Author's Note: Previously posted four years ago on a Teaspoon and an Open Mind. I'm moving all my stories into one place for ease. Set during the Children in Need Special before series 2.
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who. Dialogue used is from the Children in Need Special and 'Rose.'
Wisps of Shimmering Smoke.
Blinding pain consumes him as fire tears throughout his entire body, lighting every cell on fire, changing him from the inside out before suddenly, it stops. It's like everything's been wiped away.
It's fresh. It's new.
Pain that had just a moment before engulfed his whole being disappears instantly, leaving him slightly winded but otherwise fine. Time Lords were nothing if not efficient, no time for recovery needed- just move on.
He looks up and finds the gaze of a gaping (but, oddly, still beautiful) Rose Tyler waiting for him. She doesn't say anything; only stares. He thinks maybe she's waiting for him to speak. He complies eagerly, wanting to hear what his voice sounds like now. It comes out smoothly and is slightly less deep than his previous voice.
"Hello. Oooh, new teeth. That's weird."
He doesn't know why he hadn't been expecting that though, everything else had changed, why not his dental configuration? Still, they feel strange in his mouth, larger and, he concludes as he runs his tongue across them, oddly smooth.
He's lost the Northern accent too, although he has an instinctive feeling he could probably pull off a good Scottish one if he tried (which he probably will. Maybe he'll land them in Scotland some time and try it out.) The voice will take some getting used to.
What had he been talking about before? Oh, that's right, Barcelona.
The Doctor smiles at her, his wonderful brave Rose who had come back for him against all odds, a wide, sunny beam that feels as if it is splitting his face right across the middle.
Setting the co-ordinates quickly, he feels the TARDIS shudder as they begin speeding through the vortex towards Barcelona (the planet, not the city.)
He turns towards her, all eager eyes and child-like enthusiasm, desperate to explore his new appearance. She's still wide-eyed but that's probably just surprise, she'll get over that soon enough.
He quickly begins to assess his new form, utilising all of his senses to map out the contours, the ins and outs of his tenth body, providing a running commentary the entire time more for Rose's benefit than his own.
Arms, legs, check. All fine there.
Heads? No, just one, singular. Good. He knows he joked about having two heads, or no heads, but hadn't Freud (interesting fellow even if he was just that little bit odd. But, the Doctor thought, if you were willing to spend so much time figuring out the minds of other humans, irrational species that they were, you had earned the right to have some... quirks of your own) said that jokes were a manifestation of unconscious fears or desires?
In any case, he's supremely glad he only has the one head. He can't imagine how difficult it would be trying to nourish himself with no head.
Next, he grabs his right wrist in his left hand, twisting it this way and that experimentally. Slight weakness in his wrist, shouldn't be too much of a problem unless he's required to perform an elaborate gymnastics routine and really, what are the chances of that happening for a third time? More of a nuisance really than any real problem, he could deal with the wrist.
Oh! He'd almost forgotten! His hands, weak dorsal tubercle and all, shoot to his head, sinking into thick, soft hair. Yes! He's not bald! Idly, he wonders if he's ginger and not bald but that can wait. The point is (for the moment at least) he won't have to worry about wearing a woolly hat (hardly the dignified attire of a respectable Time Lord) if he and Rose ever end up going back to Woman Wept or any other similarly cold place.
He pauses for a moment as something occurs to him. Wait... yes! He's just discovered the best thing about this new body! A mole! He actually has a mole!
As he informs the atypically silent Rose of this fact wondrously, he cycles his shoulders beneath the too-big jacket, feeling the new mole rubbing against the material of his shirt. He can't recall if he's ever had a mole before but if he has, he certainly hasn't given it the careful consideration and admiration it so deserves. He can't remember if he's ever actively wanted a mole but he is definitely pleased he has one.
He wonders what shape it is. Is it just a circle or a different shape? Maybe if he asks her, Rose would... Rose! What does Rose think of him now? He hopes she likes it.
He stops his rambling, more because he wants her input than because he had run out of things to enthuse on.
He looks over to where Rose stands and feels a pang of confusion at her stance. She's huddled close to a strut; her head bowed and her loose hair obscuring part of her face. Her body is inclined towards the pillar as though it can hide her from the view of a dangerous madman, and even if it can't, if he charged at her she could duck behind it easily and protect herself.
The Doctor almost looks behind him to see if there is indeed a lunatic crouching with an axe, twiddling his moustache in the way evil masterminds are accustomed to doing, to inspire this terror in her before he realises she is looking directly at him, fear and distrust clearly written on her face.
"Who are you?"
His hearts seize for a split second before beginning to beat frantically inside his chest. She doesn't know who he is? How is that possible?
He looks at her face carefully. She's scared. Scared of him? Oh please, no. No, this can't be happening.
