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Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean
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Rose didn’t feel the moment her hand went slack, didn’t register the TURT falling from her fingertips even as she stumbled back, one great breath shuddering through her body.  Her back hit the lift wall, her eyes as big as saucers, and he stared back at her, brow furrowed, and he so did not recognize her.  He didn’t know who she was.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, oh god, this was such a mess, so very bad, and what the hell was she going to do now?  Her hands snapped up reflexively to cover her face, but it didn’t help because he’d already seen her and oh god acting this way was just drawing more attention to herself and why, oh why of all days did she have to be dressed like a Bond villain?!?

(“Time’s in flux, changing every second,” he’d told her.  “Your cozy little world can be rewritten like that.”) 

Oh, she remembered.  And because she did, she trembled.

But this was too big a potential disaster, and she couldn’t afford to panic.  Face still covered, she just tried to breathe—in and out, in and out.  Proximal in time, distant in space, my arse, she growled in her own thoughts. 

When she got back to Torchwood, if she got back to Torchwood, heads were going to roll.

“Erm,” she said, just to try out her voice.  She peeked out from between her fingers.  He was looking at her like she was a complete lunatic, or an evil invading alien, or possibly both.  She dropped her hands.  “So…” she said, clearing her throat and crossing her arms, “is it too late to go with nonchalance?” 

The Doctor chuckled a little.  “Yeah, just a bit.”  He bent over and picked up the TURT. 

“Just a bit,” she agreed, uncrossing her arms.  “Um.”  Oh god oh god oh god…

He turned the TURT over in his hands, inspecting it, but he kept shooting odd glances at her.

“Er, can I have my…ah, thing back?”  She held out a hand hopefully and tried to ignore the way her arm was shaking.

“What is it?”  He didn’t seem inclined to hand it over. 

 “It’s ah…it’s a transmitter.”  Rose watched, transfixed as he looked it over, flipping it in his clever, capable hands, and she was nearly overcome with the urge to just tell him everything.  This was the Doctor, the Doctor, and she’d been searching for him for so long.  He could make it better, if anyone could.  So what if it was a little early…if anything, that just made it all the more tempting.  This was her first Doctor, the one from when she’d been young enough to think he could do anything.  

She’d stood on the deck of a Dalek ship, and he’d told her he was coming to get her, and she’d believed.

“That so?”  he said, interrupting her musings.  He flipped it over again and started to reach into an interior pocket of his jacket, the one in which, Rose remembered with a jolt, he kept the sonic screwdriver.  The reality of the situation slapped her right across the face.

It was her job to prevent damage to the timeline because she was the one with the foreknowledge.    There were so many things that he couldn’t know about in advance, and time could be so very fragile.  What most terrified her was that she had no idea whether she should try to do something to fix the situation and risk increasing the damage through further action or just walk away and hope for the best.  And the irony of it all was that the one person who she most wanted to ask for advice was the one person she couldn’t.

In an instant, Rose made her choice.  She had jumped head-first into a situation like this before, and it had nearly destroyed the world.  This time, she’d aim for caution.  Noninvolvement.

“A transmitter, yep,” she said, taking advantage of the Doctor’s one-handed grip to yank the TURT out of his grasp.  She quickly tucked it back into her pack.  “It’s nothing you need to worry about.”

The Doctor’s eyes narrowed.  “I think maybe we should have a chat.” 

“Yeah,” said Rose, shouldering her bag, “I really, really don’t.”  The lift bell dinged and the doors slid open—time to make an escape.  “You have a good day.”  She started to step out, trying to make a quick getaway, only to realize that the lift had stopped early to let someone on.

“Sorry, ma’am,” the Doctor with false cheer to the waiting woman, “but this lift’s busted.  Best take the next one.”

“But,” protested the woman, her arms full of files.

“I’m with maintenance,” interrupted the Doctor, slipping a hand in his jacket pocket to surreptitiously activate his sonic.  The lift panel let out a spray of sparks.  “We’ll have it in proper order in no time.”

“But…but,” the woman repeated, staring at Rose. 

Rose tried to step off the lift, but the Doctor quickly blocked her path.  “Bye then,” he said with a little wave to the poor beleaguered lady, and, with the faint whirring of the sonic, the lift doors suddenly closed. 

