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18 October 2008 @ 09:25 am
Episode Four: Morning Routine  
Episode Four: Morning Routine
Disclaimer: Set after season four in the parallel universe. These characters do not belong to me.
Author's Note: Thanks to ataratah for beta.

The alarm goes off, and the Doctor, not quite asleep, elbows Rose. "I believe that's for you," he says, but it's a whisper, because he doesn't really want her to get up, even though it's what is supposed to happen. In the Tardis he might have let her sleep for hours, or, well, he could have, when he was in charge of the day, of their time, bringing them wildly anywhere, no mornings, no evenings, no alarm clocks. But there are other forces now that determine the way this world is supposed to work, other people who determine the way the day should progress, and so the Doctor elbows Rose again, because the alarm clock is still ringing.

"Do we have to get out of bed today?" Rose asks, her eyes still closed, her voice sleepy, her foot rubbing against the Doctor's calf.

"Well, no," he says, "we don't have to do anything now, do we?" And it's a joke for her because she still believes she does have to do certain things, because they are here and that's what everyone else does. But he still doesn't believe it, doesn't believe that they can be governed by such forces, not himself, not the two of them. There's only a certain point to which he feels like he needs to follow other people's rules, and most of the time here, he's doing it for Rose, because, to a certain point, they are her rules and he'll only make life harder for her if he starts messing with them just because he can. He thinks it will be fine, that they might do this for a while - get up when the alarm rings, take the car on the motorway to Torchwood, finish building something or taking something else apart and then go home, and do it all over again the next day, but he can't imagine that schedule, that relentless repetition, holding them if they didn't want it to. He couldn't imagine trapping Rose if that wasn't what she really wanted, if that world wasn't a comfort for her. He'd find a way to free her from it, the very second before it became too much, and so he's always watching, listening for the change in her voice where she really means to stay in bed this morning, when she really means she can't do this again. He thinks he can do it as long as she needs, though he doesn't follow that thought for too long, just in case.

"Why do we have an alarm then?" Rose asks.

"Because you have a morning routine that you are very attached to," he says, and she pulls the blanket up to cover half her face. The alarm goes off again.

"Shhhh," she says, apparently both to him and to the alarm.

"We could go to France," he says, when Rose blindly reaches for the alarm and turns it off. He could have done that for her, too turned it off and let her sleep and she never would have known.

Rose turns over and opens her eyes. "I thought you said you were going to work on fixing the binomial bio-whoever. That's what you said when we left. 'Rose, tomorrow, I'm going to fix the binomial thingy." She says, her voice still thick and uneven with sleep.

"That was a whole other day. Today I'm much more interested in France."

"Fine," she says, "You get up first and get ready for France. I'll be here," she says, her eyes already closing again.

And he thinks, why not? France or Argentina or the mysterious fossils that are rumored to be just a town over and way too young to actually be fossils. This is a new world whose secrets he doesn't know, and this is a new him and maybe, just maybe this new him has a morning routine. It's time he found out.

The Doctor swings his legs over the side of the bed and presses his feet into the carpet. It seems a very morning thing to do, to wake his feet up, to feel the ground beneath him. He stretches and yawns, and goes into the bathroom and starts the shower. He peeks his head out at Rose, who is still asleep, or feigning sleep, and then he closes the door, inhales the steam, and steps into the shower, face directly into the stream of water.

As he's covering himself with soap - so many choices that Rose has bought - and scrubbing his scalp with shampoo - there's an order, he's sure there is, he's sure Rose has an order of which one she does first and all these reasons why she chooses the purple bottle, the large green bar of soap instead of the small blue one, but for now he's trying it all at once, his whole body covered in suds and he thinks, really, France, it'd be as simple as hopping Torchwood bases. He thinks maybe he should start earlier, maybe a routine is the small things more than anything, so he should be thinking how they'll get to Torchwood to get to France. He could even mess with the teleport basecode on a few of the smaller devices lying unknown and untouched and take them directly to France, no Torchwood necessary. Though it's not like they'll go to France every day. Surely they'll go somewhere every day, though, so maybe he and Rose need a car.

"Rose, we need a car!" he shouts, stepping out of the shower, still dripping, suds sliding down from his hair to his eyes, leaning out of the bathroom door.

