Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Rose Tyler, Tenth Doctor
Spoilers: Set between ‘The Christmas Invasion’ and ‘New Earth’.
Summary: Things are better now, even though his regeneration still weighs heavily on her mind. They haven’t talked about it, yet. She tried, but he asked for time, and time has become such a complex thing to her that she doesn’t ask again.
Original Story: Paradigm Shift, by eponymous_rose.
Change, when it comes, cracks everything open.
— Dorothy Allison
He takes her on a few day trips after Christmas, whether to ease him back into it, or ease her back into it, she doesn’t know. Things are better now, even though his regeneration still weighs heavily on her mind. They haven’t talked about it, yet. She tried, but he asked for time, and time has become such a complex thing to her that she doesn’t ask again.
Their first outing is on New Year’s Day, when it’s too quiet for him, when Jackie and Mickey are passed out on the couch, and when he’s practically bouncing on the spot, he has so much energy. They take it easy and don’t do anything much—not even talk, which is actually quite hard for him—just taking a quick trip to Barcelona and finally seeing the dogs. They hold hands the entire time, though, which makes it a bit better, even though she’s still getting used to the shape and feel of his fingers.
The second is two days after that, and involves an alien theme park, but she comes home exhausted and cranky, and they part ways at bedtime, him going back to the TARDIS, her going back to her mum’s. At least until she realises she can’t sleep, and goes downstairs to him in her pyjamas, where he puts her to bed.
This is the third trip in a week, but this time, she has no idea where they’re going or what they’re doing. He’s being very secretive, something she’s not sure she likes, particularly since the last major secret he kept resulted in him exploding and getting a new face.
“Can’t you just give me a hint?” she asks, leaning against the console.
He looks up at her and winks. “Trust me!”
Rose can’t help thinking that that would be easier if he had bigger ears and less hair, but then she immediately feels guilty. He’s still waiting for a response, so she forces a grin.
“Alright. But it better be good, yeah?”
He beams back. “Ooh, is that an official challenge issued by Miss Tyler?”
“Well, then,” he madly spins a dial, and she blinks and sees a flash of leather coat, “better make it good.” He pushes a button with a flourish, the TARDIS shudders, and she grabs onto the console, gripping it tightly. Some driving skills, no matter who tells her otherwise, really don’t get better with practice, or age, or regenerations.
It’s a planet where night is day and day is night, apparently, so the suns are setting, but it’s only morning.
“Only the farmers are up,” he tells her, before frowning and adding, “and bakers, and possibly mothers of newborns, I’m guessing.” He closes the TARDIS doors behind them and grabs her hand. “Come on!”
He pulls her along behind him, and while they run, it’s almost the same, except his long, brown coat wraps around her legs and almost trips her over. He catches her, though, and laughs, and she laughs too, wondering if this is who he is, now—someone who laughs about nothing.
Since this world is kind of like Luke’s home planet on Star Wars—the Tattoo one—sand quickly gets into her shoes. She doesn’t complain, though, instead letting him take her where he wants to take her, because it seems to be important to him.
They stop when they reach a small town and catch this planet’s version of the milkman, doing his rounds. The Doctor trades him a pocket-sized fold-up shovel for a bottle, because despite the sunset it’s still rather hot, and gives it to her to taste.
She eyes it warily. “What is it?” It doesn’t look very milky—for one thing, it’s not white, but rather a lovely shade of purple she believes she has on a t-shirt, and for another it smells disgusting.
“It’s milk!” he says, before grabbing her shoulders and swivelling her around. He points to a horse-sized animal with three legs and a humongous head. “From that.”
“From that?” Rose wrinkles her nose. If he’s trying to encourage her, he’s not doing a very good job of it.
“It’s delicious, I promise. Just a bit sweeter than cow’s milk. See, I’ll even drink some.” He swipes the bottle off her and downs a mouthful, wiping his mouth with his sleeve before smacking his lips. “Lovely! Better than I remembered!” He holds the bottle back out to her. “Your turn.”
She takes it from him, watching his expression. This is the second time he’s asked her to trust him today, and his eyes are pleading with her to drink from the bottle. He needs to know she still believes in him. Because yes, he saved the world at Christmas, but in the end, he still died, still came back as someone completely different, and that takes more than a few adventures to get over.
Rose considers. Does she still believe in him? The answer to that comes to her so quickly she’s surprised—yes. She does. Completely. But does she still trust him?
No answer comes, but still, she takes a sip of the drink, and maybe that’s an answer in itself.