He turned around to face her.  “And as for you—”

“Great,” interrupted Rose, annoyed.  “Now she’s gonna go report that there’s suspicious people in the lift.”  At his raised eyebrow, she said, “You don’t look like maintenance, and neither do I.”

The Doctor looked her up and down slowly, and Rose felt her toes curl from the force of those blue eyes. “True enough,” he allowed.  “So, who are you then?”

Rose blew out a breath.  She had no idea what to do to fix this, but telling him her name was definitely not a good idea.  She was mildly tempted to rattle off some nonsense about feeling the turn of the Earth and the planet hurtling around the sun and all that, but that was probably just the adrenaline talking.  “I think it might be better if we don’t talk.  Let’s just get to the bottom floor and go our separate ways.”  And hope for the best, she added silently.

The Doctor didn’t answer, just looked at her thoughtfully for a moment and then pulled out the sonic.  He pointed it to the lift panel, activated it, and the lift shuddered to a stop.

“There,” he said, all bright smiles with hard edges, ignoring Rose’s outraged gasp.  “Now we have some time to kill. We should get to know each other.  Let’s start with your name and where and when you’re from.”

Rose elbowed him away from the lift panel and tried to get it started again.  “Don’t tell me you fried it,” she muttered after her attempts proved unsuccessful.  “How are we going to get out of here?”

“It’s just stalled,” he said easily.  “Now about that chat…”

Rose groaned and sunk to the floor, her back against the lift wall.  She rubbed a hand over her eyes and dimly wondered whether the reapers would bother to break into the lift or if they’d just swallow it whole.  “I can’t risk talking to you,” she said at last, when it was clear that he wasn’t going to let up.  “Might cause a paradox.  Probably already caused a paradox.  So let’s ignore one another in hopes that space and time won’t just rip apart at the seams, yeah?”

“You’re from my future.”  It wasn’t a question.  Rose shifted her eyebrows in acquiescence.  The Doctor just shook his head.  “It’s really not a problem.  I occasionally run into people I haven’t met yet—it’s an occupational hazard, but it won’t rip anything apart.”  He looked her over again, calculating.  “So what’s the Time Agency want with me?”

Rose’s mouth popped open in surprise.  “You think I’m a Time Agent?”

“Let’s see…lots of fancy anachronistic gadgets…covered in trace time signatures…complete incompetence with paradoxes…yeah, I’m gonna say Time Agent.”

She hopped to her feet.  “I’m not a Time Agent,” she said, strangely insulted.  “And I’m not completely incompetent with paradoxes.”

“If you say so,” he said, rather ungraciously. 

“I’m not!  And I’m not a Time Agent, either—look!”  She held out her wrists.  “No vortex manipulator.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes.  “So you’ve tweaked your tech a little.  Still traveling in time, aren’t you?”

“Well, so are you.”  She folded her arms.

He smirked.  “Yeah, but you’re human.”  He said this like it was his trump card, like he was a half-second away from disparaging her species.  Rose smoldered with indignation.

“I’m not a bloody Time Agent, and I’m not some casual acquaintance that you bump into in the future,” she fumed.  “Doctor, we have to do something to ensure there won’t be a paradox.”

He shrugged, but Rose thought she could see a flicker of unease at the use of his name.  It was hard to tell—he was so much colder than she remembered.  “I can suppress my own memories, if I have to,” he said airily.  “But I need a good reason to do it.”  He looked at her pointedly.

Rose pursed her lips.  “So, what, preventing paradoxes isn’t a good enough reason?”

He rolled his eyes again.  “I need to know it’s a serious enough paradox to make it worth the risk.  Paradoxes come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them are dangerous.  ‘Sides, I’m not really a fan of erasing my own memories, thanks.”  He crossed his arms and tapped his fingers against the leather of his jacket.  “This is where you come in and tell me who you are and why this all matters so much.  Including,” he added, eyeing her bag, “what all that tech is for.”

Rose ran her hand over the crown of her head, ruffling her hair and unconsciously mimicking his next regeneration.  She could think of a thousand things to tell him, but she had the uncomfortable feeling that mentioning things like ‘I’m popping back and forth through cracks in the void between parallel dimensions in an attempt to save all creation,’ might not go over so well.

