore!" he retorted. She simply responded with another superior look.

"Why don't you just stay here? I've got an extra room. When the TARDIS can manage a small hop you can even bring her here," Rose offered.

"What, in the flat?" he asked, incredulously.

"Yeah, why not? You used to do it all the time when we would visit my mum. Just parked her in the living room and displaced the TV cabinet. Think you did it mostly to annoy Mum," she laughed.

He considered that for a moment. He'd never thought about parking the TARDIS inside someone's flat before. Of course, he'd never really had much need. And it sounded like he had brought her back to visit her mum often. That sounded so...domestic of him. He couldn't remember ever even meeting the parents of a companion before.

"That's very hospitable, thank you Rose," he said. She inclined her head in acceptance of his speech. "But that doesn't really solve the clothes problem."

"Oh, right. Well, I could just go out shopping and buy you some clothes for the next few days. Or buy you one outfit and then you could come pick out the rest with me." She had added the last part as a sort of test...her Doctors both hated clothes shopping.

Sure enough, he sneered a bit at the idea. "I pick out one outfit because it keeps me from having to do preposterous things like clothes shopping. Honestly, I don't know why you humans bother with so much clothing. It's not very efficient." She laughed and he was a bit puzzled. Oh. That's exactly what she had been expecting him to say, he gathered.

"Ok, then. I'll just pop out and pick you up some clothes then. What do you want?" She hoped he wouldn't be too specific. She'd never been able to pick out clothes for the Doctor before and it sounded very fun. She eyed him speculatively, assessing his size and to her surprise he blushed a little under her intense gaze.

"Nice things," he said, simply.

"Oh, drat. And I was going to pick out all horrid things," she responded, teasingly.

"You know what I mean. Dressy stuff. No jeans," he said, wrinkling his nose. She laughed again, harder this time. He wondered why.

"Ok. Nice things, it is," she said, grabbing her purse and heading toward the door. He protested a bit about money but she waved him off.

"Heiress, remember? Plus it's not like you have any money anyway, am I right?" she asked, knowing full well the answer. He hadn't even been able to buy chips after their first meeting.

"Right," he responded. She knew him so well it was a bit terrifying. And exhilarating. "Oh, and Rose? I'll need some of...well...everything," he stuttered, embarrassed suddenly. She turned back to him confused. "You know, socks and...things," he said. The TARDIS always just provided him with whatever he wanted. He'd never had to buy them before.

She looked confused again and he glanced at her meaningfully, his cheeks reddening a bit. "Oh! You mean pants," she said. "Ok, then. What, er...what kind do you want?"

"I don't know. Just pick something," he said, exasperated and wanting this section of the conversation to end. Talking with Rose about his undergarments was bringing up some thoughts he was pretty sure he shouldn't have.

"Right then, I'm off. TV's just in there, help yourself to any of the food." She picked up her keys.

"If you have any jam, use a spoon," she warned. He gaped at her. Why would he just eat jam? And if he did, why wouldn't he know to use a spoon? She merely shook her head and went out the door.

As it clicked shut, he realized he was bored already. Maybe he could take apart the toaster in the kitchen. That would be fun. Suddenly the front door opened again and Rose's head popped back in. "And don't touch my toaster!" she yelled.

Hours later, he collapsed on the couch. He was bored out of his mind. He'd already discovered four new settings on the sonic screwdriver, taken apart and reassembled Rose's toaster with moderate success despite her warning, read all of her magazines and toured the flat.

The flat was tidy and almost seemed barren as though it were merely a temporary dwelling place. He considered that thought. It was probably true. It seemed she had always intended to get out of this universe. She had said that earlier hadn't she? Been trying to get back, but so far no luck, she'd said.

Ignoring what he figured was standard social protocol, he decided to investigate her room as well. It was appallingly cluttered and he laughed to himself. It looked as though a hurricane had swept through this room. It was very Rose.