He's seen that look on her face before but had never thought it would be directed at him. Slitheen, Gelth, Daleks- they had all been the cause of that look of fear (although she always hides it so admirably, he can see it deep in her eyes) and it just about shatters his hearts that she's now giving it to him. She need never be afraid of him.
"I'm the Doctor." Short, sweet, and hardly adequate if the look on her face is anything to go by.
He can't think of what else to say to convince her and feels a slight twinge of anger. He shouldn't have to convince her. She should know, just by looking at him she should know.
But in the next moment, as her voice rises into the realms of borderline hysteria while she flat-out denies he is her Doctor and demands to know where the Doctor has gone in that fiercely loyal way that is uniquely her, his anger evaporates.
He wants to tell her that he's here.
He hadn't left her. He wouldn't have left her.
She doesn't understand; it's not her fault that she doesn't but he can fix it. He could explain; he could make her understand. He leans forwards, desperate to make her realise, she has to see.
Now she's stepping closer and the Doctor allows himself to think, just for a moment, that it's okay, that she believes him. He lets himself think that she believes that he is the Doctor, that he was here with her and he hadn't left her.
Rose steps up close to him and he looks down at her silently, waiting for her to say something, anything, waiting for her to accept him.
She pushes him, a quick pressure to his chest that is not enough to hurt him but causes him to rock backwards slightly and she pulls her hand away as if worried he'll burn her if she makes the contact last longer. She's rejecting him and it hurts.
It's harshly reminiscent of her first, earlier rejection.
"Unless, I don't know, you could come with me?"
He had left out the 'please' he desperately wanted to say. It was enough that his voice implied it without saying it like a child clinging to a long-suffering mother.
"Yeah I... can't. I've got to find my mum and someone's got look after this stupid lump."
There it was. She was refusing him.
The Doctor couldn't help but feel that if the idiot boy hadn't been wrapped around her legs like a leech, playing on her conscience, stealing her life, wasting it for her, her answer might have been different. The second time he asked, it was different and he was so glad.
Now Rose is looking at him as though she had never seen him before and, he realises with a sharp jolt, she hasn't. He's never explained this to her, the closest he had come to trying was in the brief minute he had before he had changed and he had rambled, and she had been disoriented and recovering from the effects of having the power of the TARDIS coursing through her delicate human form.
She didn't understand and he hadn't helped.
He steps towards her, trying to ignore the way she leans back slightly, away from him and licks her quivering lips in fear, trying to get some moisture in her mouth which has dried out as a side-effect of the adrenaline rushing through her.
Fight or flight, it registers in his brain. Her body was gearing itself for action, to continue to fight with him, continue to reject him or, he swallows at the thought, to run away from him.
His voice is soft, soothing as he speaks to her.
"Then how do I remember this? First thing I ever said to you, trapped in that basement, surrounded by shop window dummies, ooh..."
The Doctor lets his voice trail off as his mind drifts back to that time. The time he first met her, the day he has since looked back on and been strangely happy that he has such a knack for finding danger as she apparently had the same knack. That sense for danger, such a burden at times, had brought them together and he would never be sorry for that.
He continues. "Such a long time ago." A lifetime, in fact, although something tells him that Rose wouldn't appreciate the joke right at this moment. He can't say he blames her. Truth be told, he isn't in the mood to laugh either, not while Rose still looks so unsure.
"I took your hand." He reaches down and grasps her hand, the sureness of his grip and the intensity of his gaze showing none of the tentativeness he feels deep down. "And I said one word, just one word, I said, 'Run.'"
That was it, the magic word, their word, as much as a conglomeration of sounds could belong to anyone (and he truly believed that collection of sounds was theirs, or at least that they'd earned the right to it, the number of times they'd used it).
She'd know him now, please Rassilon she would.
Her eyes search his face looking, he knows, for a sign, a glimpse of her old Doctor, the one in the leather jacket who had shown her the universe and more, shown her herself.
Her eyes meet his looking for her signal within the... what colour were his eyes now anyway? He'd have to ask her afterwards, provided she didn't leave him. The thought strikes him with the force of the Dalek fleet they have just faced and he finds he is instantly terrified at the horrendous idea.
Whatever she was seeking in her eyes she evidently discovers because her timid, voice breaks into his thoughts, faltering slightly but still it was the word he longed to hear from her lips.
Yes! That's it. Good, sweet, clever Rose, yes.
He utters a gentle, soft greeting and smiles, a grin spreading widely across his face and he fights the urge to sweep her up in his arms, clutching her close to him and spinning around until they both so dizzy that they end up in a laughing heap on the floor, uncomfortable atmosphere dissolved. But there are still traces of fright and uncertainty on her face and he doesn't dare risk it, in case she pushes him away immediately; he couldn't bear that.
