Run. That was all she seemed to be doing these days. Rose pushed the thought aside and skidded around a corner, dodging pedestrians. No time was wasted looking back at her pursuers, she forced her legs to move faster hoping to lose them before they rounded the same bend. It was only a short distance across the lobby of the Moon Base and to the neon sign that beckoned her, Bad Wolf Sanctuary. During her time with the Dimension Cannon, Rose had come across more than one of these houses of refuge. Scattered across time and space, they always provided safe shelter when needed. Lucky that, as she seemed to need it often.
So focused was she on her intended target that she almost missed the better sanctuary that presented itself just next door. If her heart had not already been hammering at top speeds it would have started then. Her steps veered to the right and Rose burst through the blue doors of the police box at.
She spared a moment's thought to turning the lock before bending over double to catch her breath, shoulders heaving. It was another moment more before she found her focus. The floor she was looking at was the not metal grating from her memory. Rose stood as her eyes followed the floor to a set of stairs and further up to a glass platform.
Her heart sank as she took in her surroundings. The bigger on the inside room was too big, and brass now covered what should have been coral. This was not the right TARDIS, not at all. A familiar hum at the back of her mind soothed the worst of her fears, that she may have been too early instead of too late. Her eyes slipped shut and her head tipped to the side, searching for her link with the TARDIS and some reassurance that this was not all a monumental mistake. Then flew open again at the sound of a throat being cleared.
A man stood by the console, tall and lanky. He looked young, but Rose had learned long ago not to trust such things. She smiled and took a step forward. He cringed and took a step back.
"Hello," she said lightly, trying to put the skittish fellow at ease. "My name's Rose. I'm looking for the Doctor. Is he here?"
The man gave no reply, he simply continued to stare at her. She took another step, and when he did not immediately flee, she climbed the stairs to his level. She left a few steps between them, but even that was close enough. The stranger seemed to radiate familiarity and she recognized the anguish in his eyes from a life too long lived, the hunch of his shoulders where the weight of the universe rested. She was close enough to smell the fibers of his clothing, and Time. She was sure the sound of a double heart beat was there as well, too faint for her inferior human hearing to detect.
"Doctor?" Her voice was a whisper.
He did not answer, he simply continued to stare at her, his face a blank mask.
She could not take it; his silence, the lost look on his face. She closed the distance between them and cradled his cheek in one hand. "Again?" She questioned, her voice choked off on a half-laugh, half-sob. "Who's the jeopardy friendly one now?" She forced a smile to fight the tears that threatened.
The Doctor's mask cracked a bit and he matched her smile with a small one of his own. "Still you," he replied, taking her hand from his face and focusing on the jacket covering her arm. "Blue?"
Her smile turned genuine at that. "Mum got it for me. Said it reminded her of you. TARDIS blue and leather." She watched as his expression closed off again. "You're one to talk," she said, trying to draw him back out. "Tweed and a bow tie?"
He looked down at himself as if seeing his clothes for the first time. "Actually, I was just on my way to the wardrobe when you came bursting in." He straightened his coat. "There wasn't much to choose from at the time and I can't go around saving the world in rags, now, can I?"
"'Course not," she teased, "that wouldn't do at all." She straight his bow tie. "Besides, I like it. Bow ties are cool."
He laughed at that. A short, sharp sound. As new to him as it was to her and they both flinched.
He pulled away from her and moved to the console, idly flipping switches. "I'm sure you've realized. This isn't the TARDIS you're looking for."
She let him have his space, using the time to gaze around the massive room. "Yeah. I'd noticed." She focused on him again. "Don't suppose you could give me a lift to where I need to be?"
His movements stuttered for a moment. Had she not been watching him so closely, she would have missed it. The silence expanded between them.
Rose leaned back against a railing, feigning nonchalance. "I could could just keep jumping 'till I find the right you, only this is just a bit important."
"Yes, I remember." He still would not look at her.
Frustration crept into her voice. "If you know what's going on, then you should be helping me."
Still no reply.
"Doctor, look at me."
He turned his head a fraction, watching her from the corner of his eye.
"What's happened to you?" She spoke softly and stepped next to him. She turned his face to look at her. "Is this because of what's about to happen? Is that why I'm not here with you?"
His eyes closed and he turned away.
"Because I know the risks. I always have. If I'm supposed to die saving the world, the universe, then that's what I'll do. It's worth it. You're worth it-"
Her words cut off as his lips crashed into hers. He had moved so fast, she had not even seen him turn around.
