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Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean
abadplanwellex


The Doctor grinned.  Honestly, that had been too easy.  He quickly shoved a hand into her partially-unzipped pack and started rummaging around. 

The blonde girl was still staring at him, gobsmacked.  Still, he suspected she’d find her voice. 

In 3…2…1…

“You…you…” she gasped in outrage.

There it was.  He suppressed an urge to roll his eyes, guessing he might be a little too prone to do that in this regeneration.  Instead, he slapped on a sardonic grin. 

“Me…me…” he mocked back at her.  ““What, you think just ‘cause you’ve traveled with me that I’d trust you hopping all around space and time?”  He snorted.  “Maybe you haven’t heard about all my companions, but some of ‘em I wouldn’t trust with a houseplant.  If anything, all that knowledge just makes you more dangerous.” 

 “God, I’d forgotten what a complete git you are,” she fumed.  “A complete and utter git, King Git of all the gits of the Planet Gitroid, and when everything goes to hell and the universe implodes, I just want you to remember that it’s all on account of your…gitfulness.”

His lips twitched.  She was actually a bit funny.  “Gitfulness?”  he asked, twisting the word around in his mouth experimentally as he ran his hands over the devices in her pack.  There was something that felt like a Geiger counter, and ooh, was that a temporal displacement recorder?  Out loud, he commented, “Don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before.” 

“Yeah, and you never will again,” she snapped.  “What with the universe collapsing and all.”

He couldn’t help it—he rolled his eyes.  “The universe isn’t going to collapse,” he assured her.  Stretching out with senses that he’d spent so much time trying to dull, he could feel the rippling of the timeline.  It seemed secure enough.  Granted, there was a little something…odd about it.  Some sort of strange twist and turn happening…  And really, that was par for the course when he was around, but still… 

It might be her.  Time seemed to do strange things around her—all those bright little time signatures sprouting off of her.  More to the point, she was right—normally speaking, while meeting a casual acquaintance out of order wouldn’t necessarily be cause for alarm, getting entangled with the timelines of a companion?  Different story, or at least, it should be.  All that time for their timelines to run in parallel, all that causality twisting together…well, it was a potential disaster. 

Odd, though, that it didn’t feel that way.  Even with the eddies and bumps, the timelines felt resilient, strong...purposeful, even.  There was none of that creeping unease that generally accompanied potential paradoxes.  He turned his attention to the girl again. 

“How long do we travel together?”  he enquired.  She was young—maybe she just hadn’t spent very much time with him.  That could explain it.  And she clearly wasn’t with him anymore.  He bit back a sigh.  Another companion, run off to find…something better.  For some reason, part of him wanted to add “a new pretty boy,” and though he had no idea why, the idea of that annoyed him exceedingly.   He shook his head to clear it—just a little timeline feedback, that.

She was shaking her head slowly, making her blond hair dance on her shoulders.  “You know I can’t tell you.”

“But you left me.”  This came out sharper than he’d intended.

She shook her head again.  “We were…separated,” she answered hoarsely.  “There was an accident.  And all that,” she said, gesturing toward the pack, “is how I’m supposed to find you again.”

His arm holding her bag aloft sunk down a little.  “Do I tell you to do this?” he asked, curious, gesturing toward her equipment with his other hand, which was still clutching the sonic screwdriver.

She took a deep breath.  “S’complicated.  Extremely, extremely complicated and extremely important, and I can’t tell you a thing about it.”

The Doctor snorted.  “Fate of the world, I’m sure,” he muttered, digging into her pack again.

“No,” she disagreed quietly.  “Not the world.”

His eyes snapped up.  She was standing completely still, watching him, her expression grave.

As he stared into her eyes, he felt the timeline pulse. 

Unable to resist, he opened his senses further than he had since the…well.  It had been awhile.  With effort, he lifted the lid of his temporal eye and peeked at the full form of all those little trace time signatures dancing around her.  As he watched, they grew like vines, wrapping  and weaving around her, and the causality filaments curled and spiraled about her in a glowing nimbus, blossoming into a thousand different possibilities.  She started to glow like a sun, brighter and brighter, more and more ley lines of temporal power joining the multitude, spinning around her until—

With a startled breath, he closed off his senses. 

She was just a young, blonde girl again.  But looks could be deceiving.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked, mystified.

“Your friend,” she answered.  “Really, Doctor.”  She took a step closer to him, placed a hand over his chest, and he shivered a little at the contact.    “I’m your friend, and I’m doing what has to be done.  Please, just trust me.”

 “But I can’t just let you swan off with all this,” he protested, even though part of him was wavering.  “Whatever you’ve got in here’s powerful enough to cause a great ripple in space/time.” 

He fumbled in her bag and pulled out, at random, the NURF.  Its electro-galvanic covering registered contact with skin, and it trilled out three little happy notes—ping, ping, ping!—in a welcoming response.  The Doctor eyed it with distaste.  “And I know I didn’t build this thing.”  He poked at it.  “What the hell is it, anyway?  Bit of a stupid design.”

