FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI and CiN special
SEASON / SEQUEL: post-TCI pre-S2
DISCLAIMER: Well apparently the BBC own them but considering I pay my license fee I figure I've got shares in one of David Tennant's thumbs. At least from the second knuckle up...
The Doctor stood, leaning on the TARDIS console, and studied his fingers. At least half an inch longer than they were before and a great deal bonier. Much like the rest of him. He rubbed a palm over his stomach again and wondered whether he was too skinny. Then he stopped. Why should this matter now? He’d gone through many incarnations before and none of them had conformed to the humanoid idea of aesthetic perfection. Tall, squat, stout, slender. Some bald. Some with hair. Some with way too much hair. What he wouldn’t have given for some styling gel in the days of his Fourth life.
None of them, though, would have won points for sex appeal. Well, apart from Eight. Eight was nice. Eight, at least, got him some female attention. But even Eight, he felt, was… under appreciated.
Aside from that pleasant interlude, he’d never felt encumbered by the petty insecurities of the human race when it came to personal appearance. He was the Doctor. He had far more loftier concerns than how white his teeth were or whether his suit trousers complimented his arse. Until now.
Now he felt strange. Uncomfortable and out of sorts in his skin. Now for the first time in his 900 years he felt like he was living another mans life. Which was absurd. This was his life. The memories, the experiences, the emotions, they were all his. They belonged to him. He could still feel the energy of the TARDIS as it scorched his insides, making him feel like he was turning inside out. Even more tangible was the burn of her lips on his as he had absorbed that power. The Doctor touched his long fingers to his mouth. Hadn’t he exhaled the remnants of that power over these very lips? Hadn’t he done that and survived?
So why did it take just one sentence from her to make him doubt who he was?
“Can you change back?”
“Do you want me to?” He didn’t honestly want her to answer. She wouldn’t have asked if she didn’t want it. And it was then, right then, that he felt ridiculous, like he’d walked into a private party to which he wasn’t invited. Only this time psychic paper wouldn’t quite cut it.
He felt adrift and unsure of himself, as if Rose’s words had somehow cut him loose from the person he‘d been for almost a millennium. Suddenly he wasn’t the Doctor anymore and if he wasn’t the Doctor then who the hell was he? How should he address himself? Should he take a surname perhaps? Doctor Something, Doctor Somebody, just to differentiate himself from the one who was here before. The one with the big ears and no mole. Or maybe he should avoid names altogether and call himself a number like that woman from Star Trek, which he watched occasionally and laughed at its propensity for the improbable. Yeah, a number. Not the Doctor anymore, but a number. Ten. That would seem appropriate.
“So, Ten, ripped any portals in the Time Space Continuum today? I was wondering, Ten, are the Daleks really as scary as everyone says they are? Tell me, Ten, weren’t you here before? Didn’t I know you once?”
But most of those he had known were long since dead in the standard timeline and the ones who were still around would pass straight by if they saw him in the street. How strange it would be if he were to meet them again.
Right now though he was the stranger. An impostor. Trespasser on his own beautiful ship. Despite Roses assurances to the contrary and her willingness to grasp his hand in her own on that Christmas night as they stood in the falling ash of a dead alien craft, he would still catch her sidelong glances and glimpse an ache for a face that wasn’t his. Sometimes, for sport and just to make her happy, he would try a line, a throwaway comment that didn’t belong to him and that should’ve been said with a Northern accent instead of this strange hybrid, Mockney one, with which he’d found himself lumbered. But those comments sounded unnatural and they stalled in his mouth, as ill fitting as the black jacket that now hung in the back of the TARDIS wardrobe room. It was at those times he knew that it was as obvious now to her as it had always been to him that the man who should’ve said them would never return.
The Doctor sighed and pushed himself back from the console, sinking dispiritedly onto the couch behind him. He smoothed down the pinstripe fabric of his suit jacket and wondered, not for the first time, whether it was the right choice of outfit. His new body was tall enough to carry it off but if he scrutinized himself for too long in the mirror he would always start thinking how he looked like an extra from Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) or, at best, Paul Weller during his Style Council days. He tried to reassure himself by remembering the way she’d smiled when he walked through the front door of Jackie’s flat. But always the doubt crept in again, a niggling voice that said ‘Yeah, but it was Christmas Day. The world had just been saved from alien invasion. Of course she was smiling. What makes you think it was because of you?’
That voice had become a constant companion lately, making itself heard whenever it seemed things just might be getting back to the way they were before and sometimes he wondered who it belonged to. Was it him - the other one? Was it Nine whispering insidiously in his ear ‘She’s not yours, mate, she’s mine. She’ll always be mine, so best not even think about it, eh?.’
He looked at his hands again and found himself wishing that his fingers were just a bit shorter, just a little bit broader.
“If it’s palm reading you’re trying to do, you’ve got your hand the wrong way round.”
The Doctor started at the sound of her voice and stuffed his hand, guiltily, into his pocket.
“Oh hello. Was wondering when you’d wake up.” He stood and launched himself over to the console, busying himself with knobs and levers that didn’t really need to be adjusted. “We‘re nearly there.”
“Nearly where?” she asked, looking puzzled and then yawning.
“Vizxnokphi 6,” he said, with an ease of pronunciation that always left Rose shaking her head, as if to clear the jumble of letters that had just assaulted her ears. “The year 28.XY Button,” he continued with an enthusiasm he didn’t feel. “Solar storms that you have to see! Better than any firework display at Alton Towers.”
