Log in

20 September 2008 @ 09:55 pm
Episode One: Extremities  
Episode One: Extremities - This is the first story in our Doctor Who virtual season.
Disclaimer: Set after season four in the parallel universe. These characters do not belong to me.
Author's Note: Thanks to ataratah for beta, and bluestalking for last-minute magic narrative structure rescue. And thanks to my fellow writers who are making this crazy project work. Stay tuned for a preview of next week, coming soon!

Rose looks up at the Doctor, his eager expression filling her with familiar thrills. She had been having a hard time coming to terms with who this new Doctor was. He’d told her - both hims had told her - but it wasn’t something she could just accept and then move on. She had to think it over, really sit with the situation to understand it. He couldn't be the same Doctor.

Or what’s what she had thought. That is, until she was looking up into the Doctor's face while hanging off the edge of a rope ladder of a zeppelin flying over Norway. Right now, she's actually pretty sure he's the same Doctor after all.

"Honestly, Norway! Your father is days away by the truck, we'll have to get a room," Jackie had said. Rose watched Jackie consult her phone for the fifth time, as though by sheer force of will she would get Pete there faster. "I don't even remember any of the Norwegian I learned last time."

"You didn't learn any last time," Rose shouted, not even sure if her mother could hear her over the wind. "We were only here for a few days."

"He couldn't," Jackie turned and said, pointing a finger at the Doctor, "*you* couldn't have found a temporal rift a bit closer to home?"

"I'm sorry, this is just where the temporal rift is," the Doctor said, though he almost sounded hesitant.

Rose knew she was staring at him. She was looking for him for so long, and now he's right there, standing right next to her. But he's also brand new, and if she closes her eyes for just a second, she can still feel his lips on hers. Rose couldn’t help but expect to see him fading away, like he did last time, a mere projection. She couldn’t help but wait for the moment when he said her name, his voice tight with sorrow, the moment before he disappeared. The Doctor must have seen something in her expression, because he stepped forward, and reached for her hand. She had wanted this so badly for so long, it couldn’t possibly be real, and it couldn’t last.

"Well," he said, no longer hesitant, but the whirlwind of confidence, "It's a bit like opening a door and not being sure whether it'll be to your house or the pantry closet of the Ministry of Finance."

"Nothing much has changed then," Jackie said. "Still don't have a clue what he's talking about."

Rose shook her head and silently mouthed for him not to answer.

"It's fine," she said. "It's supposed to happen like this. Bad Wolf Bay and all. Mum, gimme your phone."

Rose didn’t look up again at the Doctor, and focused intently on dialing the phone, because the thought of what Bad Wolf Bay had meant to her was too much. The worst day of her life, she'd told him, and she wasn't sure what this was. The most confusing day of her life? She wondered if Norway simply dealt in extremes.

"This is Rose Tyler at location 12," she said when the tone sounded on the Torchwood answerphone. "Calling for retrieval. Three persons." And she hung up. "They'll be here in about twenty minutes. There's a base in Finland," she said and quickly handed Jackie her phone back. Rose had done this more times than she'd ever told her Mum, called for retrieval from the most outrageous places, discovered where all the Torchwood bases were hidden, everywhere, around the world. The dimensional cannon didn't always set her down in the right place when she was coming back. It was like the coordinates were always shifting. Once, she'd even ended up in Melbourne and it had taken Torchwood a week to get to her, and she'd told Jackie she'd been at a conference.

"So they're sending a car?" Jackie asked hopefully, seeming not to have noticed Rose’s over-familiarity with the retrieval process.

"A zeppelin," Rose answered, "It'll fly us back to London."

"You can just call for a lift?" The Doctor said, staring open-mouthed at Rose, and she could tell there were a hundred questions he was holding back. "That's....impressive."

"My daughter's important," Jackie said.

"She is,” the Doctor replied. Rose ducked her head, and stared at her shoes.

The thing was, there was still nineteen minutes of walking along the cold beach, of listening to her Mum go on about how she didn't have a clue how to tell the whole story to Pete, how no one was going to know that her daughter helped save the universe - again. Nineteen long minutes of trying not to think of what it meant to have the Tardis echo in her ear, to look up and see it gone the same way the Doctor disappeared last time. The difference this time was that he'd left a part of himself with her - a real, tangible, mirror-image of him. He's given her himself, like a gift, but this wasn’t the same Doctor - well, it was the same Doctor, who was also new.

“You are,” the Doctor said, once they’d pulled back from Jackie. Rose met his eyes and they smiled at each other and she thought maybe this wouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

She did not think it was really fair that part of figuring it out meant being thrown over the side of a zeppelin.