For some reason, this seemed to amuse her to no end.  “Yeah,” she agreed between snickers.  “It’s a bit stupid.”

He dropped her bag to the floor to free up his hand and then adjusted the settings on the sonic screwdriver.

“No!” she cried suddenly, and with a wrench, she snatched the NURF from his hands.  “You can’t, Doctor.  You just…can’t.  There’s too much at stake.”  She ducked down and grabbed her bag.

“Funny thing,” he commented, eyes on his screwdriver, still searching for the right setting, “I don’t actually have to be holding your tech to scan it.”

She glared at him and then, in a lightening quick move, she reached up and pinched him on the arm holding the sonic.  Hard.

“Ow!” he yelped, flinching.  His hand went slack, and she snatched the screwdriver away from him.  “Bloody hell!”

She rolled her eyes.  “Oh, don’t be such a baby,” she muttered, tucking the NURF back into her pack.

“If you wanted to hold the screwdriver,” the Doctor muttered sulkily, rubbing his arm, “all you had to do was ask.” 

She rolled her eyes again.

“Right,” he snapped.  “So that’s how it’s going to be, eh?  Fine.”  He crossed his arms, just a little gingerly.  “I was going to ask you back to the TARDIS to talk, but we’ll just talk in the lift instead.”  He leaned back against the wall.  “Now, I’m going to hazard a guess and say you didn’t build all that—” he gestured to her pack, “—yourself.  That means you’re working with someone, probably a team of someones.”  He raised an eyebrow.  “So who might that be?”

She shook her head, ignoring his question.  “I just want you to know, when I find you in your right time line, I am so gonna smack you for this.” 

“You said we’d been separated,” he continued, likewise ignoring her threat.  “And—if you’re telling the truth—that means something major had to have happened, because otherwise I could just come find you.  What was it?”  He raised an eyebrow at her.  “Or are you lying?”

“I’m not talking about this,” she said furiously.

“You don’t exactly have anywhere to go,” he said, smirking a little.  “Now, I’ll agree to block my memories—so long as what you say is the truth—so you might as well go on and tell me everything.  ‘Sides, I don’t plan on letting you out until I have some answers.”

She snorted and started adjusting the sonic.  “Please.  I’m going to find the right setting to move the lift, and then we’re gonna go our separate ways.”

His lips twisted to one side.  “Good luck with that.”

She ignored him and kept fiddling with it. 

He noticed, with some alarm, that she was actually getting close to the right setting.  “I could have that off you, you know—”  But before he could finish that sentence, the lift gave a massive lurch.  Then, with a loud thunk, it started to move. 

They stared at each other. 

“Did you—” he started, eying the screwdriver.

“No,” she answered.  “I didn’t do anything.”  Twisting around to face the doors, she saw that the floor numbers were decreasing.  “We’re going down.”

“They must have overridden the emergency stop mechanism,” the Doctor murmured, staring up at the floor indicator panel.  “But I scrambled the bypass circuitry.  They shouldn’t have been able to fix it this fast.”

“Can you stop it again?” she asked.  “I don’t want to find out what sort of reception might be waiting for us on the bottom floor.”

The Doctor shook his head.  “They must have some sort of master override,” he said, surprise evident in his voice.  “I can’t stop it from here.”

“Look,” said she quickly.  “No more games.  We need to work together and get out of here, ‘cause I really don’t feel like being arrested today.”

“What did you have in mind?”  He could think of a couple different ways they could escape, but he was interested to see what she would say.

“Here.”  She thrust the sonic into his hand.  “Open the doors.  We’ll jump out at the next open floor.  But then, Doctor?”  She looked at him seriously.  “You let me go.”

He stared at her as the seconds ticked by and the lift kept descending. 

“C’mon, Doctor,” she pleaded.  “You used to trust me.  You will trust me, and it’ll be fantastic, the very best.  Better with two, I promise!  Just…please…”

He knew he shouldn’t, but…taking a deep breath, he gave a quick nod and pointed the sonic at the lift panel.  The doors smoothly slid open, and they could see the floors passing by fairly quickly.  A couple of people who were clearly waiting for the lift stared at them in confusion as they passed by.

“Ok,” said the Doctor, “on my count, we jump.”

“Right,” she agreed, tightening her grip on her bag. 

The Doctor was busy calculating the timing necessary to exit the lift and so didn’t notice when she stretched out her free hand until she tucked it into his own.  Surprised, he glanced down at their joined hands with a bemused expression.  Judging by the look of concentration on her face, she didn’t even realize what she’d done.

The next floor slid into view—grey carpets, filing cabinets, and a ficus tree.  It was also blessedly empty.

“Alright,” said the Doctor.  “Three, two, one…jump!”  He leapt forward out of the fast-moving lift, pulling the girl along in his wake.  They tumbled forward onto the grey carpet.  

