La la la Disclaimer.

"Careful! Careful, out that last-" A shriek and a crash cut the instruction short.

Rose winced and blinked up at the Doctor, who'd just about crashed through the grating himself in his haste to scramble down and get a look at her. "I'm fine! I'm fine! Just sort've...sprained my pride."

"I'm sorry, Rose, should have gotten down here first and helped you down. That last swing is tricky." He held out a hand as he straightened, helping her stand and using the motion as an opportunity to make sure she really hadn't sprained or injured anything tangible. "As for that pride...I've got a few ideas that might just make it right as rain by the end of the day."

She tossed him one of those flirtatious, tongue-in-teeth grins. "Yeah? S'that a promise?"

"I did say 'might', Rose." His expression was more than a little amused, though, and he tucked an arm around her, hand resting just on the small of her back as he took her a few steps closer to the middle of the room. The teal-turquiose light glowed even brighter for their proximity, and washed out all other color.

"Oh...that's...gorgeous." Rose's eyes widened and she glanced over at the Doctor after a moment. "And this is...where she houses her heart?"

"Well, it's...part of it, anyway, the part that regulates the time rotor."

She started to stretch out a hand but halts halfway there. "Can i...touch-"

"Oh, yes! It's perfectly safe encased like that."

She grinned softly as she set her hand over the center column, and made a sound a little bit like a giggle. "It tickles!"

The Doctor grinned, stepping up behind her. "She's happy."

"Yeah?" Rose glanced over her shoulder, but didn't lower her hand. "Happy?"

"Oh, very happy. Humming, even, I think you've got an admirer."

Another mischevous grin. "Another?"

He linked his arms around her midsection and smiled softly, resting his chin on her shoulder. "Two. Two flattered, privledged admirers who'll never stop."

"I think that's called stalking." She laughed and turned in his arms, catching him in an affectionate kiss before he could respond. For a few moments it was sweet and gentle and innocent, and then there was that subtle shift in dynamics, that deepening of something and...


The Doctor startled and whirled on Amy where she stood on the stairs, he still sat in his swing. "Amy!"

She squinted at him a moment, as if she expected him to spill more information about the skip if she just waited. When he didn't after a moment, she nodded. "It's just you were sitting down here staring at nothing. Thought someone might've snuck in and turned you off."

He scoffed and reached up for the wire he'd meant to be repairing before he'd gotten distracted. "Amelia Pond, have you never seen someone lost in thought before?" He squinted up at the top level of the TARDIS a moment, searching for Rory to distract his companion away from that particular line of thought. "It can't have been long enough to finish all five courses, did Rory offend the hostess? I told him not to stare..."

She starts, and turns back for the stairs. If she'd come during an intermission, she only had a few minutes left to grab something and get back. "No! Third course, just came back to get my phone! We'll be back in two hours!"

Once she vanished above the glass floor again and started up the steps to the bedrooms, he glanced back to where he'd been looking before.

Rose, hair a bit more unkempt than before, laughed as she took the Doctor's offered hand, and pulled herself up through the grating and out of sight.

He sighed, and glanced down at the floor of the TARDIS, letting that image fade into a dull reflection of himself in teal and brass. "Of course." Parallel timelines couldn't be paused or rewound, although he could 'read' them from time to time, alternate possibilties ran in real time along wih this one, no matter how many choices differed and changed between them. If he wanted to, he could go upstairs and watch the two continue to repair the TARDIS, but then where would he draw the line across the endless stream of could-haves that flickered through his vision wherever he went? He'd spend a lifetime following the life of a Rose who never lived instead of living his own life. He could never be a part of the timeline, he could never affect it, he could never go back and unmake or join the timeline once it split off from his own. The timelines were simply teasers, little movies of things he might have had but never will.

It was handy, really. They were always there to watch if he needed. Whenever he had nothing better to do but wait he could watch anything that caught his eye.

Rose ducked her head into the gap in the grating, golden hair hanging out like a tapestry from where she leaned, grin almost manic from that angle. The Doctor frowned up from his work at her, looking highly skeptical. "Sarah Jane mentioned something about sonic lipstick grab bags."

He dropped from the swing abruptly and turned away, ignoring that and the one where she lounged on the stairs reading something out to him. The trouble with alternate timelines was that they were always there to be seen.