"Rose?" The Doctor shouts. "Are you all right?” It sounds more like, “What did you go and do that for?”

“Hang on, hang on, don’t fall into the ocean, it’s freezing,” he says and then he disappears from Rose’s sight again.

“I remember,” she shouts, though she’s not sure he can even hear her.

"We have time to go swimming before it's here," The Doctor had said, as he looked up at the horizon. Rose heard the roar of the zeppelin before she saw it, the whoosh of hot air, the swish as it cut across the sky. They were still beautiful to her - and still strange. She could remember a London that didn't have a sky filled with zeppelins. "You want to?" He asked as he jogged toward the water, slipping off his shoes as he went. "At least put our feet in? We're in Norway!"

"No thanks," Rose called out, because he was far enough away that the wind carried her words. "It's a bit cold."

"Ooh!" he said, his shoes in his hands, when the first wave crashed up onto the shore and over his feet. "Yeah, cold. Cold it is, very, very cold. Ooooh!" he said when a second wave crashed. "But your feet go numb rather quickly!"

And Rose found that she couldn’t actually resist. She slipped off her own shoes, rolled up the cuffs of her jeans, and ran toward the Doctor, into the water.

"Mad, you both are," Jackie shouted, as the zeppelin lowered itself closer to the ground and the crew descended on rope ladders. Rose splashed into the water, and it was unbelievably cold, but she ran fast, crashing through the water, toward the Doctor, who was smiling hugely, directly at her, like there was no one in the world. She started to shiver, but all she really felt was the euphoria as wave after wave crashed against her feet and the Doctor took her hand.
They climbed up into the zeppelin barefoot, the cuffs of Rose's jeans wet and cold, though the Doctor remained mysteriously dry. They handed up their shoes first, so their hands were free to climb, the Doctor shouting to a frightened-looking loading technician not to lose his shoes because they're the only ones he had. Rose had the ridiculous notion of having to go shopping with the Doctor and she almost giggled but the second thought, the one that came immediately on the tail of the first, was that everyone on this zeppelin, everyone at Torchwood, everyone in this world though this is the Doctor. She was going to have to explain to everyone that he isn't - or he is. She was going to have to figure it out herself first.

"Come on, let’s get you a towel, you're all soaked," the Doctor said, helping Rose up the ladder. "You'd think you'd gone and played in the ocean or something. You know it’s Norway, the water's remarkably cold. I'm the Doctor, by the way," he said to three techs who had gathered. "Nice to meet you. Oh, is that a linen closet? Is there a towel in there?" The Doctor peered over their shoulders, caught the door as it opened and it closed with a click behind him.

A few seconds later, Rose heard him pounding on the door.

"Doctor?" she said. “Is there something other than towels in there? What are you still doing in there?"

"I'm locked in," he said, and felt chided, like she shouldn't have asked the question. She could hear him jiggling the handle.

"Press your hand to the console," Rose shouted back, because there was no need for him to get testy.

"Who'd need to be locked into a closet? Who needs a linen closet on a zeppelin?"

"Hand to the - "

"I've tried that, it didn't work," he said, sounding completely irritated.

Rose tried the door, pressing her own hand to the console reader. Nothing happened. She shouted for Jake. " He’s on board isn’t he? Jake! It's locked the Doctor."

"Probably confused about what he is," Jake said, and Rose had to resist the urge to hug him, because he was the first familiar face from this world and she surprised herself at how happy she was to see him. “Not really an alien species we’ve had much experience with.”

Rose suddenly understood. "It only works on humans. Our security system." She shouted the second part to the Doctor.

There was a pause and he said, as though just coming up with the idea, "I'm part human!"

"Well, it only partly works, then!" Rose shouted back, and finally Jake managed to get the door open. The Doctor came rushing out. "You must have confused it."

"Well, I am confusing, aren't I?" he said and winked. Rose quickly looked away. "Jake! Jake! Hello, how've you been? Who created the security system?"

"HC Clements," Jake said, though his face had become suddenly shuttered. “Where’s Mickey?”

Rose froze.

“Oh, he’s fine,” the Doctor said casually. “Onto other adventures!”

Rose swallowed hard and said, “He’s fine. Really. He is.”

"We've had a bit of a problem while you were gone," Jake said abruptly, ignoring the Doctor as much as he could. "There's been the virus sweeping through the security systems on the base, messing with the locks."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Rose asked Jake.

“Well, it was hardly all that compared to saving the universe."

The Doctor waggled his eyebrows and grinned at her and Rose felt her face flush.