“I travel with you,” she said at last.  “I’m a companion of yours, from your future.”  There, that was nice and vague.

Apparently this wasn’t enough.  The Doctor didn’t move, didn’t uncross his arms, and his stare grew sharper.  “I’m not looking for company, and I don’t take Time Agents as companions.  Try again.”

It was funny; she had forgotten just how irritating he could be.  “Er, yes, you are; yes, you do; and for the last time, I’m not a damn Time Agent.”

His eyes were laser sharp.  “Prove it.”

Rose wracked her brain.  The first things that came to mind—the Time War, Gallifrey, regeneration, Daleks, etc., she rejected outright.  Too upsetting, she thought, especially for this version of him.  And besides, other people had known about some of those things—Jack, for one.  No, she needed something more specific and less incendiary.  

“TARDIS.”  The word popped out of her mouth suddenly.  “Stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space.”

“That’s not exactly a secret,” he scoffed.

“But your TARDIS is special,” she added.  “Type TT-40, right?  Have you installed the thing that looks like a bicycle pump on the console yet?”

He blinked at that and shifted, considering her.

“You’ve got a freckle,” she said, suddenly inspired.  “Just under your right ankle bone.”

His eyebrows popped up, and then he glanced down his own leg, tugging up the cuff of his jeans to surreptitiously check if she was correct. 

“Other side of your leg.  And you like those diamond print socks they sell at Henrik’s.  And you take your coffee with just milk.  You do your shaving with this old-fashioned razor blade with a pearl handle,” she said, warming up to the subject.  “And you are completely bananas for bananas, though I s’pose about a million people know that one.  Ooh, and though you’d never admit it, watching EastEnders is a secret guilty pleasure.” 

“I don’t watch EastEnders,” he objected, sounding slightly insulted, though his ears had turned a bit pink.

“No?”  Rose tapped a finger to her lips.  “Maybe you just liked watching it with me then.  On the tan couch.  In the media room.”

The Doctor tried and failed to look disdainful.  Rose could tell she was starting to get through to him.

“You’re sort of fond of those weird, futuristic reality shows, too.  And you’ve got a fancy remote—the silver one with the big, red, threatening button on it,” she added with a grin, even though he wouldn’t get the joke.  “And you’re completely mad for Charles Dickens; you love…what was it?”  She tapped her fingers against her leg thoughtfully.  “The Signal-Man, right?  Best short story ever?”

“Alright, you’ve made your point,” he said in a softer voice.  He looked her over again, appraisingly.  “So we meet in the future…  A new companion.”  He smiled a little.  “Something to look forward to, I s’pose.”  His eyes warmed a little, and Rose felt her face blush in response.

He held his arms open.  “How about a hug, then?  For the sake of what’s yet to come?”

The offer took her by surprise, given how dismissive he’d be just moments before, but still, Rose couldn’t resist.  Even though she knew that the new, new version of him was the same man, she still wished she could have said goodbye to her first Doctor properly.  And besides, she remembered his mercurial moods in this body.  With a bright smile, she stepped forward into his arms, and wrapped her own around his waist. 

His strong arms slid around her, and Rose let out a shuddering sigh against the black leather, wishing for all the world that she could stay right there.  Here, everything was safe.  Everything was simple.

“It’s gonna be fantastic—” she started to say when suddenly there was a loud whirring right behind her ear.  “What…” she muttered, pulling back in surprise, and as she did so, she felt her shoulder pack break loose.  The Doctor stepped back at the same moment, her pack in his hand, the strap cut by the sonic screwdriver.

He had a look of smug triumph on his face.  “There now, that’s better.  Now let’s have a look at what you’ve got in here.”

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Rose needs to smack Nine, Just sayin'.

This chapter was great. But Nine is being an arse, though if he hasn't met Rose that makes sense.

Yeah, it's tricky, because I want to write Nine the way I would normally write Nine -- quietly besotted. But he definitely wasn't that way in the first episode (or at least early in that episode...). And DimensionCannon!Rose is a lot more suspicious in his book than 19-year-old ShopGirl!Rose.

You did it so well! He's definitely not his normal adoring-Rose self. Mind you, can't entirely blame him for being suspicious..

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