"Good thing there's a garage downstairs," she says sleepily, then flops over. "Are we driving to France? You're driving then, I hate the autoroute." But she's giggling when she looks up at him. "You're still covered in soap."

"That I am," he says, pushing back his hair and then wiping the suds on his chest. "Part of my morning routine. I rush out in the middle of my shower to discuss plans for the autoroute with you." He gives her a grin and hops back into the shower, saying. "I'll shave next, that's a morning routine thing. So very routiney."

"Wake me when you're done, then," Rose says.

"No, actually, I won't because I think part of my routine involves you coming in to start your shower before I'm done shaving because you say I'm too meticulous and I'm taking too long."

"I would never say that," Rose says. "And anyway, my new morning routine is to stay in bed as long as possible while you have your morning routine."

The sounds of Rose's voice tickles something at the back of his neck, something at the base of his spine, and he thinks maybe his new routine may involve getting back into bed after he shaves, or maybe before. He decides to wait to see if there's a good stopping point in the middle of shaving, maybe when he's done one side of his face, or just under his nose, or if Rose says something. Before he puts his clothes on, though getting dressed only to get undressed has a certain appeal to it. So many decisions, so many choices, only followed by more choices. He thinks he'll ask Rose how she decides every morning, how she chooses one thing over another, how she decides what she wants most. Perhaps that's the point of a routine, after all, taking away all the choices so there's just one option, no chance to forget something important, no chance to give in to the wrong decision. It makes him sad, suddenly, and he's not sure if he's sad for himself, sad for Rose, sad for this world where strangeness and wrongness creeps in the shadows. It's not the way he wants this routine to go, following that feeling, and so he focuses back on his shaving, mastering his thoughts. This routine, this morning, is meant to be fun, he is meant to play, this morning, at least, as though his routine was routine.

When he finishes shaving, he adjusts the towel around his waist, and walks over to the closet to chose clothes. Such a human routine, to have so many different clothes to choose from. He remembers Rose's face when he asked her why he couldn't just wear one thing all the time. Like he used to, though this him never used to, this him never used to anything. And it wasn't like he didn't know the answer, wasn't like he didn't know what the rules of humans were, how he was supposed to blend in. Rose had hidden her reaction behind a laugh, telling how silly he was, of course he couldn't just wear one outfit, he'd seen loss. He'd done that to her. That was loss that he'd inflicted. But he had seen her expression when he asked, the fraction of a second when there was tension in her forehead, and her smile turned weak - she had somehow gotten much better at shuttering her emotions, and he wondered when it happened, while she was hidden away in this world, or whether it was something she picked up from him when they were together. Was he the one who had taught her that the thing that mattered most was to not give anything away?

Rose makes a point of shuffling in the bed, kicking her feet and turning her head on her pillow and he knows she's awake now, she's only playing still being asleep. "So, France," he says, and she giggles.

"You're not going to France naked," she laughs, popping her head up from under the covers. Her hair falls around her face, messy, gorgeous, distracting. He isn't used to being distracted. Isn't used to looking at Rose this way. Well, he's always looked at Rose this way, always needed her, but now it's ....it's different. There are so many thoughts that are harder not to think now, and he's always thinking, always thinking so many things at once and humans are supposed to - not. He's distracted more because he feels things, so many human things, and he thinks them so much faster than a human is supposed to, but he doesn't have the same restraint - or this him doesn't want to have the same restraint.

"Isn't that a nursery rhyme? I see London, I see France?" he says, trying to stop

"I don't see any underpants, no, not yet."

"Who says I have to wear them? Maybe on Wednesdays, I go pants-less."

He rifles through the drawer, and then waves a handful of pants at her. "There, happy now?" Rose giggles again and so he puts one on, and then a pair of jeans. So many choices - entire malls filled with hundreds of pairs of trousers, each of them appropriate for one thing and not for another. So much attention he had to pay to his body. So much attention everyone else paid to it.

"Which shirt?" he asks, taking two random ones from the closet and swinging around to show them to Rose. She laughs, and she's not sure what it is about the choices, but he knows from her reaction he's chosen something ridiculous.

"The left one," she says. "Definitely the left one."

He takes the left one off the hanger - a white and blue striped oxford shirt, the material new and crisp under his fingers. When he looks at the shirt in his right hand, he sees that it's fuschia with a low neckline and long, flowy sleeves. It's Rose's. Well, she had reason to giggle then, he'd probably look ridiculous in that.