Jake started to fill her on what she had missed, though Rose was only half paying attention. She was thinking about Mickey, and she was watching the Doctor walk the length of the zeppelin, poking at random controls and trying several door consoles in a row. Jake bent his face close to the monitor and Rose wondered whether or not he needed glasses. She couldn’t remember, for a minute, whether or not people in this universe wore glasses. It's was a weird moment, the kind that didn’t happen to her that often anymore - the disconnect of what this world did and what happened in her world. In an instant, she recalled at least a dozen people who wore glasses, even Pete had a pair of glasses, and she was not sure why she'd forgotten.

"So, the Doctor's part human," Jake said, and Rose snapped back to attention. "That's what he said, right? Is that a....a Time Lord thing?"

"It's complicated," Rose said, and Jake gave her a look. She owed him more of an explanation - Jake knew complicated, after all. She owed him a lot more. She just couldn’t, not right then.

"We've got the dimensional cannon ready," Jake said, and Rose startled, because she had gone to Torchwood everyday hoping to hear those words, almost, in some cases, the moment she returned from an interdimensional trip. Those words were all that kept her going some days, when she saw the fabric of the universe ripping apart, when the stars going out. When the Doctor should have appeared and he didn't. When she had to find him - when she had to stand in his place.

Jake was looking at her expectantly, and so she fumbled for a response.

"I don't need it," she said awkwardly, and couldn’t quite bring herself to say, anymore.

“Can you climb back up?” The Doctor shouts down to her. The zeppelin is jerking through the sky and Rose’s legs keep crashing into the railings.

“No,” Rose shouts, “I can’t hang on and climb at the same time. I’ll fall.” She’d been about to congratulate herself on being calm, and then she looked down. “Can you hurry it up a bit,” she says, the panic creeping into her voice.

The Doctor appears again, leaning over the railing. “Take my hand,” he says. It is, of course, that hand. Rose climbs up a rung and slips, almost losing her footing.

“I can’t reach,” she says. His hand is still stretching out toward her.

Jake got called away to answer a question about the energy output of some new device Rose didn’t recognize and she took the moment to slip out onto the balcony. She wanted to get outside, to be alone with her thoughts. She thought, sometimes, that it was worse to sit still after the end of an adventure, no matter how tired she was, no matter how terrifying it was. The moments after, when it was all quiet, were the hardest to get used to.

The door opened and the Doctor appeared. Rose's heart immediately started to race.

"Hi," he said, as he settled on the bench next to her, the skyline of Norway pulling away underneath them. She watched a puzzle of green fields and blue fjords, and looked up into the Doctor's eyes. He was grinning at her, his tongue between his teeth, his eyes bright. She couldn’t help but grin back.

"Hi," she said.

"Thought I'd come see the view."

She slid closer to him and his eyes darkened and that was new look, so open on his face like that. She'd seen so many things flash in his eyes before, so many things, before they were hidden away again.

He took her hand but instead of squeezing it, her palm fitting into his like they'd done so many times before, his fingers stroked over the back of her hand, across her knuckles, his eyes following his fingers, like he'd never seen such a sight before. He leaned in, kissing her open-mouthed before pulling back with a deep breath.

"That's still new," he said, and she couldn’t tell which he meant, the kissing, the impulse, or the actually acting on it.

"Yeah," was all she managed.

"Let me see your hand," Rose said, because the moment had grown tense with their silence. He didn’t ask which hand, didn't hesitate, just offered her his hand, palm open. She bent the fingers slightly, ran her thumb over the dip in his palm, pushed up his sleeve and examined his wrist.

She traced her fingers over the underside of his wrist as if looking for a seam, trying to determine how this happened, as if there would still be some explanation, some evidence left on his skin. She realized abruptly she's been holding onto his hand a little too long, and when she looked up, he was looking back at her with a serious expression drawing his face down into an almost frown. "I remember that day," she said, and let his hand go, rubbing her own hands together. "When you got your hand chopped off."

"Well, who'd forget a thing like that!" he said, easily, putting both his hands in his pockets.

"I didn't know if it was you," Rose said after a moment.

"Who else do you know who'd get their hand chopped off and still win a sword fight?" he said, and Rose couldn't help but laugh.

"I mean," she said, and she stops, because she realized she has never actually admitted this to him, "When you changed. I didn't know it was you."

He looked ready with another quip but then he seemed to think better of it, biting it back. "And I didn't know who I was. So we were both in the same spot then, weren't we?" he said quietly, like he wasn’t sure the first thing was enough.

"So what do you do at Torchwood?" he said, taking his turn to push through the silence. His posture changed, he sat back, more conscious of how he had been leaning in toward her. Like he had noticed for the first time how they were always in each others' spaces.