Instead he dances around the console, pushing buttons and pulling levers for no purpose and to no significant effect. He might have changed the temperature setting in the fourth bedroom to the left of Rose's but as nobody sleeps in there it hardly matters if the room is now uncomfortably cold.
He's babbling again he knows. Apparently this incarnation likes to talk. Compared to the relatively quiet man he had been not five minutes ago, this new form is highly disconcerting with his 'why use three words when you can use fifty?' attitude.
The words spill out of his mouth quickly and it's frankly a wonder he's being coherent at all with all the things dashing through his mind. A thousand thoughts pass by, most too quick to even register, nearly all irrelevant.
He's saying something about running and hopping across the universe although he's not really paying attention to what's coming out of his mouth and he can tell she isn't really listening. He can't help thinking that if he just keeps going, keeps talking, not letting her ask those oh, so awkward, painful questions, they'll slip back into their natural rhythm with finesse befitting the well-known Doctor and his not-quite-so-well-known-but-very-pretty-and-equally-deserving-of-praise plus one.
If he just keeps talking, if he fends off the enquiry in her eyes, they can get back to how they always were. Mutual give and take, hand holding and affectionate touches, banter and, of course, the running, can't forget the running, especially if it's for the purpose of something as important as survival (which it usually is with them).
He looks up at her face once more. Still wide eyed, gaping at him rather rudely, but as she's just received a rather large shock, he supposes he can forgive her for that. He begins to hop up and down on the spot, asking her if she remembers hopping for their lives, he's full of energy, but she's not even smiling.
"No?" He stops hopping when he sees her look of incomprehension.
How can she not remember? It's hardly a regular occurrence! He remembers all of their adventures and is slightly insulted that she has not committed them all to memory too, but then he realises she isn't listening, just looking at this maniac jumping up and down, totally confused. Somehow, the knowledge that she isn't listening to him does nothing to soothe his offended feelings. This incarnation clearly has just as much of an ego as his last. Unbidden the words 'I am so impressive' enter his head but he pushes them out again, focussing purely on Rose.
"Can you change back?"
See, he knew she wasn't listening, he just knew. What does that have to do with hopping? Wait... what? What did she say? His face falls further and the swiftness with which he answers surprises even him. He realises on a subconscious level that he was almost expecting her to ask.
"Do you want me to?" He's hoping it was a slip of the tongue, she didn't mean to say it and he almost prays she'll take it back so he won't have to turn her down. He doesn't want to have to say 'no' to her. He's never liked saying 'no' to her.
"Oh." What else can he say?
"No." He so wishes she hadn't made him say it. "Do you want to leave?" No! Why did he ask her that? Please say no, he begs her in his head. Please, please, please.
"Do you want me to leave?" She looks taken aback; her voice is stunned and hurt.
"No!" His voice is vehement but he knows he has to give her the choice. "But it's your choice. If you want to go home..." He trails off.
Rose still doesn't say anything. There's a short, tense silence during which he desperately wants her to deny this, to say she wants to stay. She stays silent.
He averts his eyes from her face and steps up to the console, flicking switches and turning dials to redirect them towards the Powell Estate, feeling a flare of anger hit him as almost physical pain again as he does so. He steps back once he has done, folding his arms across his chest in an attempt to ward off further emotional blows.
"I'm going home?" She's moved closer, moving her gaze to him and then away again, looking for all the world like a lost little girl and he feels his anger dissolve once more in the face of her obvious confusion. Weird that. His last self hadn't been prone to random bursts of emotion and mood swings with little provocation.
He tells her again that it's her choice. He tantalises her with promises of Christmas, of her mother and turkey, hoping all the while that she'll turn it down to come with him. When he makes a joke about nut loaf, Rose smiles, she turns her face away to conceal it but it is there. It's real, the first honest-to-God smile (the only smile) to cross her face since he changed.
"Was that a smile?" He's teasing her, trying to lighten the atmosphere. Come on, come on, Rose, he thinks. We can just go back to the way things were.
"No." She's denying it but he saw. He's memorised that smile. There's no way he was mistaken. It was a smile.
"That was a smile."
"No it wasn't." She's stubborn. But then, he's discovers, so is he.
"You smiled..." He gives her a half-smile, not the toothy grin he bore after this body first mentioned Barcelona, but he doesn't want to scare her. He's trying to reassure her, not demonstrate his ability to resemble a hyperactive mental patient.
"No I didn't."
Oh for the love of... She's starting to irritate him with this refusal to join in with his childish game and his amusement switches immediately to frustration. She was being ridiculous.
"Oh come on, all I did was change I didn't..."
He breaks off with a gasp and throws his head back in pain as his throat constricts suddenly. Well, that's never happened before. It seems to have passed though. He breathes deeply and he allows his mind to scan his body just to double check there's no problem. He has to halt his testing, however when Rose speaks. He feels like she deserves his full attention. After all, he did just explode in front of her with virtually no warning. It shouldn't take long. Reassure Rose and then he can get on with checking himself over uninterrupted.
