Fic Tennis, Twelfth Match
Because we wanted to, Allison (gallifreyburning) and I are doing a fic tennis match that isn’t Gallifrey Records themed. We’re returning to our TenToo and Rose fic tennis roots. If you’d not like to see these roots, you should go ahead and savior “fic tennis.”
It’s my serve, so:
The minute they hit Bergen and Rose’s mobile locks onto a satellite signal, her screen lights up with missed messages. Messages that, apparently, didn’t make the dimension jump to another universe with her.
The little flashing notifications make Rose’s stomach churn, because she can begin to guess whose voices are on the other end of those voicemails, and she doesn’t have the stamina to listen to them anytime soon.
The Doctor leans over as they walk into the dirigiport, heading for the flight home to London. “Got tired of universal roaming?” he says. “A bit of shiny Torchwood tech?”
She flicks the button to dim the screen and crams the newer mobile in her pocket. “I’ve still got my old one,” she says, pulling it out instead. The battered, scratched screen lights up when she flips it open. “See? But the new one, it’s because I needed a local number.”
“Ooh, but they don’t make them like this anymore,” the Doctor says, plucking the old mobile from her hand and inspecting it. “Like tanks, these older models. Those new flashy ones” – he gestures toward her pocket – “bit of a bump, and they’re deader than a doornail. Nearly universally true: earlier models are sturdier than newer ones. VanVeldenberg’s Principle, it’s called. Take my TARDIS, Type 40. Anything after the Type 57 was pure rubbish. Type 103 had a lot of flash and dazzle, but the slightest miscalibration in her temporal buffers and she’d break down for weeks. Welllll, when I say break down, I mean she’d just refuse to fly – 103s were notorious for being touchy, a bit emotionally sensitive, y’see. Nope, you just don’t get much better than a good old Type 40 for reliable time travel.”
Rose stares up at him, her mouth hanging open a little. Because he sounds like the other Doctor – so much, it makes her stomach start churning again.
And it’s obvious that, for a moment, he’s not thinking about the fact that the TARDIS is off in another universe with the proper Time Lord; he’s talking as though he and Rose are going to round the corner and hop right inside those blue doors and head off to visit Genghis Khan (if this universe even had a Genghis Kahn, Rose isn’t sure, because she’s spent the last few years studying theoretical physics and transdimensional travel instead of history).
The Doctor stares down at her, his eyes widening as he seems to come to the same realization she just did, before he gives her back the old phone. Shoves his hands into his pockets and swallows, rocking back on his heels a little.
“Pete’s booked us a commercial flight home; sending the private zeppelin would take too long,” Jackie says from behind them, her own mobile pressed to her ear. “Tickets are waiting at the check-in counter.”
It turns out Pete bought up every seat on the commercial flight and made a call to the Norwegian Transportation Minister, and they hardly have a chance to buckle in on the otherwise empty zeppelin before they’re airborne.
As the propellers whir to life, the Doctor plops down into one of a group of four seats facing each other, and Jackie sits across the aisle, flagging down the flight attendant for a drink. Rose hovers indecisively in the aisle before sitting cattycorner to the Doctor, in the same group of four seats. His gaze flickers to the empty seat beside him and his brows draw together before he turns to stare out the window.
Rose pulls out her newer mobile and, keeping the screen tucked close to her own chest, thumbs through the call notifications. A dozen from her mum and Mickey (apparently from before they’d stormed the Dimension Cannon and come looking for her, what feels like a lifetime ago), a few from Pete, one from her lab manager at Torchwood, one from a credit card company (she’d forgotten to pay her bills before that last jump, and it’s remarkable, even during a world-ending catastrophe, the collections department is still functioning).
In the midst of all the others are two messages from a number she knows by heart, even if she’s never worked up the nerve to program his name into her phone.
She shuts the mobile off and closes her eyes the rest of the way back to London.
The zeppelin is just beginning its descent when Rose finally opens her eyes, and the Doctor watches as she focuses her gaze on his trainers. He’d stretched his legs out and propped his feet on the seat next to her, trying to get comfortable in the cramped space.