"Saving the world isn't descriptive enough?" She wondered if she could get away without actually giving him an explanation. "Lots of things, really," she said, still stalling. "Lately, my main job was looking for you. Building and calibrating and aiming the dimensional cannon...traveling to different worlds and different times, because we weren't very good at first."

"How many worlds?" he asked, and his voice was tight.

Rose shifted uncomfortably. He obviously didn't need her explanation to know exactly what had been wrong about what she was doing. "A lot," she said.

"How much time?"

"Time is relative...." she said, but she stops her before she could start. Before she could sound like him, a detailed, confusing, scientific explanation that didn’t actually answer the question at all. She stood, crossed her arms against the cold, watched another zeppelin far off in the distance. "A long time, Doctor. A lot of worlds. A lot of timelines." She didn't know how to explain to him what she really had done, the worlds she traveled to where everything was different, all the permutations of parallel timelines, all the configuring she had to do to figure out which were running at what speeds, what key incidents had happened or failed to happen. How much she had to be him in his absence. She couldn't tell him all of it. She couldn't tell him what it was like to try to replace him with herself, what it meant to move the universes around, to shoot herself through them, to fix the things that were wrong, to bring Donna back to him, to make a time machine. To see the Tardis empty in the world where he was dead. "I had to find you," is all she managed to say.

"But you did find me," he said, coming to stand next to her, and leaning, just a bit, so his shoulder pressed against hers. "You succeeded."

"Yeah, I did," she said and she put a lot more bravado, a lot more brass and confidence behind it than she felt. She might as well take it from him and wear the success like it's nothing, like she did it every day, saved the world, crossed through dimensions to find the man who told her it was impossible. "I should go find Mum, make sure she's not trying to give directions." Rose reached the door, but it wouldn't budge and she turned and glares at the Doctor. "What did you do to the door? I don't want to spend the whole ride out here, we're bound to get cold."

"It wasn't me," he said, his hand on his forehead to cut the glare as he peered into windows. Rose did the same, looking inside, trying to get someone's attention on the other side, but when she finally focused and saw inside the window and not the reflection of the two of them peering in, of the clouds and the sun and the world rushing past, she saw that inside the ship, every single person appeared to be tugging on a door.

"Jake said they'd been having some problems at the base with a virus...."

"Not just on the base anymore." The Doctor tried his hand at the hand scanner, and Rose had a sweeping hope that it will work, like it eventually did before, letting him out of the linens. The door didn't budge.

"And if we're locked out here, what if everyone's locked out of important places like the control room. Or steering."

The Doctor turned and shot Rose a look as though, by speaking it, she had made it happen. She felt her heart sinking, just as the intercom crackled on. "Rose? Rose, are you out there?" It was Jake.

"Yes, I'm on the balcony with the Doctor. We're locked out."

"Yeah, same thing in here. It's like the thing just went haywire, no one can get to anything - or out. We're coasting right now, but no one's actually at the controls."

"Jake, tell me," The Doctor demanded, "How it first started, the very first moment, not on the ship, but at Torchwood. What was the very first thing...."

But Rose suddenly lost the train of the conversation because the zeppelin took a sharp turn and her feet went out from under her. "Doctor!" she shouted, as she smacked against the railings and toppled over the edge of the zeppelin. There was a moment when she panicked and then there was a moment when she knew she's fine – or at least that she wasn’t falling anymore. She caught feet against the rung of a rope ladder, and tucked her arms around the ropes. She was swinging over nothing, the ground thousands of feet below her.

The Doctor appears over the edge again, peering down at her. "Rose?”

"I’m fine. Well, as fine as anyone on a rope ladder on a zeppelin flying though Norway can be."

"Hang on, I'll be right down," he says and then disappears.

"You're - what?"

And that’s when the Doctor starts climbing down the ladder.

"Is there a way in down here?" Rose shouts.

"No," the Doctor says, and then he's just two rungs above her. He leans down, one hand gripping the rope, and waves. "Hello."

"How is this helping then?" Rose demands. The zeppelin veers again and she clings tightly to the ladder, urges herself not to look down again.

"I wanted to make sure you were alright," The Doctor says plainly.

"Now we're both down here," Rose shouts.

"Well, it's better company, now isn't it?"

Rose laughs at his complete ridiculousness. He flashes her a smile, holds a hand out to her, and it steadies her enough that they both climb back up. This is the reason Rose could never go back to a normal life. How could she embrace normal after knowing his man, who excels at danger, who climbs down a rope ladder to keep her company, who hauls her safely over the railings and back onto the deck and is now pressing his ear to the hinge of the locked door. He waves her over and she does the same thing, kneels down facing him, and presses her ear against the cold metal of the door. Their eyes lock and she feels his entire focus shift to her, and it's so powerful, so stunning, it makes her hands shake until she steadies them.