He buttons up his shirt, looks in the mirror - so many mirrors – and he thinks, maybe he should change his hair. Maybe Rose would like it better if – but he stops, because that’s another alarmingly human tendency that maybe isn’t so new - he always wanted to please Rose.

Breakfast is made by a cook, which is good, because the Doctor thinks he’s probably not as good at noticing when he’s hungry and remembering when to eat as he’s supposed to be. The cook makes delicious eggs and strong coffee and fresh toast, and the Doctor decides he’s going to have a breakfast routine, too.

“Tell the cook I’d like eggs over easy every morning from now on,” he says to Jackie, who’s adding spoonful after spoonful of sugar to her coffee.

“Tell him yourself,” Jackie says, and takes a hesitant sip of her coffee, adds several more spoonfuls of sugar, and then rushes out of the dining room.

“Eggs over easy,” he says, opening the door into the kitchen and leaning in. “That’s my usual,” he declares and then sits down.

The eggs are perfectly over easy, as good as he’s had since the Egg Planet of Gnegg. He shouts this to the cook, but gets no response.

“So was it shaped like an egg?” Rose asks, sitting down across from him. Her hair is wet and her skin is still pink from her shower. “The Egg Planet?”

“No, but their six moons sometimes looked like the floor after you dropped half a dozen.”

Rose gives him a look, the one he thinks most often means that she doesn’t believe him, but it could also be the one that means she thinks he’s exaggerating. He’s overwhelmed with the urge to take her to Gnegg, to show her perfect eggs and perfect broken egg moons. He thinks of eighteen ways to get them there all at once – or at least eighteen ways of getting to the Gnegg in this reality. He’s suddenly concerned the eggs won’t be nearly as good.

“What’s the matter?” Rose asks, and he quickly takes a bite of his eggs so he doesn’t have to tell her nothing is wrong, which he knows is the only thing she wants to hear. It’s the only thing he wants to tell her – at least, most of the time. It’s only some of the time he wants to tell her everything, everything in his head, no matter how terrifying and overwhelming and incomprehensible it might be for her.

“Come on, we’re going to be late,” Rose says, taking a piece of freshly buttered toast from the plate the cook has just brought out, and putting on her jacket.

He wants to tell her there is no being late, not really. There is no need for them to be anywhere. She should have eggs. She should have her toast sitting down.

“Mum said we could take the hybrid next week,” Rose says with delight. The half-car, half-dirigible prototype that Jackie has convinced Pete to buy for her is ridiculous-looking, but fast. Today they’re taking Rose’s car, which, unlike the hybrid, gets caught in traffic, and means Rose will eat her breakfast driving.

“I’ll drive,” she says happily. The, 'You drove for quite long enough' remains unspoken, just like every morning, a routine he didn’t realize had already existed.

As Rose pulls out of the garage and turns the corner out of the Tyler mansion’s driveway, the Doctor is momentarily blinded by the sun. He closes his eyes and reaches to pull down the visor and gets only a handful of pillow.

When he opens his eyes again, he’s back in bed. Rose’s alarm is going off.

A dream, he thinks. A very vivid and very ordinary dream about getting up in the morning.

"Do we have to get out of bed today?" Rose asks, her eyes still closed, her voice sleepy.

"Well, no," he says, "we don't have to do anything now, do we?" He reaches over Rose and hits the button on her alarm.

"Why do we have an alarm then?" Rose asks.

"Because you have a morning routine that you are very attached to," he says, and she pulls the blanket up to cover half her face. The alarm goes off again.

"Shhhh," she says, apparently to both him and to the alarm.

It’s unsettlingly just like the dream, and he’s not psychic – not as far as he knows – but it’s just normal enough of a conversation that it could just feel like what happened, the memory that’s slowly slipping away in the daytime, in the relaxing steam of the shower.

“Did you say something about us going to France today?” Rose says, and that’s when he knows something’s gone very strange and very wrong. He should have known better. He should have never believed it was a dream.

“Rose,” he says, shutting off the water and hastily wrapping a towel around his waist. “Didn't we just do this?”

Rose is half-covered by the quilt, like exhaustion has tipped her back onto the bed against her will. “Well, you took a shower yesterday, yeah."