There’s a small pile of sand that had shaken off his soles and Rose moves her fingers toward it, pulling away at the last second.
Instead she follows the line of his legs with her eyes, tracking up his body in a way that makes him feel like she’s looking for something. If he knew what it was, he’d do his best to show it to her, but he doesn’t and has to settle for moving his feet back to the floor and plastering on a grin.
“Sleep well?” He says when she finally reaches his face.
There’s something tense and unknown between them, several somethings in fact, and he can tell from the way Jackie is watching them out of the corner of her eye that she feels it, too.
“Slept fine, seems I was a bit more knackered than I thought,” she says. “Haven’t been getting enough rest apparently.”
He starts to reply, trying to decide if it’s his place to softly chide her or if he should make a joke about he’ll need much more sleep now, too, when Jackie jumps in.
“I told you, Rose, you can’t be running yourself exhausted, it’s not healthy,” she says, pausing to turn to the Doctor as Rose sighs.
“We could barely get her to eat those last few days,” Jackie says. “She was on the move so much. I told her, Mickey told her — Pete told her, and she just wouldn’t listen.”
The way Jackie hesitated before Pete’s name makes the Doctor wonder what’s being kept from him. It’s like she was going to say someone else, but thought better of it. He’s hardly in a place to push it though, and lets his opening slip by.
Rose sighs again and the Doctor thinks briefly of the Phreazians, and their entire language based on expelling their breath in different ways. He’ll never visit the Phreazians again, never be nearly arrested for daring to whistle in the palace again.
Maybe it’s just not hit him fully yet, but it doesn’t seem so bad. Or, well, it wouldn’t, except that Rose is keeping herself so guarded now, it seems unlikely that’s he going to get nice and breathy with her anytime soon either.
“That’s over now,” Rose says. “I can have lie-ins for the rest of my life, if I’d like.”
Her tone isn’t unkind, but the way she uses “I” instead of “we” — well, it’s not something he’s chuffed over, to say the least.
Jackie nods, brow furrowed like she wants to say more, but she turns more fully back into her own seat just as the zeppelin touches down.
It’s quick work to get them de-boarded and into the terminal and the Doctor wonders if everything in the Tyler family is so efficient now.
Rose guides them out to the passenger pick up, barely stopping to look at him, or at anything, really, and he has to trot after her to catch up a few times, distracted as he is by the shops and the people and the overhead announcements.
There’s so much information, so much happening, it’s all so fast, with Rose leading the charge, and he thinks briefly that life on the slow path is moving awfully quick.
The voice snaps the Doctor’s attention into focus, right to Pete Tyler, waiting beside a limo with a little blond boy, about four years old.
“Mum!” the boy shouts, breaking into a run toward them, nearly tackling Jackie to the ground when he leaps into her arms. She squeals happily and swings him up off the ground, murmuring in his ear. Pete’s only a few steps behind, sweeping them both into a hug, tears in his eyes.
Rose and the Doctor stand a few feet away, more than a little distance between the two of them. Shuffling feet, staring at the ground. Rose’s arms are crossed, and the Doctor decides it might be – yes definitely would be – awkward if he reached across her chest and pried out one of her hands to hold.
Finally Jackie puts the boy down and it’s Rose’s turn for a hug. She falls to her knees and holds him tight. Afterward the boy turns to examine the Doctor, little brown eyes squinting up at him.
“Da says you’re the Doctor,” he says.
The Doctor crouches down to get at eye-level. “And you must be the infamous Tony Tyler. Your mum’s told me loads about you.” Which is very true; while Rose slept during the hours on the zeppelin, Jackie talked the entire time, almost every word of it about Tony. Which was fine enough – the Doctor likes kids – but between Jackie’s two children, Tony wasn’t the one the Doctor wanted to hear an hours-long update on.
Pete’s just letting go of Rose as he interrupts: “Listen, I tried to keep this all quiet, but the stars are back in place and the world knows something’s happened, and Torchwood’s in damage control mode, but there’s only so long we can stop word of your coming home from leaking out. So let’s take all this into the car, all right?”