“Is this why we came?” she asks him, unable to take her eyes off the sky.
They’re sitting on these huge sand dunes, located just outside the town. He keeps wriggling closer to her, trying to be nonchalant, but she’s so attuned to him, to this new body, that she doesn’t even have to look at him to know what he’s doing. Which is a good thing, really, because the moons are rising, now, and she doesn’t want to look at anything else. It’s amazing—she’s never seen these colours before, doesn’t even think they exist on Earth, and they’re swirling and trailing after the moons as they fly across the sky, more like shooting stars than anything else, and it’s perfect.
“It’s beautiful,” she says.
“Yep,” he tells her, sounding pleased by her pleasure. “I wanted to bring you somewhere special, so we could…” He trails off, and she tears her gaze away from the sky to look at him.
“Well…” He gestures vaguely. “We can talk here. If that’s… I mean, you know. Humans like to talk. If you wanna talk… About… anything. And all that.” He meets her gaze and shrugs, and the look in his eyes, regardless of colour, reminds her so much of the Doctor it hurts.
She nods. “Okay.” But she won’t make the first move. If he brought her here, he must be ready. It’s up to him.
“We’re not really…” He sighs, and runs a hand through his hair. “Time Lords don’t really discuss their regenerations. It’s considered rude.” He’s quiet again, and she takes the opportunity to ask about a sticking point for her.
“Regenerations? You mean there’s more than one?”
“Yeah. There’s… This is the tenth me.”
She tries to imagine there being ten different-looking Rose Tylers, but the thought isn’t really all that appealing. She starts to draw patterns in the sand with her fingertip. “What did you look like?”
“Oh, I had all different sorts of bodies. Some Time Lords are good at controlling what they look like, but that doesn’t seem to be one of my strong points.”
“The ginger thing,” she remembers, nodding.
They’re silent again, and he reaches out hesitantly to take her hand. She looks down and, realising she’s drawn a love heart, wraps her fingers around his and holds on tight.
“Imagine it,” he says quietly. “Every molecule, every atom shaken out of place. It’s all different, all changed, but it really is me in here. And, I still like chips.”
She can’t help but laugh, and he gives her a big grin.
“Same mind, Rose Tyler. Just different brain, is all.”
And then they talk.
The next day, Rose goes to him. He’s at the console, of course, doing something to the something-or-other, a task that obviously requires much thought, because he’s sticking his tongue out in concentration.
The fact the Rose actually registers how cute it looks only reinforces her decision.
“Doctor?” she says quietly, and he looks up at her and smiles.
“Hello!” He puts down the something he was holding and sticks his hands in his pockets. “And how are you this morning?”
“Good. Better than good, I just… I mean, I came to find out if we could leave today?”
She hates how unsure she still is with him, but takes comfort in the fact that she is getting better. That’s what matters. And no matter how much he may make fun of humans and their need to discuss everything, she is sure that even he has to recognise its merit now. They are both so much better than the days before that it’s almost strange.
The Doctor nods. “Sure! I was just about to come and get you. I’ve thought of somewhere brilliant we can go. The grass smells like app—”
“No, Doctor,” she interrupts, “I meant… go.”
He frowns, and then it sinks in, and he bursts into the brightest, toothiest, most gleeful grin she’s ever seen from him. “Really? Well, that’s brilliant, fantastic! We’ll leave tomorrow, give you a chance to say goodbye first, and…” He frowns again. “Hold on. You sure you’re ready?”
Yes. She is. More than ready. She’s almost feeling like she thinks he must—like she’ll burst out of her skin if they have to stay here for much longer. How could she want to stay here, in London, when she knows everything else that’s out there?
“Yeah. I am.”
Words seem too much for him, so he throws his arms around her in a hug. His smell is the same, it occurs to her, and so is that feeling she gets whenever he touches her—like she’s loved, and protected, and special.
Things have changed, and they always will, and Rose knows it’s naïve to think that they won’t. And even though this is one of the rather more significant changes that could occur, the most important things are still the same. She still loves him. And he’s still the Doctor, no matter what he looks like. One day soon, she’ll be able to see them as the same person, and refer to them as ‘him’, and that’s what matters. They’ll get there in the end, because they always do. They’re a team.
He pulls back, and she can feel her eyes getting watery, but he doesn’t comment. Instead, an unsavoury thought seems to occur to him, and he pulls a face.
“What?” She swipes at her eyes with her palms.
He looks a little sick. “Just wondering how to break it to your mother.”
Rose rolls her eyes—because then again, some things will never, ever change.