“But this morning, this morning, we just did this.” He looks down and he’s dripping on the carpet.

“You’re bored, aren’t you?” Rose says, sitting up. “Of course you are. You, living in a house,” she says, and then scrubs at her eyes. “Let me take a shower and we’ll talk about going somewhere. Somewhere strange and adventurous. Maybe France isn’t such a bad idea after all.” And she’s shutting the door of the bathroom behind her.

He dresses and goes down for breakfast. Without asking, the cook brings him eggs over easy, and he tries to ask if anyone remembers him ordering them earlier today, or yesterday, or anytime recently, but he’s bowled over by Jackie, who’s filling her cup with coffee. She is wearing the same outfit she was wearing before. Something is definitely wrong - there's no way Jackie would be wearing the same outfit two mornings in a row.

“Jackie, Jackie, didn’t we just do this?”

“Do what?” Jackie asks. “I haven’t had my coffee yet, I know that for sure,” she says, and then starts adding sugar. The Doctor counts – twelve teaspoons.

And then Rose is grabbing a piece of toast and pointing at his plate of half-eaten eggs and saying, “Aren’t those the best?”

He tries again to explain to her that they’ve just done this, he’s just had the eggs, she’s just had toast, and it’s not normal to do the morning twice in a row.

“I’m not even hungry,” he says.

“You never know when you’re hungry,” Rose says, and he follows her into the garage.

As they pull out of the driveway, the Doctor says, “Watch, watch, this is where it happened.” He closes his eyes in the blinding sun.

And opens them back in bed.

“This is where what happened?” Rose says sleepily. She reaches over and turns off her alarm. “"Do we have to get out of bed today?" Rose asks.

The thing about being stuck in time loops is that there’s always a way out. Sometimes it’s deliberately not doing what you’re supposed to do. Sometimes it’s following the time loop enough times until you do something you’re supposed to have done all along. It’s only a matter of repetitions until the Doctor figures out which one this is.

In the meantime, he’s getting quite sick of eggs.

"Rose, something is really wrong," he says, still thinking the key might be in convincing Rose to notice they’re stuck in an endless loop of mornings. She just frowns. "We're doing the same things over and over again."

"That's just how things are," Rose says, and she sounds sad and a little frustrated. "You'll get used to it,” she says, trying for more cheery. “I did." She takes a bite of her toast. “Maybe I should have eggs tomorrow, they look delicious.”

He tries systematically making different choices. Getting out of the bed on Rose's side, which means climbing over her and accidentally kneeing her in the thigh, which makes her smack his arm, which means he tangles his ankles in the sheets and falls over onto the floor. Rose laughs and laughs. He only does that once.

He tries the different soaps and shampoos in the shower like they're puzzle and have to be used in the correct combination. He tries not taking a shower, not shaving. He tries getting back into bed in the middle of his shower, and after, while he's still soaking wet. All that happens is Rose pushes him back out and tells him to get dressed.

The seventh time, he wears jeans and Pete’s leather jacket.

The eleventh time, he wears one of Rose’s pink t-shirts.

The twenty-seventh time, he wears Jackie’s pajamas.

He asks for eggs Benedict. Eggs Florentine. Eggs with pineapple and Hobbinguernian yak bacon.

He insists they take the red Jaguar. The golf cart. He hails a zeppelin. He steals the neighbor’s minivan.

Rose never does more than roll her eyes. Nothing changes. Every time he tries to explain to Rose what’s happening, she thinks he’s just adjusting to the new world. And every time, before they make it to Torchwood, he’s back in bed, the alarm going off.

At the seventy-forth morning, he sits upright, shouts, “Here we are, Rose: shower, eggs, breakfast, work, back to bed again. I’ve decided to embrace the repetition. Maybe accepting the routine is the key.”

There’s no protest, no sleepy giggle. Rose isn’t in bed. He checks the bathroom, but there’s no sound of the shower. She’s not in there. He shouts down the stairs. “Rose? Rose?”

He searches the entire mansion, Jackie downstairs eating her breakfast, Pete on the way out the door, the cook, offering him eggs over-easy. He runs back to the bedroom. The alarm is still going off, loud electronic beeps.

Rose is gone.

*To Be Continued next wek*