“Oh right.” She leaned against the console and started picking at a stray thread on the sleeve of her hoody.
“Well, do try and sound a little less excited, Rose. I mean it is only an astronomical phenomenon that takes place five million years in your future, two and a half million light years away from planet Earth. It’s not that big a deal.”
“Well I’m sorry, right? It’s not that I don’t want to see it cuz, y’know, it sounds great and all that, but…”
The Doctor paused in his frenetic pressing of buttons and stood back, trying valiantly not to let his shoulders sag at her apparent indifference. Because this was all he had. The things he could show her, the places he could take her. It was the only thing that was left over from before he changed. This ship and the things it could do - this was all he had left and if that wasn’t good enough…
“Well, it feels like that’s all we’ve done. Rush from one solar system to the next. I mean, don’t get me wrong, its been great seeing all that stuff. Especially that guy. With the thing. On that planet whatchamacallit.” She laughed and the sound of it sent an ache through both his hearts.
“But it might be nice just to… do nothing for a little while.” She stopped picking at the thread and tentatively raised her eyes to meet his. The Doctor took pains to keep his expression neutral, while cursing the sickening feeling of unease that had crawled into the pit of his stomach. He knew where this was going. If he was honest, he’d been expecting it for some time.
“Oh please don’t be upset. I’m not being ungrateful!” Rose rushed forward and took his hand and he resisted the urge to pull the cursed thing from her grasp. “Honestly, I’m not. I’m just a bit, well…”
“A bit what?” A bit bewildered as to why she was still tearing round time and space with some strange alien guy who, as far as she was concerned, she’d only met three weeks ago? A bit like she wanted to go home?
“Well, a bit knackered.”
“Oh!” He could’ve laughed. He could’ve fallen on the ground and burst out laughing. She was tired. That was all. Maybe it was ok. Maybe he could breathe again.
“So... do you want to go home?”
“Yeah.” Breathing stopped again. “I thought we could go back for a little while.”
“We?” For a second he thought that perhaps he’d misheard the word.
“Well, yeah.” And there was that smile again. “How else would I get there?”
“Oh, so that’s what I am. A lift home?” He wanted to pick her up and swing her round. He wanted to jitterbug with her again. Instead he contented himself with a smirk and a slight raise of his eyebrow. “So what do you propose we do once we get back to London?”
“I dunno. Visit mum, give Mickey a call.” Rose shrugged and walked over to lounge on the sofa. “Maybe go for a pub lunch?”
“Are you telling me, Rose Tyler, that I offer you the wonders of the Tricosia Nebula and you’d rather have a steak and kidney pie down the Red Lion?”
“No, don’t be stupid!” Her grin broadened and then she said, “I can’t stand steak and kidney but they do a lovely chilli con carne.”
Slowly, the Doctor’s insides began settling themselves. His stomach stopped churning and his breath steadied and slowed. His hearts, however, kept beating slightly faster than normal and he suspected that, given the company he was hoping to keep, this was something he was going to have to get used to.
He turned back to the controls and began to twist a few dials before stopping. “D’you fancy having a go?” he said with a jerk of his head.
“A go at what?” Her eyes widened as he gestured with his thumb. “What, at the dashboard thingy? You want me to steer this thing?”
“Yeah, its only fair. I mean if you’re going to be sticking around for a while, I think you should take your turn driving. “ He paused unsure whether to ask the next question. Ten minutes ago he wouldn’t even have thought about it. “You are going to be around for a while aren’t you?”
In answer she bounded, enthusiastically, up to the TARDIS console. “Ok, so what do I do?”
“Push that,” he said, as she eagerly followed his instructions. “Turn that. Press that button over there and then push that lever up there. No slowly!” He reached out and covered her hand with his, enclosing it with his long fingers that, he realised, didn‘t seem so bony anymore. His concentration faltered slightly as he felt her thumb stroke gently, once, twice, along the ball of his palm, but he recovered admirably and helped her guide the navcom lever into the correct notch on the console.
“There,” he said, standing back and smiling, “destination Earth 2006, London Town. Well done!”
Rose beamed and clapped her hands. “I’ve only done that once before, you know. It was that time with the Daleks and I had to fly it back to Satellite 5...”
“Yes, I know,” he said, simply. “I remember. I was there.”
She stopped then and looked at him, her face inscrutable and then said, “Yes. Yes you were.” And she smiled and the Doctor thought it was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. His breath caught and he found himself remembering supernovas at the end of the universe as time and space collapsed until nothing existed but that moment and as they held each others gaze the Doctor felt that he had lived an eternity. Step back. Step back now before it turns into something that neither of you will be able to handle.
He blinked, slowly, deliberately and felt himself snap back into the present. The dizzying sensation subsided, leaving him with an intense desire to clear his head. Tannins, he thought, tannins and free radicals!
He cleared his throat. “Right, I’m off to get a cuppa. Keep an eye on things, would you?”
“No probs. I’m an old hand now.”
The Doctor started to walk towards the back of the ship, then stopped and turned, hands in pockets, feet shoulder width apart. “One other thing, you’ve never actually said what you think of the suit. Don’t you think it makes me look rather debonair?” He waggled his eyebrows and waited for a reaction.
Rose rolled her eyes. “Debonair? Yeah, right. More like Debenhams.”
He laughed and turned back, grinning to himself as he walked down the corridor. Paul Weller circa 1985. Could be worse. Although Jarvis Cocker… now there was a man with style.