"Stop talking," he said as he leaned back, his eyes boring into hers. "Just stop. You're not going to die. You're going to be fine. You'll find me, we'll save the day, and then every one's going to live happily ever after."
She blinked back tears again, not for herself, but for him. For what he was so obviously trying to hide. "Then why am I not here?"
He closed his eyes again and rested his forehead against hers. "Because when I regenerated it was very bad. The TARDIS crash landed, had to rebuild from the inside out. This trip was meant to be a test run. Just a quick hop to the moon to make sure everything's working properly. And it is." He stepped back and locked his gaze with hers. "Only now I'm going to be making a small side trip and I may not be back exactly when I'd planned. So if I'm late, you're not allowed to be cross with me."
He smiled, trying to make a joke of it. Was he lying? Or was that just the difference brought on by regeneration? There was no ear tugging, no hair pulling. None of the visible signs of distress that she was use to seeing. Not that she could do anything about it if he was hiding something.
Her silence stretched on and his smile began to falter. The Doctor took her hand in his. She could not help but notice it was a perfect fit, again. "Rose, I promise you. Yours was the last face I saw with my brown eyes."
His gaze was so pleading. She nodded. She would trust him with her life. Always had, and always would.
He dropped her hand and clapped, breaking the moment. "If memory serves, we should head for the Medusa Cascade, one second out of sync." He was a flurry of motion and energy as the TARDIS took flight. "So, let's see. Things that you should know before you leave." Rose clung to the console, rocking with the bumps and shudders of the ship. Oh how she had missed this. "Jack's alive and kicking in the twenty-first century. You'll see him there."
"Yeah, I know."
His hands never paused in their work but he took a moment to look at her. "What do you mean, you know?"
She smirked. "I've been jumping for a while now Doctor. I've had a run in or two with this world's Torchwood."
His movements turned stiff but he simply nodded. "Right." Another thought struck him as he looked her over. "Where's your gun?"
"Gun," she questioned, "I don't have one. Never really saw the need."
His face softened into a goofy grin. "That's my girl." Then confusion. "But that's not right." Then excitement. "Oh, of course!"
The landing was sudden and rougher than usual and the Doctor was gone down a corridor before Rose could find her feet again. He did not answer when she called for him and, curious, she made to follow. She had taken only a handful of steps when the Doctor came barreling towards her with a monstrosity of a weapon in his hands.
"This is for you," he said, depositing it in her arms. "Knew it would come in handy some day."
Rose nearly over balanced from the sudden weight, but caught herself at the last moment. She looked down at the weapon she now cradled, then back to the Doctor as if he were mad.
"I always did wonder where you got that from."
Another examination of the large gun by Rose brought the discovery of a strap, and she settled the enormous thing on her shoulder. "What is it?"
"It's for fighting Daleks. Specifically. I picked it up for a bargain not too long ago for just such an emergency. The buggers just keep popping up. Unfortunately, I never seem to have it on me when I need it." He patted down his pockets. "It's not really a pocket accessory."
"You? Bought a weapon? For emergencies?" Her incredulity grew along with her alarm. Just what had been happening to her poor Doctor.
"Yes, well. Needs must and all that." He walked passed her, back to the console room and she followed him, subdued. He continued to the double doors and Rose's stomach dropped at the thought of leaving him, any him. Even when she knew he was also on the other side of the door.
He stopped and turned towards her. "I've gotten you as close as I can. You'll have to find me on your own."
She nodded, unable to meet his eyes.
"It's a bit chaotic out there. So, be careful."
She stared at his chest and he stared at the top of her head, neither making a move to open the door.
"You really like the bow tie?"
She gave a disbelieving laugh at the absurdity of the question. "It reminds me of a professor I once had," she answered honestly. "Tweed and a bow tie." Her tone was reminiscent. "All that's missin' is a fez."
His eyes lit up at that. "A fez?"
"Oh yes," she laughed. "He was an odd duck. But he was right about one thing. Bow ties are cool. At least on you." Her soft tone turned mock serious. "And don't let any one tell you different."
His gaze was gentle when she finally looked up. "We shouldn't keep me waiting."
She nodded reluctantly. "I suppose not."
It was a split second decision and Rose sprang to her toes before she could change her mind. She placed a kiss upon his lips, short and sweet. "Good bye, Doctor."
He took her hand in his and squeezed once before releasing her. "Good bye, Rose Tyler." He opened the door on to a darkened Earth alley and with a gentle push to the small of her back he cast her from his life once more. "Now run."