He studied the room closely and his eyes rested on a packed duffle by the door, sitting under a small table. On top of the table was worn picture that looked as though it had been folded up and carried around in a pocket. In the picture was a tall, lanky man with crazy hair, a red paper crown and the biggest smile he had ever seen. Wrapped around his waist and under his arm was a younger looking, blissful Rose Tyler. They were staring into each other's eyes as if nothing else in the entire universe existed. It was beautiful. He picked it up to examine it closer and then heard a key turn in the lock. He dropped the picture and hurried out of the room hoping he wouldn't look too guilty.

Rose pranced into the room and dropped an inordinate amount of shopping bags on the floor. She beamed at him. "I'm home! Oh, don't look at me like that. I wasn't sure what you'd like or what size you were, so I picked up lots of things! I've never been able to do this before!"

"Do what before?" he asked, carefully, picking his way through one of the bags.

"Dress you up like a Ken doll!" she replied, grinning at his appalled look. "Go on! Off to your room. Try 'em on. And I want a floor show!" She laughed again at his face. He hesitated, arms full of bags.

"Is this really necessary?" he asked. "We could just stay here. Or just forget about the tabloids."

"Are you kidding me? You and I would both go stir crazy in here. Plus I bet you already ruined my toaster," she said knowingly, shaking her finger at his guilty gaze. "Anyway, tomorrow's a bank holiday, then it's the weekend. We can go anywhere!"

"If we can go anywhere, why don't we just leave London where the tabloids take pictures of you and go somewhere else?" he asked, logically.

Rose chewed her lip. That was a good point. "Well, tomorrow night I have to go to a big party for Pete and if I'm going to be leaving my family forever after this weekend I'd like to spend some time with them now." He looked guiltily at her over that comment.

"Plus I'm going to guess that you don't really want to be that far separated from the TARDIS." He sighed. She was right, of course. She saw his resolve breaking down.

"C'mon! Just put on the clothes. It's all part of the Rose Tyler experience!" she said, laughing and reminding him of his previous statement about companions.

He huffed, exaggeratedly. "Oh, fine. But I'm not modelling for you!" he said as he disappeared into the back room. She had done a good job, he had to admit as he sorted through the clothes. They were all quite smart looking. He looked quite handsome.

He flushed a bit when he saw the pants she had picked out for him. It was a 10 pack of tight, black boxer-briefs. He didn't really think they were his style but he tried them on and realized...yes, in fact they were. They were perfect. How did she know that? He flushed again, thinking that it was possible Rose Tyler knew more about his future pants preferences than he did. He had accused her of lusting after him but he suddenly realized it was possible that was a two-way street.

He hadn't really considered it. Humans did base things like lust. Time Lords did not. In fact, they didn't engage in intercourse at all anymore, the looms had taken care of that. He'd experimented a few times over his long life but always out of scientific curiosity not passion and never with a human. True intimacy for a Time Lord was a complex, extended process and humans were so brief and fleeting. Bonding and relationships weren't done anymore anyway. A Time Lord and a human? Impossible.

But seeing the expression on what had to be his future face when he looked at her in that picture...and it explained his desire to have her kiss him and the elevated hearts rate he had felt earlier. Was he...attracted to her? He shook the thought away. It didn't matter. In three days he would take her back to a future him and he'd never see her again. Well, sort of. He rubbed his head. Crossing time lines was complicated.

He pulled on the set of jimjams she had purchased for him and went back out to the living room. He found her sitting on the couch in her own jimjams, cup of hot chocolate in hand, reading a magazine. She glanced up at him and motioned to the other cup of hot chocolate sitting on the table. "Not my most imaginative outfit, but you still wear it well," she said, laughing. He stiffened a bit under her words, remembering his thoughts about improper feelings and didn't respond.

She seemed to notice the shift and merely returned to her magazine. She didn't seem to want to leave his company and he didn't want to leave hers but they needed to do something. He could hear her thoughts buzzing away indecipherably at the edge of his consciousness. That would do.

