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Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean
abadplanwellex


The Doctor was halfway up his second flight of stairs when he heard pounding footsteps echoing up the stairwell below him.  Leaning over the railing, he saw her.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said, trying not to sound too pleased.  “You change your mind?”

She didn’t answer, just kept charging up the stairs and muttering under her breath. 

The smile edging around the outside of his mouth faded away, and he gripped the railing, leaning over farther to see if she was being chased by anything.  Nope, nothing that he could see, but she was still making impressive time up the stairs.  As she got closer, he realized that she was spewing forth quite a creative variety of swear words.  In a number of alien languages, no less.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded as she reached him.  She didn’t answer, just grabbed his arm and pulled him up the rest of the stairs to the next landing. 

“Problem,” she gasped, letting go of him so that she could lean forward with her hands on her knees to catch her breath.  “Big problem.”  She didn’t rest for long, though—a few moments later, she leaned over the stairwell railing, looking up and down the levels and then tilting her head to listen. 

“Nobody coming.  That’s good.  Didn’t see any cameras,” she muttered.  “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.”  She whipped back around and pinned him with her eyes.  “The TARDIS is on which floor, did you say?”

“Er…”  He thought about it for a moment.  “Thirty-eighth, I think.”

She drummed her fingers on the edge of the railing.  “I think that might be the hardcopy case file archives.  Hmm.”

“Yeah, lots of filing cabinets,” he confirmed. 

“Maybe we should just try for it.”  She looked up the stairwell again, chewing on her lower lip.  “But if they have us on security cameras…if they decide to check the footage when they find the empty lift…”  She growled in frustration.  “Why did it have to be here, of all places?  Ugh—I need to think this through.”

She turned back to the landing door, cracked it open, and peeked out.  “No good.  Human resources, I think, and they notice every damn thing.  Bloody hell.”  She raked her fingers through her hair with her free hand and took a deep breath.  “C’mon.”  She started up the next flight of stairs, still gripping his arm. 

“Now, wait a moment.  Tell me what’s going on,” he demanded, even as he followed her up, pulled along less by the strength of her grip than by the fear in her eyes.

“No time,” she said.  “Keep moving.”  At the next level, she looked out the door again.  On the other side, they could both hear the ringing of phones.  “Ah, ok, I think this is the in-house Citizen Liaison office.  They have to spend all their time answering the public’s crazy phone calls, so they’re all practically dead inside.  They won’t notice us.”  She gave him a nervous grin.  “Just, um, walk about as though you own the place.”

Before he could answer that with a Look-with-a-capital-L, she dragged him through the door and into a large, open office space jam-packed with cubicles.  None of the poor souls talking on their little black headsets so much as raised an eyebrow at them as they walked passed.  The Doctor had just started to wonder if he should be investigating possible alien involvement in the workers’ apathy when they reached the far side of the room, and she pulled him out into a hallway.

“Ok, there’s gotta be something around here,” she muttered, glancing nervously around.  She led them down a little side corridor lined with windowless doors.  Letting go of the Doctor, she tugged on the first door—locked.  The second one was a cupboard filled with office supplies.  “No, this won’t work,” she moaned.  “Someone’s bound to come looking for staples or something.”  The third door opened to a janitor’s supply cupboard, packed with boxes of industrial strength cleaner.  She shoved it closed in impatience.  “Not enough room for both of us.  We need somewhere to duck out of sight.”

Behind her, the Doctor pulled out the sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the locked door.  “How about in here?”  He opened the door and revealed a little room, not much bigger than the other two cupboards, but there was enough space for both of them.  Against one wall, there were a bunch of file boxes, stacked on top of one another.  There was also an old desk with one broken leg, shoved haphazardly into the back corner.  “Looks like long-term storage—a junk room.” 

She joined him at the entrance and took a look.  “Perfect,” she announced and gave him a little shove inside.

“Oi, d’you mind?” he groused, rolling his eyes even as he stepped inside, before closing the door and locking it again.  With a fumbling hand, he located the light switch.   

 “Alright,” he said, leaning back against one wall.  “Let’s hear what this is all about.  Why are we hiding out in here?”

She was pacing back and forth in the limited space.  “Oh, god, I didn’t realize.  I almost never come to the Administrative part of the building, and there were all those renovations that Pete did, and besides, for some reason the paint color’s all different.  What the hell are we going to do now?”

He crossed his arms.  “What are we going to do about what?”  Paint color, indeed.  He was starting to seriously question her sanity.

She pulled at her hair.  “God, I can’t even tell you,” she groaned.  “This is so wrong.”  She took a long, slow breath in through clenched teeth and let it out again, leaning back against the wall.  “Yeah…  This is bad.  I’m Rose, by the way.”

He blinked in surprise.  “Nice to meet you, Rose.”

“Run for your life,” she muttered.

“What?”

“Nothing.”  She started pacing again.

Yep, her sanity was definitely in question.  “And you’re telling me your name all of a sudden because…?”

“‘Cause this is a great big mess, and you’re gonna need something to call me other than “hey you.”  Honestly, right now, it’s the least of our problems.”  She stopped and bit her lip.  “Maybe we should just try for the TARDIS.  If they haven’t found it, they might not be able to identify you.  They’d still have my face, though, so maybe they could track me down, and that could mess with the timelines…” 

The Doctor dug deep into his stores of patience.  “Look, clearly this is all getting a bit complicated, so why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

Rose ignored him and chewed on a thumbnail absently as she mulled over the possibilities.  If Torchwood identified either one of them, it could have catastrophic effects on the timeline.  And if the Doctor found out what Torchwood was up to, she seriously doubted if he’d be willing to walk away, especially if he found the breach in time and space and the Void Ship…  She stopped suddenly and looked up.   “We don’t even know what year it is.  Maybe it’s afterwards…”

The Doctor could almost see the wheels turning in her head, but it was still a bit of a surprise when she held out her hand and said, “Sonic.”