They pile into the limo, and Rose steps aside, lets the Doctor slip in first. He settles into his seat and realizes she’s done it again, sitting on the opposite side of the car just like she did in the zeppelin.
Which is fine, really. This is all very new for everyone, he knew time ran at a different speed in this universe, but Rose has been away from him for four years, which is more than he’d expected. And his chest feels rather lopsided. And it isn’t as if he expected her to hop right into his arms and stay there.
Well, there was certainly a bit of hopping on the beach, a bit of lapel pulling and a bit of tongue and it was a definite yes, he’d thought, in terms of his offer. About the one life and everything.
He’s fairly certain. About that yes.
As the limo pulls away from the dirigiport, Tony chattering away next to the Doctor, he watches from the corner of his eye as Rose pulls out her new cell phone, which is quietly buzzing. She pushes a button, the buzzing stops, and the phone goes back into her pocket.
The first stop is an apartment building in central London, not far from Canary Wharf. The car pulls up to the curb, the driver opens the door, and in the midst of a suddenly awkward silence, Rose steps out of the limo.
Is he supposed to follow her? If he were supposed to follow her, she’d at least have looked at him, right? Nodded her head at the door, something, anything?
He can’t see her face anymore, she’s standing too close to the car and he’s hampered by the doorframe. All he has to go on is the way she’s standing — bouncing on her feet while her fingers fiddle with the zip on her jacket.
It certainly looks like she’s waiting for him, but maybe he’s being presumptuous. And he’s already gotten himself into enough trouble presuming things today.
Presuming that kiss had meant something.
Presuming she was going to want to be just as close to him as he wants to be to her.
Presuming he had any idea what he was in for, holding Rose’s hand as the TARDIS disappeared.
Tony Tyler’s voice breaks through his list of presumptions, “Are you coming to our house?”
Rose hears her little brother’s voice and smiles in spite of herself. At least someone in that car hadn’t noticed the tension, then.
She ducks her head down to be able see Tony properly, “No, he’s going to come to my flat for a bit. But maybe we’ll stop by tomorrow, how would that be?”
There’s a split second for her to think that maybe the Doctor doesn’t want to come to her flat, but then he’s shifting from the seat and climbing not altogether gracefully from the car to stand next to her.
“Okay,” Tony nods, and leans back in his seat, eyes forward, like the matter is settled and they can begin moving any time now.
Her mum gives her a tight-lipped smile and she returns it before shutting the car door.
The Doctor shifts beside her as the driver maneuvers the limo back into traffic.
She thinks about this new pattern in her life, where she stands beside this version of the Doctor while people she loves leave her, and she tries to latch onto that, tries to make the emotions tumbling through her about being left, instead of who she’s been left with.
It doesn’t take. He’s something she never fathomed, never in a million years, never in a million universes, and although something in her heart is already in love with him, something in her head doesn’t quite know how that fits into her life here.
The two were never meant to meet.
It’s not doing any good to stand on the street and think about it though, so she turns for the door of her building.
“This is me,” she says and motions for him to follow.
There are signs, potted plants, tile and bricks, things for them to look at as they make their way to the lift and up to her floor, and they both give them all a thorough scrutinizing. There’s a sign for a tenants’ association meeting next Tuesday and Rose shakes her head, she hadn’t even known they had a tenants’ association.
Tim probably knew.
Tim who is good at noticing things, like paper signs and how the person he’s sleeping with still fancies a time-traveling alien she hasn’t seen in years.
Tim who she’s got six messages from.
Tim who could be sitting in her flat, for all she knew.
She keys into the door holding her breath. That doesn’t sound like Tim at all, but stranger things have happened. Like the Doctor becoming two people and her getting one to take home to Pete’s World.
Tim is nowhere to be seen when she gets the door open and Rose tries not to let her relief show, but the Doctor catches it anyway.
“Everything all right?” He says, and she almost laughs because she can’t possibly know the answer to that. On one hand, everything seems right, on the other, nothing does.
“Yeah, yeah,” she bluffs. “Thought I left the curling iron on, just glad not to be walking into a flat flambé.”
The Doctor smiles, “I hear that pairs best with red wine.”
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