"Do you know you're telepathic?" he asked, deciding to take the direct route in this conversation.

"What?" she said, completely shocked. "No, I'm not."

"You are, actually. I didn't think you knew. You should really get it under control. It's quite distracting, you know. And if you ran into another telepath that wasn't as kind as me, it might not end very well for you," he said seriously. She needed some mental barriers or anyone could get in there.

"What're you talking about? I'm not telepathic. If I was, you would have told me already. In fact, you've made comments to me about how superior you are to humans because we're not telepathic," she replied.

He sighed. It was a bit irritating hearing her talk to him about things he hadn't done yet, but he didn't suppose there was any way around it. "Well maybe it's new then. Maybe you're only telepathic in this universe or maybe it's an ability that's opened up recently. Anyway, you should still get it under control. I can help you with that."

She studied him for a moment, biting her lip in a way he already recognized as habit. "Ok then," she said easily. He was again surprised at her absolute trust in him, her willingness to follow his lead.

"I'm going to have to be in your head a bit, helping you along at first. I'll try not to look at your memories or anything but it may be messy to start with," he said, honestly.

She considered him again and then nodded.

"First thing we need to do is access it. Come over here." They both shifted to the floor, sitting cross legged with their knees almost touching. Taking her hands in his and resting them on his knees, he took a deep breath. He could feel the heat radiating from her body and struggled to ignore it. He needed to focus.

"Close your eyes and try to imagine that you're looking in your mind. Like it's a big room and you're opening the door." Rose closed her eyes and tried to do as he said. She could feel a gentle presence in her mind, much like she did when she was aboard the TARDIS. She assumed that it was the Doctor.

"Yes, it's me," he answered out loud and he felt her surprise at his response. So the TARDIS connected with her mentally. That would help some. "Concentrate, Rose. Do you see the room yet?" He heard a sharp intake of breath and felt her hands tighten on his.

Rose gasped at the sudden awareness of her own mind. She could see everything...her emotions, her memories, her thoughts, her feelings...they were all swirling around in a haze inside her head. It was overwhelming and she started to panic.

"No, no. Calm down, Rose. Focus. You need to stay in there. Stay with me. We'll sort through it." The Doctor's voice was calm and cool, much like his hands on hers and the blue presence in her mind. Blue? he thought to himself. That was odd. Maybe humans categorized in colours. He had never met a human telepath before.

Her breathing slowed again and she tried to make sense of the swirling mass. "You need to slow it down and start sorting out the pieces. Right now everything's jumbled together and your mind doesn't know what to do with it all." Slowly, Rose began to figure out how to separate the pieces of her conscious mind and categorize them.

He didn't know how long they sat there, cross-legged, holding hands but it seemed like both an eternity and no time at all. After what his internal Time Sense told him was four hours, they were both growing numb and Rose was sweating profusely.

"Rose, we need to stop for tonight. You're getting exhausted and so am I. Get ready, I'm going to break the connection." Slowly, he receded from her mind and extracted his hands from hers. He stared at her for a moment and waited until her eyes opened and she blinked slowly at him.

"Hello," she said hoarsely.

He blinked at the greeting. "Hello," he responded, smiling. She smiled back and then stood and shook herself.

"What time is it?" she asked him, knowing he could answer.

"3:00," he said, rising and stretching as well.

"Oi. Good thing there's a bank holiday tomorrow. I'm going to need to sleep in after that. But first I'm going to need another shower," she said, wrinkling her nose at her damp clothing. "There's a shower attached to your room and towels under the sink if you want a wash. See you in the morning, yeah?" He nodded. Rose leaned up and kissed him gently on the cheek. "Thank you," she whispered before turning to go to her own room.

He raised his hand to his cheek and watched her go. The spot still tingled with the heat of her lips. The familiar gesture so soon after being ensconced in her mind seemed incredibly intimate and he felt a surge of something that could definitely not be categorized as scientific curiosity. He pushed the thought away. It was going to be a long few days.