"Rose? Doctor?" Jake crackles through on the intercom.

"Jake, Jake, tell me what's happening!" The Doctor shouts, one ear still against the door.

"The virus, it's taking everything that helps us identify a person as human and reversing it."

"So it doesn't work for us. For any of us," Rose says.

"Right," Jake says.

"Not right," The Doctor says, suddenly standing up and looking triumphant. It takes Rose a moment to catch on. “Only part human!" he says, pointing at his chest, when he sees the recognition on her face.

"You're not even going to know what to do with me, you nasty virus," the Doctor says and he presses his hand to the console. He leaves it there, counting, "One, two, three, four...." and then the ship starts to shudder. "That's right, try and figure me out," he says, shouting, "I'm a mystery! Even I don't know what I am, how much human, how much time lord. Maybe half and half, but, oooh, that's so boring, I'd hardly choose those fractions. 56and 44! Or 87 and 13!" The ship shudders again, and one of the doors slides open, then locks again. Rose pries at it with her fingers. "That's right, watch me confuse both the security system and the virus that's trying to break it. I'm a mysterious space man!" And Rose has never seen the defiance look like this, never seen it with quite so much attitude. She thinks of Donna, even now, traveling with the other Doctor, and wonders how much of her is here, in this Doctor.

"Open, open, open! Oooh, I bet I'm 36-64, that's a good number, but which is which!" Suddenly several doors pop open, and people rush in and out. "Go, go, hurry up, Jake, I should have given you enough time to override the system."

Jake crackles over the intercom, "It's fine, Doctor, it's fine, we're in. We're taking care of it."

Doors start popping open everywhere. Rose catches her breath, and then looks at the Doctor. He's staring at her. She flushes, and loses her breathe all over again.

"What do you think? An even 70-30?" he says, breaking the moment, and that's familiar, that's so very familiar, and Rose still doesn't like it at all. It's who he is - the rules, the things he can't say, the things he can't let himself think, the so-not-human-ness. But he's different, and yet he's not that different at all. Rose wonders if everything's going to be exactly the same. But he told her, on the beach, he told her he loved her. It had to already be different.

"I couldn't even guess," Rose says. He smiles easily, and takes her hand. Rose squeezes back, harder than she would have before. She can't tell if he notices.

Rose spends most of the rest of the trip on the phone with Torchwood London, trying to help them figure out how to prevent the same things from happening. She's mostly relaying Jake's techno-speak, as he's too busy cleaning up the mess of the security system. Rose listens to a couple of suggestions as to who might have written the virus, though it's probably the Cybermen, the threat that never leaves. Rose thinks perhaps the Daleks are actually the threat that never leaves, but she doesn't say. No one's seen a Dalek in this universe, except in drawings and the files Rose brings back from the parallel world. She thinks of the Doctor, killing the whole fleet of them. How she hopes, for once, it's really, really over.

When she hangs up, the Doctor is standing in the doorway.

"Hi," he says again, and he looks happy. Not the cheery air he so often put on, not even the delight he had in showing her the strangest things. It's so simple - he looks happy to see her.

"Hi," she says, her mouth quirking. She walks toward him and he sweeps her into a hug. She pulls back slightly, her hand on his arm, her fingers tightening in the material of his jacket. She leans in closer, so unsure whether or not she should do this, what the rules are now, what she's doing at all. She breathes in deeply and then presses her mouth to his. She feels him react, feels him gasp, his lips part, feels the warmth of his mouth opening under hers.

"So," she says, pulling back and brushing her fingers over his lips. "This new thing."

"I'm a new thing," the Doctor says brightly.

"I think we've this conversation before," Rose says.

The Doctor grins widely. "I know."

Rose thinks maybe that's enough of an answer for now.
Mad Dog Mephistopheles: dw: staying alivewildgreentide on September 21st, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
OMG I *love* this, and I love YOU, this is so much fun and now I'm a little terrified to put up my story next but mostly I'm just excited to be doing this project with you, especially when it means I get to read fantastic stories like this one!

I love the way you write the Doctor, and Rose's uncertainty about him, and the little glimpses we get of how he's a different man than the Doctor she knew before. And I can't wait to find out what's up with Jake!
Scott: 10 - glassesscottxwl on September 22nd, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
You are awesome!
Love it. *LOVE* it. The Doctor is perfect. Rose is perfect.
sunnytyler001sunnytyler001 on September 27th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
OH! This is brilliant! More soon, please!!!