"What?" She softly questions the peculiar noise and face he just made.
Rose looks slightly wary and he feels a stab of annoyance, an emotion he normally doesn't associate with being around her. Unless of course she's just done something particularly daft, like unleash the parasitic Reapers on an unsuspecting world which to be fair hasn't happened in a while, and it's not like she did it on purpose. But her simple question, which could be taken as a vocalisation of concern, does not warrant any irritation towards her.
Is that who he is now? Grumpy and prone to mood swings? He's not sure he likes that.
He tries to calm himself and push away the unwelcome reaction to her.
"I said I didn't..."
He gags again as his throat contracts even more powerfully than last time. Something's wrong but somehow his exclamation of, "Oh-oh," doesn't quite cut it.
It feels like something's pushing its way up his throat and he's unpleasantly reminded of the horrific transformation of ordinary people into gas-masked husks in war-torn London.
His mind spins off on a tangent. He got to dance with Rose though. That wasn't so bad. Her hand in his...
His attention is diverted again as his mouth opens, almost of its own accord and a wispy trail of gold floats upwards from his lips. Not good. Looks like Rose's hair though. Soft and golden...
He's almost positive his mind didn't wander like this before. He can't be one hundred per cent sure when she's looking at him with her eyes. Surely there are less distracting things to look at him with than her beautiful brown eyes. He wishes she'd be more considerate when she can see he's clearly not at his best.
His diminished attention span probably has something to do with that worrying, shimmering smoke.
Then it hits him. It's because of the time vortex. He doesn't want to tell Rose though. It could lead to awkward questions. Like how he came to have part of the time vortex inside of him. She doesn't remember him kissing her and it's probably better that way. Keep their relationship simple. No matter how his mind keeps drifting back to the memory of her lips pressed against his...
"What's that?" Err... he wishes his mind didn't suddenly feel like treacle.
Settling for a half-truth, as he doesn't think his brain can't think of a lie fast enough, occupied as it is with trying to figure out how to fix this, he replies, "The change is going a bit wrong." That's it. No need to mention why.
The Doctor looks up at Rose's face and gets irritated once more. She's looking wary, still scared.
He has no doubt that if he was still brusquer and balder and broader she wouldn't be standing that far from him. No, she'd be sat beside him, stroking his arm and soothing him, doing what she could to make sure he was alright. She certainly wouldn't be standing a good few feet away from him, avoiding physical contact.
He can practically see her human mind clutching at straws and it only serves to enrage him further. What happened to his act-first-think-later Rose?
She says something about going back for Captain Jack and he gets angrier. She's going to stand there and judge him, deny his identity, and then try to tell him what to do?
She tries to justify it by saying that Jack will know what to do and the Doctor almost scoffs. Even he's not sure what to do, what good will pretty boy Jack Harkness (he refuses to call him 'Captain') be?
He'd seen the way Jack had first looked at his Rose and although it had since faded (coincidentally following some pretty obvious 'back off' vibes from the Doctor), it didn't erase the fact that it had been there.
He answers her harshly, brushing her off with the explanation that Jack is busy. He knows there's a more rational reason why he can't go back for Jack; why the TARDIS won't let him but for the life of him he can't remember why right now. Odd that. A Time Lord brain means he can usually hold all kinds of information. So why do the contents of his head feel like melting snow on a bitter cold yet sunny February morning on Earth?
Oooh! A lever catches his attention. He'd almost forgotten that existed. He flicks it and another insight hits him through the fog that is rapidly invading.
He's losing control.
He's putting himself and, more importantly to him, Rose in danger. This thought fills him with alarm but he can't stop.
She's yelling at him, not in anger but in fear, and his responses are feral, almost cruel at times. He asks her if she wants to break the time limit but he's not really interested in her answer. He knows he'll try anyway and that somewhere in his mind that terrifies him.
She tells him to stop, almost begs him and he wants to, he does, but like he told her, he really, honestly, literally can't stop himself. The best she can do is hold on and hold on tight.
She's still shouting, desperately trying to make him stop when the alarms go off. No stopping it now.
"What's that?" Rose's scared. He thinks he's made a real mess of this, telling her to trust him, telling her he's still the Doctor and then putting her in unnecessary danger at the first opportunity.
"We're going to crash land!" He informs her and to his intense horror he knows that to her ears he sounds almost delighted.
"Do something!" Rose shouts to him.
The Doctor doesn't think he's ever seen Rose this frightened before.
He thinks it must be because of where she is rather than the situation itself. She's been in worse. But she thought she was safe in the TARDIS. She thought she was safe with him. He's going to have a lot of making up to do if she decides to give him another chance.
Then they're spinning and falling and all he can do is hope she can forgive him for this.