“What?”

“Give me the sonic,” she insisted. 

“No,” he said, nonplussed.   What, did she think he just went around handing it out?

Rose stared at him.  “What happened to ‘if you want it, just ask’?”

The Doctor rolled his eyes.  “That was sarcasm.”

“Yeah, well, give it here,” she pushed, still holding out her hand.  “I want to go check the date.  I’ll go ask one of the phone operators, and you can wait here.”

“Well, tough.”  He crossed his arms and gave her a pointed stare.  “You’re not getting out without giving me some answers first.  Like why we’re hiding in a cupboard, for starters.”

She groaned.  “I can’t tell you that.”

“Well, then.”  He tucked his hands in his pockets and leaned back with an air of utter complaisance.  “I guess we’ll just have to make ourselves comfortable.”

Rose let out a frustrated noise.  “Why do you have to be so bloody stubborn?”  Just because she’d been planning on locking him in the cupboard…  Honestly, it wasn’t like HE knew that. 

The Doctor tipped his head to one side.  “I’m sorry; didn’t you say we’d met before?”  He pasted on a fake smile and held out a hand for her to shake.  “I’m the Doctor.  Nice to meet you.”

“Gah!” she shouted, throwing up her arms.  “Fine!  Fine.  Of course.  You want a bloody explanation.  Can’t just listen to me.  Can’t trust that maybe, just this once, I know best.  Oh, no, not the Doctor.  You’ve gotta go jumping into deep, dark pits or trusting that just ‘cause you show someone the Spock sign, they won’t trap you in a holding pen of ionic energy.  Or,” she said, jabbing a finger in his direction, “letting aliens walk around inside dead people.  And then, when it all goes wrong, it’s, ‘Oh, whoops, Rose, look at that—zombies loose in Cardiff.’”

“Is this going somewhere?” he interrupted. 

Rose threw herself against the wall with a sigh.  “Fine.  Screw the timelines, anyway.  This,” she said with a wave of her hand, “is Torchwood.  They’re sorta like UNIT but without all the fuzzy happy Doctor-love.  We run into them later on in your timeline and…and sort them out.  So we can’t get caught by them now.”

“Is that all?” he said, reaching into his coat pocket.  “Relax.”  He pulled out his psychic paper.  “We’ll just tell them whatever they want to hear.  Perfect aliases.”

“But you can’t use psychic paper here,” she said, grimacing in at the memory.  “Otherwise,” she tugged something out of her pocket, “I’d use it too.”  She held aloft the exact same piece of psychic paper, several years older. 

“You took my psychic paper?”  He was shocked. 

She was pressing it to her chest like it was a precious possession.  “I had it on my when we got separated.”

“But I love my psychic paper!”  He felt a pang for his future self—how was he going to get on without it?

Rose rolled her eyes.  “Oh, come on.  You’ll just get some more, or make it or whatever.  It’s not like it’s the only one in the universe.”

He was sulking.  “But it’s in that perfect little carrying case.  Looks all official.”   

“Doctor.”  She pressed her lips together like she was trying to measure her words carefully.  “Let’s put it this way—if, when I’m able to get back to the proper version of you, you’re happier to see the psychic paper than you are to see me?”  She just shook her head as she tucked it back into her pocket. 

Apparently, the consequences would be too dire to name.

“Anyway,” she continued, “like I was saying, you can’t use the psychic paper here.  The employees get basic psychic training—they’ll spot it as a fake.”

He frowned.  “Basic psychic training…  What the hell is this place?”

“Like I said, Torchwood.  And we really shouldn’t be here.”  Then she paused.  “You really shouldn’t be here.”  And then, cocking her head to one side, she asked, “Why are you here, anyway?”

Was she dense?  Honestly…  “I’m here because of you.  Obviously,” he added with yet another eye roll.  “I was here on Earth, trying to track down an alien, stop a potential invasion.  I was doing a scan, trying to locate their transmitter, when I saw the great blip in space/time that you made.  I traced it back here and found you.  And what kind of time travel device are you using, anyway?  A standard vortex manipulator wouldn’t make a spike that big.”

She was clearly ignoring his question.  “So I brought you here.  That means that this wasn’t supposed to happen.”  She drummed her fingers nervously.

He started to open his mouth to deliver an extremely fascinating and educational lecture on causality, when she suddenly whipped around and grabbed him by the front of his jacket.

“Wait,” she gasped.  “Did you say…transmitter?”

He nodded wordlessly. 

“What aliens?” she demanded, shaking him a little.  “Doctor, what aliens were you tracking down?”

“The Autons,” he said, irritated.  He pushed her hands off his coat.  “Been awhile since I saw them last.”

She swallowed, her eyes huge.  “…and the Autons…they would be…?”

“Living plastic,” he said succinctly.  “Living plastic creatures.” 

Her mouth popped open in a little round O.  He had a moment to think that flabbergasted was actually a pretty cute look on her before the profanity started. 

And he’d thought her cursing was creative before…


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OHH!! That's just nasty!

I am loving this story. Can't wait to see how this mess gets sorted out.

Am seriously snorting and rolling my eyes at Nine and Rose arguing, you could definitely see 'em behaving like that.

I'm glad you're enjoying it! It's proving to be surprisingly challenging to write. The whole dynamic between them is different...he's still in the "saving the stupid apes blundering around on this planet" mode, and she's not the wide-eyed innocent anymore. He doesn't know if he can trust her, and she doesn't know if she can tell him anything.

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