She was laughing even before she sat up.  “Oh, I’ve missed that,” she said, struggling to her feet and bumping her shoulder into his as he stood.  “Even if it’s just hopping off a lift and not off some alien waterfall or a helicopter or that one time when we slid down into that wet clay pit on…what was it?  Muddy something or other…”

The Doctor tilted his head, considering.  “Mautdii 6?”

“Yes!”  She smacked his arm lightly.  “That’s the one.”

She was grinning at him and it was infectious.  His smile was rusty from disuse, but it still made her light up all the more.  She was still holding his hand, he noticed.

The contact was…nice.

She slung her pack over her shoulder with her free hand, keeping a tight grip on the broken strap.  “So, where did you park the TARDIS?”

“Why?” he asked, eyebrow quirked.  “Did you change your mind about that chat?”  Trying not to sound too hopeful, he added, “We could get a bite to eat.”

She pressed her lips together, and for one strange moment, he wondered if she was going to cry.  But then, she just shook her head and smiled.  “Wish I could, but no.  We should both get out of here, though.  I think they’ll have noticed something’s up when the empty, open lift gets to the bottom floor.”

He nodded.  “I’m parked about two floors up from where I ran into you.  We should probably avoid the lifts, though.  I came down a flight of stairs in the north corner of the building.”

“Right then,” she said, her face determined.  “Probably best if we split up.”  But she seemed reluctant to let go of his hand.  “You head off that way, and I’ll go the other—there’s bound to be more than one flight of stairs in a building this big.”

“Right,” he agreed. 

“Well, then,” she said, softer now.  She was staring down at their joined hands.  “We should probably say goodbye.”

“Will you at least tell me your name?”  When her eyes snapped up to meet his, he almost regretted asking—her expression was so bleak.

“I can’t,” she whispered.  “I shouldn’t even be here.  Just…forget this.  Please.”

He sighed.  “Alright.”  

She smiled and squeezed his hand once before letting go.  “Bye, then, Doctor.”  She stared up at him for a moment, biting her lip.  Then she leaned up, pressed a quick, surprising kiss to his cheek, and turned away.  A half-moment later, and she was around a corner, out of sight. 

Right. 

Well, then. 

That was that. 

With a sigh, the Doctor turned and started to hunt for the stairs.

***

Rose wiped a quick, traitorous tear away as she hurried through the office building.  This just wasn’t fair—getting him back and then losing him all over again.  And who knew how long it would be before she saw him again. 

There were so many things she wished she could have said to him.  So many stories she could have told.  She could picture him, sitting in the galley kitchen with his old blue mug, laughing uproariously as she told him her tale of woe—when she’d had to go straight from one of the Vitex corporate parties to stop an alien invasion, which she did by hurling her ridiculously high heeled shoes into the delicate inner workings of an oxygen-compensation unit of a Corbuscian atmospheric interface module. 

She weaved her way through the rows of cubicles, hardly looking where she was going and ignoring the curious looks of the office workers.

…Or she could tell him how she’d had to buy cases and cases of lamb meat paste baby food from the Tesco for this one orphaned Klrtisk hatchling, only to be caught at the door of the market by the paparazzi, and thus had accidentally started a bizarre (and disgusting) new diet fad. 

And there—that ridiculous stuffed pink rabbit.  She stopped by one of the desks where the offending bunny sat, its ears protruding over the cubicle wall.  Janice from accounting always kept this bloody thing at her desk, and Rose was forever staring at it every time she had to file expense reports, reminded of how she and the Doctor had gone to Oestra Buuni to see the giant pink rabbit people, and the Doctor had spun that crazy story about his role in the creation of Easter chocolates, which allegedly involved a ravenous alien loose in the Cadbury’s factory and a pit trap covered with plastic Easter grass, and it had been absolutely hilarious, but Rose could never say anything about it to Janice because—

Wait.

What?

She blinked and picked up the stuffed toy.  What was it doing here? 

She hadn’t…  Quickly, she leaned over and checked her dimensional jump remote.  It was fully charged, ready to go, but she hadn’t activated it. 

She was still in the Doctor’s universe.

A little unnerved, she set it back down on the desk.  Ok, so they have them here, too.  Not really that surprising…

She started moving again, headed for the door, pausing automatically to allow someone else to come through—

Oh. 

Someone that she recognized.

She froze. 

Joe. 

That was Joe.  Sandy-brown haired, average height, kept-offering-to-take-her-out-for-coffee Joe Anderson.

Her heart skipped a beat.

Joe Anderson, who nobody ever really looked at twice, but who was great with numbers, so he was one of the few old-regime holdover employees at…

Torchwood.

Her mind raced.  The master override on the elevator controls.  That oddly familiar view of the London skyline.  That horrible stuffed rabbit.  Alterna-Joe, surreptitiously checking out her bum as he walked passed, and…

Oh, god, the Doctor.

Rose turned around and ran.




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Whooooo boy, landning in Torchwood, that's not good. Not good at all.

Poor Doctor, he doesn't realise who he's just met. And Rose, her life sucks sometimes, just sayin'.

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